Home>>read A Merry Little Christmas free online

A Merry Little Christmas(13)

By:Melanie Schuster

That kiss... it was so sweet, so sensual that the mere memory of it took  her breath away and put her right back into a place where she could  still taste his lips, still feel his strong arms locked around her,  still feel the wild and unfamiliar longing that only he could assuage.  The tender memory was always followed by the recollection of his  behavior the very next day, when he had ignored her completely. That was  also something she'd like to forget. Suddenly, despite her efforts to  concentrate on her work, her mind drifted. With a sound of disgust, she  stopped what she was doing and propped her head in one hand, the past  few days coming back to her with unerring clarity.

She, Paris, and A. J. had all gone over to Alan's house and she'd even  brought a huge bowl of shrimp salad to contribute to the meal. It was  her mother's recipe and Lillian's shrimp salad was welcome wherever it  went, it was that spectacular. The real reason she'd brought the salad,  however, was because Donnie loved it. He'd had it on several occasions  when he was visiting Bennie and Clay in Atlanta and always raved about  it, so she'd taken the shrimp salad out of the refrigerator without  hesitation, even though it was for her party the next day. After A.J.  and Paris convinced her to go to the party, she decided to cast caution  to the wind and see if there was something more to the spontaneous kiss  than either she or Donnie realized. Dressed in the beautiful lapis-blue  cashmere sweater Paris had given her for Christmas, Angelique really  thought she was looking her best. She had on midnight-navy velvet jeans  and sleek ankle boots, and a sheer misting of her favorite fragrance,  Youth Dew by Estee Lauder. It was considered to be an old-fashioned  fragrance, but she loved it and it smelled fantastic on her skin. She  was ready to face Donnie, whatever the outcome. Yes, she'd made herself  vulnerable to him and even a target for his ridicule by giving him that  kiss, but now she was ready for the consequences.

Angelique suddenly sat up straight with fire in her eyes. She picked up a  matting tool and stared at it, then put it back down. She couldn't  trust herself to cut anything in her present mood. There was no point in  trying to avoid it-the memory was too galling to go away. After  greeting all the Cochrans and introducing A.J. to anyone who didn't know  him, Angelique had really begun enjoying herself despite the little  thrills chasing around in her stomach in anticipation of seeing Donnie.  Tina, Alan Cochran's wife, had just said something to Angelique about  the possibility of her showing at the museum and Angelique had confirmed  the information. A.J. had put a brotherly arm around her and was  praising her work when Donnie finally walked in and everything went  wrong.

Donnie looked as handsome as ever in another gorgeous sweater, this one a  soft blue gray that warmed his already rich skin tone and made it more  appealing. He was wearing jeans and some good-looking black shoes that  laced up and looked very Italian, although they were probably Doc  Martens. His smooth face was freshly shaved and he smelled wonderful.  Angelique's mouth had become dry and her hands had gotten damp and  itchy. She couldn't have said anything if she'd wanted to. As it turned  out, she didn't have to say a word; Donnie had ignored her completely.  He didn't look at her, he didn't greet her in any way and he had acted  as though she didn't exist. A hard, cold weight formed in her stomach  and the rest of the time went by in a blur. Luckily, A.J. was serious  about shooting some film and they left rather quickly. They drove to  Metro Beach and took some shots of the setting sun over the bleak winter  shore.

Angelique jerked out of her reverie, suddenly reminded that her film  would be ready that day. They'd been shooting in color and she didn't  like to do her own color processing. She'd developed a good relationship  with a small lab that wasn't too far from the building, and they were  always willing to expedite her orders. She glanced at her watch and saw  it was almost time for lunch, so she decided to go pick up the order,  reasoning that a brisk walk in the cold air would do her some good  anyway. Abandoning all pretense of work, she quickly put everything away  and went down to the main lobby. As she waved at the concierge and  turned quickly to the big brass doors that led to the street, she ran  smack into what seemed to be a wall made of wool.                       


The wall was actually a tall, good-looking man who seemed rather pleased  at the collision. "I guess I was in the right place at the right time,"  he said. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Angelique looked up into a broad, smiling face and had to smile herself:  the man was adorable. It was a strange adjective to use about a big,  handsome, obviously well-off man, but there was no other word that fit  him so well. He was about six-two and a big teddy bear of a man, with  that Gerald Levert kind of sex appeal. His skin was a rich, warm brown  and his full, chiseled lips were surrounded by an impeccably groomed  mustache and beard. His eyes were kind and merry with thick eyebrows and  long, straight lashes.

"I'm fine, thank you. I think I should be apologizing to you," she said nicely.

"I wouldn't hear of it. Here, let me help you with your coat," he said gallantly, holding out his hands for the garment.

Angelique promptly gave it to him and allowed him to assist her. He  waited while she shifted her purse and gloves from one hand to the  other, and then made sure the coat was on her shoulders properly. "No  hat today?" he asked.

Still smiling, Angelique shook her head no.

"Now, that's not good. You lose most of your body heat through your head and your feet," he chided gently.

"You're not wearing one either," Angelique said with a raised eyebrow.

"Aww, baby, just look at me. I'm a walking furnace," he said with a  chuckle. "Besides, I don't want to mess up my hair." He gave his hair a  pat with an exaggerated flutter of his amazing eyelashes.

He did have a pretty head of hair, thick and black and perfectly  trimmed. Angelique thanked him again for his chivalry and promised she  would get a hat.

"I have to run now. Take care of yourself," she said as they each gave a  brief wave good-bye. Suddenly the cold winter day was warmer and more  cheerful, all because of a chance encounter.


"Mr. Cochran, Dr. Alexander is here."

"Thanks, Margaret, I'll be right there." Donnie smiled broadly as he  went to the door of his office. It was his habit to personally receive  all visitors; Benita had taught him that courtesy when she was head of  Cochran Communications. This time he was combining business with  pleasure, as Dr. Warren Alexander was one of his oldest friends. The  doctor had been interviewed on the talk-radio station owned by Cochran  and the two men had arranged to have lunch afterward. Donnie met his  friend in the reception area of the executive floor and took him back to  his spacious private office, where the two men began chatting.

"So how're you doing, man?" There was real concern in Warren's voice, as  he knew the story of Donnie's proposal and the less than stellar  results.

Donnie shrugged and spread out his hands in a gesture of acceptance. He  and Warren were both seated on the long Ultrasuede sofa that graced his  window-lined work space. "I'm doing okay. Better than okay, actually. I  had a long talk with Aneesah and she made a lot of sense. I think I was  more in love with the idea of a partnership than I was with her," he  admitted. "Although, I don't agree with her that I'm an intellectual  snob."

"An intellectual what?" Warren asked with a raised brow.

Donnie related the entire conversation to Warren, who took advantage of  his old-friend status to laugh in Donnie's face. "Yeah, well, she's  right, my brother. You do have some fairly rigid standards when it comes  to dating. If a woman isn't superlative in all ways, from size to  height to intellect to credentials, you aren't interested. You do make  up a list and go shopping in the woman store, Cochran."

"Okay, maybe I do. But I like what I like, how can you fault me for  that? I grew up with amazing women all around me, Warren. Benita  practically raised me. I really don't remember my mother at all. Think  about my sister: she's an incredible woman, probably the most incredible  woman I've ever known. She's beautiful, brilliant, kind, compassionate  and talented. There's nothing she can't do, Warren," Donnie said. "She  ran this company from the time she was about fifteen, practically, as  well as kept everything running at home and raised us after Mom died. My  aunt Ruth, she resigned her commission in the army to help raise us;  she's another outstanding woman. My sisters-in-law, Tina and Faye, check  them out. Tina is a circuit court judge and Faye is a college  president. Adam's partner, Alicia, is considered to be one of the  leading architects in the country, Warren. Not the city or the state,  she gets national recognition, man. So why shouldn't I have high  expectations for the woman in my life? I've had nothing but brilliant  examples of womanhood around me all my life."