Authors: Violet Jackson
Sherina hummed to herself as she strolled into David’s office with a batch of warm cookies. She wasn’t the domestic type; she could cook just fine but she hated it which was why she rarely did. But there was just something about David that made her want to cook and bake for him.
Turning into a regular Stepford wife
, her subconscious sneered. She ignored it. Gently she knocked on the door of his office and entered the room, her cheeks dimpling in a sweet, guileless smile as her gaze met his.
“Hey legs,” he said, getting out of his seat and crossing the room towards her in three quick strides. He engulfed her in his arms and she leaned against him, sniffing in his wonderful masculine scent.
“Hey handsome. Whatcha doing?” Sherina asked as she rubbed her cheek against the silk fabric of his shirt.
“Thinking of lunch actually and here you showed up with treats!” he said leaning down to kiss her cheek.
Sherina glowed under the warmth of his praise, her cheeks heated as she accepted his accolades.
He reached for a muffin, sighing with pleasure as he bit into it. “Oh my God, that is amazing,” he moaned.
“Like you are surprised,” she laughed. “You’ve tasted my food before,” she reminded him, pulling his face between her hands and kissing him full on the mouth.
“Mmm. I’m still surprised every time.”
“Okay handsome. This was a delivery service okay? Wanted to see your handsome face too. See you later?”
He grinned, “Very funny.”
He had taken to staying at her house so often he was starting to leave things behind. Last week he had left behind a spare set of scrubs; this week he had left three new sets of underwear. She liked that he obviously loved to be with her so much because she felt exactly the same way and she would have hated to think it was one-sided. Sometimes he came straight from work, so she had just given him a key. He had gotten the story of Darren and Deb out of her and he had been so angry on her behalf that she had actually felt a bit better. Sherina pinched herself sometimes; she couldn’t believe she was so happy. She had been keeping Andre at arm’s length since the last time they went to dinner and the Frenchman had grown even more persistent in his efforts, pressing gifts of flower and jewellery on her.
With one last lingering kiss, she turned and walked out the door, pretending she didn’t notice the way his eyes scanned her legs as she left. Her small secretive smile played across her lips all the way home.
It died though when she walked up to her apartment and saw the unexpected visitor who was hunched up and waiting for her on the floor in front of her door with a gash on her forehead, bruised lips and a seriously black eye... the visitor was Deb.
“What the hell?” she blurted.
“Please. Please just hear me out. I’m sorry okay? Please Sher,” Deb pleaded, rising from her sitting position on the floor to hold out beseeching hands to her former friend.
Sherina’s heart squeezed in her chest at the name; only Deb called her Sher. She remembered the last time she had seen her best friend standing half-naked beside Sherina’s fiancé just seven days to their wedding. She waited to feel the familiar burn of hot, almost violent anger, but all she felt was pity. Sherina paused in disbelief, examining her feelings anew as she waited for the familiar fiery pit in her stomach. All she felt was relief that Deb had taken Darren off her hands.
Her eyes returned to the other woman’s; Deb was hurting. She had wounds so severe that Sherina didn’t even want to think about how she had gotten them.
“You’re hurt. Come on in. You should go to the hospital though; get checked out.”
“No hospitals thanks,” Deb said dully, too dully.
Sherina looked over at her; her eyes were completely faded. They were just as green as ever but there was no sparkle in them anymore; they were flat, cold and lifeless. Her hair was not red anymore, it was a dull, mousy brown and everything in Sherina revolted at this sight. She had spent the past few months hating Deb’s guts and damning her to perdition true; but even so she would never have wished this on her. This was something else; someone had beaten the crap out of Deb and taken her spirit with it.
Sherina guided her to a seat, fighting back tears as she watched Deb lower herself onto the seat gingerly as though every bone in her body ached.
“Would you like something to eat?”
Sherina handed her a plate of cookies and a glass of warm milk and watched as Deb ate the whole thing in a hurry.
Sherina ignored the screams of her subconscious and sank onto the seat beside Deb. “What happened to you?”
Deb paused in the art of eating, naked shame flashing across her features; and before she even said a word, Sherina knew exactly what she was going to say.
“It was Darren.”
Sherina’s heart froze in her chest and she looked over at her former best friend, her heart in her throat as she silently begged Deb to deny this new fact she had learned about Darren. The truth was in the other woman’s eyes though; in the naked pain and fear and shame. Sherina faced an unwelcome truth in that moment; in the months since she had left, somehow Deb had become a battered woman and Darren was responsible.
Sherina defied every last shred of common sense; she extended her arms to her friend and the other woman turned into them, crying and sobbing her heart out. Sherina cried with her, cuddling her close until she was spent.
“I’m sorry Sherina. I’m sorry I betrayed you. Please forgive me.”
“I already did,” Sherina said quietly and even as she said so, she realized the truth of her words.
David came in later that night and Sherina grimaced when she saw him do a double-take. She had described Deb in enough unflattering terms that he recognized her immediately but evidently her new mousy appearance was as much a surprise to him as it had been to her.
He was kind though, and thoughtful but Sherina could not help noticing that he made a point of avoiding getting too close to Deb. A part of her was glad because the last thing she needed to worry about was Deb and David, but a part of her felt weird which was why dinner was a tense affair. Tense silence reigned around the table and what little conversation they did have felt forced and unnatural.
The moment Deb went up to bed, she turned to him and said, “Okay I know I said we hate her, but I think you need to dial down the avoidance! You’ll start her thinking I still hold a grudge.”
He looked down at her, his dark eyes taking in the tiniest flicker of expression across her face. “You don’t hold a grudge anymore,” he observed.
Sherina shrugged. Time had helped but David was the chief reason she was better today. “Not anymore, I don’t,” she said.
David grinned and chucked her under the chin, “She’s been abused Legs,” was all he said before loading the dishes onto the dishwasher.
She remembered then that a woman who had been abused was generally wary of men and she realized then that David had merely been giving Deb some space to help her feel safe.
He had been looking out for her friend even when she didn’t deserve it. Her brown eyes clashed with his dark eyes, held; and she finally admitted to herself what she had been trying to deny all week. She loved him! She was in love with David Knight.
“Okay I’m starting to feel like I have run your boyfriend off,” Deb observed some days later as she lay on a couch in front of the television biting into cookies and chocolate.
Sherina grinned as she reached for a piece of chocolate herself. “A herd of bulls couldn’t run David off. The man has the audacity of a bull.”
“And the subtlety too by the looks of things,” Deb supplied.
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, he only has to look at you and the room catches fire,” Deb laughed.
Sherina looked down at her hands, unable to share in Deb’s laughter. “Why?” she said, voicing the question that had been on her mind since that night many nights ago.
Deb didn’t pretend to misunderstand. She just shrugged one shoulder and said quietly, “I guess I’m just not a very good person. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
“I suggest you try,” Sherina said sweetly with pure steel underlying her words.
“I just... I failed you and I am sorry.”
“Yes, but why?”
“I don’t know. I let myself get too close to Darren and before I quite knew what was happening, I was crossing a line.”
“Did you marry him?”
“No, I never had the chance. He cheated on me with someone else and I just...I tried to talk to him about it and he hit me. So I ran. He found me last week and hit me again. I called the cops and ran again.”
“What happened to the wedding? I saw it on Facebook just before I deleted my account.”
Deb stared down at her hands. “I thought I was in love with him Sher. I couldn’t go through with the wedding though; I asked him to give me some more time. It didn’t feel right which was why I asked him to wait.”
“So David?” Deb asked, taking a bite of another piece of cookie.
“I’m not comfortable talking about him with you,” Sherina said quietly, rising to her feet and clearing away the remains of their cookies.
“I don’t expect you to trust me Sher, but please believe that I would
go after David.”
“Yeah coz you have such a time-honored tradition of not going after my boyfriends. Or wait, you prefer to hold on until we are engaged to be married before you swoop in right?”
Deb didn’t say anything and in the silence that followed, Sherina shut her eyes, feeling a lot like a heel.
“You are right not to trust me, but I do hope you would let me try to win back your trust.”
Sherina turned away, traipsing into the kitchen with angry jerky steps.
Deb followed her still talking, “So David has not shown up in days. Aren’t you going to check on him? I mean if I’m inconveniencing you I’ll move out.”
“I don’t know where he lives so I can’t really check on him.”
“How long have you dated?” Deb asked.
“About three months,” Sherina replied absently.
“Okay Sherina I know you have no reason whatsoever to trust me, but if a man doesn’t want you to know his house after three months of dating... well I would worry.”
“Sherina? Did you hear what I just said?”
“Yeah. Good thing I don’t trust you huh?”
“I think David is hiding something,” Deb insisted.
“Deb? Shut it!” she snapped.
“Hmm?” he replied sleepily, pulling Sherina tighter against his hard muscular chest as they lay entwined in naked splendor atop her sheets at her house three nights later.
“Why don’t we ever go to your house?” she asked, stroking his chest.
The muscles in David’s chest tensed beneath her palm and then jumped reflexively. His reaction worried her; what if he was hiding something? Oh God what if Deb had been right?
Her eyes flew to his chiseled features and she surprised a frown in his eyes. He smoothed out his features almost immediately, but not before she had read the expression in his eyes.
“You don’t want me to know where you live? David
have been together for a little more than three months; you practically live here. I can’t keep being in the dark. What are you keeping from me?”
“Nothing,” he replied, not meeting her eyes. “If you want to come know my house so much, we’ll work out something. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal,” he added with a careless shrug and a warm intoxicating smile that did nothing to ease her worries.
Sherina sat back down, her mind in a whirl as she wondered what David was hiding from her; she didn’t believe for a minute that he wasn’t hiding something. Oh Lord, what if he was married? She shut down the panicked question before it took hold.
“Fine. Glad we are on the same page. So when exactly will we be there?”
“Just give me a moment Sherina, please.”
Sherina rolled her eyes; he hadn’t called her Sherina in months either.
This ‘knowing his house’ business was starting to get big!
Breakfast was a strained, silent affair and even Deb looked uncomfortable as she looked from Sherina’s face to David’s. As soon as he was done with his meal, David shoved away from the table and cleared the doorway in record time without giving Sherina a kiss on his way out the door.
Sherina chewed slowly on her toast, deliberately avoiding Deb’s eyes. The last thing she wanted to discuss was her relationship because she was starting to fear that it was going down the toilet.
“Do you mind if I follow you to the office today?” Deb asked.
“Huh?” Sherina asked, looking up in the middle of absently buttering a slice of toast.
“I just need human contact. I mean you and David are awesome but I have been here over two weeks and you’re all the human contact I have had. I need to get out a little.”
“I see your point,” Sherina commented. “Perhaps you could take a walk after the office.”
“I have always wanted to see Central Park; get what all the fuss is about firsthand,” Deb said as she began to clear away the dishes.
Sherina offered her a weak smile and fled to her room. She was almost late to work she realized as she hastily picked up her purse and keys and ran out to the living room.
“Ready to go?” she yelled at Deb.
Sherina spent the better part of the day thinking about David and his discomfort when she had mentioned visiting him at home. If he was so uncomfortable with her presence in his home, she was almost afraid to wonder why. It was a measure of how uncomfortable she had made him, that he had not called all through the day when he had taken to calling her at least once at work.
As though on cue, her phone rang and she grabbed it expectantly. She tried to tell herself she was not disappointed when the caller ID showed it was Andre.
“Hey Andre,” she said into the receiver.
“Yes, Sherina. Could you please come get some documents for Mr. Wingman from my office? Pronto!”
“Of course,” she replied unenthusiastically. She liked Andre well enough but these days, he was getting kinda exhausting. She liked him; she just didn’t know how to let him down easy especially now she was so hung up on David.
His eyes brightened immediately when she walked into the room and automatically dropped to her legs. A flash of disappointment clouded his eyes when he discovered them covered up by her ankle-length pants and Sherina hid a grin.
“Stay and chat for a minute, why don’t you?” he invited genially.
Sherina grinned down into his happy, handsome face as she took him up on his offer. The man really was a looker, she mused, eyeing him from across his desk. Her phone rang immediately and the moment she saw Deb’s name on the screen, it was like someone had turned on the lights.
“Hey, where are you?” she asked immediately she picked up, her excitement leaking through her voice.
“Why do you ask and what are you planning?” was Deb’s immediate response.
Sherina rolled her eyes, Deb always could read her.
“Nothing,” she answered demurely. “What do you need?”
“I’m downstairs at your office. Took a turn around the park and discovered I had forgotten my key.”
“Okay, come get mine. Come on upstairs. Ask for Andre Duval’s office.”
“Who is that?” he asked as she shut her phone.
“A friend,” she said with a satisfied smile as she leaned back to wait.
Deb knocked gently on Andre’s door before poking her head around it.
“Come on in Deb, come meet my friend,” Sherina invited.
Deb pushed open the door, her pretty face glowing with good health and exercise. Sherina saw Deb’s green eyes widen as they met Andre’s and she smiled secretly to herself. If her plan worked, maybe Deb would find happiness with someone else and Andre was as decent as they came.
“Andre Duval, may I introduce Deborah Canter; my best friend.”
She saw Deb cast her a surprised and pleased look because she had described her as her best friend and Sherina realized for the first time that she had truly forgiven the other woman. Deb was wearing a short summer dress with strappy wedge sandals that accentuated her legs and made her look even more feminine.
Andre rose and took Deb’s hand in his before raising it to his lips in a courtly kiss that was so romantic and classic Andre.
Deb fluttered nervously, giggling like a little girl; though Sherina noticed that she left her hands in his. Her green eyes had that sparkle again, her red hair swayed becomingly around her shoulders as she laughed at whatever Andre was saying, totally lost in his even darker green eyes.
Discreetly, Sherina picked up the files and snuck out of the office; it was a measure of how enthralled they were by each other that neither of them noticed her leave.