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Love makes a man smitten, even a man behind a tailored suit who doesn't like to give himself away.
This is an excerpt from 'Unfailing Love', and a rewrite from a previous chapter I posted. I like this version better. Makes me daydream about #WaldorfManorthefilm
photo and credit are property of the youngrens who are absolutely incredible photographers. permission pending
“We never did get to chat about New York,” Ana joined her right hand to rest atop the other. Now, both arms were gently attached to him.
“We did not.” Brayden’s formal brown shoes and Ana’s cream coloured kitten heels clacked in unison along the stone pavement. “And may I remind you, that I’ve put your former antics of acquisition and such, on hold? That includes business trips.”
“This isn’t acquisition, Mr. James, this is professional development.” Ana already knew she wasn’t going to convince Brayden. He was in a very transitional stage with Tweed, and he didn’t want any business trips until the direction of the company under new ownership was defined.
“I can give you a session in professional development, but you will find it difficult to sit down afterward,” he said, without a hint of jest. Ana was highly amused by Brayden’s suggestion. “Whilst we’re on the subject, I will be in the office for half a day sometime in the next couple of weeks.”
Brayden was currently a few hours of work in his study at Waldorf, including the daily Skype call with his temporary transition team, to ensure everyone and everything was operating smoothly with all the sudden changes. He was also getting closer to advertising a position for the Operations Manager, so that he could step back and just be the owner. Brayden would be far more involved than the previous one, but nevertheless, he would not be having daily interaction the way he was now.
“Oh, I don’t know if you being in the office for more than a few minutes is a good idea.”
“Why is that?”
She couldn’t stop smiling. “I won’t be able to concentrate if you’re sitting just down from the corridor from me.” She paused on the stone path and turned inward, avoiding eye contact as she looked down and smiled.
“Anabelle Greyson, I declare you are blushing.” He smiled slowly and deliberately, as he stopped beside her. In response, she blushed even more as she looked at a nearby plant with immediate interest. Brayden couldn’t hold back a hearty laugh. “You are,” he cooed, soothingly.
“Stop,” she laughed, covering one cheek with her palm.
“Now you’ve gone shy,” he pulled her toward him, gently. Ana’s kitten heels moved reluctantly, as she tried to keep a playful distance.
“Yes, and it’s your fault, Mr. James,” she laughed, again, tugging gently on their intertwined hands. A photographer’s view of them from the distance would have been absolute gold; the setting of the formal garden was ideal, and their equally formal wardrobe made those smitten moments of genuine, flirtatious laughter even more striking.
“I take full responsibility,” Brayden stepped closer, since he couldn’t succeed in pulling Ana to him.
“As you should,” she was unable to stop herself from giggling with delight. “You’re making me blush!”
“I can see, and it’s absolutely delightful.” Brayden loved seeing her in such a state.
“You can come in for our meeting, but then you have to leave. You can’t sit in Hamish’s old office for the entire day.” She was still wearing a very sweet, very wide smile.
“Oh!” He nodded, unable to keep from smiling, too. “That’s the word on the matter, is it?”
“Yes.” Ana was confident, and charming.
“I may need to come by your office, then, to make sure you’re behaving,” he straightened his expression. “Perhaps I will stand behind your chair and supervise.”
“You musn’t,” she pleaded, adorably.
“Or have you kneel down, so I can measure the length of your skirt, just like when you were at school.”
“Brayden!” she exclaimed, looking back toward the house, as if he just revealed an incredulous secret. Ana was absolutely positive she felt everything from her navel down to her toes go completely hot with a rash-like intensity. It wasn’t numb, because she could very much feel heartbeats in places she didn’t think thumping should occur, or, could occur. Like her thigh. Or her ankle. Where was it coming from? Why did it feel like a strong wind just blew over her? Probably because she was in love.
“I’ve been a perfectly well-behaved professional, for the last seven years. Then you come along, buy the company - ”
“Smack your bottom.”
“That, too.” Her smile drew wide across her lips. “Very well, Mr. James. Have it your way. Come to the office and just see how bad for business you really are.”
“You may well regret those words,” Brayden said, quietly, as he touched his nose gently to hers.
“I probably will.”
and because of all the pouting you fans are giving me . . . continue reading ;)
Ana knew her lipstick needed retouching when they returned to the house. Alice often appeared in an instant, no matter where she was in the sprawling mansion, as soon as she heard the front doors and the butler’s familiar greeting to whomever entered the foyer. The last thing Ana wanted was for Alice to see her lipstick coloured outside of the lines. She knew Brayden and Ana kissed – she just didn’t need to see the results of it. After all, they were trying to set an example of self-control, among other things.
She left Brayden in the foyer as she went to the powder room, which was tucked away down the corridor near the ballroom. Brayden watched her disappear, and listened as the clack of her kitten heels faded. In its place, the sound of a shorter, uncontainable stride led by purposeful shoes, were approaching from the corridor on the other side of the foyer - the staff’s corridor - and the kitchens. He was going to ask if she convinced chef to make her cheese on toast before dinner, but Alice had her own agenda.
“Father,” she said, as she passed the dining room doors and fully entered the foyer. “We need to have a serious discussion about my next recital.”
Brayden didn’t want to frown until he heard the entire sentence, but by the sound of it, she was about to propose something with absolute certainty. He put his hands behind his back to indicate he was listening.
“I had a creative meeting with Wellesley whilst you were in the gardens,” Alice reported, as she stopped in front of Brayden. She also put her hands behind her dress as if she were addressing a Member of Parliament. “Perhaps we might diarise and set up a time for tomorrow? I’m available after breakfast, before my piano lesson and after reading time.”
“I see.” Brayden didn’t want to laugh at his daughter’s manner, so as to discourage her from being focused and serious, even in a child-like way. “Perhaps we ought to get you a diary then, so you can plan these things properly, and have them written down.” He didn’t really want to give her a diary for appointments, but playing along in a believable fashion often helped Alice get her complete thoughts out. Otherwise, she might never get to the point without Brayden asking a series of questions. Taking Alice seriously was like validating her.
“Not to be rude, father, but conceivably, you’re the only one I will ever meet with. I can’t just have, ‘meeting with father’, ‘meeting with father’, ‘meeting with father’, as my only agenda item. It would be a bit depressing.” Alice wrinkled her face as if she’d just delivered bad news. He wasn’t offended, although a tiny sting in his chest sat there briefly. “Let me put it this way: if I were going to school, I would ask you to leave me a few roads from the front gates.”
“I see,” Brayden exhaled a light chuckle. “We’re getting to that stage now, are we?”
“We’ve been there a little while,” Alice replied, factually. Ana’s heels clacked in the distance, signaling her return to the foyer and a pause in the conversation. Brayden and Alice were waiting for the sound of Ana’s shoes to match her appearance.
“Where have we been?” She smiled at Alice and stroked the back of her head, having caught the end of the remark.
“My daughter thinks she is too grown up for fathering,” he replied.
“No,” Alice calmly corrected him. “I just think it’s time my recital repertoire had more of my fingerprints on them.”
“I don’t recall that being part of the conversation.”
“I just told you, ‘Wellesley and I had a creative meeting about it’ and then I asked to diarise so we can properly chat it through. What did you think I meant?”
He smoothed down her Peter Pan collar, and stroked her cheek. “You are in the diary for tomorrow after breakfast, little miss. All right?”
“Thank you,” Alice smiled, and stood on her toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. “It’s nothing personal. I just think it’s time we review the system. You know; inputs, outputs, processes, control loops, variables, and all that.” Alice smiled at her father and Ana, then trotted along to the staircase.
“She’s been into the engineering books, hasn’t she?”
“Definitely.” Brayden watched her go up the stairs. “You know, she didn’t actually explain any of that very plainly,” he realised.
“Girls are like that. Didn’t you know?” Ana faced him and smiled. “You’re supposed to be able to read our minds, and you should know what we mean even if it isn’t explained properly.” She leaned in and kissed him.
“That’s what I’m in for, is it, with a growing girl and an already grown-up one? Mind reading?” He kissed her back, gently.
“The only absolute in this house is that you will behave,” he whispered, between the locks of her wavy, brown hair. An undeniable smile spread across Annabelle’s lips as she looked down. Being the centre of his attention, even in the centre of a grand house like Waldorf, made tingles dance through her veins.
They took the air of flirtation with them up to Brayden’s study, where they usually finished their evenings together over a bottle of wine or Champagne. To be close to each other, hand holding even, as they soaked in each other’s presence, was the only physical closeness they shared. It was something to be remembered until their next few hours together. The evenings in the study were a time of winding down; of solemn intimacy that planted very precious moments into the bank of their relationship. Many times their evenings ended in slow dance to classical music playing lowly in the background.
They paused dancing and Brayden spread his hand open slowly, causing Ana to do the same. His fingers were taller than hers, and his palm was larger. Her eyes met Brayden’s, and the energy between them grew the way electricity between two objects caused an arc. The undeniable, unexplainable attraction rose up when they shared something so pure and innocent as that moment. Sex would be easy. Building intimacy took every dark corner of their thoughts, their personalities, vulnerabilities, and brought them to light in conversation and moments when they looked into each other’s eyes. It was exposing and raw to go to a psychologically deep place without getting into bed with each other. Brayden wanted to cradle that philosophy and pass it to Alice one day, to teach her that what he and Ana shared, was rare. It was difficult to build the kind of foundation deprived of what the world claimed solidified it, but he knew it would all be worth it. On the morning he first woke up beside Anabelle as his wife, he would be able to look at her and say, ‘my love never failed you. Real love never fails. It waits. It doesn’t give in, it doesn’t give up, and it never runs out.’
Alice was at the top of the staircase when Brayden finally kissed Ana goodbye that evening. He buttoned her coat, stroked her face, and said a few inaudible phrases before watching her walk out the front door. Jude was taking her back to London, and then they wouldn’t see each other until Monday afternoon. Alice could see her father’s strong posture through his suit, even from the top of the grand staircase. His shoulders didn’t hang or invert. He remained looked completely brave as he watched Annabelle leave.
When the butler turned around, he cleared his throat and glanced up at the staircase. Brayden knew Alice was standing there. He turned around to see her, just as he imagined; nightdress, slippers, blank expression. The lack of decided reaction toward her watching Anabelle leave, was the indication that she was bothered by the exit. Brayden climbed one set of stairs, which caused Alice to explain her presence.
“I was sleeping, but I woke up because I felt like something was happening.”
When he reached the top of the stairs, Brayden took her by the hand and led her toward her bedroom. “Perhaps you were having a dream, darling. Dreams can be very real, sometimes.”
“I wasn’t dreaming just yet,” she justified. Brayden walked his daughter into the large room and sat on the edge, after she returned to the slumbering place of the oversized canopy bed. He stroked the relaxed curl of her hair as it lay over her shoulder. Celia had gathered it all to one side and secured a ribbon around it that evening. Brayden could imagine when she was older, Alice might wear her hair like that during the day. The idea didn’t come without a familiar ache in his chest.
“I just knew Miss Greyson was leaving, and I woke up.”
In response, Brayden leant forward and kissed her forehead. When he pulled away, his eyebrows inverted. “I suppose you were eating macaroons in your sleep as well, were you?” His thumb wiped away the crumbs at the corner of her mouth.
“No, Sir. I ate one on my way down the corridor. I found it in my dressing gown. I forgot I put it there when I was changing, earlier.” Her face was serious.
Brayden had to exhale a gentle, amused breath at her statement. “No more macaroons after bedtime,” he raised his eyebrows.
“How many sweets did Miss Greyson buy you?”
Alice’s mouth formed a slow, wide smile. “I didn’t count.” She played with the duvet between her fingers. “Father?”
Alice looked up at him. “I know Miss Greyson won’t live with us until you’re married.” She pulled the duvet up a little higher. “Just don’t take too long, please. I love seeing you in love, and I hate seeing her leave.”
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