Welcome to this special installment of Fiction Fridays — presented this week on a THURSDAY for Valentine’s Day! (Less fattening than a box of chocolates, right?) Come join in the fun with the final installment of “Drawn Together,” a contemporary romance. To get caught up, read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. And then enjoy this romantic Valentine’s Day ending!
By Terri Bolyard
Shock froze Elizabeth where she stood as she gazed at the little boy staring up at her. Holy crap. It was Gabe – only a couple of decades younger. Somehow, he’d failed to mention there was a five-year-old version of him running around. Gabe must have sensed her shock because his face went as pale as hers felt.
The child standing in front of her was innocence incarnate—dark hair, crystal blue eyes and plump, rosy cheeks. Pressed against a solid oak floor and white wainscoted walls, he looked as if he belonged in the Norman Rockwell pictures she’d studied in art school. But a second later, that picture exploded into action as the little guy leaped up into Gabe’s strong arms.
“Daddy!” The boy bear-hugged his father as if he hadn’t seen him in a century. “You’re home tonight!”
“Of course I am, Joseph.” Gabe cleared his throat, his deep voice echoing against the massive foyer walls. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Gabe cupped the back of his son’s head, pulling the little boy’s body into his bigger one. Elizabeth tried to stop her heart from liquefying but she failed miserably. Gorgeous, protective of his grandfather and he cuddles with his son. Good lord. Wasn’t there anything wrong with this man?
“Because it’s Valentine’s week and you’re never here then.” Joseph wriggled down the length of Gabe’s body. His small hand grabbed Gabe’s larger one and pulled his father toward the kitchen. “But now that you are, come on! Lydia and I are making Valentine’s cookies to take to my class tomorrow.”
Elizabeth’s gut tightened at the mention of another woman’s name. Why, she had no idea. It’s not like she and Gabe were an item. While she was unexplainably attracted to him, they’d just met and she believed in love at first sight about as much as she believed in the Tooth Fairy.
But then why was her heart fluttering like a drunken butterfly?
“Lydia is my aunt,” Gabe announced as if he’d read her thoughts. “She’s been helping me with Joseph since his mother left when he was a baby. She doesn’t like to be called Aunt Lydia. She says it makes her feel old.”
Awwww man. The wall she’d built around her heart cracked, then broke into a thousand pieces. Much unlike her own father, Gabe had taken responsibility for his child. When Elizabeth’s mother had bailed, so did her dad, pawning her and Frankie off on any relative that would take them. While she considered her aunt and uncle her parents, Elizabeth had essentially raised Frankie on her own. She knew what it was like to be a single parent and respected anyone who had done it.
Joseph started to dart toward the kitchen but Gabe halted him. “Son, where are you manners? We have a guest who is going to be staying here while she draws some pictures for Grandpa.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” Joseph straightened, taking a step forward and holding his little hand out. “Hi, I’m Joseph. Nice to meet you.”
The rest of Elizabeth that hadn’t already melted did. The boy looked even smaller as he tried to act big. Joseph reminded Elizabeth so much of Frankie when he was his age that she wanted to scoop him up and plant a big old kiss on his cheek. And the loving way Gabe handled his son, she wanted to throw him back against the wall and plant a kiss on him, too.
Elizabeth took a deep breath and held her hand out. She needed to be professional. Even though her heart hammered in her chest like a rapid fire Morse code, she managed to stick her hand out to the little boy in greeting.
“I’m Elizabeth. It’s nice to meet you.”
“She’s pretty, daddy. Just like grandma.” Joseph pointed at the picture hanging over the fireplace, then gave his father a conspiratorial wink. “Did the room go gray for you when she walked in?”
Tugging at his collar, sweat beaded on Gabe’s forehead. As he swiped his hand across his skin, a door closed behind Elizabeth. She spun around to find Les standing there. He folded his arms across his chest and smiled like the cat who’d just eaten the family parakeet.
“Well, Gabe,” he said. “Did it?”
Gabe wanted to crawl into the nearest crack—and not just because his grandfather was playing matchmaker, yet again.
No, the room had gone gray.
He’d never believed his grandfather’s theory but damned if he didn’t feel like he’d stepped into a 1930s movie. The bright red in the foyer’s Oriental rug faded into dark steel and the vibrant yellow walls became ashen. That hadn’t happened when he’d brought his ex-wife home to meet his grandfather. After he’d inadvertently gotten her pregnant, the right thing to do was to marry her—which meant bringing her home for the family introduction. But no shades of gray were involved in that.
Not like with Elizabeth.
Gabe composed himself as much as he could and gestured to Joseph and his grandfather. “Why don’t you two go into the kitchen and help Lydia? I’ll be in there in a minute.”
A smile teased Les’ mouth as he passed. “See? I told you it’d happen with the right one.”
As much as Gabe didn’t want to admit it, something had happened. There was some sort of connection between them. He loved her spunk, her determination… hell, her luscious body. Even falling into the ice cold water of the fountain, he’d felt nothing but heat.
“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked.
No he wanted to say but was unable to force the word past his lips. All he could do was stare at her like a love sick geek standing in front of the head cheerleader.
“So….you never answered your grandfather’s question.” Elizabeth shuffled uncomfortably from foot to foot. After she stopped fidgeting, she exhaled hard and leveled her chocolate eyes on him. “Did the room turn gray?”
In two long strides, he closed the distance between them. He didn’t know what compelled him to do that. It was as if two hands shoved him forward and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to stop himself. Placing his forearms against the wall on both sides of her head, he crowded her back. His lips were inches from hers and, before he knew it, he devoured them.
Oh damn. Her lips were as soft and luscious as he’d imagine and molded against his like they belonged there. And the way she pressed against his body and let out little moans of pleasure as his tongue danced with hers nearly undid him.
“What if I told you that it did?” he muttered into her lips.
Breathing heavy, she pushed him back and looked into his eyes. Fear? Passion? Anger? He wasn’t quite sure what was going on inside her. He knew he was taking a chance by coming on so strong but he had to know what she tasted like. And now that he did, he wanted even more.
Her bottom lip hung open for a second before she spoke. “I…I…I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you’ll have dinner with me,” he replied, sounding more desperate than he intended. “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”
She smirked at him. “But I want to go into your kitchen.”
Not the answer he expected. Most women he’d dated were highbrow and equally high maintenance. His ex certainly had been.
“Huh?” he grunted.
“We have cookies to make,” she replied in a voice that forbade any discussion. “Joseph has to take his stash into school tomorrow and needs our help.”
Well, shit. If that didn’t just seal the deal. While he wanted to throw her over his shoulder and carry her to his quarters, she was right. They were needed for that important task.
He gently pulled her away from the wall and into his arms. “On one condition.”
She raised a brow. “And that would be….”
“That I get to show you what it means to be my Valentine when we’re done.”
She placed a gentle kiss on his cheek that he felt straight to his groin. “Deal.”
Placing his hand in the small of her back, Gabe guided her to the kitchen door. Before following her into the room, Gabe looked back at the foyer walls and nodded.
Maybe these old walls know a thing or two after all.
Copyright 2012 by The Firebirds
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