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Gerard Butler GALS

TAME Ethan and Charlotte Part 1

Guest Beanie

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I have started a thread in the feedback section for any commets you GALS have. We have found in the over 18 section that we all talk WAY too much between posts and it gets a bit distracting! So any comments etc that you have, please post them in the feedback thread.


It has been requested that I post this at the beginning of every new volume. So I have obliged.

As your Site Administrator I need to make this very clear.


Gerard James Butler is NOT, I repeat, NOT Ethan (who started out with no last name, but has been since dubbed Ethan Morgan). Any resemblance Ethan may have to Gerard James Butler is PURELY coincidental.

This story is FICTION:

fic·tion ( P ) Pronunciation Key


1. An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.

A The act of inventing such a creation or pretense.

- A lie.

2. A literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.

3. The category of literature comprising works of this kind, including novels and short stories.

For those who find themselves in love with this purely fictitious character, our help line will be available 24 hours a day to ease you gently back into reality.

Thank you for your kind attention.

You may now resume your delusional activities.


Dr. Em

And now, our story....


She stood in front of the mirror, contemplating the day’s events. She brushed out her long blonde hair and thought for a moment, of the gorgeous stranger, who had stood near her in the elevator of her apartment building this afternoon. She had crushed on him for so long now, and despite her friends' urgings, she couldn't bring herself to ask him out. Tall, dark and ruggedly handsome in that cliché way, yet so uniquely beautiful in his own right, he hadn't even the courage to ask his name. Yet he'd known hers! They had both reached for the "Up" button in the elevator at exactly the same instant, and his voice, thick with Scottish accent had laughed, musically and apologetically, "Sorry there, Miss Arielle..." He'd winked at her, and through those thick dark lashes his green eyes had met with hers and from then on she was toast!

She sighed, and thought of his arms around her, and thought she'd better either take a cold shower, or call one of her girls. This was unlike her, to be thinking about a total stranger, but he had been perfect! A perfect stranger....and she still didn't even know his name, drat her for not asking, and him for not properly introducing himself.


Charlotte prepared for bed. As she brushed her teeth, the strangers green eyes danced in front of her face again. She had never seen eyes quite like it…. deep and soulful. Eyes you could drown in.

She snuggled under the covers, and again thought of the perfect stranger. As she drifted into sleep, that voice purred to her “Sorry there, Miss Arielle..." once again.

The next morning Charlotte was running late for work. She’d slept in, after dreaming of those eyes all night. Reluctant to let go of her dreams, she’d slept through the alarm. “s**t, s**t, s**t” she muttered as she scurried around her apartment, trying to find keys and hurriedly putting on make-up. She grabbed a piece of toast, and ran out the door.

Waiting for the elevator, she started to get impatient. What was the delay? Charlotte checked her watch again, and started to tap her foot. Her boss was going to be less than pleased when she was late. As the display above the lift showed her floor, she muttered “Finally. “ The doors opened, and who should be standing in front of her, but him, the perfect stranger. Charlotte nearly choked on the last of the toast that she was munching. She coughed until her eyes watered and hurriedly stepped into the elevator.

The stranger looked concerned, “OK?” he said, and thumped her on the back several times. Charlotte turned even redder. Her ears burned with embarrassment. “Fine” she croaked. He grinned a beautiful, slightly crooked grin, and said “Good” in that wonderful accent. Then, as if he knew it would be her undoing, he winked at her. Charlotte blushed, yet again. The lift doors closed, and they were alone together. Charlotte closed her eyes, and inhaled deeply. The small space that the two of them were sharing seemed to be filled with the stranger’s scent. It was heady, a mix of spices, and what seemed like pure pheromones. When she opened her eyes, he was looking at her, with a mischievous grin. “I know what you’re thinking” he seemed to be saying. Charlotte looked at the floor. This seemed to be the longest elevator ride ever. Finally, the lift stopped, and the doors open.

The stranger gestured, “after you” he said.


Charlotte exited the elevator with mixed emotions. With baited breath on one side, she anxiously fought against turning her head back to stare at him, but the more rational part of her did not want to appear to be desperate, or worse as if she were ogling him. But, to her astonishment, he grinned at her, the smile lines in his eyes deepening, as if he knew some sweet little secret, and said, "Oh, your getting off here? This is my stop too this morning, going to see a mate of mine for coffee downtown." He raised his eyebrows as if to say, "Care to join me?" silently to her. Charlotte thought she could hear her very heartbeat, despite the bustle of other passerbyes going on and off the elevator as she stood there for a few full seconds, contemplating what she was going to say to him next.

"What the heck?" she thought to herself, and she smiled back at him, his eyes appearing even more greener by the moment....


"Coffee?", she managed to stammer, despite her flustered state.

He grinned amusedly, "Yeah, coffee", he muttered, "do you drink coffee?"

Charlotte rubbed the back of her neck self-consciously. "Yes, I do. Who's this mate of yours?"

"A friend from school", he returned. He seemed to hesitate, but added, "would you like to come and meet him?"

She too hesistated, considering, trying desperately to sound calm even though she wanted to squeak with delight, "Uh, yeah, sure. I can juggle some things at work," knowing that she was already late, but suddenly not caring. She looked momentarily down at her shoes, but couldn't help returning his infectious grin when she looked back in his eyes.

He shuffled side to side, then moved a few steps closer to her. "Good. You'll like him. And the coffee, too", he said. "Want to catch a taxi with me?"

Again, her heart raced. The thought of sharing closer space with this man, who was already fogging her brain with his incredibly sexy, musky scent, made her a bit nervous. But she couldn't refuse....not without seeming obtuse. At the same time she would have ample opportunity to gaze at him without feeling guilty for stealing furtive glances and then looking down. Her cheeks burned red at the thought of all the looks he had caught her in before. "Sure. A taxi would be nice, these shoes aren't the most comfortable".

He held the door for her as they entered onto the street and hailed the cab, holding the door once again for her to slide over onto the seat. As he folded his tall frame into the cab, another whiff of his intoxicating cologne wafted to her nostrils, and his big knee and thigh brushed heavily against hers. "Sorry", he muttered, "I'm a big clumsy guy".

She grinned, "No, no, you're not. Not at all." And they were both glad for the mutual smile and a topic for conversation on their short ride to the coffee shop.


On the way, Charlotte wondered what the heck she was doing. This was totally unlike her. How did she end up in a cab, going for coffee with this stranger, and one of his friends? She shook her head and busily thought of excuses she could give to her boss.

After about 3 minutes, the stranger turned to her, a small grin quirking up the corner of one side of his delicious mouth. “My name is Ethan, by the way” he said. Charlotte nodded, and when he looked expectantly at her, blushed again and said “Oh, sorry, Charlotte."

Ethan smiled and held his hand out. “Nice to meet you” he said, his beautiful Scottish accent soft and inviting. Charlotte grabbed his outstretched hand and shook it. It was warm, and ever so slightly rough. Ethan seemed to hold on for just a fraction too long. When he released her, Charlotte’s hand was tingling. The feeling seemed to travel up her arm, and throughout her body.

“Don’t you already know my name, anyway?” she asked him boldly. After all, that voice repeating “Sorry there, Miss Arielle..." is what had kept her awake for the greater part of last night.

Ethan ginned widely. “Well, I know your last name." he said “But not your first name.“

Charlotte looked confused. “How do you know my name at all?” she said.

Ethan grinned again, his teeth white against his tanned cheek. He had the good grace to look just a little embarrassed. “I peeked at your mailbox,” he admitted. It was his turn to blush.

Charlotte laughed. “A regular Sherlock Holmes,“ she said. Ethan smiled again.

The cab began to slow, and Charlotte prepared to hop out. She opened her bag to search for her purse for cab fare, but Ethan already had his wallet out, giving to driver a few notes. Charlotte offered him some money. He shook his head, and said, “It’s on me.” Charlotte thanked him. Ethan opened the door on his side of the car, and scrambled out. As Charlotte was opening the door on her side, he walked around the cab, and held her door open. “So, manners as well as investigative skills” she quipped, and stepped out of the cab. Ethan touched an imaginary peaked cap on his head, and shut the door.

As the cab pulled away, Charlotte said, “Well, thanks for the ride, but I really should be getting to work. My boss is going to kill me.“


"But we haven't had our coffee yet," Ethan replied, a look of disappointment flashing across his masculine features. With a dazzling grin, he barely brushed her arm with his fingertips, "And I'm a very broody guy without my morning caffeine!"

The man stood there in his white button down shirt and torn jeans, his dark chest hair visible through the gaping buttons. Wavy dark hair framed his handsome face, his bow shaped lips impossible to ignore. He was tall, broad shouldered, well built and about the best looking guy she had ever seen. Who the heck was he anyway? And God, did he have to smell good too?

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A million reasons rushed through Charlotte's mind. A million excuses why she should not have coffee with the stranger. He was simply too good to be true. Too handsome, too polite, and not at all like the jerks she had dated recently. There had to be a big flaw, something he was hiding, and she didn't know if she could handle the disappointment of finding out what it was. He wore no ring, but that didn't mean he wasn't married or at least involved with someone else. Was he an alcoholic? Was he gay? Was he heartless womanizer? It didn't help that her last boyfriend fit two of those categories.

Ethan took a few steps closer and leaned down to her, a lock of his wavy dark hair falling across his cheek, "Come on luv, it's only coffee, and I promise, I won't bite... well not unless you ask me to." he chuckled. His obvious but charming flirtation made her weak in the knees, and she resented the giddiness he made her feel. The last thing she needed was another failed romance. She couldn't stand the thought of another lecture from her mother about Charlotte being her only single daughter, and "When are you getting married dear, you are getting on you know."

Glancing up at the handsome Scotsman, Charlotte opened her mouth to refuse his invitation, but the words that came out were not what she had intended. His penetrating green eyes narrowed, and he tilted his chin slightly, raising one dark brow with a look that Charlotte was powerless to resist, "Well?"

"Alright Ethan," she heard herself saying, "But one cup is my limit, and I don't bite either."


“One cup it is, then,” he said and grinned at her. With a soft flourish he waved towards the door of the Starbucks, and he moved up behind her, guiding her with a gentle touch of his hand on her lower back. As she turned, moving with his guidance, she heard him mutter under his breath. Startled she stared up into his eyes, emerald eyes bright with laughter. Had she really heard him say, “I hope you will, if I ask?” No, she must have misheard with all the traffic noise surrounding them.

She let him guide her through the door. He looked about the store, and then turned toward her. “Sean is not here yet, so where would you like to sit?”

Charlotte looked about the store and choose a table near the back away from the busy traffic of commuters rushing in and out.

“Excellent choice,” Ethan said, as he seated her at the small table, “That way we can talk without shouting. Sean always runs a wee late, so would like me to get you that cup of coffee now, or could you wait a bit?”

Charlotte smiled. “I’ll wait.”

“Good. You can look over the menu to decide what you like.”

“What do you drink, Ethan?”

“Caffeine,” he said with a hearty laugh. “It could taste like jet fuel, if it has the kick I like. No, no only kidding, the Mocha Latte is good, but they have a special house blend that I especially like.”

“Oh, what’s called?” Charlotte asked.

“Strange, it has no name. They just call it the Special House Blend. Now, if you are wondering how it tastes, it has a deep, dark, rich taste and is very smooth, no bitterness, just rich. Sound good? Do you want to try it?” Ethan grin expanded as he arched his eyebrow toward the ceiling. “I promise, you'll like it,” he said with a softened whisper.

Charlotte’s heart jumped into her throat. His eyes seemed to flame as he watched her, and he smiled, waiting expectantly for her response. She could only nod, Yes, for she could not pull her eyes away from his. She jumped, no they both jumped, when she heard a deep, booming voice beside them.

‘Well, Laddie Boy, you’ve finally brought some company. It’s about time. Now who is the sweet lassie?”

Charlotte blushed, turned her eyes downward and missed a corresponding soft blush on Ethan’s face. Ethan pulled his eyes from Charlotte and glanced at his friend.

“Erm… Charlotte, let me introduce my friend, Sean MacKenzie,” he said as he stood up. “Sean, this is Charlotte Arielle... erm… Charlotte lives in my building.”


Sean grinned widely. “Lucky you” he said, and winked. By this time, Charlotte was wondering if it was possible to blush any more. It seemed that all morning, her cheeks had been on fire. They stung now with the blood that rushed to them. “How did I get myself into this situation?” she wondered for what seemed like the 50th time.

As Sean sat down, Ethan stood, and said, “Ok, who wants coffee?” Sean nodded, and replied “The usual thanks” Charlotte looked up at the handsome stranger standing in front of her, with a wicked little grin on his face, and again mentally pinched herself. “I’ll have the Special house blend,” she said. Ethan grinned even more widely, and quirked one eyebrow. “Sure” he burred in his wonderful accent and turned towards the counter. Charlotte had to tear her eyes away from his figure as he went to order the coffee. All she wanted to do was watch that retreating back, long, long denim clad legs, and well, she had to admit it to herself, what was between them as he sauntered towards the counter. If only she were alone, and could close her eyes and imagine running her hands down that broad back….

She turned to Sean, to find him examining her. Charlotte smiled awkwardly, and desperately tried to think of something to say. She’d never been great in social situations, and fervently wished for a witty opening remark to pop into her head. It didn’t help that she was desperately trying to act cool, when in fact her heart was hammering at a mile a minute, and her whole body was tingling at the naughty thoughts that were racing around inside her head. Sean seemed to be examining her closely, as if he could see what she was thinking. Charlotte squirmed uncomfortably.

Before the silence became awkward, Sean spoke. “So, you live in the same building as Ethan? “ Charlotte nodded and replied “Yes”

Sean grinned and said, “Hmm, I know Ethan, and I know he likes you.” Charlotte widened her eyes, and made a strangled sound in the back of her throat. What the heck was she meant to say to that?

Sean laughed, “Have I embarrassed you?” he chuckled. “Sorry, I have a knack for saying things I shouldn’t. Part of my Scottish charm.”

Charlotte managed to smile, and desperately thought of how to change the subject. “How do you know Ethan?” she asked.

“I’ve known him for years, “ Sean replied. “We went to school together. He was a bit of a hell raiser, let me tell you.” Sean smiled. “He came out here first, for work, and I followed about 3 years later. My girlfriend received a promotion, and she wanted me to come with her.”

Charlotte nodded. “So, what do you do?” Sean questioned.

“I work in an dress shop. In fact, I should be there now.” Charlotte admitted.

Sean laughed again. “Well, why are you here?”

Charlotte blushed yet again, and shifted awkwardly in her seat. Why was she here? Work seemed infinitely safer, but also infinitely more boring than sitting in a coffee house with two Scotsmen.

“She couldn’t resist my charm” Ethan replied cheekily, as he slid back into his seat. Charlotte looked up. She had been so engrossed with Sean; she hadn’t noticed Ethan making his way back to the table.

“A bit over confident there lad” Sean teased, and winked at Charlotte. She smiled shyly. Obviously Sean hadn’t been able to read her thoughts!

“Coffee should be here soon.” Ethan announced. “Now, what lies have you been telling?” he demanded of Sean.


"Lies?", replied Sean questioningly. "Ethan, mate, wi' the stories I could tell, who'd need to lie?"

Evidently this mark hit home, as I turned to see a faint blush creep up Ethan's neck and fade gently as it hit the stubbled part of his chin. "Well, Sean, you can hardly tell those stories without comin' off yourself a little cheeky, can ya?", Ethan replied, flashing a devious smile and a quick wink to me.

I blushed yet again, but luckily a great tray of coffee was thrust unceremoniously in front of my face, effectively changing the topic. The young server deposited our coffee on the table, leaving me to stare blankly at my own cup.

I looked at Ethan, who was already pressing the cup to his lips. I watched for a second longer than I should have, seeing the full outline of his lips and the movement of his Adam's apple as he hungrily gulped the hot liquid. My mind immediately flew to just how rough that stubble would be against my face, but I blushed a deeper shade of red when Sean cleared his throat loudly, startling me back to reality. He turned his eyes to me, amusedly, but said nothing to Ethan.

I sniffed curiously at my cup, and found the aroma to be rich and smooth, like Ethan had said. I sipped, but decided to doctor mine with a bit of cream, sugar, and cinnamon. Ethan looked, and gave me a wide smile. "Lass, you're ruinin' the coffee", he said.

"Now Ethan, you know how you like things sweet", said Sean boldly. I turned my head to glare at Sean as he continued, "This Lass is right up your alley. Don't be pretendin' otherwise."

I looked sheepishly back at Ethan, who returned my blush, but retorted, "Damn it, Sean, can you refrain from charmin' the ladies while we're out together? You're such a smooth bloke...."

Ethan and I laughed heartily, but Sean was unfazed. "No, lad, we both know I'm the better man by far....", but he too giggled. If a man's friends were reflections of himself, I hesitated to think what this meant about Ethan...a little bold, funny, cheeky, definitely, but not a bad guy, and certainly entertaining. I smiled to myself just thinking about that. I wouldn't be needing more entertainment...

Glancing at my watch, I jumped. "Oh, I have to go. I was supposed to be at work half and hour ago. Thank you for the coffee, Ethan. Nice to meet you, Sean", I concluded. I slung my purse over my shoulder, grabbed my coffee, and smiled graciously at Sean, pausing to smile shyly but prettily at Ethan before I made my way to the door. Just outside, I felt a slight tug as Ethan pulled me back by the strap of my purse. "Charlotte, wait. I know you have to go, but.....ah....would you, would you meet me for dinner tomorrow?"

I considered. Tomorrow was so soon, but he was so very nice, and so distractingly handsome. I smiled at him, unconsciously batting my eyes. "Name the time....meet me in the lobby?" I said. "Hmmm.....seven o'clock allright?", he asked, grinning broadly and stroking my hand.

"Seven o'clock it is, Ethan. See you tomorrow." And I gusted out the door in a cloud of his cologne, subtle but powerful. I smiled without knowing it all the way to work, my cheeks almost sore. My feet flicked lightly along the sidewalk, but my brain kept time "What AM I doing?" it said.....

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The day seemed to drag on and on for Charlotte. After hastily thinking up an excuse for her boss, she sat at her work place, day dreaming about Ethan. Staring dreamily into space, she recalled his naughty smile, sexy accent, and delicious smell. How could he smell quite so good? It was like pure pheromones. Several times people came to talk to her, and had to try very hard to catch her attention.

After work, Charlotte decided to walk home. It was only a short distance, and it would give her plenty of time to day dream about the handsome Scot she was going to have dinner with tomorrow night. How could she wait that long? 7 pm the following night seemed like an eternity away. As Charlotte strolled through the streets, she wondered what she should wear, where he would take her, and what he would say. Reaching her building, she mentally shook herself.

“Really," she thought. “I’m acting like a love sick teenager.” She giggled quietly to herself and entered the building.

Charlotte was more than a little disappointed when the lift arrived, and there was no Ethan in it. She sighed, and sternly told herself off. This was getting silly - all she could think of was Ethan.

Charlotte let herself in her apartment, and flopped on the couch. She sat for a few minutes, relaxing, and wondering what to prepare herself for dinner. Just as she was about to get up, there was a knock on the door.


Charlotte was more than a little shocked to see her Scotsman standing in the doorway, an empty measuring cup in his hand. He wore a pair of black jeans, and a wrinkled black fitted shirt partly tucked into his unbelted pants. He had left all but two buttons of his shirt undone, showing off his tanned muscular chest and the smattering of body hair. His blue/green eyes were positively alight with mischief, the dark hair framing his face, boyishly tousled and slightly oily. He smiled broadly and extended the measuring cup, speaking with his rich Scottish burr, "I don't suppose you'd have a spare cup of sugar?"

Charlotte stood dumbstruck, and yet she was charmed by the corny pick up line. From his sloppy appearance, he looked like he'd just freshly rolled out of bed, and his intentions were unmistakable.

"I....I'm sorry, but I don't use sugar." she stammered, wishing she had said anything but that!

"Idiot!" she scolded herself silently, while he just continued to smile, his eyes raking over her.

"I do have a box of Splenda... would that do?"

Ethan looked passed her, and into her apartment, "I heard of the stuff, but have never used it myself.... any good for baking?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.

"You bake?"

"Don't sound so surprised, a man's gotta eat!" Ethan replied with a chuckle, shifting his feet and brushing a curl from his eyes with his free hand.

"Yeah okay, well, I use it for baking all the time." Charlotte lied. Truth was, she hadn't baked a thing since starting her new job. It was easier just to head down to the bakery, and she hated cooking for one.

Ethan cleared his throat, and handed Charlotte the measuring cup with a lopsided grin, "Okay, I'll give it a try."

Taking a step forward across the carpet, he cleared his throat again, Charlotte laughed nervously and stepped aside, "Oh, I'm sorry, would you like to come in?"

"Sure yea..... wow, nice apartment," he remarked looking around. "You've got the better view... I'm jealous." he teased.

Charlotte led him to the kitchen and opened a cupboard, but the unused box of Splenda was on the top shelf.

"Uh Ethan, would you mind getting it down?"

"Sure," he grinned. "Kitchen's nicer than mine too."

Charlotte tried not to stare as he lifted his arms above his head, but found herself watching his every move. When the rest of the shirt pulled out of his waist band, she caught a glimpse of his navel. Turning away before he noticed, she giggled and asked, "So what are you baking?"

Setting the box on the counter, Ethan laughed and began reading the label, "Oh just one of my mum's recipes.... some sweet shortbread biscuits... hey if you want, I'll bring you a sample." he continued.

"Yeah, that would be great."

Ethan moved closer, and leaned on the counter beside her, his arm brushing hers, "I'm looking forward to dinner tomorrow night."

"Same here." was all she could manage while he stood so close.

Charlotte could smell the cologne he had worn earlier that morning, mixed with sweat and coffee. Without saying a word Ethan reached out and fingered a strand of her long hair, tucking it casually behind her ear.

"Anyone ever tell you, you have gorgeous eyes?" he drawled, his voice deep and rasping.

Suddenly without thinking Charlotte answered, "So do you."

She felt herself blush hotly as he stood up to his full height, his eyes boring into hers, "In fact miss Arielle.... you are a gorgeous woman."

He reached an arm around Charlotte's waist and drew her to him. Her heart thumped so loudly, that she was certain he could hear it. She was finding it difficult to breathe and took a deep swallow as he held her closer.

Not knowing how or why, Charlotte wanted this man as she had never wanted anyone else. There was just something about him; a magnetism and masculine energy that was irresistible. She knew he hadn't come for sugar... and that he was about to get what he had really come for.

Ethan drew a sharp breath between his teeth, licked his lips, and cupped her face with his hands, his thumbs gently resting on the apples of her cheeks. She tingled from head to toe as he leaned down and placed his mouth over hers, kissing her. Her whole body caught fire, and she met his kiss with ferocity.

"Oh my God..." she sighed, "You are a damn good kisser."

"You're not so bad yourself luv." he hissed between his teeth, "Come 'ere.'"


Pulling her closer, Ethan' breath washed over her face and hair as he kissed her throat and throbbing temples. Charlotte felt giddy as her head spun. Across the back of her eyelids danced images of Ethan as she had seen his this morning, that naughty grin, and raised eyebrow, and then how he looked as he cheekily presented the empty measuring cup and requested sugar. She opened her eyes to find Ethan staring at her, his own eyes dark and intense. She licked her dry lips, and Ethan’s eyes followed the movement. He growled, and bent his head to again claim her mouth. It went on for what seemed like forever. Just as Charlotte thought that she would die from the pleasure that was pouring through her, Ethan broke the kiss, raised his head and looked at her.

Charlotte opened her eyes, and managed a weak smile. Ethan pulled back, and examined her.

“OK?” he whispered, and gave her a delicious grin.

Charlotte nodded weakly. She felt light headed, and little ripples of pleasure still skittered through her. Ethan smiled again, and slowly disengaged himself from her. To her embarrassment, her knees buckled.

Ethan laughed, and picked her up, like she weighed little more than a feather. He confidently strode through her flat, and opened the bedroom door, with one hand.

Walking over to the bed, he gently placed her in the middle, and perched on the edge near her. Charlotte smiled sleepily at him, and opened her mouth to talk. Ethan grinned slightly again, and gently placed his finger over her mouth.

“I think you need some rest,” he burred, and raised an eyebrow at her. Charlotte blushed, and smiled sheepishly.

“Tomorrow night, 7pm…” he whispered, and leaning in to Charlotte, gently placed a kiss on her still fevered lips. He stroked her forehead, and as she was sliding into sleep, she felt him gently rise from the bed. As sleep overtook her, she heard Ethan moving around the apartment quietly.

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Ethan left Charlotte's side by the bed and took one last look at her from the doorway. A small smile pulled at his lips and he brushed back a lock of his dark hair from his brow as he assessed his night's work. Not bad, he had to admit to himself with a small grin. She looked so beautiful lying there, her face a mask of sweet contentment.... Even now as he stood there watching her drift off to sleep, there was a part of him which did not want to go quietly. "Patience, lad," he grinned to himself "Hopefully she'll dream about us tonight". He quickly but silently closed the door to her room to finalize that decision.

He looked around the silent apartment. "Well, luv, lets learn a little more about you" he thought. The apartment was utterly neat - almost sterile. He smiled to himself mischieviously "Well, at least I'm right there -- Miss Charlotte has too much time on her hands and no one to share it with. Think I might be able to help her there."

He had found himself inexplicably drawn to her the first time he saw her. Just a chance glance, but he had felt arrested by her eyes that very first sighting. She had remarkable eyes; he felt they could look right down into him... when she wasn't staring at her shoes, that is. He chuckled. Oh, how he loved to make this girl squirm. She had a hard time even looking at him most of the time, so he knew she was attracted to him too. He found her shyness endearing. He had started investigating her a little at a time, knowing he would have to initiate this relationship; but it still surprised him that she held his attention so strongly. Call it love at first sight? God he didn't know. Never had believed in that garbage before. But Sean had seen something special in Charlotte too -- darned bugger nearly tried to pick her up himself! He had let him have it for certain after Charlotte had left.

Thinking back over the days events again, he recalled how charged he had felt at the nearness of Charlotte. Sexually, well, damn straight. But he also found himself wanting to give this woman so much more... Ethan had no qualms about accepting that he was a fairly good with the ladies. He loved giving them pleasure, and was one of those sorts who's own pleasure was amplified by theirs. But Charlotte had been so incredibly responsive to his attentions. It was like a shy kitten turning into a lioness before his eyes. He trembled slightly at the thought of her again, so warm and soft against him. He could still taste her on his lips, and for a moment had to fight hard for mastery over himself. He sucked his breath through his teeth, and focused on looking around a little more. He looked at her DVD collection.... The Notebook, Phantom of the Opera, Under a Tuscan Sun. Well, so she replaced romance in her life with romance on her TV. Her books were much the same.

Suddenly, in spite of himself, he had a sudden pang of uncertainty. What if he had taken it too far with this girl? And it really had happened so fast. Maybe too fast? He knew all too well that sometimes what felt so right in the evening could morph into regrets in the morning. What if she backed out of their dinner arrangement?

He began to look around for something to write on and found a pad of paper and pen near her phone. Brushing back his hair from his forehead, he considered what to write.... it had to be good - his plans for tomorrow night depended on it.

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Ethan stood for a moment longer, doodling on the pad. Then, suddenly a wicked grin spread across his features. He had an even better idea…. Now, where was that packet of Splenda rubbish that Charlotte had given him.

When Charlotte awoke, it was dark. He rumbling tummy had woken her. For a second she didn’t know where she was, what time it was, or why she was still dressed. She lay for a moment on the bed, and then suddenly the memories of what had happened a few hours earlier with Ethan came rushing back to her. Her cheeks heated as she thought of how she had behaved, and she nearly groaned aloud. He must think that she was some kind of wonton hussy. She had practically thrown herself at him, and all he had done was kiss her. She rolled over and buried her face in the cool pillow. “God, “ she thought, “I’ve blown it with him now…” As she was berating herself for indecent behavior, her stomach again reminded her that she hadn’t eaten. What time was it any way? She turned her head and looked at the clock, 11.30. Well, she’d have to get up and have something to eat or she’d never sleep.

As she rose from the bed, Charlotte decided to first have a shower. She stripped and stood under the hot water, enjoying the caress of the rivulets trickling down her skin. After a few minutes, she turned the shower off and padded into the bedroom for a pair of pajamas. After putting them on, she opened her bedroom door, and walked out into the kitchen.

Charlotte gasped, and then giggled. Sitting on a plate in the middle of the kitchen bench was a plate of shortbread cookies. As Charlotte surveyed the kitchen, she noticed that it was spic and span. So Ethan must have made the biscuits, and then cleaned up after himself? What an unusual man.

Charlotte decided that fresh Shortbread cookies were as good a snack as any, and helped her self to a few. It was then she noticed a note stuck under the plate. She picked it up, and frowned again. How was she supposed to decipher this scribble? Ethan’s tidy kitchen habits obviously didn’t extend to his handwriting. She examined the note closely, and managed to work out the message. She smiled as she translated:


This Splenda stuff is rubbish. You need some real sugar. That can be arranged at 7pm, tomorrow night.


Charlotte blushed hotly at the innuendo, and then couldn’t help but grin. Well, it seemed that she hadn’t ruined her chances with her perfect stranger after all.

The next morning, she was again running late. And, again she blamed her thoughts of Ethan. She rushed around her flat, and grabbed a piece of toast. Waiting for the elevator, she started to get impatient. What was the delay? Charlotte checked her watch again, and started to tap her foot. Her boss was going to be less than pleased when she was late, for the second day in a row. As the display above the lift showed her floor, she muttered “Finally. “ The doors to the lift opened and....


It was devastatingly empty. Charlotte felt her heart sink into her stomach. As late as she was for work, she had still really hoped that Ethan would be there. She stepped into the lift and pressed the button. She suddenly was overcome with thoughts of Ethan, alone with her in the lift, and caught herself dreaming "what if?". Her brain gave over to thoughts of fantasy. She imagined Ethan there beside her, his tall manly body eased ever so carelessly against the walls of the lift, cup of coffee in hand, mischievous smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. In her mind she could hear him say in a soft dusky voice "Well, hello Charlotte. Fancy meeting you here." Charlotte would look up at him and smile this time, looking him full in the eye and say "About that sugar...." Her fantasy went on -- Ethan would laugh softly and with a wicked grin and a cocked eyebrow, reach over and press the "stop" button on the lift, suspending it between floors. He would reach for her, enveloping her in those strong masculine arms till all she could feel was his heat, smell his cologne, feel him pressing into her. She would kiss him first this time, opening his mouth with her tongue to taste every bit of him, pressing herself into his chest....

Suddenly, Charlotte was snapped back to reality as the elevator doors opened. She sighed before she looked up, a little shocked to have been so deep in her thoughts, feeling far too aroused for this time of the morning and on her way to work no less. When she finally did look up, there, standing before her, was Ethan. "Oh no!!" she screamed in her brain. "I just can't win with this guy..." She again felt the flush creeping into her cheeks and just suddenly felt furious at herself. She knew it must show on her face, but she couldn't help it. She stood there like that, looking at the floor for what seemed like an eternity.

Ethan caught the look and took a deep breath. "Ok, maybe I'm in trouble" he thought. He cocked his head at her and took a step forward, afraid to touch her because he might set her off. "Charlotte? You ok?" He asked in a tone that was somewhere between pleading and not wanting to know the answer.

Charlotte took a quick glance up at him. She had absolutely no control. Just the nearness of him sent shock waves through her all over again. And that pleading puppy dog look on his face... she had to get out of there quick or lose all her composure.

"Yes, fine Ethan" she said a little too quickly "I'm just awfully late to work again. I have to go. Talk to you soon!" She left the lift and was out the door of her apartment building before he had a chance to say anything else, berating herself all the while for her stupid school-girl reaction.

Ethan stood in the lift watching after her, a perplexed and disappointed look on his face. Maybe he had gotten things all wrong after all....

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As Ethan traveled up to his flat, he wondered, what went wrong? He guessed that his thoughts about regrets in the morning were right. He sighed. Well, he might as well forget about dinner with Charlotte tonight if that’s the way things were.

Charlotte spent the rest of the day mentally kicking her self for the way she had acted. Why did she run away like that? Well, actually, she knew why she had fled. Ethan had a completely over powering effect on her, and if she hadn’t rushed off to work, she might have thrown him on the floor, right in the lobby. She was bewildered by her physical reaction to the handsome Scot. OK, it had been a while, but not that long! And still, never in the past had an attraction been so strong, and so completely over powering. Her face flushed as she thought of going to dinner with him this evening. How could she sit still, across a table from him, when her whole body was fizzing at just the thought of him?

Again, the day dragged. When it was time to leave work, Charlotte was first out of the office, something that never happened. She rushed home, and this time was relieved to find the lift Ethan-less. At least she could get ready with out dealing with the after effects of seeing him.

As she entered her apartment, she noticed a note on the floor that had obviously been slid underneath the door. Scrawled across it, in Ethan’s nearly illegible writing, was

“See you at 7?”

Charlotte felt a pang. Maybe he had changed his mind? She wouldn’t blame him, after the way she had acted this morning. She wasn’t going to go up to see him now. If she pretended that she hadn’t got the note, then he couldn’t cancel. Surely he wouldn’t stand her up?

She took a long, hot shower, and then struggled to decide what to wear. Where would he take her? Remembering his own casual style, Charlotte decided to dress down. She chose a pair of comfy jeans, and a flattering, casual top. She brushed her long blonde hair, and applied some make-up. When she looked at herself in the mirror, her face was glowing, and her lips slightly parted, as if remembering Ethan’s kisses. She checked her watch, and left the apartment. Again, she held her breath as the lift doors opened, but there was no perfect stranger to greet her.

When the lift reached ground, the doors slid open. Charlotte was surprised to see Ethan, standing in the lobby. He was facing the opposite direction, looking out of the doors. Her face tingled, as she admired again his long legs, clad in the low-rise jeans, and the soft denim shirt he wore. His hair was tousled, and his hands were jammed in his pockets. He again looked like he had just fallen out of bed – deliciously rumpled.

Taking a deep breath, she crossed the lobby, and stood beside him. “Hey” she said. He turned to her, a smile splitting his perfect features.

“Hey” he responded. “I wasn’t sure that you would come.”

Charlotte looked at the floor, and struggled to speak. His scent was over whelming her again, her head was foggy, and her mouth seemed to be stuffed with cotton wool. “Uh, yeah” she managed to croak, “About this morning …”

Ethan examined her face, and said, “Well, it doesn’t matter. You’re here now. “ He smiled warmly at her. “I decided to do something a bit different tonight,” he announced. “Follow me.”

To Charlotte’s surprise he turned and headed straight for the lift. “Uh, where are we going?” she asked confusedly.

Ethan grinned mischievously. “You’ll see,” he said. He punched a button on the lift panel. The doors closed, and once again she was trapped in the confined space with him. All she could do was look at the floor. She clenched her hands together, to prevent her self from reaching out and touching Ethan. When she finally looked up, he was smiling amusedly at her. Was he a damned mind reader? The lift jolted to a stop, and the doors slid open. Charlotte followed Ethan out, and he said, “Welcome to my humble abode” as he opened his apartment door.


Charlotte gasped audibly as Ethan led her into his elegant apartment. A small table was situated in front of a glowing fireplace in the living room, set with fine china, candles and fresh red roses.

"Did you do all this for me?" she asked, her blue eyes wide with unbelief. Most of the guys she had dated, including her ex, expected her to initiate a romantic evening... but this guy had thought of everything, and from the delectable aroma coming from the kitchen, he was a damn fine cook on top of everything else.

Ethan smirked, pleased that his gesture had the desired affect. Kicking off his shoes, he tossed them in a corner and then sauntered over to the entertainment center which took up an entire wall. He was proud of his gear and had made it the focus of his apartment; his CD, DVD players, speakers and plasma television meticulously organized in glossy black lacquer cabinets. He could tell by her expression that she was impressed.

"Shall we have some music?" he asked, his eyes glinting in the fire-lit glow.

Before Charlotte could answer, Ethan flipped a few switches, pressed a few buttons on his remote, and the apartment vibrated with the overture of Phantom of The Opera. Charlotte didn't know what to say, and just stood there with a smile plastered on her face, while Ethan's expression turned positively devilish.

"But how..... I mean, that's my favorite music in the world! How did you know?" she asked, convinced that he was a mind reader. "Are you a fan of the show?"

"Me? no....." he laughed, "I don't like opera, just bought the CD today, this is the first time I've heard it."

Cocking a brow, he slowly approached her, tracing the contour of her cheek with his fingertip. Charlotte shivered with his touch, and closed her eyes, hoping that he was about to kiss her. Instead he walked away, picked up the remote and turned the volume down, chuckling under his breath, "Okay, well I confess... I checked out your place while you were sleeping, and saw your books and DVDs, I figured you liked it, so I bought it."

Hardly knowing how to respond, Charlotte padded across the Persian rug to his side, "That is so sweet of you... and yes, I love Phantom."

Sensuous images of the movie flooded her brain, and lusty visuals of Don Juan on the catwalk heated her center. Suddenly she needed to be closer to this man, needed to taste his scent and feel the heat of his body. It wasn't like her at all to be sexually aggressive, but his hair, his eyes, and that chest he couldn't contain in his tight shirts! He made her want to be like her sister; comfortable in her skin and confident where guys were concerned. Charlotte was tired of being a good girl, and was dying to know what he was like in bed. But he seemed a bit cool and distant, and she wondered if her stunt in the lift had turned him off. Maybe he just felt obligated to go through with their date... maybe he wished that she was someone else.

"So what's for dinner?" she questioned, bravely leaning into him, and allowing her chest to brush his arm.

"Oh just some pasta I cooked up... hope you like basil."

Charlotte moved still closer, "Mmmmm." she replied absently, her fingertips creeping up to his open collar, "I love it."

Ethan growled in the back of his throat and teased, "Just what are your intentions miss Arielle, dinner's getting cold." He reached out, smoothed a strand of hair away from her cheek, and cupping the back of her head with his hand, his eyes bored into hers like firebrands.

"Dinner can wait," Charlotte whispered, her arms wrapping around his neck. Ethan dropped the remote and moaned, crushing her against him. He covered her soft lips with his, his tongue dipping around hers, the sensation driving him wild. Suddenly Charlotte was opening his shirt, kissing his muscular chest, and neck.

With strains of Music of The Night playing in the background, Ethan stumbled backwards onto the sofa, drawing her down with him to the black leather cushions.

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Ethan groaned and contorted his face, his mouth taking hers with ferocious pleasure.

"Good God woman," he moaned, as his hands slid down her back, and adjusted her so that she fit even more snugly against him if that were possible. Her hair had come down, and was falling around them like a curtain, and he thought he had never seen anyone so sexy. 'I never imagined you'd be like this. " He groaned as he kissed her again. He was losing all control, and he knew it.

He sensed an immediate change in Charlotte. The next thing he knew, she was sitting up, which made things infinitely worse as far as he was concerned. By the look on her face, he knew he had said something that upset her.

"What do you mean by that exactlly?" Charlotte asked. Her face was flushed, and she was breathing heavily, but she now looked as if she might regret what had just happened. All she could think was, "he thinks I'm a slut. He thinks I'm like this with all men." Ethan sat up, wrapping his arms around her back. She tried to get off his lap, but he held her tightly.

"All I meant was, every time I saw you, you seemed so shy. Even a conversation with you could make you blush, and I don't know if you know this or not, but you look at your feet a lot to avoid looking at other people. I was just surprised that you...became so passionate so quickly. "

Charlotte's mind was racing, as well as her heart. She had to say something. He needed to understand. It surprised her that what Ethan thought was so important to her. Ethan reached up and ran his fingers through her hair, brushing it back from her face with his fingers.

"You mean it suprised you that I attacked you the minute we were through the door." Charlotte said. Ethan looked at her with a look that said that was just what he meant, but he said,

"Well, I wouldn't have put it quite like that."

Charlotte looked down to gather her thoughts, and discovered that that was exactly the wrong place to be looking. She was forced to look up, straight into those amazing eyes that made her completely lose herself. She decided to be totally honest with him.

"Actually, this is completely unlike me. I don't know what comes over me when you're standing so close, but I just can't seem to help myself. I know it sounds like I'm giving you a line, but honestly, I've never behaved this way with anyone before. It always takes forever for me to get to this point with a man. Trust me, I've heard the complaints from men I've dated."

Ethan smiled, and leaned forward to kiss her lightly. Then he leaned back and said,

"I'm glad." Charlotte looked at him not quite sure of his meaning. "I'm glad I make you feel like that, like no one else has. I'll be honest, there's something different for me too, but I can't quite say what it is." He kissed her again. "I want the chance to find out though." Ethan gathered all of his self control. "How about some dinner?" He turned and slid Charlotte off of his lap, an act he thought might kill him. He reached down and grabbed his shirt. As he was putting it on, he saw the look on Charlottes face. He knew she was trying to figure out what had gone wrong. He smiled as he leaned over and whispered into her ear. "It's called anticipation. Do you know what happens when you let it build?" He brushed his lips seductively against her ear, and headed to the kitchen.


It took effort for Ethan to make his way from the couch to the kitchen. Once again he had to fight down his desire and walk away. He felt completely off balance. Just when he thought he had this girl figured out, she would take another turn and he would become unsure of himself. That was certainly not like him. Usually, he was the master of this domain... and girls just naturally followed his lead. When he was out of site of Charlotte, he stood for a moment to gather himself. Running his hand through his hair, he thought "This one is really going to give me a run for my money. Patience, lad. I think she's worth it." He had to gain back some sort of control. Charlotte was like a run-away train right now, and he was afraid the whole relationship would derail if things continued on this way. In the past, it could be said that he was a fast mover too. But he didn't want to take the chance of this relationship burning itself out like previous ones. He was so unused to this type of conflict! He took a deep breath and shuddered. He wondered if he had ever made the women in his past feel like this. Maybe that's just what this was for Charlotte, too... a power struggle.

He heard Charlotte come up behind him, and forced himself into action to get dinner ready. He looked at her over his shoulder with what he hoped was a casual glance. Charlotte looked shy again, gazing at the floor. In spite of himself, he gave a little exasperated snort, then checked himself when he saw the look in her eyes. "Charlotte, love. Care to help out a bit?"

Charlotte nodded her head and tried to look cheerful. Good... maybe she just needed to be distracted a bit. "All right then, you can finish putting the salad together. Over there on that counter -- just throw all that in the bowl and give it a good toss."

"That I can do!" she smiled. Ethan couldn't help but steal glances at her back as she worked. He thought she was so beautiful... He was struck by the fact that Charlotte herself had no idea how good looking she was. And he loved her for it. No guile in this one... when her passions rose to the surface, she was as honest as could be. He felt a sudden tensing again. Good lord, this was gonna be a long night.

Dr Em

The dinner was delectable leaving Charlotte full, though not uncomfortable. Ethan regaled in vivid detail stories of growing up in his beloved Scotland throughout dinner, causing Charlotte to nearly choke on her pasta at one of his tales. Ethan was a delightful storyteller, but Charlotte wondered aloud how much was fact and how much was Ethan’s colorful version of the facts. She loved watching him speak with his whole body as he seemed to relive every detail for her. At one point, Ethan became so animated in his exuberance he nearly knocked the table over jumping from his seat. The table survived, but the wine did not. Charlotte gasped as the wine glasses sprung into the air, spilling Bordeaux in every direction, including all down Charlotte’s shirt.

Charlotte laughed heartily at the look on Ethan’s face of horror mixed with an ample dose of embarrassment as he realized what he had done. Charlotte thought she caught a glimpse of that mischievous little boy of yesteryear before he began apologizing profusely while pulling yards of paper towels from their spool.


Ethan quickly mopped up the wine pooling over the table, and reefed off more paper towel to hand to Charlotte. He paused before giving her the huge wad of towel, and said cheekily “Would you like me to do that for you?” Charlotte gazed up at him, her lips parted, and a faint tinge grazing her cheeks. She bit her lower lip, and mentally shook herself. “No, I’ll manage thanks.” she responded “But you’d better be quick” Ethan swiftly gave her the paper towel, and smiled. Charlotte scrubbed hastily at her shirt, and frowned. “I don’t think this is going to budge.” she complained, and took another useless swipe at her now stained shirt.

“Well, I think we should get it on to soak before it really sets” Ethan replied, “Let me get you one of my shirts.” He rushed out of the kitchen as Charlotte stood helplessly.

“Great,“ she thought, “Wear his shirt? What’s that going to do to my hormones?”

Before she could protest, Ethan returned to the kitchen with a soft denim shirt – much like the one he was wearing. “Here,” he said, handing her the shirt, “put this on, and I’ll soak your shirt. You know where the bathroom is.”

Charlotte took the shirt and went in search of Ethan’s bathroom. She closed the door behind her, and looked around. It was spotlessly clean, a good sign. Charlotte smiled to herself. Well, he had explored her CD and DVD collection, so maybe she should return the favor. She opened the medicine cabinet, and saw a bottle of cologne sitting on the shelf. Maybe this why Ethan smelt so good. She uncapped the bottle and inhaled. It smelt heavenly, spicy and clean. Her head buzzed with the scent. Quickly she put the bottle back on the shelf, and closed the cabinet door, before pulling her damp top over her head. Just as she was trapped in her shirt, halfway in, and halfway out, there was a knock on the door.

“Are you alright?” Ethan’s voice asked. “You’re taking a while in there.”

Charlotte froze, and could hardly breathe, let alone answer while she was trapped in her clothing. She made a muffled noise, and struggled with her top. Just as she managed to slip it over her head, the bathroom door opened, and Ethan peered in.

Charlotte gasped, and quickly hugged her damp top to her chest. Her eyes grew wide, and she stared at Ethan. “Oh, sorry” he muttered hastily, “I didn’t hear anything, I was worried.” He continued to stand in the doorway, like a rabbit caught in headlights. As he gazed at her, his breathing grew shallower. The moment stretched for what seemed like hours, as they looked intensely at each other. Charlotte managed to lick her dry lips and say, “Um, I need to change, and I can’t do it with you standing here.”

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Ethan put both his hands up in an appeasing gesture, smiled, and backed away from the bathroom door. He heard Charlotte close it behind him. He really HAD only wanted to check up on her. He thought she might be upset or something.... damn, but this was turning into a comedy of errors. He grinned to himself as he thought "Ah, but I caught you, Charlotte! Peeking into my medicine cabinet, eh?" He had distinctly smelled his cologne in the air when he had opened the door. But instead of making a joke about their tit-for-tat snooping as he had intended, he had been arrested by the sight of her, and well, he was a man 100% through and through. His hormones got the better of him. She was a puzzle, this one. Incredibly passionate, but so darned easily embarrassed. He had to find some way to break this cycle, to convince her he was more fair than foul.

Reaching the dining area, he surveyed the accident scene. A few small stains on the carpet he'd have to work on later, but nothing serious. God, but he could be a fool sometimes. He just couldn't help himself as he was telling Charlotte ribald stories of his past. He loved seeing her face light up with that captivating smile of hers, the way her nose crinkled up and her eyes danced when she laughed. And those dimples! He just wanted to reach over and squeeze her she was so cute! He wanted to see more and more of that expression on her face, and it had occurred to him that this was probably the most fun she had had in a long while. So, he had embellished a few details here and there, just to get her going. It tickled him to no end when she saw through his exaggerations - she would flash those twinkling eyes at him as if to say "You are so full of it!" He liked that she could pick up on him like that. It was sort of a nasty habit, he admitted, a private joke for him to lead girls on with embellished tales just to see if they were smart enough to catch on. Charlotte had passed the test, but then he figured she would.

Charlotte came in while he was standing there staring at his carpet, both hands in his pockets. He looked up at her with a sheepish grin, and saw the expression on her face change from discomfort to - what? Something akin to as if she were saying "awwwwww!!!" - as if he were a puppy dog or some such thing. He laughed. "Well, I've played quite the fool tonight, eh, Charlotte m'love? Hopefully you don't feel like this date has been a total waste." He shifted his weight on his feet and sent another sad grimace her way just to test out its effect on her..... bingo! He stroked his mouth and chin with his hand to prevent himself from laughing. This girl was so much fun.

"Date?" Charlotte said hesitantly, one eyebrow cocked

Ethan skipped a beat as he processed her question, and then let out a laugh. "Well, yes, love, I'd say it's a date, seeing as I've had my tongue down your throat a couple of times. Wouldn't you say that qualifies?"

He softened his glance as he saw the blush rise in her cheeks again. Oh, no... not again. Tenderly, he left off of his teasing, eased his way towards her and said "Oh, come, darlin'. I don't mean you any harm. Look - come here."

He grasped her by the shoulders and looked at her. With his right hand, he lifted her chin so he could look her in the eyes. He tried his best to broadcast tenderness in his gaze... and suddenly she melted a bit. They stood there staring at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Ethan couldn't even formulate his thoughts into words - all he knew is that he FELT something immensely for this girl. Shuddering, he lowered his face to hers and kissed her very slowly with his lips. Charlotte tensed and he could sense her revving up again, ready to head out of control. He held her tighter, and willed her to slow down, pressing his lips unmovingly but softly against hers. He could feel the struggle within her, wanting to press onward to unbridled passion, but eventually, she relented. She sighed against him, removing her lips from his and burrying her face in his chest. He cupped his hand around her bottom and held her firmly against him, rocking her gently from side to side as he embraced her.

"Charlotte, honey," he sighed into her hair "This is too good to rush. I want to get to know you better. I have a feeling there's more in store for us than just a sexy fling, and I want to give us a chance to find out. I can't explain why I feel so tenderly towards you, but there it is -- I really do." He held himself back from her a bit, and she raised her eyes to his. He smiled at her and stroked her hair. "Char, I have the feeling this is the beginning of something really beautiful. Please tell me you feel the same?"


Charlotte gulped, and looked into Ethan’s eyes. What was he saying? After her previous failed relationships, she wasn’t sure what he was asking. Was it a line, designed to make her feel more secure so he could then haul her into bed? Or was he being genuine?

As Charlotte struggled with her answer, Ethan’s heart dropped. Had he just messed it up? Was he putting too much pressure on her? That would be a laugh – him, the bloke who charmed them, but never really committed to anything serious.

Finally, Charlotte slowly nodded her head. “Ok…” was all she said. Ethan knew she was holding something back, and as he gazed at her, wondered if he should press the issue. He eventually decided to let it go and just hugged her close again. He could feel her heart beating at a mile a minute, through her chest.

Ethan stepped back, knowing that if he stood here, so close to her for much longer, he would end up rushing after all. He ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair, and said, “So, I have a few DVD’s, do you feel like watching one?” Charlotte nodded, so he led her into the lounge. As she plopped down on the couch, he rifled through his collection. “What do you feel like?” he asked, “Comedy, Romance, Action?”

Charlotte raised her eyebrows. “I’ll leave it up to you, “ she replied “Just nothing really violent.” Ethan grinned, and selected a DVD. After adjusting the controls on his entertainment system, he joined Charlotte on the couch. Unsure how far to push the situation, he sat close to her, their arms just touching.

Charlotte could smell his scent, and feel the warmth from his arm, through the borrowed shirt. The heat that was generated by the small contact fired her whole body. She was glad that there was clothing to act as a barrier between them, as the heat would surely scorch her naked skin. The movie played on the screen, but Charlotte stared at it unseeing. It was just a load of idiot images dancing in front of her eyes, her brain unable to process anything but the feelings created by the man sitting next to her. As she sat next to Ethan on the couch, every cell in her body seemed to be screaming out for more contact. She sat dazed for what seemed like an eternity, seeing only a series of sensual images dancing in her brain. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to try and slow her racing heart. Suddenly she was aware of Ethan gently shaking her arm. It took her a second to swim to the surface of the pool she seemed to be drowning in, and as her eyes focused she became aware of Ethan’s concerned face in front of her. “Er, are you alright?’ he asked, his voice colored with concern.


Charlotte blinked.

“No,” she said under her breath. “I… ah… I’m...I’m,” Charlotte paused, her eyes on the carpet at her feet.

Ethan leaned closer, pulling her into the crux of his arm, holding her against his chest. “Tell me, honey! What is it, what’s wrong?”

Charlotte looked up into Ethan eyes, and his concern washed over her like a gentle flood of rain during a long, hot, dry summer. The sensual images faded into the background as she looked at him, and she quivered. This is real, she thought. Ethan’s presence was far more real than any image she could image or dream. Could there be more? She wondered. She took a shaky breathe and said,

“Ethan, I want you! I can’t stop dreaming about you and about us…being together. Right now, I ache with wanting to be with you,” Charlotte paused and again, looked away from Ethan’s face. She found that Ethan’s hand was resting on her own two clenched fists, stroking them softly. A fleeting smile crossed her face, and again her erotic images flooded her mind. She wanted to drown in those images, but they could no longer hold her captive. She looked up into Ethan’s eye, and said, “But I…I want more!” Charlotte paused, and then asked, “Did you mean it, when you said you want to get to know me better?”

Ethan watched her face, her skin, brighten and glow with a soft blush. She did not know that the hunger Ethan saw in her eyes almost sent him over the edge. His longing to take all that she was offering, which was more than just sex, pierced his heart.

“Yes,” Ethan whispered. “I want to get to know…you, Charlotte! And I want you to have the time to get to know me, also.”

As she lay against him, looking into his eyes, Charlotte could feel the beat of Ethan's heart accelerate, and she smiled.

Ethan breathed out slowly. “Charlotte, do… do you want to get to know me?” He asked. He waited and hoped.

“Yes, Ethan, I do,” she whispered back to him. “But it won’t be easy,” she said, as she laid her head upon his shirt above his heart, “slowing down.”

“What?” Ethan sputtered.

“Well, I can not just turn off all these feelings at once, like you do a faucet handle.” She bent her head back, and looked into his eyes. Mischief was written all over her face. “I can’t stop dreaming about us… about being with you. Every time you are near me I’m turned on. Just sitting next to you…to be blunt... well....,” she said, huskily. Laughter filled her eyes, and she waited.

Ethan sat very still, but Charlotte saw and felt the long draw of breath he took. His eyes had turned to flame. “Well then, Darlin let me give you a glimpse into the future,” Ethan said, as he bent his head over hers.

Ethan softly blew his breath across her moist lips, letting its warmth stroke her. And then, as he felt her heart speed up with anticipation, he took her mouth at full throttle. His tongue slipped inside easily, for her mouth was as eager his. She tasted like the mint she had suck on during the movie. God she is sweet, Ethan thought, and so hot. He reminded himself that he needed to maintain a tight rein on his passion, but knew he was beginning to lose that fight. It was only a matter of time for both of them.

Their tongues circled and caressed, each doing battle for the greater share of the other’s mouth. Giving and taking, they fought until they were both breathless. But neither was willing to give up the battle, and each sucked in more air, for a briefer second round.

Charlotte broke away, first, and he followed her lead. As she lay against him, catching her breath, he placed his chin on the crown of her head. He was breathing no better then she. For a long time they sat just quietly holding each other, words were unnecessary. Ethan knew when she fell asleep, and he shifted her until she lay on the couch. He stood and looked down at his blonde-hair vixen. His heart still beat wildly from their kisses. He was exhilarated by Charlotte’s incredible responsiveness, and he wanted so much more of what she was beginning to offer him. He stroked her face, lightly, then lifted her and walked to his bedroom. He placed her on his bed, removed her shoes, covered her with a blanket and walked out, closing the door.

Ethan undressed and lay down on the couch. It was very late when he finally slept.


As he drifted into sleep, he wondered how he would manage to keep a reign on his passions. All he wanted to do was throw Charlotte on the floor and ravage her. And from the looks and sounds of it, that was what she wanted too. Well, at least she had finally opened up to him. That was a step in the right direction.

For the second night in a row, Charlotte woke suddenly, not knowing where she was. She sat up quickly and glanced around the room. Then, as her mind came fully awake, she remembered what had happened. She must have fallen asleep, and Ethan had carried her into the bedroom again. She rubbed her eyes, and stretched. She had no idea what time it was, and where was Ethan? She was desperate to brush her teeth, so she padded into the bathroom. She eyed Ethan’s toothbrush - should she? Shrugging, she decided to use it, and after brushing her teeth, she tip toed out into the lounge. There, under a light blanket, was Ethan, fast asleep.

Charlotte drank in the sight of him. The blanket had slipped down, revealing his muscular chest, rising and falling with his even breathing. In the faint light, she could see the dark hair smattering his chest. All sorts of thoughts rushed through Charlotte’s head. After standing, staring at Ethan for ages, she decided that she couldn’t resist him. He looked beautiful laying on the couch, his face boyish in sleep, but that body! She crossed the room, and kissed him softly on the cheek. He stirred slightly, and moaned in his sleep. She didn’t want to wake him, but still had a burning desire to be close to him, so, after uttering slight thanks he had seen fit to buy such a large sofa, she gently slid on to the couch, and curled up next to him. He shifted again, and wrapped his arm over her. In the dark, she smiled to her self, and wondered just how deeply asleep he really was. She lay snuggled close to him, absorbing the heat from his bare chest, as she floated lazily in to sleep.


She only dozed off for half an hour or so, her thoughts and his nearness teasing her awake. Sun was streaming through the French doors to the deck, but Ethan slept soundly, his breath even and softly playing across his lips. Staring at his handsome face, she reached out, gently swiping a stray curl from his forehead, and couldn't help but smile at his boyish expression.

She hardly knew him, and wanted more time to learn about who he was. What kind of man was he? What pleased or angered him? She already knew he possessed amazing sexual magnetism and a lusty sense of humor, but she wanted to know the man behind the green eyes and sexy smirk.

Ethan started to snore a little, and turned over on his side. The thin blanket slipped from the couch and onto the floor. Careful not to disturb him, Charlotte bent down and scooped up the blanket, laying it across his sleeping form. Her throat tightened as he pulled the blanket around his shoulders, muttering incoherently. There was something vulnerable and sweet about a sleeping man, and Charlotte was becoming painfully aware that her feelings for him were deepening... maybe a little too much.

She needed a distraction, and he looked like he needed his sleep.

Getting up from the couch carefully, she shuffled quietly across the carpet, pushed through the swinging door into the kitchen, and turned on the light. The mess from dinner hadn't been cleaned up; dirty dishes and pots littering the counter. Charlotte grabbed a banana from a bowl of overripe fruit, peeled it and ate while she rinsed the dishes and filled the dishwasher. She filled the soap dispenser, but decided not to start the machine until after Ethan woke up.

Wiping up the counters she thought about Ethan's kiss and the way she felt in his arms. Just remembering his soft sensuous lips melting against hers sent a jolt of energy through her. No man had ever made her feel the way Ethan did, and it was beginning to scare her.

As she searched cupboards for the coffee, she nearly jumped out of her skin when the phone rang.

Standing in the middle of the kitchen floor, she couldn't decide what to do. Should she answer it, or just let it ring? She decided to let it ring and waited, hoping that it wouldn't wake Ethan; but then changed her mind and reached for the cordless phone, just as the ringing suddenly stopped, followed by a gruff male voice from the lounge.

"Hello?" she heard Ethan answer drowsily, "Oh my God..... Hey luv, oh, yeah I know... it's been a long time..... where the heck have you been?"

Charlotte set the coffee down and crept closer to the kitchen door, feeling like a jerk for listening.

"Well... just working a lot, how about you?" Ethan muttered with a yawn.

She heard him rummaging around in the room, and decided to put the coffee on, more than a little curious about who he was talking to.

"Tonight? Well, yeah.... I mean I don't know, I might have plans, but I'd really love to see you while you're in town."

Filling up the coffee maker with water, Charlotte found herself angry, assuming that he was talking to a woman. "He must have tons of girlfriends." she thought to herself. "And I bet they're all drop dead gorgeous."

"How long will you be here?" Ethan asked the party on the other line, clearing his throat. "Well that won't work for me darling, work schedule you know."

The soft burr of his Scottish accent sounded even sexier when he was half asleep. She wanted so much to open the damn door and take a peak at him. She imagined him sitting on the edge of the couch bare chested in his black shorts, his hand raking through that gorgeous tousled hair, and those long legs spread wide open. She had no idea who he was talking to, but she hated her already, and was angry at herself for being jealous over a man she barley knew! "This is ridiculous!" she whispered.

Her jealousy only escalated when Ethan's voice brightened... sounding positively elated as his conversation wound down, "Okay, yeah... that sounds good, you too luv, I can't wait to see you either.... naw, just meet me in the lobby. Great, see you at six-thirty."

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Ethan hung up the phone, leaned back into the couch, and raised his arms over his head for a good back arching stretch. A crooked smile lit up his face. So, Jannette was back in town for the day, eh? This was going to be interesting. He hadn't heard from her in what? 4, 5 months? He had basically given up that she would ever call him again. He had left a few messages here and there, just to remind her that he was still here, but hadn't heard anything back from her. He figured she had been busy, at first, but then guessed that she was giving him the subtle message to shove off. So he left off trying to contact her and just filed her away in his memory banks with so many other ex's. Most of his ex's were actually good friends of his now. They looked at him as some sort of incorrigible lad, and shook their heads knowingly about him. Ethan put up with it in good grace, because he was comfortable enough in his skin to know that he was somewhat hopeless when it came to maintaining a relationship. But he sure did have a good time while it lasted, and he knew the ladies did too. They usually came to realize that he had meant them no harm, it was just something about him that couldn't settle on one girl. His roving eye always seemed to find someone else that he thought might have that something 'extra' he might need. One could just never be too sure. He grimmaced to himself. "Aw, no." He sighed "Charlotte." How the heck was he going to explain Jannette to her? Trying to convince a girl you were dating that an ex was "just a friend" was like trying to sell water to a drowning man. And Charlotte was so skittish as it was.

He heard a sudden noise from the kitchen, and got up to investigate. Surely Charlotte couldn't be... He opened the door and let out a low whistle. "Wow, Charlotte, you are up. Good morning love. You've already been busy in here, eh?" He surveyed the kitchen, neat as a pin, and saw the slight flush of exertion on Charlottes face. Nice to see that sort of flush instead of one of embarrassment for once. Ethan smiled as he spied the coffee pot perking away. "Ah, you read my mind. I could kill for a cuppa right now." He stepped into the kitchen and encircled her from behind with his arms, giving her a firm squeeze and planting a wet kiss on her neck. "I never even heard you get up," he murmured, "How long have you been at this already?"

Charlotte fought to stay under control. The last thing she wanted to do right now was blow it by seeming the jealous fool. For all she knew, it could have been a sister on the phone. Something totally innocent. She Encircled his grasping arms with her own and rocked side to side in his embrace for a moment. "Not too long, Ethan. Maybe about a half hour?" She half turned so she could look in his eyes "You looked so peaceful sleeping there I just had to let you rest. I really have to stop making you carry me to bed. You are quite the knight in shining armor, you Scottish hunk." She tweaked his cheek playfully, and was rewarded by a twinkle in his eye and a kiss on the lips.

"Mmmmmm, Scottish hunk? Knight in shining armor?" He murmured into her hair "You'd better watch it, Char or I'll start to believe you and get an even bigger ego than I already have." He gave her bottom a playful squeeze and let go of her, reaching for a coffee cup.

Charlotte decided to be brave - she took a deep breath and asked in what she hoped was a casual enough sounding voice "So, you sure do get phonecalls early in the morning!"

Ethan leaned his butt up against the counter and grasped his coffee cup with both hands. "Here we go" he thought, and smiled at Charlotte. "Well, er, yeah. Kind of a surprise, actually. And old friend of mine, Jannette called. She's in town for the day and wanted to get together. I set it up for 6:30 tonight. Haven't heard from her in months! I thought she had forgotten all about me by now."

Charlotte's heart sank to her stomach. Well, at least he was forthright in telling her the whole scoop and didn't try to sweep it under the carpet. She looked up at him and smiled, though she knew the smile must look a bit crazed as she tried her best not to show her true feelings. "So, where do you know Jannette from? Uh... never mind... you don't have to answer that if it's too personal. I shouldn't be asking you that."

Ethan rubbed his chin and grinned. "No, no, it's alright. I don't have any secrets from you. Jannette was actually an old girlfriend of mine. We broke up, and she moved out of the area shortly after." He smiled wryly "I half think she moved just to get the heck out of the same town as me. But, she did get herself a wonderful job in LA. I really thought after 5 months had gone by that I would never hear from her again. Um, Charlotte, that's something about me you should know, love. I do have an awful lot of female friends - not a few of which were ex girlfriends. I can understand if that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that's just the way things are in my life."

He looked intently at Charlotte to see how this was hitting home. She was doing a fairly good job of hiding her feelings of jealousy, but it was still there in her eyes. It didn't surprise him, and he certainly didn't hold it against her. But he thought that maybe this poor girl deserved a break after everything they had been through in this short time dating. He decided to offer her an out.

"C'mere Char." He said and reached for her. Holding her in his arms, he stroked her shoulder gently and looked into her eyes. "Now I'm not the type to change myself for anyone. I will always have close female friends, and I will always spend time with them. But I can understand that this might be just a bit too much for you right now under the ah... circumstances." He chuckled "Tell you what. Your choice. If you want me to, I'll call Jannette and tell her that I have plans with you tonight instead. Serves her right for leaving me hanging for 5 months, anyway." He gave her an exaggerated smirk and rolled his eyes. "What do you say, love?"


Charlotte mentally grimmaced. She could hardly hold back her feelings now, especially being so close in Ethan's arms. Her first thought was to ask him to cancel with Jannette. She contemplated....ex-girlfriends.....and a LOT of them. And he wanted to spend time with them..... But could she live with herself? What would Ethan think? Could she justify her paranoia and selfishness when she was out of his arms and downstairs in her own apartment?

She shook her head to clear her mind. Ethan was still gazing into her eyes, his question still in the air. "No, Ethan", she heard herself say, "You don't have to cancel". Her voice was small and unsure, even to herself, but she meant what she said, "I won't ask you to cancel. I have friends too, I have exes, and I won't ask you to change your plans even if they make me nervous."

"Nervous? Lass...you don't have to be nervous", he replied tentatively. His eyes still searched hers, as though he wasn't convinced that she was being honest.

Heck, she didn't blame him for doubting it, she doubted it herself. Being totally honest she didn't like the idea, but she knew that some trust was involved, and she did feel ready to trust him, at least a little. Twice in the past two days he could have pushed her, he could have let her take him to bed. And she would have been glad of it.....but he didn't. He held his own hormones in check, and he obviously thought there was SOME future prospect between them.

Still, Charlotte wanted to be sure that he wouldn't forget easily. She gathered her courage and flashed him her most self-assured vixen smile, biting her lip slightly. Although she didn't feel confident, she wanted to very badly. "Then I won't be nervous, Ethan. You said you wanted to get to know me, and you will. So you've got plans for tonight....I guess that leaves you free for dinner the following night?", she asked, hopeful.

His grin was brilliant. She could tell that he was glad that she had made the best of the situation, and found herself returning his smile. She was glad too. She was rewarded for her bravery and trust, as he replied, "So it does. Any ideas? I promise though, no more spilled wine....".

"I'm glad for that, Ethan, I'm running out of shirts!", she brushed a hand into his curling locks. "I hope you and Jannette have a lovely dinner," she whispered, her face drawing closer to his, "but I want you to have something to think about if the conversation drops off...." and she pulled his head down and kissed the very corner of his mouth. His head turned toward her, trying to get a full kiss, but she turned his head gently, kissing the other side of his full lips. She kissed his nose, his forehead, and finally his neck, just below his right ear. "Maybe save room for dessert when we have dinner then?", she teased, running a hand down his chest. "I mean, we'll be getting to know one another, after all. The first thing that you need to know about me is that I LOVE dessert. Love it." She blushed slightly at the double entendre, but it couldn't be helped. He made her brain into mush.

She kissed him once, full on the lips, passionately, and then told him, "Eight o'clock in two days......this time I'll plan the....date", and pulled his apartment door closed softly behind her.


Charlotte let herself into her own apartment and leaned against the door as she tried to keep her emotions in check. It was hard to put so much trust in someone, a man especially. God knows in the past, whenever she did, she always ended up paying for it somehow. The last time was the worst. She had really been in love with Jack, and finally given herself over completely to him, and then he turned around and cheated on her with one of his coworkers. Ethan seemed totally different, and he had been straight with her about Janette, not to mention the others he was friends with. Charlotte knew in her head it would be wrong to make him pay for something another man had done, but her heart had a harder time coping with the idea. She was still leaning aginst the door, when there was a knock on it. She jumped, and quickly wiped away the tears that had been threatening to spill over. She composed herself and opened the door. It was her best friend, Stephanie.

"Don't look so disappointed. " Steph said as she breezed through the door. She always seemed to take over a room when she entered, and everyone was immediately drawn to her. Charlotte smiled in spite of herself. "Were you expecting someone else?"

'No, of course not." Charlotte wasn't quite ready to get into the whole Ethan story with her yet. She would she knew, but not right now. Everything was just too close to the surface. "What are you doing here?"

"Don't tell me you forgot. We're going shopping remember? You promised to help me pick out a dress for that wedding I have to go to next Saturday, then we're meeting the others for dinner tonight."

"No, of course I hadn't forgotten. It slipped my mind that it was this Saturday, that's all. Let me take a quick shower, and we'll go."

Charlotte thought about things while she showered. She really didn't feel like going out, but she knew it would be just the thing to keep her mind off of Ethan. Well, not Ethan precisely, but Janette. She thought it would take a little more than a day with friends to take her mind off of Ethan for even five minutes. She just kept reminding herself that by the time she got home tonight, Ethan's date with Janette would be over. It would be fun. She always enjoyed being with her friends, and they could cheer her out of anything. They were going to her favorite restaurant this time too, since it had been her turn to choose. Yes, this was just what she needed...


Charlotte spent a busy day with Stephanie. Buy the end of it, her feet ached, and she felt like she had been in every dress shop in the city. Stephanie still hadn’t decided on a dress at 5pm, and Charlotte decided to call halt to the whole process before she strangled her friend. She was dying to go home and stand under a hot shower, and sit down for a while. At least the busy day following her friend around had occupied her mind, and she hadn’t spent the day worrying about Ethan.

Stephanie dropped her off at the apartment block at about 5.30. She would have to rush to get ready. She had told Stephanie she would meet her at the restaurant at 7. As Charlotte traveled up to her apartment in the lift, she didn’t want to examine her reasons for choosing 7 as the time she would meet her girlfriends. She let herself in the flat, and headed straight for the shower. A girl’s night out called for some thing really special. She examined her wardrobe, and chose a sexy black dress, low cut and figure hugging. She had bought it a few months ago on a whim, but had never worn it. She arranged her hair in a pile on her head, with a few whips framing her face, and applied a sexy, smoky make up. Stepping back and looking in the mirror, she had to admit that she looked pretty good. She grinned to herself, and checked her watch – 6.20. Her stomach flip-flopped, as she thought of Ethan also getting ready, and she wondered what he would wear. She closed her eyes, and imagined him in his jeans, and a dressy shirt.

She opened her eyes and again examined her face in the mirror. Then, without questioning her thought process quickly donned a pair of black, strappy heels and swiftly headed for the lift.

As she descended to the ground floor, she refused to scrutinize her motives for acting like this. She held her breath as the lift doors opened, and breathed a sigh of relief as she saw that Ethan wasn’t waiting. She hurriedly crossed the road, and made sure she had a good vantage point to view the lobby, but she wasn’t in an obvious position. As she shifted nervously from one foot to another, she thanked the person who had decided to design huge glass windows at the front of the building. At least she’d have a good view. She started to tap her foot impatiently, and checked her watch again. It was 6.30 on the dot. She would have to leave soon, or she would be late to meet her girlfriends at the restaurant. Just as she was starting to get really impatient, she saw the lift doors open, and Ethan stroll out into the foyer. She caught her breath as she saw him – he looked good enough to eat. He was wearing a tight white shirt, that seemed to be having trouble staying buttoned across that glorious chest, as it was, he had only done up about 3 buttons on his shirt. He also had on a pair of black pants, and a black suit jacket, with the cuffs of the white shirt pulled through the sleeves. He looked wonderful, still ever so slightly rumpled. Charlotte swallowed. Obviously he wanted to impress Janette. Ethan stood in the same spot as he had the night before, staring out of the lobby. Charlotte held her breath, waiting for him to see her, but he didn’t seem to spot her hiding place.

After a few minutes, a tall girl, with long dark hair entered the foyer, and spotting Ethan, broke out in a huge smile. She rushed up to him, and gave him a kiss, full on the mouth, and a hug. Ethan grinned, and hugged her enthusiastically back. They chatted animatedly as the left the building, and strolled along the street.

Charlotte wanted to do one of 2 things, retreat to her flat and cry her eyes out, or follow the couple. She stood, gazing after them until they turned a corner.

The last thing she wanted to do was go out to dinner with her friends now. They would all want to know what the matter was, and then try and cheer her up – undoubtedly by trying to set her up with some random guy. They had done it before, and though Charlotte usually took it with good grace, she knew she wouldn’t be able to tonight. She sighed, and hailed a cab. It looked like it was going to be a long night.

When she arrived at the restaurant, all her girlfriends were seated, laughing, and talking animatedly. Obviously, they had already had a few drinks, and were planning a big night. They all greeted Charlotte as she sat down, and ordered herself a drink. “Maybe getting well and truly plastered would do the trick,” she wondered, as her wine arrived and she took a generous gulp. She joined in the conversation, and as the night wore on, and she had several more wines, she managed to forget about Ethan. After dinner, she stood to go to the bathroom, and realized how tipsy she really was. She giggled and made her way to the restrooms. Once there, she studied her face in the mirror, and added a little extra lipstick. “Yes," she decided, “a night out with the girls is just the thing to cure a heart ache." She returned to her friends, and chimed in as they decided which nightclub to visit. They eventually chose a club fairly close that was new, and very trendy.

The giggling group of girls walked the short distance to the club, and in the cool night air Charlotte sobered up a little. After they reached the club, and fought their way over to a table they ordered cocktails. Just as the drinks arrived, a group of well-dressed men approached the table, and started to chat with Charlotte and her friends.

Charlotte found herself sitting closely next to a handsome young man, who’s name was Stewart. He regaled her with stories about his work in a law firm, whilst trying repeatedly to get her phone number. As Charlotte downed a few more of the potent cocktails, she enjoyed herself more and more. She felt lightheaded, and care free, and laughed along with Stewarts tales.

Suddenly, she felt eyes on her, and she quickly looked up. Standing on the other side of the bar was Sean, staring directly at her, with a serious expression on his face. She smiled at him, and waved. Her gave her a small smile, and raised his hand in greeting. Sensing the fact that he had competition, Charlotte’s admirer renewed his charm, trying valiantly to distract her. She turned back to him, and was soon engrossed in conversation, Sean forgotten.

As Ethan strode along the street, he wondered what the hell Sean was up to. He had nearly been home, after his dinner date with Jeanette, when Sean had called him on his cell, announcing that Charlotte was in a nightclub somewhere, flirting madly with some strange bloke. He had then made several rude comments about Ethan not knowing a good thing when he saw it, and hung up. Ethan had barely been able to hear his mate over the back ground noise, but had managed to catch the name of the club. He had been in two minds about what to do. On one hand he wanted to go home to bed, and dream about Charlotte, but on the other he wanted to go and investigate what he hoped was one of Sean’s wild goose chases.

In the end, he had decided that as it wasn’t yet too late, he’d go and put his mind at ease. As he walked through the cool night, he thought about Janette. She was an ex from about a while ago ago, and they had been together for a short time. He frowned as he struggled to remember how long, 3 months tops. She was great girl, but they just hadn’t clicked enough, and eventually after a few of his usual antics, she had decided that he was more the “Love ‘em and Leave ‘em type.” And he had been, but as he had said to Charlotte earlier, things had changed. He was pretty sure that Charlotte felt the same way, and he grinned as he thought about how he had found her this morning, cleaning up the kitchen. He knew she had been less than pleased with his dinner arrangements, but had fought valiantly to hide it.

Finally he reached his destination, and hesitated out side the club. Should he go in? If she was here, he didn’t want her to think he was spying on her. He eventually decided to have a look, and, and immediatly spotted Sean, who just raised his eye brows, and nodded towards a group of tables. Ethan turned, and sitting next to some preppie looking guy, was Charlotte. She looked incredibly sexy, in a figure hugging black dress, and her hair was escaping from it’s confines a bit, making her look like she had just tumbled out of bed.

Ethan froze. He didn’t know what to do; he half hoped she wouldn’t spot him, hanging around like a dork. Then, as he watched, the bloke she was sitting next to, suddenly put his hand on her thigh. Ethan had to restrain himself, he wanted to go over and punch him on the nose. Just as he was about to intervene, Charlotte hastily removed his hand with a frosty look, stood up, and made her way to the bathroom. It was then that Ethan decided he needed to make clear to Charlotte exactly how he felt about her....

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After a while, Charlotte felt eyes on her again. She looked around, but didn't see Sean anywhere. She finally spotted him not far from where he had been before. She noticed he was with a tall redhead. This must be the girlfriend he had mentioned on their first meeting. He wasn't looking at her, but glanced her way when he felt her eyes on him. He looked away again, back to the redhead. This time there had been no smile.

Charlotte still felt she was being watched, and her companion could sense he was losing her. He reached a hand over, and put it on her thigh to get her attention. She felt like she had been slapped. She took his hand, set it decisively on the table, and excused herself to use the ladies room. Fortunately, her friends were all so involved in their own conversations, no one offered to accompnay her. She needed a minute by herself. She concentrated hard on walking steadily, and made it to the restroom in what she thought was a fairly straight line.

In the restroom, she splashed a little cold water on her face, touched up her makeup and fixed her hair, and feeling somewhat more herself, she opened the door to the hallway, and there, leaning on the wall across from the door, with an unreadable expression on his face, was Ethan. He looked so amazing. His hair was rumpled, and somewhere along the way, he had taken off the suit jacket. The tight white shirt looked amazing, and surprisingly enough, the buttons had held. Without a word, he took her hand, and led her around the corner to a secluded area of the hallway, near the back exit. He pinned her up against the wall, and she looked into his eyes, trying to tell what he was thinking...


Ethan found himself waiting for Charlotte in the alcove outside the bathroom, uncomfortable, and not sure what he would do. His heart raced in his chest. What would he say to her? This was highly irregular. Just when he had made up his mind to do a thing properly, it all seemed to be falling down around him. "Figures" he brooded to himself. "Maybe I'm just not meant for this sorta thing after all." He was just about to call himself a fool and leave, when out stepped Charlotte from the bathroom. A little unsteady, a little worse for a night of drinking, but still so damned gorgeous. He found instinct taking him over. Ignoring her look of surprise, he went over and grasped her hand, and wordlessly looked for a more secluded spot. Even just the touch of her fingers in his drove him mad. He felt he might suffocate. Finding a dark corner, he manouvered Charlotte into it, gently but firmly pinning her up against the wall. He heard Charlotte give a small gasp, and she looked up at him.

Ethan stared into her eyes in the gloom, trying to formulate somthing to say. But his mind just clicked over and over, like a car engine refusing to start. "Charlotte, I..." he faltered. But no further words would come.

"Ah, the heck with it," he finally thought to himself "might as well just do what comes naturally." He let his hand come up on her back, feeling her incredible body beneath the fabric of her dress. With his other hand, he pressed her firmly to him. Ethan felt himself overwhelmed, and moaned, pulling her face close to his. He devoured her mouth, letting his tongue dip around hers in rhythm. He felt one of Charlottes hands slipping up and down his back, and he couldn't take it any more. "Charlotte," he rasped "Tonight. Now. My God, we need to do this love, or I'm gonna implode" He covered her face with small kisses, trying to relax just a bit so he could enter the public area again without being embarrassed.

Charlotte was breathing heavily in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder. "Yes, Ethan, God yes. Now. Your place or mine?"


Ethan leaned down and growled in her ear, "all I know is that we'd better go somewhere fast. " She looked up at him, and her eyes were as hot as his. He took her by the hand, and said, "lets go home", and started leading her throught the crowded club. He made his way through the throng of people easily, and pulled her along behind. She saw him raise a hand and look off to his left. She glanced over and saw Sean, with a huge grin on his face. So, that's how Ethan knew she was here. She looked at Sean, and he turned that smile on her. Charlotte couldn't help it. She smiled back.

As they were nearing the door, she heard someone shouting her name. She had forgotten all about her friends. Steph was standing, watching Ethan dragging her to the door, and she looked worried. Charlotte hadn't told Steph anything about Ethan yet, so this must look really bad. She started to tell Ethan to wait, but just then she saw Sean and his lady friend making their way over to her table. She just smiled and waved at Steph, and knew Sean would explain everything. She would deal with her friend's ranting later. They told each other everything, and Steph was going to be really put out about this.

They pushed out the front door to the street, and Ethan hailed a cab. He helped Charlotte in, went around to the other side and got in next to her. He stayed as far away as possible during the short ride back to their building. Normally, he would have walked back, but time was of the essence here. He didn't think he could wait much longer, so he stayed in the opposite corner.

They reached the building in just a few minutes, and while Ethan paid the driver, Charlotte went and called up the lift. It arrived the same time Ethan did, and they both rushed in. The minute the door closed, Ethan moved closer, and looked into her eyes. He put a hand under her chin and lifted her face to his. She expected a kiss, and closed her eyes. Instead, she heard,

"Exactly how drunk are you?" she opened her eyes and laughed.

"Not so drunk I don't know what I want. As a matter of fact, I don't feel the booze at all anymore. " She looked into his eyes so he understood this was really what she wanted, now. Then her eyes traveled down to those straining buttons. Just then the bell sounded, the door opened, and they were at their destination....


Ethan opened his apartment door, and as Charlotte entered, she felt like she was leaving something behind. What was it? She closed her eyes, trying to work it out, and when she opened them, she saw Ethan gazing at her, a concerned look on his face.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” he asked again.

Charlotte bit her lip, and nodded. With that, Ethan scooped her up, and carrying her again as if she was as light as a feather, walked through the flat, and placed her gently on the bed. Charlotte lay back on the pillows, and looked up at him, standing next to her. His dark hair was tousled, and his shirt open, revealing his chest.

As Ethan stood, looking down at Charlotte, he wondered if he was really doing the right thing. Although she said that she didn’t feel tipsy any more, he guessed that she had had more than a few drinks. When she had made her way to the toilet at the club, she had been slightly unsteady. Though the alcohol had seemed to evaporate from her system as soon as he had kissed her; he wondered just how much her actions were being affected by it now. He really didn’t want to do something that she would regret in the morning. Even though he felt like a tightly coiled wire, ready to snap at any moment, he really didn’t want to jeopardize their fledgling relationship. After a few seconds, he decided to take things slowly, and give Charlotte the chance to stop if that was what she wanted. How he would control himself was another matter. Good thing he hadn’t had a drop of alcohol this evening, or by now it would probably be all over.

He gently sat on the bed next to Charlotte, and leaning over, kissed her, gently at first, but as the kiss lengthened, it turned into a fierce and passionate dueling of tongues. Charlotte moaned and reaching up, pulled him down beside her. He lay next to her, still kissing her deeply, but not touching her body.

As Charlotte lay next to him, she felt her whole body was on fire. All she could feel, and see was Ethan. Finally, she became impatient with just the kiss, and snuggled even closer to Ethan. Through the thin skin of her dress she could sense the fire, burning through Ethan as well.

Charlotte knew he was giving her the chance to stop, but in reply she threw her head back. He gently blew across her skin, and then lovingly kissed her. The pleasure that his mouth created made Charlotte snap her eyes closed. She felt like she would explode, simply from the friction of his mouth. She moaned, and balled her hands into fists.

Still side-by-side, they lay looking at each other for a few seconds. Ethan again breathed deeply, trying to control the urges that were pounding through his brain. He examined Charlottes face, her sweet smile. She returned his stare evenly, and then brushed his lips with hers.

“Ok?” he growled, and she nodded. She smiled again, and her eyes fluttered closed.

With her eyes closed, Charlotte’s other senses went into over drive. The smell, and taste of Ethan flooded her brain.

Ethan continued for a few moments, gently caressing her, and then he kissed her closed eyelids. She responded by wrapping her arms around his neck, and pulling him towards her. As his mouth covered hers, she kissed him with all the fire in her soul. She had to be close to him, or she felt she would go crazy.

Ethan sensed the change in Charlotte. He knew he needed to control the situation, as Charlotte was no longer able to think. Her brain had been shut down buy her erotic nature, she was completely over come. He had to slow down, or when she awoke from the lust-induced fever that gripped her, she might regret what had happened.

He kissed her heatedly again and her hands danced across his chest. He took control then, giving her satisfaction without ever crossing over the final line. The last thing she knew was a pleasure so intense that it paralysed her, before her brain overloaded, and shut down. Charlotte felt Ethan hug her close to him, and kiss her gently, before she slipped into a sweet and dreamless sleep.

Ethan pulled her flushed, pliant body towards him, and wrapped his arm around her. He listened as her breathing became deep and even, and stroked her hair until he too descended into a satisfied slumber.


Ethan woke, warm sun shining on his face from the bedroom window. He had a momentary lapse of memory as to the previous nights events, then opened his eyes with a start as it came back to him. He looked over to his left, and there was Charlotte, curled up contentedly next to him. His breath caught in his throat. She was still here -- he had half been afraid that she would have made an exit at some point during the night. He rolled onto his side and supported his weight on his left elbow so he could better look at her. A boyish smile played across Ethan's features. Well, judging from the look on Charlottes face, she had had a pretty good night's sleep herself. He so loved being able to make her feel this way. He considered it a talent of his.

He reached out a hand and brushed aside a lock of hair from her face, careful not to wake her. He wanted to drink in every last bit of her with his eyes, now, while she was unaware and unable to show any insecurities. He didn't quite know how he had managed to keep it together and refrain from going further with her. She had been so passionate again last night, and had made him feel that same passion rising up within him. It was the honesty of her feelings that got to Ethan so completely. He had been with many other eager women in his day, but none so guileless and honest as Charlotte. When she reached for Ethan, it made him feel as if he were the only man in the whole world. The only one for her.

He sighed to himself. "Ethan, my boy, I think you're in trouble lad. This girl has a right smart hold on you." What would his friends think if Ethan the dog suddenly became Ethan the comitted relationship guy? He smirked. They would never believe it. Not in a million years.

Charlotte sighed in her sleep and shifted slightly. He reached out his hand and traced the outline of her skin ever so gently, and he was suddenly a man on fire again. Charlotte slowly opened her eyes. She looked up at Ethan's face and said "Good morning"

Ethan licked his lips unconsciously, and managed to sigh "Hi." He leaned over and kissed her softly on her lips, drawing her to him as he did so. Charlotte was suddenly warm against him, fitting every contour of his body so perfectly it felt as if she were part of him. It was almost too much for Ethan. He broke off their kiss and looked into Charlottes eyes.

"How do you feel, m'love?" He asked her "Are you still ok with...... this?"

Charlotte ran her fingers through Ethans hair, and her eyes twinkled with enthusiasm. "Splendidly ok, " She let out a small laugh and teased Ethan's lips. They shared a deep kiss, slowly and languidly.

He moaned a little and left her mouth. "As for more, Charlotte," he said, letting his thumbs trace small circles on her back, "I am still hoping to draw out the anticipation a bit further. It's not that I don't want all of you" here he made a tortured grimmace which elicited a laugh from Charlotte "Its just that...." He stopped, suddenly at a loss for words.

What was he waiting for exactly? What was he really feeling? He felt a prickling on the back of his neck suddenly, a tiny stab of fear reaching his mind. "Uh oh," he groaned inwardly "the L word". He shuddered involuntarily, and Charlotte looked up, concerned. He looked intently at her and willed himself to pull it together. Might as well be frank here.

"Look, Charlotte. I'm a guy's guy. I'm not good at putting real feelings into words. As a matter of fact, real feelings can tend to scare the be-&#$^% outta me. Well, I find myself a bit scared here at the moment." he paused, letting Charlotte soak in his words. "Catch my meaning, luv?" he murmured when he felt she had had enough time to figure it out.

Charlotte looked as if she had a few ideas forming in her mind, but was afraid to voice the one which would be wrong. In spite of himself, Ethan sighed a little exasperatedly "Yeah. Ok" he said a little too quickly, in a tone he didn't quite mean "This is moving a little fast, and I'm having a hard time keeping up." He closed his eyes, trying to figure out how to smoothly exit his way out of this line of conversation. His reputation was at stake here -- pull it together, man!

The feel of her against his body finally brought him around to his usual self. Blindly, he searched out her mouth again. He embraced her back with one hand, her face with the other. This felt so right - he felt so in tune with this girl. He moved his hand back up to caress her face, opening his eyes during their long kiss to watch her expression beneath his. Her eyelids suddenly fluttered open, and she caught his glance. Suddenly, it was as if the space between them ignited, and Ethan was swept down a one way street.

Ethan woke up a second time and felt Charlotte tucked cozily in his arms. He kissed her softly on the crown of her head and smiled drowsily. Right now he was as content as he had ever been in the past year. Reaching that wonderful abandonment with Charlotte had been amazing. Even without having taken her, he still felt such a communion with her, and they had fallen asleep whispering words of endearment to each other. A more tender relationship he hadn't had in a long time. Years ago there was a girl... but that fell apart horribly after it had run its long course.

Suddenly, the alarm clock went off. Charlotte started from her sleep, then relaxed again when she felt Ethans arms embracing her.

"Well, good morning again, my sweet," Ethan drawled at her, a wry grin on his face, his eyes twinkling at her with that bad boy expression of his "I hope you feel..... rested?"

Charlotte hummed contentedly and let out a short laugh "Why yes, I guess I do." She tangled her fingers in his hair, which was marvelously touseled from sleep. Ethan sighed and rolled over to turn off the alarm clock, stretching as he did so. Charlotte's eyes drank in every bit of his gorgeous body, his powerful arms, his beautiful chest with its smattering of hair, his long masculine torso.

Ethan turned back in time to see the look in Charlottes eyes, and chuckled at her. "Now now, Charlotte, I wouldn't want for you to be late for work a third day because of me." He hugged her loosely and kissed her cheek. "How about I shower first, and I'll make sure everything is set for you after me. Snuggle in for a few more minutes here." He kissed her forehead "I'll come get you when I'm done."

Charlotte watched him walk from the bedroom on his way to the bathroom, soaking in the beautiful view as he went. She squeezed herself with happiness as she snuggled under the sheets once again. This was really something, she thought to herself, this one is the real thing. Suddenly she heard Ethan singing from the shower. She giggled. She had never imagined this rugged man to be the type to sing in the shower. He sounded so happy, if a little goofy. But, she had to admit, he had a fair decent voice at that.

She was almost nodding off again by the time Ethan came back into the room. He bounded back over to the bed and nearly pounced on her, taking her in a playful embrace. "Ah -- now that's what I'm talkin' about. What could make a man happier than a morning of unbridled passion, followed by a relaxing shower and a girl still in his bed when he gets out. Just perfect" He growled playfully in her ear, taking time to nibble at it and give her little kisses there.

Charlotte giggled "Stop, you're tickling me!" and instantly knew that was the wrong thing to say. Ethan got the most devilish look upon his face and had at her in earnest, tickling her all over till she was afraid she would wet herself. Finally, she was able to get him to stop by saying "I'll be late for work, remember?" He laughed, eased up off her, and left the bed, going to a chest of drawers across the room.

"Well, Charlotte, then I guess you should leave off starin' at my bod and get yourself into the shower, eh?" He flashed a wicked grin at her. "There's a towel and washcloth set aside for you in there, and use any of the soaps or shampoos you want. Careful with the hot water -- it can get mighty scaulding." She was now out of bed and on her way out of the bedroom -- he caught her hand and pulled her towards him to deliver a small kiss on the lips. "Oh -" he seemed to remember something "Here, take this in with you." He quickly rifled around in his closet and produced a dark blue robe for her to wear. He winked at her "I'm starting to think you look better in my clothes than I do." She laughed deliciously. He gave her bottom a tiny pat, and she was on her way.

Ethan whistled to himself as he got dressed and headed out towards the kitchen to scare up some breakfast. No sense in sending Charlotte away with an empty stomach. Man alive, but he was happy this morning. If he had realised it would be like this with this girl, he would have persued her months ago. He heard Charlotte enter the kitchen just as he was flipping over the first omelet. He saw her eyes light up with appreciation, and he smiled. "Well, I hope you like omelettes Charlotte - I sort of pride myself on cooking breakfast. But I've never made it for a prettier one than you." She blushed happily and gave him a hug around his middle.

"I think I'd like anything you made. Especially this morning. Great day to be alive, hmmmm?"

He was infinitely pleased that she mirrored his thoughts exactly that morning, and kissed her to tell her so.

After breakfast, Charlotte gathered her things and got ready to head back to her own apartment to change for work. Ethan held her for a moment by the door and mused at her "So, what shall we do tonight, my darlin' lover? Go out to a club? Go out to eat? Watch a movie? Stay in bed?" He giggled in spite of himself and burried his face in her hair.

She pulled his face to hers and rubbed her nose against his, laughing softly "Ok, my big Scottsman," she said delightedly, "Surprise me. I'll leave it up to you. Just make sure you show me a good time."

"Aha!!!" he cackled "Never doubt me woman... " and left the rest to her imagination. "But there -- off ya go love. I'll come by your place tonight at 6 and we'll go from there. Think of me while you're gone..." He leered at her jokingly and she laughed back.

"How could I do anything else?" she said as she left.

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Charlotte sat in the back of the enormous designer shop and remembered the events of the night before. She felt all of her inhibitions were leaving her. She felt a small sensation as the thoughts of him tickling her came to mind.

How did this get this way? Was it luck, never one to gamble on anything she knew that her feelings for him would only grow? Did she dare to keep it going?

The way he had caressed her was driving her slightly mad. How could she keep this up she didn't want to ruin it by rushing but every time she thought of him she felt her whole body tingle. How could a man actually affect a woman like this? It was like an old romance novel.

She smiled; the best thing was that their story was not even beginning yet. If he could make me feel this way with the simplest of pleasures. She felt her self blush at the images she had in her mind.

Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted by the prick of the needle in her finger. She cried out in pain. How was she ever going to finish her work when all she though of was Ethan.


Setting her sewing aside and sucking on her stinging finger, Charlotte grabbed her stale cup of coffee and sipped, grimacing at its bitterness. The morning had been a complete waste of time. It was impossible to focus on work when all she could think about was Ethan. Ethan's face, Ethan's body and eyes; eyes that melted her insides with that sideways glance he was fond of flashing. Ethan's mouth; not thin and colourless like most men, but full sensual lips, just slightly blushed... and he was always licking them, a habit that sent jolts of pleasure all through her.

She thought of his large hands; wide palms with perfectly shaped fingers and squared off nails. The feeling of his soft hands exploring, dipping and pleasuring her body was beyond any experience she'd known with any man. And his hair... "Oh God" Charlotte thought as she downed the rest of her coffee, "That thick wavy hair falling across his brow.... how am I supposed to wait until tonight?"

Checking her watch, she decided to eat lunch at the studio, too distracted to leave the building. Her stomach did flip-flops as she headed down to the cafeteria, selected a salad and some yoghurt, and then pulled out her debit card, forgetting her pin number in the process. Choosing an out of the way table, Charlotte sat down, hoping no one would bother her. She picked at her salad, ate the yoghurt completely lost in her thoughts when her cell phone rang from inside her purse.

Fumbling through her purse until she found the right pocket, Charlotte picked up the phone and sucked in her breath.

"Oh God! Its him." she sighed, as Ethan's number lit up in green. "Just breathe Charlotte... breathe!" she told herself, her heart beating a million miles a minute.

"Hello?" she answered, her voice wavering.

"Hey beautiful." Ethan's velvet voice spoke into her ear, "How's your day going?"

Charlotte uncrossed her legs, fingering the hem of her skirt, recalling his bare chest and those naked muscular thighs.

"Oh hi Ethan," she replied, "I was just thinking about you."

"Good thoughts I hope." he drawled, his voice deep and so seductive.

Charlotte's fingers crept subconsciously up her leg, clutching the fabric of her knit skirt, "Of course," she answered, softening her own voice and moistening her lips with her tongue, "Have you been thinking about me?" she added with a flirty tone.

There was a pause, as Ethan cleared his throat and then growled in her ear, "Can't think of anything else luv... ?" he softly spoke into the phone, teasing her with naughty conversation.

Charlotte gulped, looked around the cafeteria blushing fiercely, shocked and aroused at the same time. She hoped that no one noticed her flaming cheeks, and scoot her chair back further into a cluster of potted plants.

The sound of Ethan's breathing on the other line only deepened her excitement. No one had ever spoken so sexily to her on the phone. She liked the game they were playing. Closing her eyes and rubbing her hand across her neck, Charlotte smiled,

and teased him with a giggle, "You're going to make me do bad things if you keep that up."

Charlotte was rewarded by Ethan's devilish laughter in the receiver, "Okay Miss Arielle, it's a deal.... I can't wait to see you tonight."

Thinking it was impossible for her to blush anymore, Charlotte squeezed her kneecap; dizzy with the images he painted in her mind. She had always considered herself a good girl, her shyness often a barrier between herself and the men she dated. Somehow Ethan had figured out how to bring her barriers down, and Charlotte was enjoying the sexy sense of freedom he had given her.

Charlotte glanced at her watch and swore, realizing that her lunch break was over. She didn't want to let him go, and could have listened to that deep Scottish burr for hours. Picking up her purse, she stood and tossed her trash into the garbage bin, walking out the door and heading quickly to the elevator.

"Ethan, I gotta go.... my break's over,” she panted, as the elevator door opened.

"Awwwww, but we were having so much fun." he teased.

"I'm sorry, but I can't be late, I have a huge pile of work before closing, can I call you later?" she asked, wishing she could just hail a cab and head to his office.

"Uh, sorry luv, but I'll be in meetings all day." he answered his voice taking on a more business like tone. "But listen, the reason I called is.... what?.... hang on a minute luv."

There was a pause, Charlotte heard other voices in the background and waited. "Uh sorry" he said gruffly.... my co- worker had a question. Anyway, the reason I called was to talk about tonight."

The elevator door closed, and Charlotte pressed the 4th floor button, "Okay, but I only have a few minutes."

"I thought I should give you a hint about what to wear for our date tonight." Ethan spoke, and Charlotte could hear the smile in his voice.

She was so excited about seeing him again, that she missed her floor, and pushed the button again, "Damn...okay... well what should I wear then.... something sexy?"

"Oh definitely sexy!" he groaned, "Something sexy and a little dressy, but that's all I'm going to say, cause the rest is a surprise."

"And what about you?" Charlotte asked, stepping out of the elevator, "What are you going to wear?"

"I promise luv, I won't embarrass you!" he teased.

"Okay Eth.... I gotta go, here's my door... just one more thing."

"Yeah?" he asked.

"Not too many buttons, okay?" she flirted shamelessly, once again shocked and pleased by her transformation.

Ethan laughed with a little snort, causing Charlotte to break into a full grin.

"You got it.... see you tonight!"

Appraising herself in the full-length mirror, Charlotte snapped her black bra closed, and pulled on her black panties, shivering with anticipation as the soft lace touched her sensitive flesh. She stepped into her favourite low cut fitted dress, and pulled the slinky fabric up over her hips and bust, zipping it up at her side. The deep blue was a perfect accent for her blonde hair and blue eyes, and she was pleased with the effect as she brushed her hair, spritzig light hairspray.

"Well he did say sexy." she sighed, "Hope he approves."

With a few more touches of make-up and grabbing her chandelier earrings and purse, Charlotte switched off the bathroom light and headed for the living room, where she turned on the CD player, and lit a few candles. Ethan was set to arrive any minute, and Charlotte's pulse raced as the minutes ticked by.

She fussed in the kitchen, opening and closing the fridge, and finally pulling out a bottle of wine. Ethan didn't drink, but she desperately needed something to calm her nerves, and popped the cork, filling a wine glass with the burgundy fluid. Charlotte took a few sips, re-applied her lipstick and then paced into the living room and plopped down of the sofa.

He was late. For fifteen minutes she re-read each People magazine on her coffee table, glancing at her watch fitfully, until finally... the doorbell rang.

Jumping up to her feet, Charlotte smoothed her snug fitting skirt, took a deep breath and opened the door.

Nothing could have prepared her for the sight meeting her eyes when she opened that door. She swallowed and gulped for breath, as her eyes raked over the tall handsome Scot. Ethan stood in the doorway, a bouquet of deep red roses in his arms, and a sexy lopsided grin on his face. He wore a pair of snugly fitting black dress slacks; polished square toed dress shoes, and a crisp baby-blue dress shirt, gaping open at the neck and chest, the cuffs unbuttoned.

"Holy...!" she swore to herself, blushing furiously.

"Hey beautiful!" he greeted her, his eyes blue and shimmering.

His hair was styled neatly; the dark chin length waves combed back behind his ears and brushing softly over his collar. She caught her breath as he held out the roses, leaned down and kissed her lightly on the cheek.

His eyes narrowing, he looked her up and down, shaking his head with a sigh, "Woman... you'll ruin me in that dress."

Smiling coquettishly and glancing up at him through lowered lashes, Charlotte lifted the flowers from Ethan's arms, and held the door open, "Come on in while I put these water."

"Okay." he replied, his hand lightly brushing her back as she led him inside.

Following her into the kitchen, Ethan stood behind her at the sink. He was so near that Charlotte could smell his cologne. Brushing his mouth against her ear, he ran his fingers through her hair and whispered, "So, did you have a good day?"

Turning on the spiggott, and filling a vase with water, Charlotte arranged the roses, and placed them on the counter. Ethan followed her every move, shadowing her body with his as she moved about the kitchen.

"It was okay." she replied, as he pushed himself up against her backside. Leaning his face into her hair, Ethan pulled the blonde locks away from her neck, and planted a kiss just below her ear lobe.

"Damn you smell good." he moaned against her ear.

"He's doing it again." she thought, fighting to regain control of her breath and racing heart.

"So where are we going?" she asked, turning around to face him with a smile.

Flashing a dazzling grin, he placed his hands on her hips and drew her closer, "What's your hurry luv?" he whispered huskily, "Our reservations are not for another hour."

"So what do you wanna do?" she asked, her fingers crawling up his shirt to the collar.

"Just this..." he hissed, leaning into her.

Keeping his hands firmly on her hips, Ethan's mouth came crushing down on hers, and she sagged against him, as he pressed her against the counter. His tongue dipped between her lips, her own brushing his. Charlotte moaned and mewed as his tongue went deeper, grazing her teeth and the sides of her mouth. When he sucked her lower lip, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself into his chest.

Breaking the kiss but still keeping her locked against him, Ethan's sultry eyes sought hers, his breathing uneven and his face flushed,” This is getting to be a habit Char.... I can't seem to control myself when it comes to you."

Gazing up at his masculine features, Charlotte smoothed her finger across his lips, "Me too." she sighed. Ethan parted his lips and took her finger into his mouth, suckling her fingertip, his eyes closed and his lids fluttering.

Ethan growled as Charlotte wrapped a leg around his thigh, "I hope you know what you're doing my dear," He spoke huskily, "This time, I'm not letting you fall asleep."

Ethan pushed Charlotte's bedroom door open with his foot, while she buried her face in his neck. She thought of how quickly the last few days had flown by, and of how much her life had changed. Here was this beautiful man taking her to bed, the kind of man who never used to even notice her. She wanted nothing more than to be taken... to be loved by him. All her insecurities faded; her fears and doubts chased away by his scent, his touch and his soft voice droning in her ear. She was no longer a child, but an adult young woman, free to make her own choices.

She had no idea where Ethan would be in 3 months or even 3 weeks, she only knew that if she didn't let him love her, she would regret it for the rest of her life.

Setting her gently down on the edge of bed, Ethan removed the decorative pillows, and pulled the bedding down.

"I need a minute luv," he whispered heading for the master bath,” Don’t you go anywhere."

"I won't." she said with a smile.

As soon as the bathroom door closed with the sound of running water, Charlotte hugged herself and giggled quietly, trying to quell the butterflies in her empty stomach. Wishing she'd eaten more of her lunch, she hoped they would still have time to eat somewhere after....

"God, he's so gorgeous." she told herself. She looked around her room with its soft muted colours and antiques, then unzipped and slipped off her dress, laying it across a chair.

"This is really happening." she sighed, slipping into the bed. Ethan walked out of the bathroom. Charlotte gasped audibly as he sauntered to the bed, his blue shirt completely unbuttoned and his face freshly scrubbed. She couldn't help but stare at the rippled muscles of his torso and broad chest.

"You are so beautiful," he sighed, "Why didn't I meet you years ago?"

Charlotte shivered as once again, her shy nature took over.

Sliding in beside her, Ethan lay on his side, and brushed her cheek with the back of his finger, "Really Charlotte, I wish I had met you years ago before I..." breaking off his sentence, he fell quiet.

"What Ethan?" she asked, scooting closer.

"Well I've just made a lot of mistakes that's all.... and when you meet someone special, you almost wish you hadn't done certain things." Ethan's confident demeanour seemed to shift, as he smiled, softly stroking her hair. "I'll be honest Charlotte, I've been... well, I've had a lot of girl friends."

"I know." she sighed, tracing her finger across his forehead, "But you're with me now, don't think about the past."

Drawing her into his arms, Ethan kissed her neck, lightly flicking his tongue against her pulse points and earlobes. He covered her face with kisses, letting his tongue flick over her eyelids and cheeks. When she moaned with pleasure, he smoothed his hand over her skin.

Supporting himself on his hands he lifted up, and gazed down into her watery blue eyes, thinking that she was far more beautiful than any woman he had ever been with. She still possessed the mystery of innocence and sweetness that many women in his circle lacked, and he suddenly wanted to care for her and protect her... "It's too late." he thought to himself, "I can't turn back now."

"Charlotte," he said under his breath, "I think I've fallen in love with you."

"Oh Ethan!" she cried out, taking hold of his shirt collar, " I.... I... I feel the same, please.... please make love to me now."

But he pulled away, sat up, and gazed down into her eyes, "Are you sure this is right for you luv? Because I know it's right for me... I want you, I w...."

Before he could complete his thought, Charlotte whispered, "I'm sure... dear God I'm sure!"

"God you are beautiful." he growled.

They made love with a passion that neither of them had ever experienced before. Charlotte felt their souls and bodies melting into one another. She felt safe and wanted. She clutched him to her, gently rocking. Ethan gathered up the blankets from the floor, pulling them across Charlotte as she nestled against him.

Time seemed to stop as they held each other. Suddenly a growling noise escaped from Char breaking the silence that had settled.

She laughed, "Well It seems my body has not yet been satisfied."

Ethan cocked an eyebrow at her and planted hot kisses across her bare shoulders letting his silky voice dance across the room “we shall have to remedy that, Luv."

She laughed and pulled away from him. "We must have missed our reservations. I am starving, what are we gonna do?" She looked at him and his eyes were twinkling. And suddenly he had a very distinct grin.

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"Hmm how about we order some take out and stay in bed all night?"

She meet his stare and felt the blush return as she looked at her feet again. She thought that would be a perfect idea. He was a mind reader.

“I can’t think of anything I’d like more.” Charlotte said, still not looking at him. She couldn’t figure out why she felt so shy again all of a sudden. Ethan took her chin and raised her face to his.

"I can't either", Ethan said, and he kissed her gently. 'There's a lot I want to learn about you tonight." Just the look he gave her made Charlotte blush even more.

Ethan stood up, pulling on his pants, and shirt, although he left the shirt unbuttoned. "Where are you going?" Charlotte asked, wondering if she should follow.

Ethan came back to the bed, leaned over and brushed her hair back from her face. "God you're sexy," he said, forgetting for a moment what had possessed him to get out of bed. He was silent for a minute, and then he remembered. "Does Chinese food sound good to you?"

"Fine, " Charlotte said, looking into those eyes that she found it so easy to get lost in.

'I'm going to go to my place for a minute. I have a take out menu for a great place that delivers, and I have a few things I want to get. Is it OK if I stay all night?"

Charlotte grinned. "Anytime you want."

Ethan smiled, and kissed her again. "I'll only be a few minutes."

As he was standing up, Charlotte's phone began to ring. Ethan picked it up and handed it to her. She looked at the number and groaned. "It's my friend Stephanie, the one from the club last night." Ethan laughed.

"I take it you have a few things to explain?" she nodded. "I'll be back soon." He said, as he walked out the door. She could hear him chuckling as he walked down the hallway.

"Hi Steph", Charlotte said as she picked up the phone.

"Hi yourself. I've been waiting all day to hear from you. You get dragged out of the club by one of the most gorgeous men I've ever seen, then another guy who is almost as gorgeous with the sexiest accent I've ever heard comes over to reassure me that it's ok, you know the guy, and are actually dating him. Something tells me you've been keeping secrets."

"I wouldn't call them secrets. Things have just happened fast that's all."

'Fast?? You!?"

"Yes, me. It's different his time. I can't explain it, and I really don't have time right now. Can we have lunch soon?"

"You're killing me, you know that don’t you?" Steph said, and Charlotte laughed. "Fine, lunch, but you're buying. You owe me."

'It's a deal. I'll see you sometime soon." Charlotte hung up before Steph got going again.

Charlotte got out of bed and looked at herself in the mirror. She had a rash on her neck from Ethan's stubbly face. She smiled as she touched it, remembering how it felt to have his face buried there. She looked herself over from head to toe, wondering what Ethan found so irresistible. She took care of herself, sure, and she was average looking, but he acted like she was...she looked over her shoulder and saw Ethan standing in the bedroom doorway looking at her. He had changed into jeans and a tight black t-shirt. His eyes were hot, and he started moving across the room to her. He came up behind her wrapped his arms around her, and began nuzzling her neck.

After a minute he pulled away, reached over, and grabbed her fluffy white robe. "Put this on before I can't control myself anymore."

'Why would you want to do that?"

Ethan groaned. "Because dinner is going to be here any minute." He walked over to the bedroom door and picked up his blue robe, and the things he had dropped on the floor when he had come in.

"What's that?" Charlotte asked. "You'll find out later" Was Ethan's only reply. He put the pile on the floor on the far side of the bed, and led her out of the bedroom.

When they reached the kitchen, Charlotte realized how thirsty she was. She opened the fridge to get a drink, and saw a paper bag sitting on the shelf. She looked at Ethan questioningly.

"Dessert." He said with that hot look in his eyes again.


Charlotte tried to reach for the bag to peek inside, but Ethan wedged himself between her and the fridge, a wicked grin on his face "No, m'love. THAT would be cheatin'. Welcome to my playground tonight... my games, my rules." He laughed slyly as he wrapped her in his arms, "I don't think you'll be minding much at all. Didn't I tell you, never doubt that I can show you a good time?" He arched an eyebrow at her and Charlotte felt herself melting in the heat that rose through her body again. "Why don't you go freshen up in the bathroom for a moment... I'll find you something to drink. I'll call you back in when I'm ready for you."

Charlotte looked at him quizzically. It surely felt odd to have Ethan take control of things in her own apartment. She started to try to say something but Ethan put a finger over her lips. "My games, my rules. Trust me. I promise you, you won't regret it." He bent over and hummed into her ear, then lightly ran his tongue around the edge, sending shivers down her spine. "Ok, ok, I'm going" she could barely gasp, and made her way to the bathroom having no idea what she would do while Ethan was getting "ready".

Ethan shoved the bag further back into the fridge and surveyed the rest of its contents. Pitiful. This girl did not know how to treat herself to the finer things. He would have to educate her on the art of fine cuisine. He spied a wine bottle, its opening sealed with tin foil. Maybe Ethan didn't drink, but he knew that was a sacrilege for sure. He picked up the bottle, removed the tin foil, and sniffed the contents.... and immediately wished he hadn't. With a roll of his eyes, he immediately dispatched it down the kitchen sink. Ok, enough time wasted. He spied an unopened bottle of red and put it under his arm. Next, he rummaged through her cabinets till he had gathered 2 table settings. He headed for the living room. After placing all the items on the floor, he started moving things around a bit. The couch went further back, the coffee table disappeared into another room. Left with a nice open space, he took a quilted throw that had been draped over the couch and spread it out on the floor. He set this picnic area with the place settings he had gathered, and placed the wine bottle in the centre. Around the edges, he scattered some of Charlottes many pillows. From his bag, he retrieved a music CD by the band Zero 7, and a single red rose, leaving the rest of the items in there for later, a crooked smirk turning up the corners of his mouth as he though of "later". Just as he finished loading the music into charlottes player, he heard the deliveryman with their food. He collected it, and set it out on the floor. Glancing about, he looked for the final touch, but.... he sighed impatiently and called for Charlotte.

As she entered, a quizzical look on her face, Ethan held out a hand to her. She went to him, grasping it, and he pulled her in for a small kiss. "Welcome to our little picnic, m'love. But...." He paused and looked around, an exaggerated look of disapproval on his features "Dammit, girl. You're a full blooded woman... why can I not find a single candle in this place?" Charlotte raised her hand to her mouth and giggled. "Oh, I'll go get you some." She went to the hall closet, and brought a few jar candles down from a shelf.

Ethan rolled his eyes at her as she placed them in his hands and prompted "and a lighter?" He tsk tsked her as she went to the kitchen to find that. "Charlotte, m'girl, I'm gonna have to educate you about the sensuous pleasures of everyday life. Good food! Long baths! A darned lit candle for no particular reason once in a while!" he chuckled as he saw her returning with the lighter, a chagrined look on her face.

"Well, I guess I just started to give up on those things when it seemed like I wasn't going to be able to find anyone to share them with." she said.

Ethan took the lighter, let out a soft laugh and shook his head. "Well, all that's definitely changed now, and that's a damn good thing. Another few years like this, and you might have become a bitter old maid." The look on Charlottes face was worth it. He let out a giggle and cowered, shielding his head with his arms as Charlotte tried to smack him good-naturedly. "Hey, hey, alright, I take it back! Truce!" He lit the candles, placed them in the center of the blanket, and sat, bringing Charlotte down alongside him. He gave her a grin and a raised eyebrow, then immediately started serving out the food.

Charlotte reached for her fork, but Ethan put out a hand to stop her. "Uh uh uh. Game number one." He stared at her with an all-knowing look "I get to do that." He reached for his own fork and speared a shrimp with it, waving it in front of her eyes tantalizingly. He then slowly put it to his own lips and took a suggestive bite out of it, slowly chewing it, in a way that Charlotte could only call "seductive". She blushed, and felt tingles all up and down her body. Ethan then speared another shrimp and brought it to her own mouth. She closed her eyes and bit into it, savouring its taste and texture, surprised at how amazingly sensual this all felt. She didn't think she would ever think of the simple act of eating in the same way again. She opened her eyes and saw Ethan’s only inches from hers, burning with passion. Charlotte knew then beyond a doubt that she was in for the night of her life.

Ethan stretched out on his side, and, never breaking his gaze with Charlotte pulled her down next to him. He was burning to show her things... things, which would take her to heights of passion she had never experienced before. It made him ache inside to think of all the wonderful revelations he would have her experience tonight, and made him remember a time so many years ago when a special someone had shown him. He had always been interested in sex as a young man, and interested in having it - a LOT. He knew he was desirable, and found it easy to get willing partners. He had fancied himself as a pretty good lover. That all changed when he had met Lynn, the love of his life. In some ways Charlotte reminded him of her - her natural beauty, her honesty, her sense of humour, her passion. But where Charlotte found herself fighting with her passion, keeping it secret until she couldn't any more, Lynn had embraced hers boldly. It was visible like a brand across her very being. How Ethan had wound up with her, he never knew.... every man worth his salt had wanted and pursued Lynn. But their attraction had been instant and visceral, something which couldn't be denied or avoided. God he had loved that woman! With his whole being - never before and never since had he found anyone to match her. And she had taught him the art of love. Yes, he had enjoyed sex before, but she had taught him how to enjoy it WITH the woman he was loving, and take her enjoyment to increase his own. She took him to territories he had never even imagined existed... a connection between mind body and spirit, which caused him a little death every time they shared themselves.

And the first lesson had been something very much like this.... His eyes came back into focus on Charlotte's, and he kissed her, brushing her lips ever so lightly with his. He pulled back a bit and put another shrimp between his lips, and moved in towards hers. Charlotte took a nibble of the shrimp, and Ethan pressed forward gently, willing her to take more. Charlotte obliged, waves of desire washing over her at Ethan's every prompting. Soon she found not only the shrimp but also Ethan's tongue inside her mouth, giving her sensations she had never felt before. It was as if Ethan was trying to invade every function she had found normal and harmless before, seeking to brand it with his own mark of.... of what? Charlotte laughed inwardly as she thought "Ethan-ness"

Dinner proceeded on this way, with Ethan allowing Charlotte to feed herself intermittently through sheer practicality. But he kept an eye on her the whole time, watching the very mechanics of her as she ate, smiled, spoke..... His head was awash with images of her, images he expected to hold onto when he had to go on his next big business trip to Chicago.

Once he was sure they had both had their fill of legitimate food, Ethan allowed himself to think of the second course. Lying side by side to one another, it was hard to believe any one else in the world existed.

Ethan reached into his bag and pulled out a tin. He uncovered it, and reached for a lighter, then lit the candle within the tin. He set it aside, and turned back to Charlotte. "Sweetheart" He nuzzled her against her ear. "So you're sure ya wanna take me on, love? Be my girlfriend? " Charlotte's response rose up from a place she didn't know of in her soul. Like lightning during the day, she knew that this was the mate for her.

"Mmmmmm" she sighed back, "But are you sure you can handle ME as your girlfriend?"

He looked surprisingly relaxed as he answered... "Mmmmmm. I might be able to keep you in tow for a while.... but I think that eventually you might hold the reigns, in fact.” That seemingly innocent reply took a lot for Ethan to say. He had sort of closed off after Lynn, unable to reach for a woman beyond sexual pleasure. He had thought that if he couldn't sustain a relationship with the love of his life... well...

And life hadn't seemed worth living for quite some time after that. Friends had seriously considered keeping watch over him, afraid he would do himself away after they first broke up. But he had sustained himself through work and the kindness of friends, and new friends as he switched jobs. Eventually, he only spoke to his "Lynn days" friends on the phone, and had a whole new circle of people he hung out with the rest of the time. It was an endless cycle; it seemed, but effective nevertheless. But now he was confronted with Charlotte.

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Guest Beanie

Ok, girlies... here it is. The vanilla PG13 version. :strawberry: :strawberry: :strawberry:


Beautiful sensual, honest Charlotte, who stole his heart with a smile. He reached for the lighter, uncapped the tin, and lit the sweet candle inside it. Charlottes gaze naturally followed to the flame, and he was captivated by the myriad reflections it cast in her eyes. He reached up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, and murmured, 'This part only takes a few moments' He stared at the flame with Charlotte for a while, watching it dance and tremble. He let his free hand stroke Charlotte’s side in small rhythmic circles, then.... when he deemed there was enough melted wax; he placed the candle down above Charlottes head, and rolled her onto her stomach. Charlotte sighed, not knowing what to expect, and obliged. Ethan took his time, massaging her available skin with his hand. When she was properly relaxed to the sensations he was creating, he picked up the candle and blew out the flame. This was a special candle, producing much wax which melted at a lower temperature, making it irresistible to his intentions. He straddled Charlotte's posterior, and stroked his dry hands up and down her back. Charlotte murmured a polite sigh of appreciation, but he smiled to himself knowing that he would take her much further. He picked up the tin-candle, and positioned it above her shoulder blades, dripping the wax over her upper back.

"OMG... what is that?" Charlotte moaned satisfactorily, trying to catch a glimpse of his face. He said nothing, but placed his hands where the wax had dripped, and started to rub her back with smooth strokes. Charlotte closed her eyes as she felt the wax being spread into a delicious thinness all up and down her back, almost like oil. By the end of her session, Charlotte was as warm and relaxed as: well, darn it, he hoped he would set a new precedent for the phrase "as relaxed as."

Ethan continued massaging her back, rubbing the luxurious wax into her muscles until he felt Charlotte start to move more insistently beneath him. He smiled to himself, planted his haunches a little more firmly on her fanny, and blew a delicious stream of cool air on her back. He started running just his fingertips up and down her back, and she shivered. Ethan smiled, gave her a few strokes with his fully outstretched hands, and dismounted.

He lay down beside her for a moment and grinned into her eyes as she looked at him, "Feel okay?" All she could do was nod her head and smile in her bliss. He let his right hand wander around on her back, now soft and incredibly smooth from the wax. He watched as Charlotte let her eyes close in appreciation, and sigh each time he reached a particularly sensitive spot. He mapped those spots out in his mind like Magellan on a search for new lands.

He made sure Charlotte was in a fully relaxed state, then gave her a final caress and sat up. "Ok, darlin'" he drawled quietly, "I think you're ready for dessert now..."

She turned her head slightly to look up at him, and curled her lips into a delicious smile "Mmmmmm... can't wait," she murmured.

Ethan got up and walked to the kitchen. He removed the bag from the fridge and revealed large chocolate covered strawberries and a few plain ones. He smiled to himself in anticipation, arranging them nicely on a plate before he returned with them to the living room. Charlotte was still blissed-out in the position he had left her. Turning her head to look at him, her eyes went wide with delight, and she smiled.

Ethan lay back down on his side next to her, stroking her skin a few times with his fingertips before he coaxed her to turn over onto her back. He took the largest chocolate covered strawberry and offered it to her. She took a bite, savoring the flavors, her eyes slightly closed with pleasure. Ethan let her nibble at it at her own pace, drinking in the movement of her lips as she did. Unconsciously, he licked his own lips. "Good, Charlotte?" he murmured. She nodded suggestively. Pulling the stem off of another strawberry, Ethan placed it in his own mouth and bent down to hers. After taking a few bites, they both collapsed in giggles as it became a messy affair, Ethan eventually losing grip of his end and the berry rolling away onto the floor.

"Well, I suppose that's just fine," he said, nibbling at Charlotte’s face to collect the juices, "I intend to use the rest of them for something other than eating anyway." Charlotte’s eyes went wide, and Ethan stared at her with a mischievous gleam. Wordlessly, he picked up another chocolate covered strawberry and blandished it before her eyes. Then, he let it touch her neck and brushed it down her body, leaving a chocolate trail where it had been. He then went to work kissing her where the berry had been, erasing any trace of it. She tried to embrace him, but he let her know with a look that that was against the rules of this game. She suffered a bit, but it was a delicious sort of suffering. She felt the desire in her rise and rise, surprised it could go any further each time it did. Just as she was ready to scream for him to stop, he did.

Ethan lifted his head, licking his lips as he did so. He took a searching look at Charlotte’s face and smiled inwardly. Good. She was giving in to his ministrations just as he had hoped. Without saying a word, he pointed to a plain strawberry from the plate, and gave her a look as if to say "Now, what do you suppose I'm going to do with this one?" Charlotte giggled, not able to guess.

Ethan broadened his kisses, urging her back into the heat of passion, finally dipping his tongue between her lips and running it sensuously around her mouth, her cheeks, her tongue. It was all she could do to not roll him over and attack him, to release the pressure of her desire. "MMMMM" he moaned, kissing her ear. "Charlotte, I love how you taste." He went back to her mouth, possessing it with the force of his passion, drawing her on with his tongue to a fever pitch.

Ethan fell to work kissing her neck, her shoulders, he was like a man on fire, but played it out on her body with tenderness that left her breathless. He continued kissing her all the way down to her belly button. Eventually, he picked up a plain strawberry with his teeth, and drew it across her belly in languid sweeps, tickling her sensuously, teasing her with it, never letting her guess where he would bring it next. Just when she was about to spill over into that white heat... Ethan suddenly stopped, and made his way up her body, finally clasping her to him and reaching her mouth.... Charlotte's eyes fluttered open as she felt him sliding the strawberry between her lips, unsure of what to think or do. She took it into her mouth.

"Charlotte, I love you" he sighed into her ear, "I love all of you. You are everything I need." He continued kissing her all over her face, neck and shoulders till she felt she would surely die. There was tightness in her chest, a fullness of feeling that felt it would burst her heart. She finally grasped his head with her hands, and he allowed her to, giving in to her insistent lips.

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Guest Beanie


Ethan let Charlotte have her way with him, wanting her to be able to release some of the pent up passion that was building within her. Building it up was good, but too long without any release, and things could get uncomfortable. He immersed himself in the emotions she was telegraphing to him with her actions, finding himself swept up in a whirlpool of sensation. His own need lay heavy with him, wanting a resolution of its own. They moved with each other like waves of the ocean, one feeding the other by its existence, a natural ebb and flow. They kissed like that for what seemed hours, Ethan keeping Charlotte in check by mere will.

Finally, Ethan separated from her, and lay by her side once again. He saw Charlotte's chest rise and fall with her labored breath, and she was sweating lightly, making her skin glow. Ethan blew softly across her skin, cooling her and giving her a delicious tingly feeling. Her skin broke out into goose-bumps, and Ethan softly stroked her with his fingertips, waiting for her to calm down. It took a while, but he was patient with her.

Charlotte could finally breath normally again, and she looked into Ethan's eyes. He looked back at her with so much tenderness it made her heart ache all over again.

"Welcome back, Charlotte..." He murmured, while stroking her forearm in small circles. "Been having a good trip so far?" She could tell by his tone that he really wanted to know, and that it was vitally important to him that he make her happy. She touched his cheek with her hand and smiled.

"Ethan, so far you have taken me to such wonderful places. Places I've never been before. Where are you going to take me next?"

He sighed meaningfully and held her close. "Hopefully Charlotte," he said softly and in all seriousness "Beyond yourself and straight into my heart forever."

Charlotte felt her breath catch in her throat. No one, ever, in her entire life, had ever said anything so utterly romantic before. And the thing was, she knew with every fiber of her being, that Ethan actually meant it. How in the world had she gotten so lucky? The man of her lustful dreams was also the man of her fondest hopes.

"Ethan," she said before she could stop herself "My love, I'm yours. Take me wherever you want."

Ethan kissed her softly, full of emotion. "Ok then, Char. This is the last stop for this trip, and at the destination, I'm going to have the whole of you."

"Promise?" Charlotte whispered in his ear

"My darlin', you couldn't stop me if you tried" he sighed. " I need you."

She felt the proof of that statement, but just as she would have reached over to him, he pulled away and sat up. "Ok love," he breathed," time for a change of location."

He held his hand out to her, and she grasped it, her eyes locked on his. Wordlessly, he rose and helped her to her feet, then moved her off to the side of the blanket. He quickly removed the items from on top of the blanket, then scooped it up and laid it on the couch. Holding his hand out to her again, he coaxed her over to him. Gently, he laid her down on the blanket on the couch, and knelt beside her, pulling his "mystery bag" along side him....

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Guest Beanie


Ethan sighed with a delicious shiver as he thought of tonight's eventual culmination. Charlotte had been a mighty fine pupil, and he was inordinately turned on by her awakening. He'd never taken the time since Lynn to lead any other woman this deeply into his flights of fancy. Sure, he'd given lots of dates passionate glimpses into his wiles, but never had he endeavored to show them more lest they catch a glimpse of his inner self, the part he wanted to save for that special "one". Charlotte had him, body and soul right now. His mind was still turning over, trying to settle into what he sensed would be a certain finality, but he knew she had the better part of him already. He willed himself not to think, not to let his brain get in the way of what he knew felt so right. He fished around in his bag, and found a small sack wrapped in purple mesh,, tied with a white satin ribbon, and a hand-sized puff of pink feathers.

He held one in each hand, and raised an eyebrow to Charlotte's field of vision. She glanced back and forth between the objects, a questioning expression on her face. Ethan grinned, and, nodding towards the small mesh sack in his left hand, said "Truly, m'girl, this stuff is worth it's weight in gold." He held it close to her nose, and she could smell a fruity, sweet scent rising from it. She smiled... he really was in the mood for edibles tonight. It seemed it was a subtle (or not so subtle) message, that he wanted to possess all of her, to have her inside of him forever.

He put down the feather duster, and placed the bag next to her on the couch. Untying the ribbon, he opened the bag, and a sweet aroma filled the air.

"Ok, Char.... close your eyes" he said to her.

Charlotte complied, lying back on the pillows, feeling her body melt into the couch cushions in perfect relaxation. Suddenly, she felt, ever so softly, the feathers stroking up and down her skin, a heavenly scent following in their wake. She shuddered and sighed. It felt like she was being brushed by angels wings, that slight touch igniting feelings in all the other parts of her body. It felt unearthly, a touch so light as to make her question if it were really happening, or if she were just imagining it. Unable to help herself, she opened her eyes, and saw Ethan still kneeling beside her, his eyes burning a trail after the feather duster full of powder, as he swept it along her skin. Without warning, he happened to look up, straight into her staring eyes. A frown crossed his brow, and for a moment, Charlotte felt as if she had given away the world in order to gain that glimpse.

Ethan smirked, and put down the duster "Well, my darling girl." he drawled. "That is out and out cheating. Penalty time for you I'm afraid. Luckily, I came prepared." He reached casually into his bag of tricks, and pulled out a black scarf. Deftly, and with a satisfied grin on his face, he tied it around her eyes before she could fend him off. Passing his hand in front of her eyes after she was blindfolded, he convinced himself that she was officially unseeing. "Ok, now love." He growled "Let's continue on, shall we?" He laughed quietly, and picked up the feather duster again, re-filling it with the delicious powder. It glided across her skin, making it smooth and matte.

Satisfied, he finally put down the duster, and started with her fingers. Picking up her hands, he warmed them in his own, massaging them a bit from the palms outwards. Then, he began to kiss them, playfully at first, but then with growing seriousness as he sucked each of her fingers, in their turn, into his mouth. Charlotte whimpered involuntarily, feeling the dark warmth of his mouth encircle each one.

Slowly, languidly, he allowed his tongue to start darting up her arm, deliciously savoring the trail of dust that covered her body so thoroughly. He felt the dust start to warm on his tongue, and knew Charlotte must be experiencing the same phenomenon as she sighed in surprise. He widened his kisses, devouring more of her skin with his mouth. Charlotte was swept away by warm sensations.... the dark, moist pleasure of Ethan's mouth on her skin, and the warm sensuous nature of the dust itself, combining to drive her beyond the edge of her sanity.

Ethan fed on her excitement, becoming more insistent with his mouth on her skin. When Charlotte's fingers entangled themselves in his hair, he gave himself over to his passions, and lifted himself onto the couch. Cradling Charlotte beneath him, he flung off her blindfold, and gazed madly into her eyes. Slowly, he saw them swim into focus on him, and read the longing Charlotte felt there. He bruised her lips in answer, aching to be part of her, to own her forever. He turned his head and sighed from his depths as Charlotte started blazing a trail of kisses down his neck, and felt the fire grow hotter as her attentions ignited the dust which had transmuted from her body to his upon contact. Ethan was suddenly lost in abandonment. With each turgid kiss upon each other's skin, new fuel was added to the fire, till each felt they would surely be consumed by it. Finally, Ethan surrendered to his needs, embracing Charlotte to him tenderly.

Charlotte felt her world explode. She gave in completely to Ethan, feeling him claim her, mind, body and soul. Ethan uttered one final gasping moan, and collapsed, spent, in her arms.

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Charlotte slept in Ethan's embrace better than she had slept in years. The gift he had given her that amazing night, soared far beyond the joys of the flesh and sex alone. Through his sensual instruction and patient guidance.... Charlotte had learned to trust, not only Ethan, but herself and her naturally passionate nature. For years she had suppressed her secret yearnings, fantasies and womanly appetites; afraid that she might lose control in pursuit of their fulfillment. It had been easier just to shut down those darker desires and settle for what was expected.

But then in only a few days, Ethan had turned her world upside down, encouraging her to blossom, inviting her secret desires to surface. No man had ever given so much of himself, or abandoned his own pleasure for hers. Her previous relationships had been sexually satisfying to a point; but with his lips, his body and the tender games he had introduced, she felt her soul open to his in a way she had never known with any lover.

The earthy fragrance of Ethan mixed with the sweet body dust, still lingered on her skin as Charlotte woke, the Sunday morning sun peeking through her bedroom curtains. Charlotte turned over on her side, propped up on one elbow and gazed at Ethan's sleeping face. It was a face she had come to adore, a face that filled her with awe and longing all at the same time. She still couldn't quite believe that a man like Ethan found her attractive, and had even professed his love to her more than once. She was not homely by any means, but had never been the sort of girl to attract extraordinary men, as Ethan certainly was. The men who found her appealing were generally bookish lawyer types, who preferred repetitive sexual activities to exploration and selfless pleasuring. Before last night she had no idea that such ecstasy even existed... and now she couldn't wait to see where else he might take her.

Charlotte studied Ethan's features, adoring him more with each moment that passed with him in her bed. He was ruggedly handsome, and yet there was a softness in his rounded cheeks and full lips that made him almost beautiful. With watering eyes she mapped out the straight dominant nose, the lines of his forehead and the little gray hairs peeking up through dark waves and the stubble on his chin. Soft breaths quivered across his lips; parted slightly, and very nearly pink. She guessed that their natural ruddiness may have been enhanced by the body dust he had licked from her flesh, and shivered inwardly with the memory, drawing a deep breath.

It had all seemed so dream like; the dripping warmth of the wax, the delectable chocolate and strawberries. He had given her the most intimate experience of her life last night, and she lay there mesmerized by the lover she had always dreamed of, but never dared to hope for.

Though she could have gazed at the naked god in her bed all day long, she felt the need to stretch. She was hungry and thirsty, and thought she might treat Ethan to a home cooked breakfast. It was a beautiful morning, and she suddenly felt the urge to spend the day out in the world with him, where she could show him off. They had never made it to any of their engagements, and she chuckled, wondering if they would ever venture outside their apartment building.

Deciding to let him sleep, Charlotte showered, threw on a pair of jeans and a sexy low-necked sweater. At first she had strapped on her favorite blue bra, but looking in the mirror with a wicked grin, she pulled the sweater up over her shoulders and arms, unsnapped the bra, and tossed it to the floor. As she pulled the soft sweater down over her naked breasts she sighed, smiling at the erect nipples visible through the baby blue knit. After she blow-dried and styled her hair, she applied light make-up and a pair of silver hoop earrings. Gazing at her bright reflection, for the first time in her life, Charlotte truly felt beautiful. She noticed the glow of her complexion; her sparkling blue eyes, and hugged her sides; suppressing a giggle as that delicious warmth again tingled within her. She thought momentarily of crawling back in bed with Ethan, but raised an eyebrow, imagining where that would lead.

No, she was anxious to get outside for a bit. She had just deposited her paycheck the day before and was desperate to go shopping for some new clothes. Perhaps she'd buy some sexy under-things.... something he would like to see her in. Her wardrobe was fairly drab and conservative, and she felt ready to spice it up with more color and daring fashions.

Clearing off the bathroom counter and shutting off the light, Charlotte opened the door thinking to herself with a grin, "Mmmmmm I wonder if Ethan likes to shop....."


She walked into the living-room where he slept soundlessly. She felt a tugging on her heart. She wanted to please this man in every way he had pleased her. Gone was her shy composure. For the first time in her life she felt beautiful and sexy. She had indeed changed a little.

She felt breathless how could be so lucky. Here in the flesh was a man of dreams. She wondered if he had shared these feelings with anyone else. She shook her head in disapproval. Who cared? He was with her now here in this moment. If it didn't last she wouldn't regret it. She would just savor this moments right now and forget about the ‘what ifs’.

Suddenly his eyes fluttered open and even in half sleep he was still extraordinary. He smiled at her and his eyes opened fully as he glimpsed the almost see through material. She smiled back hoping she would get an approval from him for wearing it. She felt sexy and beautiful. She walked the length of the room and sat on the couch beside him.

"Well Ethan let's see what the world has to offer now that I found what I have been missing."

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Two hours after Charlotte had watched Ethan scarf down his omelet, the two walked hand in hand into one of Charlotte's favorite dress shops. She had been amused by the female heads turning to look at him everywhere they went; women of all ages literally stopping in their tracks to check him out from head to toe. A certain inner glow seemed to flow out from him, enveloping everyone and everything in its energizing light. As they had walked down the crowded sidewalk, Charlotte was amazed by how easily he smiled at passers by, even stopping to talk for ten minutes to a couple who had merely asked for directions.

He was so at ease and gracious, seemingly unaware of the effect he had on complete strangers. She felt like a queen beside him, and her cheeks ached from smiling.

As Charlotte wandered through the store, Ethan playfully followed her, rifling through racks and pulling out clothes for her to try on. When her arms were finally too full to hold anymore, she headed for the fitting room, a big smile on her face. It had been ages since she had purchased anything fun or not work related, and he had made the experience enjoyable with his joking around and constant flirting. Whenever he had the chance, his hands were either on her and she had to admit that she liked his attentions.

Dropping the huge pile of clothing on the bench, Charlotte carefully hung each garment on the hooks as she tried things on, organizing her selections, and tossing aside the pieces she found unsuitable. As she stood there in her panties and sweater, ready to try on a pair of tight jeans, Ethan popped his head in the door, "How's it going luv?" he questioned, a wicked twinkle in his blue-green eyes.

"Hey, what are you doing in here?" she asked blushing, and clutching a garment to her body.

"Oh.... just checking up on you." he replied, that crooked smile tugging the corner of his lips. "Mind if I come in?" he asked, pushing through the narrow door past her.

"Ethan, this is the ladies dressing room!" Charlotte insisted, still trying to hide behind a long skirt held across her middle. "You can't be in here!"

Narrowing his eyes, he grabbed hold of the skirt and yanked it away, playfully swinging it in the air and ignoring her remarks, "Now let's see luv, what have we got here?" he asked, sifting through the pile garments.

"Ethan what if someone hears you?" Charlotte protested, sliding the lock closed on the door.

"So what?" he chuckled, we're not doing anything wrong, are we my love?" he teased, backing her up against the mirror. "I just want to watch.... that's all, no harm in watching is there?"

Charlotte opened her mouth to protest again, but Ethan's lips came down hers gently, and she sagged against him hopelessly, as his hands crept under her sweater.

"Oh God Ethan," she moaned, "Not in here, we can't do this here."

"We're not doing anything the whole world doesn't do luv," he purred, getting more insistent with his hands, "Love is what makes the world go round."

"But not here in public Ethan," she pled, all the while feeling her body's heat gathering force.

With a heavy sigh, followed by a deep chuckle, he released her, backing away. Charlotte stared trembling when he laughingly put his hand to his mouth, his eyes fluttering closed thinking naughty thoughts. She was utterly breathless under his spell, and though she had protested, she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

He was beyond irresistible dressed in his torn jeans, open white shirt and white sneakers, and now she was regretting that they had left the apartment at all!

"You are incorrigible!" she teased, batting her eyelashes and fighting to gain control of the situation.

"Hope so." he laughed, "I wouldn't want to bore you now, would I." Folding his arms across his chest and leaning against the wall, his eyes raked over her, "Hey Char, how about we go for a walk in Central Park when we're done here, I could use a cup of coffee and the fresh air."

"Okay... but you have to let me get dressed." she answered, fumbling in the stack of clothing for her jeans and shoes.

"Aren't you going to buy anything?" he asked, cocking his brow and taking a step toward her.

"Naw, nothing fits me right, and you.... well you sort of distracted me you know!"

As Charlotte pulled down her sweater and re-adjusted her twisted panties, Ethan scooped up a colorful skirt and held it out to her.

"How about this luv.... you look beautiful in blue."

She admired the flowing and romantic full skirt, the one piece she had not tried on, "It is beautiful she sighed, "And I don't have anything like it."

"Good then, let's give it a try." he spoke brightly, handing her the skirt as a slow smile spread across his features.

Charlotte slipped the skirt over her head and pulled it down, loving the soft sheer layers and watercolor print. Smiling at him, she did a little spin, delighted when he nodded his head in approval, "Pairfect."

"Let me buy it for you love." he spoke, reaching in his pocket for his wallet.

Let's pay for this and get out of here!"


Walking through the streets, Charlotte felt more than slightly aroused. Whilst talking and joking with Ethan, she was thinking the entire time of their tryst in the dressing room. Several times she lost track of the conversation, and Ethan just raised his eyebrows, obviously aware of her thoughts.

As they neared the park entrance, Ethan slowed his pace, and then suddenly, pulled Charlotte into a narrow alleyway, between two buildings. It was slightly dim, and musty smelling, although relatively clean otherwise.

Sheltering behind a stack of crates, semi out of sight of people on the sidewalk, Ethan pushed her up against the brick wall. He plastered himself to her, molding his body snuggly to hers. She was trapped. The brick wall was hard and cool at her back, and by stunning contrast, Ethan’s body hot against her.

Charlotte gulped, and Ethan grinned wickedly, his eyes glinting in the dim light. He ran his index finger gently over her lips tracing the outline of her soft skin. She gasped, and parted her lips. Ethan’s eyes widened, and he pretended innocence. “My my, Miss Arielle,” he murmured, “what has come over you today?”

Charlotte just gazed at him, unsure of what to say. She understood he was teasing her, and she was unsure how far he would take her. She knew that they were only partially hidden by the crates, but she could feel her need for him building. He had been tormenting her all day, and now her body was hungry for release. When Charlotte didn’t respond, he grinned mischievously, and whispered “Cat got your tongue?” he bent forward, and kissed her, at first softly, then more and more hungrily. His tongue invaded her mouth, dueling with her own. She moaned, and wriggled her hips against him, the need spiraling. She could feel Ethan’s own arousal against her. He broke the kiss as he felt her striving to find the slight contact that she needed to fulfill her body’s hunger, and growled, “Well, my dear, you do seem to be eager. I just might have to see what all the fuss is about.”

Charlotte frowned, unsure of what he meant to do, until she felt one hand gently gathering the fabric of her new skirt, bunching it. She protested as the air kissed the soft skin on her thighs, “Ethan,” she hissed, as her eyes darted to the near by street. “People can see us.” Ethan grinned, and with one hand still pinning her to the wall, slowly let the other caress her leg. He ran his hand over her thigh, gently rubbing her skin. His hand seemed to hold an electric current, which traveled from where ever he touched her to her center. Charlotte’s eyes fluttered, and she rolled the back of her head against the wall. His touch felt so good, she didn’t want him to stop, but the fear of getting caught was strong, pumping adrenalin through her veins. He moved his wicked caress slightly higher and her body leapt against his. By her response, Ethan knew she was close to the edge. She had been aroused all day, a fact that she had hardly managed to hide. As they had walked the streets, her pupils had been dilated, her lovely skin flushed, and her succulent lips soft and red. He enjoyed teasing her, teaching her that the longer they waited, the more fulfilling the final event would be.

As his hands caressed her skin, he was aware that she no longer cared that any minute some one might stumble upon them. Her eyes were glazed and unseeing, and her breathing was coming in ragged gasps. Holding her against the wall, he growled, “Do you want me to stop? We might get caught”

“No, please don’t stop” she managed to moan in a strangled voice. All she could feel was Ethan’s fingers against her skin, teasing and tormenting her. She felt she might go wild. He continued, and fastening his teeth on her throat, worried gently at it. She cried out, her senses reeling. The excitement flooding her system seemed to pool at her center, ready to break loose in a great tidal wave that would carry her away.

As Ethan felt her body stiffen, he stopped his movement. He wanted to torment her just a bit longer. He realized that soon she would be crazy with desire. It would be the only thing she could think about, and he wanted to take her to heights of pleasure she had never before reached.

It took Charlotte a few moments to realize that Ethan had withdrawn his caress, and was lowering her skirt. She opened her eyes, still panting, and asked in a dazed voice “What?? What are you doing?” He simply grinned at her, and replied “We might get caught my love, I’d hate for that to happen."

With that he kissed her firmly on the lips, and grabbing her hand, pulled her, still stunned, out of the alley and into the bright sunshine once again.

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As Charlotte slowly began to gather her senses a plan formulated in her mind. "Two can play just as well as one at this game!" she thought wickedly. Ethan saw a faint smile play across her lips and he grinned back at her feeling a bit smug about the events that took place in the alley. If he only knew what his sweet Charlotte was planning...

He noticed her seemingly preoccupied while on the way back to their apartments. In the lift, Ethan asked, "What's swirlin' around in that pretty head of yours my dear?"

Charlotte smiled prettily and answered, "I was just thinking what a wonderfully perfect day we've had...and that it's not even over yet!"

"Mmmm...and just how do you think we can top a day that's so far been perfect?"

Charlotte's face began to smile and her eyes penetrated his as she leaned so very slowly closer in to him and said quietly, "I have something in mind."

Ethan's eyebrows shot up and the broad grin on his face showed that he liked wherever Charlotte's train of thought was headed. He said, "Well, darlin', I'm all yours! Let your mind take us where you want to be!"

They went to Charlotte's apartment and Ethan said, "Mind if I grab a quick shower? I need a refresher from all that shopping!"

Charlotte innocently smiled and said, "Sure, and I'll make some coffee so it'll be ready when you're finished."

"That sounds great! Thanks, darlin'." He turned and walked toward the bedroom and she watched him go. She loved the way he walked with such self-assuredness, with just that little bit of bounce in his step...always so full of energy! And, he was humming to himself, too. God, he was gorgeous! Funny how she could gain so much happiness just from observing his! She really had to get over this teenager crush feeling she was having. Charlotte's inner voice suddenly sounded, "Why fight a good thing? Enjoy it while you can girl...you've certainly had your down times too!" So, as he disappeared into the bedroom, Charlotte finally put her mind on the task at hand of starting a pot of coffee. She had to get it done quickly so she could get things prepared for her little turn-about-is-fair-game for Ethan!

As Charlotte walked into the bedroom, she heard Ethan singing in the shower. She loved the sound of it and it made her giggle. She retrieved those black silk shorts of Ethan's and lightly knocked on the door and then went in slowly. She tucked his robe in the linen closet behind some towels and said "Ethan, I'm putting your shorts on the counter with a nice big fluffy towel, okay? You can put them on after you're dried off."

Ethan let water run into his mouth and gargled "Okay, thanks love" back to her and then laughed in that full gusto head-thrown back laugh of his. She grinned and just shook her head. If it had been another time, she might have just joined him in the shower right then, but her mind was too set on her original plan. Then, Ethan said, "What about my robe, Char? I couldn't find it."

She tried to seem nonchalant as she said, "Oh, your robe...let me see where did I put it?" as she dashed back out the door.

When Ethan finally came out of the bathroom, Charlotte came into the bedroom carrying a nice big hot mug of coffee for him. Ethan gave her a huge smile and as their hands touched Charlotte nearly scattered the coffee over both of them in her excitement. Ethan, grinning, said, "Easy, love, I've got it. You must have already had a cup, you're so jittery."

Charlotte laughed it off and said, "Why don't you relax in the chair there and I'll be out in two shakes." as she went into the bathroom. Just before she closed the door she took a quick peek, and saw that he was falling nicely into her trap. She quickly fastened her hair up on her head and got in the shower. It was still so very warm from Ethan's shower and with the thought of him there naked just minutes before, her heart began to pound. She quickly finished her shower and reached into the linen closet for Ethan's blue robe. She dried off quickly (wickedly using the same yellow towel that she'd left for Ethan to use) and put only the robe on. She went to the mirror, wiped the steam away with that yellow towel which she now knew would become her 'favorite' and quickly took down her hair, leaned forward and ran the brush through it, then whipped her head back up quickly to let her hair fall naturally where it would. It gave her the desired 'rumpled’ look and with just a bit of lip gloss applied, she was ready for the games to begin.

Charlotte opened the bathroom door and Ethan, who had picked up a magazine on the table next to the chair and was idly skimming through the pages, glanced up to see her. It was his turn to nearly spill the mug of coffee! Charlotte slowly walked, or in his mind, he fuzzily thought, was it 'stalked'?, out of the bathroom, her eyes never leaving his. She was beautiful as always, but this time something was different. There was something predatory about her movements and even the hungry look in her eyes. This was a new element of his lovely Char, "and by god, I think I'm going to like this!" thought Ethan. He couldn't break the hold with her eyes either, and somehow he managed to put down the magazine and the coffee without incident. She saw him swallow...god help her...she even loved how his Adam's apple moved! He said, "Well, I see you found my robe."

Not to be distracted, she said, "Ethan, you were a very naughty boy earlier in the alley. Did you think I was going to let you get away with that?" Still, he could not speak, and Charlotte took such feminine power from his surprise that her confidence grew by each moment. She said, "If you're going to play a woman's game, you're going to pay a woman's price."

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Ethan grinned wickedly, and quipped, "I think I'm up for the challenge." Charlotte retorted, "Baby, if you're not up now, you will be." Ethan stood and raising his arms out to his side, he said, "I'm all yours, do with me what you will."

So, with the gauntlet clearly thrown down, there was no turning back for Charlotte and she knew she was entering new territory. Her heart sang as she realized it was Ethan who gave her this uninhibited feeling and with it came such freedom! Charlotte had turned down the covers earlier, so she simply said, "Lie down on the bed."

Ethan did as instructed and he felt his excitement grow with anticipation. Charlotte climbed upon the bed, and straddled herself over his legs. She slowly began to untie his robe from around her waist. But, she didn't remove the robe, only the belt from it. She took Ethan's right hand and tied the belt around his wrist, then raising his arm, she secured the end of the belt to the bedpost. Her earlier 'preparations' had assured her that the belt length would be sufficient. She had also earlier taken the belt from her own robe and now pulling it from under the pillow to his left, she secured his left wrist and arm as she had done with the right.

The combination of being softly bound along with the glimpses of Char's skin was certainly having the desired affect on Ethan. As she ran her hands down from his wrists to his chest, Charlotte could feel the staccato beat of his heart. She leaned forward and kissed the center of his chest. She ran her hands over his torso and her lips followed. She kissed and nipped her way up to his shoulders and over to his neck. Then, she took his left earlobe into her lips and gently sucked. Ethan hissed with pleasure and unconsciously pulled at the restraints.

Char continued on and she couldn't resist an open mouthed kiss to his delightful Adam's apple. He couldn't help but swallow weakly as she did and she chuckled huskily as she gazed into his eyes. She liked his reaction so far and his pleasure heightened her own. She raised herself more and opened the robe to reveal more flesh, but didn't remove it.

Ethan's gaze went to her, and she leaned in. Just when he thought she'd give his mouth what it watered for, she stopped, and bent down to kiss his chest with her mouth. When she lightly nipped, he jolted, and again unconsciously fought the restraint. For the first time, he thought maybe this wasn't such a good idea; she definitely had the upper hand. She arose again and her hands moved slowly down his torso where she noted the muscular abs and how they tightened at her touch.

As she reached lower, she played at the waistband of his black shorts. "These must go," she said. Ethan sighed in frustration, "I think we're even now luv, don't you? Untie me and let's get on a level playing field."

Charlotte said, "Do you promise not to take unfair advantage of me again, IN PUBLIC?" Stubbornly, he looked at her but didn't speak. Upon her unyieldingness, he quickly made up his mind, "YES! I promise to not take UNFAIR advantage of you. But, I don't promise to not take any advantage I can WITH you." He smiled so openly and warmly that she couldn't resist, and said, "Deal."

She reached up, untied first one wrist and then the other, and Ethan sat up and quickly. He took hold of her body and pressed it against his, her legs bent at the knees, around his waist. He practically smothered her with a thoroughly invading kiss and finally, pulling himself back a bit, gathering his senses, he looked into Char's eyes and saw there no pretenses, no games, just pure honest emotion and it clutched at his heart. He took her face in his hands, smoothed his thumbs over her cheeks and rubbed his fingers in the hair behind her ears, and he touched her lips with his in the softest of kisses. He lifted her to himself and they both exhaled with the thrill of feeling and loved each other till they both trembled in the aftershock of their climax.

There were tears in both their eyes and one escaped Charlotte's eye and Ethan tenderly rubbed the trailing tear away with his thumb. He softly kissed her and while still joined as one, he quietly, so seriously, said, "You may not believe me, Char, but I've never felt this way before, and I promise you...I'll never make the mistake again...of calling what we share...just a game."

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Ethan lay back, pulling Charlotte with him and sighed. He closed his eyes, letting himself come down from his heightened sense of emotion. He stroked her back through the fabric of his bathrobe and smiled inwardly. There was something so intimate about her wearing his clothes. They looked endearingly silly on her, 10 sizes too big and all, but it made him smile. She was beautiful, she was vivacious, sensual as hell, and she was his. He was so glad he had opened the door to her more adventurous side. In fact, she had an effect on him that made him want to be more adventurous too. He had almost been shocked at himself in the alley. Not quite, but almost. He certainly hadn't done anything like that in a while. He just couldn't seem to keep his hands off her. She was so easy to please, he found himself wanting to do so often... it excited and satisfied him to no end that he made her feel that way too. But, he thought, he should probably reign it in just a click. No use in getting arrested.

So, now that he was getting to know Charlotte the sensuous lover, he found himself wanting to get her out more, to start experiencing LIFE with her. There were a lot of things he wanted to show her out there, too. He had about 6 years on her, and he had traveled extensively. He got the feeling that Charlotte had led a more insular life. He wanted to change that. He wanted to give her so much, to share experiences with her, to share himself with her.

And he wanted to start doing that right now.

"Ok, my love," he stirred and gave her bottom a playful pat. "Time to get up."

Charlotte had felt so comfortable, she didn't want to move, and gave a playful groan.

Ethan laughed. "C'mon woman. I've got to get you to see me in some other position than horizontal for once." He kissed her hair and rolled her off of him. He half turned to her, staring at her face for a moment, her eyes closed, her thoughts obviously still on sex.

"Huh. Ok. That's it," he grinned "You're getting up now." He leaned over and started tickling her, Charlotte convulsing in laughter at his unrelenting attention. Finally, she could take it no longer and nearly fell out of bed, clutching her sides.

"Ok, then," Ethan said, reaching for her hand as he lay on the edge of the bed. "Why don't you go freshen up. Come hell or high water, I'm gonna get you to a restaurant tonight." he paused, then, rubbing his chin, said "Er, just to make sure, wear pants." He winked at her wickedly, then leapt from the bed before she could hit him. "Something casual." he remarked, as he saw her leave the room to head for the bathroom. He himself cast about for his discarded clothes, getting dressed hastily. He left the bedroom, and paused by the bathroom door. "I'm going back to my place for a bit, Char," he called "I'll be back." After he heard her acknowledge him, he left her apartment and headed for his own.

Letting himself in, he thought of ways to try and diffuse the situation between he and Charlotte. God, he could stay in bed forever with that woman, but he felt they really must move on a bit. He needed to safeguard that they would actually get to know each other outside the bedroom tonight. He went straight to the phone, and dialed up Sean.

"Sean, mate - how are you?" he said as he heard his friend pick up.

"Good! Long time no hear!" he heard Sean chuckle on the other end "Things going well with you and Charlotte I gather?" Another laugh, and Ethan found himself grinning in spite of himself.

"Uh, yeah, I guess you could say they are. But listen, if you have time tonight, I need you to do me a favor."

"Uh, depends, Ethan. Some of the things you get me to do.... "

"Aye, I know mate, I know," Ethan giggled, running his hand through his hair, "But no, this isn't anything bad. Was wondering if maybe you and Sharon would meet up with us for dinner?"

"That's the favor?" Sean asked a little skeptically.

"Uh, yeah. Things have been going really well for us. Maybe they’ve been going a little too well in some departments. I uh, could use a little help getting things started things in others... catch my meaning?"

He heard Sean howling with laughter on the other end, and figured he did indeed catch on. "Ethan, you dog. Haven't seen the sun in a few days, eh? What's the matter... don't trust yourself with her alone tonight? Damn but you are a randy bastard. Ok, no problem. Sharon and I are bored anyway and were looking for something to do..." he heard Sean's tone change as he said "But, so, how is she, Ethan?"

"What?" Ethan said incredulously into the phone "I'm not gonna tell you that S..."

Sean was laughing again "No, no, no. I don't mean that. I mean how do you like her? Are you happy with her? Do you feel like this could last a while?"

"Oh," Ethan was chagrinned "Well, yeah, Sean. I do. That's the whole reason I'm asking you to join us tonight. Right now we are just so damned infatuated with each other, and I feel we need a little space, to get real a bit. I'm fallin' for her mighty hard." He swallowed, not used to hearing himself say such things. He tried to go on, to make himself sound normal "I uh,"

"No need to explain, man. I know. I had a feeling all along that this one would be different. So, ok -- where do you want to meet up?"

Ethan was grateful that Sean gave him an out. He was truly a good friend. "You know that little Thai place a couple blocks from me?"

"Yeah... casual, cheap but good?"

"Yeah, that's the one. Meet us there in about an hour. Does that work for ya?"

He heard Sean talking to Sharon on the other end of the phone, heard a pause, and then "Fine. That works for us. See you then."

"Thanks mate. We'll have to figure out someplace to take the girls afterwards, too. Maybe you two can talk about it and choose, eh?"

"Sounds like a plan. See you soon"

Ethan hung up the phone, and headed for his bathroom to get freshened up. Afterwards, he rummaged around in his closet and picked out his outfit. Casual button fly jeans, and a sea-green t-shirt. He looked good, but not like he was out on the make. He ruffled his hair with his fingers, checking his beard in the mirror. One more day he could go without a shave. He put on cologne, then left the bedroom, intent on heading back for Charlotte's place. On his way to his front door, he saw the light flashing on his answering machine. He swore under his breath a moment, but pressed play to listen. A woman's voice was on the other end, and it took him a moment to register who it was.

"Hi, Ethan," he heard, "Haven't spoken to you in a long time...." Ethan's heart suddenly sank to his stomach, "I thought you should know that I've heard they're sending you out here to work on the Mullany project, and well, I'm on that job too. I thought it was just too much of a coincidence..." Ethan put his hands on the sofa table to steady himself. My God, the timing couldn't have been worse "since I just haven't been able to get you out of my mind lately. How are you? I've been trying lately to go over and over those last months of our relationship, trying to figure out what went wrong. And I think it was me. I think I was wrong. Can we talk before you come out here? We're going to wind up spending a lot of time working together, and I don't want this to be uncomfortable. Please call me... please?"

As she gave her phone number over the machine, Ethan rubbed a hand across his brow. He let out a groan of frustration and looked up. Why now? Why not a week ago? So Lynn was thinking of him again, huh? Just great. Just when he had been ready to move on with Charlotte. He WAS falling hard for Charlotte, God knew. His heart was already tangled deeply with hers, and he cared for her desperately. But Lynn! Dear Lord. They had been through so much, and had loved each other for years. He would have to call her. He took out a pencil, replayed the message, and copied the phone number down. He stared at it for a long time, thoughts refusing to gel into any coherent pattern.

Finally, with a sigh, he collected himself as best he could, and headed on his way to Charlotte’s apartment. While he was here, he thought desperately, he was bloody well going to hold on to Char for all he was worth. He'd think about Lynn when he went off to Chicago. It was the only way he knew how to stay sane. And the last thing he wanted to do was hurt Charlotte... he was afraid she might never recover if he did. Willing himself to forget about Lynn, he put on a cheerful face, and entered Charlottes place....

Opening the door, Ethan immediately saw Charlotte, and his heart skipped a beat. Wearing a gauzy white shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans that had worn themselves to fit her body perfectly, she was just devastating. Thank God he had called Sean.

He walked over to her and grasped her around her waist from the back, teetering her from side to side. He nuzzled her hair with his nose and gave her a bit of a kiss. "Hon, you look like a dream. Ready to hear what we're gonna do tonight?"

Charlotte turned around in his grasp to face him, breathing in his cologne and assessing his outfit as well. No matter what he wore he looked gorgeous, but the sea green t-shirt seemed to magnify the green in his eyes, dazzling her. She held him tighter, and Ethan gave a short hum - "Mmmm, woman. Not so fast." He smirked at her wryly, holding up a finger and admonishing her with it "I took precautions tonight against your feminine wiles." She looked a bit stricken at that, and he quickly changed his tone, murmuring. "Its not a bad thing, Char." He was inwardly dismayed that even after all their tenderness he had shown her and the closeness he felt for her, she could still be so easily hurt. Why?

"Oh, sweetie," he entreated, squeezing her tight "Don't take on so. You know I love you hon, don't be so quick to take offense. I'm on your side." He looked at her face, brushing the hair away from her forehead. She calmed a bit, and he kissed her on her forehead. "Ok?" She nodded, and he kissed her again and let her go, just keeping his hand in contact with her back, stroking her softly as he went on "Hey, I just thought it would be good to have some fun tonight for a change. I called up Sean and asked if he and Sharon would like to double date with us tonight. Sean's my best friend, and knows me better than anyone, and I spend a lot of time with those two. So, it’s probably a good idea for you to get to know them better. I love what we do when we make love, but there's a whole other world out there I need to get out into too."

Charlotte stiffened, and looked at him, a mixture of incredulity and anger on her face "Go out and have fun for a change? Get out into the world? Weren't you the one just today, in public I might add, saying that ‘love’ (in its more vulgar term) is what makes the world go round? And here you are now making me feel as if I've been the one keeping you in bed against your will." She folded her arms across her chest and simply smoldered at him. "You certainly didn't seem to mind at the time."

Ethan blinked "What? I said nothing of the sort. What are you getting on about?" He could feel frustration creeping up on him. Here he was trying to tell this woman that he cared more for her than just a roll in the hay, and it was all coming out wrong - she was taking it wrong... well, something was going wrong. "Charlotte, all I meant was that I.. " he let out a groan and started again "I guess I don't want you to feel that that's all I want you for. Ok? I'm sorry if my joking about it came out wrong. I'm not blaming you for anything, alright? Damn, woman, I told you - I'm a guy. I'm not good at expressing these types of feelings. Can ya please just give me some benefit of the doubt here?" He heard his voice get louder as he spoke, but couldn't help it. It frustrated him to not be understood when he thought he was trying so hard. This always bloody happened - why couldn't women just get him? Why did he always feel like they wanted everything spelled out for them? And that was probably the crux of it right there -- in the bedroom, he could say volumes with his actions, but when it came to words.... how the hell to break out of a cycle like that? That was what he was trying to do here, and it was just falling down all around him again. Typical. If only Charlotte weren't so damned insecure...

He stared at Charlotte, a frown between his brows. She stared right back at him and relented, but only a little "Ok, Ethan," she said, a little hardness still in her voice "I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. It’s probably a good thing to be going out with another couple. It'll break up the tension between us." She softened a little more, then reached for his hand "So where are we going?"

Ethan sighed a bit, then rubbed his forehead "A Thai place we know of. Not much to look at but the food is unbelievable. Really authentic. Nice relaxed place to just kick back and talk and well, get to know someone." He gave a wan smile and said "I'm sorry I got so frustrated at you. I'm not very patient when it comes to this sort of stuff. I'm trying to be better." He gave her a quick chuck under the chin and started ushering her to the door "Shall we go?"

Charlotte grabbed her purse and headed out and down the hall. Ethan was left to close her apartment door and catch up with her. Gads, but what did she want from him tonight? Wasn't he trying to do the right thing? He entered the elevator right after her, and pressed the button. He looked down at her with a searching, somewhat annoyed glance, and she caught it. She looked away, obviously still miffed.

"What?!" Ethan groaned "Geez, Charlotte, what the hell is with you? We were having such a nice day, and all of a sudden you turn into..."

"Into what?" she countered

Easy, boy, dangerous ground here. He lowered his voice and started again, "Why are you so pissed at me?" The irony of this situation was not lost on him, as he thought of what he wasn't telling her. That he'd be working with his ex in a few days, the only other woman he had ever loved. He almost laughed at himself. Whoa, wouldn't THAT rock her world. So it seemed patently absurd to him that she was so out to burn him now.

"You really can't figure it out?" she spat at him, unable to control herself

"Well, obviously not!" he felt himself rise to the bait again, his conflicted feelings about Lynn's sudden reappearance mixing with this confusing situation to raise his ire. He felt sorely put upon right now. "Would you be so kind as to educate me?"

The doors to the elevator opened, and they checked themselves, not wanting to let others see they were in the middle of a fight. Putting his arm lightly but stiffly around Charlotte's shoulders, he led her from the elevator to a quiet corner of the lobby. Taking a stance with legs apart, and hands gesturing, he spoke firmly but softly to her "Look, Char, would you mind just telling me what this is all about. Don't treat me like a mind reader. I'm not into those kinds of games."

"No, you just like the ones to do with sex," she said before she could stop herself. Instantly she wished she had bitten her tongue instead, as she saw a dark threatening look pass across Ethan's face.

"Right." he said in a very tight voice "That's it. You either cut it out and tell me what this is all about, or I go to dinner alone with my friends."

Seeing how angry he was below the surface, made Charlotte feel as though what she was upset about was very stupid indeed. She wasn't afraid of him getting physical in the least - but somehow found that more frightening. His anger was quiet and still, broadcasting a warning that things better change, or she would lose. It was the finality of his anger that shook her.

She gulped and opened her mouth to speak...

"Yes?" he prompted, steel in his voice

"I was upset about how you said you needed precautions against my feminine wiles" she began a little timidly "And then I come to find that you invite your friends along for what? Protection? And without even asking me; its almost like I don't matter in this equation at all. And I had just been feeling so happy and confident in my ability to make YOU happy. It seems every time I gain some foothold in this relationship, you find a way to take the upper hand again."

He crossed his arms, and bowed his head to them, thinking for a moment, a somewhat hard expression on his face. Ok, she was definitely a bit of a head-case when it came to her insecurities. He had known that. But he tried to put himself in her shoes for a moment, and found himself thinking of Lynn again. Their relationship had started out with her in control, and him learning from her and following her with his heart. He supposed that in every relationship since, he had taken the lead. Maybe he was afraid of finding himself in the position of being the one left behind again. If he thought honestly about his life since, he supposed that he always made sure he'd land on his feet by shaping the destiny of his relationships. Charlotte could have a point. He supposed he did let the games run wild when he was at the helm, but as much as he loved Charlotte blossoming to give in return, he had to admit he tended to change course again when she did. He looked at her from beneath his brow, and rubbed his mouth with his hand. If Char knew that an ex flame was helping him get out of a fight with her, she would go mad. But, there it was. Everything from the past always came around and contributed to the present and the future. Charlotte looked nervous. He had lost track of the time he had just stood there, so he broke the silence.

"Ok," he said quietly "I'll admit that I should have asked for your input tonight. And I am a clumsy idiot when it comes to expressing myself at times. What I'm thinking doesn't always come out right when it leaves my mouth. As for me and you being in some sort of power, struggle, I'm gonna have to think on that a bit. I've got some ideas about that, but I'm not gonna try and talk about it tonight. For right now, I want you to tell me what you want to do. Are you gonna come with me, or has this evening soured too much and made you want a break from me tonight?"

She made the small mistake of asking him what HE wanted to do...

Ethan rolled his eyes, feeling frustrated at her again, but finally rubbed the back of his neck and calmed himself down. "Charlotte - you see what you're doing? Here I am trying to give you the power to decide, since you say we have some issues there, and you go looking to me for answers again. Ok. Look. I'm going to meet Sean and Sharon no matter what. I would love for you to come, honestly. But you're gonna have to agree that this is just not something to bring with us into the rest of tonight. We leave it at the door and move on, or it’s no deal." reading her mind, he put a finger to her lips and went on "Either way, whatever you decide, we can talk about this tomorrow if you like. I will try to be as erudite as possible, and you can pick me apart to your hearts content. But, right now, we've got people waiting for us, and I'm hungry and in no mood to continue something that we can't resolve tonight. So I leave it up to you, Char, what are you going to do?"

Charlotte pressed her lips together and fought within herself for a moment. Her contrary nature, the one that normally won out in these types of situations, wanted nothing more than to toss up her hands and head for the elevator. But, she thought, maybe she should take the more risky path for once. She felt a bit like a fool, a little embarrassed to have acted this way in front of Ethan, but once again she felt as if she had a better understanding of him. She'd probably be missing out on a whole lot more of him if she went home now. She wondered to herself if he really could leave all this at the door, and decided to find out. She would do her best to forget it too.

"Ok, I'm hungry too. Let's go eat"

"You're sure?" He cocked an eyebrow at her. She nodded, and he ran his hand through his hair before ushering her along with his hand on her back. "Alright then, let’s go."

He sped her along the few blocks to the restaurant, hating to be late more than necessary. At some points, she had to almost run to keep up, and he grinned wildly at her exertions. She couldn’t help herself but smile too, as she caught his look. And just like that, she was amazed that it seemed they really had left their quarrel behind. Before she knew it, they were at the restaurant, and he was holding the door open for her, and ushering her in.

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It was a quaint little Thai restaurant, decorated in bright colors. Charlotte immediately spotted Sean, and the tall red head from the club. Sean stood up and waved, grinning broadly. “Well, we were starting to think that you two were never going to show up,” he teased, “managed to drag yourselves out of bed OK?”

Charlotte blushed scarlet, and scowled at Ethan. What the hell had he been telling Sean? She started to feel the anger bubbling up in her. Sean, obviously realizing he had said the wrong thing, quickly added, “Not that I can blame him Char. I’d have a crack too if I thought I stood a chance.” He grinned and winked cheekily at her. At this, Sharon playfully slapped him and said, “What am I? Chopped liver?”

As the joking between Sean and Sharon continued, Charlotte managed to feel a bit more relaxed. At least Ethan had had the good grace to look a bit embarrassed at his mate’s comment. She looked up from examining the menu to find his eyes on her. Her face flushed again, and she stuck her tongue out naughtily at him. At that he crossed his eyes, and Charlotte couldn’t help but giggle. Really, she was beginning to realize that life with Ethan might not be a smooth ride.

After the two couples had ordered, Sean turned to Charlotte and said, “So, I got to meet Stephanie the other night. She’s a real fire cracker!”

Charlotte smiled and replied, “Yeah, she’s my best friend. I haven’t spoken to her properly since then, so she’ll be dying to know what’s going on. She’s a bit of a gossip!”

“Well, she seemed pretty concerned about you. She was worried that this big cave man here had thrown you over his shoulder and was dragging you to his cave.”

At that Ethan grimaced and grunted. They all laughed. “Trust me, “said Sean, “Wouldn’t be the first time. And he’s hairy too – have you noticed?”

Charlotte giggled at Sean and responded, “Yeah actually I have. And he smells a bit funny too.” Sean and Sharon roared with laughter, while Ethan did his best to look hurt.

As the evening progressed, Charlotte really started to enjoy herself. Sean and Sharon were great fun, and over dessert Ethan and Sean started telling stories of the old days. Charlotte was laughing so hard that her sides hurt, and Sharon was playfully picking holes in the obvious exaggerations that peppered the tales.

Suddenly, Charlotte looked up to find Ethan’s eyes on her. He looked serious for a minute, like he was weighing up a situation. She paused in her laughter, and returned his gaze. “Ok?” she whispered, concerned at the intensity in his eyes. He seemed to mentally shake himself, and nodded.

The waitress arrived to take a coffee order, which diverted both Charlottes’ attention, and the conversation. After they had all ordered coffee, Sean paused, and turning to Ethan said, “So, when do you leave?”

Ethan actually flushed, and glanced at Charlotte. “Uh, it’s not decided.” He stammered. Charlotte was amazed. Leaving? What the hell was Sean talking about? She glanced at Sean, who obviously realized that he had stuck his foot in it once again. She looked back at Ethan, who met her angry stare levelly.

Just as Charlotte was about to demand an explanation, Sharon jumped in, quickly changing the subject. Charlotte sat deflated, and hardly spoke over the coffee. All sorts of doubts were starting to creep into her mind. Why hadn’t he said anything? He accused her of playing games, but what was he doing?

As she finished her coffee, she was wondering if she should regret her hasty actions with him. It seemed like this relationship was turning out like all her others. Had she jumped into bed with him too quickly?

Charlotte just wanted the night to end, so she could go home and hide in her bed. She felt like a fool. After what seemed like forever, Sean and Sharon stood up to leave. Sean hugged her, and whispered in her ear, “Don’t be too hard on him Char – I think he’s in love with you.” Charlotte blinked, and nodded dumbly. She didn’t speak as she followed Ethan out on to the street, and then as they started to walk towards the apartment block, turned to him and demanded “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on or not?”

Ethan muttered under his breath, something that sounded like “F’mumble’ Sean.”

“Don’t blame him,” Charlotte snapped angrily. “He’s not the one who’s telling lies.”

With that Ethan rounded on her, his face dark with anger. “What?” he demanded.

Swallowing bravely, Charlotte stood her ground. “When were you going to tell me?” she demanded. “Where are you going?”

She knew she might be over reacting, but the fear that what had been so special between her and Ethan was turning out just like all her other relationships was making her crazy. She thought that what they had was special, but now Ethan’s actions were making her wonder. All the insecurities that she kept hidden were spiraling up – ready to over take her.

Ethan sighed, and pulled his hands through his dark hair, making it even more tousled. “Look Char,” he said, “I don’t want to talk about this here. It’s not the place. Come on, let’s go home.” Charlotte nodded dumbly, and followed him up the street. When they reached the building, Ethan hesitated before punching the key on the lift. “Your place or mine?” When Charlotte simply shrugged and said “Whatever.”

Ethan felt the frustration rising again. What was it with her? She accused him of taking the relationship over, and then refused to make a decision. Angrily he hit the button to his floor, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. When the lift arrived, they stepped in and stood silently. It wasn’t until they entered his apartment that Ethan felt ready to talk. Charlotte slumped miserably on the sofa, and just looking at the sag of her shoulders made Ethan feel guilty. “Bloody Sean” he cursed to himself, “opening his big trap.”

He had planned to wait until the right time to tell Charlotte about his trip to Chicago, and then Sean had dumped him right in it.

“Coffee?” he asked. Charlotte shook her head miserably. Ethan sat on the couch next to her, and put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. He felt her stiffen slightly, but refused to let her go. She felt like a coiled spring, ready to snap. He guessed that Charlottes past affairs had been failures, and he knew it was also a fair guess that’s where a lot of her insecurities came from.

“Look Charlotte” he started, and paused, not knowing the best way to handle the situation. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about my business trip. The right time just didn’t come up. I’m not lying to you. I never would.” She remained completely unresponsive to his words, but he decided the best thing to do would be to keep trying.

“I have to go to Chicago soon. I won’t be away for that long – a few weeks at most. It’s with work, and it was organized ages ago.” Charlotte nodded mutely. Ethan felt like he was hitting his head against a brick wall, but kept talking.

“Look, I know tonight has been a complete mess. I’m sorry. I never wanted it to turn out like this,” he laughed ruefully. “If I’d have known, I never would have suggested leaving the flat”

Charlotte turned her head to look at him. He was shocked to see the expression on her face. There were tears glimmering in her eyes, and she looked completely miserable.

“Ok?” he whispered.

Charlotte thought she might choke. At one stage she really thought he was going to tell her the whole thing was too hard, and that it was over. She didn’t trust her voice, and so she just nodded her head at his whispered enquiry. A single tear overflowed her eyes, and slowly trickled down her cheek.

Ethan looked stricken. He hugged her close to him, resting her head on his chest.

“Oh God Char, don’t cry over me. I’m not worth it.” he half joked. “Come on love, let’s just go to bed and forget about tonight. We’ll start over in the morning, OK?”


Charlotte didn't know how to feel. She wanted to believe him, to trust him but it was so hard after past experiences. She had been hurt so much that she didn't want to live this through again, but she also knew that without opening up and trusting someone she would never find the real thing. And she wanted Ethan to be the real thing, so much that it hurt. The last days with him had been heaven but right now she felt like on the doorstep to hell.

Ethan was lost for words. Her tears touched him deeply and he felt like a jerk.

He pulled back slightly to look at her and lifted her chin. "Come on Char, I just want to hold you. Stay with me, will you?" He saw the insecurity in her eyes, the mistrust and he inwardly groaned. "Please Char, you have to trust me, you have to trust someone someday. I know I messed up. I will not betray you, and my being away will not change anything between us."

Charlotte finally managed to look into his eyes. They were pleading with her and her heart melted. She called herself a fool for being so mistrusting and angry. The last couple of days had been nothing but bliss and she knew that things would never run so smoothly.

She swallowed hard to find her voice. "I will stay, but please promise that you won't let something like this happen again. If you need to tell me something important then do it and don't wait till I learn it from somebody else." Charlotte bit her lip, thinking for a moment that she had went too far with her request, when Ethan's expression changed into something she couldn't quite read. But then he hugged her close, pressing his lips into her hair. "I'll promise Char, this won't happen again.”

Ethan closed his eyes, trying not to think of Lynn, maybe Charlotte didn't need to know about her at all. But deep inside he knew that sooner or later Charlotte would hear about her. "I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, about my work and how I earn money" he said the last bit jokingly. "Ok"?

He cradled her face in his hands and kissed her softly. She managed a weak smile. "Ok". Ethan stood and took her hand, tugging her gently towards the bedroom. Sometime later when Charlotte came out of the bathroom, Ethan was already in bed. He only wore his black boxer shorts and the view of his gorgeous body almost made her forget how tired and exhausted she felt. He had given her one of his T-shirts to wear; it reached down to her mid-thighs and she thought that it probably looked like a sack on her. But Ethan smiled when she approached the bed and she couldn't help but smile back. He turned to his side and pulled her with her back against his chest, cradling his big body around her in a spoon-like fashion. "Are you comfortable?" he whispered softly against Charlotte's ear. She wiggled her bottom against his crotch, which made him almost forget his good intentions of just holding her tonight. "I take this as a yes" he chuckled. Charlotte yawned and he pressed a light kiss against her neck. "Goodnight sweetheart".

"Goodnight" she said drowsily.

Ethan lay awake for some time, listening to the even breathing of the woman in his arms. He wanted it to work, and he berated himself for being such a fool by not telling her about Chicago. "I love you Charlotte, please trust me" he whispered against her ear, before he fell asleep.

Charlotte woke slowly, feeling a warm hand caressing her thighs, slipping underneath the T-shirt. She was in that state of not quite being awake and her body felt heavy and warm. Still on her side, Ethan's hand found his way underneath the shirt teasing her, and a soft sigh escaped her lips.

She turned her head towards him and Ethan kissed her softly. "Good morning" he said against her lips, his hand never stopping caressing her.

"Good morning too" Charlotte tried to turn on her back, but Ethan held her in place on her side, his large body pressed against her.

She knew he was awakened.... "Just lie still sweetheart, let me love you" he whispered and continued to kiss her, his tongue invading her mouth gently. Charlotte moaned helplessly against him. He coaxed her lovingly to move a bit.... and then... it was all softness, love and motion until they felt completion in each other once again.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Ethan sighed deeply and held her to him for a moment, letting himself descend into the depths of his emotion. There had to be some way for him to translate moments like this into words Charlotte could understand. She needed that from him, he knew, and he was just frustrated that he couldn't quite deliver. She seemed to have a very sad past, this one. In that sense they weren't much different from each other. Its just that Ethan was better at covering it up.

Charlotte stretched and yawned, and he eased her hold on her, stroking the soft flesh of her stomach.

"I feel like coffee. You want some too?"

"Could there be any doubt?" Ethan gave her a quick kiss and rolled over to get out of bed.

Charlotte left her side of the bed in unison and said, "No, no... I'll make it. You shower first."

Ethan smiled and rubbed his chest, trying to shake free of his sleepiness. "Ok, I'll let you do that. And then, we should probably have that talk. No sense in putting it off, theres's a whole Sunday ahead of us to enjoy."

Ethan finished his shower and stared at himself in the mirror. He had been turning over and over in his mind what he would say to Charlotte, how he would allay her fears, and all the while, his mind kept clicking back to his looming business trip and Lynn. It was hopeless. He felt like a cad. Putting his best face on it, he got dressed and padded out to the living room, where, he saw, disaster had struck.

"Um, ok, Char?" he said sheepishly, knowing full well that everything was not.

Charlotte held up the pad he had written Lynn's phone number on. "Lynn, huh. Is this who I think it is? Is this that girlfriend Sean had alluded to last night?"


Ethan took a deep breath.

"That's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about."

"Let me guess, she's another one of those exes you're so close to."

"No Char, she's not. Look, let's go sit down and talk about this."

Charlotte looked at him, and realized she felt like she was on the verge of losing everything. Just when she thought things were finally going to go her way, for what seemed like the first time in her life. She also felt vulnerable, in part because all she was wearing was Ethan's shirt.

"I need to go put some clothes on first..." she said as she went down the hall to the bedroom, Lynn's phone number still clutched in her hand. She closed the door and tried hard not to start crying. She was so stupid to get involved with him so fast. She saw the Jack situation setting itself up all over again. Charlotte put on her jeans and blouse from last night, and grabbed her shoes from underneath the bed. Then, she went into the bathroom to wash her face. It wouldn't help her at all for Ethan to see her like this. She needed to be tough, and not fall apart around him. She wouldn't let him see how much this was killing her.

Charlotte walked back down to the hallway, and found Ethan sitting on the sofa. He motioned for her to come and sit with him. She went over, but sat on the opposite end, so that he coldn't touch her, and confuse the situation. She just couldn't think straight when he touched her.

"OK, you need to know about Lynn. She is and ex girlfriend, and no, she's not still a friend. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen her since we broke up, years ago. She was my first serious relationship, and until now, the most intense relationship I've ever had." He reached out to touch Charlotte's hair, but she leaned out of his reach. Ethan sighed. "I'll admit, when she broke up with me, I was devastated. As a matter of fact, that's how I ended up here. I had to leave because we had all of the same friends and I couldn't go anywhere or do anything without being reminded of her. I was young, and she broke my heart. Last night, when I came up here to get ready for dinner, there was a message on my machine from her, letting me know she's going to be on this job in Chicago. It's the first I've heard from her since our breakup."

"What else did she say? Did you call her?"

"No, I didn't call her."

"and..." Charlotte said.

"and what?" Ethan looked puzzled, but she knew he was avoiding the subject.

"What else did the message say."

Ethan looked at her, trying to decide if he should tell her everything. He knew he should, for all he knew, she had played the message while he was in the shower. He didn't think so, but it was possible.

Ethan looked Charlotte in the eyes, and told her what Lynn's message had said. He might as well have slapped her by the look on her face. She was trying so hard to maintain control of herself.

The she spoke.

"You've told me about Lynn, and now I need to tell you a story, so maybe you'll understand me better, why I am the way that I am." Ethan looked at her encouragingly. She braced herslef and went on. "I have a history of lousy relationships, but the one that you need to know about is Jack. He was my last boyfriend, and the one I thought I would be spending my life with. You already know it takes a lot for me to trust someone. I was like that before, but after Jack it became infinitely worse. He also had to travel a lot on business, but I got used to that. After we had been together for about a year, we moved in together. We were talking about getting married, and making plans for our future. One October, he had to go away on one of his business trips. He had been gone a couple of days, and I had had an awful day at work, I was unbelievably stressesd, and decided to call him just to hear his voice. It was late, about 1am. The phone was answered by a woman, and it was obvious she had been sleeping. I knew who it was though. He had dated one of his co workers about 2 years before we got together. She was sent on this trip with him, and apparently, they couldn't help themselves." She said these last few words with a biting sacrcasm.

Ethan just looked at her, at a total loss for words.

"I know it's not fair of me to take this out on you, you weren't the one with a complete lack of self control, but there it is." She said standing up.

Ethan stood and blocked her way. "Where are you going?"

Charlotte looked up at him. "You need to call Lynn, and I need to get some air." She tried to go around him, but he reached out and pulled her to him. She buried her face in his chest, and felt his face in her hair.

'You don't have to go." he said quietly.

'Yes, I do, and you need some privacy. Call me later if you want." She walked around him, grabbed her purse, and walked out the door, before he could see her tears.

When Charlotte got into the elevator, she started to go to her apartment, but then realized she really did need some air. She pushed the button for the ground floor, and headed for the street.

She walked for ages, not sure where she was going. Everything was a blur. After about an hour, she found herself outside the coffee shop where she had gone with Ethan after their first meeting. She decided she was ready for some coffee, so she went to the counter and ordered a cup, and went to a table and sat down. She looked around, and all of a sudden it became too much. The smell of the place, all of the people in quiet conversation, and the couples gazing at each other. The tears threatened again. How could she be so heartbroken over someone she barely knew? She got up, and headed for the door, looking at her feet as she went. She had to get to the door before she fell apart again. A man was leaving just ahead of her, and he held the door for her. She brushed past him without looking up, and then she heard him speak to her.

"Nice to see you too!" he shouted at her retreating form. then there was real concern in his voice. "Char?? Wait a minute luv!" She heard footsteps coming up behind her, and looked to see Sean staring down at her with a worried look on his face. He took one look at her, and said "Oh God, what has that idiot done now?" She gave him a little smile, but the tears were right behind it. Sean put a strong arm around her, and said, "Come on. You're coming home with me."


Charlotte shook her head. “No Sean, it’s OK – I just want to go home.” She actually managed to get he words out with out crying. Sean stood back and studied her. “Ok, I’ll walk you home.” She just nodded.

“So,” Sean started, as they strolled along, “are you going to tell me?” his face was a picture of concern. Charlotte frowned, and examined his expression. She really wanted to talk to someone, but she didn’t know if Sean was the right person. What she really wanted was to have a good cry on Steph’s shoulder. She shook her head and looked at the pavement.

“Ok” he replied, and paused. “Look Char, I’m really sorry if anything I said last night upset you. I shouldn’t have opened my big mouth.”

Charlotte sighed, and responded “Sean, it’s OK. Ethan should have told me anyway.”

Sean nodded. “Yeah, he probably should of.”

Charlotte looked side ways at Sean, and realized that she was in a position to get some valuable information. “So, tell me about this Lynn.” Sean raised his eyebrows at Charlotte and looked a bit shocked.

“Sure you want to know?” he asked. She just nodded again. Now it was Sean’s turn to sigh. “Ok then. Well, Lynn was the love of Ethan’s life.” Charlotte winced at this, and Sean, seeing her expression said, “Well, you asked!”

“I know, keep going.”

“They were together for a while, and they made a great couple. Mind you, Lynn really wore the pants in THAT relationship. Ethan would follow her around, and do as she asked. Never seen him do that before, or since her!” Again Charlotte just nodded.

“They were really close, even talked about, you know, the big “M” word. But all of a sudden, Lynn changed. She wasn’t interested in Ethan any more, and then one day, she just dumped him. He was gutted, and tried to get back with her, but she took a promotion at work, and left. That’s why he came here, to get away from it all.”

Charlotte nodded again, she seemed unable to speak. She looked up, and realized that they were nearing her building.

“Look Char, I might be out of line, but I know you’re really special.” Sean looked a bit embarrassed.

Charlotte frowned at Sean, wondering where in the hell this was going. As they reached the entrance to the building, she stopped, and turned to face Sean. He looked down at her, a concerned expression written all over his face.

“I don’t know you that well, but I can see how hurt you are. I hate to see you feeling like this. If you need to talk or anything, call me.” He smiled at her.

“In fact, Charlotte, if things don’t work out between you and Ethan, let me know OK? Maybe we could work something out.” Sean winked at her. She was completely stunned. Was Ethan’s supposed best friend coming on to her? She stood with her mouth half open, too surprised to say anything.

Sean suddenly leaned forward, and kissed her, right on the lips. Charlotte stood astounded, frozen. She was so amazed, she couldn’t even push him away. And, all of a sudden, to her horror, she suddenly heard Ethan’s voice saying, “Well, well, well. What have we here?”


Charlotte started out of her skin and turned around, her heart in her throat as she saw Ethan's face, red and smoldering with a quiet rage. His hands were in his pockets, but she could tell they were balled into fists. Desperately, she looked back and forth between the two men, trying to divine what would happen. She had never felt so in the middle of a huge mess. She didn't dare tell Ethan that the kiss had been uninvited... she didn't think Ethan was a violent man, but right now he looked more dangerous than she had ever imagined he could. Unconsciously, she took a step back, out of the middle of the two men.

But it was she that Ethan spoke to first "Charlotte," he said stonily, "Anything you need to tell me?"

Charlotte looked a little frantic. She didn't want to say anything that would escalate matters. But then, glancing at Sean, she saw a slight glimpse in his eye that said everything would be ok.... to save herself now. She suddenly knew he had orchestrated this somehow... she took a deep breath "I didn't kiss him, Ethan, he kissed me."

Ethan turned his glare to Sean and remarked "Well, and its not the first time you've gone for one of my girls, Sean."

"Gone for one of your girls?" Sean glowered "Yeah, and how many of them have there been, Ethan? Plenty, I'd say," he paused and half tried to give Charlotte a reassuring glance, "And I've seen way more than Charlotte here cry from being one of them. You just don't know what you've got, here, mate." He embraced Charlotte around her shoulders, and feigning a kiss on her cheek, instead whispered, "Just go with it... it'll be ok"

"Mmmhmm. And Sharon?" Ethan raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, Ethan, I'm gonna leave Sharon for Charlotte here." Both men stared at each other for a few moments, their glaring intensity telegraphed between the space between them until suddenly it was as if one of them had told a joke, and both broke down laughing. "You stoopid idiot!" Sean guffawed "I saw you commin' off the elevator and thought I'd teach you a lesson. You are a right dumb arse with relationships, Ethan. I caught Charlotte comin' out of the coffee shop crying, and just had to try and help her out. If she's your woman, mate, you'd better take better care of her. Serves you right that I kiss her."

Ethan's shoulders shook as he laughed, relief written all over his face. "I really thought for a moment... I mean... oh, ok, I'm a bloody idiot. You got me Sean, lesson learned. Now if you will please unhand my girlfriend, I will try to make ammends." He clapped Sean on the shoulder, then held a hand out to Charlotte.

"C'mon, girl, you belong to me," he smiled, trying from that moment to cozen her, to make her believe that he really wanted to make things right.

Charlotte glanced a little worriedly at Sean, who with the slightest nod was able to encourage her to go to Ethan. She sighed inwardly, not knowing if she had the strength for the lengthy conversation that must ensue when she went back to Ethan's apartment. Sean pulled her head towards his with one hand and kissed her near her ear, whispering "He really loves you Charlotte -- just remember that". Then, he gave her a wink, and made to leave.

"Ethan, be good to her, man... or else" he admonished, then waved and was off like a shot before either of them could say anything else.

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Ethan stood looking at Charlotte in the lobby, holding both her hands in his. He looked down at the floor and let out a troubled sigh. All of a sudden, Charlotte could see him welling up with emotion, and her heart ached.

"Charlotte, I am like a man being burned alive," he could barely get out, "Please, love - I came looking for you. I'm begging you... come back to my place with me. I'll tell you anything you want to know." He gazed into her eyes with a haunted look and continued, "It may not be what you want to hear, and I can almost guarantee some of it will hurt you. God help me, Charlotte, but I feel tortured. I want you... but I don't want to add to the pain I know you've had in the past."

Charlotte couldn't bear it. She gave him a quick hug and ushered him to the elevator. It broke her heart to see this big handsome Scot so near to tears, and in public where anyone might see him.

She pressed the button to Ethan's floor, and looked at him, a man on the verge of an emotional collapse. She'd had no idea he was so tortured by all this. She had really thought that he was a lot more aloof. She suddenly understood that underneath his crass and joking exterior was a firestorm of feeling. It pained her to her core.

Ethan stood there trying to wrestle with himself, to keep it all together. It felt like it was all just too much. To go through so many years of being able to keep himself at arm's length from a commitment to his feelings.... only to find himself swept up by Charlotte and then haunted by Lynn in the space of a week. He just couldn't handle it, and he couldn't abide knowing it was too much for him.

He had paced the floor of his apartment right after Charlotte had left, frustrated and furious. He felt so damned impotent, so useless to stop this from getting out of control. It hurt his deep sense of pride, welling up out of him in an almost uncontrollable fury. Needing a release, he had picked up his answering machine and flung it into a wall - it exploded satisfyingly into many pieces, also leaving a good sized dent in the wall. But he couldn't stop... his anger was spilling over, an uncontrollable wave of frustration and hopelessness. He found the pad with the damning phone number and ripped it apart with his bear hands, then sent the phone flying after the answering machine. He threw the cushions off of the couch next, screaming in his desire to excise these feelings of helplessness and confusion. One of the cushions made contact with his entertainment center, knocking a pile of cds to the floor, cracking the casings on some of them. For some reason, that finally connected with him, and made him stop.

He sank to the floor, emotionally exhausted, and tried to gather his thoughts. The only thought that he was able to grasp onto was that Charlotte had gone. Over and over those words played in his head, till they finally sank in and motivated him to action. Charlotte had gone! He sprank to his feet and left his apartment, heading towards Char's place. When he got no answer to his first quiet, then more insistant pleadings for her to open the door, he figured she might really have gone out for some air. Going down the elevator to the lobby, he had been confronted with his best mate actually kissing his girl. "My girl?" he had then asked himself, and was answered by another flare of anger, stating emphatically, "Yes! MY girl"

Now in the elevator, he was emotionally raw, feeling wildly out of control. All he could do was hold on to Charlotte's hand furtively, hoping he would not break down in front of her. She rubbed the hand she held in his and looked into his eyes. He could see there for the first time that she understood. He felt something break inside of him. A tidal wave of emotion threatened to overwhelm him. Charlotte seemed to sense it, and lifted her face to his to kiss him. At that touch, something exploded in Ethan.... something he felt no desire to restrain. He held Charlotte tightly to him, never breaking the kiss, and, without looking, he reached over and pressed the "stop" button on the elevator. It came to a halt between floors.

Charlotte couldn't help but gasp, remembering the fantasy she had had about Ethan doing this very thing. She too, felt overwhelmed with feeling, not sure what to do. Ethan made that decision for her, grasping her to him in a paroxysm of emotion, nearly crushing her with its depth. He had become a man on fire indeed. Unable to express his deepenst feelings with words, he sought to impart them to her with his actions.

He felt like he wanted to crawl outside of himself, and into her... his need was intense, immediate, and unshakable. Mauling her mouth with his own, he sought to touch her innermost self. He probed her unmercifully with his tongue, distracting her sufficiently so that he was able to unfasten her jeans without her even noticing. It was only when he started to push them from her hips that he felt her stiffen beside him, but he just held her tighter to him, his hand on the back of her head, his elbow digging into her back. He pressed her up against the wall and willed her to feel his urgency, pleading with her in his mind to give him yield.

Whether it was in shock or in acquiescence, he didn't know, but he felt her soften against him, allowing him to slide her jeans the rest of the way off her hips. He next maneuvered one leg under one of her knees, raising it up so he could remove her shoe. He repeated the gesture with her other shoe, sensing Charlotte's surprise as he did so. He knew she felt powerless to deny him, and he half cursed at himself, wondering if it was a good or bad thing. But for him, there was no going back. He broke free from Charlotte only long enough to slide her jeans down her legs, and grunt at her, "Step out of them, Char," He looked up at her and saw a mixture of desire and uncertainty in her eyes. But he also caught something else... he saw that she wanted so much to give him what he needed. And that was it for Ethan. Kissing her deeply, he engaged one hand in unfastening his own pants, and had them and his boxers down around his knees before Charlotte could register the fact.

Then he was in earnest, kissing Charlotte on the mouth, her face, her ears.... Once he reached her neck, he paused, so overwheled by the feeling that she was HIS; he sucked hard on her neck where it met her shoulder, leaving a mark to remind her of the fact. He wanted her so much, and wanted her to know it.

That act flooded his senses with a heady sensation that he was powerless to resist. All the emotions of the last 24 hours came flooding into his soul, seeking release. It was all too much for Ethan. The dam to his troubled mind burst, and he became inflamed with want, with need, with urgency. He became a creature of instinct, driving himself by the depth of his desire, seeking release in Charlotte. She moaned as she felt the heat of him, surprised by his insistance, but offering no retort. She wrapped her arms tighter around him, and he felt as if she were some how part of him, something he could bury himself in, something to take all the pain away. He felt himself quickening, increasing the pace of his needed release, unthinking of anything else but his pain and his goal. He heard Charlotte cry out softly, and was brought out of himself for a moment to look into her eyes.

Charlotte was taken aback by the ferocity of Ethan's love-making, and ever more so as it ratcheted up to a fever pitch she had never imagined before. She felt the desperation in him, the need he felt, the emotional rawness that rose from the depths of him. Her heart felt ready to burst. She knew she was the solution he sought, and wanted to offer herself with an open heart. But his emotion had overrun all the gentleness she had come to know from him, and it made her slightly afraid, knowing that this beautiful, tall, and amazingly strong man could hurt her if he so wished. Nevertheless, even as he took her breath away by his singlemindedly blind passion, she wanted to be the vessel for his release. She wanted to be the one to take away all his fears, his doubts, his emotional scars that he would never admit to on the surface. And, if this was the only way he could rise beyond himself to do it, she was lovingly willing. It wasn't the force of his attentions, but the fact that she knew this was an act of love on her part that made her gasp. Ethan looked up at her just as she did, and their eyes locked.

He saw in Charlotte's eyes all the understanding he had ever hoped for from a woman. He felt his breath hiss from his lips and nearly crushed Charlotte to him, and against the wall... and suddenly it was upon him. He called out Charlotte's name as a wave of heat crashed over him, and that blinding sensation left a flash of white light behind his clenched eyelids. He felt Charlotte squeeze him to herself and collapsed against her. He placed both hands on the wall of the elevator beside Charlotte and panted next to her ear, feeling emotionally and physically spent. After a few moments, he came to his senses enough to be concerned...

"Charlotte, did I hurt you love?" he fretted, suddenly worried

"No Ethan, dearest. Not at all. You needed that." She ran her fingers through his hair, brushing back the sweat drenched locks from his face.

"Oh, sweetheart," he moaned, suddenly overcome. He kissed her with his heart on his lips, then clasped her to him tenderly. Eventually, he sighed. "C'mon then, love. It's time to get dressed and back to my place."

They both got dressed in silence, and Ethan solemnly pressed the elevator button to get them going up to his floor once more. When the doors opened, there was a person waiting, looking quizically at them.

"Problem with the elevator today?" They asked innocently

"Ah, yeah... someone should check into that" Ethan drawled, a small wicked smile on his face.

He embraced Charlotte around the waist and started off with her down the hallway, knowing full well that that person was staring after them. Letting them both into his apartment, Ethan sighed, and, taking Charlotte by the shoulders kissed her on her forehead expressively.

"My darlin'."he said in all seriousness "You gave me something I really didn't deserve back there. But I want to become worthy. C'mon. We're gonna have that talk now. Ask me anything, m'love, I swear I'll tell you no lies. But please realize, that the truth can come with some mighty sharp barbs. Can you handle it, hon?"

Charlotte looked into his eyes with newfound understanding and said, "I'll try to, Ethan."


Charlotte looked around the flat, and suddenly noticed the mess. The answering machine was lying on the floor in pieces, surrounded by what looked like the message pad – ripped to shreds. The sofa cushions were scattered around the room, and there were CD’s, some with damaged cases, lying on the floor. Plus, there was a huge dent in the wall.

Charlotte looked at Ethan, who had followed her amazed examination of the flat. He looked slightly embarrassed.

“Uh, what happened here?” she asked. Ethan cleared his throat, and looked at the floor.

“Well, I was a bit upset.” He finally answered.

Charlotte’s mouth opened in a perfect “O”. She was stunned. What has caused him to act like this? Because she had left, so he could call Lynn in private? His actions gave her even more insight in to his character. She was amazed that such a sensitive and gentle man and lover could suddenly turn into a creature seemingly blinded by passion, and rage. She was also amazed at the fact that he had acted this way over her. She had certainly never incited such intensity in any other man.

She turned to him – standing there like an embarrassed schoolboy. Really, how was she supposed to be mad with him? But she certainly didn’t condone the way he had ripped his apartment to shreds, and she had to make him see that. She picked up the scattered cushions, and sat on the sofa.

“Ethan, first of all, you really shouldn’t have done this.” she gestured to the mess. “I hate to say it, but it makes me wonder…”

He looked absolutely stricken at her suggestion. “Char, you don’t think I’d ever do anything like that to you, do you?”

She looked up at him, weighing her words carefully. What did she really think? If some one had have asked her a few hours ago, she would have laughed at them, but now, well……

“Ethan, I’m just surprised I guess.”

He nodded. “I can understand that. But I’ve never hit a woman, and I’m not about to start now. I just didn’t know what else to do.” He sat down next to her.

“Did you call Lynn?” Charlotte was almost scared to ask.

Ethan sighed again. He ran his hands through his hair, tugging on it. “No, I didn’t.”

“Look Ethan you’re going to be working with her. You’re going to be away. I need to know what’s going to happen. How you feel.” Charlotte exhaled. She had a feeling that she didn’t really want any answers. She just wished she could stop time, and live in the moment. The incredibly tender feelings that she felt for Ethan seemed knotted in her gut. What the hell was she going to do if he gave her the wrong answers? For what seemed like the hundredth time, she wondered if she had rushed into things with him. Had their attraction for each other blinded them? After all, you couldn’t base a relationship on sex alone – as amazingly exciting as the sex may be. He said he loved her – but what did that mean to him? After all the legions of girlfriends, were they just words that tripped off his tongue, meaningless and empty? After what had just happened between them in the lift, she didn’t think so. He would have been hard pressed to fake that sort of emotion. But she had to be sure. It was her heart that was on the line. She didn’t think she could live through having it broken again.

As Ethan sat next to Charlotte, he could pretty much read the thoughts that were spinning in her head, simply from the expressions on her face. He decided that honesty was the only way to handle the situation.

“Look Charlotte, I’m not going to re-live my whole relationship with Lynn for you. I’m sure that Sean filled you in anyway. Yes, I was in love with her, and yes, she left me. If she had of called me 10 days ago, I would have jumped at the chance to get back together with her. But, not now. Not after meeting you.”

His green eyes bored into Charlotte’s, intense and full of fire. “Look Char, I know you’ve been hurt before. But you have to trust me here. I’m not going to go to Chicago and jump into bed with Lynn. After you left today, I felt out of control.” he paused, obviously struggling with his words. “I went nuts. I thought that I had lost you.”

Charlotte closed her eyes. She couldn’t think whilst he was staring at her. It didn’t help that he was sitting so close to her. She could still feel they way he had ravaged her in the lift, feel his strength pounding in to her. She had unselfishly accepted him, but hadn’t reached the pinnacle herself. His nearness, and her still aroused body were combing to confuse her. She struggled with her feelings. All she wanted to do was accept his words, and then forget about the whole issue. But she knew she couldn’t. Soon he would leave, and the issue had to be addressed now.

She opened her eyes, to find him still gazing at her. “Look Ethan” she started,


"I'm caught up in you too deeply to back out now." She reached for his hand, and idly played with his fingers, trying to put into words all the conflicting thoughts she had in her head. She wanted to relieve him of some of his angst, wanted to comfort him somehow, but also knew that she needed to make him aware of her own needs. She suddenly felt herself welling up with tears, and stared fixedly at their hands, as if they were a lifeline to preventing her from losing it "I have never been involved in a relationship like this. I am usually so slow to trust, so afraid of giving myself away, only to be left behind. But you have come into my life like a force of nature. I find myself totally invaded by thoughts of you, by the sheer YOUness of you " she suddenly looked up and smiled through her veil of pain, stifling a giggle "Does that even make any sense?"

Ethan stared back at her, his own face a muddle of mixed emotion. He nodded, giving her a quirky smile and a shrug.

She looked back down at their hands, and continued to play with his fingers, letting that simple mindless action anchor her. "This relationship has been so intense, and so fast. And it scares me at times. But I can't stop myself. You've really gotten a hold of me, and I find myself unable to act the way I normally do. Based on my past proclivities, I should by now have run as far as my legs would carry me away from you. But I just feel so DRAWN to you," she stopped, feeling as if she was just rambling and making no sense. She looked into his eyes again and saw that he was intent upon her, and willing her to go on.

She looked down and continued, "I somehow feel as if we are meant to be. I haven't even known you for that long, and here I find myself just assuming that there will be a future for us." She trembled, and bit her lip, feeling the tears start to well up in her eyes again. She felt Ethan stir, saw his other hand reach for her, and fended him off "No, Ethan... let me finish" she said with resolve. He subsided, and she gathered herself for a moment before continuing.

"This thing with Lynn..." she paused, coming to grips with the feelings that even uttering her name had produced "I can understand. I know that she was the love of your life and I can accept that, in as much as I hope to hear you to say that about me some day." She heard Ethan start to say something, but shook her head "No - don't. Ethan, this is only the beginning, and as raw and on the surface as our feelings have been, it will take a long time before we can truly know that. I love being so infatuated with you. It's been a long time since I've felt such a rush of emotion. But we need to be real here just for a moment. What we feel is only the beginnings of love right now, not the deep abiding thing that can take us where we long to go. I know right now that I do hope and pray that we are each other's forever. But I'm a realist by nature, too, and I know that old loves die hard." She looked full into his eyes, and saw him focusing on her with an intensity that hurt her heart.

Steeling herself, she went on, "I can't tell you what to do when you see Lynn. I know what you had was real. I know she made you a happy man, and helped form you into the person I want to be with forever. I can't begrudge her that. In fact, in a strange way, I feel I owe her something." she shook herself a bit, not believing she had just uttered those words, and even more incredulous of the words she knew she was about to utter.

"I guess what I am trying to say, is that she trumps me, and as hard as it may be for you to believe, and I suppose it's hard for me to believe too, I can't deny her that. I don't know what led her to break up with you after getting so close to marrying you." She couldn't help but look at Ethan as she said those words to see his reaction... and saw a pain in his eyes that went down to his soul. Confirmed by this, she went on, "Ethan, I want you with all my heart. I don't know if we could ever get to the point of talking marriage, but I know that you and Lynn did. Sean told me how truly you loved each other, and that no one could quite understand why it hadn't gone on to the expected result. Please don't think that this is easy for me to say, or that I say it cavalierly - but something like what you and she had.... well, it bears looking into again if ever the chance is available." She stopped, feeling her throat closing with the effort to hold back a sob. She bit down on it, unconsciously squeezing Ethan's fingers with a ferocity she didn't intend.

Ethan made a sound of his own, halfway between a sigh and a moan, feeling his own emotions rising out of control. She tried to fend him off, but he overpowered her, clasping her to his bosom with feeling. His heart ached with the knowledge that Charlotte had just given him a supreme gift out of the love she truly felt for him. She gave him the freedom to go if he so chose, if it would truly make him happy.

And there it was. He was cornered now. There was no ignoring the issue, no running and hoping that it would go away on its own. He would have to weigh his feelings towards each woman, and eventually make a choice, both women knowing they hung in the balance. Thing was, he knew now he had to make Lynn just as aware of Charlotte as Charlotte was of Lynn. He felt Charlotte suddenly shake in his arms, and stroked her back. It broke the dam inside her, and he held her tenderly as she sobbed her grief and fear into his shoulder. He was close to tears himself, as he marveled at her selflessness in the midst of her own terror that he could indeed leave.

"Oh, Ethan, I just don't know what to do," she cried, "But I know I can never be sure that you really love me if you don't resolve this thing with Lynn first."

He held her and let her cry herself out. Knowing how incredibly brave she had been to put aside her own insecurities for him, he found himself unable to stop the tears from silently streaming down his own cheeks as well. They emptied themselves out in each others arms for what seemed like a lifetime. Finally, as he felt Charlottes grief subside, he held her by the shoulders and looked at her. She was emotionally spent, her eyes dull with the effort it had caused her. He knew he must not look much the better for it himself, but managed a weak smile.

"Charlotte, darling.... you are truly an incredible woman." He looked around at his earlier mess and said with feeling, "You have intimated exactly what was driving me crazy, but was too friggin' stubborn to face. I knew I was being a cad. Yes, I know that I have to confront this thing with Lynn, and see where it will lead. But I am so frustrated that the timing is so damned friggin' horrible." He hung his head in a spasm of anger, then continued "Right now, love, be assured that you have the upper hand. Lynn hasn't called me in so many years..." he trailed off, unable to hide his lingering disappointment in the fact, "and there is a lot of time and history for me between her and now. And, she doesn't know about you yet - " He caught Charlottes raised eyebrow and reminded her "I haven't called her yet to tell her. But she WILL know about you Char before I go out there, you can be assured." He nodded fiercely to her to drive home his point, and held her close

"Charlotte, I honestly don't know where we will wind up either, but right now I feel the same about you as you do for me. I have such hopes for us..." he let the thought die, not wanting to embellish it for fear of it leading to later disappointments. "Honestly, if I were a spectator to this, I wouldn't believe that two people could feel this way about each other in such a short period of time. But I suppose that I'm finally ready to get real with my life now and settle down. And then you come along, and you seem to fit me so perfectly. Lynn showing up in my life again is probably Karma paying me back for the women I was careless with..." he thought hard about that for a moment, not having fully realized it until he had voiced it. He swallowed, "But I dunno. I really don't. And trying to pretend has been wrong." He kissed the top of her head and asked fervently, "So Charlotte, what do we do? My trip isn't for another 2 weeks. What do you want to do?"

Charlotte bit her lip and steeled herself to think. Normally faced with this sort of decision, she would defer to the other person involved. But she knew that would be a mistake here, and would disappoint Ethan. Two thoughts warred within her. Stay away until he decided about Lynn? Or try to build up as many memories as she could with Ethan in the meantime and hope he would pick her? Neither one was a cheerful choice. But she knew she was in deep now.

She grabbed his fingers again, twisting her own in and out of them as she gathered courage to speak. She found herself chuckling a bit ruefully as she said, "God, Ethan, but this is almost beyond me. Rather the soap opera we have going on here, eh?" She looked up to catch a look of abashed agreement in his eyes, and went on, "Yeah, stranger than fiction." She continued her attentions to his fingers and started trying to wade through her thoughts. Finally, she decided to just start talking and let whatever was the truth just fall out of her lips without further introspection, "I know I'm happy when I'm with you. I know how much we've experienced in only a few short days. I know how miserable I'd be without you while waiting for you to go on your trip if I decided to cool things off now," silently her pessimistic side reminded her that she would be even more miserable if she spent time with him and then got left for Lynn, but she pushed those thoughts aside, "So I'm asking you if we could try and stay together until your trip. I don't know what will happen afterwards, and I don't want you to try and guess. But I do know that I want every moment I can with you until then." It was a tough decision on her part, and her posture showed it.

Ethan moved in closer to her on the couch and cuddled her close to him. "Oh, Charlotte, I was hoping you'd say that," was all he could manage to utter. Rocking back and forth gently in each others arms, they felt no sexual passion, only a comfort and understanding that had been hard won and well deserved. They gave each other solace for a long time like that, with gentle carresses and soft words, till both felt solid and whole again in each other's arms.

Charlotte was the first to break the spell, looking up at Ethan and saying, "Well, I think I could use something to eat now. All this drama is hungry work."

Ethan chuckled softly and stroked her cheek. "Your wish is my command, love. Let me go look and see what I have in the kitchen. You stay here and have a lie down. You look a bit worn." He kissed her forehead, and got up. Just as he was nearing the entrance to the kitchen, they heard the phone ring from his bedroom. Both locked eyes, and suddenly knew that today's events were not yet over....

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Ethan hesitantly picked up the phone.

"Hello" he greeted.

He glanced at Charlotte and then moved to kitchen.

She strained to hear what he was saying but only caught him saying "I'm fine thanks".

Charlotte felt as though her stomach was in knots. Lynn was the love of Ethan's life and as much as he said nothing would happen between them when they meet, things might change when he sees her again.

Charlotte wondered what kind of person Lynn was. Was she prettier? Smarter? She must be somewhat remarkable for Ethan to have been so deeply in love with her.

She heard the phone click and a few seconds later Ethan re-entered the room.

"Char I need to ask you something important," Ethan said, his expression very serious.

Charlotte was suddenly very nervous, she didn't like the tone in his voice.

"Yes Ethan?" she replied.

"Do you think I should switch long distance services. The woman on the phone promised me a great deal if I switched."


Charlotte stared at him with her mouth hanging open. Then she flew at him. "You're despicable!! You do know that don't you?!" he laughed as he caught her and started tickling her, and she couldn't help but give in and start laughing too. It was exactly the tension breaker that had been needed.

She finally maneged to pull away from him, and bent over double trying to catch her breath. She looked up at him and said, I'm starving. Where's that dinner you promised me?"

They began looking through the fridge and cupboards. "Ethan, this is pathetic. Do you ever eat at home?"

He chuckled. "Of course I do, I just need to go shopping that's all. "

Charlotte took his hand. "Come on, we'll go to my place, and I'll cook." They started for the door when the phone rang again. Ethan stoped and looked down at her.

"You need to get that." Charlotte said. I'll wait for you at my place." She could tell he was going to ask her not to go, and she said, "You need to talk to her without worrying about what I might hear. Just come to me when you're done." He nodded silently and turned to the phone. Charlotte stepped out and closed the door behind her.

Charlotte reached her apartment, and had a hard time unlocking the door because her hands were shaking so badly. Once she finally made it inside, she went to the kitchen to look for something to make for dinner, not knowing if either of them would be hungry by the time Ethan arrived. She opened cabinets and the fridge, without really seeing much. She finally gave up, and sat down at the table to wait.

About 15 minutes later, there was a knock on her door. She went over and opened it to find Ethan looking very grave. He came in and took her hand as he walked by, and led her to the couch. He pulled her close to him as they sat down. Neither spoke for a minute. Finally Charlotte couldn't stand it anymore.

"So, it went that well did it?"

Ethan passed a hand over his face. "It wasn't Lynn, it was my boss. There's a problem on the project, and I have to leave earlier than planned."

"How much earlier? Charlotte asked, not really sure she wanted the answer.

'Tomorrow." Ethan looked into her eyes, waiting for a reaction.

Charlotte felt like her heart was going to break. This could be the last time she and Ethan were together. There were no longer two weeks ahead of them, just one night. Charlotte didn't know what to say. "Do you need to go pack?" was the only thing she could think of to say, as stupid as it was.

"No'" Ethan replied. He smiled to himself. She was trying so hard. He tilted her chin up to look at him, and said, "I want to spend every possible minute with you. I'll need something to hold me over while I'm gone. " He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, leaned in, and began kissing her gently.


Charlotte stiffened just a bit, gently held Ethan's face in her hands and leaned back from him.

"Yes, I want that too," she breathed. "But the fact remains, you still need to call Lynn. I can't spend tonight with you without knowing that piece of business is finished."

Ethan stared back at her, a bit helpless. Damn it, she was right, but this was all skittering away from him so fast. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, grabbing both of her hands in his. "Right." he said, sounding wearily resigned. He looked at her, and brought one of her hands to his lips, kissing it briefly. "But do I still get that dinner later?"

She smiled wanly and said, "Sure. But I need to do some shopping myself it turns out. Why don't you go now and take care of this, and I'll go to the market and get dinner started. I figure by the time I'm done you should be ready too."

He looked soberly at her and kissed her on her forehead. "Ok, sounds like a plan." was all he could manage to say. He got up and went for the door, stopping only to say "See you later" before he started off for his own apartment again.

Entering, he suddenly realized that calling her would take some time, as he had to find her number amongst the ruins of his earlier tantrum. He sighed heavily and ran his hand through his hair assessing the scene, wondering if he would ever find it, when the phone in his room rang again. The hairs on the back of his neck seemed to stand on end, and he knew with a certainty that it must be her. Cold fear knotted in his stomach... the timing of this was just too creepy.

He padded into his bedroom, and taking a deep breath, answered the phone "Hello?"

Sure enough, Lynn's voice was on the other end. "Ethan?"

"Yes...." he said, not wanting to make things easy for her

"Hi, hon, its Lynn."

Ethan winced, that single word of familiarity, 'hon', stirring up old memories of both pleasure and pain. He felt his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth.

"Ethan? You there?" she pleaded on the other end

"Yeah, yeah, I am. Hi Lynn" He again went silent.

"Hi." She, sensing his discomfort, went on to begin this difficult conversation as best she could "I know this has got to be strange for you hearing from me like this..." she paused to see if he would respond, but as he didn't she cleared her throat and went on, "Look, I know I made a huge mess of things with you years ago. I know I hurt you terribly. And I've been sorry for so long, but didn't know how to tell you. I didn't know what to say!"

Ethan was suddenly shocked into response, "What? For 5 1/2 YEARS you didn't know what to say? You could have picked up a damn phone at any time, Lynn. Don't give me that crap. You were the one who knew why we broke up, not me. You had me on my friggin' knees begging you to come back for so long, and you never gave me a damned clue. So, what the hell do you want from me now?"

Lynn bit down on her lip and groaned inwardly. She deserved that, and she knew it. Nothing for it but to take it as her just medicine. "I know, I know, Ethan. There is no excuse for how I treated you. And I didn't expect for you to just act like nothing had happened. Honest, I didn't. In the beginning, I was too stubborn to give in to you. I had made up my mind, and I didn't want to back down for anything. Then you left... and as the time moved on, and you slowly gave up calling me, I realized how much I missed you, but I still couldn't bring myself to say I had been wrong. It only got harder and harder as the years went on to pick up the phone. But I never forgot you. And lately, well.... I've been doing a lot of soul searching, looking back on my life and at a loss for where I'm going. And I realized that the sweetest thing that ever happened to me was you." she paused, and when he didn't respond, went on, "I haven't been able to get you out of my mind for the past year. Everything I see reminds me of you, my dreams at night are full of you." she faltered, knowing that she must sound like she was pouring it on thick, but she was dead honest. Her life had been a living hell lately, missing him.

But she continued, "I've done a lot of stupid things, Ethan, and left myself alone and unhappy. And I've come to realize horribly too late, that I took huge chunks out of you, too. I'm so sorry, Ethan. I really am. Then to top it all off, I find out that you'll be working with me on the Mullaney project, and it was just too much of a coincidence. I did a little research and found out that you're still unattached..." her voice trailed off as she knew that statement could sound a little scary in this day and age of stalking.

"Oh, you did?" Ethan asked sardonically. "How? And what did you find out?" He wasn't quite upset. After all, he had done 'research' on Charlotte himself.

Lynn took a beat, trying to discern his mood, then offered, "Well, only what I could find out casually from your co-workers. I mentioned that I had known you years ago, and said that I was curious as to how you were doing."

"My co-workers?" he said, incredulously... what the frig? She had interviewed the people he worked with? This was a bit over the line.

"Yes, Ethan - don't get concerned. Honestly, this all came about very innocently. I got called in to see to some details on the Mullaney building, and well, your name came up at one of the meetings..."

Ethan's mind went suddenly numb, tripping over itself with what he knew must be true, but what he didn't want to deal with...."Called in? Called in where?"

He heard Lynn take a shaky breath on the other end..."I'm in NY, Ethan. I got called in to your firm to go over some of the details before work started. I've been in town for a couple of days now, and I got nervous when you didn't call me back. It was my cell phone number I gave you, and well, I've been frantically checking it for the last day, and thought maybe I had missed your call, or you didn't get my message...."

Ethan's face went white. She was HERE? In NY? "I got your message," he said quickly, trying to maintain his sanity, "I just haven't had a chance to call you. And so you were the one that brought up these 'problems' that just have to be addressed in Chicago tomorrow?" He was angry now, and didn't try to hide it. He truly hoped that the moved up trip date wasn't some sort of game of hers.

Lynn caught his meaning, and quickly proffered, "Yes, I was. There are several issues that can't be addressed without you at the site. Honestly, Ethan, it wouldn't matter who was on the job - I would be flying out with WHOEVER the head architect was tomorrow."

Ethan cradled his forehead in his hand. This was all just too much. Flying out WITH her? He echoed his thoughts, "Flying out with you?"

"Yes, Ethan, your firm made the arrangements today. We're heading out together tomorrow to hammer out these problems with the site. That's why I was so desperate to talk to you tonight, to see if we could hammer out our differences before our trip."

Ethan felt dizzy and slightly nausious. "Lynn. OMG Lynn, this is such a friggin' nightmare." he couldn't help himself from saying. All through this conversation, feelings he had thought were done and over with regarding Lynn had surfaced and resurfaced... and ever before his mind's eye was the image of Charlotte. His heart felt pulled equally in two directions, and it was playing on his sanity.

Lynn checked herself, aware of the tone in Ethan's voice, knowing that somehow, he was a man on the edge. "Why?" she asked softly, trying not to stir him up any further, but needing to hear what he had to say.

"Why?" Ethan heard his voice ratchet up a notch, unable to hide his frustration, "Did it ever occur to you, Lynn, that there might be someone else in my life?"

Lynn swallowed, truly not expecting this. His fellow workmates had jealously described him as sort of a horn-dog, popular with the women, but never a man to settle with just one. She had intimated that it was probably due to the fact that he still had feelings for her... when, then, had this development occured? Maybe she was too late after all, "I didn't get that impression from your friends at work," she admitted, trying not to sound too crestfallen.

Ethan stifled a groan. "Well, yeah, I don't tell them everything at work, ya know." He let his ire show through in his voice. Lynn didn't deserve any niceties after all this torturous time. "Lynn, there is someone else in my life right now. Her name is Charlotte, and I've fallen deep for her. I was just looking for your phone number again to tell you about it when you called."

There was silence between them, as the challenge was layed down. Ethan, waiting to hear Lynns response, and Lynn trying to process the information he had just given. Her heart seemed to skip a beat, but she was the first to speak, "I wasn't aware of that, Ethan," she began, "I'm glad for you. So, how long have you known her?"

Now it was Ethan's turn to squirm. Did he tell the truth, or did he embellish it? Crestfallen, he realized that she could always spot a lie from him from a thousand paces. "Well," he sighed, "I've known OF her for a long time now, but we just started dating in earnest a few days ago. But, Lynn, this is serious. Its the real thing." He hoped fervently that she would leave it at that. She didn't

"A few days? Well, that explains why your co-workers didn't know." She let his words circuit through her thoughts, trying to intimate as much as she could from them. Finally, she said, "So it sounds like a firestorm of a romance, like how we started out."

Ethan nearly gasped, suddenly confronted with thoughts of the beginning of his relationship with Lynn. She was right. It had started off with her as intensly as his relationship with Char now was.

"Do you remember, Ethan?" he heard Lynn say, as he was fighting against he memories. He realized then that this was a full-on war. Lynn was gunning for him, and didn't intend to lose.

"Yes, Lynn, I remember," he said crossly, not wanting to get pulled into this s**t storm right now. She could be a devious bitch, Lynn could. "But that doesn't change the fact that I AM with Charlotte now, and am happy with her."

"I don't doubt it, love," she breathed, suddenly in her element, "What is she like?"

Ethan searched for words to describe Charlotte, and gave Lynn a litany of them, starting out with everything he could think of that would sting Lynn, and then finally nearly gushing over the praises of Charlotte, from the bottom of his heart.

It would have been better if he had just stuck to sticking barbs in Lynn. The real emotion he displayed toward Charlotte woke up the predator in her, and she decided right then and there that this would be a fight to the death. She knew Ethan too well. "Ethan, hon, she sounds wonderful. But she also sounds a lot like me." she cooed into the phone.

Ethan felt the blood drain from his face again, going over in his mind if it were true or not, "She's not you, Lynn," he managed to get out, and then questioned himself. Did he mean that in a good way or a bad way?

Lynn sensed the uncertainty in his voice, and pounced "Have you ever stopped thinking of me, Ethan?"

Ethan reeled, not ready for that question. Unable to help himself, he said shortly, "No."

"I had hoped not love. As much as I thought of you, I had hoped that you still thought of me too. Does Charlotte know about me?" she was playing along a fine line and she knew it. But she was playing for keeps as well.

"Yes, Lynn. She knows."

That sealed it for her. She knew she had Ethan's attention, and there was no turning back now. "And what did she say about me?"

Unthinkingly, Ethan was as honest as could be, "She said she knows that you and I have had a past, and that she can't begrudge us that."

A nice girl, Lynn thought to herself. Well, nice girls always finished last. "She sounds so sweet, Ethan," Lynn purred, knowing it would throw him off, "I would love to meet her some day."

He thought of that, and smirked. Lynn and Charlotte in the same room? The thought made him almost giggle. But he bit back his laughter and said, "Maybe you will some day."

Lynn made her move now, "Ethan, talking on the phone is nice and all, but it is driving me crazy that we are so close in proximity now. Can I come over to see you?"

Ethan sucked in his breath and thought a moment. He was GOING to have that dinner with Charlotte, that was a stone cold fact. Nothing could deter him from that... but his mind wandered... could he meet Lynn afterwards? Suddenly, he shook himself and said, "No, Lynn. I've made plans. I think tomorrow is time enough to see you. Don't you agree?"

Lynn knew better than to argue, and laughed into the phone lightly, "Ok, Ethan, you're right. I'll see you at the airport then, tomorrow - yes?"

"Yes, you will. Till then, Lynn," he said, and, hearing her salutation on the other end, hung up.

Staring at the phone, he felt a mix of emotions run through him. He felt a bit more relieved than he had than before the call. Lynn had brought up some troubling thoughts for him to chew on, but it hadn't been fatal. He thought of Charlotte, and his heart raced. She must be in agony by now!!! He quickly straightened out his apartment so that it wouldn't remind him of armageddon when he returned to it, then went to his room. He wanted to make tonight special.

Going through his wardrobe, he thought of Charlotte, and what would make her happy. He picked out a pair of button fly jeans, worn and torn in the right places, a red button-down shirt (making sure to button only 3 of them) and a denim jacket. He checked himself in the mirror, and, on second thought, he got out of the jeans, removed his boxers, then put the jeans back on. Surveying himself in the mirror, he smiled and wondered if she would notice before he made love to her.

Quickly, he ran his hands through his hair, then went to the bathroom to do a trim on his beard. He left a shadow of stubble, just enough to be noticed. Approving his look, he splashed on some cologne, and went off to find his love.

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