Shawn stood in front of the full length mirror that hung on the inside of his bathroom door. A leftover from the previous tenant as were several of the other pieces of unmatched furniture and household items.
He frowned and his mirror image frowned back. You look like an idiot. You look like a thirty year old man desperately trying to get back years lost to real life. You know the life I'm talking about, graduate college and join the workforce. Before you blink you're now a respectable member of adulthood, with a mortgage, a steady boring job that provides you with an annual income to live a fairly comfortable lifestyle. You fall in love and marry the woman of your dreams. You think everything is going along just great. You start thinking about having a family. And then one day reality crashes in. You find out that for the past four years you've been living in dreamland and the woman of your dreams is in actuality your worst nightmare. Before you can blink you are divorced and your wife has married your best friend from high school. A deadbeat dad of two who's been divorced twice in eight years. But hell your ex thinks he's sexy and you're not. He works as a mechanic; you're a certified management accountant. He dresses in dirty blue jeans and equally grimy tee shirts, you wear a suit everyday and dress down for you is crisp, newly pressed khaki's and button down shirts. He's a stud in bed and you're a dud between the sheets. It's amazing what you find out about yourself when you come home from work early one day to surprise your wife because she whines that you're not spontaneous enough and you end up being the one who gets the surprise of his life.
He blinked hard trying to dispel the image of his wife Anna, naked straddling Caleb as he bucked hard and she screamed his name in ecstasy. Anna, instead of being chagrined at being caught inflagrante delicto went on the attack and had the audacity to claim that her unfaithfulness was his fault. He wasn't man enough to satisfy her needs so she had to look for someone who could. After several tries she had found Caleb. Not only had he caught his wife in bed with his best friend, he found out that Anna had never had an orgasm with him. That crushed his ego big time! As if that in itself wasnt bad enough he also found out that Caleb wasn't the only guy she had been unfaithful with. She seemed proud of the number of men she slept with and boasted that they were all acquaintances of theirs. One of them had been his immediate supervisor at the accounting firm he worked for. He had quit the next day. In a twenty four span he lost his wife, his home, his pride and his job. It was two years later and he was still reeling.
He straightened up a bit. Not exactly true, Shawn, old boy. You've taken some big steps today. You're taking control of your life and moving on. He had given notice to his landlord earlier today. He was moving out of this hell hole and into a home of his own. He had to fight hard to keep his trust fund from his great-Grandfather Tom out of Anna's greedy hands but because he couldn't claim it until he was thirty the judge had ruled that she was not entitled to any funds as they were no longer married.
His own firm was beginning to show a profit and just yesterday he had had to hire two more accountants. Life was turning around for him. The only thing he needed was a woman to share his life with. And he had found her. Actually she had always been there. She was his secretary at his old firm and when he quit and founded his own firm she followed him. Nina was everything Anna wasn't. He felt certain that she worshipped the ground he walked on. He wasn't vain and lord knows he wasn't prideful, Anna had taken care of that but he knew that he was a handsome man. Nina was, well, for lack of a better word, plain. His little brown mouse is how he thought of her. She was grateful that he deemed her attractive enough to spend time with. Shit, you sound like an asshole, Shawn. But I swear those are her words not mine. She's told me over and over that she feels like the luckiest woman in the world because I spend time with her.
You are such an idiot, Shawn Douglas Brady. You thought Nina was everything Anna wasn't. How wrong you were! A mere six hours ago he found Nina and the tax specialist in a very compromising position in the conference room. They had thought everyone had left for the day so they hadn't bothered to lock the door. Imagine my surprise when Nina told me all she really wanted me to be was a sperm donor. I was a good looking man and I had a brain, although obviously not where women were concerned, she thought I was a good candidate to father a child that she and Katie could raise together. Oh did I forget to mention that the tax specialist in my firm was a woman? Nina had wanted to know why he had come back to the office. He had left early citing errands to run. That's how little getting caught with Katie by him actually concerned her. It didn't bother her that he had found her making out with another woman. All she wanted to know was the reason he had come back to the office. He wondered if she was still trying to figure that out. Instead of answering her he had turned and walked out coming back to ask them to please scrub the conference room table or replace it.
He reached inside his pocket and pulled out the ring box and the marriage license. He had planned on surprising her with a spontaneous proposal and a quickie wedding. He shoved the stuff back in his pocket and looked at himself one more time. At least it didn't take you two years to rebound this time, old boy. You did good. You wished them luck and walked out. Didn't do anything too rash. Just went out and bought a new wardrobe and traded your Lexus in on a Dodge Durango 4X4. Not too bad. And you're not staying home and wallowing in your misery and rejection. No, sirree. You're going to go places you've never been before. It's time Shawn Douglas Brady unleashed his inner rebel.
The new look was growing on him. Maybe he didn't look like he was trying to hard. Maybe he just looked like every other urban wanna be cowboy. He was wearing tight black jeans with a wide black leather belt that was studded, black cowboy boots, a black denim shirt with the top three buttons left undone and a black leather jacket. The guy had tried to talk him into buying a cowboy hat but he thought that was just a little too much.
He grabbed the keys to his new truck off the cracked, stained kitchen counter and headed out. He was a man on a mission. He had one thing and one thing only on his mind. Tonight he was going to lay to rest the ghosts of Anna and Nina. He was going to drink them out of his mind and out of his heart. Cheating Heart, here I come!
Belle felt herself being dragged reluctantly inside the noisy, smoky bar. "I don't want to be here," she protested.
"Tough shit, Belle. We're sick and tired of seeing you mope around in your housecoat and slippers every evening. It's time you put that asshole Brad where he belongs, in your past," Mimi said as she scouted the bar looking for an empty table.
"Mimi's right," Sami said. "You've been divorced for over a year and you haven't gone out on a single date. Brad is not worth all this mourning, sis."
"What'll it be, ladies," their server asked.
Sami eyed the young man who was wearing a muscle shirt that had to be at least one size too small and jeans that were so tight they must have been painted on. "I'll take you to go," she purred and winked up at him.
The guy laughed and checked out Sami. "The name's Chase, sugar. I'm on duty until two. If you're still around we'll talk again," he flirted. "For now, what would you like to drink?"
"I'll have a vodka rocks," Sami smiled.
"Bourbon, straight up," Mimi ordered.
"Just a glass of water..."
"She'll have a beer and a tequila chaser," Mimi interrupted.
Sami raised her eyebrows in Mimi's direction. Her little sister was not much of a drinker. A couple of shots of tequila and she would be under the table.
"I'm not going to drink the tequila," Belle said mutinously, her arms crossed over her chest.
"Oh loosen up already, Belle. Let your hair down. Have some fun. Brad cheated on you. Get over it. He was a jerk from the get go. You're better off without him. You deserve so much better than that slime ball," Mimi said.
"But I love him. I've loved him since I was fifteen. I don't understand what I did wrong. We were so happy. The perfect couple..." Belle said sadly.
"Bull shit," Sami spat. "The guy treated you like dirt but no matter how many times you caught him cheating on you, you forgave him."
"I only caught him three times and it wasn't his fault. He wasn't cheating. The other women were trying to seduce him..." Belle explained.
Mimi and Sami both rolled their eyes.
"Belle, he lied. He cheated on you all the time. Hell I caught him and Cynthia going at it the night of your wedding reception," Mimi said angrily. "They were naked in the back of the limo. The limo you both arrived and left in, I'll have you know."
Belle's eyes filled with tears of anger and shame. "What kind of friend are you that you didn't tell me?
"Belle, get real. How many times did we try and talk to you about Brad. You defended him. Hell you caught him red-handed and you turned a blind eye. We thought that you saw something in him that none of the rest of us could and that it had to be something good for you to be willing to but up with his chronic unfaithfulness," Mimi responded in her defence.
"Please don't tell me that you really believed his lame stories, that you really believed you were the only woman he loved and wanted to be with," Sami asked, disbelief apparent in her voice.
Belle looked miserable as she nodded her head. "When I caught him in bed with our secretary that's when I finally realised that he didn't have it in him to be true to me, probably to any woman but that's not my problem."
Sami squeezed her sister's hand. "It's time to move on. It's time to find a man that will love you the way you deserve to be loved."
"No," Belle answered. "Brad told me I don't know the first thing about how to please a man in bed. He told me I'm as exciting as a two by four."
Sami's eyes flashed. "I'd like to show that jerk just how exciting a two by four can be especially as I'm crashing it over his head."
"Somebody or something sure got your panties in a wad," Chase chuckled as he set Sami's drink in front of her.
"Who said I was wearing panties," Sami winked causing both Belle and Chase to blush.
All three women watched as Chase walked away from the table admiring his...
"God, what an ass on that man," Sami purred.
"Buns of steel but I'd sure like the chance to work them over," Mimi answered.
Sami noticed exactly where Belle's eyes were focused. "I saw him first, Belle, but you've been in a dry spell for a while so if you want him, you go get him, girl."
"No, he's got the same colour of hair and eyes as Brad. He would qualify if it wasn't for that."
"Qualify?" Both Mimi and Sami said in unison.
"He's got to be the exact opposite of Brad. I'm down with the corporate types, especially accountants like Brad and I are," Belle said as she picked up the shot glass of tequila and downed it in one swallow. She grabbed the mug of beer and drank about half of it to try and quench the river of fire that burned down her windpipe.
Belle was on her third tequila when she happened to glance up as the door opened. Her breath caught in her throat. "I do believe that exactly what I'm looking for just walked in the door."
Mimi and Sami glanced casually in the direction of the door.
"Holy shit," Mimi said half under her breath. "If you change your mind, you let me know. I wouldn't mind taking a tumble with that one. He's gorgeous. Can you tell if he's wearing a wedding ring?"
"He isn't," Sami quickly answered. "I already looked."
"Of course you looked, Sami," Belle teased. "So did I. How can you miss when he's got the thumb of his left hand looped into his belt loop and... "
"Down, Belle, down. Give him a few minutes. He could be meeting somebody," Sami cautioned.
I walked in and the band just started
the singer couldn't carry a tune in a bucket
Oh, damn. What the hell am I doing in a dive like this? And what is that caterwauling? Who told that guy he could sing? Suck it up, big boy. You're here for one purpose and one purpose only. Get to it. He sat at the bar and pulled out a fifty. "Keep pouring them until this runs out," he told the bartender as he pointed to his particular poison.
Was on a mission to drown her memory but
I thought no way with all this ruckus
The bartender looked him in the eye as he slid the fifty dollar bill off the counter and poured him a shot. "Woman trouble?"
Shawn laughed and shrugged. "Is there any other kind?"
"Oh yeah. I hear all kinds of trouble but a man has this certain look about him when his heart has been stomped on," the bartender replied.
"It's nice to know that I'm not the only man who looks for blessed forgetfulness in the bottom of a shot glass."
The bartender grinned. "Keeps me employed, that's for sure."
But after one round with Jose Cuervo
I caught my boots tapping along with the beat
"The band's not half bad," Shawn said as he waited for the bartender to refill his glass.
"That's one way of looking at it," the bartender answered.
"What do you think of them?" Shawn asked.
"The other side of the coin would be that they're not half good, wouldn't it," the guy joked. "Honestly, I tune them out. I wouldn't be able to do by job if I paid attention to the band all night long."
And after two rounds with Jose Cuervo
The band was sounding pretty darn good to me
You came to the right place, man. This is exactly what you need to do to bury the memory of Anna and Nina and this is the place to do it.
"He's on his second shot and he's still alone," Mimi observed. "It's looking promising, Belle."
"Should I make my move now?" a slightly inebriated Belle asked.
Sami laughed. "Do you have a move, sis?"
Belle frowned and looked like she was ready to cry. "No. Oh God. I'm hopeless. Brad was right. I don't have a clue how to get a man interested let alone keep him interested."
Sami cursed under her breath. "I was just teasing you, Belle. Brad doesn't know shit and I want you to promise me that you're not going to think about him or talk about him again. At least not tonight."
"Sami's right," Mimi added. "We came here to help you get into the game again. If you think that guy at the bar is hot and just what you need to lay the ghost of your disastrous marriage to rest, than I say go for it."
Sami snickered. "He's definitely the guy to lay..."
"I don't know about having sex with a complete stranger," Belle whispered, feeling slightly shocked but also a tiny bit excited.
"Just don't rule it out," Sami interjected. "If it feels right and in your judgement he's not some psycho killer than follow your instincts." She reached across the table to cover her sister's hand with hers. "Seriously, Belle. We want you to be happy. No matter how much we tease you about that guy or any other guy or urge you to take a chance, you stay true to yourself. With everyone except Brad your instincts have been dead on."
"I believed in him. I trusted him. If I could be so wrong about him, the man I gave my heart to, how can I possibly trust myself when it comes to other men," Belle stated sadly.
"We've actually talked about this quite often, Belle," Mimi answered. "By we, I mean your parents and your brother and his wife, Sami and I and a couple of your other friends. We think it's because you knew Brad all your life. Your parents and his parents were friends. You grew up together. You looked at him with the eyes of a child and you still had that childlike faith in him. When we looked at him we saw a weak man, a liar and a cheat. You looked at him and saw that little six year old boy that was your playground hero. It just took you a long time to see him for what he had become."
"Do you know that his parent's came to see Mom and Dad a couple of weeks before the wedding and begged them to try and talk you out of marrying him? They loved you very much, Belle. They still do. They knew what their son was and they knew he would only hurt and disappoint you," Sami added.
"Further proof that I'm an idiot," Belle said as she rose from her chair. "Everyone knew what Brad was like except me. Now excuse me. I need to use the washroom. When I get back I expect that the name Brad will not be uttered by any of us. You wanted me to promise not to think or talk about him but you keep bringing his name up. I won't if you won't," she smiled.
"Deal," Mimi said as she lifted her glass up and swallowed the contents in one shot.
"Agreed," Sami said.
She hesitated at the door to the ladies room and turned back to stare at the profile of the dark haired stranger sitting at the bar. Do I have the courage? What if he turns me down? She sighed and pushed the door open.
Shawn stared at the full shot glass. I better slow this down a touch. I don't want to get plastered in under hour.
"What's your name?" he asked the guy behind the bar.
"Shawn." They shook hands.
"You're settling in for the evening, aren't you?" Keith asked with a smile.
"Don't have any place else to be," Shawn answered. "This seems as a good a place as any to put my past to rest."
Keith leaned over. "Don't look now but there's a real cute little thing checking you out right now. She looks pretty interested."
Shawn played with his shot glass resisting the urge to do exactly what the bartender had told him not to do. "That's not what I came for. I'm trying to forget about my dismal track record with picking women, not add to it."
"What makes you think this one would be a mistake?"
Shawn let a short, derisive laugh escape his lips. "Oh I don't know. No offence, Keith but the establishment you work in is more conducive to regretful one night stands than happily ever afters."
"One night stands I can agree with but not all of them have to be regretful. They could be the best thing that ever happened to a person," Keith stated with certainty. His thirty plus years of tending bar had given him confidence in his ability to wax philosophical. "They could be just the catalyst a person needs to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move past the chains of tattered relationships. A memorable one night stand can be just the confidence boost a person needs."
Shawn looked at the older man, curiosity lighting his eyes. "Are you recommending casual sex as a cure all?"
Keith snorted. "God, no. I'm more a one woman one guy forever kind of person. I believe that marriage is sacred and that when you make that commitment you make it forever and you stay faithful to that person."
It was Shawn's turn to snort in indignation. "That's kind of a Cinderella-ish type of attitude. I had that same belief but my apple got poisoned, my mirror got broken and no princess came along to kiss me awake when I fell into a deep sleep."
"The fairy tale love does exist, Shawn. You just have to be willing to work at keeping it intact. But you do need a partner that is willing to put the same amount of effort into it."
"That means I'll be a bachelor for the rest of my life then because I have the worst luck when it comes to picking out women to fall in love with. Do I have a sign across my forehead that says Take advantage of me, I'm clueless?" he mocked.
Keith laughed. "You just haven't found the right one yet, Shawn."
"In other words I should keep opening myself up to humiliation until I somehow stumble across the right one?"
"You can't find gold without panning through the mud," Keith replied.
"I don't know. Right now a speckle of gold dust would look like the world's largest gold nugget to me. After the kick in the guts I got today I just don't have the stomach for doing any mining at the moment," Shawn responded.
"That little lady is still checking you out, Shawn. She's awful pretty to just dismiss before you even give her a chance," Keith teased.
"How long have you worked here, Keith?"
"Over twenty years. I don't tell this to many patrons but I own the place. I like to work behind the bar every now and then. Keeps me in touch with what my customers are expecting from the bars they patronize."
"This pretty little lady you say is checking me out, how many other men has she checked out since she's been coming here?"
"I'm not here every night, Shawn but I'll be honest. To the best of my knowledge she's a first timer, just like you. The other two women she's with I've seen them in here occasionally but they're definitely not regulars."
"Yeah, first timer. This is your first visit to the Cheating Heart and I would bet this is little blondie's first visit."
"Blondie? At least her hair colour works in her favour," Shawn murmured not realising that he was beginning to soften to the idea of seeking out female companionship.
"How's that," Keith asked.
"Anna and Nina both had brown hair. I've sworn off women who have any shade of brown hair," he stated emphatically.
Keith laughed. "You do know that the colour of a woman's hair has nothing to do with what type of character she has. Morality and ethics aren't determined by hair colour."
Shawn smirked. "I know that. It's just that..."
"You don't want reminders of the women who hurt you," Keith finished his sentence for him.
"You have one thing on your mind tonight and one thing only. You're going to drink yourself into oblivion. You do know that at some point I'm going to have to ask you for your keys?"
"Yeah, I know that, Keith," he answered as he reached into the pocket of his leather jacket. He threw the keys down on the counter. "You can have them now."
Keith laughed as he scooped up the keys. "A man on a mission, that's you, Shawn." He looked over Shawn's shoulder and leaned in close. "You're first test is approaching. You might want to fail this one. I tell you, she's a beauty."
Belle kept spinning her empty shot glass around. She was so nervous she needed something to occupy her hands.
"Come on, Belle. You know you want to. You've been staring at that gorgeous hunk of manhood since he walked in the door," Mimi cajoled.
"And you're not the only one, Belle," Sami warned. "Incoming at ten o'clock. I'll head her off. You need to make your move...now!"
Belle watched in amazement as Sami pretended to accidentally bump into the busty brunette who was making a bee-line towards the bar. The bimbo was going after her man. Belle took a deep breath and stood up. "Wish me luck, Mimi," she said with a lot more bravado than she was actually feeling.
As she approached the bar her heartbeat increased its beat, she could feel the tremble in her fingers, she could taste the fear in her mouth. What the hell do you think you're doing, Isabella Black Montgomery...no wait, I got rid of the Montgomery last week. You don't know the first thing about picking up a man. What are you going to talk about? What are you going to say when you sit next to him? Hi. You look just like the man I need to help me forget that all men are jerks. Oh yeah, that'll have him running for the exit in no time flat. Oh shit. What do I say to him? She slowed her step. She was going to do an about face and go back to her table when she got an idea. I'll ask him to dance. That way I don't have to try and start up a conversation. With any luck we won't talk for awhile and when we do he'll be the one to begin.
Shawn glanced up in surprise at Keith than dropped his eyes down to the small hand that was resting on his forearm.
Than some stranger asked me to dance
"Would you like to dance?"
Shawn noticed the small catch in her voice. She's nervous. He looked up and saw her nervousness and her shyness as she lowered her eyelashes and glanced downwards instead of meeting his gaze. She wasn't just beautiful. She was stunning. She had the power to take his breath away. She had the power to make him forget why he was here...almost.
and I revealed to her my two left feet
"I can't dance. I've been told I have two left feet and that I should never embarrass myself or a partner by pretending that I know how," he told her. At least that is what Anna kept telling me. Nina never wanted to go dancing.
Belle felt mortified and she could literally feel the blush spreading over her face. Brad was right. I don't know the first thing about getting a man's attention and holding his interest. She yanked her hand off his arm and mumbled something incoherent as she turned back towards her table.
Shawn felt like a heel. He had caught the stricken look in her eyes when he had turned her down. He had hurt her. He didn't know why he had the power to hurt her but he suspected she was in a vulnerable place right now, just like he was. He reached out and grabbed her arm turning her back towards him. He had to make her understand.
Said "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you asked,
But tonight's about beating an old memory"
She gave him a tremulous half smile and nodded as if she understood and then hurried back to her table. He couldn't help himself, hell, he was a man after all, he watched the swing of her hips as she walked away. God, she's got a great ass.
Belle sat down quickly and reached for her full shot glass. With one toss she swallowed it and signalled for Chase to bring another.
Mimi and Sami looked at each other and than at Belle.
"Uh...Belle, maybe you should slow down a bit," Sami hedged.
"I just want to drink until I pass out," Belle mumbled. "I'm so lame."
"You're not lame. Just because that obviously blind idiot turned you down that doesn't mean the next guy will," Mimi protested.
"I can't believe he just said no," Sami said indignantly.
"Well he didn't exactly say no," Belle responded. "He told me he can't dance and then he told me he was happy I asked him but he's here tonight to ... to ... beat an old memory ... I think that's what he said."
"Than he's here for the same reason we dragged you here. To bury the past. What better way for the both of you to do that than do it together. You just march back up to that man and ask him again, sis," Sami urged. "And this time don't take no for an answer."
Belle pushed back her chair, picked up the full shot glass Chase had just delivered and swallowed it. "I think I'll do just that, Sami," she said with a lot of alcohol induced bravado. "Ready or not, Mr. Hotas-hell Man, here I come."
Shawn turned back towards the bar. "Did she look as good walking towards me as she looked walking away?"
"That she did," Keith answered with an appreciative smile.
Shawn glanced at the man's wedding ring. "I thought you said you were a one woman man."
Keith cocked an eyebrow and shrugged. "I'm married, Shawn. Not dead."
Shawn laughed and raised his glance. "Here's to looking but not touching." He drained the glass and signalled for Keith to hit him with another shot.
Keith placed another shot of tequila in front of Shawn. "Don't look now but you're going to get another chance to touch. She's coming back."
"She's very beautiful," Shawn admitted.
"Personally I think you were nuts to turn her down but that's my opinion," Keith retorted with a grin on his face which quickly turned to a thoughtful look. "Shawn, I'm a pretty good judge of character and I think this woman is in a very vulnerable state right now. She's pretty much two sheets to the wind already if you know what I mean."
He grimaced. "Figures. No sober woman would look twice at me. I'm sure I have Loser branded all over me." The alcohol was beginning to make him feel morose.
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself, jackass," Keith said with a smile in his voice. He didn't want to offend the guy but he needed to snap him out of the self pity mode. This wasn't about him it was about the woman walking towards him. "What I meant is that I don't want you to take advantage of her. I think she's hurting just like you're hurting."
Shawn didn't have time to respond because the woman was standing next to him again.
Belle's heart was pounding so hard she couldn't hear anything past the beating sound that seemed to reverberate through her eardrums. She took a deep breath knowing she had to calm down because she couldn't seem to get her mouth to work.
Shawn happened to turn towards her just when she was taking that deep breath and ah hell, like he said, he was a man after all. His eyes dropped to her ... uh... lungs. Oh damn... she is one fine looking woman. He heard Keith clearing his throat...loudly and he jerked his head up to meet her eyes. She looked like she was scared to death. He had to admire her courage in getting up the nerve to approach him again after he had turned her down. He smiled tentatively hoping that would put her at ease. God, a man could drown in those ocean blue depths. She had beautiful, expressive eyes.
When he smiled she had to grab the bar for support. Holy shit. Does he know that he should have to register that smile as a lethal weapon? A girl could have a heart attack after experiencing such sheer... beauty? Can a man even be called beautiful? I don't know and I don't care. He's the best looking man I've ever seen in my life and when he smiles his face and his eyes light up and make him look even better... even sexier ... if that's possible. The man is a pure sex magnet. That explains what drew me to him but it's also proof that I don't stand a chance in hell with him. I might as well go back to my table...
He watched her closely waiting for her to make her move. He was right about her eyes. They were definitely expressive. Here was a woman that would never be able to hide what she was feeling. It would be all out there in her eyes if you cared enough to look. She was the living definition of the phrase wearing your heart on your sleeve. He couldn't decipher everything she was feeling but at this moment she looked like she was about to turn tail and run as far away from him as she could get. He was surprised to find that he was subconsciously holding his breath. He was also surprised to realise that he didn't want her to go.
Damn it, Belle Black. Don't chicken out now. You've made it this far. Just go for it. All he can do is say no. So what. If he does, it's his loss. Yeah... you keep telling yourself that. Maybe in an alternate universe you'll actually believe it. She squared her shoulders and tilted her head up and looked him square in the eyes and opened her mouth. Please God let sound actually escape my lips.
"It doesn't matter if you have two left feet, I just want to dance. Will you dance with me?" she asked breathlessly.
"As long as you're willing to put the health of your feet into my hands, sure," he smiled as he took her hand in his.
Then after three rounds with Jose Cuervo
I let her lead me out on the floor
She felt the tremble in his fingers and smiled at how stiffly he held himself trying to make sure that he didn't accidentally brush against any part of her body. She had to get him to relax or she would end up soaking her feet in a foot spa for the next week. She glanced up and saw how tense he was. He was concentrating so hard on making sure he didn't step on her that he couldn't possibly be enjoying himself. If he kept this up he was going to have stiff muscles for a month. There's one muscle of his that I wouldn't mind keeping stiff for a night. She was glad the music covered up the small gasp. She didn't know where that naughty thought had come from but she kind of liked this new version of her. She also knew that this change in her was probably due to the four of five shots of tequila she had consumed but she'd worry about that tomorrow.
She looked up at him again. I have to get him to look at me than maybe I can work on getting him to dance like a human being instead of a robot. "My name is Belle, what's yours?"
It took a while for the fact that she was talking to him to register. Oh shit. How can I count and talk at the same time? Damn it Brady, you're an accountant. Figure it out. Anna had made dancing an ordeal and of course she had never failed to tell him that he didn't know the first thing about moving smoothly across a dance floor. He had always been very happy to let her chose other dance partners as he sat quietly at the bar or at their table. Maybe that was just her way of picking up a man for an adulterous affair. Maybe it had nothing to do with your ability or inability to dance. Nope. She was right. I can't dance.
He forced himself to look down and felt himself stumble. She didn't make a disgusted sound or curse at him under her breath like Anna used to do. She just adjusted her step to match his. "Shawn," he answered. "Belle. That's such a pretty name...it suits you."
He watched as her skin flushed. He didn't think women blushed anymore.
"My name is actually Isabella but everyone calls me Belle," she felt compelled to say.
"Isabella," he tested the sound of her name wanting to hear what it sounded like when spoken out loud.
She felt her fingers digging into his shoulder. When he said her name in that deep, husky voice, kind of dragging it out slowly through his vocal cords her knees had weakened, her breath caught in her throat and she felt desire course through her veins and pool between her thighs. She swallowed hard. "Do you live in Salem?"
"Born and raised here. What about you?"
"Me too. It's surprising that our paths have never crossed before," she said. She wanted to ask him how old he was but thought that would sound a little too rude.
"What high school did you attend?" he asked.
"Salem High, class of 1998," she answered hoping he would respond in kind so she could get a general idea of his age. He couldn't be much older than her and she was twenty seven.
"Lincoln High, class of 1995. That would explain why we never met. The two schools were and still are rivals. I played football but if you didn't come to the games you wouldn't have reason to recognise my name."
"I bet you were the star quarterback and every girl in the school was vying for your attention. And if I know anything about athletes and their women you dated the captain of the cheerleading squad...the prettiest girl in Lincoln High."
It was his turn to blush. "Married her too," he said derisively. "That turned out to be a big mistake."
"Yup. What about you? I can't believe a beautiful woman like you hasn't had a ton of attention from the male population of Salem."
"Well believe it. I dated the same guy from the time I was fifteen to the time I wed him and divorced him. He liked cheerleaders too...unfortunately I wasn't one but I did find out that he bedded every last one of them."
"We are a pair of lame ducks, aren't we?" Shawn chuckled. "We both ended up with partners who didn't know what the word faithful meant."
Belle looked up at Shawn and it was like a light bulb went off in her head. Everything her family and friends had been telling her swarmed through her brain and she knew they had been right. Brad was the stupid one, not her. He was the one that had failed her not the other way around. Shawn was a gorgeous, handsome, sexy man and although she didn't know him for very long she could already sense that he believed in the same things she did. Faithfulness, loyalty and love ever after.
"No, Shawn. You're wrong," she said surprised by the fierceness in her voice. "Our ex-spouses are the lame ducks not us. Did you cheat on your wife?"
She wasn't surprised when he nodded in the negative. "I never cheated on my husband either. We might have been naive to trust them but we are not lame ducks because we believed and honoured the vows we made to them."
Shawn stared down at her and felt empowered by the light of discovery shining from her eyes. "You're absolutely right, Belle. We didn't do anything wrong except entrust our hearts to the wrong people." For a moment he felt good about himself but then he remembered Nina. "The trouble is we've proved to ourselves that we aren't very good judges of character, haven't we?"
Belle's temporary high came crashing down but she tried valiantly to rally her mood. "We know what to look for now. I would hope that we could recognise the signs before we commit ourselves fully to another person that would stomp on our hearts."
He smiled at her determination not to give up on finding the right partner. "I hope you're right, Belle. I'm not ready to give up on love just yet."
She grinned. "Good. And another thing you shouldn't give up on is dancing. Now that you're relaxed I can tell that you're a very good dancer."
He stopped in shock realising that she was right. They had been spinning around the dance floor in perfect harmony, their movements natural and relaxed. "By golly. You're right. I haven't stepped on your feet once. I think that calls for another drink." He held out his arm and she took it allowing him to lead her back to the bar.
And after Four rounds with Jose Cuervo
I was showing off moves never seen before
Belle collapsed in a fit of giggles against Shawn's broad chest. She liked how his arms immediately wrapped around her waist to hold her close. The band had played a series of up tempo tunes and Shawn had really let his inner Fred Astaire loose on the dance floor. He had a natural rhythm and she had no trouble keeping up with him. They fit. She didn't know how else to explain how she had absolutely no trouble following his lead no matter what outlandish dance move he decided to try next. They were both breathing heavily and she didn't know about him but she was feeling awfully warm. The longer she stayed wrapped around him the warmer she knew she was going to feel so she reluctantly stepped out of the circle of his arms.
He hated the feeling of loss that crashed over him when she removed herself from his arms. He liked the way her body felt pressed against his. They meshed. Her curves and softness seemed to blend with the angles and hardness of his body. She fit perfectly in his arms. She fit perfectly into his life. Whoa boy. Slow down. You know nothing about this woman. He decided he needed to cool down so he did what he thought was best, led her back to the bar and ordered another drink.
They were talking away finding out every thing they could about each other when Belle was interrupted by a cute vivacious red head.
"Sami and I are going to take off now, Belle. You ready to leave?"
Shawn watched as another blonde blue eyed beauty joined them at the bar. She looked like an older version of Belle. Not as beautiful but definitely pretty. "Time to hit the road, little sis."
"Already. It's only midnight," Belle pouted. "I want you to meet my new friend," she said, her words slurring together but just slightly. The strenuous dancing seemed to be warding off certain drunkenness. "Shawn this is my sister Sami and my best friend in the whole wide universe, Mimi."
Shawn gave them his best I'm a really great guy who doesn't want to get your sister and your best friend naked before the sun comes up smile. "Hi, it's nice to meet you. Why don't you sit down and join us..."
"I have to work at nine tomorrow morning," Mimi broke in. "We really need to leave."
Shawn could see that Belle didn't want to leave but she was reaching to take her jacket from her sister's hand. He had to give her a reason to stay... if that is what she really wanted. "I'd be happy to see that you get home safely, Belle." The rest was up to her.
A huge smile split her face in two. She felt like kissing him for giving her a reason to stay. Oh hell. Admit it. You just want to kiss him. So she did. A quick, fast, fleeting kiss that landed squarely on his lips. "Thanks, Shawn. I'd love to stay..." She didn't have to say it; she knew he understood the unspoken with you.
Sami dragged Belle off the chair. "Excuse us for just a moment please, Shawn. Belle, come with me to the ladies room."
Belle followed her sister reluctantly and glanced back and gave Shawn a shrug and mouthed the word Sorry. She could see that Mimi had started her own special brand of interrogation. Within minutes Belle was sure Mimi would know everything there was to know about Shawn including the balance in his bank account right down to the penny.
"Belle, are you sure about this? You've had several drinks... the guy's a total stranger..."
Belle grabbed Sami's hands. "Sami. I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself. I'm sure. I really like this guy."
Sami saw the look in her sister's eyes. She didn't need to be told where Belle wanted this to lead. "Okay, but I want to get his name, address and phone number before I leave."
Shawn had no problem pulling out his driver's licence to prove to Sami that he really was a guy named Shawn Brady and that the address he gave her was on the up and up. He even went as far as telling her that he was moving in a month to a house on Sycamore Street.
"Sorry about the Spanish Inquisition," Belle said sheepishly after Mimi and Sami left.
"No need to apologise. They were just looking out for you," he answered as he signalled to Keith to fill their glasses. "If I remember correctly we both revealed that we came here to drink away all the bad memories of our not so good relationships. We're falling behind."
She clinked her glass against his. "Bottoms up. Here's to forgetting."
Well, round five or round six
I forgot what I came to forget
After Round seven, Or was it eight?
I bought a round for the whole dang place
Shawn groaned in agony. The slight little movement he had just made had sent the pounding in his head into overdrive. Oh God. Did I get into an accident? Was I hit by a Mack truck? He groaned again as he tried to open his eyes. They were mere slits when the light hit him and he was forced to close them quickly. Oh shit. Even my eyeballs hurt.
What the hell was I doing last night? Think Shawn. He couldn't. It hurt too much so he just let the blessed darkness of sleep overtake him.
Belle fought the nightmare and tried to wake up. Someone was groaning. Was it her? She had to wake up. In her nightmare she felt awful. Her head was pounding, her mouth tasted like ... well ... you know ... and her stomach was rolling. Just open your eyes girl and then everything will be okay. She tried but failed. Wait. How do I know I'm having a nightmare? If I know I must already be awake. Oh god. This is too confusing and it hurts to try and figure it out. She fell back asleep.
Several hours later
Shawn forced his eyes to open hoping that simple act would stop the herd of elephants from stampeding through his head. Didn't work. It just made things worst. God he felt like death warmed over. He didn't dare move because he had this deep rooted suspicion that if he did he was going to be sick, really sick judging by the churning in his stomach. What did I do last night? That thought quickly flew out of his head when his brain finally registered what his eyes had focused on several minutes ago. Where the hell am I?
Belle was scared to open her eyes. Am I having a stroke? A heart attack? Her heart was pounding so hard her head hurt or was it the other way around. Was it the pounding in her head that was making her chest hurt? Jesus, you idiot. It's not your chest. It's your stomach. Don't you know when you're going to be sick? Oh god. I'm going to be sick. Her eyes flew open and the room started spinning. She closed her eyes and waited a few seconds before opening them again, very slowly this time. This isn't my bedroom. Where am I? More importantly, where's the bathroom? She realised that she was facing an open door. That has to be it.
She sat up and the whole damn room tilted, the ceiling came down, the floor went up and her stomach did the same. She bolted for the open door only to collide with another person who obviously had the same objective.
Shawn looked down in surprise and met a pair of shocked blue eyes. He opened his mouth to ask her who the hell she was but that proved to be a big mistake. He made a mad dash for the toilet bowl just barely making it before he retched.
What the ... who ... where... All these thoughts flashed through her pounding head but she pushed them aside. She was going to be sick and some stranger was using the toilet bowl so she had no choice but to use the sink.
Fifteen minutes later she raised her head to find a pair of sad looking brown eyes staring at her. He looked just as confused and bewildered as she felt. "Hi..." she said tentatively. It was pretty hard to ignore someone you had just shared one of the most embarrassing moments of your life with.
"Hi," he answered and then tried to smile. "Talk about awkward moments..."
"Do ... did ..." How the hell am I supposed to ask him who he is and if we did the nasty last night? Belle floundered. This was not a situation she ever expected to find herself in. Then she noticed something and her eyes widened and then shut. "You're na... naked," she stammered.
Shawn looked down at himself. No wonder I feel so cold. He looked up at the woman who had her beautiful, albeit blood-shot, blue eyes closed tightly. "So are you."
Belle's eyes flew open and she gasped in horror. "Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god..."
"Calm down. I'm sure there's a perfectly logical reason that we ended up naked in some room together," Shawn started to say. "Shit...where are we?" A horrible thought crossed his mind and he didn't stop to think before he spoke. "Wait...do you... uh... is this... what you do for a living?"
"Do what for a living?" she asked. She didn't have a clue what he was talking about.
"Uh ... well... you know," he said, feeling very awkward. She looked so naive and innocent.
"No I don't know and right now I don't have the energy to try and figure out what you're alluding to. Please just spit it out," she said, as she rubbed her temples.
"End up naked with strangers in some hotel room," he spit out. As soon as he said it he knew he was wrong. The look of complete utter shock and amazement on her face said it all.
"Wha... What... you think I'm a ... a... She couldn't say it, she was so furious. She straightened up and glowered down at him. She realised that wasn't a smart move considering she was stark naked. She grabbed one of the towels and threw one down to him. "I'm not going to dignify that stupid question with an answer," she huffed.
Shawn wrapped the towel around his waist and followed her out. "Look, Belle, I'm so... Belle. I remember your name. We met at the Cheating Heart last night." Oh thank God.
Belle stopped as soon as he said her name. The night was starting to come back to her. She turned towards him. "Shawn. Shawn Brady," she said with a smile on her face that quickly faded. "How did we end up here? Do you remember leaving the Cheating Heart?"
Shawn shoved his hand through his hair. He still wasn't feeling all that great. "Why don't I call down to the front desk and get them to send up some toiletries. And I'll order some juice and coffee."
She flashed him a grateful smile. "Once we shower I'm sure between the two of us we can figure out what we did," she glanced towards the bed, "or didn't do."
He showered first as soon as they got their delivery of essential items from the gift shop.
She felt much better after her shower. She ran a brush through her hair and was just stepping out of the bathroom when she heard the porter. "I hope you and your bride enjoy your complimentary breakfast, Mr. Brady."
Shawn stared at the man in surprise and was still standing there with his mouth open when the porter left the room. He jumped in surprise when he felt a touch on his shoulder.
"Did he just say we were married?" she asked in a tiny voice.
Shawn turned around and took her hands in his. "I'm sure he's mistaken or else we lied when we checked in last night."
Belle heaved a huge sigh of relief and lowered her head when something caught her eye. How the hell did I miss this before? "Uh... Shawn... why are we wearing wedding bands?"
Shawn looked down at their hands and then up at her. "Oh, God, Belle. We better figure out exactly what happened last night."
She smiled up at him. She didn't know why but a sense of calm had fallen over her. She looked at her new ring again and then up at the man that must have put it there. Why does this feel so right? "Why don't we enjoy this lovely breakfast and then we'll talk. I'm sure it will all come back to us."
"How did you end up the Cheating Heart last night?" Shawn asked.
"Mimi and Sami insisted that I get out. It's been over a year since my divorce and they thought it was time I started dating again," she answered honestly. "How about you?"
He told her about finding Nina and Katie making love in the conference room at his office. He told her of his plan to surprise Nina with a proposal and a wedding. He had gone to the office with a marriage licence and a pair of rings. "That would explain how we would have been able to get married. The marriage licence didn't have the bride's name filled in. I wanted to make sure so I told the clerk that the Justice of the Peace would fill that section out."
Belle looked down at the plain gold band on the third finger of her left hand. "So I'm wearing a ring that was meant for another woman."
Shawn felt terrible. He covered her hand with his. "I'll get you a ring of your very own. Any kind you want...Oh..." he stopped realising what he had just said. He was talking about their marriage, if they were really married, as if it was something permanent.
Belle squeezed his hand. "Let's worry about crossing that bridge when we get there. Who knows, we might have put the rings on for show. Let's keep talking about what happened. The last thing I remember clearly was Sami and Mimi leaving and I think you bought a round for everyone in the joint."
Shawn chuckled. "I think I did. Let's see, after that I think we drank some more."
And after nine rounds with Jose Cuervo
They were counting me out and I was about to give in
"That's right. The bartender and some of the others thought you were going to pass out and so did I but then all of a sudden you grabbed my hand and we danced some more," Belle said, excited to remember more.
Then after ten rounds with Jose Cuervo
I lost count and started counting again
"We certainly drank a lot," he groaned.
She chuckled. "If memory serves me right you were pretty darn proud of yourself."
One round with Jose Cuervo
I went two rounds
"Then the band announced last dance and while we were slow dancing I asked you to marry me," he said triumphantly as his memory cleared.
"I said yes," she smiled.
"Keith called us a cab and I mentioned that I had a marriage licence in my pocket..."
"And I said Why wait. Let's get married tonight." She frowned. "I don't remember if I was serious or joking."
"At this point does it matter?" Shawn asked. "We went to the Justice of the Peace and he agreed to marry us."
"But how? Don't we need blood tests?"
"Yes and he turned us away..."
"That's right. We were at the door when he asked if we had been tested in that bone marrow drive last week. We both had so he used those." She looked up at him.
He looked at her. "We got married last night, Belle," he said breathlessly.
"Yes, we did, Shawn. What are we going to do now? Do you want an annulment?"
"Do you?" he asked and then held his breath. He realised he didn't want to end this accidental, unexpected marriage.
What should I do? Should I tell him the truth or tell him what I think he wants me to say. She decided to go with the truth. "No. But I'm not exactly ready to live as husband and wife just yet."
He smiled. "Why don't we discuss it over dinner?"
"Why Mr. Brady, are you asking me out on a date?" she flirted.
"Why yes I am, Mrs. Brady," he grinned.
25 Years Later
"Mom, Dad, we're home," nineteen year old Lily Marlena Brady called out. We referred to her and her twin brother, Ned Beauregard Brady and their fifteen year old brother, Thomas John and twelve year old sister, Alice Hope. "Nana and Pop and Grandma and Grandpa are with us."
Marlena laughed and Hope shook her head.
"Im sure the neighbours heard you, Lily," Bo joked.
Belle poked her head into the living. "It's about time you got here. We had to start the party without you."
"Party?" Ned said. "No one told us about a party."
"That's because your Dad and I planned a surprise party," Belle teased. "It's not a surprise if everyone knows about it."
John looked at Marlena and then to Bo and Hope but they all shrugged. "Who's the party for? I didn't forget a birthday or anniversary did I?"
"No. I don't think so," Marlena added.
"Only one way to find out," Belle said. "Everyone is in the back yard."
"It's about time," Sami called out. "Now maybe Shawn and Belle will tell us what the occasion is."
"The banners and balloons all say Happy 25th Anniversary but they won't tell us whose anniversary we're here to celebrate," Mimi pouted as she clasped her husband's hand.
"Does everyone have a drink for the toast?" Shawn asked as he checked to make sure the kids all had juice or soda and that all the adults had a glass of champagne. He took Belle's hand and raised it to his lips and kissed it softly.
"Yeah, Dad. Quit the kissing and spill," Thomas called out. "Whose party is this?"
Belle smiled up at Shawn and slipped her arm around his waist. "Go ahead, dear. Tell them."
"I know it's slightly unconventional for the people involved to throw their own silver anniversary party but considering that until today we were the only two that knew we felt it was appropriate. Happy anniversary, darling," he said as he clinked his glass to hers.
"Oh geez, Dad. You are both accountants, you should know how to count. You've only been married for a little over twenty three years," Ned said. "How could you screw up so bad?"
Belle laughed. "No we didn't screw up as you so eloquently put it. You're father and I were married by a Justice of the Peace the night we met..."
"Oh my god. You mean the night Sami and I dragged you to the Cheating Heart?" Mimi screeched as she jumped out of her chair.
"That would be the night," Shawn answered laconically.
"You old dog," Ned said, with a hint of awe in his voice.
"But ... the wedding... the dress ... " Hope sputtered.
"It's a long story, Mom," Belle said.
"We'd all like to hear it," John said, with a slight smile on his face.
"Sit down everyone and get comfortable and I'll tell you what happened," Shawn chuckled. Once everyone was comfortable he began. "It all started with one round with Jose Cuervo..."
|This message has been edited by Mrs.B. on Apr 26, 2005 4:16 PM|