Monday, October 01, 2007
OCT 07 EXCERPT: When I’m With You
A funding request brings Marcel Baptiste, a wealthy entrepreneur and anonymous philanthropist head-to-head with Caitlyn Thompson, the director of a struggling Oakland youth center. He’s smitten, but she’s gun-shy and on the run from her controlling ex. Can he vanquish the ghosts of her past without risking her life?
Caitlyn tightly clutched her small handbag to her chest. “Thanks again for dinner. It’s been a wonderful evening.”
Marcel drove Caitlyn back to her apartment after dinner since she’d taken BART to San Francisco to meet him. Seated inside his plush, black BMW, Caitlyn glanced over to find he’d turned his back against the door. From the moment he’d put the car in park, he hadn’t said a word, but his penetrating gaze spoke volumes. As far as she was concerned, he didn’t need to speak because what she saw in his eyes said it all. She saw unabashed desire and it burned her to a crisp. She knew if they ever got together, they would set off a five-alarm blaze.
Caitlyn tore her gaze away and stared out the front windshield. Fear from the past reared its ugly head. At this point in her life, she didn’t want to feel an attraction for any man, and she certainly didn’t want to feel it this soon for the one sitting next to her. She’d experienced one disastrous relationship all because she’d foolishly placed her confidence in someone she thought she could trust. That error had nearly destroyed her, and it was one she’d vowed to never make again.
She sucked in a deep breath. “Marcel, I-I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” The words came out hoarse and choked, despite her best effort to maintain a rock-steady tone.
Marcel frowned. “Why?”
“I-I’m not the right person for you to get involved with.”
He shook his head. “You’re wrong on that one, Caitlyn.” He grabbed her left hand. “Can you honestly sit here and tell me I’m solo in what I’m feeling?”
It was a long while before she could say anything. She could no more deny the attraction she felt for Marcel than not take her next breath. “No, and if I knew how to stop my emotions right now, I would.”
He lifted her hand to his mouth and placed a gentle kiss on the back of it. “Tell me what you feel.”
She turned to him, staring with a soft gaze. “When?”
“Right now.” He kissed the inside of her palm. “Tell me what you’re feeling.”
“When I’m with you, I feel safe...like nothing in the world can ever hurt me.”
“Then hold on to that.” Releasing her hand, he inched over and braced his arm along the passenger seat.
Caitlyn glanced over at him. “What do you feel?”
He trailed his finger along her cheek and focused on her lips. “I feel like I’ll lose my mind if I don’t kiss you.” Despite the darkness, he tried to search her eyes for permission. He wouldn’t rush her. She’d been hurt once and he vowed no one would ever do it again. He waited patiently for her answer. The moment she looped her arm around his neck and parted her lips, it was all the acknowledgment he needed.
The kiss started out gentle, but grew hotter, more urgent, and she moaned under the assault of his mouth. Marcel deepened the kiss, and she clutched the lapels of his jacket as though they were a life preserver that would protect her against the carnal storm threatening to sweep her out into the Pacific Ocean.
When they parted, Caitlyn fought to breathe, fought to control her heart, which was beating as if she’d run a twenty-mile marathon. With her head bowed, she placed her hand at the center of her chest. “There’s something you should know.”
Marcel released a long sigh of satisfaction. “Talk to me.”
Marcel gently lifted her chin and met her gaze. “Come on, Caitlyn. Talk to me.” He stroked his finger along her brow. “You can trust me.”
Tears shimmered in her eyes. “He hurt me.”
“What did he do?”
The words lodged in her throat. The pain was still too raw, the hurt too deep. Caitlyn shook her head, an indication she wasn’t ready to discuss it.
Marcel nodded his acceptance of her stance. “Listen, whenever you’re ready, all right?”
With a solemn look, Caitlyn turned her face to hide the fear in her eyes. “I’ve been running from him for three years.”
“Is that why you’ve been so reluctant to share information about yourself?”
Without uttering another word, Marcel got out and walked around to the other side of the car. He opened the passenger door and helped Caitlyn out.
Caitlyn looked up at him. “Marcel, I’ll understand if you don’t want my baggage at your doorstep.”
He didn’t bother to shut the door and kept his gaze steady with hers. “When can I see you again?”
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