When I was in grade school, two of my friends got in trouble for letting boys look under their skirts. I remember watching as two boys shimmied along the floor until they were under the spread legs of my two friends, and looking up in glee. We were all young enough that I remember being confused about what could be so fascinating about looking at a girl’s underwear. I figured it out later. Much later.
But today I’m the one lifting my skirt. Figuratively speaking. And giving you a quick peek of my work-in-progress, the sequel to ‘Afterwards‘.
Chris Scaife is not the man Robyn Crandall thought he was.
Now that she’s shown him the possibility of a different life, she knows that Chris wants it. And he’s used to getting what he wants. But Robyn is seeing some possibilities of her own, as a highly-valued member of the legal team at Chris’ multimillion dollar corporation. Just as he’s given her the confidence to soar, will Chris try to clip her wings?
Once an unapologetic bachelor and distant father, Chris Scaife is now a different man. Engaged to Robyn Crandall, a woman whose love he never thought he could have—or deserve—Chris wants a wedding to happen, and happen soon. But Robyn’s plans are somewhat different from that.
“Robyn, ma bichette …”
“You can’t call me things like that, Etienne. Not when I don’t understand what you’re saying. For all I know, it’s incredibly inappropriate.”
Robyn was smiling up at the face of Pouvoir Noir’s president on the monitor as Chris and Frank entered the conference room for the video conference. Leaning forward with her elbows on the conference table, Robyn was wearing her powder blue suit, the one with the short sleeves that showed off her toned arms and contrasted pleasantly with her caramel-toned skin, and a bright white shirt underneath. The skirt was little short for Chris’ taste, but he never tried to dictate what she should wear, just contented himself with the knowledge that he was the man who got to take it off her.
As he and Frank entered, she leaned back into her seat, still smiling at Ballard. Chris almost felt as though they’d walked in on a private conversation.
“Got started without us?” he asked, his voice impassive.
“We did not get too far,” Allard said from across the Atlantic. “We talked about my new toy, and not much more.”
“Etienne bought some ridiculous sports car that goes about three hundred miles an hour.”
“And perhaps you will sit in the seat beside me one day. It is a feeling not to be missed.”
“Can we get to work?” Chris interrupted. “I only have thirty minutes for this meeting.”
Taking a place at the table next to Robyn, he lay his tablet before him and looked at Etienne Allard expectantly. Frank sat to his left and began rifling through a sheaf of papers. He and Robyn were the only people Chris knew who still worked primarily on paper, writing everything out longhand that probably had to be transcribed later anyway. Waste of time.
“So what’re we meeting about?” he asked, not looking up at Allard’s face, magnified in front of him.
“The timing of the office,” Allard said right away. “I think we are well behind the agreed upon schedule. And I need to tell something to my people. You see I don’t have my partners with me. So if there is a problem, I would like …”
“What gives you the impression there’s a problem?” Chris cut in.
“You acquire part of my company, with promises to rain money down on all our problems, and all of a sudden …” Allard made a puffing noise. “…nothing.”
“I wouldn’t say nothing. Your debts have been paid. Your creditors satisfied.”
“And my artists sit, as you say, with their thumbs up their asses. Waiting for the American knights in white armor.”
“Shining armor,” Chris corrected without thinking.
Frustration crossed Allard’s features. “An update would be welcome, my friend.”
Before Chris could speak, Robyn was leaning forward again. “Everything is moving ahead, I can assure you, Etienne. Admittedly at a different pace than planned, but we’re finalizing the team, and expect that by October …”
“I think that’s what we can promise, yes.” Robyn’s gaze was unflinching.
For a few moments there was silence while everyone waited for Ballard to absorb the words.
“This date, it is not within my control so I suppose there is nothing else to discuss.” On the monitor, he reached forward and suddenly they were staring into nothingness as the screen went blank.
For almost a minute, Chris, Robyn and Frank sat in silence.
“So,” Frank said. “I think we got a pissed-off Frenchman on our hands.”
“No one cares whether he’s pissed off or not,” Chris said. “We’re not on his timeline.”
“Well, we’re not on our timeline either,” Robyn pointed out. “It’s true. We planned to be over there a lot sooner, Chris. We implied to him that we would be well underway with …”
“Maybe we should resolve the question right now,” Frank said breaking in.
Chris knew the question. Hell, he even knew the resolution. But that didn’t mean he had to like it.
“Am I the hold-up?” he asked.
“No,” Frank said. “The timeline changed for lots of reasons. But we’re at the final decision-point. We need to know who’s going to be heading this thing up.”
Chris pushed back his seat and turned, looking directly at Robyn. “Sounds like the decision’s been made.” For a moment, her eyes dropped to her lap and then she raised them again, staring back at him.
She wasn’t, Chris realized, wearing her engagement ring. Sometimes she wore it to work, other times not. He’d long learned not to assume any significance to when that did and didn’t happen. But today, of all days, he would have liked to see it there.
Frank Casey cleared his throat, realizing that the conversation that was likely to happen probably didn’t pertain to him, nor to SE business necessarily. Shoving back from the conference room table he headed for the door.
“Robyn, I’ll see you downstairs,” he said before leaving them alone.
Chris turned his chair so that he was facing Robyn and clasped his hands between his knees, leaning toward her. She was so pretty. So, so pretty. Her eyes were a little watery, and she swallowed hard—Chris saw her throat bob as she did.
“So,” he began. “You really want this, huh?”
Robyn nodded, her eyes filling even more, the tears threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. She blinked rapidly to stave that off.
Chris lifted a forefinger. He was close enough to touch her hand so he did, gently stroking her bare ring finger.
“And I’ve got no say in this.”
Robyn sighed. “Of course you do. You could stop me if you wanted to.”
He supposed he could. He could forbid it. He could tell Frank he wouldn’t allow it. He could … fire her. And none of those things would change Robyn’s feelings for him one iota—of that Chris was certain. But it would change the nature of their relationship, and it would breach the trust she had in him, that he would let her be herself, never stifle her, never try to own her.
“I do want to,” he admitted, and saw the momentary alarm in Robyn’s eyes. Chris shook his head. “But I’m not going to.”
She gave a small gasp and then reached out, grabbing his hands in hers. “Baby …thank you. I know how hard …”
Chris pulled his hands free of hers and stood. “Let’s just talk about it later, okay?”