Tim and Alex made similar comments. Taylor wasn’t sure what to think. She stood there looking lost and helpless until Jason stood, taking her beautifully manicured hand.
“What they’re trying to say is that you look stunningly beautiful.”
“Thank you.” She blushed, eyes dropping to the floor.
“Now, you lot. You need haircuts. Henri has graciously agreed to trim and snip as needed. Greg, you’re a mess. You first.” Jason pointed to the bathroom in the master suite. “Meanwhile, you two. Manicures. Line up. Celeste, which is first?”
“Which is worse?” She inspected their hands and led Alex to a table behind the couch in the sitting room. “You bite your nails? For shame! A man as good looking as you should have soft hands, lover’s hands. Your wife will be appreciating this.” She sat him down, shoving his hands into a liquid to soak.
Jason and Taylor sat on the couch, snuggling as they spoke to Tim. When his turn came, he went to the manicure table. Alex changed places with Greg. He came out looking much more stylish.
“He liked my hair,” he said with a smirk as he sat in front of Celeste. “He thought it was cool that it grows sideways on the back. He wants pictures to put in a magazine.”
“It is the front of you he should take, not the back,” Celeste commented “You should look into modeling. What do you do for a living, cherie?”
Greg glanced at Jason, raising an eyebrow.
“He and the others are in security, Celeste. Specifically mine.”
“No wonder you have callouses like a man who holds a weapon.”
He very judiciously chose not to say another word about it. Instead, he changed the subject, encouraging Celeste to talk about herself.
Finally, all the manicures and haircuts were accomplished and Celeste and Henri left with Tim, who headed home after dropping them off. Taylor had an appointment to go shopping with Celeste while the men went for their suit fitting the following day.
At dinner, the team discussed their new looks. After clean up, the men practiced fading into the background as Jason led Taylor into the gym. She thought he wanted to work out, but he shook his head. Taking out a small remote, he started music playing from an unseen sound system. He held out his arms to her. Taylor shook her head, declining. With a slight frown of annoyance, he insisted.
“I love to dance. My ladies dance with me. I never date a non-dancer for long. It’s a pattern I’ve established over the years. Beautiful as you are, the old me would have dumped you in a heartbeat simply for refusing a dance.”
“The old you?” She stepped into the circle of his arms.
“The one who wasn’t passionately in love with you,” he whispered.
His breath shook the hair by her ear making her squirm against him. The music continued and he led her in an easy dance to a beautiful, slow tune. The accompaniment was simple, played on piano and cello. Taylor leaned her head on Jason’s shoulder, eyes closed as the song drew to a close. Her breath was shaky as they stopped dancing. The music had moved her to tears.
“What was that?” She asked, wiping her eyes with her fingers.
“Drunkard’s Prayer by Over the Rhine,” he replied.
“It’s so beautiful.”
His lips touched hers. “Glad you liked it. Would you like to hear it again?”
She nodded. He clicked the remote and the song began again. She listened carefully to the words as Jason sang softly to her.
“….Sweet intoxication, When your words, Wash over me.”
“Did you pick that on purpose?” She asked with a sad smile.
“I did. You’re my sweet intoxication, Taylor. I’m addicted and I can’t get enough of you.”
The music changed to something a bit faster and Jason did a different step, slightly more sophisticated than the last. Each song that played had a unique feel and rhythm. He led her through many different dances. She followed well, doing far better than he anticipated. When he commented on how quickly she’d picked it up, she grinned.
“You misunderstood my reluctance. It’s not that I can’t dance but that I only used to dance when my dad was alive. When he died, we couldn’t afford lessons anymore. I didn’t dance again until college. I picked it up as a minor, but it never felt right—until now.”
“I love you,” he whispered. “And I really want to make love to you right now.”
She giggled, tossing her golden tipped hair over her shoulder. “And that’s different—how?”
“Marry me, Taylor. When all this muck is over.”
She didn’t know what to say. Yes and No warred within her. He was a thief, a felon—albeit with no convictions, but one nonetheless. She loved him, she wanted him in her life, but could she make that kind of commitment? He was waiting for an answer. If she said no, what would it do to him? Did she want to? If she said yes, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
“Yes,” she whispered.
He kissed her, whirling her in a tight spin. He lifted her, swinging her around happily. His kiss carried great promise as he held her several inches off the floor. His embrace was strong and sure and he held her a long time without wavering. Gradually, he lowered her to the ground. Tugging her hand, he led her toward the stairs.
© Dellani Oakes
To Purchase Dellani’s Books:
Under the Western Sky http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/under-the-western-sky.htm