Disclaimer: No infringement to copyright holders intended.
It Started With A kiss.
It was supposed to be a friendly kiss under the mistletoe but it changed into something else. Gone were the thoughts of friendship, of wife, of boyfriend; here - now it was just the two of them.
Caroline felt heat and passion and reacted to the movement of Richard's lips, to his scent and to his soul. She almost dropped the snow globe; her senses so attuned to Richard and no one, nothing else mattered.
Richard kissed Caroline passionately his arms around her lithe body pulling her closer still. She was like a delicate flower that intoxicated him he couldn't let her go. He didn't want the sensations she was causing to end. His body returned the passion as he was overcome by a tidal wave of desire; he felt the stirrings of arousal and moaned softly into his love's mouth.
Caroline gripped his shoulder wanting, needing him closer. She gasped into his mouth as he pushed her against the wall and pressed his hard body against her. He was consuming her mind, body, and soul and she never wanted him to stop.
"Well hello you two!"
Richard and Caroline jumped apart.
"Err, Julia!" Richard stammered breathless, he ran his hand through his fringe and took a deep breath his face still flushed from the kiss.
Caroline, at seeing Julia's anger, looked at the floor embarrassed and ashamed trying to figure out something to say. The silence seemed to drag on until Richard spoke.
"Julia err I can explain."
"Please Richard, save it." Julia cut in curtly, "It is obvious what you were doing." She turned to Caroline. "Well now that you have shared a Christmas kiss with my husband perhaps you will leave us alone."
Caroline recognised that it wasn't a request but an order, so she nodded and began to turn around but even though a part of her wanted to run and hide she couldn't allow Richard to get all the blame, he had so much more to loose. "Look Julia this is all my fault. I told Richard, I.. er, wanted him and he told me he loved you. But I didn't listen I just grabbed him and kissed him. In fact he was pushing me away when you entered. If anyone's to blame it's me, I really don't know what got into me but it won't happen again. I'm really sorry." Caroline hoped she looked guilty and honest enough that Julia would believe her not so truthful lie.
Julia looked at her, searching her expression and nodded once sharply. "See that it doesn't."
Caroline for the first time since Julia's arrival glanced at Richard and saw the same numb shock she knew her face betrayed but she also saw his gratitude. "I'm really sorry for kissing you Richard I didn't mean to cause trouble between you and Julia." She mumbled quietly then grabbed the gift packaging and left.
Caroline walked outside and Annie stood there a knowing look on her face.
"So? That was quite some kiss you and Richard shared."
"You saw?" Annie nodded and Caroline exploded with anger. "Then why didn't you come in and stop us?"
"Hey!" Annie said feeling hurt by the accusation. "I was talking to Dell and Charlie and I saw Julia walk over and decided to follow her. You know how I love being spiteful. Anyway I got there to see her watching you and Richard getting it on."
"We were not getting it on." Caroline snapped.
"Oh Please! One more minute and you'd have been on the floor, having your wicked way with him."
Caroline hung her head in shame. "God she must really hate me now."
Annie nodded again, "Probably."
Caroline scowled, "Thanks."
Her friend shrugged, "Well she probably does but what do you care, you hate her too."
Caroline nodded in agreement. "Come on, let's go someplace and get drunk."
"Sounds good…Wait! Who's paying?"
Annie clapped her hands together in glee. "Okay then, let's go."
"Julia it meant nothing."
"Don't lie Reechard. I saw my husband about to make love to another woman."
Richard rolled his eyes at Julia's exaggeration. "We were not about to make love Julia. It was one meaningless kiss - that's all."
"LIER!" Julia screamed, "You…you feel something for her don't you?"
Richard shook his head. It seemed lately that whenever he mentioned his boss's name Julia would become defensive and edgy then lash out with accusations of his love for Caroline. He gave the same answer he always gave. "She's my best friend nothing more."
"Then why did you kiss her?"
"It was a kiss under the mistletoe; it's traditional to kiss whom ever is under the mistletoe."
"Tradition, Bah!" Julia threw his paints around the room in anger and ranted in Italian for all the neighbours to hear.
He was also getting fed up with her childish behaviour. "Hey! Stop that Julia, those paints aren't cheap you know." Richard bent to pick up some paint tubes and felt something hit him in the head.
Julia was now throwing his brushes at him. "You love her! Why don't you just admit it?"
"Julia stop being childish." Richard was furious too now, he knew Julia had a temper but things were getting out of hand. He hated this side of Julia, the side that wouldn't listen to reason and he knew better than to try talking to her when she was like this.
Richard lay on the cold floor and shivered again. Julia being so furious with him had refused to let him share the bed so he was on the floor keeping the cockroaches company. He kept replaying the kiss in his mind. He had been surprised as hell that Caroline had returned his kiss with so much vigour and passion and the though of that kiss kept the smile playing around his mouth. I know I should be disgusted with myself for cheating on Julia but that kiss felt so right and Caroline - she felt so good in my arms. He felt himself grow warm as he imagined what it would be like to kiss Caroline again, to make love with her. If that one kiss was anything to go by -- he smiled in the darkness and ran a hand through his hair and his imagination toyed with him through out the night.
Caroline sat looking at her door waiting to see if Richard would arrive. I wouldn't be surprised if he came in today to quit his job; last night was such a mistake. Even though it took two to kiss she had been the unmarried one. She should have stopped it, but she had dreamed of kissing Richard so many times and when the opportunity had arrived she couldn't help herself. And Wow! What a kiss! Much better than she'd ever imagined. She felt her heart skip a beat as she remembered those lips moving over hers at first softly and slowly then harder as the kiss deepened. She shook her head knowing that in the greater scheme of things she had done wrong. She could have blamed Richard for he was the married one but she was sure it was her desire that had deepened the kiss making it illicit. Although he did seemed to be enjoying it as much as I did - I wonder if this means Richard desires me too. The thought made her smile as she found it hard to believe that Richard would kiss someone like that and not feel something.
She heard the door handle turn and was suddenly nervous. What if he is here to quit? The thought saddened her and she braced herself for the news.
As usual, his voice gave away nothing to indicate his mood. "Hi Richard. I wasn't sure if you would be in today?" She asked directly deciding pretending nothing had happened was pointless.
Richard glanced at her as he poured himself some coffee. "Oh?"
"Well you know with what happened yesterday…." She let the sentence linger hoping Richard would discuss it.
Frustrated she continued, "Well I'm sure Julia would have told you to stay away from me."
Richard nodded and took his seat at the desk.
Her eyebrows raised in surprise. "She told you stay away from me?"
"Then why are you here?" She hoped the news was good but Richard's face was unreadable. "Richard don't you think we ought to discuss what happened?"
"Why! In case you've forgotten we shared a passionate kiss or am I the only who thought that?"
Richard looked down at his coffee and thought of yesterday, the words struggling to free themselves as he fought with his feelings. "You're not the only one - that kiss was passionate."
"So don't you think we should talk about it?"
He looked at her, his eyes anguished. "Caroline I'm married."
"That didn't seem to stop you yesterday," she pressed.
"I know." He looked away again he was so confused. "But I can't cheat on Julia."
"I'm not asking you to." She answered quickly surprised he thought she would want an affair. "But answer me this; if you love Julia so much then why kiss me like that?"
He didn't want to answer her; he didn't want to admit the truth. "I just got caught up in the moment, that's all." He shuddered slightly as the lie rolled off his tongue and noticed Caroline's face fall. Wait, why would Caroline be upset about that? Realisation dawned. Unless that kiss meant something. He leaned forward and asked urgently, "Why? Did the kiss mean something to you?"
Caroline, faced with his intense stare, fidgeted on her chair. "You know maybe you're right, we shouldn't have this conversation you're married." She picked up a pencil. "Let's just get some work done."
"Please don't make me answer that." She pleaded without looking up.
"I'd never force you to do anything," he added softly, "but I think this is important."
"If I tell you everything you'll be upset."
Richard smiled kindly, "Let me be the judge of that."
She looked up and straightened in her chair determined to finally stop hiding behind the lies. "I left you a message which might explain my behaviour."
"What message?" His brow creased in concentration, thinking back. "I haven't received a message from you, especially one that could explain all this."
"I know," Caroline stated sadly, "and maybe you should ask Julia about that."
"Julia? Why? What does she have to do with this?"
Caroline looked away from Richard not wanting him to see the hatred for Julia in her eyes. "I don't know if she'll tell you, but ask her."
"Fine I will." Having had enough of this guessing game he grabbed his coat off the hook and headed out the door.
Julia turned in her chair from where she had been painting her nails. "Reechard, what are you doing home?"
Richard threw his coat on the back of the chair and faced his wife. "I'm back because I've just had an interesting conversation with Caroline."
He watched as she tensed. "Oh?" She asked.
"What exactly have you done Julia? And don't give me that doe eyed look. I want the truth, that is if you're capable of such a thing."
"The truth?" Julia asked confused but with a growing sense of foreboding.
Richard paced near his bed as he spoke. "I'm not sure about what exactly," He said impatiently, "but it has something to do with a message."
"Er.. I...," Julia stammered nervously, "I don't know what you mean."
But Julia's look of panic gave her away. Richard grabbed her arm firmly pulling her from the chair, letting her know he wasn't going to leave until he knew the truth. "Julia please just tell me."
"Okay, fine." She shook her arm loose and crossed to the window. "Caroline left a message on your machine asking whether you wanted a relationship with her."
"What!" He screeched in shock.
"I know the idea is ridiculous. I mean as if you could be interested in that mousy little girl," Julia laughed amused by the thought, "so I erased the message." She looked at Richard desperately, "I was doing her a favour, we were married."
"Julia how could you do such a thing?" He thought of the pain Caroline must have endured. "How could you hurt my friend like that?"
Julia as usual refused to be wrong and stood in front of Richard defiantly. "How hurt do you think she would have been if you'd have told her there and then that you had married? Don't you think that would have been more painful?"
Richard sat down heavily on his bed. "You know ever since I've worked for Caroline I've wished she was interested in me." He rested his face in his hands, feeling angry and useless. "I am a fool."
Julia crossed to Richard, still angry but feeling guilty for her part in causing his misery. "You really do love her?" She asked incredulously seeing the hurt etched on his face. "Then why marry me? I don't understand."
Richard spoke quietly but honestly. "She'd never shown any interest in me and I think I'd given up hope, then you showed up."
Julia sat kneeling before Richard her heart beating wildly, knowing that today would either make or break their marriage. "Richard I know now what I did was wrong but we've been given a second chance."
Richard looked into her eyes seeing the truth there. "I know Julia and I love you too but I also love Caroline. God how did I ever end up in this mess?" He turned to Julia. "I don't want to hurt you but given the choice between Caroline and you…" He looked away his shame plain to see.
Julia hugged him hard and for what was probably for the last time, kissed him passionately and left.
Caroline jumped as her door was flung open to her apartment.
"A-ha! There you are!"
Caroline could almost see the Thundercloud over Julia's head. "Er oh Julia."
Julia walked up to Caroline and stopped, just short of knocking her over. "So you told Richard you love him, huh?"
Caroline shook her head and answered truthfully. "No but I did give him the impression that I wouldn't have kissed him if I hadn't have meant it."
Julia swung away and leaned against the back of the chair. "You have caused me a great deal of trouble Caroline."
"I know." Caroline answered without protest.
Julia nodded in agreement pleased to see Caroline face up to her conscience. "Right now Richard is deciding what to do."
"My dear husband," She said sweetly, "is deciding whether or not to end our marriage."
"I see." Caroline felt confused, true she hated Julia for erasing her message but did that give her the right to ruin her marriage? She opened her mouth to apologise. "Julia, I.." But Julia cut her off.
"It doesn't matter, I don't wish to hear your apologies or your excuses. I erased your message because I wanted Richard." A bittersweet smiled etched her face as she continued to speak, "I did love Richard all those years ago I thought he was brilliant and the most passionate man I'd ever..."
Caroline watched as Julia's smile widened at the thought of Richard and couldn't help but feel jealous but she remained quiet.
"Anyway, meeting him again was like being hit by a bolt of lightening and those old feelings rushed back, I wanted to see whether he felt the same way." She looked at Caroline and contempt shined in her eyes for a moment. "But his feelings had changed I should have seen it but I didn't, I am used to getting what I want and I wanted him." She saw Salty and reached out and stroked her head. "But as the months went by I have noticed the way you looked at each other and now I see that it is pointless to continue this charade." She turned and pinned Caroline with a penetrating look. "He loves you with a passion that I never knew he possessed."
Caroline's jaw dropped, "What?" she gasped.
Julia smiled sadly thinking how fortunate Caroline was to have inspired such love from Richard. "He loves you and even though it pains me to do so I intend to remedy the situation."
"How?" Caroline asked not sure of Julia's intent.
"I have visited my lawyer today and have begun divorce proceedings."
"Thank you Julia."
Both women turned at Richard's voice.
"Richard I see you have finally made your decision."
Richard entered Caroline's loft and closed the door. He walked towards the two women and kissed Julia softly on the cheek and was grateful she wasn't making things harder on Caroline or himself.
Caroline looked away and leaving them in peace, sat on the windowsill looking out onto the street below. She heard Richard softly telling Julia goodbye and closed her eyes in relief and apprehension, thinking how things were never going to be the same. Richard's voice brought her out of her retrieve.
She didn't get up but turned towards him. "Yes Richard."
"I love you." He smiled shyly at her. "I just thought you should know."
She stood then and approached him slowly still hesitant, "Richard I'm so sorry for everything."
Richard's brow raised in surprise. "Sorry? You have nothing to apologise for its Julia and I who are sorry. Julia for erasing the message and I, for never having the courage to tell you I've loved you ever since the day you interviewed me."
"You have? I didn't know."
"I know that's hard to believe after I married Julia but you have to understand; when she came back it felt good to be wanted and marriage seemed like a great idea, at least that way I wouldn't be alone anymore."
Caroline's tears threatened to fall at his anguish. "Oh Richard." She sighed sadly.
"Shh, it's okay." He pulled her into his embrace. "My feelings for you never left they taunted me but I tried to ignored them, convinced myself that they would go away, but that kiss we shared…"
"The kiss?" She asked encouraging him to go on.
He smiled his voice filled with wonderment. "It was everything I'd ever imagined and more."
"It was?" Caroline smiled pleased that Richard felt the same.
"Absolutely. I've dreamed of kissing you but not once did I imagine you would kiss me back so lovingly or passionately. I knew then that those feelings would never leave and that my marriage was never going to last."
Caroline smiled up at him, "I felt something too that day." At his curious look she explained. "The day we first met I felt an attraction too but I pushed the feelings aside and told myself I just wasn't your type."
Richard hugged her hard. "Well you're wrong, you're exactly my type."
Caroline smiled enchanted by his words. "I love you Richard."
They both leaned in towards each other slowly savouring the moment their lips would meet and all thoughts of the outside world stopped….