COMING FRIDAY 7 PM PST. AVIVA VAUGHN AUTHOR OF: BECKONED PART 1: FROM LONDON WITH LOVE SEE EXCERPT
7 PM PST.
Part 1: From London with Love
Fire and ice have nothing on Angela Holguín and fellow MBA student Soren Lund. When they first met at school in the exciting seaside city of Barcelona, Angela was intrigued by the aloof Dane; he was enthralled by the vivacious Californian. But their timing was off and they went their separate ways – until Fate and Destiny put them back in the same city: London. (Scroll for more)
In the British capital, Angela and Soren not only reunite, their desire reignites. This time they are determined not to let love slip through their fingers—despite the many obstacles posed by others. They tumble into one another’s arms and embark upon a passionate journey in the chic, bustling streets of London. But when Angela’s ex-shows up, will their new romance be strong enough to persevere? To whom will Angela’s heart beckon?
If you had told her at the beginning of the evening that she would end up between the cool percale sheets of his bed she would have thought you were lying. Of course, it wasn’t the exact scenario she had imagined because he was lying asleep in the guest room ten feet away.
What a gentleman.
She couldn’t believe that after eleven months of yearning she could be so close to him—and yet so far. Had she really flown thousands of miles to fall short of her dearest fantasy by mere footsteps?
Of course, there was that minor snag that she didn’t want to dwell on…the fact that she had flown here to visit a different man than the one whose bed she now found herself in.
She rubbed her hands over the sleeves of the freshly laundered shirt he had thoughtfully left on the bed for her—imagining it was his arms instead of her own. She would have preferred a shirt that smelled like him so she could feel like she was wrapped up inside his embrace.
She turned her face into the pillow and breathed in the scent that lingered there: a cool, woodsy smell like a forest of snow-capped conifers. A warm heat spread through her limbs, igniting something within her. She rolled over on her knees, pulled the sheets back and ran her nose all over the bed, deeply inhaling the musky evidence that his body had in fact been there at one time.
Fuck, this was really turning her on.
Chapter 1: It’s Complicated
July 3, 2001
Ah London, Angela thought as she emerged from the grimy Mile End tube stop of the London underground into the muggy summer afternoon. She drew in a deep breath of acrid air and smiled despite the bitter taste in her mouth and the uncomfortable stickiness under her arms. Although she just got off a red-eye from Los Angeles, she felt full of energy and excitement. She had made it, and she couldn’t wait to start her adventure in London.
Travel was one of Angela’s great passions and she was hoping that her exploration of London would provide her with inspiration for the children’s books she was writing. Sure she had come to England’s historic capital at the request of a certain person, but he wasn’t the real reason she was here. No, the real reason was to taste the food, see the city and make memories.
She loved to imagine that she lived in the cities she visited and tried to experience them the way a local would, which was why staying at apartments was her favorite way to travel. When the offer of a free apartment in the heart of London was made to her, she knew she had to take it.
Ugh, humidity. She stowed her light wrap in her carry-on and twisted her glossy, mahogany hair up into a sloppy bun, securing it with the rubber band she always wore on her right wrist.
Always practical and thrifty—not to mention living on the strict budget of a budding entrepreneur—she decided to walk the 15 minutes from the subway to her dear friend Marco’s apartment, near Canary Wharf, instead of catching a cab. She studied the MapQuest printout that she brought with her and picked the most direct route.
Grabbing her black, wheelie bag with the giant piece of duct tape on it—nicknamed R2 because of its resemblance to a certain android—she started walking down the street purposefully.
The uneven sidewalk confirmed her decision to wear tennis shoes, but she was less happy about the jeans she was wearing as she could feel them begin to stick to her uncomfortably with perspiration.
She wheeled R2 over cobblestoned streets and weedy, empty lots filled with broken glass, taking in the small storefronts with dirty windows and graffiti, and began to rethink the wisdom of her decision to walk.
This is definitely one of the dodgier walks I’ve ever done by myself and I look like such a tourist with my luggage.
She moved onto the largest street she could locate on her printout, hoping she might catch a cab or at least surround herself with more people, but the streets were deserted like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie, where the silence seems loud.
I guess everyone’s at work, she thought, swallowing the sizable lump in her throat.
Her heart was racing and a layer of cold sweat on her back made her shiver. She remembered the last time she felt this way. It was in Washington, D.C. six-years ago where she spent the summer of her junior year in undergrad as an intern. She remembered a man, strung out on drugs, pretending to have a gun in his pocket and asking her for money. The streets had been quiet and deserted that day as well.
Get a grip!
She cleared the memory from her mind and picked up her pace as she puffed out her chest and lifted her chin; projecting the most confident walk her 5’-4”-frame could manage.
After ten minutes of speed-walking, she arrived at Marco’s nondescript, off-white, utilitarian apartment building that bordered another empty, overgrown lot surrounded by a chain-link fence. The shiny new skyscrapers of Canary Wharf sparkled in the distance like the newly minted coins that had paid for them. Her shirt clung to her, damp from her sweat and the steamy humidity, but her relief at arriving safely at her destination was exhilarating.
Marco had not been able to take off work to meet her but had left a key for Angela with an elderly neighbor. She knocked on the door to 5B and came face-to-face with a sweet-looking older lady in a yellow daisy house dress and matching slippers. Although the outfit bordered on the absurd, it was a sunny contrast to the sterility of the building’s white hallways and cold tile floor.
After getting the key, Angela walked over to Marco’s apartment, fit the large key into the industrial-looking lock and opened the metal, security door. She walked into his flat, closed the door, quickly slipping out of her shoes and sweaty clothes.
She glanced around the simply-furnished apartment. There was a couch, coffee table, side table and floor lamp in the living room all in various depressing shades of beige or brown. On the living room, walls hung the only visible piece of artwork: a poster about a Picasso exhibit in a black plastic frame that must have been at least 20-years-old.
Clearly, this apartment was a full-time rental.
Dressed only in her nude-colored skivvies, Angela walked over to the air-conditioning unit and snapped it on. It began to hum loudly; the cold air felt delicious against her overheated skin. She stood there, pirouetting from front to back, fanning herself until she felt that she was no longer sweating.
She walked back to the entryway, unzipped R2, threw on a pair of loose linen pants and a white tank-top, and dialed Marco from the European mobile phone she purchased during her time in Spain last year.
“Ciao bella, cómo estás? Was your flight good? Did you get to the apartment okay?” he asked in the English/Spanish/Italian combination that they reverted to whenever they spoke to each other.
Although Marco spoke almost flawless English it was always with the thick, musical accent of his native Italian. The faint clacking of keyboards could be heard in the background. The worker bees at Marco’s high-tech start-up sounded busy at their computers.
“Sí, sí, I did. The flight was fine…I slept most of the way. And yes, I got to your apartment okay.”
She pulled back the dark brown curtains in the living room to reveal a narrow patio and a view of the empty lot next door with Canary Wharf in the distance. She could just make out an abandoned car with no doors, almost obscured by weeds in the vacant lot.
That’s an interesting juxtaposition.
She walked back towards her luggage. “It’s a good thing it was daylight and I can take care of myself! You aren’t exactly living in the best neighborhood. I think I saw some rats mugging a pigeon outside.”
She grabbed her heavy Nikon SLR and returned to the patio door.
“Oh come on, it’s not that bad,” he said, exasperated.
“It’s not good either.” She used the heavy manual camera to frame the expensive, new high-rises of the wharf in the background with the abandoned car in the foreground. Click. Click. Click. She took a few different shots, changing the focal point of each one. She couldn’t wait to get the film developed back home. Maybe she would even use them as references for sketches.
He sighed. “Okay, so maybe it isn’t the best neighborhood. But unlike most of our school friends, I’m not working at a bank this summer. That flat was all I could afford. Besides, Canary Wharf is up-and-coming.”
Angela walked the five steps to the wall of white laminate cabinets adjacent to the front door that—along with a two-burner stove and mini-fridge—constituted the kitchen. “Let me know when it has come-and-went, okay?” She opened the flimsy cabinet door, grabbed a glass and filled it with water, which she gulped down thirstily.
“Okay, okay,” he chortled musically.
She walked over to the sofa and plopped down. It was uncomfortably soft. “So who else is in London? Maybe we can get a group together for dinner and dancing tonight,” she said hopefully.
Dancing was one of her favorite things to do, and it was, even more, fun in Europe where everyone liked to dance, versus the States where the dance floors were usually filled with groups of women and the walls lined with men holding their drinks and watching.
“There are a few of us here. Do you remember Federica and Edgar? They are both here, oh yes and Soren is here too, and so is—”
“Soren?” She sat up, cutting him off. Federica and Edgar were minor acquaintances, but Soren…just his name sent a thrill through her veins.
It had been almost eight months since she had seen him. Her face grew warm recalling how red his lips appeared against his pale skin. She rubbed the back of her neck unconsciously. Her almond-shaped eyes narrowed in thoughtful consideration of this new morsel of information. Suddenly her nebulous adventure to London was taking on a more purposeful shape.
“Yes, Soren is here and so are a few others. Why don’t I SMS you their phone numbers and you can reach out to everyone? I’ll also send you some ideas for dinner. Now, I have to get back to work. Let me know which restaurant you want me to meet you at and I’ll get there as early as I can. Ciao, ciao,” he said with finality, his tone leaving no room for further questioning about Soren.
But the questions came anyway.
What’s he doing now? Is he seeing someone? Has he ever mentioned me?
Her heart flip-flopped as she pictured Soren’s brooding, blue eyes that were the color of the ocean on a stormy day.
Soren is here.
She put the phone down and tried to remember the exact moment she had last seen him. It must have been just before Christmas last year. A light bulb went off.
That night at the club!
Her cheeks flushed as she recalled that evening and Thomas’ wandering hands. She remembered looking up and seeing Soren watching her with a desolate expression.
Her mobile beeped, jolting her back to Marco’s bland living room. She checked her messages and saw a list of names and numbers pop-up on the small screen of her phone.
The Europeans were crazy for “SMS,” which was called “texting” in the U.S. but still hadn’t caught on there because of how it was priced. It had taken her a while to get used to SMSing, but since it cost a tenth as much to text as to call in Europe, she had quickly embraced its utility.
She stood up and did a lap around the coffee table while she looked at the list again.
I’ll call Soren last, she thought, feeling anxious at the prospect of talking to him.
Most of the names on the list were just acquaintances; fellow students from the business school she had attended in Spain. But Federica and she had spent some time hanging out together so she decided to call her first.
She sat back down on the small, brown sofa—the scratchy fabric poking her through her thin linen pants—and dialed Federica’s number.
“Hello?” answered a smooth, refined voice that was surprisingly deep for a woman.
Federica came from a Swiss family that could trace its roots back ten generations and spoke with an accent that gave nothing but her wealth away.
“Federica, hi it’s Angela from Barcelona.” Angela wondered if Federica still wore her straight, blond hair in the sleek bob that she had sported back in Spain.
“Angela? What a surprise to hear from you. Are you back in Europe?” Federica asked, her voice as cool and quick as a well-honed blade.
“Yes, I’m in London for ten days. Marco gave me your number. I want to get a group together for dinner and dancing tonight. Can you come?” Angela asked brightly.
“Oh Angela, I wish I could, but I won’t be able to meet up until 10 at the earliest,” Federica answered, her voice heavy with regret as though she had a day of ordeals ahead of her. “You know these corporate internships, every night there is an infernal recruiting event and they notice if you aren’t there. And you know, you have to be there if you want to get a job offer next year—”
Angela interjected, “Right, I understand—”
Federica kept on speaking, “Why don’t you text me where you’ll be and I’ll do my best to get there. And let me know if you make plans for the weekend. I have to go now; it was good hearing from you. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Angela replied in a detached tone, the majority of her attention still focused on the news that Soren was in London. From the list of names that Marco had sent her, the only person she really wanted to see was him.
Angela called or texted the four other numbers that Marco sent her, but everyone gave the same answer as Federica, “Sorry, I have an internship event; maybe I can be there later.”
Finally, the only number left was Soren’s. She entered his number and looked at it on the screen as she stood up and walked around the coffee table again; soothing herself with the movement.
She thought about the months she had pined after Soren and his relative indifference towards her. It seemed like she had always been the one trying to advance things between them.
I wonder if he’s thought about me at all.
On her fourth lap around the table, she took a deep breath and then hit the green button on her phone to dial his number before she changed her mind.
She could feel the tiny butterflies beating out of formation in her stomach and her heart pumping out a presto tempo like an overly ambitious metronome.
Pull it together, she admonished herself as the phone rang.
On the third ring, Soren picked up. “Hullo?”
His voice was just as deep as she remembered.
“Hi Soren, it’s Angela from California. I’m in London. How are you?” There was a long pause. Her brows knit together, she wondered if this had been a good idea. “Soren, are you there?”
Another few seconds passed and then he stammered, “Um, yes. Uh, hi, Angela. You’re here in London?”
She could tell from his tone that he was surprised to hear from her, but what she couldn’t tell was if he was happy to hear from her.
“Yes, I arrived today. I had no idea you were here, but Marco gave me your number. I was trying to get a group together for dinner, but no one is available. You probably can’t meet me either, but I would love it if you could,” she said, slapping her forehead as she came to a dead stop.
Did I just use the word love?
She stopped her pacing and stood in the center of the living room, clenching her jaw while waiting for his answer.
“Dinner, tonight? I’d love to. How’s 6 pm?” he asked, his enthusiastic tone a contrast from all of her earlier calls.
She closed her eyes and exhaled in relief. The excited tone of his voice made her heart rate spike. “Six is great. Where should we meet?”
She resumed her pacing around the table, but her steps were lighter now.
“There’s a great Chinese place near Leicester square. I’ll SMS you the address,” he said. Angela could hear the smile in his voice.
Yum, Chinese, my favorite.
She wondered if he had chosen it specifically for her and her heart warmed at the thought.
“Perfect, I can’t wait to see you. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“Me too,” he answered quietly. He paused and then said earnestly, “Angela, I’m glad you called.”
His words sent a warm glow through her chest. “Me too. I’ll see you tonight.”
Angela disconnected the call and launched herself onto the couch, doing a full body wiggle; kicking her arms and legs vigorously as the rough upholstery scratched her bare arms leaving red marks.
She smiled at herself, basking in her good fortune. When she arrived in London, she didn’t even know Soren was here and now she was having a private dinner with him. She was almost able to ignore the irritating feeling of the sofa, but after a few seconds, it reminded her of the reason why she was in London and her excitement subsided.
“Damn rules,” she said sullenly.
On the other side of town, Soren looked at his phone, stunned. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. If an angel had appeared to him in physical form and trumpeted his name, he would have been less surprised.
Standing up from his desk, Soren walked towards the wall of windows that overlooked the Thames. The summer sun was still high in the sky, and somehow the view of London looked brighter than it had earlier today.
His name on her lips was the sweetest sound he had ever heard. Angela’s voice echoed in his mind, lingering like a brass band.
He could vividly remember the last time he had seen her—walking away from him—unspoken words of love frozen on his lips.
He vowed that this time he would not make the same mistake again.
Can fire and ice both survive?
Fire and ice have nothing on Angela Holguín and fellow MBA student Soren Lund. When they first met at school in the exciting seaside city of Barcelona, Angela was intrigued by the aloof Dane; he was enthralled by the vivacious Californian. But their timing was off and they went their separate ways – until Fate and Destiny put them back in the same city: London.
In the British capital, Angela and Soren not only reunite, their desire reignites. This time they are determined not to let love slip through their fingers. They tumble into each other’s arms and embark upon a passionate journey that takes them from the chic, bustling streets of London to the romantic, historic byways of Bath and back again. It is there, at their final destination, that Angela and Soren must face reality. While opposites attract, they might not be able to coexist. In the next 3-days, they will have to decide if what they have is truly love or simply the beckoning of desire.
After forty minutes, the mango salsa was ready, the pilaf had been fluffed, and the salmon was resting in the oven. Angela wanted to keep the fish warm and the salsa cold, so she couldn’t plate anything until Soren arrived.
“Hey, a fox trot,” Rolfe said, noticing the music on the radio as he grabbed Angela and pulled her into the living room for an impromptu dance.
“But I need to do a few things so—”
“Come on, just one dance. For old times,” he said as he spun her under his arm, pulling her into his expert dance frame.
Angela giggled, the combination of sake and spinning making her giddy, erasing any reservations she had wanted to express.
Maybe just one dance.
Angela laughed up a storm as her body took over, moving to the rhythm of the music in an almost meditative trance. Rolfe was an amazing partner; he could dance to any song that came on. He was so good at leading, that even though she only had a tiny bit of experience compared to him, he made her look good as he partnered her through song after song.
As one song came to an end, Rolfe spun Angela away from him and started to clap.
“Very good Angela. I forgot what a natural you are. You have the basic foxtrot down. Do you want to learn a new step?” Rolfe asked, running his hand through his hair, his face flushed with their exercise.
Angela took a moment to catch her breath. “Sure, what is it?”
“It’s called a throwaway oversway.”
She pursed her lips. “Sounds complicated.”
He shook his head. “It looks complicated because there is a lot of movement in your upper body.” He gracefully put his fingertips on his waist and moved his torso from side to side.
The movement reminded Angela of a Jane Fonda workout move.
He continued to explain, “But your lower body is almost static. See?” He pointed to his hips as his torso continued to move. “Let me show you.” He waved her forward, holding his regal frame open for her to walk into.
She felt his fingers close around her right hand, his own right hand gently but firmly placed on her back. She focused all of her attention on his right hand, waiting for the subtle changes in pressure that would indicate which way she should move.
“First we go to your right,” he said.
Slowly, she felt him pushing her to the right and then pull her back toward the left. She almost missed the quick change in direction.
“Can we try that again?” she asked. “So, we go to my right and then smoothly transition back to the left, right?”
He shook his head. “No. We go to your right, then barely left, and we keep left.”
She furrowed her brows. “Right. We go right and then left.”
“No, not ‘right, right, left.’ Right, left, left-er.”
She furrowed her brow, confused. “That’s what I said.” Then she cocked her head and suddenly, clarity struck and she laughed, clapping her hands together. “I see the problem. By right I actually meant correct. So we go right then left, correct?”
He laughed, understanding lighting up his eyes. “Oh yes. You are correct. I see you meant right as in correct not the direction.”
She nodded. “Right…I mean correct. Okay, let’s try that again.”
She closed her eyes, focusing on his right hand on her back as they swayed elegantly from side to side.
“Have your head follow your torso. It’s like you are a stalk of grass swaying in the wind. You don’t really notice when it stops moving right and starts changing direction, it just flows fluidly with the wind.”
Her eyes still closed, she rolled her head from right to left slowly; trying to imagine what it would be like to be the stalk of grass.
She was so engrossed in the movement that she completely lost track of time when suddenly she heard a throat clearing.
It was Soren.
And he did not look happy.
Aviva Vaughn is a lover of food, travel, and books. She has been a voracious reader her whole life finishing Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women when she was five.
She likes to laugh, eat and be intellectually stimulated, preferably at the same time; and enjoys reading and writing about strong, modern characters, no matter what era or planet they are in/on.
She isn’t afraid to try new things, which has made for an interesting—although not always straight forward—life. Her favorite “two truths and a lie” line is: I have ridden bareback in the Navajo nation, I have jumped out of an airplane over New Zealand, and I have gone spelunking in Costa Rica. Answer will appear at the end of BECKONED, Part 4: From Barcelona with Love ;^)
She lives in Southern California.
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