7 pm PST.
HERE TOMORROW AVIVA VAUGHN AUTHOR OF: BECKONED PART 1: FROM LONDON WITH LOVE SEE EXCERPTS
7 pm PST.
7 pm PST.
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?
Chapter 2: Fire and Ice
Eleven months earlier
August in Spanish cities was a hot, humid affair for the few souls who were there to experience it. No one who stayed in the cities did so by choice, as the oppressive weather made daily life unbearable. Everyone who could afford to locked up their homes and businesses tight and headed for the shore, where the heat of a Spanish summer was made bearable by the Mediterranean’s briny breezes.
Unfortunately, Soren was one of those few who had to be in town. The decadently picturesque city of Barcelona, situated in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain, was home to an excellent graduate school of business called the Barcelona Instituto de Negocios—or BIN for short—which was the reason he found himself in hot, sunny, passionate Spain instead of his native cold, overcast, stalwart Denmark.
While part of him couldn’t wait to get back to Copenhagen, he also knew that at almost thirty it was time for him to leave the nest and establish himself outside of his illustrious family.
Soren was one of about 100 students who had come to BIN a month early to take advantage of the school’s complimentary, Spanish-immersion classes. Although it wasn’t necessary to speak Spanish to attend BIN, learning the language would give him the opportunity to take more elective classes as well as help him navigate his daily life for the next two years since it was one of the official languages of the city, along with Catalan.
The thick, hot air was especially horrible for one used to the cool climate of Denmark. Although it was only mid-morning, he could already feel the sweat beginning to pool under his arms and at the base of his neck, where his shirt collar felt as heavy as a scarf.
Blasted Mediterranean sun!
He wasn’t usually the type to be easily flustered, but the moist heat of the city seemed to get under his skin in a most frustrating way.
He tried to ignore his discomfort as he quickly crossed the small campus on his way to Spanish class, running his hand through his thick mop of straw-colored hair. It was then that he heard a guileless laugh peeling across the courtyard, beckoning for him to turn his head and follow the unrestrained sound to its source.
His searching eyes found the wellspring of laughter: a dark-haired woman sitting twenty feet away. She was wearing a flowing, white sundress that looked as fresh as a winter breath and was seated across from another woman wearing long, dark braids and a forest-green top whose back was to Soren.
The laughing woman had smooth, honey-colored skin that was darker than his but seemed pale against her chestnut hair which grazed her shoulders in a gentle wave. Her eyes blazed with intelligence and humor, and her dusty-rose-colored lips were full and shaped like a cupid’s bow.
He could just make out her sing-song American accent, drifting across the courtyard.
That must be her.
He had heard murmurs amongst the men about a vivacious and voluptuous Californian exchange student but had not met her yet. But, since there were only about twenty women currently on campus, he knew this had to be the one that was causing a stir among the male students—who outnumbered the women four-to-one.
The two women looked cool sitting on the brick steps of a white-columned building—known as The Temple—that served as the heart of the small campus. They were enjoying the shade provided by a thick curtain of ivy hanging off the facade of the Greek revival building. If they had been holding lemonade it would have looked like a scene from the American south. The women were talking as though they had known each other their whole lives and were so focused on each other, that Soren was able to stare at them openly without drawing attention to himself.
He watched, mesmerized, as the Californian reached into her bag and pulled out a tube of lipstick. His breath quickened when she swiveled the silver tube revealing a deep, pomegranate red and applied it deftly to her own lips further accentuating their erotic shape. He pulled at his collar, which felt even more constraining than it had a few minutes ago. He found her utterly captivating to behold, the way her passionate expressions animated her face was entrancing.
She exchanged a few words with her friend, nodded her head and then leaned forward and began applying the lipstick to the other woman.
Soren’s lips parted as he gasped lightly, watching her slowly drag the lipstick over the other woman’s lips. He was surprised at how his body reacted to the scene. There was something incredibly sensual about the gesture…as though the lipstick was an extension of her hand and she was gently caressing the other woman.
Soren allowed his mind to wander and imagined that it was his face she was caressing. His heart beat faster at the thought.
The Californian’s eyes twinkled as she squinted with concentration at her task and then—once finished—leaned back and studied her work like a painter considering a canvas she has just touched up. She smiled contently and began nodding her head vigorously, clearly telling the other woman that the color suited her.
Soren would never again see a tube of lipstick without thinking about this moment.
She stashed the lipstick back in her purse and picked up a sketchbook laying next to her. She narrowed her eyes and leaned away from the other woman, studying something on her face. Bending her head to the sketchpad, she made a few short, determined marks, and then returned to study her subject further.
Her sketching went on for a few minutes, until the other woman said something, calling forth the Californian’s unrestrained laughter again.
Soren couldn’t help but smile at the sound; it was so exuberant and carefree.
Once she finished laughing she took a deep breath and scanned the picturesque campus, seeming full of satisfaction with her surroundings.
Soren saw her gaze headed his way—like the broad beam of a searchlight—and felt his body tense in response. When their eyes connected she paused, tilted her head slightly to the left and flashed him a 10,000-megawatt smile full of blindingly-white teeth and vivid red lipstick.
He felt his heart skip a beat, perhaps short-circuited by the extreme voltage.
When she looked away he released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.
The bells of the campus chapel began to chime lightly giving their warning that the new hour would be upon them in five minutes. The two women stood up and brushed off their clothes, getting ready to head to their classes.
Soren glanced at the bolted bezel of his Royal Oak chronograph—a gift from his father—and confirmed that he would be late for his Spanish class, a subject he was sorely in need of improving.
The realization jolted him into action. “Damn!”
He considered tardiness an intolerable character weakness.
When he hurried into the classroom and slid into his seat, Soren’s French friend, Enzo, leaned over and slapped him on the back. “What’s wrong Soren? You look even paler than usual my friend,” he said, laughing loudly at his own joke.
Soren narrowed his eyes at Enzo, who enjoyed making fun of his typically Danish looks of fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes. After a moment, he leaned towards him and whispered conspiratorially, “Have you met any of the Americans who are here yet?”
Enzo raised a brow, brown eyes blazing with curiosity and answered quietly, “Yes, why?”
“No reason,” Soren said quickly. He didn’t want to appear any more interested than necessary to his friend. Enzo did not share his sense of decorum or discretion and was the type of man who immediately grew interested in any woman that another man admired, out of pure competitiveness.
The skeptical look on Enzo’s face made it clear that he knew Soren was keeping something from him. Soren ignored his questioning gaze and attempted to focus on the instructor.
Time dragged on as he thought about the alluring scene he had witnessed in the courtyard. He wanted class to end so he could seek out the woman in the white dress and hear her sing-song voice speak to him with her wine-stained lips. But part of him also felt slightly ill at the prospect. What could he possibly have to say that she would find interesting?
“Class dismissed,” said the thick-accented Spanish instructor, Ms. Garzon, whose ashen complexion and skeletal frame avowed her cigarette and espresso diet.
Soren and Enzo grabbed their books and headed for the always-popular school cafeteria, which was like a fine-dining restaurant in quality but at affordable, student-budget prices.
The cold tile floors and hospital-like steel and glass buffet carts clacked loudly with the sound of plastic, cafeteria trays, which was a sterile counterpoint to the food steaming tantalizingly under the heat lamps. The kaleidoscope of foods included beautifully stuffed bell peppers, a rich-looking seafood paella, soups, salads, fresh breads and a huge, dessert selection that included “mel i mató” a traditional Catalan confection made with a Ricotta-like cheese drizzled with honey, nuts, and raisins that was a favorite of Soren’s.
The two men filled their plates with food, paid at the cashier and then filed into BIN’s dining room.
The institutional room was a deep rectangular space with large picture windows and glass doors on the right-hand side looking out onto The Temple and its plaza. The room held thirty rectangular, faux-wood tables arranged in two columns and surrounded by molded-plastic, stackable chairs in bright yellow and orange. The harsh, blue light of the fluorescent fixtures overhead buzzed noticeably but were quickly overshadowed by the din of conversation as the students filled the space.
Enzo and Soren scanned the room for a place to sit when Soren heard a man call out, “Enzo over here!”
Soren followed Enzo’s gaze and saw a young, bald man with vivid green eyes waving at them energetically from a table about fifteen feet away.
They walked over to the table and Enzo introduced the two men. “Soren, this is Marco. He’s from Italy so don’t be surprised if he’s a little crazy,” Enzo said with a sarcastic gleam in his eye.
“Please Enzo, a Frenchman calling an Italian crazy?” Marco’s eyes sparkled humorously as he slapped Enzo on the back. Marco introduced the two men to the other seven men sitting at the table. There were seven different nationalities present at the table, but they were all conversing in English.
In fact, the entire cafeteria was a cacophony of accents speaking a single language: English, the language of the business world. Soren often wondered how much any of them actually understood each other, given that most of them were speaking English as their second, third or even fourth language.
Soren was at the lower end of the linguistic spectrum speaking only his native Danish and English fluently, although he spoke a smattering of German as well. Despite the intensive language class he was in, he wasn’t optimistic about adding Spanish to his repertoire; the musical romance language seemed to slip through the cracks of his comprehension like quicksilver.
A flash of movement caught Soren’s attention as Marco stood up quickly and waved vigorously towards the crowd entering the dining room saying, “Angela over here.”
Soren turned to see who Marco was motioning to and felt his heart begin to thump faster and his mouth goes dry.
It was her, the American from the courtyard.
He quickly took a deep breath and assumed the coolly polite exterior that he used whenever nervous or uncomfortable. It was a typically Nordic trait often mistaken for aloofness or disinterest. I might not sweep her off her feet, but I also won’t look like a bumbling idiot around her, he thought, knowing that was the guaranteed outcome if he didn’t have his emotional armor in place.
Angela, and her friend from earlier stood at the head of the table and smiled down at all of the men. He could feel the burn of her gaze as her twinkling eyes swept over them.
“Ciao Marco,” she said to the table’s host. Her full red lips twitched up playfully, revealing the faintest hint of a smile.
He recalled watching her paint them earlier that day and a warm heat spread through his neck and ears.
Marco turned to the table of men, “Gentleman, this is Angela, she’s a second-year MBA exchange student from California and Charlene, also a second-year exchange student from Minneapolis. They will be here at BIN through the end of the year.”
As Marco introduced the men sitting at the table, Angela and Charlene approached each one and gave him a kiss on both cheeks, as was customary in Spain.
“This is Rikard Schneider, he’s from Berlin,” Marco said as the women and Rikard exchanged cheek kisses.
“This is John Taylor, he’s from London…Rolfe Bauer from Vienna…Curtis Gonzalez from San Francisco,” and so on around the table.
Soren watched, his eyes locked on Angela, as she made her way to his side of the table. He could see the look in Enzo’s eyes brighten as his turn approached.
“Angela, this is Enzo Besson, he’s from Paris,” Marco said as they kissed cheeks.
While all of the men so far had opted for the more usual cheek-touching-cheek-lips-kissing-air version of the Spanish greeting, Enzo turned his lips towards Angela’s cheeks and made a loud puckering sound when he came into contact with her. He then added a third kiss to the routine and said, “Three for the pretty ones.”
Angela’s eyes narrowed and her lips pursed in response. Soren got the feeling that she didn’t appreciate Enzo’s appreciation.
Soren was next; he was intimately aware of how wound-up his body felt—like a guitar string about to snap—as Angela approached. He studied her face for some recognition of their shared high-voltage eye lock from earlier in the day but found none.
His reverie was interrupted by Marco’s voice saying, “Angela and Charlene, this is Soren Lund. He’s from Denmark…Copenhagen I believe.”
Soren tilted his head forward in the barest hint of a head nod when he remembered the local custom of cheek kissing. He still wasn’t used to the intimacy of it and was torn between euphoria and nausea at the thought of being that close to Angela.
Angela remarked, “I’ve never met anyone from Denmark before. You’ll have to tell me all about it.”
“I will,” he said lamely, immediately becoming annoyed with himself at his lack of finesse. Soren hoped that the blush he felt was not registering on his cheeks.
It felt as though time began to slow down as he stepped forward with his right foot and placed his left hand on Angela’s upper arm in order to steady himself. Her skin felt hot under his fingertips. Angela was more petite up close than she seemed from across the courtyard; her large personality making her seem bigger than she actually was. He watched as she fluttered her thick, midnight-colored lashes closed and raised her head so he could bend down to her.
He leaned forward slowly, breathing in the subtle scent of roses while he brushed his stubbly right cheek against her powdery-soft skin. When he switched to the left cheek he felt her exhale slightly; the innocent puff of air sending a thrum of energy up his neck. He steadied himself as he pressed his left cheek against hers, feeling slightly faint at the contact.
She pulled away from him and gave him a shy smile before stepping forward to meet the man to his right.
He reminded himself to start breathing again for the second time that day.
Angela’s effect on him was disconcerting and unexpected.
He hawkishly followed Angela with his eyes as she approached the man to his right, feeling a twinge of resentment when she greeted him with the same enthusiasm that she had demonstrated towards himself.
The sound of a throat being cleared caught his attention and he swung his head back around, surprised to see Charlene standing there. Her full lips, still red with Angela’s lipstick, were smirking at him.
“Hola Soren, mucho gusto,” Charlene said.
Soren knew she had just said “nice to meet you” in Spanish, but he was drawing a complete blank on the appropriate reply. He wasn’t sure if it was his poor language skills or Angela’s lingering effect on his brain.
And then there were three…
Fire and ice have nothing on Angela Holguín and Soren Lund who first met as MBA students in exciting Barcelona. But their timing was off, until Destiny put them back in the same city: London; and their passion ignited.
But will their fledgling romance stand a chance against the forces of Time and Space with Soren in Barcelona and Angela in Los Angeles? And a new threat also looms on the horizon: a mysterious and handsome entrepreneur interested in Angela’s new business …or is he? Angela beckons Soren to spend the holidays with her in Los Angeles, but when he makes her a beguiling offer, their relationship will be put to the test.
She checked the time. It was almost 10:00 pm. She looked at her cell phone expectantly. Ever since she had returned to Los Angeles, she and Soren had a standing date night call on Friday nights where they would talk until Angela drifted off to sleep. When Soren was still in London, he would call her at 6 am his time, but now that he was back in Barcelona—for the beginning of his final year in school at BIN—he called her at 7 am.
Soren had asked her to wear one of the nightgowns from Selfridge’s tonight, which was the first time he had ever made such a request. She was curious to know why.
Angela jumped when her phone rang. She laughed and quickly picked up. “Hello?”
“Hullo darling Angela. How are you this evening?” His voice was low and tantalizing, like a hypnotist inducing a trance.
Angela shut down her computer, grabbed a glass of water, and padded down the short, carpeted hallway to her bedroom. She had already brushed her teeth in preparation of their phone call and was ready to crawl into bed and talk the night away with Soren. “I’m doing well, thanks very much. I’ve been making really good progress on my Barcelona book. My little hero just overcame his fear of heights. It was quite exciting.”
Soren chuckled quietly. “It’s like he’s a real person to you.”
“Jorge is a real person to me…although I’m not sure about his name. I think I need something more, Catalan. But anyway, Jorge was really scared about climbing up all those people, and I was scared for him,” she said, pulling back her thin cotton blanket and climbing into bed.
September was always the hottest month in Los Angeles and covers were almost unnecessary. Her bedroom window was opened fully, allowing the balmy night air to fill her room.
“I love how much compassion you feel for your characters. How’s the book on Bath coming?”
Angela’s lips twitched. “It’s coming along too, but I keep getting distracted…”
“Distracted, by what?”
“By all of my delicious memories with you! I can’t think about Bath without thinking about your hands on me in the bathtub or you sucking on my nipple in front of the fake castle…”
Soren sucked in his breath quickly and laughed.
“What?” she asked.
“I’m just laughing at how my body reacts to you, even over the phone.”
She grasped the phone tightly to her ear. “Really? How does your body react?”
He sighed. “Your last sentence gave me a throbbing erection.”
It was Angela’s turn to suck in her breath. “Really?” she asked, genuinely surprised.
“Really. In fact, it seems like now might be the perfect time to segue,” he said mysteriously.
“Yes. Are you wearing the nightgown I asked you to wear?” His voice full of promise.
“Yes,” she said quietly, almost timid. She didn’t know why, but she felt suddenly shy.
“Good,” he said authoritatively.
Angela felt a pleasurable ache between her legs at the sound of his voice. She was always surprised by how turned on she got when Soren took charge of a situation. She scissored her bare legs beneath her silk charmeuse nightgown, anticipating what was coming next.
“Angela,” he said, his voice serious. “Have you ever had phone sex?”
Angela wanted to burst out laughing at his tone but knew that would be the wrong reaction.
But Soren sounded so polite, so deliberate. He could have asked her if she felt her investment portfolio was properly diversified, and the tone would have sounded completely appropriate.
She answered quietly, “Um, no. Not really. A little. I guess. It’s been a long time. Why?”
“Well, that wasn’t a clear answer at all, now was it?”
She giggled nervously. “Sorry, I guess I’m feeling a little shy.”
“You shy?” His tone was skeptical. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you shy in all the time I’ve known you.”
“Hey, I have boundaries too you know,” she said defensively.
“Really? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before,” he answered playfully. “You’ll have to point them out to me.”
“I’m pointing them out to you now,” she said ruefully. She drew her legs up tight against her chest, and wound her free arm around them.
Soren sighed. “You seem…uncomfortable, is something wrong?”
“I don’t know…I guess…well…I guess talking about sex makes me a little uncomfortable.” She exhaled loudly.
“Angela, are you saying that you are more comfortable with having sex than talking about it.”
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