[size=150:g06y6kja]The train rolled to a stop at the depot; the brakes lurching every car forward as it halted at the platform. Rose braced herself in her seat for the impending stop while her little brother stood to his feet and flew forward three feet, earning him a quick scolding from their mother.
"Rose, honey, put your hat on," her mother said, as she perfectly positioned a wide-brimmed hat on top of her head of short, dark curls. Instead, Rose opted for the red kerchief she had tucked away in her purse the previous day.
"Rose…" she sighed as the young woman knotted the red cloth at her chin. It matched the red in her lips and the rosiness in her cheeks perfectly. Her long, dark curls spilled out from underneath, blanketing her shoulders and tumbling down her back. The family may have spent the past day on a train headed for the coast, but she looked as fresh as the flower that was her namesake.
The patriarch of the family appeared in the doorway of the train car — Rose’s father, Robert, an extremely wealthy man in his 40s who had managed to save his family from the depression that had crippled the country. He was a quiet man, however he was anything but modest when it came to flaunting the wealth of his family. They spent their winters in the city and with the first sign of warm, summery weather they headed to the Atlantic coast where they spent the warm months living like royalty and attending parties until school called them back to a slightly more modest lifestyle.
This summer would be different though, at least for Rose. She had finished school the previous fall and when the city did not provide any suitable, noteworthy bachelors for her to date, the coast was the next logical step.
"Rose," her father said, stopping her before she followed her mother and brother out to the train. She turned to him and his face immediately softened into a smile and he kissed her softly on the forehead. "I don’t care what your mother thinks in regards to your dress and style."
She smiled. Her mother had been of the opinion that she was unable to find a suitable bachelor because she was too "old fashioned". She didn’t wear her hair in a fashionable bob, nor did she care about what she put on in the morning. She made sure to look presentable in the evening and at parties, but as far as she was concerned, there was no reason to make herself look special.
"Today is a day just like any other," she said with a smile to her father.
"And someone will love you for that," he said, ushering her through the door and down to the platform.
"Dinner!" someone called from down the stairs.
"Race you," Rose said, meeting the eye of her ten year old brother as he peeked out from the door of his own room across the hall. She may have been eighteen years old, but most of the time, especially during the summer, she didn’t feel like she was. She was still treated like a child by her mother, and her brother did not have very many friends of his own. Many times, she was left to watch him, play with him. Her "adult time" was spent at parties and soirees where she was usually the youngest person in the room.
She and her brother fought their way into the dining room, the two of them giggling and laughing as if they were both ten years old.
"Rose!" her mother cried out loudly. Rose looked around the dining table, the smile on her face disappeared and her posture improved instantly. Her mother and father were both already seated, but there were two other people at the table who were complete strangers. Two men, sitting across from one another at the far side of the table smiled weakly in the direction of Rose and her brother.
"Mr. Anderson, Mr. Dupont," her father said softly. "My daughter, Rose." He paused, allowing Rose to acknowledge the two men. "And my son, Robert."
Rose took her seat next to the younger of the two men. She knew that her parents had the intention of introducing her to eligible men, but the man sitting on the other side of the table seemed far too old for her. She supposed that he was handsome with his blue-green eyes and dark hair, but he had to have been her father’s age — at least. She couldn’t find very much to desire in the man sitting next to her though. At least he looked closer to her age, but he was very thin with spindly arms and fingers. His hair was flat and blonde and his eyes lacked any spark.
"John Anderson," he said to her, catching her sideways glances in his direction.
"Pleased to meet you," she said quietly, hoping that the slight questioning inflection at the end of the statement didn’t arouse suspicion.
"I will be working with Mr. Anderson and Mr. Dupont while we are out here," her father said, catching onto Rose’s thoughts of what the men were doing at their dinner table.
"Mr. Dupont lives in the estate next door," her mother said as she swirled a spoon around in her bowl of soup.
"James," the man across the table said quietly. "My name is James." He fully directed the statement towards Rose. She smiled and nodded, trying to place the accent in his voice. It wasn’t anything she had heard before. Slightly English, perhaps, but with an unfamiliar twang underneath.
"John here just finished school," her father said proudly. Rose inwardly rolled her eyes. As much as she loved an educated man, she couldn’t help but hate every single recent graduate she had come across lately. So pretentious!
"Mr. Dupont," Rose said defiantly, turning her attention across the table. "May I ask where you are from?"
"Rose…" her mother hissed quietly.
"New Orleans," he said proudly.
"Except James has been practicing in London for the past, how many years has it been?" her father asked.
"Seven," he replied. Immediately, Rose tried to place him in her mind. She tried to figure out if she had seen him in the past, seven years ago…she could barely remember things from three years ago, she was trying hard to remember the summer she turned eleven.
"Have you always lived next door?" Rose asked.
"Rose!" her mother exclaimed under her breath while nodding to the man sitting next to her. The man Rose supposed she was supposed to be directing her questions to.
James laughed softly, "No. This is my first year in the area."
"You’ll love it," Rose gushed without thinking twice. James smiled.
"I’m sure I will."
Before the crash, Rose loved going to the parties that seemed to happen nightly during the month of July. Though most of her family’s friends, neighbors and colleagues had evaded the worst of the worst, attendance was certainly sparser than it had been when Rose was younger. Friends that she had made as a teenager no longer spent their summers at the sea and she craved the attention of someone — anyone — who wasn’t her parents or little brother.
Tonight was no different. Rose wondered how she was supposed to meet eligible bachelors when there weren’t any in attendance. She felt that she had made her intentions perfectly clear their first night at the estate. She had no interest in Mr. Anderson or anyone like Mr. Anderson. Spindly men who thought their education was the golden ticket to marriage and had nothing else to offer could dream of young women like her — she knew she deserved better. Someone more handsome, someone a bit more established in their life and in society.
She wandered around the party, glass of champagne in one hand and a glittery clutch in the other. Her mother had given her a dress specifically for this party. A sparkling pink, knee-length dress that plunged at the chest and easily swung around her hips with each step she took. It was a perfect dress for the evening, but Rose felt that it was completely wasted. She hadn’t had a single conversation the entire time that she had been there. The only words she had spoken were polite pleasantries to the people she passed. She had been at the party for two hours and she had yet to enjoy herself. She was certain her parents had already drunk themselves into a stupor and were likely carousing with friends somewhere by the beach.
Rose sighed. She would simply head home if she had a way back. Normally at these parties, she would run off somewhere with a friend or two and stow away in an unused room until morning. The year before, she had met a boy — two years younger than she was — the two of them locked themselves into a guest bedroom and kissed for half the night. The two of them had fallen asleep sometime around four or five in the morning and with only an hour of sleep, Rose awoke in the first light of morning and found someone downstairs to bring her home.
There wouldn’t be any of that this year. Tiring of the loud jazz music pounding in her head, she quickly retreated to the first floor balcony. A quiet escape and a location where she could let the buzz of champagne wear off.
She climbed on the gothic stone guardrail, sat and let her legs swing over the side. She looked down; not too much of a distance between her feet and the ground — five or six feet, maybe — she still didn’t want to risk falling.
"It’s not worth jumping," she heard a voice say behind her. She swung her head around to see a tall, dark silhouette standing in the doorway, slowly walking to where she sat.
"I doubt it would do too much harm," she argued. "A broken wrist, maybe."
"You have beautiful wrists," the figure said, "it’d be a shame to break one."
The dark figure sat down next to Rose and in the ambient light from inside, she could see the familiar features of the man who she’d eaten dinner with a week earlier.
"Mr. Dupont," she said with a smile. "Where did you come from?"
"Where did you come from, Miss Owen?" he asked in return.
"A faraway city," she replied, "and more recently, the bar." She held up her glass and took a too-long drink of the champagne.
"I didn’t realize you were going to be here," he said, taking her empty glass from her and setting it aside. She narrowed her eyes, studying his features. He had a mischievous, boyish grin and sparkling green-blue eyes. His facial features were damn near perfect — chiseled jaw and chin — and he had dazzling white teeth when he actually smiled.
"Why did you have dinner with us last week?" she asked, quickly changing the subject, she knew.
"I was discussing some business with Robert, er, your father," he replied.
"Oh," she said with a slight nod. "Did he…mention me?"
"Not particularly," he replied. "Should he have?"
Rose shook her head and stared ahead into the vast blackness of the night.
"He mentioned that you had finished school," he continued. "Said that your friends were few and far between these days." She shrugged. "Mentioned Mr. Anderson coming by and that he wanted to introduce the two of you. Thought you might like him."
"I’m sure," she laughed.
"You didn’t?" he asked.
She laughed again, "Hardly."
"He’s nice enough," James said, "harmless guy. Extremely smart…"
Rose cut him off, "Have you been sent on his behalf?"
"No," it was James’ turn to laugh.
"Did my mother tell you to come for me?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.
"No," he replied quietly.
"So you just…were drawn here?"
He sat quietly for a minute, folded and unfolded his hands in his lap before he finally spoke up. "I saw a beautiful woman in a sparkling pink dress walk out onto this balcony. How was I supposed to know it was you?"
She couldn’t help but blush at the confession and she was happy that the dark of night covered her embarrassment.
"Beautiful?" she asked shyly.
"You’re not like the rest of them," he replied. "You’re…"
"Old fashioned?" she finished. "That’s what my mom always says."
"Your mother," he chuckled. Her mother, a woman of a slightly more appropriate age for his interests.
"I can’t count the number of times she’s told me to cut my hair," she said, rolling her eyes slightly.
"Why would you ever cut your hair?" he asked, and without thinking he ran his fingers through the curls cascading down her back. Her heart lurched in her chest as the tips of his fingers brushed against the skin between her shoulder blades.
"I…" she stammered, choking over her words when his hand didn’t return to his lap. "That’s what I tell her."
"How old are you?" he asked, his hand hovering over the middle of her back.
"Eighteen," she replied, trying to gather her thoughts. Her mind had gone completely blank with the simplest touch of his hand. "Just…my birthday…a couple weeks ago."
He nodded, and twisted a curl around his index finger as he inched closer to her. She smelled like roses and the sea and champagne.
"How old are you?" she asked, afraid to hear the answer — afraid to face the age difference that separated the two of them.
"Forty," he replied quietly. Twenty two years separated the two of them. Twenty two. He was old enough to be her father. Her father was also forty.
The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes, listening to the jazz music playing inside and the soft rolling of waves lapping against the rocky beach. It was Rose who finally broke the silence.
"Can you get me out of here?"
James was surprised by the question, but didn’t hesitate in answering, "Of course. Where do you want to go?"
She wanted to go home, but at the same time, she wanted to relive her experience from the previous year. She wanted to sneak away with him and stow away in an unoccupied room and kiss him until the sun came up.
"Do you live alone?" she asked, surprising herself with the forwardness of the question.
"Of course," he replied. She swung her legs around to the other side of the balcony and stood up.
"Let’s go then," she said, holding her hand out to James.
"Do you want anything?" James asked as he watched Rose practically tiptoe around his office.
"No," she replied as she gingerly ran her finger along the spine of a book on one of the many bookshelves.
"You don’t mind if I…" he held up a bottle of whisky and she shook her head. "What will you tell your parents?" he asked before taking a drink from a crystal glass of amber liquid.
She shrugged, "They don’t usually ask questions."
"What if they do?" he stepped around his desk, his eyes devouring every inch of her curves. He wondered how and why she hadn’t been snatched up by a wealthy young man closer to her age. She was practically perfect. He wanted her silky, pale skin against his own. He wanted to run his hand along the curve of her hip and trace the insides of her thighs with his fingertips. Her bright red lips made his heart skip and the bright spark hiding in her dark blue eyes stirred him right down to the soul.
"If they do…" she turned towards him and within seconds, he had expertly placed his drink on a shelf high above her head and had her cornered between his body and the bookcase. His deftness surprised her, took her breath away, and she stood, her shoulders pressed squarely against a shelf while her chest visibly moved up and down with each breath she took.
"I can lie," she breathed, tilting her face towards him, her eyes glittering as she stared him down.
He wrapped his arm tightly around her trim waist and pulled her against his own. He stared her in the eyes for a quick second, searching for any nervousness or fear — something to tell him that he was doing something stupid and crazy — but if anything she was only egging him on. She practically glowed against the dark wood of the bookcase and the dusty books that sat on them. She grinned — a small, knowing smile and he kissed her hard. She eagerly returned his kiss, her bottom lip sitting flush against his, her tongue almost immediately slipping past his lips. She felt dizzy, felt like she was losing her footing and clasped a hand firmly against the nape of his neck, pulling him closer. His hand trailed from her waist and he found his hands and fingers tangled in her dark, curly hair.
He pulled away, breathless. He wanted to continue — she wanted to continue — but something about her made him nervous. She was clearly a woman, capable of making her own decisions and deciding what she wanted. However, at the same time, she was still very much a girl and possibly capable of getting him in a lot of unnecessary trouble.
Her eyes searched his and when she tried to kiss him again by standing on her tip toes, he pulled away, his fingers barely touched her waist and he tried to ignore the smell of her surrounding him and filling the office.
Before she could ask him what the problem was or what she had done wrong, he spoke up, "How many…how many have you been with?"
"How many men?" she asked. He nodded. "I’ve kissed lots of boys." She smiled. "You’re by far the best."
He held his hand up for her to stop and grabbed his glass of whiskey from the bookcase.
"I didn’t mean…" he stumbled over his words and took a drink from his glass. His gaze narrowing in on her breasts — her perfect, perfect breasts. They stood round, at attention, practically begging for him to reach out and cup them in the palms of his large hands…
"Oh," she said quietly, her mouth forming a perfect little ‘o’. "You mean…" he nodded and her cheeks turned bright pink. He knew immediately from the response what the answer to the question was.
"I’m sorry," he said, shaking his head and turning his gaze from her — unable to handle the way she unintentionally teased him and flaunted her beauty. "You shouldn’t…not me…"
"Why not?" she asked as she grabbed his hand and pulled her towards him. He set his glass down again and ran the back of his hand gingerly against her cheek and jaw. She smiled and took a tentative step closer to him.
"Don’t worry about me," she said quietly, taking another step forward, nearly stepping on his foot.
"You could be my daughter," he argued.
"You don’t have a daughter," she said, inching upwards on her toes, her nose nearly grazing his jaw. She inhaled sharply, taking in his scent — a slight hint of cologne mixed with sweat and alcohol. "You are…" she very lightly brushed her full lips against his neck. "All…" the tip of her tongue teased his earlobe. "Alone." She breathed the last word in his ear for full effect and nipped at the tender spot just below his ear.
He stumbled backward and fell into the chair at his desk. She tumbled on top of him, her legs spilling into his lap. She draped her arms around his neck and kissed him hotly on the mouth. She hardly knew what she was doing — she’d never done anything beyond kissing a boy. She knew certain things from some of her more adventurous female friends, but she knew nothing firsthand.
James’ hands roamed her hips and her waist at first, but when her kisses become deeper, he found it hard to contain himself. His hands began to roam upwards and it wasn’t long at all until he had one of her breasts in his hand. He nearly pulled himself away when her lips stilled against his, but the ever-so-slight shift of her hips towards his egged him on. He slipped his fingers under the silky fabric of her dress and ran his fingertips over her nipples. She gasped immediately at the touch and he buried his head into the crook of her neck. He nipped and licked against the tender skin of her neck and shoulders. She gasped softly after each nip and her hips gyrated against his every time he brushed his fingers against her nipples.
He had been with plenty of women — some in his hometown of New Orelans, some in Europe, most recently he had even hooked up with an actress in New York — none of them compared to Rose. He was growing sleepy with each passing minute, but he didn’t want to miss a single moment with her. He could feel his erection pressing him to go further, pressing him to get closer to her. He wanted her with him, he wanted her naked. His hands stilled against her breasts and she gave him a puzzled look. [/size:g06y6kja]