You asked, I listened. It is now a novel. The new edition is live on Amazon! Suspenseful, romantic and awash in the afterlife thrill, She Never Got To Say Goodbye captures the power of love and friendship.
Homo-Sapiens—the species of bipedal primates to which modern humans belong, characterized by a larger and well-developed brain capacity. Aiming to achieve the impossible and create the unknown, humans are overridden by emotions…
Bullshit! Olivia ripped, crumpled the piece of paper into a ball and threw it in the trash on top of about twenty others.
She massaged her throbbing temples as she glanced at her textbook. The words seemed to blur together, and her mind rebelled refusing to digest a new brainstorm.
Blinking rapidly she pressed her forehead on the textbook as if trying to imprint it in her memory. She had poured herself into the pages, scoured the book and read it until she felt cross-eyed, but the words merged into nonsense.
She leaned back in her armchair and groaned, glancing at the ceiling. She loved psychology and dissecting the human mind in a given context. Why did she have such a hard time with this report?
She forced her gaze back to the defying book, her thoughts groggy and incoherent. Stifling a yawn she rubbed her bleary eyes and slid a finger over the smooth surface of her iPhone. Her school countdown app indicated that in exactly three hundred nine days, sixteen hours, thirty-one minutes and two seconds, Olivia Jeffries would graduate from UBC Faculty of Law.
“UBC Faculty of Law,” she muttered. A world populated by young people where twenty-eight is practically middle age.
Another groan found its way past her lips. She pushed the chair back, rose to her feet and strode out of the small closet she had converted into an office.
She took a deep breath. The psychology report about human behavior would give her extra credits. Unfortunately, its twisted reality had begun to distort in Olivia’s mind. It challenged the once mundane facts about humans and brought the topic to a turbulent new sphere where even the sense of self, seemed up for grabs.
She moved to the living room and sunk into her soft leather sofa. Worries cluttered her mind, and every one of her muscles felt tight. Her body screamed for her to sprint down the street and loosen her tension. To spend the unexplained energy that kept piling deep within. She turned on her TV and scanned through channels. Her usual calm had been replaced by a carousel of thoughts, each one more worrying than the last. Her mind replayed facts trying to sort through them.
One: she was at the top of her class.
Two: law firms were always on the lookout for good lawyers.
Three: would she be that lawyer—one that every firm wanted?
Her stomach heaved and her knuckles whitened from effort to keep a lid on it, negative thoughts tumbling at an incredible speed.
Up until now she had planned her entire life down to the last detail, but as the first semester approached, her anxiety level rose. In the six hours she spent in her bed, she must have woken at least six times. Just enough to break her sleep into weary chunks.
“Everything will be okay,” she encouraged herself.
Will it? Her pessimism resurfaced, firing a new tense feeling in the pit of her stomach. She could feel tension racing through the air loading it with static and blasting her face with its intense breath.
She needed fresh air and dinner out with a friend seemed like the perfect solution. She clicked the OFF button on the remote, then grabbing her phone from the coffee table, she dialed Debbie’s number.
The call went straight to her voicemail, and Olivia saw no point in leaving a message. When Debbie’s phone was off, a new flavor of the week dominated her time.
Olivia knew that Debbie ticked more than enough boxes to qualify for the town tramp cliché, but she also knew that Debbie was sweet, friendly, and reliable, and that made her Olivia’s best friend.
So what if Debbie doesn’t want to settle?
Olivia shrugged in response to her thought, and a new stomach throb brought her back to her own anxieties. Maybe eating alone was not a bad idea. It would give her time to reflect on her unfounded worries. It might even put the edgy feeling out of her mind.
She pondered for a moment, then decided on Ol’Mama’s bar and grill. Private, serene, and relaxing—the perfect place for quiet thoughts. With the decision settled, she grabbed her purse and left in a hurry.
Outside, she sucked the air in as if it was something new, something that she experienced for the first time. The fragrance of summer grasses and flowers had never been so apparent to her before, but now they jumped at her like cake commercials at someone on a diet.
The restaurant’s hostess, dressed in a close-fitting, low-cut, black and white uniform drawing the costumers’ eyes to her chest, greeted Olivia with a practiced smile then asked her if she had anyone joining her. At Olivia’s negative response, the hostess guided her to a table.
Once seated, the hostess handed Olivia the menu and gave her a new quick smile, then asked, “Can I get you anything?”
Olivia returned the smile. “Just some water for now; thank you.”
The hostess nodded, the same practiced smile animating her face, then left to get the glass of water.
Olivia’s attention turned to the menu but as she scrolled through it, a distinct feeling of eyes watching her, drew her gaze to the table next to her right. A dark-skinned, dark-haired, smoking hot, young man, stared straight at her. He did not even seem embarrassed at getting caught staring.
Olivia gave him a faint smile and continued reading her menu but a moment later, a man cleared his throat beside her.
She lifted her eyes toward the man towering above her, wearing a designer shirt that fit snuggly over firm muscles. Taken by surprise, she realized that he was none other than the daring man who had watched her mere moments before. She wrenched her eyes away from his chest and continued to explore upward. His hard jaw showcased firm and inviting lips curved into a hint of a smile that made him look ferociously sexy. Their eyes remained locked, as his gleaming blue eyes, framed by long, dark eyelashes held her captive, unable to look away.
“Hi, I’m Brandon,” he said bowing his head slightly. Then, he loosened his tie with one hand and the corners of his mouth slanted into a deeper smile.
Olivia’s sudden and unsolicited body response to his intense gaze left her breathless and unable to form a coherent thought.
Brandon must have noticed her stunned reaction because he smiled and added: “I could throw in a cheesy line, but I hate cheesy lines. I also hate to eat alone.” He paused for a moment then somewhat stumbled over his words. “Um… would you be so kind to join me?”
Hoping to regain her composure, she squared her shoulders and inhaled deeply, trying to hide the obvious.
“What makes you think I am not expecting company?” she asked, attempting to mask her instant attraction to him.
He scratched his eyebrow and simpered. “Forgive me, but I couldn’t help overhearing when you asked for a table for one.”
Olivia never liked pushy men, but she had a strong feeling she would have no problem liking this pushy man. She raised an eyebrow and teased. “Still… What makes you think I want company?”
“Oh…” He sighed, making no effort to hide his disappointment. For a brief moment, an unidentified emotion flickered through his eyes. “In that case, I am sorry to have bothered you.” He bowed, and then walking backward to his table.
Olivia watched him and smiled. He resembled a guilty-faced dog looking for a place to hide.
“Wait! All right; come join me,” she kept an authoritarian tone.
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
“Well, do you want to join me, or would you prefer that I beg?”
He smiled and in two strides, he stood beside Olivia. “I would never…” He brushed an airy wave. “Never mind,” he said and took a seat on the opposite side of her table. “Let’s start over. My name is Brandon Olson. I’m thirty-five, a lawyer, and single,” he said, offering a smooth-skinned, perfectly manicured hand, over the table.
She smiled, shaking his hand warmly with the proper amount of squeeze and eye contact. Then she raised her eyebrows slightly, as she shook her head with amusement. “Oh, wow! A lot of information in one sentence. Pleased to meet you, Brandon. I’m Olivia Jeffries. So tell me, does this line work on every woman?”
He cocked his brows in surprise. “What line?”
“You know—” She paused and locked eyes with him. “The ‘I don’t like cheesy lines,’” her hand waved back and forth through the air between them. “…thing.”
He nodded once. “Aah, that. You may not believe me, but I’ve never done this before.” When Olivia bit back a laugh, he added, “I’m serious. Listen, I didn’t lie to you when I told you I don’t like eating alone. I don’t. I always have lunch or dinner with a friend or colleague.”
Olivia smiled but did not contradict him.
“So tell me, Olivia Jeffries, what do you do? I mean… when you’re not attracting complete strangers to have dinner with?”
Olivia could not help but love his crafty sense of humor. “I’m a…” She paused.
Although her parents helped her financially and her tuition fees were paid primarily by awards and grants, over the summer she held two jobs saving enough to pay for her own apartment. A legal secretary by day and a waitress by night, every day, she only had twenty minutes to change her office appearance to a more liberal look depicting her night job. Twenty minutes to trade her office suit for an all-black mini-dress that hardly covered anything; to switch her bra for a padded push-up; to remove her hardly-there day makeup, reapply it in glitzy colors then sweep her hair up into a more sophisticated-looking up-do. Twenty minutes for one last look in the mirror, grab her car keys, and dash out the door. It would be past midnight when she’d come home dead-tired and smothered in cigarette smoke. Although Brandon didn’t need all that information. Of that, she was sure.
She cleared her throat. “I wanna be a lawyer.”
Brandon’s eyes widened excitingly, and then he spoke a little too loud. “Are you toying with me? Seriously… you’re a lawyer…”
“No. I said, I wanna be a lawyer. Last year… UBC.”
“That’s great. I knew as soon as you walked in that you and I have something in common,” he added keenly as if Olivia’s remark held no essence.
“Ah-huh… You knew, didn’t you?” Olivia’s words dripped with sarcasm.
“And I was right,” he added.
She grinned amused by his boyish, casual demeanor. “I guess you were.”
“So what do you plan to do after you graduate?”
“Look for work.”
“I could’ve guessed that, but what I meant was, do you have any particular law firm in mind?”
“No. Not really. I’ll start researching this year. To be completely honest, I have high expectations. I don’t want to have a job just for the sake of having a job. I want to look for a firm where there is room to grow.”
She paused when she saw Brandon’s brows rise. “I’m not deluding myself,” she chided.
Brandon opened his mouth to respond, but her palm went up, halting the words on his lips.
“I am well aware of how newbies get treated in general. I know the opaque rules that confuse most young graduates, but I also know that if I showcase my potential, those best positioned will take notice,” she concluded. Then, grasping that she may have sounded conceited, she smiled. “I mean without crossing that fine line between assertive and ambitious, and precocious and annoying.”
“Absolutely. I like that attitude. I bet you won’t have a problem finding the job of your dreams.”
She simpered. “Call me crazy, but I envision the day when I become partner… or even a judge.”
Brandon’s smile and words halted on his lips when a tall waiter came to take their orders.
The waiter offered a quick smile before pulling a small notepad and a pen from his pocket. “Good evening. My name is Jeff. I’ll be your server. Are you ready to order?”
“Yes,” Brandon and Olivia replied at the same time.
“Ladies first…” Brandon said, gesturing toward Olivia.
“I’ll have pork chops with roasted potatoes and garden salad,” Olivia decided.
“What kind of dressing on your salad?” the waiter asked while scribbling the order furiously onto his notepad.
“Anything to drink?”
“Just water. Thank you.”
The waiter faced Brandon. “What about you, sir?”
“I’ll have what she has and…” The waiter stood stiff as Brandon perused the wine list. “And a glass of Chardonnay,” Brandon said at last.
“Very well…” the waiter beamed with the enthusiasm of someone new to the job and then departed for the kitchen.
“I love their pork chops,” said Brandon.
Olivia nodded. “Do you come here often?”
“Almost every other day for lunch. I work just across the street, so it’s also conveniently close.”
“Where do you work?”
“At Binder and Associates. I started working there when I finished school. I stuck around and recently I made partner.”
They kept the conversation going, shifting from one topic to the next with ease. The only interruption came when their server brought their food and drinks or swooped in to collect the finished meals and empty glasses.
Although they had just met, to the untrained eye, they seemed as if they had known each other forever.
As they enjoyed their dessert, they shared stories of their families. Brandon detailed how his father raised him and his brother after their mother passed away in a terrible car crash when Brandon was only eight-years-old. He recalled his father’s last failed attempt at a new relationship.
“He then gave up on having a love life and dedicated his life to raising us.” Brandon paused then sighed. “My father passed away recently,” he concluded.
“Oh, that’s terrible. I’m very sorry.” Instinctively, Olivia covered Brandon’s hand with hers.
“Thank you. I miss him. He was a great father to me and Adrian.”
“I can’t imagine not having my parents around,” she said, slowly retracting her hand.
“Are you close?”
“Yeah; very. They live in North Vancouver, and I talk to them daily.”
Alerted by a slight movement, or perhaps a sound, Olivia felt a new pair of eyes on her. Whatever the reason, she turned toward the source of her unexplained warning and looked. A beautiful brunette sitting at a table alone came into Olivia’s view.
Busted! Olivia sneered with amusement, holding the young woman’s gaze long enough to know that Brandon, not her, had been the object of the woman’s stare.
The brunette turned her head the other way. Too late, Olivia mocked just as Brandon gasped. Olivia shifted her attention back to him. He had apparently followed Olivia’s gaze.
“Do you know her?”
“Unfortunately. She’s kind of… I don’t know how to put it. I dated her a few times about a year ago, and since then, I seem to run into her often.”
“Are you serious? She’s not one of those dangerous psychos who can’t take rejection, is she?” Olivia asked, and then grinned slightly.
“Oh no, no. Nothing like that. She’s well-educated. I think she finished or is about to finish Med School. She’s just… there, wherever I go. Weird.” Brandon brushed an airy wave—a clear indication that he did not want to talk about it anymore.
Brandon paid for their dinner and insisted that they see each other again, and Olivia did not hesitate to give him her number.
As they walked past the brunette’s table, Brandon nodded once. Their eyes met, and she smiled and nodded in return.
A hint of possessiveness nudged at Olivia’s senses, taking her by surprise. What was the matter with her? This was so unlike her. She was not a jealous person, not to mention that she just met this guy. She continued lecturing herself as Brandon walked her to her car and made small talk along the way.
They arrived to her car, she turned to face him and to thank him for a pleasant evening. Her self-lecturing didn’t seem to work because she was now focusing at how his designer suit hugged his muscular figure. She then shifted her gaze slowly upward until their eyes met. The churns of emotions burning in his eyes made her gasp.
He opened her car door and for a brief moment, rested his hand on her shoulder. Then, his hand slid down her arm, slowly, gently, its slow movement sending bolts of electricity down her spine. Sensing his gaze on her face as distinctive as a physical touch, she glanced back into his captivating eyes.
He leaned down and rested his forehead against hers, and Olivia watched breathlessly as his blue eyes studied hers, shining with mischief and silent intensity.
His warm breath caressed her face. She closed her eyes in anticipation but stifled a surprised gasp as his soft lips finally seized hers. Though her body flushed with heat, she savored his lips and the quickening of his breath that matched her own.
The kiss obliterated her every thought. Her mind felt locked into the present as the worries of the day evaporated like the sun-kissed morning dew.
Though the soft caress of his hand against her skin took her breath away, the kiss held a promise of much more to come.
Brandon drew away before the rush of bliss enveloped her, but that didn’t prevent her from wanting nothing more than to see this man again.
When possessing the kind of looks that stopped women in their tracks, a man had to be aware of his blessings and Brandon was no stranger to that. From an early age, he understood the impact he had on girls, but in spite all the openings that came his way, he was never interested in casual flings. As he grew older, he appreciated women who valued genuineness and meaningful conversation over lipstick and high heels.
One look at Olivia was all it took to know that her intelligence exceeded her beauty. The approval playing on her face before she could hide it left no doubt in his mind that she appreciated the same things.
That was not to say she was all brains and no beauty. Brown hair cascading down her shoulders, green eyes full of mixed expressions and framed by velvety eyelashes, and a curvy figure, complemented well her tanned and impeccable complexion. A sculptor could not have fashioned her dangerously inviting lips and delicate nose any better. Though it was her nonchalance to her beauty that made her irresistible to both genders; men desired her, and women sought her friendship.
From the moment he laid eyes on her, Brandon simply knew they were made for each other. They had been dating for close to ten months, and her constant crisp attitude felt refreshing, but now he wanted more. There was no doubt in his mind that she had fallen in love with him as he had with her, but as her finals approached he had sensed her anxiety.
Propped against his car, Brandon’s brain tingled with emotions. He knew a smirk played at the corner of his lips, but he couldn’t help it.
The heat of the day had faded to a comforting warmth and any minute now Olivia would walk through that door.
One second passed.
Two, then three.
Remorse and guilt hit him like a sledgehammer and burned like fire in his mind and throat. He had taken a lot of Olivia’s time without even thinking how stressful it must’ve been for her, but he intended to change that tonight. Tonight, it would be just for her.
He watched her come out of her building and the vision of her held him spellbound—dark hair cascading down her shoulders in waves, her usual, enticing smile, animating her face.
His heart raced echoing with each beat. Buh-bum. Buh-bum. Buh-bum.
“Hey, handsome,” she said, planting a kiss on his cheek.
He seized her hand and guided her toward the passenger door. “Come on. I’d like to show you something.”
“Erm… Don’t forget I still have to study,” she whined.
He stopped and faced her. Then gently pressing a finger on her lips, he hushed her. When her eyes widened with surprise, he slowly replaced it with his own lips in a gentle yet passionate kiss as an overwhelming feeling of lust took over his body. He moved his hand from her cheek to the back of her head, his fingers tangling in her long hair, lightly pulling her into him thus adding more pressure to their lips.
God, he wanted her more than ever. He loosened his grip, smiling his charming smile, and she took a deep breath as if trying to refill her lungs.
“Your beaming smile leaves me breathless.”
He put his arm around her as his smile widened.
“Is that right? Let’s go then.”
They climbed into Brandon’s car, and he wound to the right toward West Georgia Street.
“Where are you taking me?” she inquired when they passed Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge and got on ramp Trans Canada Hwy.
Brandon smiled. “You’ll see.”
Brandon pulled onto the first viewpoint of Cypress Bowl Road and eased the car into a parking space then grabbed Olivia’s hand.
The faint lingering lilac sky slowly faded into the shadows of Cypress Mountain. The shimmering sparkles of stars silhouetted into the darkness as a trembling gush of wind drifted softly across the skyline.
She seemed somewhat hesitant. “What are we doing here?”
“Come. Let me show you something.”
She followed him suspiciously out of the car, and to the edge of the parkade overlooking the ocean and the city.
The blinding city lights bounced off the water and gradually subsided, filling the inky sky with a pleasant serenity. The slight breeze spread a strong scent of pine, adding another level of enjoyment and heightening the pleasure of the moment. The scenery seemed surreal. Breathtaking.
“Wow!” Olivia exclaimed. “I grew up in this town, but I never knew this beauty existed.”
Brandon watched the frail night light reflect in her eyes. Sensing his gaze, she turned her head and their eyes met. Hers seemed filled with a mixture of happiness and endless questions. He swooped in and captured her full lips into a slow and passionate kiss.
He released his grip but continued to hold her gaze.
Her eyes raked across his face glistening with each move, and then she raised a suspicious eyebrow. “What are you up to?”
Like a waterfall, strands of hair tumbled down her shoulders and the breeze whipped them back tidying the curls into waves.
He wrapped his arm around her. “There comes a time to unwind the tenseness and rigidness of our fragile bones, and this is it,” he said with a hint of mystery in his voice. He then pulled a small box from his pocket and dropped to one knee. Looking up into her eyes, he flipped open the lid, exposing the treasure hidden inside.
“From the day I met you, I knew you were the one for me and I knew this day would come. We are each other’s center of the universe. We are relaxed in each other’s company. Till death do us part doesn’t sound right to me. You are my soul mate. I want us to be together in this life and beyond. I can’t promise you a bumpless road, but I promise to love you, comfort you, encourage you, laugh with you, cry with you, and cherish you for all eternity.” He paused to take a breath.
“Olivia Jeffries, will you be my wife?”
Olivia widened her eyes as unfamiliar emotions overwhelmed her. Most days she could think of nothing else but him, and now he waited for her answer but she couldn’t find her voice as ecstasy filled her airways. She offered him her hand so he could slide the ring onto her finger, then opened and closed her mouth repeatedly before she could finally squeal a yes.
He stood up and gently cupped her jaw as he tipped her face to his. “I love you, Liv.”
She took a deep breath and leaned into him. “I love you too.”
He pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her as a ragged breath brushed against her face. Then drawing her tight against his chest, he kissed her sweetly. The world stood still, but her body trembled, and it wasn’t from the cold.
He stroked her hair then whispered in her ear, “You wanna go?”
She looked up at him. “Let’s stay a little longer. It’s very peaceful here.”