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Authors: Helen Karol

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College, #Teen & Young Adult, #Inspirational

Chances & Choices

BOOK: Chances & Choices
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Chances & Choices

Julian and Claire – Choices Book 1

By Helen Karol

Copyright 2013 Helen Karol

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

[email protected]

http://www.helenkarolchoices.com

http://www.twitter.com/HelenKarolwrite

 

 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Chapter 0ne

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapters -   Upcoming,

 

Acknowledgements

I want to thank my beta readers Leta, Marisa and Renee.  You all gave me great encouragement and feedback and some really amazing inspiration to improve this new edition.  You made writing even more fun!  Really looking forward to your input from the start in the second book.  And a special thank you to Renee who helped inspire the new cover.  And to my first two beta/editors my daughter, Genni, and Alex, my amazing best friend.

 

Chapter 0ne

Claire nuzzled deeper into
the hard, masculine chest nestled against her.  Soaking sinfully into the sensations of the past hours, she was just submerging into sleep when his touch on her shoulder reawakened her desire.  She shifted slightly onto her back murmuring sensuously, inviting him to explore further. 

Instead he seemed preoccupied with shaking her. 

She murmured her protest but he just kept shaking.  Okay, his forcefulness in bed was usually pretty hot, but - well - this was just annoying.

"Claire."   Aidan shook harder.  Man she sure was stuck in that dream - and a hot one at that.  He was a bit embarrassed to disturb her but if he didn't the flight attendant would and that could be more embarrassing for all of them.  He tried again.

"Claire – the food’s coming round."

"What! Oh!"  Claire sat up, suddenly aware of her surroundings.

Rather than the searing sapphire blue eyes of Richard, she looked dazedly into the thickish glasses of her colleague, Aidan Carmichael.  The expression on his face told her that she had been far from discreet in her sleep and she cursed the previously unforeseen erotic depths her lover - correction - her ex-lover had unleashed in her.

"Sorry," she mumbled embarrassedly.  Damn why couldn't she have been sitting next to a stranger.  It would still be embarrassing but not nearly so bad as looking at the pitying eyes of one of the firm's auditors who was well aware of the history of her past relationship.

"No worries, these seats are pretty comfy - easy to get into a deep sleep in them."

Claire smiled gratefully at the agreeable guy she knew from a few work outings and a couple of mutual friends.  When they found out they were both booked in Business Class on their flight to Los Angeles it seemed rude not to sit together.

She accepted the tray handed to her, grateful that the process of eating occupied them both.  This was one fallout from her break-up with Richard she didn’t expect.  Although, it wasn’t surprising given the tempestuous nature of their relationship.  It had been fireworks from start to finish.  The finish still upset her.  No matter how often she went over it in her head, she hated the way they parted.  Maybe if she had put things differently, made some concessions?  Her mind was still plagued by that last confrontation – it was the only way to describe it.

“I can’t believe it! You’re really taking the job?  Running on home, playing it safe with the firm instead of moving in with me and taking a chance on our own magazine?”

“Richard, it’s not that simple.  I’m not ruling it out. I just need space, time to think.  It’s too much too soon.  This new job will give us that.”


Us
?  It won’t give
us
anything.  You take that job and they’ll be no us – I mean it Claire!”

So far she had every indication to believe he did mean it.  Almost a week later and he hadn’t even texted her.  He changed his photo assignments to other writers and he made no attempt to even say goodbye.  Claire spent the nights since in tears interspersed with erotic dreams.  It took all her willpower not to call him, but she was too wary of being swayed if she saw him again; she had to stand by her decision not give into emotional blackmail.

Aidan’s cheery tone broke into her reverie “So L.A.’s the final stop for you.  Another 12 hours for me."

"Yuck." Claire sympathised.  "Where are you going, again?"

"Brazil.  The firm are thinking of acquiring a radio station down there and want me to check out the finances."

"Really - a radio station - makes sense.  I am so print centric, I forget the magazine is only a small part of the
Choices
Conglomerate.”

"Yeh!  But the most profitable part.  That's why they're branching out to
Choices LA.
Capitalising on the brand."

"Mmm." Claire agreed.

"Looking forward to going home?"

Claire turned enthusiastically towards him, her embarrassment and
misery temporarily forgotten in the prospect of home and her new future.  "You know what, I am!  I love New York but I miss L.A.  I miss my friends, my apartment, the ocean.  And I'm up for the new challenge.  Just think - me - the senior writer at
Choices LA
.!  'Course, they’re only three of us altogether, but still."

"Ah, but you mustn't forget the frosty Stella.  Now that is a challenge I don't envy!"

"God, yes.  But, still, she is pretty good at her job – she’s one of the best editors at
Choices
."

Aidan smiled at her enthusiasm and fair handedness.  He was
still surprised at how the cool exterior of Claire Fitzpatrick quickly thawed when she was engaged by her subject.  He had only spent a few short times with her here and there, but the animation in her face was quite captivating.  Richard Blake was truly an idiot.

“Is someone meeting you at the airport?”

"No.  I did have a friend coming to meet my original flight tomorrow but I decided not to tell him and surprise him."

“Hope he likes surprises.”

Claire suddenly felt a bit apprehensive at Aidan’s tone.  She hadn’t really thought about it clearly, just decided on the spur of the moment to take the earlier flight.  After her call to Julian, the need to be back in L.A. with him, her best friend, had overwhelmed her.  The sound of his voice just seemed to steady her and she was suddenly sure being with him would make everything right.  Now it seemed faintly foolish.  But no – he had always made her feel better and she was sure this time would be no exception.

“I’m sure he’ll just be glad to see me.” Claire wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince, Aidan or herself.

The seat belt sign went on and neither spoke further, focussing instead on the process of landing and disembarking.  Both seasoned business travellers, they only had hand luggage and were soon out in the arrivals terminal dodging the crowds.   Aidan looked around for the board displaying his connection, taking off his glasses to make out the board further away.  She noticed a sign indicating the information desk for his airline and tugged at his sleeve.  He turned and looked down at her and she was rather startled by the unusual deep gold of his eyes that normally looked brownish behind the thick glass.

"Wow.  You should get contacts."  Claire bit her tongue but it was already out there so she kept on going.  "And work out and get some woman to dress you."  Yeah, she thought and then maybe I would fall for a nice guy like you instead of the ultimate bad boy.  "I mean you know, sort out your wardrobe.  Sorry."

Aidan grinned.  "You sound like my roommate’s girlfriend, Carly.  She wants to put me on a diet as well."

Yeh - his portly figure indicated a penchant for doughnuts.  That thought reminded Claire she wanted to try and catch Julian at the studio before he left for dinner.  She looked around for the cab exits.  And then grimaced at the paparazzi crushing around some unfortunate celebrity.  It made her doubly glad she had decided to come a day early and surprise Julian.  The media still pursued him from time to time because of Susanna.  She was such a megastar and their union had so captured the
public’s romantic imagination that, eight years later, it was still of interest.  That was hardly the setting she envisioned for their reunion.  She wanted him to herself.

"Right!  Let's get you a cab then."

With Aidan's help, Claire pushed her way through the crowded airport and clambered into a cab.  She thanked him and waved as he weaved his way back into the airport.  She informed the driver of her Santa Monica destination, and then leaned back, gazing out into the fast dimming light.

A few miles away, in a Santa Monica office building, Julian West looked up from his sketches to gaze unseeingly into that same dimming light.
 Sighing, he passed a hand through his dark, unruly waves that even the most geometric of hairstyles failed to control.  He leaned back and squinted at one of the drawings, and then held it up to the overhead light.

He tossed it down, shaking his head - it didn't look any better from either perspective.
 Pushing back his chair, he rose and began wandering aimlessly around the room.  He caressed a few of the fabrics lying in bales on one of the worktables and circled the headless mannequin draped with one of his designs, pretending he was searching for a way to improve it.

Three years.  Was it really that long?

They had kept in touch, emails, texts, a weekly Skype.  As a fashion designer he made trips to New York and they would have lunch together, dinner if she wasn't seeing someone.  She usually was, and in the past while, he knew there was someone in particular. Over the last few months their contact had lessened – it was almost a couple of months since their last Skype. He had struggled with missing her, telling himself it was for the best.  Desperately trying not to give in to the jealous imaginings of who was keeping her too busy to keep in touch.  When she called a couple of days ago, claiming to be the bearer of good news, he prepared himself for the inevitable.

Only it wasn't.

She wasn't calling to announce impending marriage; she was coming back to L.A.  
Choices
, the magazine she worked for, was branching out and starting a local edition in Los Angeles.  She would be arriving March 31st.  Would he pick her up at the airport?  Hurry up and answer, she was calling long distance.

Distance.

From the first moment the knowledge of his growing love emerged, distance became his ally.  But today was March 30th and tomorrow the distance would close in on him, and he was no longer sure if it was friend or foe. Tomorrow she would be here expecting to fall back into the intimacy and security of the close friendship they had built over the years.  Back to the easy camaraderie of shared meals, movie nights, walks on the beach - to slip back into the easy attendance of the galas, charity events and benefits that their mutual, undemanding escort made so easy.  To her, he was still the nice guy she could turn to for advice and comfort – the uncomplicated friend she could count on. 

Only he
no longer felt that way.  Not for months before she left for New York, three years ago.  For months he fooled her, playing the platonic friend when in fact he wanted nothing more than to take her as his lover – and more, much more.  But he couldn’t do that – he had to put his guard up, not let those emotions overtake him.

Her
move to New York had seemed to provide him with the distance he needed.  He could hide how he felt when he only actually saw her a few times a year and only had to deal with her digital presence on a more frequent basis. On the nights of their weekly Skype, he would be mesmerised by the sight of her lips, the swell of her breasts, the cascade of her long golden hair as she shifted it from side to side, absently, while animatedly sharing her news. Sometimes he had to fake their conversation because he lost track of what she was saying as he imagined crushing her against him, taking her lush lips with his own, darting and invading with his tongue inside her sweet mouth and other sweet places.

BOOK: Chances & Choices
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