Claire was aware of the heady scent of roses from the moment she walked into the reception area the next morning. Intrigued, she breathed in their fragrance, and as she walked behind the counter to her desk she stopped mid-stride, and stared in amazement at the largest bunch of red roses she had ever seen.
She didn’t dare go any closer as she gazed at the dark, velvety blooms, guessing there would have to be at least three dozen long stemmed roses in the huge bouquet. It was only when she noticed the small envelope taped to the cellophane that she reached out a shaky hand and opened it.
Her heart pounded madly as she read the simple inscription on the card, “For Ginger - C.A.” She smiled, shaking her head in amazement. They really are for me . . . Oh, Cameron - how beautiful!
Her knees became as wobbly as jelly, and she sank down into her chair, the burgundy petals soft and cool against her flushed skin as she lifted the roses up to her face and inhaled their intoxicating scent.
No-one has ever done anything like this for me before! she thought in amazement, but how am I ever going to be able to think clearly about what to do about Cameron if he does things likes this?
She stood up quickly, determined not to let herself be overwhelmed by the emotion that was sweeping through her. I must be practical about this - and I’ll start by putting these in some water, she told herself firmly, cradling the bouquet in her arms as she went upstairs to the tea-room to find a vase.
She’d lain awake for hours the night before, praying and thinking over everything that had happened between them yesterday. But even as she’d tried to think logically about it all she’d been distracted by the sensation of Cameron’s strong arms around her, and the hardness of his chest against her cheek as he held her close.
More than anything she longed to be close to him like that again . . .to feel so wanted and secure . . .but there was so much she was unsure about that held her back. She’d always been determined not to let herself become involved with any man before she knew them inside out, but then, as David had pointed out - how could she ever get to know someone that well if she refused to let them get close to her at all.
It wasn’t like Cameron was a stranger to her either, she’d been with him five days a week since she’d started working there, and Justin and Jenny Muxlow had known him well for years and they certainly had no hesitations regarding him. And even after such an awkward evening out with her and David - and now knowing fully what was involved - he said that he was serious about overcoming his difficulties in relating to David. But could he?
Claire carefully arranged the roses in the largest vase she could find, and carried them back down to her desk. She felt self-conscious that everyone would see the roses, and probably guess they were from Cameron, but at the same time it thrilled her that he had no hesitation in making it public knowledge that he obviously thought she was very special.
She looked at the roses and smiled, remembering again how incredible it had felt when he’d held her. No-one had ever held her, or even hugged her since her mother had died and the unfamiliar feeling of warmth and comfort had been overwhelming.
David loved her as much as she loved him, but he could never hold her, or even reach out to her. Although she had good friends in her church like Justin and Jenny, they had no idea how hard she found it carrying all her responsibilities alone, and how much she craved someone’s support and understanding.
She knew it was her own fault - she’d never confided in them or anyone else - but she couldn’t bear giving anyone even the slightest impression that David was a burden to her, or that she found caring for him and her father was almost too much for her at times.
When Cameron had held her like that it was as though he really understood how she felt - and how desperately she needed him - despite her reluctance to let their relationship move beyond friendship .
Claire sighed, and then realised with a guilty start that the clock was ticking by, and she’d done absolutely nothing since she’d arrived. That was the other reason she had to consider carefully about acting on her feelings for Cameron - because he was her boss it meant there was so much at stake.
She needed this job - David was depending on her - and she couldn’t risk throwing her position away because she’d let her feelings for Cameron take priority over her work. No, no matter how she felt she would have to be very careful - it was one thing for Cameron to be so open about his feelings for her, but it wouldn’t be his job on the line if things didn’t work out.
Yesterday afternoon she’d realised how dangerous it was to let her emotions get the better of her when she’d argued with Cameron in front of the others at the meeting - and she was determined never to let the way she felt about him interfere with her professionalism again.
She stood up decisively, taking her eyes from the roses. She’d been thinking about herself for long enough this morning - and she felt her own problems were insignificant compared to Tyrone’s, whom she knew would be taking his enforced bed rest pretty hard. Aware of how important the support of her friendship would be to him while he was confined to bed, she’d promised Tyrone she’d drop in for a chat first thing in the morning, and she wasn’t about to let him down.
Fifteen minutes later when she left Tyrone’s cabin, Claire saw Cameron up ahead of her, making his way towards the main building. Just the sight of him made her heart race - although her interest in him went far deeper than a mere physical attraction - she undeniably drawn to his vitality and the masculine strength he exuded.
Hearing her footsteps, Cameron turned and waited for her to catch up, his pleasure in seeing her obvious.
“Morning!” he said brightly, “Have you been down to see Tyrone?”
“Yes, I thought I’d catch up with him before the day got too busy.”
“How is he?”
Claire couldn’t help smiling as she walked along the path beside Cameron. She was certain he’d be curious about what she thought of the roses, yet typically he was more concerned about asking after Tyrone first.
“Not at all how I expected,” she admitted with a shrug, “it looks like I overreacted yesterday, he was actually very calm and accepting about it all. In fact he was more interested to confirm the gossip about you and me. He’d heard that a huge bunch of roses had been delivered to my desk this morning, so he’d guessed that we’d made up our differences. Cameron . . .about the roses . . .”
She paused and glanced at him nervously. She’d wanted to broach the subject with him straight off, and ensure that he wasn’t making any assumptions about their relationship, but the way she felt now she was in his presence made her lose her nerve.
“I . . .um . . . I just wanted to say . . .thank you - they really are beautiful.”
“My pleasure, Ginger.” he smiled, catching her eyes with an unsettling gaze as they entered the building, “I’m glad you like them - I wanted some way of showing you how special you are to me. I was disappointed that we were interrupted yesterday afternoon just when we were beginning to really talk to each other, but I hope we can pick up from were we left off. I know that what we have is something very special - if you’ll just give it a chance.”
Claire took a deep breath, and walked quickly to the other side of her desk. It was one thing to decide not to let her feelings affect her judgment when she was alone, but now the warmth of his words had nearly melted her resolve again. It would be so easy not to think of the consequences of following her heart. . . .
“I . . .I really appreciated talking to you yesterday afternoon too. Thank you for understanding . . .” she answered softly, her heart pounding as she realised that he had followed her around to her side of the counter.
He was so close to her again, and her longing for him to take her in his arms was so strong that it hurt to dismiss it.
If only he’d hold me close and tell me that he’d care for me forever, she thought before catching herself firmly, No, Claire, don’t be so foolish - you know what could happen if you follow your feelings - stay in control.
She sat down quickly and reached across her desk for a pile of letters, “Here’s your mail, Cameron. And I’ve also got the draft of your submission formatted and ready for checking.”
She held the paperwork out to him, but he didn’t take it from her, and stared searchingly at her until she felt her cheeks burning under his penetrating gaze.
“Well, I’d better get started . . . I’ve got a lot to get through this morning . . .” she said awkwardly, dropping the letters into his lap and breaking her eyes away from his as she turned from him to face her desk.
Oh Cameron! she thought despairingly as she picked up the filing from her tray and began to shuffle through it, all the while conscious of his unwavering attention, You know exactly how you make me feel, don’t you!
After a few moments he began to move away, and as she looked up he smiled cheekily at her.
“Thanks for this, Ginger - I’ll let you get on with your work. By the way, I’m expecting a few urgent faxes this morning - would you mind bringing them straight up to me the moment they arrive?”
“Yes, sure.” she answered, letting out a long, slow sigh when he finally disappeared down the corridor, both relieved and disappointed that he was gone.
Claire was determined not to allow herself to be distracted from her work, although the pervasive scent of the roses and the constant references to them by everyone who passed her desk made it difficult. She had just managed to lose herself in the report she was typing when she heard the whirr of the fax machine as it printed out an incoming fax.
Fortunately there was only the cover sheet marked for Cameron’s attention and one other page, so a minute later she grabbed it from the machine without even glancing at it and was on her way upstairs to Cameron’s office. Although her heart was racing at the thought of seeing him again, she would have preferred to have stayed down at her desk and immerse herself in her work, without being distracted by thinking about him again so soon.
It was one thing to carry on working in such close contact with him when it had just been a matter of her feeling hopelessly in love with him . . .but now that she knew how he felt too, every time she looked into his blue eyes it was almost impossible to concentrate on anything else.
Cameron’s door was open, and after bracing herself with a deep breath, Claire walked briskly toward his desk. I’ll just hand him the fax and then go, she thought and then realised he’d been watching the door and waiting for her. It struck her as strange, until she remembered that he’d been expecting the fax.
Now I’m reading too much into everything he does too! I just need to stop being so silly and get on with my job!
“Here’s the fax you were expecting.” she said, placing it down on his desk and immediately turning to leave.
“Thank you. Ginger?”
Claire turned back around to see him grinning at her. “Yes . . .is there something else?”
“Have I ever mentioned how efficient you are?”
“Um . . .I’m . . .I’m sure you would have,” she stuttered, embarrassed by his teasing about her remote manner, and hoping she could escape before she began to blush again, “I’d better go - the switch is very busy this morning.”
“I’m sure it is,” he answered as she headed for the door, “Oh, Ginger?’
“There should be some more faxes . . . you’ll bring them straight up too, won’t you?”
“Yes - certainly,” she answered, and fled into the corridor.
It seemed like she’d only been back at her desk for a matter of minutes before the next fax arrived for Cameron, and Claire was heading back to his office. She was relieved that he was on the phone, and although she realised that he was trying to catch her eye, she pretended not to notice and left as soon as she had placed the fax on his desk.
Although she tried to turn her mind back to her work once she was downstairs again, Claire found that almost as soon as she managed to put Cameron out of her mind another fax arrived for him. She couldn’t believe how many faxes were coming in for him that morning, and between running the gauntlet of his unsettling attention every time she took one upstairs and the constant reminder of the roses downstairs on her desk - she found it impossible to stop thinking about him.
But why am I trying so hard to put Cameron out of my mind, anyway? she questioned herself as she photocopied a report a couple of hours later, He’s a godly man, and I love to be with him . . .and I can’t deny I’ve felt attracted to him from the first day we met . . . maybe I should just relax and let things develop the way he wants. . .maybe it is God’s will for us to be together . . .
She took the copies of the report back to her desk and began to collate them. She knew that God had her future under control, but she just wished she knew what He had planned for her. Praying silently as she stapled the reports, she asked again for wisdom and peace in knowing how God wanted her to respond to Cameron.
After all, it was God who’d created marriage for the good of His people - so it wasn’t like it was wrong to seek a life’s partner, so long as they belonged to the Lord - but was Cameron the one? The fact that he was her boss was what made things so awkward for her, but what if meeting Cameron was the reason God had given her this job in the first place?
She frowned hard, trying to think of what the Bible revealed about God’s will regarding decisions like these, and she found herself remembering verses like “seek first the Kingdom of God and all other things would be added to you” and “in whatever you do . . .do it for the glory of God.”
If she always made sure to put God’s glory first in this area of her life - just the same as did in every other - surely it would be okay to follow her feelings for Cameron. But was it worth the risk? She’d been deeply hurt by her disappointment on Friday night, and she knew that the further things went with Cameron, the worse it would be if things didn’t work out. . .
The fax machine began whirring again, and Claire sighed in exasperation. Ten minutes hadn’t even passed since she taken the last fax upstairs - and right now she was so confused about her feelings that she really didn’t want to face Cameron again just yet.
Each time she went into his office he inevitably managed to say something which caught her off guard, and she knew she had no hope in outwitting him in her current state of mind. She snatched the fax and put it on her desk, wishing she could just ignore it - but it had the same cover sheet marked “URGENT & CONFIDENTIAL” as the previous faxes.
She sat and stared at it for a few minutes before reluctantly picking it up and getting to her feet. Cameron mightn’t know that she hadn’t brought it up straight away, but she would.
Just as she left her desk the phone rang, and she went back and answered it, immensely relieved that it was a call for Cameron. She put it through, and ran to the stairs - knowing that she’d be able to leave the fax on his desk and escape unchallenged while he was occupied on the phone.
When Claire went into Cameron’s office, he was talking on the phone just as she expected, but as she added the fax to the growing pile, he excused himself from the caller, and covered the phone with his hand.
“Can you wait just a moment, Ginger? I won’t be long.”
She forced a smile and nodded - there would be no easy escape this time. He was watching her as he continued his phone conversation, but she was determined not to meet his eyes, and looked down at the pile of faxes. It appeared as though he hadn’t even touched them, which was strange since they were so urgent that he’d asked for them brought up without delay.
Cameron reached across his desk for a file, the movement disturbing the pile of faxes and scattering the top few onto the floor. She automatically reached out to put them back in order for him, but as she picked them up she noticed that one of the faxes was composed of some kind of alphabetical list in closely spaced columns.
She glanced up at Cameron, and saw that he was watching her with an amused smile. She looked at him for a moment before deciding to have a closer look at it. They were all marked confidential, but she was right there in front of him, and he could certainly stop her if he didn’t want her to see them.
Putting the cover sheet back down on the desk she looked openly at the page in her hands, her eyes widening in surprise when she saw it was the first page of “A” from the telephone directory. She looked again at Cameron, but he was grinning broadly at her, and her suspicion began to grow.
She frowned and boldly flicked through the whole pile of faxes, shaking her head in disbelief when she saw that every single one of them was the same - a cover sheet and a copy of the same page of the phone directory.
“Did you know that this is all they were?” she demanded, holding one of them up to Cameron. He nodded, and she saw that he was trying not to laugh as he continued his conversation on the phone.
But who would be sending these to him? she thought in confusion, before impulsively striding over to the scanner beside his computer.
“Cameron! You did this!” she exploded when she saw the torn page from the phone directory on the scanner. “You’ve been sending all these faxes to yourself!”
“I’m sorry - do you mind if I call you back later? My receptionist has just brought an urgent matter to my attention.” he said into the phone before hanging up and collapsing in laughter.
“Cameron! What are you playing at?” she demanded, hands on hips. “I can’t believe you’ve had me running up and down the stairs all morning for . . . for nothing more than a prank!”
“Why didn’t you use the lift?” he asked, wiping the tears from his eyes.
“It takes too long - but that’s not the point! You made me think it was something important!”
“Oh, but seeing you was important. And you were very efficient about bringing them all up to me straight away too - all except the last one. I noticed you sat on that for a few minutes first.”
“I’m very busy you know!”
“Yes, I know - too busy to stop and talk to me at any rate.” he said, holding her captive with the intense expression in his eyes, “You were so determined to treat me in such a business like way that I couldn’t resist playing you at your own game. But I thought you would have figured out what I was doing long before this.”
Claire sighed, she’d been so determined to keep her distance that she’d failed to take even the most obvious step of asking him about the faxes as soon as she’d noticed there was such an unusual number being received. Her face began to burn as realised that she’d made it obvious how preoccupied her thoughts were with him.
“I . . .they said "confidential" . . .so of course I wouldn’t look at them . . .” she said lamely, sitting down on the corner of his desk, “Oh, Cameron - you do give me a hard time, you know!”
“Not as hard as you give me,” he answered, his voice serious as he leant across the desk and looked up into her eyes, “Why are you so determined to pretend that you don’t feel the same way as I do? I’ve known it from the first day we met - or can you honestly tell me that I’m wrong?”
Claire’s heart was pounding in her chest as she met his probing gaze. Even though he’d told her yesterday how much he cared for her, she’d been so confused about her own feelings and so concerned to protect herself from hurt that she hadn’t considered their relationship from his point of view at all, or realised until now just how much she owed him an honest answer.
“No - you’re not wrong,” she admitted quietly, an incredible warmth flowing through her as she saw his face relax with pleasure and relief. She caught her breath and held it, totally unprepared for the way it made her feel to realise that her affection meant so much to someone as incomparable as Cameron Alexander.
She stared at him, every contour of his face holding a new and personal meaning for her, and she struggled to believe that her deepest dreams were beginning to be fulfilled. They regarded each other silently for a few electric moments, but when Cameron opened his mouth to say something Claire jumped quickly to her feet before he could speak.
“I . .I really should get back to my desk,” she excused herself, pausing briefly in the doorway, “and Cameron - I admit I was pretty slow to catch on - but now you can forget about using any other faxes to get me up here again, okay?”
She could hear him chuckling as she went down the corridor and headed for the stairs. The fax machine was whirring again as she reached her desk - and she laughed as she picked up the fax and read it. Scrawled in a thick marker was the message:
“Maybe a fax will bring you up here one more time, Ginger!
Meet me for lunch in my office at twelve?”
She smiled and glanced up at the clock, noon was only three quarters of an hour away, but even that seemed like an age to wait to see Cameron again. It had been a huge leap of faith finally admitting how she felt about him, and she’d been so overwhelmed by the effect it had on him that it had all become too much, and she’d left his office before he could take things any further.
Now that she’d taken that first step and their feelings were finally out in the open, Claire realised that she was every bit as anxious for their relationship to develop as Cameron was.
Claire sat down at her desk and groaned when she saw the huge pile of mail she needed to have ready before the courier arrived at lunch time. It was nearly five to twelve when she finished it all, and as she reached down to her handbag to freshen her lipstick she realised with a guilty start that she had promised Tyrone that she would go down and have lunch with him.
She’d been so distracted by everything that had happened that morning that her arrangement with Tyrone had slipped her mind completely when Cameron had faxed her about lunch. Although she was relieved that Tyrone seemed to be coping so much better than she expected, it would be wrong to let him down just because she really wanted to be with Cameron.. . .surely Cameron would understand that?
She dialled his extension, but was a little surprised by the subdued tone in his voice as he answered.
“Cameron . . . about lunch,” she began, “I just remembered that I’d arranged to go and have lunch with Tyrone. Can I take a raincheck?”
When he didn’t answer straight away, her heart sank and she realised that he probably thought she was just using Tyrone as an excuse to get out of seeing him at lunch time.
“I’m sorry,” she continued hesitantly, “I’m not trying to avoid you, Cameron . . .I really do want to see you . . .it’s just that I promised Tyrone this morning before I saw you. . .”
“No, I think it’s a good idea . . .a very good idea.” he replied slowly, “Claire - I’ve just been talking to Doug Mackenzie, who’s been doing some systems maintenance on the computers. He was going through the temporary files on the main system and has just brought it to my attention that last night someone on our system visited several internet sites relating to suicide and euthanasia.”
“Oh no! Tyrone?”
“Doug hasn’t traced it back to him yet - he came and saw me straight away when he found the files - but I think it’s a very good guess.”
Claire’s chest tightened and she felt sick to the stomach, “This is awful - but now it makes sense why he seemed so calm this morning . . .kind of resigned. Should I ask him about it when I see him? Can I tell him that I know about this?”
“Yes - that might be all he’s after. Our main computer automatically makes the temporary files whenever any of the terminals access the internet, and that’s always explained to anyone using the computer room, mostly as a disincentive to visiting the more unsavoury sites. It’s always possible Tyrone’s just trying to shock us and get some attention.”
“I wish I believed that . . .but I doubt it. It’s not his style. He’s never even mentioned to anyone but me how he really feels, has he?”
“No. That’s true,” he answered, his voice sounding as flat as Claire felt, “Once we’ve determined it actually was Tyrone accessing that information I’ll organise immediate intervention from the Mental Health Unit, but for the moment my hands are tied.
Besides, I really don’t know that they’ll get anywhere with him anyway - like you’ve just said - you’re the only one he’s ever opened up to. It’s a good opportunity seeing that you’d already arranged to have lunch with him, and we can’t do anything officially yet anyway.”
“Okay - I’ll head down now.” Claire told him resolutely, although she was filled with dread at what she was about to face, “And Cameron . . .please pray for us both.”
© R Brown 2005