"The Twain Shall Meet" by Deidre Dalton (aka Deborah O'Toole).

From Chapter Nine

          WHEN SHANNON CAME DOWNSTAIRS early the next morning, Scott was already gone with her brother and cousins to help plow and shovel the estate grounds. Sean kept two motorized plows in a utility garage, which were used to clear the long driveway from the mansion to the highway. Whenever there was heavy snowfall, Kevin and Liam pitched in to help Sean. Walkways, steps and other areas also needed to be shoveled, so Scott volunteered to assist.

           Shannon knew she wouldn't see Scoot much today. Resigning herself to his absence, she began working on the data print-outs from the Keel Project. Spreading the print-outs on the kitchen table one at a time, she managed to finish highlighting data points on five out of six of them by eleven o'clock. By then, Dana had risen from her late sleep and joined Shannon at the table. She was carrying one of her Harlequin romance novels, which she read voraciously as several new ones were released each month.

           "I knew you had some work to do, so I brought a book with me to kill the time," Dana said as she took a sip of coffee. 

            "I shouldn't be much longer," Shannon replied. "I only have one more print-out to highlight, and then I'm done." She pointed to Dana's book resting on the table. "So what romance novel are you reading now?" 

            Dana gave a short chuckle. "It's called The Feathered Shaft by Jane Arbor." 

            "No way." 

            "Yes way."

           Shannon laughed out loud. "You'd better not let Kevin see the book. He'll tease you unmercifully for the rest of the day and into the night." 

           Dana took another sip of coffee, watching Shannon as she highlighted a print-out with a yellow marker. "Where's your buddy Scott?" 

           "Helping the guys clear snow from the estate grounds," Shannon responded. "We got more than twelve inches overnight, and it's supposed to snow again this afternoon." 

           "So we're well and truly stuck," Dana said, rubbing her hands together. "Good. We should play Truth or Dare tonight." 


           "Because it's fun, that's why." Dana drained her coffee cup. "It's more fun watching you and Scott interact, though." 

           "What do you mean?"

            Dana sighed impatiently. "For someone who is so intellectually smart, you are unusually obtuse when it comes to reading other people. Last night when we were playing Twister, the man couldn't keep his eyes off of you."

            Shannon shrugged. "He's stuck living here until we go to Ireland. I'm the only female anywhere near his age in range at the moment, so I'm likely a convenience. He stares at me because there's no one else to look at."

            "You really think that?"

            "I don't know for sure, but what else could it be?" Shannon reasoned. "He's accustomed to sophisticated women, Dana, which I'm certainly not. He's just too perfectly good-looking to trouble himself with me seriously. He could have anyone he wanted."

            Dana sighed again. "And he wants you, Shan. Tell me, why hasn't Scott been out clubbing with Sean and your cousins? Liam told me they've asked him a few times, but Scott always declines politely, saying he prefers to stay-in at the house. And who's here at the house? You. I highly doubt he has a thing for your Aunt Phoebe." Dana paused. "I've seen with my own eyes how Scott looks at you, Shan. The man is besotted."

            "So am I," Shannon whispered, a blush staining her cheeks.

            Dana turned to Shannon, surprised by her admission. Before she could pursue the subject, the back door into the kitchen flew open. Kevin, Liam, Sean and Scott stomped in, all of them wearing snow suits and ski masks. They began peeling off the wet gear, hanging it on pegs by the back door to dry.

            "What a bloody workout that was," Kevin declared. "And we're only half done." He sniffed the air. "I'm starving. Did Mae cook lunch today?"

            "There's a big pot of clam chowder on the stove," Shannon told her cousin. "Mae also baked about twelve mini-loaves of zucchini bread."

            "Thank God," Liam muttered. "Kevin's been grumbling about his empty belly for the last hour. I can't take much more of his whining."

            "Plowing and shoveling is hard work," Kevin insisted. "You might like rabbit food, my dear bony-assed little brother, but I need real sustenance in order to go on."

            While the brothers word-wrangled, Shannon moved her gaze to Scott. He pulled off his ski mask, pressing his hand over his hair to flatten it down. His eyes found her, a half-smile on his lips. Shannon felt the typical thrill rush to her stomach, generated solely by his focus on her.

            When Scott began to remove his black turtleneck sweater, the equally dark tee-shirt he was wearing underneath moved slightly, revealing part of his bare stomach. Shannon's eyes took in the flat surface and slight abdominal muscles, but then she zeroed in on the thin strip of black hair that ran from just above his bellybutton down under the waist of the blue jeans he wore. Because he was in the middle of removing his turtleneck sweater, she assumed Scott couldn't see her staring at him, her mouth open slightly.

            Dana whispered in her ear so no one else could hear: "Oh my God, Shan. He's gorgeous everywhere. Look at that line of hair on his stomach. You know where it leads, don't you? Doesn't it make you want to drag him into your bed and ravish him this very instant?"

            Shannon made the mistake of looking at Dana. They both burst into laughter, unable to help themselves. Dana stood from the table and ran out of the kitchen. Shannon could hear her friend's laughter coming from the corridor leading to the foyer, which caused her to renew her giggles.

            "What the hell is Dana's problem?" Kevin asked, mystified. He looked to Shannon. "Is that all the two of you do together? Whisper and giggle? And what's so damned funny?"

            Shannon sensed rather than saw Scott take a seat next to her at the kitchen table. "Did I miss something?" he asked. She heard the humor in his voice and dared to look at him. He was grinning. "Your giggles are contagious, yes?"

            How could she tell him she and Dana had been admiring his stunning physique when their fit of laughter came over them? Shannon's glance fell to the book Dana had left behind on the table. She held it up so everyone could see the title. "We were laughing about this. Dana loves Harlequin romance novels, and the title of this one just pushed us over the edge."

            Kevin grabbed the book from her. "The Feathered Shaft? Are you kidding me?" Then he threw back his head and laughed loudly, causing Liam and Sean to do the same. "No wonder Dana scampered off in hysterics."

            Scott leaned closer to Shannon, whispering in her ear. "The black tee-shirt under my sweater is made from a cotton mesh material, which means it's essentially see-through."

          Shannon looked at him, blushing profusely. "Oh?"

            "I saw what you and Dana were really looking at," he continued softly.

            Shannon was beyond embarrassed. Scott knew she and Dana had been admiring his body and wasn't going to let her get away with her subterfuge.

            Taking a deep breath, she groped for words as she kept her eyes lowered. "Uhm . . . we just happened to look your way . . . and, well, you were right in front of us. It was hard to miss, actually, and when we looked at each other it just sort of set us off laughing . . ."

            "So you liked what you saw?"

            She nodded mutely, finally raising her eyes to look at him.

            Scott was smiling at her. "It's nice to know you find something about me attractive," he told her dryly. "For awhile there, I thought you viewed me as some old geezer, over the hill and not worth a second glance."

            "You're hardly an old geezer," Shannon managed to say. "Far from it." Then she thought to herself: "If you only knew how I really felt about you and that body of yours . . ."

            "Hardly an old geezer, huh? That's good to know, Shannon. That's very good to know."

            "I've never used the term 'old geezer' to describe you," she qualified, unable to resist teasing him.

            "Oh?" he asked, eyebrows slightly raised. "How and when did you describe me? And to whom?"

            "I described you to Dana a few days ago," Shannon answered him. "Before you met her. She wanted to know what you looked like, so I told her."

            "And what did you say?"

            Shannon hesitated, looking at him. He was staring at her, his expression neutral. "I told her you were tall, dark and handsome." She blushed. "I also used the term gorgeous in there somewhere, too."

            A smile lit Scott's face.

            "Don't let it go to your head," she warned him with humor.

            "Old men need boosts to their egos once in awhile," he teased her in return. "I'm not exactly in my dotage yet, but every kind word you can throw me helps."

            She grinned. "Happy to oblige."

            Dana eventually returned to the kitchen, where she took Kevin's ribbing about her reading habits in stride. The group then had lunch together, enjoying the clam chowder and zucchini bread for dessert. Afterward, the men suited-up to go back outside.

            "What's for dinner?" Kevin asked. "We've got another four or five hours of hard labor in front of us, so we'll need something substantial when we return."

            "Me and Shannon are going to help Mae prepare a big batch of Shepherd's Pie," Dana replied. "You'll need all the brain food you can get for tonight. We're playing Truth or Dare."

            "Anything is better than Twister," Liam muttered as he shrugged into his snow coat. "The blood rushed to my head so many times last night, I thought I was going to pass out."

            Scott slipped on his black ski mask. Shannon looked at him, taking note of his green eyes through the two holes. She could tell he was smiling because his eyes were crinkled at the corners. He was staring back at her. After he put on his heavy black gloves, he subtly blew her a kiss by touching his mouth with the fingers on his right hand, and then gesturing toward her with them. She flushed pink, lowering her eyes.

            After the four men left by the back door, Dana grabbed Shannon by the arm. "Did you see that? Jesus, Shannon, he blew you a kiss - right in front of everyone! Do you believe me now that he might be a bit besotted with you?"

            "Or he's just playing with me," Shannon countered.

            "I'm sure he'd love to play with you, but not in the way you're thinking."

            Shannon stared at her friend. "Where did you learn to be so dirty-minded?"

            Dana laughed. "Sex isn't dirty, Shan. Call it love or lust - or both - but you can't fight human nature forever. Whatever it is between you and Scott, it seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. It's either going to deflate, or it's just going to keep getting bigger until it explodes." She shivered with a sigh. "I truly envy you. To be on the receiving end of Scott's kisses, that spectacular chest and those big hands . . ."

            Shannon covered her ears as she blushed red. "I can't hear anymore," she told her friend pleadingly. "It's bad enough I'm half-twitterpated every time Scott comes near me, but you're making it worse." She shook her head. "I've got to get a hold of myself."

            Dana slipped her arm around Shannon to comfort her. "Sorry, Shan. I'll try not to tease you so much from now on. It's hard, though. You and Scott seem so right together somehow."

            "We'd best get started on helping Mae with dinner," Shannon said lightly, rising from the kitchen table. "The guys will be coming back super hungry, and I know Kevin can demolish a whole loaf pan of Shepherd's Pie all by himself. We'll probably have to make at least four casseroles."

            "I'll peel the potatoes," Dana offered. She watched as Shannon made her way to the main area of the kitchen, joining Mae at the stove.

            "Shan has it bad for Scott after only a few days," Dana thought as she made her way to the stove. "And Scott has it equally as bad for her." She smiled to herself. "It's definitely going to be interesting to watch as it plays out. I think we're in for some big surprises when it's finally all said and done."


©2016 Deidre Dalton (aka Deborah O'Toole). All Rights Reserved.


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