MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILEE©2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Martha S. Robinson
"That’s the most male chauvinistic thing you’ve said to date." Merrilee
wrapped a plush gold velour towel around her slender body, turned to him and
demanded, "What if he’d caught one of them? What could the poor woman look
forward to? She’d be wondering who he was chasing for the rest of the
marriage." Merrilee stalked from the bathroom in high dudgeon, Bran looking
on in amusement.
"Not for the rest of her life?"
"How could she stay married to a man who was as faithful as an alley cat?"
She dropped the towel, all modesty forgotten, and yanked a silky white
negligee from the drawer. Pulling it over her head, she turned back to Bran
who was lying on the bed, obviously enjoying the view. It made her angrier.
"How do you know that he’d be unfaithful?"
"How could a man who has probably been in the Guinness Book of World Records
for women-chasing be faithful?"
"Do they have such a record?"
"I wouldn’t know, but if they did, he probably set the record."
"What if he was searching the world over for the one woman he wanted?"
"Hah!" Merrilee walked back to the bed and climbed in, feeling the gentle
undulations of the water mattress. "I’ll bet! More likely, he was trying to
make sure he hadn’t missed anyone." She lay on the pillow, trying to be
relaxed as she could manage, though with him laying next to her, that wasn’
t easy. Her heart was beating faster, her body telling her that she wanted
him again and again. She grew angry with herself, frowning.
"You have a low opinion of Chandler," Bran observed, thoughtfully. He
"You noticed." That was at least a topic she could be angry about, and
maybe, just maybe distract herself. She had no idea that she could be so
insatiable as far as a man was concerned. NO, as far as Bran was concerned.
It was unfair.
"I have no time for wealthy playboys who don’t have time to run their own
companies. Bran, I got to love old Bart when I was there. Maybe it was due
to my talent with computers that he took an interest in me, but I met him
shortly after I went to work for Chandler’s and he was always good to me.
Like my own father should have been, maybe. I don’t know. It’s just that
knowing what a self-centered, totally job oriented father I had, and
comparing him with Bart Chandler, I can’t help but hate Bart’s son for
"Bran, even when his father died, Chandler didn’t come home for the
funeral. He was too busy indulging his womanizing all over France. During
the two days before and the two days after the funeral, Chandler was playing
his games with some of the best known French.....women.....around. And, on
the day of the funeral, on the very day when Bartholomew was being buried,
that no good louse of a son spent the day on a yacht in the Mediterranean
partying with a bunch of high paid hookers." She drew a deep breath and
continued. "Bran, I had the highest respect for old B.E. Chandler, and to
his credit, he never said anything negative about his son."
Bran said nothing, just listened to Merrilee as she told him of her
feelings. "You know that Mike is his step-son, so I also met him at a few
family gatherings when Mike and Melissa were engaged. Bart mentioned his
son, regretting that he was unable to attend, and acted like it was nothing
but an inconvenience. I couldn’t help but hear the hurt in his voice when
he knew that his son would miss another holiday with the family. Even Mike
was angry with him when he missed his father’s funeral, not to mention when
he didn’t make their wedding."
"Is that why you quit Chandler’s?"
"Mostly. I won’t work for a man I can’t respect." There were other
reasons, but she wouldn’t discuss them with Bran.
"But Chandler did return to take over the company."
"When he could tear himself away from his ‘friends’ six months later. I
was already gone."
"Didn’t he try to rehire you?"
"He tried, but I refused an interview. He offered a raise, but by then I’d
already moved to San Diego." She closed her eyes for a minute, deliberately
avoiding looking at their reflection in the mirror that hung over their bed.
Bran looked into the mirror and found himself looking at Merrilee lying next
to him. It seemed natural to see here there, by his side, and he smiled.
"What are you smiling about?" she asked him, reopening her eyes. "Thinking
about all the women in the world he knows?"
"No," he commented, meeting her eyes in the glass with a grin. "I was
wondering if I could get a mirror over my bed at home. I could get used to
Merrilee looked up, finding her eyes drawn to his body which was outlined
very clearly through the clinging satin sheets. Her own eyes strayed down
his chest and below where it became obvious that he was aroused again.
Realizing what she was doing, she moved them only to meet his eyes in the
mirror. She blushed hotly, and then rolled over. "Well, I couldn’t."
"Why not?" he asked her, pulling her back to face him. In his arms, her face
close to his, he could see all the colors that made up the incredible hazel
of her eyes. They were brown, green, and gold, all blended together to draw
him into their depths. She was lovely, and he was determined that she remain
his. "I thought that you liked looking at my body, and I certainly like
looking at yours."
"But," she sputtered. "This is positively decadent."
"I know. It’s also very erotic." He leaned over and kissed her deeply.
"Besides, it beats the hell out of being stuck on the third floor with
Matthew." Anything would, but he didn’t say that.
"It may, but we aren’t getting much done," she protested weakly.
"I’m not complaining," Bran told her with a leer. "Things are going very
nicely, as far as I’m concerned."
"Yeah," she agreed, sarcastically, trying to slow her breathing. Her heart
was racing, and she knew that she was fighting a losing battle. "Now all I
have to do is develop a taste for black bedrooms and ask to be given the
"No," Bran told her. "You won’t be doing that. We know where the computer
is, so if you’ll just keep him busy showing your around the rest of the
estate, I’ll see if I can find it and access his files."
She raised her eyebrows at his casual use of computer terminology. "You
really do know your computers, don’t you?"
"Yes," he admitted. "But you knew that before." He leaned back on the bed,
concerned about her attitude. "What’s wrong?"
"This whole mess." She sat up and informed him. "From the beginning, you’ve
either been lying or not telling me everything, and idiot that I am, I’ve
gone along with it." It was the latter that disturbed her the most, the fact
that she’d gone so willingly. It bothered her that she’d fallen in love
with him so easily, that she went into his arms as if she belonged there.
She hated being vulnerable, and right now, she was. Painfully so.
"So?" he asked, after her slight pause. He wondered what was going on inside
"So I’m wondering what that says about me. What kind of a fool would do the
sort of thing that I’m doing?"
"Not a fool, but a woman who loves her country and wants to make sure that
people aren’t being held against their will."
"I seem more like a bubble brain that went chasing off with a perfect
stranger after agreeing to a silly charade and winding up in bed with him."
"You aren’t a bubble brain. You showed rare courage to go chasing off with
a--thank you for the compliment--perfect stranger after agreeing to this
admittedly silly charade. And, this stranger is very glad that you wound up
in his bed, and in the bath tub with him." Bran pulled her over to his
muscular chest and looked down into her eyes again. "Let me show you just
how glad I am."
Later, after the rocking of the water mattress had subsided, Merrilee
remarked, "I’m beginning to agree with you about the mirror."
"Shall we add one above the bed at home?" Bran looked at the lovely woman
laying beside him, her long, slender legs still tangled with his. She
snuggled into his arms, and nodded. "Yes, but only if I can choose the rest
of the decor." What a lovely thought, she mused. A future with Bran.
"So long as it doesn’t look like a gilded cathouse. My God, Merrilee," he
said, looking around the room. Everything was overdone, right up to the nude
on the wall who bore a strong resemblance to Eleanor. "This place wasn’t
done by an interior decorator, but an interior desecrator."
Merrilee ignored his comment about the desacrator, hearing the first part of
his statement. It was the second time he’d used the term. "How do you know
so much about cathouses?" she asked lazily drawing her fingers across his
He ignored her question, instead drawing her closer to him in a gentle hug.
It felt good, it felt right to be holding her close, feeling her sweet
warmth after making love to and with her. He knew that he wanted to go on
feeling this special closeness, and with her alone, but then he frowned.
There was a lot to do before he could get to the point of asking her to
marry him, and some of it was dangerous. Damn! How could he have gotten her
mixed up in something like this? How could he allow her to do the sort of
thing she was doing, to risk her safety for any reason? But, she’s not
inexperienced this sort of thing, he told himself. Mike said that she could
hold her own in a tight situation. Bran gave a little frown, and pulled her
closer, again amazed that this bit of soft femininity could be the woman
Mike had described.
"Why the frown?" came her voice as she caressed his chest. If she could have
only this time with him, she’d make the most of it.
"I’m busy regretting getting you involved in this."
"Because it’s dangerous. That’s why."
"I knew that and I came anyhow."
"But it’s different, now."
"Why?" she asked, wishing that she dared reveal her feelings. She wanted to
know why he felt different now. She knew that she couldn’t leave him now,
especially because of the danger. "Tell me what’s changed."
He groaned, hesitant to tell her of his feelings. Merrilee was his, would
belong to him for the rest of his life, and he wanted to tell her that. He
wanted to tell her of his love, but that would entail telling her a few
other things that she might not want to hear, and he wanted to bind her to
him with chains of pleasure before doing that. Yes, he’d teach her body to
respond to his, and no other. So, with that in mind, he leaned over her
mouth and gently traced the outline of her lips with his tongue. Then, he
closed his lips over hers.
Could any man be so loving? Merrilee wondered as she accepted his lips on
hers. Truly this man was the source of all pleasure, warm and loving.
Loving? She pulled his head closer, running her fingers through his thick,
wavy hair. Yes, loving. Sex was one thing, but surely there was some emotion
behind this activity. He’d said that he was glad to have her in his bed,
and she knew that there had been many women in his life. A man like Bran was
rare, and she wanted to be the last woman in his life. His touch was breath
to her body, his kiss evoked feelings that she’d not dreamed existed. As
his lips teased hers, she knew that there would never be another man for
her. With a groan of impatience, she opened her mouth and allowed the tender
invasion to continue.
Much later, both fell apart, exhausted, sated from yet another thorough
loving. "Never, never has there been another woman like you," Bran told her,
holding her close, savoring her sweetness. "Merrilee, I...." But the words
wouldn’t come. They were there, but it was too soon. There was too much to
say, and not enough time to say it.
Merrilee lay quietly, wondering what he wasn’t going to say. Oh, he’d
complimented her, had told her of his pleasure, but she wanted more. She
wanted everything: his love, his life, his name and eventually, his babies.
Yes, she wanted it all. But, what did he want? Was she simply a female to
sleep with while he was handling this case? He’d said that she was one of
the perks of the job, and maybe that was all she was. Maybe when this was
all over, he’d return to whatever it was he did for the rest of the time
and remember her as a pleasant interlude, if at all. Bleakly, she recalled
that he preferred busty blondes, and she fit neither category. With the
attitude of a child knowing that the cookie jar would soon be out of reach,
she tried to imprint this moment forever in her memory. Closing her eyes,
she willed it to last, and that was her final thought before she fell asleep
in his arms.
Bran stayed awake longer that night, watching her as she slept. It was
another first, for never before had he experienced the need to memorize the
features of a woman before, to know how she looked when she slept,
completely vulnerable and trusting him. That she trusted him, he knew,
though whether or not the next few days would shatter that trust remained to
be seen. He’d deceived her, told half-truths, and left out a few important
details. But, with his body he’d told her the truth of his emotions. Too
much was resting on the outcome of this masquerade to chance the happiness
of only two people; indeed, the happiness of the two people rested on the
success of the masquerade. Should it all collapse around them, it would be
too late, and should it all go well, the truth would out. Even if they were
to walk away from Drake’s mansion at this very moment, she’d have to know
and knowing that he’d sacrifice the others for her would drive her from his
arms. No, he had to see it through, regardless of the outcome.
Bitterly, Bran reflected for the first time in his life that he wanted
something he wasn’t sure he could afford. Oh, if she had a price, he’d be
able to afford it. Money he had. If she wanted introductions to influential
people and their expensive past times, that was no problem. But, Bran had
lied, and lied, and lied. And maybe, just maybe, Merrilee wanted the truth.
And the truth he couldn’t tell her. Not yet.