Best-Laid Plans (Chapter Four, page 1 of 1)


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They kept their emotions at bay for the most part. Brandon didn't act much different at the apartment, but he always seemed to end up in the chair beside her at the table. They stood around until all the chairs were taken in the living room so that they were forced to sit together on the couch. They studied together at the library on Wednesday evenings. Since they were scheduled to be too late for supper that day, it was a good excuse to eat out together.
Their relationship was growing, but finding a place to cuddle was nearly impossible. Wherever they went, they were likely to be interrupted. Their kisses were usually shared after dark, but as the season progressed, that was getting later in the evening. The entire facade troubled Adrienne. Why did they have to sneak around? As long as they weren't sleeping together or disrupting the household, what difference did it make that they were in love? Still, neither of them could afford to move out right now, so their relationship would have to remain a secret.
One day when they were sitting on the porch steps together, Brandon proposed a solution.
"I'm tired of slipping around this way,” he said. “It goes against the grain. Why don't we just get married?"
Adrienne stared at him. "Don't you think it's a little soon? A few weeks ago we were only friends, and now . . ."
"Only friends?" Brandon interrupted. "It's been more than that for a long time - or am I only imagining things?"
She blushed. "Well, it's only been a few weeks since we confessed. Still, don't you think we should get to know each other a little better?"
He laughed shortly. "Better? I've been living in the same apartment with you for two years. What more is there to learn? I know you get up grouchy. I know you leave the cap off the toothpaste and I even know when you . . ." He stopped, his face turning darker. "I know you well enough," he concluded tersely.
Her face burned hotter. Why wouldn't he notice? At that time of the month, she turned into a complete monster. Even Rachel said so.
She shook her head. "We couldn't afford an apartment right now - even with the two of us. Then, there would be the cost of the wedding - and what about finals? Talk about a distraction."
He considered her reasoning and then sighed. "Maybe you're right." He glanced at her and smiled smugly. "Do you realize you just agreed to marry me?"
She wrinkled her nose at him. "No I didn't."
He tugged on a strand of her hair and grinned. "Not in so many words. So what do you say, yes or no?"
She wrapped her arms around her knees and stared into the dusk. "Yes, I want to marry you, and no, not now."
He nodded, eyeing her expectantly. "What about June? I found a place for my shop. It has living quarters at the back. It's kind of small, but the rent isn't too bad, and it'll be available by then."
She glanced at him, her heart pounding harder. Were they actually making plans for a lifetime together? Things were moving too fast.
"I don't know. Let me think about it. Let's not just plunge into this."
"All right," he conceded dejectedly. "I know how you like to scrutinize a thing to death. You take time to think about a date, but I want to take you out tomorrow to look at engagement rings."
She caught her breath. "But you don't have the money. It can wait."
He scowled at her. "I'm working my way through college, but what have I ever done to give you the idea I was destitute? I have some money put aside." He stared at her intently. "I'm beginning to wonder if you're too polite to tell me to shove off."
"That's not true," she gasped. "I just thought that you . . ." Her voice trailed off at his grin. She punched him in the arm. "You're just like your father. I never know when to believe you."
He laughed and grabbed her fist, jerking her into his arms. The kiss started out playful, but passion put an end to that. She clung to him. The warmth of his muscular chest was like a magnet. Was this actually true? Was she going to have her career and him as well? If only she could shout it to the world.
Julia chose that moment to open the front door. She gasped in surprise. "What do you two think you're doing out here in the dark?"
Adrienne tried to pull away from Brandon, but he hung on to her defiantly. "I'm kissing my fiancé. Now get on in the house and give us some privacy."
"Brandon," Adrienne gasped, trying to squirm free of his grasp. What was he thinking of?
Julia swung away from the door and called for Rachel. Brandon smiled sardonically as he gazed down at Adrienne.
"We've been caught. There’s no point in making it look any worse than it is. We're not fooling around, you know. This is serious stuff."
She finally managed to squirm from his embrace. "I know. I'm about to loose a cheap place to live - or is that what you had planned?" To her surprise, her voice cracked, and her eyes burned with unshed tears. He had betrayed her. All her plans were about to blow up – all this because she had allowed herself to be drawn into a relationship. She was so close to achieving her goal.
Brandon frowned down at her. "Oh, now don't start crying. They're not going to kick us out."
He still didn’t see the seriousness of the situation. They had broken the rules. Did he think the rules were only for the others? What had she been thinking of all this time? Obviously, she hadn’t been doing much thinking at all. She met his gaze soberly.
"Brandon, we all agreed on those rules. We can’t expect them to make an exception for us.”
He stood and helped her to her feet. "They're not going to throw you out,” he insisted firmly. “If one of us has to leave, I'll go. It'll make things tough, but it's only a few months."
"Nobody's going to throw either of you out," Rachel spoke from the door. "Now both of you get in here before we make a scene that gets us all thrown out." She shut the door after they entered, and smiled wryly at Adrienne. "Did you really think you had us fooled? We've known since he took you up to his parent's house. The only thing we don't know is the wedding date."
Adrienne stared at Rachel. “How could you know? I didn’t even know. Not until the night of the party.”
Julia made a face. “Oh, come on now. How could you not know, when he invited you to go see his parents? Come on. I know you’re naive, but . . .”
“Julia,” Rachel interrupted sharply. She moved between Adrienne and Brandon, and put an arm around each of their shoulders. Her stern gaze fell on Julia. We should be congratulating them.”
Brandon finally found his voice. “Thanks,” he said, giving Rachel a little hug. He frowned at Julia. “Adrienne didn’t suspect anything because I never said anything. I let our stupid house rules stand between us for a long time, but I was the one who finally broke them.” He glanced down at Rachel. “Only we really never broke the rules. All our cuddling was done outside those doors.”
Rachel waved a hand and made a face. “You’re right. No house rules were broken. Now all I want to know, is when are you getting married?”
Adrienne blushed and glanced shyly at Brandon. "We haven't decided yet."
"June," Brandon responded, raising a brow at Adrienne.
"I didn't agree to June," Adrienne said.
Rachel rolled her eyes. "I always heard marriage could break up a good friendship." She glanced at Julia and winked. "The war is on."
Julia nodded. “Well, congratulations. I hope you two are happy together.” She frowned at Adrienne. “Just remember, house rules still apply.”
Adrienne’s face burned. She had no intention of hopping into bed with Brandon before they were married - house rules or not. But to Julia, she said nothing. Nothing she could say would make any difference anyway. Julia had her own ideas about morality, obviously.

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