An original contemporary romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2017; All rights reserved) [(1) story cover, left]
Author’s Dramatic Content Note: I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older. So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L). So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.
Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc. This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact. And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.
[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: Wanting some connection with each other during the week until they will see each other again at Friday’s Spring Fling dinner dance, Benedict and Laura share good night phone calls with each other Monday through Thursday—becoming more and more familiar with each other. And each night, they end their goodnight wishes to each other with their sweetly tender virtual hugs via their bed pillows, before separately falling asleep and then dreaming of each other.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 12 (PG-13): Spring Fling Dinner Dance and More Friday Night
As arranged and confirmed again the night before by phone, Benedict is to pick up Laura promptly at 6:00pm this Friday night, April 19th. No longer must either of them wait to see each other, since their respective teaching schedules and committee meetings precluded them from seeing each other for lunch or dinner, and such.
And it is the and such that Benedict has been ruminating over all week. Though it was he who suggested their virtual embraces as they ended their phone chats each evening before heading to sleep, Benedict still found them wholly unsatisfying. Having tasted Laura’s luscious lips and really embraced her last weekend, Benedict realizes that he looks forward to the Spring Fling dinner dance–with Laura as his date–more than anyone might have guessed, even more than he might have guessed two months ago. But now Benedict’s feelings toward Laura are more than as just friends. And he is nervous, eager, and hopeful to find out if Laura’s feelings correspond in any way to his own feelings.
Laura is already waiting for Benedict in her apartment building lobby with her rain coat on when Benedict arrives to collect her for the Spring Fling dinner dance. Benedict sweetly gives Laura a wrist corsage–since they are kind of going to the prom together–which she delightedly puts upon her left wrist. Then Benedict drives them to the Spring Fling event in a large conference hotel down town.
After Benedict and Laura walk into the conference hotel hosting the Spring Fling dinner dance, Benedict helps Laura remove her rain coat at the coat check area and then he finally sees the dress that Laura is wearing tonight and his eyes widen in appreciation for her elegance and beauty.
Though Benedict has mostly seen Laura at their volunteer events in everyday casual clothes–and she was in a dressy but demure dress for church last Sunday–Laura’s tea length cocktail dress this evening is elegant and slightly sexy. Her dress has a flattering yet modest midnight blue lace bodice and lace shrug jacket with a satin empire height waist band over crepe flounce skirting hemmed below the knee [(2) below, manip].
Benedict cannot help but notice that Laura’s dress elegantly and modestly flatter her womanly charms–her full round breasts, her tapered waist, and her curvy womanly hips. And Laura has styled her long reddish brunette hair with soft curls flowing over her shoulders–showcasing the creamy skin of her neck and shoulders.
Benedict: Almost speechless in gazing at Laura’s stunning beauty and sophisticated look, Benedict compliments her appreciatively. “Laura, you look beautiful! You take my breath away!” Benedict takes her hand and lifts it to his lips for a gentle kiss upon the top of her fingers.
Laura: “Thank you, Benedict.” Laura blushes with Benedict’s compliments. Then minxishly raising her eyebrow, she returns the compliment in kind. “You look very handsome yourself tonight, Benedict.” She pats his silver gray silk tie that displays a touch of sophistication with his black suit [(3) below].
Had they coordinated their outfits tonight, Laura and Benedict could not have done better. For formal evenings such as tonight, no couple wants to match their colors too much. So with Benedict wearing black and Laura wearing a midnight blue, they look perfect together. And that is what each of them thinks privately as they smile at each other. And Benedict cannot help but sweep his eyes appreciatively over Laura’s elegantly attired frame, which causes her to give him a small smile as she blushes once more.
Benedict: Leaning down and lingering near her ear, Benedict whispers to her saucily in his deep baritone voice. “I’m afraid my confessional prayers will take twice as long tonight.” Then he kisses her cheek.
Laura: “Let’s hope so.” Laura whispers, smiling coquettishly at him.
Benedict rocks his head back in laughter, then offers Laura his left arm. Laura takes Benedict’s offered arm with a sweet smile for him, and they walk into the hotel banquet ballroom where the Spring Fling dinner dance is taking place. Benedict and Laura make an attractive couple as they walk into the banquet ballroom with Benedict being tall and handsomely distinguished looking and Laura being petite and elegantly lovely. And with both Benedict and Laura being in their early (her) to mid (him) forties, they fit with each other.
Benedict and Laura are immediately greeted by Seminary President Rev. Maynard Casten and his wife Portia Casten in a mini receiving line as they enter the banquet room. The Castens are a long married couple in their sixties with several children and grandchildren.
Pres. Casten: “Ah Benedict! I don’t believe you’ve met my wife Portia Casten yet.” President Casten begins the formal introductions.
Benedict: “No, I haven’t had that pleasure, Maynard. It’s lovely to meet you, Mrs. Casten.” Benedict nods at Mrs. Casten with a little bow, he smiles, and gently clasps her hand in his hand.
Pres. Casten: “Portia Dear, this is Professor Benedict Somerset who joined our clergy faculty last year, but had to miss the Spring Fling last April.”
Portia Casten: “Ah! I have heard many good things about you. It’s lovely to meet you, Benedict. Please call me Portia.” She smiles at him warmly.
Benedict: Benedict nods at Portia again. “And Maynard and Portia, may I present my lady friend, Laura Leicester, who teaches at the university.” Benedict smiles tenderly looking at Laura.
Laura: Noticing her elevation to lady friend–from being just friends–Laura smiles and says warmly. “It’s lovely to meet you Mrs. Casten.” The two ladies gently shake hands. “And it’s good to see you again, President Casten.”
Pres Casten: “Yes, My Dear. It’s lovely to see you again, too.” He says looking warmly back and forth between Benedict and Laura. President Casten always likes to see his clergy faculty happily paired up. President Caster believes that it is important for clergy to set the example of happy marriages to their parishioners–or in this case, to their students. And happy colleagues are productive colleagues in his mind. Then he explains to his quizzically bemused wife. “Portia Dear, Laura joined us for worship services last Sunday—in which Benedict served as the Officiant.
Portia Casten: Portia’s eyes gleam with a decided twinkle to see a developing love match in Benedict and Laura. “How nice! Have a lovely evening, My Dears.” He waves at Benedict and Laura as they exit the receiving line.
As Benedict and Laura walk further into the elegantly decorated upscale hotel banquet room—with its hanging twinkling lights, satin sashed table chairs, lovely flower and candelabra centerpieces on each round dining table seating eight, with a string quartet playing where later an orchestra will sit for the dancing portion of the evening.
Then Benedict and Laura spy some of Benedict’s ministry students from last week–Mark and Bradley and their girlfriends.
Debbie and Bradley, and Sally and Mark–whom they walk over to.
Benedict: “Well Bradley and Mark, are you looking forward to graduation next month?”
Mark: “Boy, am I!” He says excitedly.
Bradley: “Me, too! No offense Professor Somerset, but it’s been a long haul.”
Debbie: “Yes, but you’re almost done and then we can get married.”
Laura: “Oh? Are you engaged?” She asks warmly.
Sally: “We both are.” Then Sally and Debbie show Laura their dainty engagement rings. Afterall, soon to be ministers are usually poor.
Though in Benedict’s case, he has widely invested the bulk of his professorial salary over the years–and combined with a private family trust he is the beneficiary of—his funds allows him to splurge now and again on the elegancies of life, such as annual trips home to England to see his family, winter skiing trips over the holidays, and such. And Benedict still has enough put aside in liquid assets to make a sizeable down payment on a family home for he and his future wife. Benedict does not like to borrow money, if he can help it. So Benedict lives quite frugally in the seminary’s clergy professor campus housing and he eats at the campus cafeteria. A habit that he has honed over the years.
Laura: “Oh girls, your rings are lovely.” Laura smiles genuinely and Benedict smiles, too. Benedict is glad that Laura likes their modest engagement rings.
Mark: “By the looks of things,” Mark says looking at his professor and his date Laura Leicester standing together–with Benedict’s right arm around Laura’s back and his right hand resting on her waist, and Laura’s left hand being held by Benedict’s left hand. “I’d say that you two are next, Professor.” Benedict blanches a bit and blushes as he smiles embarrassedly, him feeling put on the spot. Laura also blushes and smiles.
Bradley: “Sorry Miss Leicester,” He says both apologizing to her and chiding his friend. “But you and Professor Somerset look really good together. And if I may say, you’re a stunner tonight, Miss Leicester!” He says quite animatedly and Laura smiles.
Debbie: “Hey!” She pouts. “What about me?” Debbie asks petulant—her calculating that she is probably twenty years younger than Miss Leicester.
Bradley: “Now, now. You’re my beautiful girl, Debbie.” She smiles. “It’s just nice to see Professor Somerset all hooked up, too.” It seems that clergy students also like to see their clergy faculty happily coupled up.
Mark: “Now Bradley, Professor Somerset hasn’t indicated anything of the sort.” He says trying not to make one of his favorite professors feel put on the spot.
Benedict: Finding his voice, Benedict says bemusedly. “Yes, well, I have to agree with you. Miss Leicester does look stunning tonight!” Then Benedict leans down and kisses Laura on her cheek and she smiles and blushes.
The evening follows a predictable pattern—cocktails with hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, followed by a plated meal of chicken cordon bleu over a rice pilaf with mixed squash and zucchini vegetables on the side, then cheesecake and coffee for dessert while the student awards program is presented, and then finally the dancing.
Actually Benedict isn’t half bad at the dancing part, thinks Laura, as he twirls her around the dance floor—her flouncy gown skirting giving them a bit of a flair. Of course, the slow dances are particularly nice think both Benedict and Laura, as she lays her head upon Benedict’s chest—with Benedict having to refrain from kissing her temple since they are in public. And even though Laura is petite compared to Benedict’s tall six foot three inch frame, they don’t seem to have a problem dancing together.
The Spring Fling dinner dance evening ends around 10:00pm and Benedict drives Laura home—him hoping to continue their evening in private together. Though he has no expectations with regard to how intimate their evening might become, he does come prepared should he have need of such preparation.
Benedict has admired Laura in her stunning dress all evening—and he knows that were she wearing sack cloth, he would still think that Laura is exquisite. Love heightens a person’s senses and awareness. And Benedict is very much aware of Laura as a woman, and as a lady whom he hopes to cherish all the rest of his days.
Benedict hasn’t felt this way about a woman–being in love–in a very long time, if ever. Benedict feels almost giddy with joy that he and Laura found each other—that is, were his British sensibilities to permit an expression of effusiveness. Well, as giddy as Benedict’s usually solemn and sober nature allows—with him smiling more than cordially at Laura all evening.
And apart from their obvious physical attraction for each other, Benedict and Laura truly enjoy each other’s company, have shared values of family and making the world better for disadvantaged youngsters like Jeffrey and Cindy, and they get along nicely with each other–well, he thinks wryly, despite their initial miscommunications.
Laura also finds that she has fallen in love with Benedict even more than she had previously admitted to herself. He likes working with kids–always a plus in her mind–and he has similar values to hers. Laura also feels that Benedict looks oh so handsome and dashing in his dress suit tonight–men usually do look good in suits. But Benedict is a particularly handsome guy, Laura thinks–especially when he forgets to be solemn, and he smiles.
As Benedict courteously walks Laura up to her apartment building entrance, she turns into him—looking up into his eyes.
Laura: “Benedict, would you like to come up for a nite cap?” Of course, Laura is asking Benedict up to her apartment for much more–that is, if he is ready to go there with her. And if, Laura thinks, that she is truly ready to go there with Benedict, they will.
Benedict: “Yes, I would, Laura, very much.” Benedict feels that he has fallen in love with Laura. Benedict also thinks that tonight might involve them taking their relationship to the next level—both formally and informally. Benedict knows what he wants, but he wants to take Laura’s feelings into consideration as well. Benedict is, at his core, a true gentleman.
Holding each other’s hands sweetly, Benedict and Laura take the elevator up to her floor, walk down the hallway to her apartment’s front door. Benedict gently squeezes Laura’s hand clasped in his hand. She smiles at him, and then they enter her apartment—closing and locking her door behind them with a decided click.
Laura places her purse and keys on an end table in her sitting area, her realizing that she is now feeling a little nervous. What happens between them tonight will determine the course of their relationship. And she has such hopes for she and Benedict’s relationship—more hope to love and to be loved, than she has allowed herself to feel in a very long time.
Laura: “Benedict? Would you like some wine or more coffee?”
Benedict thinks for a minute. Wine might relax him a bit more–to the point of getting over his reticence and nervousness to make love with Laura—since it has been fifteen years since he has made love, since before his final ordination vows when he earned his doctorate of theology. And, he’s not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing–getting over the reticence and nervousness that is. Benedict knows that making love with Laura will be a very good thing. So, he blushes and replies to her.
Benedict: “Let’s have the wine.” Benedict takes off his suit coat and tie and drapes them over a chair–making himself more comfortable. Benedict also unbuttons two of his shirt buttons and his sleeve cuffs, and rolls up his sleeves a bit–which unintentionally highlights Benedict’s strong muscular forearms.
Laura: “Yes lets.” Laura smiles at him and nods her head. “I’ll get the wine goblets if you’ll open the wine bottle.” Laura hands Benedict the wine bottle and wine screw opener.
Benedict: “Certainly.” He smiles at her. Benedict and Laura sharing domestic tasks so equitably is just one way that Benedict measures the deepening level of their relationship. And though Laura has not asked him to clean dishes after meals or anything, yet, he is quite proud of his dishwasher loading skills—with dishes getting all clean these days, after him being persuaded to the benefits of pre-scrubbing and soaking by his brother’s wife when he and his elder brother were the clean up crew one year’s Somerset family Christmas dinner held at his brother’s home.
So, Benedict pours their wines and he and Laura walk over and sit on the couch, side by side, gazing at the flickering flames in Laura’s gas fireplace–with Benedict sitting to Laura’s left. They sit comfortably nestled into each other’s arms and sipping their wines for several minutes without speaking–just enjoying their quiet moment of togetherness.
Laura: Then Laura breaks their silence. “Hmmm.” She says sipping her wine and feeling its warmth. “Thank you for taking me to the Spring Fling dinner dance this evening, Benedict.” She smiles tenderly at him. “It was a lovely event.”
Benedict: “I’m glad that you enjoyed yourself.” He smiles warmly at her. “Laura, you looked … you look stunning in your dress. I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you all evening.” Benedict gazes into Laura’s deep brown eyes flecked with green, her sweet lips, and her creamy neck with her softly curled hair falling about her shoulders.
Laura: “Thank you, Benedict.” She smiles broadly at him. “You look very handsome yourself tonight.” She sips her wine in her right hand and lays her left hand demurely across her lap as she continues to lean into his right side. If she and Benedict are to make love tonight—as a joyful expression of their deepening relationship–Laura wants Benedict to make the first move. But she will understand if he wants to take their deepening relationship slowly. Laura even admires Benedict for his innate British reserve.
And Benedict does want to make love with Laura tonight. But he will not rush her—or himself. Setting down his wine goblet on the coffee table, Benedict clasps Laura’s left hand in his left hand, he squeezes her hand tenderly, then he holds on to it as they continue to talk.
Benedict: “I hope you didn’t feel overwhelmed meeting everyone tonight. I suppose we should have had worn nametags.” He laughs lightly and gently kisses her forehead.
Laura: Laura smiles tenderly at Benedict, then says softly. “Yes, there were a lot of people at the banquet tonight. But, it was nice to meet so many happy and affectionate clergy faculty and their wives or husbands. I’m afraid that when I was growing up, our minister and his wife didn’t show their affection for one another in public. Unless, I suppose, you count the fact that they had five kids.” She wrinkles up her nose and smiles impishly at him.
Benedict: Rocking his head back in laughter, “Ha ha ha ha ha!” he says. “So true! Children are a good indication of affection.” Then he slowly broaches talking about family issues in more detail with Laura. “I’ve always thought that I would like to have children. But, with me not being married yet, that hasn’t happened.”
Laura: “I know, me too. As I had mentioned before, my ex husband and I had hoped to get pregnant, but we couldn’t.” Laura’s face clouds over in sadness about that and Benedict notices. Laura worries that if Benedict wants his own biological children, that she wouldn’t be able to give them to him.
Benedict: Bringing her hand to his lips and kissing it, Benedict soothes Laura. “As you know Laura, we volunteer with children who haven’t found families yet. We could always adopt.” He tilts his head questioningly.
Laura: Laura realizes that Benedict isn’t proposing to her–well, not formally anyway. But, he is presuming that they will get there and she says smiling warmly at him. “Yes, adoption would be nice. Kids like little Jeffrey and Cindy need to find a family.”
Benedict: “Jeffrey is a great kid!” He agrees with her as he nods his head. Benedict turns his torso more toward Laura as they sit on her couch. Then Benedict takes Laura’s wine goblet out of her right hand and sets it down on the coffee table, and speaks without preamble—his deep baritone voice washing over her like velvet. “Laura, I’ve fallen in love with you. I am in love with you.” He gazes soulfully into her eyes–waiting and hoping for her to say the same about him.
Laura: Looking down demurely at first with a small smile, Laura then returns Benedict’s hopeful gaze. “And, I’ve fallen in love with you, Benedict.” Benedict tenderly squeezes Laura’s left hand again. They gaze lovingly at each other for a few moments. Then with her right hand, Laura caresses Benedict’s face and suggests minxishly. “Benedict, I think that our mutual declaration of love for each other just now could be sealed with a kiss without flouting the proprieties.” She amusingly bats her eyes flirtatiously at him like an ingénue.
Benedict: Rocking his head back in laughter again, he says “Ha ha ha ha ha! Brilliant!”
And with that, Benedict caresses Laura’s face as he leans in and they kiss each other–sweetly, tenderly, lovingly, and adoringly.
Benedict pulls Laura closer to him on the couch and they embrace each other fully as they continue to tenderly kiss each other. However, Benedict feels that their kissing and embracing should not go any further without him asking Laura to be his wife. The more time that they’ve spent together in the last few weeks, Benedict feels that he and Laura truly are soul mates–who also happily have a strong romantic physical attraction for each other. So, Benedict decides to ask Laura the question.
Benedict: “Laura, may I ask you something?” He says tenderly kissing her cheek, then her neck, and then her creamy almost bare shoulders.
Laura: “Uh huh.” She sighs with Benedict’s tenderness toward her. She has never felt so cherished. But, Laura is not expecting what Benedict says next.
Benedict: Gazing lovingly into Laura’s deep brown eyes, Benedict speaks from his heart. “I love you very much, Laura. You’re an amazing, strong, and beautiful woman. We share the same values and we’re soul mates in so many ways. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, cherishing you. Laura, will you marry me?”
Laura: “Oh Benedict!” Laura exclaims in complete astonishment. For she and Benedict to go from strangers to fiancés in three short weeks feels like going from zero to sixty miles an hour in your car on the highway to Laura–but in a very good way.
Benedict: Smiling broadly, he asks her teasingly “Does your smile mean that you’re leaning in my favor?”
Laura: “Yes! I love you very much, Benedict. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Yes, I will marry you!”
Benedict and Laura now kiss each other with loving abandon as they commit themselves to each other–heart and mind and body and soul. Their kissing goes on for some time, becoming more passionate as their embraces also become more passionate.
Benedict: Pulling back from their kisses and embraces, Benedict snaps his fingers excitedly. “Oh, I have something for you Laura.” Then he quickly stands up from the couch and picks up his suit coat hanging on the chair. Reaching inside his jacket’s vest pocket, he retrieves a small square worn black velvet jewelry box. Then he returns to Laura at the couch. But instead of sitting next to Laura again, Benedict goes the traditional proposal route and he kneels in front of her. Opening the jewelry box and taking out the dainty half carat diamond solitaire engagement ring in a raised filigree platinum setting, Benedict says as he slides it onto Laura’s bare ring finger “Laura, my love, this was my late Grandmum’s engagement ring. I want you to have this ring to mark our engagement, as a token of my love for you. Then later if you like, we can select a ring that you prefer for your engagement ring.” He kisses her adoringly.
Laura: Almost speechless, a rare thing for Laura–as Benedict well knows–she says with tears in her eyes. “Oh Benedict, thank you. This ring is so lovely–and a wonderful family heirloom. I will be honored to have this ring as my engagement ring, if that is what you wish also.” Laura holds Benedict’s face in her small hands and she leans in and kisses him sweetly adoringly, their lips feeling soft and warm.
Benedict: “It is, My Darling Laura.” Benedict and Laura kiss lovingly for several minutes as they celebrate their love and their engagement.
Eventually, Benedict’s knees start to give out with him kneeling on her hard wood floor. So he stands up while he still can—a concession to him getting older. Then Laura stands up from the couch also. Benedict and Laura embrace and kiss even more as newly engaged fiancés.
Their loving night is just beginning.
To be continued with Chapter 13
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 12, September 12, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace
1) The “Somerset: A Time for Love” story cover is a composite that I made of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c) a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;
2) Laura Leicester’s original Spring Fling tea length dress (with manip of Jennifer Ehle’s face onto model in pretty dress by me) in midnight blue with lace shrug jacket, lace overlay bodice, satin empire waist band, over a flouncy crepe skirt hemmed below the knees was found at http://www.dhresource.com/0x0s/f2-albu-g1-M00-53-A7-rBVaGFaDiNiAPqv7AADrzmDigV0577.jpg/custom-made-tea-length-mother-of-the-bride.jpg
3) Benedict Somerset in a formal suit for the Spring Fling dinner dance is Richard Armitage in a 2014 DaMan magazine portrait, wearing a black suit Jul2217viaSueli
Wattpad Ch. 12 story link:
Something About Love Blog Previous Ch. 11 blog link, with embedded illustrations: