“You look like crap man.”

Ah Adrian, always the charmer. We were in a suite in the hotel the Christmas party was being held in. Adrian had organised it for him and Tam for the night while I’d provided a limo that Tam had insisted I share.

Adrian’s girl had been smiling ecstatically when I climbed in through the door and I’d pretended to stumble and collapsed at her feet.

“Wow Tam, you’re a knock out, almost literally,” I’d teased as I sat down opposite them.

“Thank you, I’m so excited.” Her smile faded a little as the car door closed and she looked over. “Where’s Dee?”

“Dee? Didn’t you guys…” I trailed off as Adrian shook his head and Tam opened her tiny bag. Looked like Dee hadn’t told them what had happened.

“I thought you did!” She pulled out her cell and and a few moments later they were talking. “Hey where are you? Really, already? No, we’ve just left Jay’s. In a limo.” She shot me a glare. “I thought he’d told you and he thought I had. Yeah okay. Great! See you soon.”

I felt guilty as hell and I knew Dee wouldn’t believe that little mix up, even Adrian looked doubtful. We hadn’t talked since the night he left me outside Dee’s building, I’d used work as an excuse to avoid everyone except Dee. Her, I hadn’t even given an excuse, I’d just not answered her last text. It killed me and I missed her too but I had no idea how to talk to her now, how to behave around her.

That night, I went home and went to bed, didn’t sleep much. Then I really went home, to my parents place, and I asked my mom to send me away. She had a week of meetings coming up and took me with her instead. There had to be some benefit to being the bosses kid, right? Of course Suzi hadn’t kept quite about Roxie so everyone assumed I was heartbroken over her. Which was better than the truth.

My sister’s solution to my heartbreak was to throw eligible women at me which was partly why I was hiding in Adrian and Tam’s hotel room rather than joining the party where she ‘needed’ me to ‘take care of’ one of the execs from a company we did business with. Though with the way Adrian was looking at me, maybe I should have taken my chances down stairs.

“So are you ever going to tell me what happened with Dee?” Adrian kept his voice low as he shot a glance at the closed bathroom door where Tam was freshening up.

“Nothing to tell.” I shrugged and walked over to the window to check out the view.

Adrian snorted. “Bullshit. If nothing happened why are you both avoiding each other?”

I knew I was going to have to tell him what happened at some stage but it hurt even thinking about it let alone saying it out loud. “Fuck,” I breathed as I yanked at my tie feeling suffocated.

Adrian’s hand landed on my shoulder as his reflection appeared beside mine in the window. “Sorry man. I was hoping you two were holed up together working things out.”

Him and me both. I managed a grim smile. “I made a pass, she smacked me down.”

“Awkward,” he said with a cringe.

“Tell me,” I muttered, turning away from the window as the bathroom door opened.

“Jay, I didn’t realise you were waiting too?” Tam looked at me curiously.

“I was worried Adrian would attack you since you’re looking so luscious,” I said with a little leer.

“Idiot.” Adrian shoved me as he went to Tam’s side. “He’s up here hiding-”

“From my sister.” I cut in. “She wants me to romance some woman.”

Tam frowned. “Well that’s a bit insensitive after Roxie isn’t it?”

“She wants me to move on, she means well,” I defended. “Maybe I could just stay here?”

“Oh no.” Adrian pointed at me and gave me a hard look. “You need to go down there and deal with this.”

“Adrian’s right.” Tam looped her arm through his. “Just talk to your sister.”

Adrian and I both knew that wasn’t what he meant and I was glad Tam didn’t. We went down to the ballroom and I hung back to take it all in as Adrian and Tam went it. It looked amazing and my eyes found Dee immediately. She was stunning of course, and standing with my sister who was giving me the evil eye.

“I’m not late,” I said as I stopped before her with a smirk “Even if I am, she’ll forgive me.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Suzi rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Don’t waste your charm on us, go.” She tried to push me away but I stood firm, building up my courage to look at Dee.

I remembered the way she’d looked at me and said, “it wasn’t personal” and I met her eyes. Cool, calm, not at all heartbroken. That was me.

“You know me, always ready to serve.” I held her gaze for a three count then I ran. Well not literally. I crossed the room to the woman Suzi wanted me to take care of and flashed the smile that got me out of trouble.  “Looks like all of my christmas wishes have come true,” I said and she smiled up at me. I stuck with her all night, like white on rice, dancing, dinner, drinks, we did it all. Suzi gave me a thumbs up and my parents stopped by while we were eating to give their subtle approval. I’m not sure if they knew I was operating under Suzi’s instructions or thought I was really into this woman.

She reminded me of Roxie when I’d first met her, before she coloured her hair and went crazy, and that was enough to put me off. Let’s not even factor in that I was in love with another woman. I might not have been able to stop thinking about her all night, but I did a hell of a job not looking at her. Which how Adrian snuck up on me and changed partners, left me standing there not looking at Dee.

We stood there for long seconds then she turned away and I couldn’t take it, couldn’t take one more rejection from her.

“Delilah wait.” I reached for her hand and she stopped, her head dropping forward to expose the nape of her neck. What I wouldn’t give to have the right to kiss her there, pull her against me and hold her all night. But I didn’t and I called her Delilah to remind myself of that. Delilah was the cool sophisticated women who had men eating out of her hand any time she wanted. And she hadn’t wanted me.

“Just one dance,” I said as much to myself as to her as an old song started. She came into my arms, a perfect fit, like we were made for each other, our bodies moving in synch.

“Jay.” Her fingers tangled in my hair, pulling to get my attention and I looked into her eyes. “Is this goodbye?”

“Of course not,” I said much to my surprise since I’d been thinking yes it was. But with her in my arms, her eyes so solemn, I knew I was lying to myself. I couldn’t walk away from her, I didn’t want to know her from a distance, I wanted… well I couldn’t have what I wanted so instead, I wanted our old friendship back. “Baby I’m sorry, I’ve been an idiot.”

“You have?” she smiled up at me and I felt like a fool for denying myself her company for the last two weeks. “I hadn’t really noticed,” she added with a nervous laugh.

I arched a brow at her. “Oh, you’re a funny girl now? Do you want my apology or not?”

“Not,” she said quickly and I looked at her in surprise. “Can we just forget about it? We both said some… let’s say stupid things.”

She paused and I nodded in agreement. “You want to pretend it never happened?”

“Yes please,” she said, her relief obvious.

Pretend I’d never felt the silk of her skin, the kiss of her arousal? Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen, but I could pretend.

“Sure thing baby.” I grinned at her and dipped her back over my arm as the song played on…

“That’s just the way it is
Baby, that’s just the way it is Baby
That’s just the way it is”