“Who is she?” Vincent asked watching the beauty on Ryan’s arm smile up at his friend.
“Hmm what?” Hannah asked dragging her eyes from Donovan. An unfamiliar pain stabbing at her heart. Teasha laughing up at him, eyes twinkling happily. Hannah glanced away when Donavan caught her watching them. He winked. Of all the things he could have done he winked. The gall. She was jerked back to reality by Vincent’s voice. She couldn’t decide what was worse. Being with a guy she didn’t like who was practically drooling over someone else’s date or watching the guy she did like in the arms with one of her oldest friends.
“Who is she I wonder?” Vincent asked again turning her on the dance floor so she could have a better look.
“That’s Trinity,” she told him “she’s in one of Ryan’s classes.”
“Come on introduce me,” he said.
“Hey” she slapped his arm “I thought I was your date.”
“Hmm” Vincent dragged his eyes back to her smiling sheepishly “you are. You also made it abundantly clear that this was just a date between friends.”
She opened her mouth to protest only to shut it a moment later without saying a word. He was right. She had told him repeatedly over the past week that they were just friends. She stopped swaying to the music, dropped her arms and sighed “well let’s go meet her.” It would have been perfect if Teasha hadn’t swooped in and taken her man.
Walking from the dance floor Hannah bumped into Charity who appeared to be a bit pale. Hannah reached out to steady the girl “are you alright?” she asked projecting her voice above the loud music.
“What?” Charity asked looking up confused.
“Come on,” Hannah said taking Charity’s hand leading her through the crowd towards the exit. “Are you alright?” she repeated once they were outside on the porch.
Shrugging “why wouldn’t I be?” Charity asked looking away.
“Ity don’t lie to me,” Hannah squeezed her arm until she looked up at her.
“Oh Nana I didn’t think it’d hurt this much,” she blinked rapidly to keep from crying.
“What did you expect?” Hannah asked releasing her friend to lean against the porch railing. “Did you think Ryan would continue to follow you around like a lost little puppy? He’s trying to move on and it’s your fault.”
Shaking her head “I didn’t expect that. He’s my friend. I don’t want that to change. We have fun together but anything else would just be weird.”
“Uh huh” Hannah shook her head dismayed “that’s why you’re out here in tears and he’s in there with another girl.”
“He can do whatever he wants,” Charity replied gazing up into the night sky.
“How stupid are you?” Hannah demanded “you’re not fooling anyone. Just tell him how you feel. He’ll dump what’s her name and come running back to you just as soon as you snap your fingers.
“Nana we’re just friends,” Charity told her “stop making it into something it’s not. It was just a shock to see him with someone else. That’s all.”
“Are you really telling me that Ryan is just your buddy?” Hannah asked her words tinged with disbelief.
“He’s my best buddy next to you,” Charity affirmed “why would I want to destroy that with love and mush?”
Hannah stare out into the night “if that’s what you want I won’t mention it again even if I think it’s a mistake.”
“Thank you Nana,” Charity said turning to her with small grateful smile.
Nodding Hannah gave her a hug “I just hope you don’t come to regret this.”
“Evening lady’s” a good-looking guy in an army uniform passed Hannah and Charity on the porch. Entering the party the officer looked around the crowded room eyes searching for a certain dark-haired young woman. Spotting her. He walked with purpose in her direction. Coming to a stop behind her he listened to her flirt to the two boys who seemed to be enthralled by her and competing for her attention. “Trinity” he said her name loudly to be heard over the music and general conversation.
“Phoenix” she cried turning in his direction “I didn’t think you were coming.”
“That’s rather obvious,” he growled crossing his arms staring down his nose at her.
Unfazed she smiled at Ryan and Vincent “I need to talk to this guy. Be right back.”
“Who is he?” Ryan asked his jar tight, clenching his teeth.
“Her boyfriend,” Phoenix supplied when she remained silent “at least I thought I was.”
“We were never exclusive,” she told him “you know I never agreed to that. I don’t like being tied down…”
He took her arm leading her away from the crowd “are you mad at me or something?”
“Don’t be ridiculous” she giggled “you didn’t want to come. I did. Ryan asked,” she shrugged “what’s the big deal?”
Phoenix exhaled loudly turning to watch the couples on the dance floor “if you have to ask I can’t explain it to you.” He shook his head muttering under his breath “we want two different things don’t we?”
“I told you from the start I wasn’t into relationships,” Trinity returned his gaze steadily “I thought you understood that.”
“I thought you’d change your mind,” he broke eye contact with her “I’m not like you. I want the three bedroom house, white picket fence, the wife, the kids.” He waved his hands around “I want the entire package.”
Snorting Trinity put a gentle hand on his arm “that’s a nice fantasy. You and I both know that’s not reality.”
“Just because your parents failed at their marriage doesn’t mean you will too,” he could hear his voice rising. His fingers curled into fists “it takes effort to make anything work.”
Trinity watched him for a moment “I guess this it then. I don’t want that. I want to have fun. No strings attached.” She turned back to Phoenix “I hope you find what you’re looking for. I’m not that girl.”
He nodded eyes smoldering “fair enough. You did warn me.” His eyes strayed from her lovely face to the two boys waiting nearby “one day you’re going to find bouncing from one person to the next isn’t all fun and games.”
Following his gaze she laughed “they’re big boys they’ll get over it.” With that she walked away hips swaying leaving only her scent behind.
Teasha found herself outside in the cool night air. Her date, if you could call Donovan that, was nowhere in sight. More than once she had caught him winking at someone. She tried to ignore it. It had become increasingly more difficult as the evening progressed. Donovan just wasn’t that into her. She rubbed her hands along her arms trying to generate some warmth.
She looked up startled as something warm was draped across her shoulders. “Take this” a deep voice offered “before you freeze to death.”
She smiled at the handsome slightly older officer as she hugged the jacket around herself. “Thank you” she managed to say. She glanced up into his eyes, a thousand butterflies took that moment to take flight in her stomach.
“What’s a pretty girl like you doing out her by her lonesome,” he asked waggling an eyebrow at her.
She giggled “that’s the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard.”
“If that’s the worst,” he laughed “you don’t get out much.”
“You got me there,” she stiffened as she caught sight of Donovan talking to Hannah. A frown creased her brow as she watched him lean forward and kiss her cheek. She turned away not wanting to see more.
“Boyfriend trouble?” the young officer asked.
Shrugging Teasha sighed “not really.” She made a noise like a sharp bark “I hoped he wanted the position though.” Her voice sounded strained as she spoke. She didn’t want to be jealous of one of her closest and dearest friends but right now she wanted to rip every last blond strand from Hannah’s head.
Phoenix leaned back against the railing “if it makes you feel any better my girlfriend just dumped me.”
“Really?” she asked turning to gaze up at him.
“Yeah” he grunted turning to meet her gaze “she’s a free spirit and doesn’t want to be tied down to a relationship.” A smile spread across his face as she gazed into her eyes “you have the lightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen.” He lifted a hand to brush back a strand of hair from her face “like the ocean on a clear summer’s day.”
She leaned into his touch, her skin tingling as his soft voice ignited a fire deep inside her. A deep crimson spread across her cheeks. She could feel the heat as it spread. She was thankful to the poor lighting on the balcony for hiding her flushed cheeks.
Divia looked around the entry way. Heart sinking with every passing minute. She wasn’t coming. She should have known it was too good to be true. Marzia probably was at home wrapped in the loving arms of her girlfriend laughing their asses off at her waiting all night for her to arrive. She glanced into the dance, eyes shimmering. Why couldn’t she be like them she wondered? Part of a happy couple.
She gulped in air as the urge to run swept through her. She turned in her heals, slipping on the tiled floors. She fell with a wordless cry into a graceless heap. Rubbing her ankle she didn’t notice the door open and a pair of shapely legs approached her. “This is becoming a habit finding you on the ground crying,” Marzia’s said above her.
“You came,” she cried.
“I said I would,” Marzia said taking her ankle in hands inspecting the injury with delicate fingers.
“Ouch,” Divia hissed jerking her foot away.
“Don’t be such a baby,” Marzia ordered.
“It hurts,” she whined.
“Of course it does,” Marzia smiled “at least it’s not broken.”
“I won’t be able to dance,” she pouted “I ruined everything.”
“Not everything,” Marzia contradicted helping Divia to her feet.
Leaning heavily on the older girl Divia said “I’m sorry. I knew I shouldn’t have worn these stupid shoes. I wanted to look nice….”
“Baby doll you don’t have to wear heals to impress me,” Marzia laughed “I liked you just fine the moment I saw you.”
Grunting Divia rolled her eyes “I bet. Snot and all.”
“I can prove it to you,” Marzia said putting an arm around the girls shoulders.
“How?” Divia asked her while her senses burned from close proximity to the object of her dreams. Dreams she could never describe to anyone as she lacked the words.
Pulling her towards the door Marzia said “I want to show you something.”
Nodding Divia let Marzia help her to the car. She wondered if she should tell anyone where she was going. She was so captivated by this girl that she would follow her anywhere.
Hannah scowled at the red-head “you shouldn’t have done that.”
“Done what?” he challenged stepping closer, breathing deeply, filling his senses with her scent.
“You know what you did. Kiss me. When you’re here with someone else,” Hannah told him taking a step backwards bumping into the wall behind her.
“I would have been here with you,” he leaned in close one hand on the wall behind her boxing her in “if you hadn’t said yes to Vincent.” He said Vincent’s name like it was a swear word.
Heart pounding in her chest Hannah searched the crowded room for someone she knew. “That’s no excuse,” she said giving up on the idea someone would come by and rescue her “you chose to come here with Teasha.”
“Aren’t you the tiniest bit jealous?” he asked bumping noses with her.
“Of course not,” she was quick to say. Maybe a little to quick. If she were honest with herself. She had felt the ugly twist of the jagged knife edge of jealousy. Watching him holding Teasha in his arms on the dance floor. She didn’t like it.
“I didn’t like watching you dancing, laughing, touching that guy either…”
“Vincent?” she asked incredulity in her voice “you’re jealous of him.”
“I’m jealous of anyone who is where I want to be,” his mouth hovered above hers driving both of them crazy with desire.
“You should have thought of that before asking my friend out tonight,” Hannah told him ducking beneath his arm.
Donovan banged a fist against the wall growling. He debated following her. In the end he let her go knowing his little plan had backfired in his face. He had wanted to drive her crazy with jealousy instead he was the one eaten up with it.
Waylon felt a tug on his arm as Zach stopped short of entering the room where the party was. “Come on,” he urged gently “you have nothing to be afraid of.”
Zach lifted petrified round blue eyes up at him wordlessly pleading not to have to go in there.
Sighing Waylon moved beside him placing an arm around his shoulders whispering “I know this is difficult. You have to face it sometime.” For a moment Waylon was afraid Zach would break down and back out. He watched as tears filled Zach’s eyes, his lips quivered, his cheeks turning bright red. “I’m right here with you,” Waylon gently kissed the blond’s cheek while taking his hand and squeezing it.
“Ok,” Zach choked unable to say more as his lungs constricted as if a large boulder had taken up residence on his chest. He sucked in his bottom lip wondering how his classmates would feel about him arriving with a guy as a date. Would they be surprised? Disgusted? Angry? Hateful? As much as he tried to push those questions aside he kept finding himself surrounded by the football team when he was sixteen. He had been so happy when Dexter had asked to meet up with him that day. His happiness had melted to despair and betrayal as Dexter stood back letting Bull and the others beat him to a pulp. The hateful things they had said that still haunted his dreams but none more than Dexter’s voice saying the same hateful things. The pain he felt being accused of something he’d never do.
Zach took a deep breath. A tentative step forward. Stopped gazed up at the man beside him. The only person other than his closest friends and family that he had ever confided in. Would Waylon turn against him like Dexter had? He didn’t want to believe he would but if Dexter could….
Waylon saw the indecision in Zach’s eyes. He knew without a word that it was too soon for Zach to do this. He knew without a doubt that it was that damn note from Dexter that was messing things up. He squeezed Zach’s hand leaning in close “it’s ok. You don’t have to do this. I’ll take you home.”
Relief flooded Zach’s nervous system. He leaned into the reassuring bulk of the boy beside him. “What about…”
As much as Waylon wanted to keep Zach from facing Dexter he also knew that it was inevitable. “I’m coming with you,” he told him “I won’t let you face him alone. Who know’s what he’ll do?”
“Ok,” Zach said relieved. He didn’t want to admit he was afraid. Admit that the idea of Dexter setting him up again had crossed his mind. If that was Dexter’s plan, did he have the right to endanger Waylon’s life and well being by having him come along?