One Breathless Night(3)

By: Jo Leigh

She took her White Russian from Payton, and gave him a kiss. “You should eat. Everything’s very good.”

“I’m grateful you went to the trouble of tasting it for us. In this place, it’s impossible to tell the villains from the heroes.”

“You’re welcome.”

Payton pressed a quick kiss to her forehead, and then went to get a plate. But he didn’t make it that far. The beautiful blonde with Danger Bond gasped when she caught sight of him. “Payton?”

“Oh, for God’s sake... Faith! You never come to these.”

She was even more beautiful when she smiled. “I didn’t know you did,” she said, putting her plate down and giving him a really big hug. Jenna and Mindy raised their eyebrows at each other.

It lasted just a few seconds too long, that hug. It was so unlike Payton that Jenna barely noticed when Danger Bond joined them.

Faith stepped back. “This is Rick. My boyfriend. We’re in Boston because of him.”

Payton introduced himself. Jenna watched the two men shake hands. Evidently Faith was partial to good-looking guys with dark hair. Jenna sighed at her foolishness. It was an alumni New Year’s extravaganza. People were consuming great food and lots of alcohol. So they hugged. It didn’t mean anything. Even so, she moved right up against Payton’s side.

Payton put his arm around her. “Jenna, this is Faith Quentin. We were friends in college.” They shook hands, and Faith gave her a quick head-to-toe. It made Jenna feel superior when she didn’t check out Faith in return. No one but Mindy needed to know that she’d already scrutinized the woman.

Danger Bond held out his hand, too. “I went to school across the Charles River, but Faith lets me come here, anyway. Rick Sinclair.”

His smile was great close up, genuine but at odds with his steely jaw and piercing blue eyes. It occurred to her, as Payton finished the introductions with Mindy and Zane, that the college across the river from Boston U was MIT.

“So you stuck with journalism.” Payton smiled at Faith. Or maybe he’d been smiling all along.

“I did. I’m very lucky. Journalism has—wait. How did you know?”

“I—” Payton seemed startled. He recovered quickly, so no one noticed. Except Jenna. She saw the telltale tic that meant he was flustered. “I must’ve read something in the alumni magazine,” he said easily. “If I remember correctly, you won a National Magazine Award.”

Jenna blinked. Either he’d followed Faith’s career or he’d read his alumni magazine cover to cover, something Jenna could have sworn he didn’t do.

“Damn straight she did.” Rick pulled Faith in for a quick hug. “She’d only been working for Discover for a year and a half. The NM award is the magazine equivalent to the Pulitzer.”

Faith blushed and tossed her perfect blond hair behind her shoulder. “He’s only bragging because he was a major part of the series.”

“Really?” Zane, who’d lost no time filling his plate, rejoined the circle. “What was it about?”

Payton hadn’t gotten his dinner yet. He should have been starving. Jenna was about to point out that he was drinking on an empty stomach, but when Faith said, “Climate change and the formation of supercells,” Payton looked as if he’d never heard anything more fascinating.

When Payton asked her what part Rick had played, Jenna gave up. If he wanted to wake up to a hangover, that was his business.

Seemingly taking her fiancé’s curiosity in stride, Rick said, “I’m a meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory.”

Faith gave Rick a look. A couple’s look. “More like a professional storm chaser who also happens to hold several advanced degrees.”

That certainly got Jenna’s attention. “Storm chasing. Well, that sounds terrifying and dangerous.”

Rick shrugged. “It can be dangerous, but it’s also an incredible rush. I don’t think I caught what you do?”

“She’s a teacher,” Payton said. Another thing he rarely did. Speaking for her wasn’t really necessary. “Middle school English. At a very good school in Scituate.”

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