One Breathless Night(5)

By: Jo Leigh



One of the things she appreciated most about Payton was that he was predictable. It might not be an appealing trait for a lot of women, but for her it was. She loved him for his stability. For the fact that their future together would unfurl without a lot of bumps and tears. Still, three compliments in a row? “What did you and Zane talk about for so long when you went to the bar? Ways to woo a sure thing?”

All of them laughed and Payton’s shoulders relaxed as he said, “I haven’t seen George and Cora for a while. Did they say where they were headed?”

Mindy finally piped up. “They’re dancing downstairs. We’re going to meet them as soon as Zane’s finished eating. Want to join us?”

Payton shook his head. “It’s too loud and crowded down there. I’ll probably stick around here.”

Jenna’s chest tightened again, which was ridiculous. He and Faith, they’d been friends. If they’d been more than that, Payton would have told her. She’d been a Wellesley girl. Martin had been her boyfriend for two years. There had been a few others, as well. Payton knew about them. Just as she knew about Payton’s old girlfriends during his years before the two of them met. In all the time she and Payton had been together, jealousy had never been an issue. It had barely been a thought.

She checked her watch before she turned to Mindy. “It’s ten thirty now. How about you two text if you decide to leave early, or we can meet by the second-floor elevator in an hour before the countdown begins?”

“I think it’ll be easier to meet here,” Payton said. “We already know where it is and from what I’ve heard, the reunion         committee is doing something special at midnight here in this suite.”

Mindy and Zane agreed before they left, but not before Mindy gave Jenna an odd smile.

“You know what, honey?” Jenna said, catching Payton’s gaze. “Maybe next year, let’s think about going somewhere different for First Night.”

The way Payton looked at her, she might as well have asked if he wanted to go on a crime spree with her.

“Sure,” he said unconvincingly. “Why not? We can talk about it. What say I try and slog my way over to the bar again? We’ve got plenty of time. As long as I’m back before midnight.”

His expression, as eager as a she’d ever seen it, was all wrong. And why hadn’t he asked her to go with him. She’d known him too long to be this surprised. As he made his way through the throng of New Year’s Eve revelers, her heart sank.

Had they been coming to this reunion         party every year because of Faith?





                      2

RICK’S CELL PHONE VIBRATED. Stopped, and then did it again. Some oaf plowed into his back and the only thing that kept him on his feet was the mass of writhing, frenetic partygoers in a banquet room so packed it made him wish he and Faith had never come to the reunion        . But she’d asked, and he’d just been talking to his friend Sam, who’d wanted Rick to check out the prototype apartment in Boston, so it was a no-brainer. He wondered now if Faith’s interest in attending the party had been a little more personal than she’d led him to believe. She sure had liked catching up with Payton. Anyway, it didn’t matter. He and Faith had been having a good time. And it was only going to get better.

He pulled out his phone as Faith rubbed against him on the dance floor. It was a work call, and he couldn’t afford not to take it. There was no use telling her, not with the music so loud, but he held the phone up until she noticed and nodded at him.

He was grateful for the call. He liked to dance, but the band was loud enough to wake the dead. It took a bit of maneuvering, but finally he found himself in an overcrowded hallway, where he spotted a sign pointing him toward the restrooms.

Once inside, it was quieter. Still, his ears rang despite the high-end plugs he took out and put in his pocket. Not the pocket that held tonight’s surprise. The other one. Then he pressed speed dial.

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