One Breathless Night(9)

By: Jo Leigh


“I know. I mean, I don’t know. I’ve never seen him like this. Normally, he’s...nice. He hasn’t spared me a glance since your...girlfriend tried to absorb him into her skin.”

Rick shook his head. “You saw that, too, huh?” He sighed, loudly. “I have a goddamn ring in my pocket. I feel like the world’s biggest idiot.”

As tight as her stomach was, the implication of what he’d just said made it tighter. “We need to do something. Now. There are only a couple of minutes left.”

“Do something? Like knock his block off?”

She shrugged. “It’s too crowded to take a swing up here. You could hit anyone.”

“My aim’s really good.”

“Umm, has she ever done this before?” Jenna asked.

“Hell, no. Goddamn it, she’d been so casual asking to come to this reunion        . Like it was no big deal.”

“I know. I mean, maybe they discovered they’re long lost...siblings?”

Rick gave her a look that made her last hope vanish. “You ever touched your brother like that?” He was practically growling in a very Danger Bond way. It was sexy as hell.

Oh, God.

Something had to be wrong with her brain. Had she really just gotten weak-kneed over the man who wanted to beat up her fiancé? Alcohol was the only answer, even though she felt as sober as a...sober person. “I don’t know. Maybe you could hit him one time. One time wouldn’t be too much.”

Rick retrieved something from his pocket, and for a moment Jenna was afraid it would be a gun or a knife. It wasn’t either, although she had the feeling he would have been handy with both. It turned out to be the ring, of course, and it was stunning. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

“I thought so. I thought she’d think so, too. But then she met... Is he famous or something? Faith never said what he did for a living.”

She sighed. “He’s an accountant.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

“I can’t seem to turn away. They just keep doing...” She moved her hand in a vague gesture.

Rick wasn’t looking at her, though. He was tall enough to see over people’s heads. “Shit. She’s a well-respected journalist. She’s won awards. She specializes in covering natural disasters.”

“Like the one we’re having now?” Jenna asked. The shock was wearing off a bit. More precisely, the shock was being shoved aside by a hurt that might be fatal.

“Yeah, except there’s nothing natural about it,” he said, as he put the ring back in his pocket. “Great way to bring in the New Year, huh?”

“I’m trying to think of one thing he could say right now that would fix this.” If only they’d left with Mindy and Zane...

“Hey...” Rick put his hand on her arm. “You okay? You’re looking awfully pale.”

“I’m fine, thanks,” she said, trying to breathe. “And by that I mean I’m not fine in any way. Although I doubt I’m going to faint.”

“Ten...”

The number filled the air, so loud it hushed the huge crowd.

“Nine...”

“Shit,” Rick said again. He took a step closer to Jenna. “If they—”

“Eight...”

“—even try to come back at the last second.” He faced Jenna. “She hasn’t even looked down this corridor. Not one look.”

“Five, four...”

People shifted, the crowd seemed to part, giving her another clear shot of the happy couple for a few seconds. If Payton glanced to his right, he would see her standing next to Rick. But he only had eyes for Faith.

“For fuck’s sake,” Rick said. “All they’d needed to do was walk around a corner. We’d have never known why they’d missed the countdown.”

“Maybe they planned...” They weren’t kissing, but they might as well be.

On the count of three, Rick looked at Jenna again, and she’d never felt so much empathy for another person.

Trying as hard as she could not to cry, she moved right into Rick’s personal space but she couldn’t look away.

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