from Chapter 12…
Thanksgiving and Christmas passed. I couldn’t believe how quickly time flew. I also couldn’t believe that it was New Year’s Eve and I didn’t have a date. I didn’t want to think much about it, but the last time I’d had a ‘date’ was the day Laura called me to tell me she was getting married. I wouldn’t do the math, but I knew it was a long time.
Regardless of me being dateless, I had my pick in parties to attend. Several of my clients invited me to their business’ New Year’s events. There was one in a really nice, trendy location, so I picked that one.
Without thinking much, I got ready for the celebration, deciding to wear a simple, black, sleeveless palazzo jumpsuit. I didn’t accessorize much—delicate platinum-and-diamonds hoops and a thin silver belt to emphasize my waist. My pumps were black and nine inches tall, of course. And to finish my ensemble, I chose a white blazer with a heavy, silver, embroidered detail on its rectangular-shaped lapels. The sleeves were only three-quarter-length, and they too were adorned with the lapel’s detail on the cuffs. I left my hair down in a curly, messy look, giving my attire a bit of a rock-and-roll effect. I decided to add that to my makeup. It was New Year’s, so why not be a little dramatic? I felt good, and I was pretty sure I could manage to get to know someone a little bit and finally put an end to my dry spell.
The new year party held by my client was a total blast. People had so much fun, drinking and dancing all over the place. Moet was offered in every corner, followed by any other cocktail and beverage for those who wanted a different poison. All around, everyone laughed and enjoyed themselves. Everyone but me.
After I arrived, I went straight to my client, Mr. Spencer. He was a twenty-three-year-old entrepreneur with an excellent eye for economics. We talked for a long time, and the conversation was actually rather interesting. Even if his eyes weren’t light in color, his hair was. He reminded me too much of the type of man I’d set for myself, but we were having fun. Then he got a little too touchy-feely. Right then, I decided it was best I excused myself and roamed about the party instead. Getting too comfortable with Spencer wasn’t going to be good for our business relationship.
Thirty minutes later, I decided I’d leave. It was almost eleven and still early, but I was done with the party and the whole single-girl situation. Guys were hitting on me, all right, only I wasn’t interested. I’d rather be at one of my friend’s houses than at a party full of people I didn’t care about at all. I might try Natalie’s house. She was hosting a party in her place with both her and her husband’s families. I knew I was welcome there; she had invited me, after all.
I went to my car, unlocked it, and turned on the engine. I definitely felt a little relief after getting out of that place. Why didn’t that scene appeal to me anymore? Was I getting too old for it?
I didn’t have the chance to get too deep into my feelings and thoughts because I almost lost control of my car when one of my tires went flat. Unfortunately, I was closer to downtown L.A. than to Natalie’s house, so it was time for those expensive extra car services I paid for to do their job and get my butt out of this mess. I totally hadn’t counted on all lines being busy, and I gave up after ten minutes of being on hold. Apparently, a lot of people were using such services tonight.
So I did the only thing I could think of—I sent a message to my friends to see who could come to my rescue. I decided to use the wedding chat, since they were all on there—killing more than two birds with one stone.
Me: Hey, guys. Sorry to be a burden. I got a flat tire and I’m in the middle of Hollywood Fwy close to exit 11B. Can someone come help me out?
Sadly, as expected, no one answered my S.O.S. They were all probably busy with their different engagements, enjoying their night.
I kept trying to get in touch with my road support, completely unsuccessful. I seriously considered calling a cab and getting myself home. The highway felt peculiarly lonely, most likely because it was New Year’s Eve and just before midnight. Then my cell phone beeped out its text message alarm.
This message didn’t come from the group chat.
Josh: Did you get anyone to help you out?
Me: No. Guess they’re all busy. I’ve given up on waiting for road support and I’m calling a cab to get myself home. Thanks, anyway.
Josh: Hold on a sec. I’m close. Be there in 5.
Me: That’s all right. No biggie. I don’t want to impose. I’ll be fine.
Josh: OMW. Stay put. 2 min away.
Me: Ok, Thanks. I’ll wait.
Before I could think of anything else, a red Challenger parked behind my car. A dark silhouette exited the fancy sports car, and I easily recognized Josh. As he approached, I got out of my car and took a moment to breathe him in. He looked gorgeous.
He wore a very interesting mustard coat which covered his dark outfit underneath—a black and gray scarf tied up in European style around his neck and a dark fedora hat, making him look movie-star striking.
“Vixen can’t change a tire?” he asked, followed by, “Afraid you might break a nail?” I looked into his deep gray eyes. Something I couldn’t place boiled inside them. “Want me to google a ‘how to’ video and send it to you so you can learn?”
To be honest, I didn’t know why he was being so vicious with me. I clearly remembered how well things hadn’t ended between us the last time we’d seen each other; but, had it been enough of a reason to make him behave this way?
When he stepped closer to me, he gave me a shy smile, changing my perception. Maybe he wasn’t being heartless with me; maybe it was just his sarcasm. I knew him well enough now to know he had a dark kind of humor, and realizing this reminded me how bad I felt for the way things had turned out at Edward and Laura’s engagement party.
“Vixen knows how to change a tire. Vixen doesn’t have a jack,” was the response I gave, just to lighten the mood.
What was he thinking? I was a single woman living in L.A. Of course I knew how to change a tire. Regretfully, I’d lent my jack to one of my dates around six months ago and never saw it again. Couldn’t really complain, though, because I never saw that man again, either.
“Well, Vixen’s lucky. I have a jack she can borrow,” Josh told me as I looked in his eyes again, trying to decipher his mood. He leaned against my BMW Coupe before he asked, “Now the question is, is Vixen changing the tire?”
“I don’t really care.” I didn’t mind doing the job on my own, but the new nickname he’d given me had started to get on my nerves. “But can you please go back to using my name?”
Well, it wasn’t Kass or babe, as he used to call me, but it was better than vixen.
“Thanks,” I said as I leaned next to him alongside my vehicle. “I don’t mind changing the tire on my own if you lend me your jack. If you have to go back to whatever party you were at, it’s okay.” He tilted his head and looked at me, probably deciding if I was bluffing or not. “Can I borrow it, please?”
“Don’t be silly, Kassandra. I can help you out.” He turned and walked the short length to his classic American muscle car. I followed him to get the tool, completely unable to gauge how he felt. I myself felt uncomfortable, tense. It wasn’t right. I’d always felt so at ease with him around and I wanted to mend things between us. I didn’t want that invisible distance to be a barrier in our relationship. Even if it was only supposed to be friendly.
Josh looked around in his trunk to find the much-needed device. I reached for his hand and stopped him. “Wait,” I said.
He looked back at me. I was sure I saw doubt behind his eyes, like he wondered why I stopped him instead of getting the deed done so I could leave. “I don’t like this,” I told him honestly. The uneasiness around him drove me crazy.
“I don’t understand,” Josh pointed out as he crossed his arms.
“This. How we are,” I tried to explain, apparently without much success. After a second of silence, I tried again. “We need to talk first.”
Josh just looked at me. I reached for one of his hands, getting him to uncross his arms so I could get some strength from his warm touch. I breathed in and finally said what I needed to say. “I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t enough. Even if his stance was a little more relaxed and I felt like a huge weight lifted from my body, I needed to apologize correctly. “I…I’d assumed things about you with the little information I knew about your life, because I’m afraid to have more than a fling with anyone. I’ve told you this. That fear just got worse when I found out you and Edward are friends, and I turned you into everything he represents in my past. I wasn’t fair. I’m really sorry.”
“Thanks,” was Josh’s only verbal response. He stood beside me, unmoving as a statue. Even if his body displayed all the beauty and strength inside him, I couldn’t reach him. Josh had always made himself approachable to me, but now it felt different—he felt different. Guarded. Distant. I realized, sadly, that this must be how he perceived me all the time. I didn’t like this invisible distance between us, because as close as we were, it felt as if his heart was miles away from mine now.
After a few seconds of staring at each other in silence, he finally added, “You should give Ed a chance, too. He’s changed.”
I hadn’t expected that request, giving him a lopsided smile as I remembered the conversation they’d had about me.
“I know what you must be thinking, but he has changed,” Josh said, as any good best friend would. “He was a player. We both were. But now, he’s so in love with Laura, and I—”
I shook my head, saying “You heard what he said about me. It’s a little difficult for me to accept that Edward’s changed.”
“I know,” he accepted. “I also know him. He was being territorial.”
“I’m not his for him to be territorial over me.”
“No, you’re not,” Josh agreed.
We just stared at each other; neither one of us wanted to agree to disagree. Admittedly, I was most likely being the stubborn one. I was barely patching things up with him now; I wasn’t about to risk making him upset with me again. I could only feel my own breathing and hear his. Then, in the darkened background of the sky around us, fireworks splashed through the blackness, announcing the arrival of the New Year.
It was the last night of the year, and for the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t at some party having fun and kissing guys.
“It’s midnight,” I announced.
“Yeah, it is,” Josh agreed, turning around to see the colored sky before us.
I didn’t want him to look away. I wanted him to look at me. Only me.
“Happy New Year!” I said with little excitement in my voice, as I launched my body toward him in a big hug. I definitely acknowledged that all I’d been waiting for was an excuse to touch him.
For several seconds, I felt his warmth against mine. My traitorous body had given away the profound feelings I realized I had for him as it molded to Josh’s in our embrace. I looked up at him and the fireworks reflected in the silver of his eyes.
Our gazes locked before he closed his eyes and lowered his lips to mine. His kiss was sweet and full of emotion, stirring sensations in me I didn’t know I had.
My hands went to his shoulders. Moving up to the hair at the nape of his neck. His hands went inside my coat and around my waist to remain on my lower back, where his fingers tentatively massaged me there threatened and to move lower.
All good things came to an end. A loud horn, some laughter, and a, “Get a room,” scream awakened us from our short interlude.
Josh cleared his throat and I lowered my hands to place them at my sides.
“Probably not the best idea,” he said, hugging my waist with his left hand as his right tucked some of my curls behind my ear.
“Probably not,” I agreed. Even if I wasn’t sure. I knew perfectly well that I was the one keeping our relationship from going anywhere, but the idea of not having Josh in my life really upset me. “Friends?” I asked tentatively. Hoping for the best.
It took a minute for Josh to answer me. “Sure, friends.”
I thought I saw some brittle, broken look behind his eyes. I didn’t understand.
He didn’t let me get a closer look before he quickly took my hand and said, “Let’s change this tire so you can get home safely.”
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