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Driven (Page 43)

It’s nearing eleven o’clock, and I can see the crowd thickening and can feel the vibe of the masses pulsate with energy. In the VIP area, there is a crowd of people around a particular corner, and I wonder what trendy celebrity Haddie’s team has gotten to promote their newest product. I’ve been to enough of these functions with her to know the drill. Hot celebrities shown taking photos with new product equals big-time press for not only the item but Haddie’s company as well.

I take the glass Haddie hands me, my usual Tom Collins, and I sip from the straw as I point to the upper section. I raise my eyes in question rather than shout over the music that is starting to increase in volume as the club becomes more crowded. I figure we have about thirty minutes left until the decibels are so loud that the only way to communicate will be to yell.

She catches my silent question asking who’s up there. She leans over to talk in my ear. “Not sure. We have several people confirmed for tonight,” she shrugs a noncommittal answer. “Some surprises are in store as well.”

I narrow my eyes at her wondering why she is being vague with me, seeing as I’m not going to blab to anyone and ruin the surprise. She just smiles broadly and tugs my hand to follow her. We navigate through the mob of people, moving together as one unit. I can feel the alcohol slowly start buzzing through my body, warming me, easing my tension, and relaxing my nerves. For the first time in longer than I can remember, I feel sexy. I feel beautiful and sensual and at ease with those feelings. It’s not the alcohol that’s making me feel this way directly; rather the alcohol is allowing it by lessening my anxiety and insecurities.

I squeeze Haddie’s hand as she pushes through to a purple booth, which is reserved for PRX staff. She looks back and smiles genuinely at me, realizing that I’m starting to relax. Starting to enjoy. We break through the crowd to the booth to find two of Haddie’s colleagues there. I smile to them and say a quick hello, having met them before at previous events I’ve attended. I thank one of them for his compliments on my vamped-up style for the evening. As we sit down, there is a large cheer from the other side of the room on the upper level where the crowd had been earlier. I glance up to see what’s going on and notice nothing really but a number of women showing way too much skin hoping for whatever hot item PRX has invited up there to take notice of them.

I roll my eyes in disgust. “Fame whores,” I mouth to Haddie and she bursts out laughing.

I finish my drink as the catchy beat of a Black Eyed Peas song fills the club. I start moving my hips to the tempo and before I know it, I grab Haddie’s hand and drag her through the people out onto the dance floor. The surprised look on her face has me laughing as I close my eyes and let the music take me. We sing the words together, “I gotta feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night,” as we undulate in our own world on the dance floor.

I haven’t felt this liberated in so long that I just want to suspend this moment in time. I want to capture it in my memory so that the next time I start to fall in that dark place, I can remember this feeling to help me hold on to the light.

Haddie and I move to the music, working our way through several songs, each one strengthening my confidence and increasing my fluidity on the floor. Several of her co-workers, Grant, Tamara, and Jacob, join us as the song switches to Too Close, an old song but one of my favorites. I flirtatiously dance with Grant, acting out the song with him. We laugh, our bodies rubbing innocently up against each other, enjoying the playful interaction of the lyrics.

I raise my arms over my head, crossing them at the wrists and swivel my hips to the rhythm, the alcohol buzzing through my system. I close my eyes, absorbing the atmosphere all around me. A tingling sensation up my spine has me flashing my eyes back open.

I look up, and despite the synchronized unison of the mass on the dance floor, I stop, frozen in place when I see Colton. He is standing on one of the stairways that angles down from the VIP section. He has a drink in one hand and his other arm drapes casually around the shoulder of a statuesque blonde. She is turned into him, her hand rubbing gently through the top unbuttoned portion of his dress shirt. Her face tilts up to him and even from a distance, I can see her reverence and adoration of him although he has his head turned away from her, laughing with a rakish man on his left. A large daunting man stands behind him, eyes scanning the crowd. His security, maybe? Colton flashes a smile at his male cohort and it’s natural and unguarded, allowing me to momentarily appreciate his absolutely devastating looks. The blonde says something and Colton turns his attention back to her. She lifts her hand from his chest to rest on his cheek and lifts her face up, placing a slow, seductive kiss on his lips in ownership.

My insides churn at the sight, clouding my vision so much that I don’t pay enough attention to see if Colton is encouraging and returning the kiss or merely just tolerating it. My mouth is suddenly dry. I am paralyzed on the floor as I watch him with her. Numb really. We’re not together—my constant refusal of him has not demonstrated that I want otherwise. And despite my intense and unfounded hurt right now, all I want is that to be me he is holding. Me he is kissing. In the seconds that all of this swirls within me, my hurt begins to shift to anger. How stupid was I to think a guy like him could actually want a girl like me when he could have a girl like her?

I notice Haddie fall motionless in my periphery, taking notice of what I see. I’m about to turn to say something to her when Colton lifts his chin away from his arm candy, and looks up, his eyes locking onto mine. My heart skips over a beat and lodges itself in my throat. Despite the distance between us, I see shock flash in his eyes at us being in the same place, same time, yet again.

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