I blinked them away.
When I came out of the bedroom, JC was leaning against the back of the couch. Waiting for me, it seemed. Waiting for me to leave maybe. I spotted his suitcase by the door. “Are you still going to L.A. tonight?”
He gave a short nod. “My car will be here soon. I’ll be right behind you.”
“We could share an elevator.”
“I’ll catch the next one.”
So his bags were packed and his ride was coming, and yet he wasn’t going to ride down to the lobby with me. Had I done something so wrong that he couldn’t even spend another few minutes with me? If he had something to do without me around, he could just tell me. This distinct coldness was brutal.
At least he saw me to the door. I paused, my fingers wrapped around the handle, to search his face. So badly I wanted to see the man I’d spent the day with. When I really studied his eyes, I thought maybe I saw him.
He sighed. And when he did, he softened. Then for sure I glimpsed the guy I’d made love to all afternoon. He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the closet. “We broke a lot of rules today, Gwen.”
It occurred to me that maybe he didn’t realize I was okay with the change. “Rules were made to be broken.” I winked, trying to adopt the lighter character that usually belonged to him.
He smiled weakly. “Some of them.”
My chest sank and I wasn’t able to hide the disappointment from my face.
He rushed at me, cradling my face in his hands. “Don’t, Gwen. We’ll sort things out next time, okay?”
I leaned into his touch, and all doubts quieted when he brushed his lips against mine. We didn’t usually part with a kiss. It was a sign. Things were okay. All was well.
He was probably just overwhelmed. Like I was overwhelmed. We didn’t have a chance to figure out what should happen between us next. What did I expect? That he’d fall at my feet and profess his love in the fifteen minutes we had before I needed to leave? I certainly wasn’t about to.
Like he’d said, we’d sort it out next time. Right now he was still trying to get a handle on the concept of us. Whether love fit into our carefully constructed non-attached worlds. Whether we’d met at the best or the worst time.
To be fair, I was still trying to get a handle on it as well.
Best or worst time. For me, it would always be the worst time. But did it even matter? Somehow it seemed to matter very much. To JC. Mattered that it wasn’t the best time. That it wasn’t an ideal time.
So despite how upbeat I tried to be, when I walked out of the hotel room, alone, I couldn’t help but wonder if it might be the last time.
Interesting thing about being in love—it brightens a dimly lit world and puts a pleasant pink hue on everything. Which was probably why I woke up the next day feeling more optimistic about JC and me. Because I was head over heels. I was as sure of it as I had been sure it wasn’t what I wanted. And welcomed or not, whether it changed anything between us or not, whether he felt the same or not, I was pretty certain it was an emotion that was sticking around.
Thankfully, the club had been busy. It kept me emotionally and mentally occupied through my shift. When I’d gotten home in the morning, I’d made the birthday breakfast for Norma, which had gone well despite the bubble of distraction in my chest. We made plans to meet at her office at seven so we could have dinner and I could give her the La Perla gift certificate before I had to be to work at ten. Then she was off. By the time I’d cleaned up breakfast, I was exhausted. I collapsed into bed and fell asleep with only a minimal amount of fixating on JC.
Since I’d gone to sleep much earlier than usual, I woke up much earlier. After getting a solid eight hours, I was wide-eyed by a little after four in the afternoon and in a fairly good mood. An excellent mood, actually, even before coffee. I felt like Cinderella the day after the ball—filled with hope instead of the gloom that she could so easily have adopted about her impossible situation.
That was how the story of Cinderella went, wasn’t it? I was so out of touch with fairytales.
The text I found on my phone from Eric only made the day better: Ben can call you at three our time to wish Norma Happy Birthday. Does that work?
Three his time was six our time. Thank God that my schedule was screwed, or I would have slept through the whole thing. I responded with a yes, feeling as much like the fairy godmother as I did Cinderella. I was about to make someone else’s wish come true. I practically sang as I got ready to surprise my sister with the gift I knew she wanted most.
I was almost out the door when it occurred to me that Norma might have meetings. I’d been just planning to show up early and surprise her with Ben’s call, but occasionally she was tied up right until the end of the day—even on Fridays. I checked the clock. It was five. Maybe I could catch her assistant before he left for the weekend.
I practically squealed when he answered. “Boyd! I caught you. It’s Gwen.”
“Good evening, Gwen. I haven’t talked to you in awhile. Nice to hear your voice.”
Boyd was younger than I was—twenty-five, if I remembered correctly. I’d been a little stunned when Norma hired him more than a year before. Sure, he’d had an adequate resume, but he was fresh from college and young. Really young.
And Boyd was good-looking.
Not in the sharp, confident way that JC was good-looking. Not even in the brooding, classy way that her boss, Hudson Pierce, was good-looking.
No, Boyd was a different type of good-looking. The boyish, nerdy type. His hair was floppy and he wore dark-rimmed glasses that didn’t do much to hide his large chocolate brown eyes. He was nice. Sweet. An all-around decent guy. Honestly, if I hadn’t been the type to not date, I might have tried to get his phone number. Except that might have been weird considering his superior was my sister.
Besides, I wasn’t really that attracted to him. It was more like he was the type of guy I should be attracted to and just never was.
Plus, I had a feeling he was probably gay. No man kept his hands that well-manicured without being rich or homosexual.
And I didn’t date. So there was that.
But now that I was humming with feelings of love, the idea of dating wasn’t all that awful. In fact, going out sounded quite lovely—as long as I was going out with JC. For the first time in our arrangement, I wished for more than our one night a week. I wished he wasn’t across the country. Wished he were joining me for Norma’s dinner. Wished he were with me for everything.