Because of that damned Hawke. I just know it.
I open my mouth to argue, to disagree with his assessment because I’ve been all in on this relationship until just recently, but Todd stops me by leaning in and placing his hand at the back of my head. He pulls me forward and places a kiss on my temple. When he releases me, he says, “I’m going to get another beer. Mingle around.”
I do nothing but nod at him in acknowledgment, my mind already racing to try to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. My eyes scan the crowd on the deck, immediately resting on my dad as he regales a group of guys with some story that has them laughing. Hawke stands there, beer in hand as he listens, a gorgeous smile on his face, those blue eyes shining brightly. He’s not sharing that happiness with me, yet I feel it all the way down to my toes. Just a simple smile, a crinkling around those eyes, and I’m entranced.
I shake my head and pick up the beer, taking a healthy slug. I don’t put it down, but keep swallowing until I knock back half the bottle. The fizz instantly goes to my head and I feel dizzy, and it’s sad how far the party girl Vale Campbell has fallen. A beer and a half and I have a buzz.
Taking another sip, I feel a slight pressure on my bladder and figure now is as good a time as any to go ahead and break the seal. I weave through the crowded deck and make my way inside the house to find a bathroom. I smile and nod at a few of the players, stop once to get an introduction, and then easily find the bathroom that sits along a short hall that borders the staircase to the second floor. There’s a line waiting, so I take my place and lean back against the wall, thinking about everything that just transpired between me and Todd.
It would be so easy to blame part of my reticence on Hawke. He’s got my stomach in knots, taking what very little focus I have left and destroying it. Stirring up feelings, making me rehash old memories. It’s enough to drive a girl batty, and surely it’s why I’m having some doubts about my feelings for Todd.
“You doing okay?” I hear Hawke ask, and I twist my neck to see him standing there, an affable smile on his face.
“Yeah…sure. Just need to use the bathroom. I don’t handle beer as well as I used to.”
And the minute those words pop out of my mouth, I realize I really need to use the bathroom. I squeeze my legs together involuntarily.
Hawke gives a chuckle, takes my hand, and pulls me away from the line. “Come on. You can use the one in my room.”
My body instantly rebels, pulling back against him. “No, that’s okay. I don’t mind waiting.”
Hawke doesn’t even look at me, but tugs me along behind him. Past the line of people waiting and right up the staircase. I try one more time to pull away, but the pressure in my bladder increases at the thought of a toilet nearby and I find myself trotting up the stairs in urgency.
He turns right at the top and down a hallway to the end, where he opens the door to what must be the master bedroom.
I take a quick survey, see packing boxes all over the floor. His bed is devoid of sheets and just has a few pillows and a blanket on top.
“Still unpacking?” I ask.
“Yup. But this is the last room,” he says as he releases my hand. He nods over my shoulder with a pointed look. “Bathroom’s in there.”
I gratefully spin away from him and practically waddle my way in, not failing to hear the soft chuckle from Hawke that causes my belly to flip. I shut the door firmly behind me, twist the lock, and then lean back against it for a moment.
The skin on the palm of my hand still tingles from where we were touching and my heart is fluttering madly, taking the focus away from my bursting bladder.
Damn, Hawke. Why does he do this to me?
I know I should turn around and walk my ass back down the stairs. Rejoin the party. Drink another beer.
I’m already sporting a massive buzz, and the last thing I need to do is lose my head completely around Vale. Who sits just on the other side of the door—literally—with that flowing cotton skirt speckled with flowers probably hiked around her waist.
Fuck, but she’s different. The old Vale would have shown up at a party with ripped jeans hanging low on her hips, a bustier that came down to just above her navel with her tits spilling out, and those green eyes lined with heavy eyeliner. She screamed party. She always screamed sex.
But tonight, the simplicity of her skirt that hangs just at her knees, along with a white tank top and a lightweight yellow sweater, screams a different kind of sexy. It’s flirty…feminine. Something Vale always was, but it was always just so understated. Now she looks like she should be sitting down to afternoon tea rather than slamming beers at a Cold Fury party.
And yet I’m just as much, if not more, attracted to her in this getup that’s so very different from the woman I knew. It’s a more mature Vale…a softer woman. Still with that scared look in her eyes that I’ve become used to when she’s near me, and that is something I don’t like very much.
Don’t like the douche she showed up with either, but I have to say, they haven’t hung together much tonight. Instead, Vale nursed a beer and hovered near her father, while her boyfriend mingled. I walked by one conversation he was having with a puck bunny about veneers. Talk about lame.
I hear the toilet flush and I tell myself again…get the fuck gone.
Instead, I walk over to the door and prop my arms up on the door casing. I listen to water run, assume she’s washing her hands. I can imagine her possibly fluffing her hair while she looks in the mirror, possibly reapplying gloss to those perfectly full lips.