One Breathless Night(8)

By: Jo Leigh

All was well until she looked over at her favorite couple...

But they weren’t where she’d last seen them. Instead, they were right in front of her. Well, not directly, but close enough to prevent a casual escape.

A deep cleansing breath made it possible to scan the room for Payton, but she couldn’t seem to cut off her thoughts about Rick. Or Faith, if she was honest. She wasn’t wearing an engagement ring. She’d called Rick her boyfriend. Those came and went, as she well knew, but surely Rick was a keeper. A beautiful woman like Faith could have anyone she wanted. A hunky storm chaser was far more in her league than an accountant.

Damn. Jenna was worried about Faith, but that was idiotic because Payton would never leave her. The two of them had their whole future planned out. They already had names picked out for their first child.

What was wrong with her? It had to be the alcohol. She’d had two White Russians, and Payton was bringing her a third. Even in college she was always on the hunt for caffeine, not booze. At least they were taking a train back home, but by the time they reached their stop, one of them had to be sober to drive Payton’s car to their place.

Faith was on the move, and Jenna watched her until she left the suite. Then Rick headed for the buffet so Jenna was free to move out of the corner. When her gaze caught on a clock near the door, she stopped in her tracks. Payton had been gone more than a while. Maybe drinking on an empty stomach had caught up with him? How awful to feel sick when this place was packed to the rafters. She hoped he was okay. And wasn’t still at the bar.

That thought made her queasy... Double damn it, because her first thought had been that Faith might be going to the bar and the two of them would run into each other. This night needed to end already. She didn’t give one damn about New Year’s. Or First Night. Next year, she wasn’t coming close to this hotel. Maybe she’d stay home and watch a movie and eat popcorn. Yeah, that sounded great.

She kept her eye on the door for the next five minutes, but the only thing of interest was Rick leaving the suite. Two more minutes of pacing, and then she was really worried. She called Payton’s cell phone. Again. And again, but it went straight to voice mail.

She’d have to go find him. The suite was packed but she made it out the door quickly. And then she saw Rick. Alone. Staring down the hallway with a rapt expression.

Jenna followed his gaze. The hallway was busy with people, so at first, she only had a terrible feeling about what had made him stop in his tracks, but then she got the confirmation. A space in the crowd had opened up. As if to frame the last thing on earth she wanted to see. Payton and Faith were hugging so tightly Jenna forgot how to breathe.

But it got worse. Jesus, how could it get so much worse?

When they parted, it was only to take a half step back. Just enough room for Jenna to notice that Payton looked...happy. A different kind of happy. Nothing she’d seen in all their years together.

So happy he’d forgotten her.

“What the...?” She jumped and found Rick was inches away from her. He glanced at her, and then his gaze went back to the couple down the hall. He looked stunned.

“They’re just friends,” she said to him. “He said that several times. Friends.”

He seemed surprised to see himself next to her, but he was quick to go back to watching Faith and Payton. “That’s what she told me, too.”

Payton continued to beam, even as he put their drinks on the closest surface, which happened to be a railing too narrow to properly hold the glasses, but he obviously didn’t give a shit about the drinks or her because he was talking a mile a minute, making another woman laugh, making her put her hand—both hands—over her heart. He spoke extravagantly, with lots of arm waving, although none of it in Jenna’s direction.

She’d known him five years, and not at all.

“Who the hell does he think he is?”

Rather than watch the train wreck down the hall she turned to Rick. He looked ready to pound Payton into a puddle, and she thought that was a fine idea.

“For one thing, he’s my fiancé.”

He turned to her, and took a moment. “Look, I don’t want to cause a scene or anything, but I swear to God if he touches her again...”