But it would surely finish her.
Or rather she would have to start all over again.
Even as Leander led her to the dance floor, Felicia knew that by tomorrow she would have to reset the Get Over Leander app on her heart, and the ache of withdrawal would recommence.
Yet she went willingly into his arms.
Here in the dark, with the music thrumming, for a moment she let herself forget all the hurt and sank into the bliss of being held by him again.
No one could make her feel like Leander did.
He was so arrogant and assured and yet so reassuring, all at the same time. When Felicia was with him it felt as if a shield had been placed between the two of them and the rest of world.
‘I was going to send you flowers,’ he told her, ‘burnt-orange tulips, in fact, but I didn’t know where you lived.’
He made her smile, even with the difficult topic, and she leaned her head on his chest and closed her eyes.
‘And then I decided to turn up at your work, except you never told me where it was.’
She heard his tease and gave a soft laugh before looking up to his eyes. ‘I called your work,’ she admitted.
‘A couple of weeks afterward, but I was told you’d moved to Al-Zahan.’
‘Damn,’ he said.
Yes, damn. Only she’d said a slightly stronger word than that when she’d ended the call that told her he’d gone.
‘I haven’t moved there,’ he corrected.
‘Well, not permanently,’ Leander said.
‘How long are you home for.’
Which gave them only tonight, Felicia thought as they danced some more.
Yet her heart tripped into the same rhythm it had once found with him.
‘I missed you,’ Leander said.
His words were said close to the sensitive shell of her ear, but they pierced everywhere. In her eyes that stung and on her skin that shivered, even in her nose that pinched as she tried not to allow him to affect her.
Yet he did.
And she told him so. ‘I missed you, too.’
It was the biggest admission and yet a paltry summing up as to the grief she had felt at the end of them.
‘Felicia,’ he said.
She lifted her head. ‘What?’
‘I just like saying it.’
He made her insides shiver. ‘Leander,’ she said, because she liked saying his name, too.
‘Felicia.’ Only this time it was said in that husky, throaty way he used her name when deep inside her, and it took her back, so much so that when he pulled her closer in she had to stifle a moan.
They turned the other on so.
It had been her savior at times. Just a lick of her lips or a shift in her tone could deflect any probing questions in the most delectable of ways.
She’d forgotten the bliss of this—how he placed her in a holding pattern in a sky thick with desire.
How, when out, he could be speaking to someone and then flash her a look that told her how it would be the second they were alone.
The gown felt too heavy and hot, and the touch of his hands just a fraction too light on her hips. And he knew it, because at the same second his fingers pressed in—just a moment before the music stopped—the lights in the ballroom came up.
They were too bright, and being surrounded by others felt like an invasion. Felicia knew that she had to go and find Naomi, but she did not know how to say goodbye. As she stood there, flushed and blinking, she heard her name being called.
It was Abe, making his way over to her and looking concerned.
‘Where’s Naomi?’ he asked
‘I was just…’ Felicia fumbled for a response. ‘I think she went to the restroom.’
Abe’s hiss of frustration before striding off told her he was displeased. ‘I have to go and find Naomi,’ she said to Leander.
‘Why?’ Leander asked, no doubt assuming she was making excuses. After all, he had no idea she was here only to keep an eye on Naomi.
And she’d failed.
There wasn’t time to explain, and nor could she. Instead, Felicia dashed off to the restrooms. Of course, with the ball over, there was an impossible lineup.
‘Hey,’ someone said, assuming she was jumping the line.
‘I’m just looking for someone,’ Felicia attempted, but Naomi was nowhere to be found.
She came out into the lobby, troubled and worried and knowing that there would be hell to pay if Jacinta found out. Felicia stood there not knowing quite what to do, but it was then she heard her name.
She swung round and there was Leander, with snow in his hair and on his shoulders, and it was clear he’d been outside. She was touched that he must have read her concern and gone looking for Naomi. ‘It’s fine. Abe’s found her. He’s with her now.’
Felicia had to check for herself that Naomi was all right. She pushed through the throng of people and into the night, but Naomi and Abe were nowhere that she could see.
Snow was falling, but she paid no attention to it as she stepped from the brightly lit foyer and looked out to the dark, blanketed Central Park. There was no sign of them.
‘She’ll be fine,’ Leander said as he joined her.
‘I need to see for myself that she’s okay.’
‘Well, I doubt it would be appreciated. Do you always get so involved in your friend’s lover’s tiffs?’
Felicia didn’t know what to say. She could hardly admit that Naomi wasn’t actually a friend and that she didn’t even know if Abe and Naomi were lovers. She had already messed up enough without letting on the real reason she was here. ‘You don’t understand…’ she said.
‘So what’s new?’ Leander said, but without challenge. In fact, he put an arm around her cold, naked shoulders and steered her under cover.
‘I should go,’ Naomi said.
‘And I should put you straight into a cab,’ Leander responded, ‘except I don’t want to.’
She said nothing and so he did.
‘Come to bed.’
And that was Leander.
There had never between them been a kiss that gotten out of hand or a time when she had felt they’d taken things too far.
She’d partaken so willingly.
A virgin when she’d met him, that very night Felicia had told him she wanted to go to bed.
Leander didn’t need velvet words. The mere stroke of his fingers on her bare arm was just so pervasive…or was it persuasive. Felicia did not have the mental capacity to decide between words.
And it didn’t matter anyway what the word was, because the answer, when with Leander, had always been the same—yes.
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