Seven years earlier
New Year's Eve.
The one Ben hoped would be very different, because tonight he planned to ask Sadie out at the ball.
They'd been friends since their first term as medical students; the more he'd got to know her, the more he'd liked her bubbly, kind nature. Tonight, their last New Year's Eve ball as students, he was going to ask her if he could kiss her at midnight—and if she'd start dating him.
He made his way across the crowded dance floor to the bar, where she was sipping Prosecco with a group of her friends. 'Hi, Sadie. You look beautiful.'
She blushed prettily. 'Thanks. You look amazing in that tux.'
His heart skipped a beat. Had she finally noticed him as more than just a fellow student, or was she just being her usual kind, friendly self? 'Would you like to dance?' He hoped his voice didn't sound as croaky to her as it did to him.
She smiled. 'Sure.'
Even better, the tempo of the music changed as they walked onto the dance floor. The song was soft and slow and sweet, and Ben drew her close. How good it felt to hold her, his cheek next to hers.
Now was the moment. 'Sadie,' he whispered. 'I've been meaning to ask you. Would—'
His words were cut off by one of their fellow students striding over to them and booming, 'Sadie MacKenzie!'
Brad Rogers was tall, blond and good-looking, with more charm and confidence than the rest of their year group put together. Women queued up to date him.
'You don't mind if I borrow this gorgeous girl, do you, Ben?' Brad smiled.
Yes, Ben did mind. But he didn't get the chance to say so, because Brad was already spinning Sadie into his arms. 'It's New Year's Eve, Sadie,' Brad continued, 'and I want you to be the one I kiss at the first stroke of midnight. I've wanted to ask you out for weeks, and tonight's the night. Will you go out with me?'
Just what Ben had planned to say. Except he'd left it much too late, because Sadie went all sparkly-eyed and melted into Brad's arms.
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