Unexpectedly His(2)

By: Maggie Kelley



The room grew quiet, all attention focused on her as she moved to the next tier. She stumbled, briefly, a small mistake that she caught quickly enough to be sure no one had noticed. Perched safely on the second tier, she drew in a breath and started to sing in her best Marilyn. Happy birthday to you…

Even to her own ears her voice sounded breathless.

Nick stepped inside the circle of the spotlight. She blinked several times behind the mask. Maybe he couldn’t hear her. As if pulled by some unknown gravitational force, her body unfolded from the second tier. Her hips adopted an unfamiliar bombshell kind of sway as she moved toward him, the spiked heels clicking against the tile floor. Happy birthday to you.

He was only a few inches away now, and in better focus. A vaguely stunned look marked his face, which didn’t say much for her cake jumping skills, but still, he was standing there. Happy birthday, dear Nicholas. She swayed closer.

His hand fastened to her hip, tugging her closer still. Happy birthday to you.

She could see him perfectly now, his midnight blue eyes, gazing down at her. Leaning forward on her ruby tiptoes, she pressed her lips against his in a kiss so sweet, Marianne thought her heart would melt like buttercream frosting. And she never indulged in buttercream frosting. Lost in the feel of him, her lips parted, unexpectedly deepening the kiss. She reached for his shoulder to steady herself, fisting the fabric of his shirt.

Hours ago, kissing Nick Wright had been a statistical impossibility, but now, here she was, holding him close, reveling in the bittersweet taste of his kiss. Her kiss.

Easing away, she gazed up into his handsome face, her tingling lips curving into a small smile. “Happy birthday,” she whispered, turning on her stilettos to beeline past the cake.

Behind her, Marianne heard an outburst of cheers. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed her suspicion that a small crowd had formed around Nick. She dashed into the storeroom. Jane’s voice called after her, but she ignored it, embarrassed that she’d kissed her friend’s brother. Her boss’s brother. Kissing wasn’t part of the deal. Leaving the second tier wasn’t part of the deal. Maybe tomorrow she’d be able to face her bestie/boss, but tonight she was fleeing the scene, racing home to her moderate glass of wine—make that the bottle—and classic movie.

Tripping into the storeroom she kicked off the heels, grabbed her Keds, and shoved her feet into the slip-on sneakers. She snatched up her everyday clothes, which she’d left in a neatly folded stack on a shelf, but there was no time to change. She needed to hurry out of here to catch the last cab before the midnight rates kicked in. An oddly pragmatic thought, she acknowledged, considering her getaway plans. Still, in the event that the birthday boy wanted to canoodle with the exotic cake girl, she needed to be gone. Exploring her adventurous side was fine, but Marianne had bumped up against her limits. Kiss or no kiss, she wasn’t the confetti and cabaret type.

Where were her glasses? Think, Marianne, think. Jane’s voice calling her name sent her into a second mini panic. She couldn’t breathe. The darned spangly dress was so tight. Pulling at the top, she forced in a rush of air and retraced her steps. Where had she been when she’d tied on the mask? The mirror. The bathroom. She’d left her glasses on the vanity.

Her clothes tucked under one arm, Marianne rushed into the bathroom. She palmed the granite surface for her horn-rims and cursed the genes that combined to give her 20/200 vision. Dagnabbit, now was not the time to be functionally blind. When her fingers hit pay dirt in the form of a hard plastic lens, she practically cried in relief. She shoved the specs against the bridge of her nose, and everything snapped into focus. Everything. Her gaze locked onto her sparkly reflection in the mirror, her blue eyes bright, cheeks flushed pink, her cleavage spilling over the top of the silver dress. This was not her.

Kissing Nick had been a fantasy, a dream, but tomorrow she’d be the same old Marianne she’d been yesterday. The career-focused, nerdy girl with her nose aimed at a computer screen.

And he’d still be the bad boy with the quick wink and the devastating grin who had charmed the panties off half the single women in the greater metro area. A serial dater. A man whose relationship rules included no back-to-back dates and no Sundays during football season. Arrogant. Rude. Presumptuous. And so ridiculously sexy, she’d traded her cardi and capris for a dress straight out of a Kardashian’s closet. What had she been thinking? For heaven’s sake, she saw him every week at Smart Cupid and he still called her “New Girl”. She’d shaken things up all right, but now, she needed to shake her tail away from the scene of the crime.

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