Hand in hand, we weave through the thick mass of couples and I spot Lara and Ted out of the corner of my eye. Lara winks at me, gives me a little wave then resumes dancing. She seems happy. She seems like she’s having a great time and that brings a smile to my lips.
Ryan slips behind me and the song changes. An up tempo pop song blasts through all the speakers, filling the club with an electric vibe. I watch the couple next to me as the woman gyrates up against her partner. Ryan seems to be a natural dancer. He moves behind me, in a smooth yet graceful manner while I’m watching my feet the entire time, making sure I don’t step in the wrong direction or stomp on his feet.
I’m not a good dancer. Most of the time, when I’ve had a little too much to drink, I convince myself that I am and get on the dance floor anyway. I mean, when you’ve lost the ability to distinguish your left foot from your right foot, who the hell cares what your dancing looks like to everyone else.
The song changes again and slows down. Ryan twirls me around to face him. I laugh, feeling like a ballerina on stage during a recital as his long lanky arms wrap around my waist. We sway back and forth, keeping up with the couples on the dance floor and I peek over my shoulder at Lara again. Her head is rested in the crook of Ted’s neck, and her eyes are closed, but she’s smiling. So wrapped up in his arms. His moves. His essence. And the sight of it makes my insides warm.
I can feel Ryan leaning closer to me and when I whip my head back it almost connects with his. “Sorry,” I breathe. Now I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. His hands dip below my hips and are almost touching my butt.
Shifting uncomfortably beneath his grasp, I make a mental note to bow out of the next dance with him.
This is what bothers me the most about Ryan. He just doesn’t get that I’m not into him like that. I’ve tried to tell him that I prefer that we just be friends. On several occasions. He’s usually fine for a while, but then he slips right back into his old behavior.
Like he is right now.
When the song ends, I start to pull away. I face him, opening my mouth to tell him I’d like to go back to the VIP room, but he tightens his grip around my wrist. “Just one more,” he pleads.
I yank on my hand, but he doesn’t let up. “Ryan, I’d really like you to let go of me.”
He still won’t let go.
Panic starts to surge through me and I try to spot Lara in the crowd again, but she’s hidden behind a cluster of couples. My heart beats heavy. My breaths get clogged in my throat. I tug on my wrist with more force and shout, “Ryan, let me go!”
“You’re just being difficult,” he says in a calm voice. “Stop making a scene. All I’m asking for is one more dance.”
“And all I’m asking you for is to let fucking go of me!”
Suddenly I’m jolted forward as Ryan releases my wrist, stumbles backwards, and sails across the dance floor on his ass.
Someone body checked him.
Then I hear a guy shout over the music. “Hands off, asshole!”
I turn my head slowly, glancing over my shoulder.
And it’s him.
His pools of bluish green are hot and blazing and full of anger until he lowers his gaze upon me. All the anger vanishes from his eyes and he takes my hands in his with a radiant smile and says, “Happy Birthday, Hadlee.”
I smile up at him, telling myself, screaming in my head that him showing up here is the best birthday gift I’ve ever received. “You’re here,” I gasp, still baffled. “I can’t believe you’re here.” I didn’t expect him to show. I swear I didn’t. Even though when Lara mentioned it, I felt giddy inside. I wanted him here so badly. But I figured celebrating his victory would be far more important.
“Are you kidding me?” He chuckles and touches his chin with his thumb and forefinger, a haze of want in his eyes. “I was not going to miss this.” He extends his arm to me. “What do you say birthday, girl?” He nods toward the exit. “How about we get out of here?”
I beam at him and lace my arm through his. “That sounds like a great idea.”
Chapter Twenty Nine
“Where are we going?” Sean hasn’t looked in my direction once since we got into the car. And that makes me wonder why he asked me to leave with him in the first place.
“You’ll see,” he says, eyes straight ahead, staring out the window.