Anticipation

By: Sarah Mayberry

Chapter One

Her life would be so much easier if she could hate him. Better yet, feel nothing at all. A lovely, soothing blankness.

God, that would be good.

Blue Sullivan knocked back the remainder of her vodka as she watched the man on the dance floor. His brown hair came close to brushing his shoulders, and dark jeans hugged his thighs as his lean, muscular body moved sinuously to the music. No embarrassing foot-to-foot shuffling or fist pumping like the other men on the dance floor. In fact, he was so good that if she didn’t know better, she’d think he was a professional.

She did know better, though. She knew Eduardo Oliveira better than she knew anyone in the entire world, because she’d been his friend and co-worker for more than ten years now. She’d also been in love with him for all of those years. Most of the time loving him in silence was okay. Tonight…not so much.

Tonight, loving Eddie was a curse, a burden, a punishment.

Tonight, it hurt to watch him flirt with other women.

The feeling would pass soon enough — it always did — but that didn’t make it any easier to bear.

Eduardo got up close and personal behind a tall blonde on the dance floor — one of Maggie Hendricks’s friends, which made sense since this was Maggie’s birthday party — his hips moving suggestively against the woman’s as he wrapped an arm around her waist. For a few seconds they did the sexy, grinding-in-unison thing to the pumping bass beat. The woman reached back to splay a hand on Eduardo’s thigh, her bright red nails digging into the fabric, and the hot burn of jealousy became a physical pain in Blue’s belly.

Yeah. Too much fun.

She turned away. She didn’t need to see more to know what was going to happen. In the very near future — an hour or two, max — Maggie’s friend would follow in the footsteps of countless other women when she hit the sheets with Eddie. It was as inevitable and predictable as the sun setting, the tide turning, and other immutable, incontrovertible forces of nature. This was what Eddie always did when he broke up with a girlfriend: spend a few weeks being a complete pants man, sleeping with whichever hot women crossed his path, before once again slipping into a relationship with some poor, deluded idiot who was convinced she could reform a man who freely admitted he was hopeless at relationships, yet stumbled into them anyway.

Blue made her way through the crowd to the bar, signaling for the bartender to hit her with another delightfully numbing vodka. Eddie had broken up with his most recent girlfriend, Denise, a few days ago, so Blue shouldn’t have been surprised that he was diving straight into his man-whoring ways. She wasn’t privy to the details of the breakup — as occasionally happened, there had been a distance in their friendship outside of work as the girlfriend demanded all of Eddie’s attention. Eddie’s women were always either jealous of Blue, or wanted to be her new best friend, the world’s most obvious neutralize-the-perceived-threat gambit and one Blue had long since learned to side-step. Still, she could guess what had gone wrong, because it was the same thing that always went wrong: Denise had wanted more, campaigning hard to take their relationship beyond sex and good times, and Eddie had pushed to maintain the status quo. Denise had then probably done one of two things: issued an ultimatum, or tried to manipulate him with tears. Both tactics would have triggered Eddie’s get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge instinct, hence him burning up the dance floor with a tall blonde whose name Blue could never quite hang onto. Chloe? Cleo? Something sexy to match her long, straight hair and legs-up-to-her-armpits.

“Hey. There you are.” Maggie brushed against Blue’s shoulder as she joined her at the bar. “Having a good time?”

“I think I’m supposed to ask you that,” Blue said, taking in her friend’s flushed face and curly blonde hair. “Many happies, birthday girl.” She raised her glass in a salute.

“I need to talk to you about this.” Maggie thrust her arm in Blue’s direction.

An Art Deco marquisette watch circled Maggie’s wrist, the numerals picked out in stylized script. A perfect match for her vintage fifties dress, even if Blue did say so herself.

“If it’s too big, I can get it adjusted,” Blue said.

“I said no presents. I insisted Rafel add that to the invitation,” Maggie said.

“I know. I am just a total bitch when it comes to things like acknowledging my friend’s special day. Sorry,” Blue said, utterly unrepentant. Maggie was the bee’s knees, and no way was Blue letting her birthday pass unmarked. If life had taught Blue anything, it was to value the good people around her.

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