"He isn't my boyfriend, and he won't fuck this up."
Georgia looked at me cautiously.
"Is everything ok? It looked like you were having a pretty intense chat when I came over."
I picked up a glass of champagne from a tray a passing waiter was carrying.
"Yet you interrupted anyway..." I muttered under my breath.
When the band stopped playing, I spotted James at the edge of the stage. He looked confident and sexy as he walked out. I felt a smug sense of satisfaction that I was the woman by his side. For now at least...
"Hi everyone, don't worry I'm not about to sing!" He joked, his voice sending a shiver down my spine.
He waited for the laughter to die down before continuing.
"I'm up here because my older brother turned thirty today, and he asked me to say a few words. For as long as I can remember, I hated having an older brother. Especially one like Richard. He always got to do everything first, and of course, he excelled in anything he attempted."
James paused for a few seconds, his smile making me melt.
"So yes, I hated having an older brother, but it's impossible to hate Richard. He has to be the most gracious and driven person I know. No matter what, he has always been there for me. I'm sure at times he's hated having a younger brother. It's just that unlike me, he'd never admit it!"
I looked over at Richard. He was smiling, but I could see he was getting emotional.
"Nothing makes me happier than knowing those I love are content. The last few months I've seen my brother the happiest he's ever been. He's laughing more, and he's also learning to relax, rather than work all the time. So, I'd like to thank Georgia. You've brought out a side of my brother that those closest to him have loved seeing."
I looked at Georgia, her eyes filling with tears. I reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze.
"I don't want to go on too much, but I'd like to finish up by asking you all to raise your glasses to my brother. Happy 30th Birthday, Richard. Thank you for always being there for me."
Everyone raised their glasses, and as I sipped my drink, James caught my eye. He winked, and heat rushed through me.
"So, as well as celebrating Richard's birthday, I know he has some other news he'd like to share with you. Over to you, bro." James said, waving him up.
Richard came up onto the stage to loud applause.
"Thanks for all your birthday wishes, and for coming here tonight to celebrate."
Richard looked over at James, who had moved off the stage.
"Thanks to my brother for his kind words. For the record, there were many occasions that I hated having a little brother."
I burst out laughing and Georgia smiled.
"Is my make-up ok?" She whispered, wiping underneath her eyes. I could see she was getting nervous.
I nodded, brushing her hair back from her face.
"You look beautiful."
"Anyway, the reason I'm up here will soon become clear. Two months ago I was in Mykonos with my brother. I went for a walk one night, not able to sleep. As I turned the corner, I bumped into the most stunning woman I had ever seen."
I smiled at Georgia. She was gazing at Richard like he was the only person who existed.
"She shouted at me to look where I was going, and all I could do was stare like an idiot. Eventually, I found my tongue and persuaded her to let me buy her a drink."
Everyone was rapt by his words, me included.
"I knew right then that she was it for me. She was everything I could dream of in a woman. Georgia, can you come up here?"
I clapped as she walked over to join him, her cheeks flushed. Richard met her at the edge of the stage, taking her hand and helping her up.
"So, yes, it's my 30th birthday today. But really, I would like you all to celebrate something else. I asked this amazing lady to be my wife, and by some miracle she said yes. So please, can you all join me in a toast to my fiancée."
There were lots of cheers and applause as Richard kissed Georgia.
"How did I do?"
"You were brilliant. How come you are so good at public speaking?"
He glanced over at Richard and Georgia. They were making their way to the dancefloor.
"I've had a bit of practice at it. I'm patron for the charity Runaway, so I give lots of talks at different fundraisers and events." He said casually.
I looked at him in surprise. I had no idea he did that kind of thing.
"Wow, you are full of surprises, Mr Graves. Why did you pick that charity to help?"
He gave me an embarrassed smile.
"Well, at first it was for good PR, but the more involved I became, the more I cared. I was such a selfish brat growing up. I still was till a few years ago. When I heard the stories of why some people ran away, it kind of puts everything in perspective."
I took hold of his hand.
"Well, that's an amazing thing to do."
We both looked at each other. I could feel my heart hammering in my chest. It had been so easy to fall in love with him. I had tried to resist, but it was impossible.
"Dance with me?" He asked, his voice full of emotion.
The band were playing a cover of "I'm Kissing You." People were heading to the dancefloor to join Richard and Georgia.
I nodded, and James kept a tight hold of my hand as we walked over. He pulled me into his body, his arms wrapped around my waist.
"I wonder why they chose this song. I've not heard it before." James murmured as we danced together.
"It's from Romeo and Juliet. Georgia's favourite film." I said, wrapping my arms around his shoulders.
"When you think about it, we are like Romeo and Juliet." He whispered, kissing the top of my head.
I pulled back, so I could see his face.
"What makes you say that?"
His eyes searched mine as he leaned down to my face, his breath grazing my cheek.
"Two people who are hopelessly in love, even though life would be a lot less complicated if they weren't."
I exhaled the breath I didn't even realise I had been holding. His use of the word love caused a whole mix of emotions to combust inside of me.
"James, I can't do this..."
"Try, Sophie. Please, just try."
There was an awkward silence. Both of us lost in our own thoughts. James turned my face, and I was staring straight into his eyes. He was looking at me calmly, but I could feel the intensity in his gaze.
"Kiss me." He whispered.
My heart was beating so loudly I was sure he could hear it. I moved closer and as our lips met, everything around us faded away. Right now, all I cared about was kissing him. Nothing else mattered, all I wanted was James.
Eventually, we came apart, both breathless. He rested his forehead against mine.
"That kiss told me everything I need to know. You feel the same as I do…"
I couldn't speak, my mind was racing. He stroked my hair and spoke slowly,
"I am falling in love with you."
Hearing him actually say the words hit me hard. I closed my eyes and pressed my face into his chest.
"You don't have to say or do anything, but I need you to know that."