Alight [Completed]

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Chapter 7 - Melody

It had been two weeks since that night. I hadn’t seen or heard from Angel, but I’d been looking forward to tonight with almost breathless anticipation, knowing he’d be at the gala dinner. That we’d finally put an end to this game. That I’d finally find out his identity. And then... who knew? But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I craved his kisses, his touch, like the earth craved rain.

I studied myself in the mirror. I wore a sleek ivory evening dress that clung to my body. It had a deep V-neck at the front and the type of exposed back that made wearing a bra impossible. The ivory fabric contrasted with my tan, while the embellishments added luster whenever I moved underneath the lights. I wore my hair loose, lightly curled, one side pinned back with an embellished pin. I looked older, more sophisticated than I usually did. And I smiled because I knew that he wouldn’t be able to miss me tonight...

I spent serious money on the dress, wanting to look good for this. It was one of the most prestigious social events on the university’s social calendar, and the event was exclusive to elite athletes and their plus-one. That said, there were a couple of hundred guys who played football alone in the various divisions and teams, so knowing that Angel played, didn’t narrow my search down at all.

There was a knock on my door before it was flung open. And I immediately knew that it must be Hailes, as my mom and dad would have the courtesy of waiting for me to answer before just opening the door, and my sister Aria was fast asleep after unexpectedly arriving home from Australia earlier that afternoon in tears, suffering from severe jet-lag.

“Wow!” Hailey’s jaw dropped when she saw me. “You look amazing!”

“Thank you,” I smiled, her reaction giving me added confidence, because Hailey was brutally honest.

“Can I borrow that dress?”

I rolled my eyes at her. “Maybe. If you’re nice to me.”

“I’m always nice, Mel,” she scrunched up her nose. “Anyways, your date is here.”

And the way that she said those words made me pause and look at her. It was as though there was something there. A flash of emotion, something she wasn’t telling me. It was as though she couldn’t even bear to say his name.

“Connor’s here?”

“Yeah. He’s waiting downstairs.”

“Thanks, I’ll be one second. Go keep him company for me, please, I’m just throwing a few things into my evening bag,” I smiled, pretending not to notice her reaction, trying to locate my lipstick.

“He can entertain himself,” she said dismissively, and my eyebrow rose because it was highly unlike Hailey to be so anti-social.

“Is everything okay, Hailes? Did something happen with Connor that I should know about?” I asked, that sixth sense kicking in again.

“No,” she fired immediately - too quickly. “I’m out of here. I’m going out with Davis tonight. He should be here any second, too. I have to finish getting ready,” she explained, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was trying to fob me off.

“Are you sure you’re okay with me going out with Connor tonight?” I probed further because my intuition told me that my sister was lying to me.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” She deflected, and that confirmed my suspicion. But I didn’t have the time or inclination to delve further into that, right now. It wasn’t as though it was a real date, in any event, Connor and I were just friends.

“Enjoy your evening, Mel. You really do look great,” Hailey said, and there was a hint of sadness in her voice that I didn’t miss, either.

“Thanks. And Hailes - Connor just needed a date for this event. It’s not a real date, okay?” I said softly, intuitively knowing that I should tell her that.

There was a flash of emotion in her eyes before she responded. “It’s none of my business. He’s none of my business.”

And right then, I started wondering... Connor had said that he was waiting for someone in a relationship. Could it be that he was waiting for Hailes? Could it be that there was something going on right underneath my nose, and I hadn’t seen it until now?

She disappeared into her room, and I walked downstairs towards the lounge, where I heard Connor and my dad talking.

“What are your intentions with my daughter, Connor?” I heard my dad ask, and I stifled a giggle. It was so typical of my dad to ask our dates and boyfriends questions like that. It was like he hadn’t made peace with the fact that all of his daughters were grown up now, and that we could fend for ourselves.

“Adam, you know me well. I’m not a bullshitter. Mel and I are friends. I needed a date for this gala dinner, and she agreed to help me out,” Connor replied smoothly, not in the least intimidated by my dad. He knew my dad’s bark was way worse than his bite, and my dad didn’t have the tactical advantage that his intimidation usually had over unknowns.

“Drive safely. Don’t drink and drive with my daughter in the car,” my dad was lecturing Connor again, and I giggled before deciding to stop eavesdropping and put poor Connor out of his misery.

“Hi, Connor!” I entered the room, and he immediately stood up, looking appreciatively at me, looking dashing and handsome like he usually did, but perhaps even more so dressed in a tux.

“Mel, you look stunning! Wow. I’ll have to keep tabs on you tonight,” he turned on that Connor Blake-charm.

“You clean up pretty well too, Blake. I’m ready to go when you are.”

With a few more parting pearls of wisdom from my dad, we were out of there, and before long, we arrived at the upscale hotel where the function was held. My breath was taken away as we entered the grand ballroom, the room transformed into a majestical wonderland of twinkling lights and candles and flowers.

“Wow!” I exclaimed in wonder, looking around, and Connor smiled.

“Meets your standards, then?” He teased.

“It exceeds them, actually.”

“Good to hear. Let’s find our table - there is a seating chart over there.

Connor scanned the seating arrangements, then took me by the elbow, leading me to our table. I felt this sense of excitement - of anticipation, wondering if he was here already. And then I wondered who he was here with... But of one thing I was sure - and that was that he’d find me like he said he would, like he somehow just did, every time.

Connor introduced me to the other people sitting at our table, and before long, the speeches started. A few awards were handed out, and to my surprise, Connor won a medal for the athlete of the year and was inaugurated into the university’s hall of fame.

“Geez, Blake, you’re kind of a big deal, aren’t you? I had no idea you were going to be recognized tonight. Well done!” I said with surprise as he took his seat next to me again after returning from the stage, among thunderous applause.

He smirked and shrugged. “I’m good at passing a football, Mel. It’s not a big deal. It’s not like I’m saving lives.”

And just then, I saw a side of Connor Blake that probably not a lot of people who didn’t know him well, had seen. Despite his veneer of confidence and borderline-arrogance, even, he was an extremely decent guy, who had his head firmly on his shoulders and his feet firmly grounded on earth.

During the speeches and awards dinner was served, and afterward, the winners were asked to go and pose for some professional photographs. The dance floor was filling up with swaying couples, and I couldn’t help but look around, wondering which one of the guys inside this room might be Angel. And the fact that the room was filled to the brim with tall, athletic guys, of which about three-quarters had dark hair, didn’t narrow my search down either, unfortunately.

I took a sip of my wine and decided to freshen up my make-up in the powder room. Hoping like hell that I’d run into Angel again. Because I just knew that he was close, it was as though I could sense him.

I took a leisurely walk, reapplied my lipstick, then walked back out. And it was with a sense of disappointment that I sat back down at our table again, checking my watch. But it was only just shy of ten p.m. - the night was still young - there was still a lot of potential.

A waiter refilled my wine glass, and I kept myself occupied drinking wine and talking to the girl seated to my right, but then she and her date left to dance as well, and I was left at the table all alone.

I scanned the room again, looking for a familiar face, but no-one stood out. It was strange - I would’ve thought that Angel would’ve found me by now...

A few minutes later, Connor appeared again, and he looked apologetic when he saw me sitting by myself at the table.

“Sorry, Mel. It took a bit longer than I’d thought. They wanted to take a shitload of photos.”

“No problem,” I smiled.

“Want to dance?” He motioned towards the dance floor, and I nodded.

“Sure. Just don’t step on my toes, okay?” I teased.

Connor’s eyebrows rose. “Excuse me, Miss Davis, I’m actually an excellent dancer.”

“Prove it, Blake,” I challenged him, and he smirked, full of self-confidence.

“Let me show you how it’s done...”

And the moment we hit that dancefloor, I realized that Connor Blake was one hell of a dancer. He was so good that people made space for us on the dancefloor so that he could show off.

And hot fucking damn, did Connor have some moves... all eyes in the room were on us as he steered me, twisted me around, caught me again inside his arms, and even dipped me over backward for good measure, bending me over dangerously low. I had to watch my step to keep up with him, and all of a sudden, I was extremely grateful for all of the dance lessons my mom sent me to growing up, so I could hold my own.

After the song finished, the room erupted in cheers, and I felt my cheeks flush in embarrassment because I was hardly used to being the star-attraction at social events.

“You’re a great dancer, Mel,” Connor complimented me looking impressed.

“You made me look great, Connor. Where did you learn to dance like that?”

But my question remained unanswered as the crowd cheered, demanding a repeat-performance. Connor’s eyebrows shot up in a question, and I shrugged. I was having a good time - a great time, actually, and if nothing else, Angel would know exactly what I looked like and where to find me tonight, after this little show of ours...

The next song was a sultry, sexy salsa, and Connor took off his jacket, throwing it across the nearest chair, rolling up his sleeves, as he took hold of me firmly again, steering me across the floor with purpose.

Holy hell, I felt dizzy after a while from being twisted and turned around on repeat, but we just worked. I’d danced with a fair few guys, and Connor was by a mile the best dancing partner I ever had. Was this guy good at absolutely everything he did? Quite possibly given his lineage, with his mom a former professional tennis player, and his dad a former star-quarterback in the NFL. Connor had star-quality in spades, and it was quite clear that it was only a matter of time before he followed in his famous father’s footsteps.

We wrapped up the second number, and then among great applause and cheers, went to take our seats again.

The waiter refilled our wine glasses, and Connor raised his glass in a toast. “To learning unexpected things about each other.”

I smiled and toasted my glass against his. “Congratulations on your award, Connor. It’s a big deal, even though you’re trying to be modest about it.”

We both took a sip of our wine, and then I realized that I must have had quite a few drinks, actually, because I was definitely feeling tipsy. And perhaps that gave me the courage to ask my next question...

“Connor... is there something going on between you and my sister?”

His eyebrows shot up immediately, and his jaw dropped before he recovered and a blank expression covered his face again.

“No, there isn’t,” he said stoically, clearly not inviting further discussion.

“I see. And... do you wish that there was something going on?” I pretended to be tone-deaf.

He sighed heavily, avoiding my gaze completely. “I’d rather not discuss my love-life, Mel.”

I nodded, biting my bottom lip. “I can respect that.”

And then the atmosphere became tense between us... it was as though we suddenly didn’t know what to say to each other anymore.

“Would you like to dance again?” He suddenly broke the silence as a ballad started playing.

“Sure,” I smiled, grateful for the suggestion.

He led me to the dancefloor and took me into his arms as we gently swayed to the music.

He sighed deeply again as I rested my head against his shoulder, pulling me in closer to him. And I wondered what the hell was going through his mind. But I had a growing suspicion that his heart was longing for someone else as much as mine was, right then...

As the night went on, I became more and more restless. My eyes kept darting across the room, looking for a familiar outline, but I realized just how hopeless my situation was, because I had no idea who the hell I was even looking for.

And I had too much wine. Way too much wine. I was trying to drown my desperation. My heart was in my shoes, because Angel didn’t show. And I was confused as hell because he promised he’d find me again. And then I just felt sad and kind of heartbroken, even though I knew I was silly, and I had no reason to expect anything.

I started crying in the car on the way back to my house, because apparently, I was one of those people who were a sad drunk. The things you learned about yourself when you weren’t sober, sometimes...

“What’s wrong, Mel?” Connor asked with concern as he saw a tear streak down my cheek.

“Nothing, sorry, I’m being ridiculous,” I tried to deflect, wiping the stray tear away, but he wouldn’t have a bar of it.

“That doesn’t cut it, sorry. Let’s try again. What’s wrong?”

And it must have been because I had way too much to drink, and I wasn’t myself anymore. I started talking... telling Connor all about what had happened that day on the beach, when I woke up in hospital, that night at the club, and the night at the bar. I told him how Angel had asked me to go to the gala dinner with him, and that he’d said he’d find me there.

And by the time that his car pulled into our house, I was a mess. I was sure my mascara was streaking across my cheeks by that stage.

He’d listened wordlessly the whole time, his frown growing exponentially at that last part.

“So he knows me? He’s on the team?” Connor asked incredulously.

“Yeah, he said he knew you. I’m not sure if he plays in one of the lower division teams or not - I never asked.”

“That doesn’t narrow it down much, I’m afraid,” he said with a sigh. “Come on, let’s get you inside.”

“I can do with some water, actually,” I sniffed, fumbling for my keys in my purse. “I think I had a bit too much wine.”

He opened the car door for me and gave me a hug. “Just a little bit.”

“Thanks for being a great friend, Connor. I think... I think I needed to just talk to someone about what happened. I haven’t even told Hailes yet... I don’t know... the whole thing sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it?”

Connor’s eyebrows shot up. “More than just a little, Mel.”

We took some bottles of water from the fridge and went upstairs to my bedroom so that we wouldn’t disturb the rest of the house. And it felt so damn good to just talk to someone about the whole thing - to get a different perspective.

“I’d say he doesn’t have bad intentions, Mel. I mean, the guy saved your life and took you to hospital,” Connor looked at me, frowning. “Then he came to your rescue at the club, too, during the blackout. I can’t say I endorse his tactics, and particularly not telling you who he is, but perhaps he has his reasons, you know?” Connor shrugged, still looking perplexed.

“Yeah. I know what you mean,” I sighed. “And he asked...” I admitted softly, feeling my cheeks glow.

“What did he ask?”

“If he could kiss me. He didn’t just... do it,” I sighed, just thinking back to those kisses again, almost feeling my lips burning again, just reliving them in my mind.

“But, enough about my problems, Connor. Let’s talk about yours...”

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