I tapped my pen against the clipboard and probably smudged my mulberry shaded lipstick by biting my bottom lip. In no time, the silent auction was done, and the awards were given. I scurried around the gala, helping with gift bags and missed out on the honey yogurt panna cotta dessert. But thankfully, my duties eased and I could relax for a little while.
Pop music blared from the band on stage. Three strokes rocked the crowd for almost an hour, as they danced to their music. I spotted Jake among them, a black-haired beauty by his side as he held her across the shoulders. I plopped down on the nearest seat to give my achy feet a breather.
“Uh uh missy, no time for rest.” Jesse came striding. “But it is time to dance and have fun... Shall we milady.” He extended a hand and smiled. I giggled and glanced around, finally taking his hand.
“I’m not a very good dancer.” I shyly laughed. We made our way to find some room on the crowded dance floor.
“Oh c’mon, I’m sure you got a few moves or two.” Jesse laughed and twirled me around as we danced to a catchy song Third Strokes belted out. I’ve never been this close to Jesse before. He didn’t have his mask on, and I could see his face fully. He grew a light moustache, and I hadn’t realized his thick dark hair and eyebrows looked just like his brothers.
We danced to the next song, and I enjoyed myself with him, his swanky dance moves weren’t too bad either, as he shimmied his shoulders to the beat. I never laughed so hard. Third strokes tuned out their last song and the DJ took their place. Jesse grabbed my hands for another dance round.
“Can I cut in.” The very familiar deep voice spoke out behind me, sending pleasant chills down my spine. I turned and faced a masked Eric. “You two seemed to be having too much fun for my liking.” He growled.
My pulse quickened.
“Just a little harmless dancing big bro.” Jesse chuckled, but Eric raised a brow at him. “Sure,” he sighed to his brother and turned to me. “See you around Violet.”
I smiled softly and watched Jesse walk away, vanishing in the dancing crowd.
I turned around slowly and found Eric studying me. My breath hitched. He took off his mask and I could see his handsome face. He hiked the corner of his lips that made me smile. His jade green eyes roamed my body again, making it tingle, and licked his bottom lips. My mouth was agape as I watched him.
“You look ravishing tonight Harper.” Eric smirked. “It’s making me think some very bad thoughts.”
I bit my bottom lip as butterflies pooled in my belly. The DJ toned the music down as a slow song started to resonate across the floor. Guests were pairing up for a slow dance.
“May I,” Eric interjected.
I gave a nod and took his hand. He led us to the middle of the dance floor. I glanced at the hologram of Bolt Investment against the wall behind the DJ as couples danced around us.
“Where’s your date this evening, did Rebecca leave?” I sassed.
Eric coughed out a laugh. “No, she’s mingling somewhere.” He eyed me. “I promised her she could be my date for the gala some time ago. I honored my promise that’s all.”
I shrugged, not smiling.
Eric’s right hand grasped my hand while his other touched my mid-back. His fingers grazed my exposed skin as his hand travelled my back lower, sending a trail of flutters in its wake. I gripped his hand harder. He smirked at me knowingly.
He swayed me softly with the tune of the music. His expensive cologne embraced my body. I breathed him in deep.
“Did I always have this effect on you?” He asked close to my ear, as he drew my body closer to his. Pulling me in.
I looked up to him. “Not always,” I said. “But things change.”
“Oh,” he frowned. “I’m not so good at changes Harper.” We rocked side to side to Ed Shereen’s ‘Perfect’.
Eric pressed his body against mine as he looked deeply into my eyes, we both stared at each other for a moment. The people and the dancefloor fading away for a fraction, with only us two, holding each other close.
No CEO position.
No assistant duties.
And no distractions.
Eric pulled a strand of hair from my face, brushing his fingers against my cheek and down my lips. I watched him gaze at my mouth, licking his lips in anticipation. My breath caught in my throat as our swaying slowed down to a holt.
This was getting all too romantic. Tightness in my stomach formed and my mouth became dry. The scene was set, and the moment was now.
“Can I talk to you quickly?” My eyes drilled into his nervously.
His left eye twitched and his jaw clenched up. “Now, right here? Isn’t it best after tonight?”
I shook my head adamantly. “No-no, it needs to be now. Outside on the terrace. It’s more private there.”
I broke my hands and body away from him instantly and walked to the exit going outside, hoping Eric would follow me.
A beautiful garden enclosed the outside terrace, with a few people scattered around. The music and laughter of people inside drowned out. The soft breeze was warm and comforting as it drifted through my hair. But despite the warmth I hugged myself. I allowed myself to be vulnerable with Eric, to open myself up to him. I was scared and nervous, and unsure how he’ll take it. Would he want me, and reflect my feelings? Or will he reject me? The latter made me feel ill.
Firm hands caressed my shoulders. I breathed in and out deep and turned around. Eric removed his hands and placed them in his pockets, his eyes serious as he studied me. I gulped, collecting my nerves.
I sucked in a breath, “Thank you for coming out here with me.”
Eric nodded. “Of course Harper, you wanted to talk.” He smiled weakly. “What’s on your mind.”
“You know we haven’t talked since...” I diverted my eyes to the ground, “...since we spent the night together at your place.”
Eric swallowed hard; his eyes unflinching.
I fiddled with my charm bracelet to stop my hands from trembling. “I didn’t know what to expect being your assistant at the beginning. I thought it was just going to be all work.” I said my eyes returning to his. “And along the way we developed a friendship. You assisted me to get back into the dating scene, and we got to know each other pretty well.”
Eric smiled. “Yes, we did, I didn’t expect it either. You were one of the oddest women I ever met Harper, you kept on surprising me.”
I crinkled my nose, not sure if I liked the oddest woman part. He laughed a deep chuckle. “And that nose, I love it when you scrunch it like that.” He grinned inching closer, gliding his finger against my bare arm. It erupted into goosebumps. “It kinda turns me on.” He said in a low tone.
My eyes widened and I bit a smile, resolved not to crinkle my nose. I shook my head determined not to get side tracked with Eric’s charms, reminding myself I came here with a purpose!
“I’m in love with you Eric!” I blurted.
Eric blinked and swallowed hard. He stepped back not expecting my outburst. I didn’t expect it myself. It just came out. It had to be done. That’s what I do when I get nervous. I just blurt out words.
“Since that night we slept together, I slowly developed feelings for you that grew stronger day by day.” I sighed, my heart raced as slight sweat beaded my upper lip. “It’s like you said Eric, if you interested in a guy, I have nothing to lose right?”
He continued to stare at me, his jaw tight, his eyes diverted to the ground and then back up to me.
“So... rule no.1, I’m putting myself out there for you and letting you know where I stand.” I said firmly.
Eric breathed out, his green eyes growing apprehensive. But I couldn’t fully read him yet.
“Rule no. 2, I’ve dressed the part.” I took the sides of my dress and flared it up lightly, drawing his attention to my evening gown. He watched my movement, his lips growing tight.
“And no.3,” I said my voice slightly breaking. “I’m trusting my gut right now.” Tears glistened in my eyes as I looked up to him, almost pleading.
His eyes drilled into me. It softened for a moment and then turned anxious. His brows creased as he studied me silently. It was like there was a debate in his head, as his right eye twitched. I waited, wide eyed, my heart in my mouth, hoping he’ll say the words I want to hear. That he wants me too, the way that I want him. Finally, he shook his head and looked to the ground breathing in deep.
He looked to me and blinked hard, uttering words I was afraid to hear. “I’m sorry Violet, but I can’t.”