Chapter 1 - Bree
This is insane. This is madness. Nope, I can’t do it.
The navy blue shadows of midnight approaching coat the corners of the small living room. Light from the sliding doors makes patches of cobalt blue on the floor. The gurgling water feature in the center of the garden breaks the heavy silence. Funny how the sound no longer irritates me but reminds me of him.
The note is in my hand. I rub my thumb against the thick fibers of recycled paper. His simple message scrolled across the center:
I’d break the rules for you. Midnight.
My heart thrums as I pace around the shaggy white carpet. God, I feel like Cinderella. In reverse. Perhaps that’s why the Fairy Godmother made her return at midnight. Because nothing good can come from what happens after the clock strikes twelve. Not even a kiss on New Years Eve.
The floorboards creak in the bedroom. I shove the note in my pocket, scamper over to the mini fridge, and grab a bottle of water just as the door opens. Mia Vennucci, my best friend since our freshman year of college, steps out in shorts and a tank top, her dark hair bed tousled on one side.
“Hey,” she breathes quietly, closing the door silently behind her so not to wake our other friend Melanie. This retreat had been Mia's idea. She had used her travel blog as an excuse to come here, but I'm certain she and Mel did this more for me than the blog. “You okay?”
I nod, opening the water. “Just thirsty. What are you doing up?”
She smiles sheepishly as she walks over to the fridge and gets her own bottle of water. “Haven’t gone to sleep yet. I was texting with Greg.”
The pang of jealousy that comes is less tonight. Not entirely gone, but less than normal. It’s easier to offer her a half smile. She and Greg only got back together less than a year ago after three years apart, but their relationship is more vibrant than ever. The way they look at each other is something to be envied.
But tonight, her happiness doesn’t hurt as much.
I glance at the clock. 11:43.
“Are you going to go?” Mia asks quietly.
My eyes fly to hers. “How…?”
A knowing smile comes to her lips. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that his interest in you isn’t exactly platonic. And I saw him slip you the note.”
Heat creeps up my cheeks. “I don’t know.”
“Why not? He's hot.”
I roll my eyes. "You sound like Mel."
Mia just shrugs. "Just calling it like I see it."
"And what would Greg think of you calling another guy 'hot'?"
Mia gives me a funny look. "Why would he care? He knows I love him. Now stop avoiding the question."
My fingers drift to my neck to touch the pearls I’m not wearing. Force of habit. “I…I don’t want him to get in trouble.”
Mia laughs. “With who? If he isn’t worried, then you shouldn’t be. It’s not like anyone is going to find out.”
"I'm your best friend - knowing all your dirty little secrets comes with the title."
"I don't have dirty little secrets!"
Mia tilts her head pointly.
Sighing, I concede. "Alright, maybe one or two."
"So maybe its time to make some more."
My hand drops back to my lap. “It’s only been a few months.”
Mia nods. “I know. And if you’re not ready, then I totally get behind that. That should be the only reason you stop yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting this – wanting him. It’s okay, Bree. You’re not committing yourself to anything and you’re not doing anything wrong.”
Logically, I know that. People do this all the time. Mia did. Goodness knows Melanie has. But I never have. And the prospect of meeting him tonight is both thrilling and terrifying.
Mia comes over and gives me a quick hug. “Whatever you decide, do for yourself and no one else. We’ll all still love you in the morning. You wouldn’t be out here if you didn’t want to do it.” She walks back towards the bedroom. “There is always that sparkly, purple dildo. But I’ve always found live action to be better.”
My cheeks flame in the darkened room at the mention of that stupid purple dildo Melanie snuck into my suitcase the last time Mia and I visited her in London, but laughter bubbles up in my chest all the same. Mia smiles and closes the door quietly behind her, leaving me with the note burning a hole in the pocket of my black and white gingham shorts. I pull it out.
I’d break the rules for you.
I’ve always been a rule follower. Teacher’s pet. Straight A student. I’ve always done exactly what was expected of me from point A to B to C. My mother said I was born with an agenda. Hit every milestone from talking to walking to riding a bike exactly by the book.
Mere months away from my ultimate dream and everything fell apart.
Didn’t matter that I had followed every rule, every expectation. It. All. Fell. Apart.
Now this sexy holistic-nature-loving-man-bun-wearing guy has asked me to meet him at midnight and I know it’s not to practice my meditative breathing techniques or to align my chakras. He was never part of the plan. He doesn’t fit the mold.
And yet, it doesn't seem to matter.
For once in my life, I want to break the rules.