The One That I Want. Michelle Monkou
her underwear. She’d just pulled her dress down when the sound of a key card activating the door stopped her plan to search for him behind the thick drapes.
“I bought a couple sodas.” He handed her a cold Coke. His eyes shifted from around the room to her outstretched hand, but never to her face.
Was he feeling regret? Shame? Or was he in need of closure?
“Thanks. That’s thoughtful.” She didn’t drink sodas, but the correction didn’t matter. Her fingers brushed along his—deliberate on her part. She wanted contact and a signal that nothing would be awkward. Still he didn’t bring his gaze back to her. Things would be awkward.
“Did you need anything else?” He motioned with his chin toward the bathroom.
“I’m good.” Why did he have to look all pulled together? Meanwhile, a few minutes ago, her hair had sported a bad case of bed-head. Smeared lipstick had given her the clown-mouth effect. And her skin had appeared dewy from the naturally sweaty workout.
Laxmi grabbed her keys and pocketbook. She took a pass on offering her hand for a shake or tiptoeing to meet his lips for a kiss. Instead she said, “Hope everything works out for you. If you’re ever in the city, you have my card.”
She hurriedly opened the door and stepped into the hallway, praying it would quickly swing shut. She sounded like a handyman hoping for a call back after tackling a problem.
“Wait. I’ll walk with you.”
“Not necessary.” She sped up her retreat to the elevator. “I’m in a rush.”
His unhurried footsteps followed her quick strides. She turned the corner to the bank of elevators, ready to summon one. The longer she stayed in this building, the more trapped she felt. Fresh air would help a lot. She waited with a small huddle of hotel guests, hoping that the elevator arrived before Dresden.
But he appeared around the corner, still unhurried, not breathing as if he had to catch up to the finish line, unlike her heaving chest. Maybe he recognized the lack of privacy, because he said nothing, his face a stoic mask. Instead he stood next to her, joining everyone’s stance to stare at the numbers above the elevator as it moved up or down.
Finally a chime behind them indicated a door would open. Laxmi waited for the family of four to board the space before she stepped in and faced front, while Dresden followed suit.
The other guests continued with their conversation, which helped to make the ride down slightly bearable.
“You really didn’t have to come with me,” she whispered.
“You’ve made that clear.”
He sounded annoyed.
The door opened and Laxmi almost tumbled out, glad to be free from the confining space. Now that the exit wasn’t far from where she stood, her equilibrium righted to stiffen her spine.
“Why are you running?” His attention stayed with the flow of foot traffic coming and going through the entrance.
“I’m not. It’s just time for me to go.” She didn’t slow down as she headed through the doors and requested her car.
“And I thought that I was the one to run.” He barely smiled at his joke.
“If I stay, we’d be breaking our pact to remain uninvolved. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I came to a birthday party to hang out with my friend and catch up on our years apart while eating birthday cake. And you were going to be introduced to Grace’s circle.” She stepped off the curb to head for her car that had pulled up. “We were the anomaly of the evening.”
“I have no complaints.” He remained on the curb.
She looked over the top of the car at him. “Neither do I.”
“Well, break the rule. Let’s do this.” His suggestion touched her like the gentleness of his hand cupping her face.
She looked up at the dark night, unable to see any stars. Bright city lights illuminated the steep heights of the buildings. Once upon a time, she had broken lots of rules, done things her way, and had a lot to be sorry for in the process.
Dresden hadn’t moved or changed his expression. Still the handsome guy who’d caught her eye. Did he understand the consequences of tossing out that temptation as a finale for the night?
“Let’s end on a high note.” She got into her car before he responded and before she changed her mind.
Her passenger door opened. Dresden leaned in. “Maybe we’re more alike than you think. And—”
“No.” She shook her head for added emphasis. “You’re in Canada. I’m in New York.”
“There’s such a thing called planes.”
“I’m in entertainment—it’s a hustle. There’s no time for dating or thinking about you. I go where the business takes me. I can barely look after me. I don’t want—”
“I don’t need to be looked after. And life is a hustle that we don’t always get right.”
Laxmi stared straight ahead. She had to erase his words of hope, his expectant look, the memory of what that mouth had delivered on her body. She bit her lip to add a stinging reminder to get it together.
“I don’t have what you’re looking for. I’m not the girlfriend who could be counted on to be reliable or dependable.” Laxmi revved the engine. “But one day you will find that special someone because you’re a nice guy and you’ll see that this wasn’t it.”
“I’ll let you go...for now.” He stepped back and closed the car door.
Laxmi snapped on her seat belt, glanced into the side mirror for oncoming traffic and pushed down on the gas. She needed the city’s frenetic driving scene to harness her attention.
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