The Waiting Game

I’ve been hard at work on my November NaNoWriMo piece, trying to finish a novel that didn’t want to be finished. Finally, at just over 90K words, I wrapped it up this week. So I figured it would be a good time to toss an excerpt up.

The party continued around me, and I couldn’t shake the certainty that this was a terrible idea, and I wasn’t entirely sure why I’d let Laina talk me into it. I didn’t need to be at a party right now. I needed to be in bed with some ice cream and a bottle of wine. At least I had my vodka tonic to keep me company, and soothe my lingering depression.

“What are you doing in here all alone?”

The voice came from behind me, and I turned, startled. It was the guest of honor. I stared into his shockingly pale blue eyes, not sure how to answer him.

“I’m not much for parties,” I answered finally.

He looked around the room pointedly. “Then why are you at one?”

“Laina thought it would be good for me to get out of the house.”

“And it’s not?”

“It’s not.”

“Why?”

I gestured to the empty spot next to me on the couch. Noel sat, and I turned to face him, putting my back against the arm of the couch, and tucking my legs underneath me.

“I’m going through a bad breakup,” I said.

“How bad?”

“I came home early from vacation and caught my fiancé in bed with some brunette.”

“That sucks.”

“It did, yeah. I had to move out, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to speak to him again. It’s been a rough couple of weeks.”

“I’m sorry.”

I waved the apology away. “Never mind about that. I hear you just moved. What brought you to D.C.?”

He laughed. “You won’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

Noel leaned closer to me, dropping his voice conspiratorially. “I caught my fiancée in bed with someone else.”

I laughed, assuming he was joking. He smirked in response, settling back into the couch, and I realized that perhaps he was serious.

“You’re not kidding,” I said.

“I’m not.”

“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry that I laughed.”

“I told you that you wouldn’t believe me.”

I felt my face heat up. “I’m so embarrassed.”

“Seriously, you don’t have to be. I mean, it’s not funny that Nancy cheated on me, but it’s hilarious that you and I are both at this party right now because we went through the same horrible thing.”

“I’m not sure that’s funny either.”

“It’s a little bit funny. Amusing at least.”

“Okay, I’ll give you that.”

“It’ll be a great story to tell our grandkids.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh, will it?”

“Sure. ‘How did you meet, Grandpa?’” Noel said, pitching his voice a little higher. “‘Well, kids,’” he continued, dropping the pitch of his voice now, “‘Nancy had cheated on me again.’”

“Ouch,” I interjected.

He nodded, and continued in his old man voice. “‘And we were all surprised to find out that–’” He paused. “What’s his name?”

“Who? Oh, Kyle.”

“‘–to find out that Kyle was a complete asshole.’”

I burst into laughter. Yeah, a totally appropriate story for the hypothetical grandkids.

“Aren’t you glad you came out to the party?” Noel asked.

“I kind of am, yeah.”

Kind of? I’m going to have to work a bit harder then, I guess.”

“Yeah, you should get on that.”

“You’re cute, you know that?”

My face went hot again. “Oh, please. I didn’t even shower for this party.”

“I don’t think you know appropriate party etiquette.”

“I agree.”

“It’s okay, we don’t have to go to another party ever again.”

“I like the way you keep saying ‘we.’”

“I’m not completely scaring you off?”

“No.”

It was sexy the way he was taking charge, the way he was making assumptions, even jokingly, about our future. And we’d only known each other for fifteen minutes. I began to contemplate perhaps going home with him once this party was over. One night stands were practically invented for getting over breakups, right?

“How do you know Laina?” Noel asked, snapping me out of my reverie.

“Oh! Uh, we went to college together.”

“You’re the one that lured her away from home.”

“Well, I encouraged her to stay here after school, yeah. ‘Cause I’m from here, and I was going to stay, and I had already talked our friend David into it, so I figured I’d try to get Laina to stay too. How do you know that?”

“You think Laina and I met a few days ago when I moved in, and she wanted to throw me a party?”

“Yes?” I cringed. “It’s not that unusual for Laina to do something like that.”

“Okay, I have to give you that. But no, Laina and I grew up together. She talked me into moving out here. After, you know, her sister cheated on me.”

“Again,” I added, remembering his story from earlier. “Holy shit, tell me you’re not serious. You were not dating her sister.”

“I was. It was ill-advised.”

“Yeah, even I know that, and I haven’t even met her sister. Laina’s told me so many stories about her sister doing guys wrong.”

“It’s generally been just the one guy,” Noel replied, jerking his thumb toward his chest.

My jaw dropped in horror and amazement. “Oh, my God. You’re kidding.”

“Right now you’re adding up all the stories about Nancy cheating on the guy she was seeing, and then you’re wondering to yourself why exactly I would have proposed to her.”

I paused. “I might be.”

“Judge away.”

“What were you thinking?”

Noel chuckled deep in his throat, and it was all I could do not to leap on top of him. Holy shit, that was a gorgeous sound, half growl, half laugh.

“I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking,” he said. “Possibly that marriage would settle her down a little.”

“I don’t think it would have,” I replied, unable to keep myself from leaning closer to him.

“Oh, no, it would have been a terrible mistake. We’d have divorced within a year. Things have worked out for the best.”

“Tell me you at least got the ring back.”

“As if I’d want a reminder? No, she kept it. And it wasn’t a very nice ring.”

“I’m starting to think that you don’t really like her.”

“I do, and I don’t. Sometimes I can’t quite remember why I fell in love with her.”

“Are you aware of what marriage means?”

He laughed. “I am. Mistakes were made. And I realize that I don’t know your name.”

“Alex.”

“Noel. But you knew that, because Laina would have told you.”

“She did.”

He cut his eyes toward Laina, and I couldn’t help but follow his gaze. She turned away from us as soon as our eyes lit on her. Oh, of course.

“This is a set up,” Noel said.

“Shit. Of course it is.”

“You sound distressed,” he said, a note of hurt in his voice. “And here I thought we were enjoying each other.”

Turning back to Noel, I opened my mouth to reply, then closed it again. How to put this without possibly hurting his feelings?

“This is fun,” I said after a moment.

“Talking to me?”

“Yes. It’s fun. I’m enjoying myself far more than I thought possible.”

“But.”

“Bad breakup,” I said, and Noel nodded.

“Okay, I see your point there. But we’re going to have to go on a date sometime, if only to appease Laina.”

“Do you really care about appeasing her?”

“I care a lot about seeing you again.”

“God, you know just what to say, don’t you?”

“I do.”

“It’s not a good idea for me right now. To get involved with someone.”

“Who said we had to get involved?”

“Noel.”

“You should come see my place.”

No,” I said with a laugh. “Bad idea.”

“It’s right down the hall.”

“I know it is.”

“We could sneak out now and no one would notice.”

“Laina would.”

“Another time then.”

“In, like, a year, Noel.”

He sighed. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m taking a year off from dating so that I can, you know, figure out who I am and what I want outside of a relationship. So that hopefully I don’t end up walking in on my next fiancé screwing some bimbo.”

“You don’t have to worry about that. I don’t screw bimbos.”

“You continue to be presumptuous.”

“And you continue to love it.”

“I do.”

“Seriously, right down the hall. You don’t even have to call me again.”

I laughed. “It’s a tempting offer. But I’d want to call you again. And I can’t do this right now, Noel.”

“Can we go back to flirting with each other?”

“Anytime you want.”

“But you’ll think about this date thing?”

“Of course I’ll think about it. We’re not going on a date though.”

“For a year.”

“Right.”

“If those are the terms, I’ll agree to them.”

“You’ll agree to sit around for a year and wait for me to be ready to go out with you?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ll turn down every other offer you get between now and then.”

“Yes.”

“You’ll take a vow of celibacy for a year, on the off chance that a year from now you and I still want to go out.”

“Yes.”

“We met less than an hour ago. You’re insane.”

“You’re beautiful. And funny. And I’ve really enjoyed myself tonight. I can wait a year.”

“You hope.”

Noel shrugged. “Worst case scenario, in a year, I’ve found someone I like even more than I like you. It still works out for me.”

“Fair enough.”

“You’re kind of screwed in that scenario.”

“I am.”

“But it’s your one year waiting period.”

“That’s assuming that in a year, I feel like being in a relationship again. And that I still know how to find you.”

“I won’t let you lose me.”

“That’s convenient.”

“You think I’m kidding.”

“I think you’re crazy.”

“But you like it.”

“I do.”

“So you also moved recently?”

“Uh, sort of. I mean, my stuff is no longer in the home I shared with my fiancé. But I’m temporarily crashing in a friend’s guest room.”

“Please tell me that friend is Laina.”

I laughed. “She doesn’t have a guest room.”

“I have a guest room.”

“Lucky for your guests.”

“I’m not going to stop trying to talk you into my apartment.”

“I’m not going to stop refusing.”

“That’s okay, this is still fun.”

“Yes it is.”

“I really want to kiss you right now.”

I could barely breathe with the anticipation of it. Oh, God, yes, please kiss me. And yet I pulled back.

“I can’t.”

He nodded, resigned. “All right. Another time.”

“Yes.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.”

“Please do.”

“I can think of a few other things I’d like to hold you to.”

I leaned toward him, dropping my voice. “Tell me all about it.”

Noel laughed, that sexy throaty chuckle from before, and he leaned closer. “Are we talking dirty to each other?”

“It’s the best I can do right now.”

“This party is about to get much more interesting.”

“Yes, it is.”

He leaned closer to me, his face right next to mine, his breath hot against my ear. He began to murmur into my ear, telling me what might happen if we were alone in the room. The things he was describing finally managed to put a new imagine in my head, shoving out the scene of Kyle and his girl. This was much better. And it was going to make it incredibly difficult to send Noel back to his place alone at the end of the night.

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