Ann did the final touchups on the platter of small appetizers. Everything looked good. The table was filled with finger foods from chips to pate. Vegetable platters were placed around the room for easy access. Trays of fruit helped to fill the brightly colored display. Off to the side on a long buffet table was a punch bowl.
Susan walked out of the kitchen carrying a large crock-pot. “Where do you want the cocktail weiners?”
Looking around the table, Ann shifted a few dishes. “Put it here. I don’t think we need to plug it up. They’ll be gone too soon.”
“Wish Zoe could have stuck around,” Susan said as she wiped her hands on her apron.
Ann nodded. “Yes, but forecasts of bad weather and a leak in her apartment….”
“Well, everyone else will be here. Is Jackson coming?” Susan glared at Ann from the corner of her eye.
Ann turned her eye up to the wall clock. Keeping her face straight, she nodded. “Yes. He mentioned he was coming. It would be nice to have everyone show up. I think I’ll get the wine out. Should be chilled enough by now.”
In the kitchen alone, she paused before the fridge and took in a deep breath. Jackson. She prayed he would show up. The two times they had tried to actually make it a date had been thwarted by outside forces. Ann was beginning to think fate was warning her to stop it before anything happened.
But she didn’t want to listen to fate’s warning.
Now she had to keep her feelings for her hot author on the down low. Though Susan knew more about her than anyone, something about her intense feelings had her wanting to hold them close a while longer. She wanted to keep it a closely guarded secret that only she could gaze upon.
The sound of the doorbell drew her attention. Ann took a deep breath and waited for her breathing to level out. She was hosting a party. Focus and smiles were to be her shield.
She found Susan opening the door to Tyler Kazinski and his wife. Tyler had been their graphic artist for just over a year. He had taken over from Sheila Dunn who had brought too much drama into the workplace.
Tyler kissed Ann on her cheek. “Thank you for inviting us.” Tyler wasn’t a very tall man. At five foot six inches, he was the same height as Ann. But the funniest part was when someone knew him by name only. Their reactions were so shocking. No one would have put a Kazinski to the little Asian man and Ethiopian born wife.
Ann pulled his wife, Edith, into a tight hug. “And why wouldn’t I? You are apart of our little yet growing family.” With a smile she pointed at the bar and display of food. “Get your drink. Whatever you want. Ice is in there along with all the makings for speciality drinks. We might have someone later who is a pro at all that. Maybe we can convince him to bartend for us.”
“Anything I can do to help?” Edith asked.
Ann shook her head. “Not right now. But after a few people get here, I might ask for help in replenishing the food. Susan says she’ll do it, but she gets so chatty.”
“Hey, I heard that!” Susan’s voice called from the kitchen.
Laughing, Tyler and Edith moved to get their drinks. Ann went to answer the door as the chimes announced a newcomer. Pulling it open, her chest tightened.
“Jackson.” Whenever he spoke, Ann felt her muscles turn to liquid. She would’ve loved to just become a pool of sparkling champagne right there on the floor for him to enjoy. Pulling the door back, she motioned for him to come in. “I, uh, the drinks are right over there at the bar. Tyler is already there.” She stopped short as she realized she had begun to ramble. It didn’t help how good he looked.
“Thanks. I brought you something.” He pulled out from behind his back a bottle of champagne with a white rose tied to the bottle.
Ann’s heart thumped. Taking the bottle, she gave Jackson a small smile. “Thank you. I love white roses.”
“Come on in.”
Jackson moved past her. Ann breathed in the cologne he always wore. It was his own brand that had become very popular.
She watched him as he made his way to the bar and greeted Tyler and Edith. She wouldn’t have minded just standing there and watching him all night. If only their dates had come to fruition. Then again, she could look at tonight as a date.
Thirty minutes later, the apartment was crowded. Music filled the air as conversation flowed through the crowd. Food disappeared from the platters. Drinks were replenished.
Ann chatted with several of her friends and business associates. Several she had not seen since the last party though they talked all the time via email and social networking. She still couldn’t believe how much the business had grown.
The doorbell chimed again. Ann glanced at her watch. Fifteen minutes to midnight. She motioned for Susan to start distributing the champagne glasses before making her way to the door. She froze when she opened the door and saw the smiling face waiting for her.
Jeffery Delgado spread his arms wide. “Am I late?”
Ann’s smile stiffened. “Jeffery. Wasn’t aware you were coming.”
He winked. “I assumed my invitation got lost. Glad I made it before the new year arrived.” He pushed past her. “I’ll grab a drink and talk to a few people.”
Ann moved to speak but Jeffery was already gone. Anger burned within her for his party crashing. He was one person she didn’t want at her party. He was not an associate or a friend.
Tyler loudly proclaimed that the new year only five minutes away. Everyone moved to get their glasses refilled. Ann stood confused. Her anger at Jeffery was battling against the excitement of starting the new year with those she loved.
“You need a drink.”
Ann turned to the source of the sexy voice. Jackson stood next to her with two champagne flutes in his hand. His smile pushed the anger at Jeffery away. “Yes, I do.”
He handed her one of the glasses. “It’s nearly time.”
“Yes,” she breathed. Ann mentally chided herself. She had to get a grip on herself when she was around Jackson. Acting like a silly school girl would get her nowhere. She’d only make a fool of herself.
“Next year is going to be amazing.” Jackson leaned over as the countdown commenced. Voices around them started shouting ‘ten’.
Ann looked into his eyes and found herself falling into their mesmerising pools. “I agree.”
Jackson leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers. Ann felt the world collapse around her and send her down through a vortex of feelings and colors. How she wished the world would stop and allow her to spend forever right where she was.
Pulling back, Jackson leaned his forehead against hers. “Happy New Year!”