Deanna fidgeted with the stem of her glass as she looked towards the door for the upteenth time. New Year’s was just an hour away. Still no Michael. What did she expect? It wasn’t like they were dating or anything.
The lunch date seemed ages ago. It went well, she thought. The next day, Michael left on a business trip. She had gotten an email every day just telling her good morning. That was sweet, but she couldn’t get a feel for whether it was going to stay a close business relationship or something more. Though he did ask if she was coming to the New Year’s Eve party.
Each year, the president of the company held a big bash at his mansion located on the river. It was decorated to look like a winter wonderland. White and blue lights were strung over the windows, trees, and even covered an outdoor patio that had been cleared of snow. Fire pits burned around it to warm the enclosure.
Deanna had gone out for a few minutes but felt uncomfortable with the various couples talking to each other. Moving to the bar, she had ordered a hot alcoholic beverage to warm her hands. She managed to find a nice seat in the parlor with several of her coworkers.
The talk revolved around one of the women’s new grandbabies. That changed when in walked Deanna’s rival for a promotion. Jackie tossed back her red locks as she laughed with the three others who were with her at all times. Deanna called them the office gang.
Jackie and Deanna had worked for the company three years. Both had done excellent work. Deanna was the only one not to lift her skirts for anyone who looked twice. That was why Jackie was the one to get a slight promotion the year before. Now a new position was being created in the department and both women wanted it badly.
“Well, Deanna made it. Thought you might be helping down at the homeless shelter or something.” Jackie ran a well manicured hand across her tiny waist.
Deanna forced a smile as the others who had been conversing with her left the room. “And what would be wrong with that?” Two years earlier, Deanna missed a company gathering for a community service project she had volunteered for. Jackie never missed an opportunity to demean the act.
“Well, you know that with the new position….One would think you’d have your priorities in order.”
“I think I have my priorities well in order.” Deanna almost told her about the soup kitchen where she would be serving the next day but bit her tongue. She just wanted out of the room and away from the choking perfume Jackie and her comrades wore.
As Deanna moved toward the door, Jackie stepped in front of her. Her mouth turned up in a sneer, she whispered, “Don’t think your goody two shoed ass is going to get anywhere. No one even knows who you are. You couldn’t get their attention even if you waved a sign.”
Deanna’s eyes never wavered from Jackie’s. “Whatever you want to believe.”
“There you are.”
They all turned to see Michael striding towards them. Deanna struggled with relief for his impeccable timing and desire at the sight in front of her.
If she thought he was good-looking before, she had only gotten a glimpse of how sexy he could really look. In a grey suit, he made his way toward her and took her arm.
“I have been looking all over for you. The countdown will be starting soon.” Without giving her a chance to respond, he steered her out of the room and toward the large ballroom where the official countdown was to occur.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” He flashed her a bright smile that caused his green eyes to twinkle.
“You couldn’t have timed that any better.”
He laughed as he took two champagne flutes from a passing server. As he handed one to her, he replied, “Ol’ Jackie up to her tricks?”
Deanna raised an eyebrow. “You’re aware of them?”
He leaned down with a conspiratorial smile. “Everyone is.”
“Really?” she laughed. “We all thought she had everyone fooled.”
“Far from it. They just take advantage of her as much as she’ll let them.”
Deanna shook her head. “Oh, well.” She looked around the room of her coworkers and top executives. Despair set in as she thought of all the long hours she put it only to know it would never help.
“Why so glum?”
She looked up at him and felt slightly better. He did after all seek her out. “I’m okay. Glad you made it back in time.”
“Barely. My last flight was delayed. Traveling is not as cracked up as most people think.”
He nodded and snagged an appetizer as the tray passed. “Yes. Very. Did they have a full spread or just the samplers?”
Deanna laughed. “Hungry?”
“Haven’t eaten since this morning,” he answered as he popped the small morsel into his mouth.
“Yes, they did. I’ll show you after the countdown.”
A loud whistle caught their attention and everyone else’s in the room. The host stood up and waved his arms. “Everyone ready? A new year is about to begin, and it’s time to celebrate what all wonderful things it will bring.”
“For some,” Deanna mumbled.
Deanna felt Michael’s hand settle on her waist. A part of her hoped Jackie saw it, but no matter what she was going to enjoy it.
Before the final count was given, Deanna found herself with Michael’s lips on hers. Her eyes widened at the sudden move. His eyes met hers. When he winked, she gave in and closed her eyes to savor the sensation.
It wasn’t a deep kiss. His lips pressed against hers, but her heart still quickened and her pulse jumped. She longed to press closer to him, but awareness of where they were prevented her.
Cheers rose up around them. A new year rushed in. Hope rose in all, especially Deanna.
Michael pulled back, his eyes darker than normal. “Happy New Year.” His voice was husky.
“Happy New Year,” she whispered back. No promotion, but maybe….