All because I didn’t want to run into him. It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask my father who the client is, but I don’t. I’ve never asked something like that before. It’s not uncommon for my father to take meetings in his home office. He works from home even more when I’m here, and I don’t want him to catch onto me. My father is good at catching things like that.
“You’re just tired of eating take out,” I tease him. The only time Dad eats food that isn’t from a restaurant or in a to-go box is when I’m home to cook for him.
“I can deny that, but I’ve missed you.”
I reach up and fix his slightly crooked tie.
“I missed you, too,” I admit.
“Only a few more months and I’ll have you back in the city with me for good.” He smiles at his own reminder. Graduation is fast approaching, and he couldn’t be prouder. Me, I’m kind of freaking out. The whole what-am-I-going-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life question looms. But I’m one of the lucky ones. A lot of the other students I went to school with didn’t have a dad like mine. They didn’t like that their kids got degrees in fine arts and spent all their time playing an instrument. That wouldn’t put food on the table.
“Dad, you know I’m not coming back here, right?” He stiffens a little at my words. “I mean, back here.” I point down to the floor, indicating my bedroom. “I’ll be getting my own place.”
“That trust fund is already kicking me in the ass.” He lets out a deep sigh. “I know, sweetheart, but just keep in mind there are condos for rent in this very building. I could get you one now if you’d like to hold it. I’ll even buy it if—”
I cut him off. “Dad, don’t you have a meeting?” I don’t want to get into this conversation again. I’m not shooting down the idea, but if I tell my father I’m mulling it over, he’ll push for more and I’ll end up back in this bedroom again. My dad is just too good at negotiations, and I’ve learned to try and avoid them because I crack. I can’t help it when he goes all sweet, loving dad on me. I hate when he gets that disappointed look on his face.
“All right.” He kisses the top of my head again before leaving me alone in my room. I reopen my laptop and look at the New York gossip column I’d just hidden.
Looks like Sidney Grant spends the night at Calder Cox’s once again. Below the headline is a picture of Sidney exiting what I’m assuming is Calder’s place. The same woman he’s always pictured with. The same woman he’d left my father’s party with after kissing me.
They are always seen together at events. It’s rumored they are planning a secret wedding. I can’t seem to stop myself from reading each and every article I find on them. I’m starting to think I’m a masochist.
I shut my laptop again and pull myself away from my bedroom, making my way to the kitchen to make dinner. I’ve cooked dinner every night since I got here Christmas Eve. Dad makes a list of things he’d like me to make while I’m in town and I check them off one by one each day. I saved his favorite—stuffed chicken—for last, and I’m making it tonight. I won’t be cooking tomorrow night since he’s hosting a New Year’s Eve party, and I leave for school midday on New Year’s Day.
Pulling out the chicken, I get to work preparing the dinner and setting the table. I go ahead and set a third in case someone might be joining us like Dad said. Unwanted butterflies take flight at the possibility that it might be Calder. I chastise myself for the thought. He has a girlfriend, I remind myself for the millionth time. I hate that I have on a crush on a man who’s taken. It feels wrong on so many levels. I never want to be that girl, but here I am.
I stop myself from going to my bedroom to make sure I look okay, because it doesn’t matter. Even if Calder is coming, he isn’t mine and can’t be, even if he kissed me like I belonged to him. Kissed me like he was made to kiss only me. Made my body come to life and want things it had never wanted before.
When I hear voices in the dining room, I still, trying to hear them. I can’t make anything out until my father calls my name. Taking a deep breath, I enter the dining room, and there he is, sitting to the left of my father at the dining room table. I’m going to have to sit across from him for the whole meal. Maybe I can eat fast.
“Felicity, you remember Calder from the party last month, don’t you?”
“Of course. It’s nice to see you again, Mr. Cox.” I give a little nod before taking my seat. His bright eyes stay trained on me, and I can feel them move over my body. He looks just as good as that first night, only tonight he seems a little more laid-back, not so put together. His suit jacket and tie look to be long gone. The sleeves of his white button-down shirt are rolled to his elbows, the button at his collar popped. Even his hair looks like he spent the day running his fingers through it.
He just continues to stares at me, the room completely quiet. As if finally noticing the yawning silence, he nods. “Nice to see you again, too, Felicity.” My name rolls off his tongue like he’s said it a thousand times before.
My father’s eyes go back and forth between us for a moment. “You heard Felicity play, didn’t you?” my father asks, and I wonder if he feels the tension, too. Or maybe I’m the only one who feels it at all. For all I know, Calder kisses hundreds of women and that one meant nothing. Maybe he was drunk and doesn’t even remember it at all. Which is disheartening. I can’t get any part of it out of my head. Every time I close my eyes, that moment is there again. I can still recall the taste of scotch on his tongue that night. I don’t think I’ll ever taste it and not think of him. It will be branded in my mind as long as I live.