I type out my inquiry of how she’s doing, hoping that she’s only trying to keep a professional front. From my vantage point near the DJ, I watch as Lia checks her phone. Her eyes light up for the first time all night, and her smile brightens. I see her fingers start to move across the screen, and my own phone lights up with the little dots telling me she’s typing.

Paul and Jean join her at the bar, and Lia slips her phone back into her clutch, message unsent. In the same instant, her whole countenance shuts down. Lia’s body seems to shrink, shoulders curving inwards, and she hides in plain sight. Gone is the vibrant young woman, leaving a shadowed twin in her place.

Something is wrong, and I’m going to find out what that is. Fuck discretion. I’ve gone all fucking week giving her the space she begged for, being allowed to bring her water while she throws up in the bathroom during bouts of morning sickness, but not allowed to show her any affection otherwise. We need to go public. I can’t love her at a distance much longer.

I bide my time, watching until Lia excuses herself to use the restroom. It’s near the exit from the party, and I cling to the corner of the brick wall and wait. She emerges, a goddess in a silver dress that skims her figure. Tasteful but teasing, the lace and satin can’t fool my body. I remember those curves and how they feel against me. “Lia.” Her name sounds like a prayer.

Maybe it is.

“Follow me,” I beg. Leading her behind the makeshift wall of trees and gauze-draped wooden frames, I shove aside one of the heavy sections and squeeze through. Once she has slipped between them, I close the escape route I made and take Lia to the private landing where we first had sex. We can hear the party, but there is no easy way for people unfamiliar with the roof to find their way over to us. It would be easier to go downstairs and up the other elevator than to hope they found the right section of false wall to move.

“This is where it all started,” Lia whispers. She’s wringing her hands as she looks around at our gazebo. The curtains are drawn over the netting, deepening the shadows inside it.

She’s wrong, though, and I tell her as such. “This started much longer ago. You told me that.”

The night doesn’t hide her blush, and I reach for her face, letting my fingers trace her heated cheeks. “Beck, I shouldn’t have told you about my crush on you.” She leans into my palm, closing her eyes, and there are tears on her lashes when she steps back. The blush fades as pain crosses her face.

I hate seeing that emotion there. “It wouldn’t have mattered, Lia. Not to me. When we kissed in the garage, I knew then and there I had to have you. That chemistry, the fiery punch in my gut when our lips touched…Even if we had no chemistry of dancing around each other for years, I would want you. You see the world so beautifully and make art that inspires others to see things where they would otherwise turn a blind eye. Lia, you couldn’t have changed this path we’re on.” I grab her waist, closing the distance between us. “Tell me you don’t feel how much I want you, want us.”

She tastes like lemonade, sweet and tart, refreshing as my tongue taps on her lower lip. Lia opens to me with a sigh, her whole body relaxing into my grip. My hands move on her back, mapping out the panels of lace divided by a zipper that ends just before her ass. I pull her into me, the near constant hard-on she gives me already seeking her.

Lia groans, not in passion but frustration, and she fights free of my arms. Tears flow freely down her cheeks, making lines along her throat before they get caught by the neckline of her dress. She swipes at them, marring her makeup. I offer her my pocket square, and she takes it with a heartache inducing half-smile. I hate to see her like this.

Again, I ask what happened. “Did I do something to make you hate me?” Does she regret this? I thought we were good together. Maybe I’m just bad with women, despite all my good intentions.

Her mouth opens and closes repeatedly, the first unattractive expression I’ve seen her make. “No,” she whispers at last. “How could I ever hate you?” Truly confused, she cocks her head to the side as if unsure how I could even come to that line of thought.

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