Thanks for joining the JustRomance.me Naughty New Year Blog Hop! If at anytime you get lost, just return to www.justromance.me.
Plans for the New Year? Get my writing room organized at last! For those who haven't followed my adventures this past year, we moved! Into our forever, and ever, amen, home. I don't know why the last dozen boxes are kicking my rear, but they are. I think it's because they're all paperwork. Evil, hated, dreaded paperwork! Does it need to be kept? Shredded? Simply tossed? Oh the decisions!
Pretty much like my latest hero, Brennan Shaughnessy, of the Sexy Shaughnessys in my Open Window Series. It's New Year's Eve and he's taking his number one lady to lunch, making plans for the big night out. He has tickets to the biggest party in town, one where he's also a guest of honor. He also has a room at the hotel where the party is. All he needs is the social worker he's hot for to finally agree to go with him...
Brennan held out the folder with tickets and room reservations. He fully expected Whitney to smile and tease him with description of her dress.
"I'll pick you up at seven. Bring an overnight bag and we'll do the night up right. Room service for breakfast if you like."
Whitney patted her lips with the white linen napkin, her eyes on her bowl of soup rather than him. "Brenn, I've been trying to tell you..." Warm brown eyes filled with sadness finally met his. "I can't. I'm leaving town as soon as we finish lunch."
Brenn sat back in his half of the booth. "What? Why?"
"My father--" she choked and reached for her water glass. "My mother called an hour ago. He had a heart attack. The first flight out I could get leaves at five. From here I'll go back to my apartment to pack and then catch a cab to the airport. I have to go."
Brenn deflated as if he'd been punched in the gut. The wound felt as mortal as if she'd shot him point-blank. "Wh--"
The chime of Whitney's phone announcing a text interrupted and she grabbed for it. "My mother," she said as her eyes scanned the message. "He's at the hospital and stable, but they're talking triple bypass in the morning. Just a sec, let me text Mom my flight details. I'll get in around two in the afternoon."
Brenn shook his head. "You'll have a long layover somewhere, can't you take a red eye from here? One with less of a layover in Seattle or wherever. You could still catch part of the party."
Whitney hit the final button on her phone and looked up. The aristocratic lines of her face all drooped with sadness like he'd never seen before. He'd seen her upset, angry, depressed, even writhing in ecstasy that he'd given her, but he'd never seen her looking so utterly desolate. "I can't, Brenn. Look, I know tonight is a big deal for you. You should take someone who could relax and enjoy themselves. Someone like..." she looked around the dining room and Brenn knew who she was going to suggest before her eyes lightened, "... there, take your favorite waitress. Didn't you meet her at a similar event last fall? She goes to these things regularly. She'll fit in and be good for your networking. You know you get more clients when she hands out your cards."
Shaking his head he held back the panic in his heart. "No, that's not fair asking a woman at the last minute. We've planned this for months now." Or rather he had. Fresh back from the double wedding of his twin siblings Cassidy and Cayden, he was ready to pour all his energy into pursuing Whitney. Tonight was to be the launch of his new campaign to get her focused on him as much as she focused on the kids she saved through Social Services.
"Brenn, I can't believe you! I'm sorry this ruins your plans for tonight, but my parents need me. Mom's a mess and Dad can't pick up the pieces for her this time. I need to be there. Even if I went for a few hours, I just can't pretend nothing is wrong and act like I'm having fun. I'm not wired that way. Look, I know she'd love to go with you. I've seen the way she looks at you. I've seen the way you flirt with her. She's got a piece of your heart no matter how much you want to pretend otherwise."
And that was how he came to find himself asking Blaire to the Chamber of Commerce New Year's bash at the Sheraton. Even that didn't go as planned.
Big green eyes sparkled back at him. "Thanks, but I'm already going. But tell you what, why not use that spare ticket for my Grandmother? I've been trying to talk her into going, but my dad can't get another ticket. You have a spare. We'll meet you there at eight." Red curls bouncing as she nodded decisively, she set the tray with the bill down in front of him.
"Oh no. I'll pick the two of you up."
Dirty plates in one hand, she plopped the other on her hip. "But if she gets tired early..."
"I'll make sure she gets home safe and sound. Or she can use the room at the hotel and we'll take her out to breakfast before taking her home." Brenn handed back the tray with his credit card on it.
"Oh, okay." Blaire sighed. "Let me go give her a call and see what she says. She'll have time to take a nap if I call her now. I'll be right back."
Whitney patted the hand he had lying on the table top. "There you go. All set. Now, I have to get home and get packed. I've got work notified. Have fun tonight."
"Call me when you get in?"
The nod she gave him was distracted as she pulled on gloves and settled a kit scarf around her swan-like neck. She was everything a woman should look like. Tall, slender with subtle curves. A model of breeding, raised in a cultured environment. She was polished, sophisticated and dedicated to the children in the system, safe from abuse and neglect. She had goals and drive. She even managed to wear Sorel boots in an elegant manner. Ready for the cold waiting outside, she began to slide from the booth. Brenn got to his feet and offered her a hand.
"Take care, Brenn. This may very well be good-bye for us." She laid a gloved hand on his cheek. "If Father is so very ill I may move back to be nearby. They need social workers in New York, too. I know how you feel about me. I wish I could return your feelings. Please, find another woman who deserves you more than I do."
"You're cutting me loose?" The words came out strangled from a throat too tight to speak.
"It's for the best." She rose up and kissed his cheek. "You're a special man. More special than you know. Find the woman just as special as you."
Whitney whirled away, her short brown hair swinging out like carnival ride. Before he could summon the energy to go after her, she was gone and Blaire stood at his elbow.
"I'm so sorry, Brenn," she said quietly. "You didn't deserve that."
Drawing in a deep breath, he bit back the retort he wanted to spew. "Yeah, well..."
"Look on the bright side," she said with forced cheeriness. "You're now taking the two feistiest women in town. We won't let you brood. Grandma says you better have your dancing shoes on."
"I don't suppose I can back out now, can I?"
"Nope, you're not only double-booked for dates, you're one of the award recipients. You have to go." She shoved the tray with the receipts and his credit card into his hand. "Sign the paperwork and I'll bring a cheesecake--on the house--and fresh coffee."
By the time he left, his mood had lifted. How could it not when Blaire led the parade to cheer him up? Everybody in the kitchen made their way out one by one to slap him on the shoulder and sing Blaire's praises until she blushed the way only a red head could, deep red from her creamy cleavage to the roots of her hair. It was so endearing he couldn't help but chuckle, and even, a little, begin to look forward to the evening. Dancing with petite and perky Blaire, Blaire who knew everyone in the business community, with twinkly green eyes and generous, soft, curves that would make a saint cry. Yeah, he had something to look forward to after all.