“And you don’t want to start a new year like this.” Des nodded as if he understood completely, which didn’t make any sense.
How could he understand? This setup should’ve been perfect. They’d shared amazing sex and tons of laughs. They definitely made it harder for her to remember she was lonely. It just wasn’t enough. A taste of Des didn’t satisfy her hunger. It only made her crave him more.
“Yeah.” Absently, she freed her arms from Des and rubbed her hip. Yesterday they’d gotten busy on this very conference table and she had the bruise to prove it. “I hope we can still be friends,” she added, glancing at Cole.
“Sure thing, babydoll.” He stood and leaned forward, tapping her nose before he gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek. “I’m seriously going to miss your sweet pussy. Did I tell you I even named it?”
She sputtered out a giggle. “You did not.” It took all her will not to ask what that name was.
“Oh, I bet he did.” Though Des grinned, his eyes were uncharacteristically sober as he flicked the end of her braid. “You’ve certainly brightened my holiday season, Ms. Stanton.”
A smile tipped up her mouth despite the lump growing in her throat. Forget lump. It felt like a concrete slab. “Ditto. So, ah, I guess I should get back to work.”
He nodded, his hand lingering on her hair. They were standing close to each other, so close she could smell the spearmint from his gum. She wanted to strip off the navy button-down shirt stretched across his taut abs, then peel down his dark jeans until there were no layers between them, only skin. She’d fill herself up with him until she forgot all about tomorrow.
When Cole cleared his throat, they sprung apart like guilty lovers. Or awkward former fuckees. Pick your poison.
So…this was it.
“One more thing.” Giving in to her impulse, Wendy leaned up on her tiptoes to kiss Des a final time. His lips heated and curved under hers. “Go to Maine.”
It took him until Christmas Eve to decide for certain he wasn’t going. It was tempting. He genuinely liked Cole’s parents and younger sisters, and there would be enough activity to drown out the noise in his head. But this year, it felt necessary that he stay home. Why, he didn’t know.
“Are you sure?” Cole asked from the doorway while Des pulled the pages off his cartoon desk calendar.
He’d forgotten to change the thing since early December. Wendy used to peel off each day for him without fail, but she’d stopped once they became intimate. He wasn’t sure if it was an oversight or intentional. Either way, it bothered him.
Lots of things did nowadays.
“Hot, steaming Tofurky with yummy white flour gravy and all the mixed veggies you can eat. C’mon, you know you want some.”
He had to laugh, though the sound crackled in his chest. “Thank your mom and dad for inviting me. And don’t forget the presents I gave you for them.”
Cole rolled his eyes and straightened his reindeer Christmas vest. His mother had knitted it for him and he hated it with a fiery passion. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t wear it to make her happy, sap that he was. “Yeah, yeah. Already in my trunk.”
Des rose and stuck out his hand. “Have a great time.”
Cole grunted and walked around the desk then wrapped him in a bear hug. “Call if you need some company. Stubborn motherfucker.”
With that, he was gone.
Des sat back in his chair and glanced at the ticking clock above his bookshelves. Only one-sixteen. They’d given Van and Wendy the afternoon off, but only Van had taken them up on it. Wen had insisted she’d be happy to close the office on her own and had just left to get her lunch from the deli down the street. She’d probably be unpleasantly surprised to find Des waiting when she got back, since she’d assumed he’d be leaving with Cole.
r /> To give himself something to do, he walked into the reception area and turned on the Christmas tree. The blue and silver twinkle lights helped beat back the dismal winter’s day, as did the little musical globe on the front counter. The nutcracker inside drummed his way through a traditional Christmas classic, stomping up clouds of flaky fake snow.
The door opened and he glanced over his shoulder at Wendy. She stood in the doorway with her hair in twin auburn ponytails, her cheeks flushed bright pink from the cold. Snow dusted the shoulders of her cheery red coat and melted on her rosy lips. “Des. You’re still here.”
He dipped his hands in his pockets. Even the defiant gleam of her eyes didn’t reduce her utter aloneness. “I decided not to go.” He helped her offload the paper sacks she juggled. “What is all this?”
“I kinda went overboard. It’s my own Christmas feast.” She shut the door, her cheeks reddening even more as he unpacked her lunch. “Both kinds of soup sounded good so I got a small of each and half of a turkey and cranberry sandwich. Have you eaten?”
“No.” He unwrapped her pickle and bit in. “What kinds of soup?”
“Butternut Squash and Wild Rice with Eggplant.”
“Both vegetarian. I think you should share.”