A/N: Happy Friday!
First, thank you to the lovely ARandomFangirler for beta-ing this chapter! Your comments really helped me pull all the loose ends together!
I know it's been a minute. Thanks to everyone who left encouraging reviews in my absence. I'm so glad you've enjoyed the story thus far. A couple of notes:
In answer to one review, this story is not going to be cancelled. I will finish it. I haven't had much time or energy to write-period-in the past two months, but I am trying to get back into the groove of writing now. That said, I'm not going to promise a regular update schedule. Just being realistic.
In case you are wondering, I am writing a bonus chapter of what Ji Hoo and Jan Di are up to during this chapter when they are not with Yi Jeong and Ga Eul. That will be posted on my "Two Waitresses" fic.
Fun Fact: Everyone's outfits in this chapter are the same clothes that they wore to Jun Pyo's birthday party in BOF (i.e. the scene where Madame Kang tried to embarrass Jan Di and she showed her up by playing the piano).
Everyone, please take care out there! I keep thinking this year can't get any crazier, and then it does. Be safe, be well!
Okay, that's it. Enjoy! :)
"Yo, yo, yo. What's up, my bros?" Slipping through a crack in the crowd of people hovering around Yi Jeong and Ji Hoo, Woo Bin approached the other two F4 members with a glass of champagne in one hand and a clear box of chocolates in the other.
"What's that?" Yi Jeong pointed at the box, which plainly showcased truffles iced with smiling faces and what looked like hair.
"I got mobbed by fangirls at the door. Security took the girls, but I thought, heck, I might as well take the chocolates." He popped one of the chocolates into his mouth and gave an appreciative nod. "Not bad, not bad. Want one?" He held out the box to the two of them.
Yi Jeong squinted at its contents.
"Are you sure those are for us?" he asked, chuckling. "Those chocolates have a perm. They were probably looking for Jun Pyo."
"That bastard's still in the states. If he's not here to claim 'em, too bad."
"Does that mean his pottery's up for grabs?"
"He probably doesn't know what pottery he's got," Woo Bin answered between munches.
"If he starts living over there like this, I might just help myself." Yi Jeong sighed and tucked his hands into his pants pockets. For tonight's event, he'd chosen a gray suit with a white shirt, a mustard gold vest, and a brown bow tie with gray dots, while Ji Hoo was dressed in his signature white—a white bow tie and white suit with black trim over a black dress shirt. Woo Bin had opted for a flashier magenta suit jacket over his otherwise all white ensemble.
"So," Woo Bin prompted, "is there a reason why we're standing in the lobby? Let's take this party inside the—"
"We're waiting," Ji Hoo answered, opening his mouth for the first time since Woo Bin arrived.
"Waiting? For what?" Woo Bin asked.
Yi Jeong ignored Woo Bin's inquisitive stare—and his question.
Of course, he was waiting on Ga Eul and Jan Di, standing close enough to the door to make sure they got inside without an issue. But as Ga Eul wasn't exactly his date—he didn't know what to call her—he had conflicting feelings about whether to do the gentlemanly thing and escort her and her friend around all evening. Truth be told, he hadn't planned on the invitation at all, but he'd enjoyed talking to her the other night and had gotten a bit carried away. He'd even sent her and her friend designer dresses for the event. She'd probably think it extravagant, but really, it wasn't much of an expense to him. Except that it was an indication of a frequent theme of their relationship—namely, him getting carried away in the moment. He had to stop doing that before things got out of hand.
So, actually, he wasn't waiting on her. He was talking to his friends. And if she happened to come in and he happened to see her, then obviously he should greet her properly. And then, since she'd come all that way, it would only be polite to show her around.
"Yi Jeong's getting cold feet," Ji Hoo supplied as the silence between the three of them dragged on.
"Cold feet? What? Are all your potential wives in there?" Woo Bin smirked, popping another chocolate into his mouth.
"No." Thank god. "Only two of them." Park Ha Jin, his first date, whom he'd spotted giggling with a group of friends. And Park Se Ri, his third date, who he wasn't concerned about.
Sometimes, Yi Jeong swore if Ji Hoo wasn't one of his best friends he would have punched him in the gut a long time ago.
At present, he glared at the young doctor, who shuffled his feet and smiled pleasantly back at him as if the entire world were a sea of calm.
Unlike the people sweeping en masse through the museum doors, some of them making a beeline for the trio.
He still didn't see the two people he'd been looking for since they'd come out to the lobby some twenty minutes earlier.
Had something come up?
He hadn't gotten a text from Ga Eul, though, except to thank him—profusely—for the dresses.
Anyway, he didn't know why he was worrying about her—about them. In truth, he barely knew Ga Eul, and he still didn't know what had possessed him to invite her there, save for the self-serving notion that he liked to distract himself with the company of beautiful girls.
"Hey! Yi Jeong!" Woo Bin waved a hand in front of his face.
Yi Jeong blinked and tried to focus on the words coming out of Woo Bin's mouth.
"Mind telling me what Ji Hoo is talking about? You know I only understand every fourth sentence he says."
Yi Jeong opened his mouth, trying to form a reasonable response, but he didn't get a chance to answer before a familiar voice called out to him.
"Yi Jeong Sunbae!"
The familiar voice was followed by a familiar figure; she materialized in the middle of the lobby, a vision in cream, gold, and pink lace. He'd had his stylist pick out the dress, and he had to confess she'd delivered exactly what he asked for: nothing too showy, a short-sleeve dress with a modest neckline and an A-line skirt that stopped just above the knee. The simplicity of the dress highlighted Ga Eul's natural beauty, accented by the light makeup he suspected she'd done herself. Instead of the neat, twisted bun she wore at work, her hair trailed down her back and around her shoulders in soft, loose curls.
She looked...gorgeous, actually. Like a delicate flower.
Geum Jan Di stood beside Ga Eul in a short flowery pink dress with a fluffy underskirt and a bow at the waist, her shoulders covered by a white faux fur bolero jacket. The two of them walked uncertainly forward on gold heels across the checkered cream and grey marble floor, arms linked together. A group of over-excited girls blew past them in their rush to get the attention of the F4—or rather, the F3—and they folded protectively into each other. Thankfully, the small crowd in front of the trio parted peacefully to let the pair through when Yi Jeong waved them over, all of the women in the crowd sizing the new girls up.
Putting to rest any doubt about their right to be there, Yi Jeong took Ga Eul by the arm and guided her into the small circle. The rest of the women gave a wider berth, and some of them dispersed, casting envying looks over their shoulders.
As he let go of her arm, Yi Jeong noticed Ga Eul's hand looked much better; she'd left it unwrapped, and the stitches seemed to be working their magic.
"This is Chu Ga Eul, and you've already met Geum Jan Di. Miss Ga Eul, this is my friend Song Woo Bin, and of course you already know the doctor. "
"Good evening," the two girls greeted them and bowed.
"I've never been in here with so many people before." Ga Eul looked around, fidgeting with her sparkling pink clutch.
"It would be nice if this many people were enthused about the arts on an average weekday," Yi Jeong replied, offering her his arm and flashing his signature smile, ignoring the way Woo Bin gawked at him. He'd deal with his pesky questions later. "The exhibit's this way. Shall we go?"
"Oh?" Ga Eul didn't take his arm. Instead, she glanced at Jan Di uncertainly. "Jan Di, will you be okay?"
The gesture impressed him; most girls would have latched onto him and abandoned whoever they'd come with without a second thought.
On the other hand, the irritating part of his brain that insisted on wanting Ga Eul there also made him want her all to himself.
Thankfully, Ji Hoo leapt to his rescue and offered his arm to her friend.
"Geum Jan Di, would you do me the honor?"
For once, Yi Jeong was grateful for his friend's nosiness.
"Oh." Jan Di paused, casting a similar uncertain glance towards Ga Eul. For a moment, he thought she'd insist on sticking next to her friend. "Well," she continued, giving Ji Hoo a small smile, "I guess that's okay. Have fun, Ga Eul." Jan Di thanked Ji Hoo and took his arm, and Ga Eul, seemingly satisfied that her friend wouldn't be left alone, lightly touched her palm to the crook of Yi Jeong's elbow.
As they entered the main hall of the museum, with its cream walls and checkered marble floor, the waitress oohed and aahed over the decorations. Sprigs of baby's breath had been bunched together in artfully placed vases throughout the hall. The refreshments table had been garnished with tiny pearl beads and white roses intertwined with baby's breath. Overhead, more white roses had been wrapped around the limbs of the electric gold metal candelabras hanging from the tall cream-colored ceiling. Gold draping swung from candelabra to candelabra, creating a canopy of gold silk.
In the warm white lights, which had been turned up to their full effect, he tried to see these adornments as she saw them, but it was impossible. One of the pitfalls of growing up surrounded by beauty was that he'd become immune to it—unable to be awed by what he'd seen a million times.
Perhaps that was why Yi Jeong preferred to be surrounded by things he could create with his hands. On beauty that didn't strike him as totally superficial. Though all art, of course, boiled down to what was on the surface and how that surface affected the viewer, the artist knew the toil and inspiration that went into each piece.
The two of them walked around for a while, discussing the pieces on display. It was nice to have an intelligent conversation about art with a girl who knew what she was talking about. He found out that she had started learning pottery around the same age as him, which was one reason she so passionately wanted to teach it to children. She talked animatedly about her student-teaching, and he spoke vaguely about the new pieces he was working on. In truth, he'd been having trouble finding inspiration lately, but he didn't tell her that. No need to ruin her awed fangirlish perception of him.
At some point, Ga Eul relaxed more and held on to his arm like she belonged there.
They didn't look bad together, he thought, when he happened to notice their reflection in an ancient silver platter that had been displayed against one wall. He let his gaze drop down the smooth curves of her petite figure, down the dark curls brushing her creamy skin, while she appeared transfixed by a white bowl with twining yellow flowers in the display case to their right.
There was something magnetic about her that he couldn't put a name to, that kept drawing him in.
"Yi Jeong Sunbae." She spun to face him suddenly, and he quickly snapped his gaze back to her face.
Maybe not quickly enough.
She didn't seem to notice.
"What's your favorite part of the museum?" She smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling, curious.
"Hmm, that depends. Do you mean the building or the displays?"
"Well, I meant the displays. But since we're on the subject, what is the best part of the building?"
Surveying the room for effect, he leaned in and lowered his voice. "It's a secret. Not open to the public. But if you want, I can show you."
"Right now?" She looked around. Though she kept her tone light, he couldn't miss the nervous quiver of her mouth.
"After the auction." He winked.
"Oh." Glancing down, she smoothed out part of her dress before answering. "Okay, I'd like that."
Nodding, he continued, "Shall we continue then?"
Ga Eul nodded.
They made a second lap around the room. Kate Malone said a few words to the group, and after that he brought a starstruck Ga Eul over to meet her. Then it was about time for the auction to start, so they stopped by the refreshments table where Ga Eul helped herself to a slice of cake. She couldn't stop rambling about the British artist for a few minutes, and Yi Jeong listened amusedly, sipping on his third glass of champagne.
He'd met Kate Malone before. Twice, actually.
"You should take a picture of something you've made and show me next time," he said when she finally stopped for air.
"Ah, you mean, next Friday?" Her face was flushed.
Next Friday. During his fifth date. He'd nearly forgotten about those in the past hour.
"Or I could message you a picture." Ga Eul smiled shyly over the bite of cake on her fork.
Because she had his phone number. Right.
"That would be fine too."
"Yi Jeong!" Yi Jeong looked over his shoulder to see Park Se Ri approaching him, looking oddly seductive in a floor-length, one-shouldered, deep blue dress with a slit up one side. She seemed to be in high spirits.
"Oh. Good evening, Se Ri."
Se Ri stopped between him and Ga Eul and replied brightly, "Good evening." Bouncing on her toes, she looked over at Ga Eul. "Excuse me, but have we met? You look awfully familiar."
"Oh...um..." Ga Eul glanced up at him, uncertainty washing over her face.
"Oh, I know! You were at the restaurant the other night." Se Ri looked at Yi Jeong for confirmation.
"Miss Ga Eul is majoring in pottery," Yi Jeong explained. "I thought it might be a good experience for her." He gestured around the room.
"Oh, of course." Park Se Ri smiled. If she thought it odd that he was here with his waitress, she didn't show it. Instead, she continued, "Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry, but you're going to have to take me off your list. A miracle has happened!"
"Oh? What sort of miracle?"
"Remember I told you about my boyfriend?"
"Well, I must confess, I didn't take your advice. But I thought my father would take it better if I asked instead of him, so...I did it! I asked my father if I could marry him!"
Yi Jeong raised his eyebrows.
"He said yes!" Se Ri squealed, and her shoulders shook with uncontainable happiness. "Anyway, I thought it would be more polite if I told you in person. And I wanted to thank you. Just talking to you helped me clear my head."
"Oh." Yi Jeong chuckled nervously. "However, I didn't say—"
"I know you didn't. But that's when I started thinking. There's probably a million reasons why I shouldn't ask this. But if there's even an infinitesimal chance that my father would be okay with it, I have to try. Don't you think?"
"So, I just wanted to thank you. Again. Anyway, I'll let you get back to your date. Have a good evening." She bowed to both of them and walked away before Yi Jeong could form a coherent response.
He probably should have corrected her on that point—the point about Ga Eul being his date—but it was too late now.
Well, she was his date—but not his date. Not really. Being his date would entail them doing...other things.
Beside him, Ga Eul stared down at her plate of cake, soberly stuffing one bite after the other into her mouth.
Maybe she'd felt awkward seeing one of his marriage dates there.
His marriage dates.
Right. He was getting married.
Just the thought of it made his head start to ache.
He checked his watch.
"The auction is about to start. Shall we join the others?" He smiled at her, trying to lighten the mood.
Looking up at him, Ga Eul nodded, her expression unreadable.
They followed a smaller group of people into another room where burgundy cushioned wood chairs had been set out in neat rows—eight across and ten down. Not everyone who had been invited to the exhibit had also been invited to the auction, and there were still plenty of people milling around outside.
Yi Jeong usually sat at the front at events like these, but he didn't know if Ga Eul would be comfortable with that, so once Woo Bin and his arm candy for the night entered along with Ji Hoo and Jan Di he guided the group of six to a spot in the middle and off to the right side.
Yi Jeong sat at the end of the row, with Ga Eul beside him and Jan Di beside her. Next was Ji Hoo, followed by Woo Bin and the other girl.
"What's being auctioned off?" Ga Eul whispered, leaning in his direction a bit but not touching him or looking at him.
"It's the personal collection of one of the museum's former directors. His only son just died, so they've put the entire collection up for auction," he answered. The auctioneer was setting up his notes on a podium that had been placed on the temporary, raised stage.
"Oh." Ga Eul nodded.
A few minutes passed in awkward silence. More people crowded into the room, and then the staff closed the doors. The auctioneer droned on about the director himself for a while and then presented the first piece.
Normally, Yi Jeong would be studying the room, noting the important people present, and then scrutinizing the artwork being auctioned off to see which pieces might look good in his personal collection. Tonight, however, he found himself glancing over at Ga Eul to note her reactions, to see what pieces piqued her interest. To his surprise, at one point he noticed Ji Hoo and Jan Di conferring privately about something to the other side of Ga Eul. They looked quite cozy together for only having met a second time, and Ji Hoo looking cozy with anyone would have made Yi Jeong do a double take. The man wasn't exactly known for socializing.
"Ah, so pretty," Ga Eul mumbled, drawing his attention back to her soft smile. He looked up to see what had caught her interest.
A skinny, bottle-necked vase adorned with the swirling red and green shades of autumn, probably the cheapest item in the collection. Certainly not the finest pottery ever produced by that particular artist. But the auctioneer was pontificating about a legend that the artist had created it for a woman he called his soulmate. The lady had died young from a then-untreatable disease, and the artist himself had died an alcoholic a few years afterward.
A broken heart. He'd died of a broken heart, the auctioneer was saying, clearly hoping to sell the piece for much more than its artistry would merit.
But Ga Eul looked like she might cry.
Yi Jeong sighed.
A lady in the back called out an offer, followed by a counter offer from another woman up front.
"I know. Isn't it awful?" Ga Eul whispered, leaning in towards him with her expressive brown eyes full of tears. "I had to do a report on his life in my art history class," she continued. "It was so sad."
"Don't believe everything you read. Anyway, if you did a report on him, you know he didn't die from the alcohol. He died because he caught pneumonia."
"Well, yes, but that's...still sad." She frowned. "It's not happy, at least."
"No. No, I guess not," he conceded. A smile tugged at his lips. Even upset, she looked cute.
"He must have loved her a lot," Ga Eul continued, her eyes drifting back to the vase. "He used such warm colors."
'He probably made that vase while he was drunk,' Yi Jeong thought but kept the comment to himself.
"Well...the vase is named 'Autumn,'" he replied instead.
The auctioneer rapped his gavel on the podium.
The piece had been sold to a man on their left who offered an outrageous sum at the last minute.
He was probably taking it home to his wife.
Yi Jeong scoffed inwardly and adjusted himself on his chair.
Crossing his legs, he leaned toward Ga Eul and told her to let him know if she saw anything she liked.
Aside from that vase, obviously.
He usually made that offer at the beginning of an auction, but, again, Ga Eul wasn't technically his date.
She gave him a small nod but said nothing, her face set resolutely ahead.
In fact, she remained silent throughout the rest of the auction. When it ended, he was unsure if she would want to go off with him. But when he asked her if she still wanted to see his favorite place, she gave him an enthusiastic yes. She only needed to go to the restroom first.
Which left Yi Jeong alone with an inquisitively staring Jan Di while Woo Bin dragged Ji Hoo off to settle an argument about violinists...or something.
"Ga Eul was really excited about tonight," Jan Di said once Woo Bin and Ji Hoo had disappeared into the crowd. "Thanks for this. I think her artist's heart is very happy right now." She wore a gold wire headband and dangling gold heart earrings that winked in the light as she tilted her head from side to side. She was cute but not quite on Ga Eul's level. At least not to his appraising eye.
"It's nothing." Yi Jeong shrugged the compliment off. "And are you enjoying yourself, Miss Jan Di?"
"Yes. Your friend is very nice. Quiet, but nice."
"You two looked like you were talking enough."
"Well." Jan Di blushed. She arched her eyebrow. "Maybe we were having a laugh at your expense."
Yi Jeong laughed, but Jan Di's expression grew suddenly serious.
"Yi Jeong Sunbae. May I call you that?"
He gave her a relaxed smile.
"Ga Eul's not here right now," Jan Di continued soberly, "so I'm going to ask you directly." She cocked her head, and the light danced across the tiny clear stones in her headband. "What do you want with my best friend?"
Her gaze carried a hint of suspicion, and the question itself took him aback.
Earlier he thought she looked nervous being left alone with Ji Hoo, but maybe she'd simply been worried about Ga Eul. She didn't seem unfriendly, but something in her eyes told him she'd murder him if he messed around with her friend.
Yi Jeong turned on his most charming smile.
"I can see why Ga Eul calls you her best friend. You've been looking out for each other since kindergarten, am I right?"
"Yah. Just answer the question." She straightened herself up like she might appear more intimidating that way, and he nearly laughed.
Commoners. Sometimes he found their indignance irritating; other times it was quaintly amusing.
"Don't worry. I swear my intentions with your friend are completely honorable." He held up his hands, hoping she would stop firing flaming arrows at him with her eyes.
Jan Di crossed her arms. "We'll see."
"Anyway, if you have any concerns," he continued genially, "you know where to find me for the next few weeks."
"Hmm, well, yes," she said, but she looked even more wary than before. Her mouth had a pinched expression about it, her forehead creasing ever so slightly.
"Sorry, is something else bothering you?"
"Just...Ga Eul's a good person." She shifted uncomfortably and looked out over the padded chairs now being collected. "Please don't let her misunderstand something."
He was about to ask her what she meant by that when Ga Eul returned from the restroom, followed by Ji Hoo and Woo Bin. Jan Di immediately greeted her with a bubbly smile and wished them a nice tour. But he could feel her eyes pinned to his back as he led Ga Eul away.
He took Ga Eul on a quick tour of the museum offices first. Meeting rooms. Exhibits currently being held in storage. Places the general public never saw. Then they headed up the stairwell to the rooftop that overlooked the cityscape at night. His favorite place.
Other than a few questions about the museum itself, Ga Eul had stayed relatively quiet for most of the tour—at least compared to how talkative she'd been at the beginning of the night. Yi Jeong had nearly decided to ask if something was bothering her when she spoke up.
"I just want to thank you for...for inviting me again...and for the dress. I can have it cleaned and return it. Jan Di's parents own a dry cleaners, so that's no problem."
"No, no, it's fine. Don't worry about the dress. You should keep it."
"Oh...well...okay." Nodding, she fidgeted with the lace on the dress in question, shifting her weight as she glanced around at the scenery.
"Is there...something else you wanted to ask?"
"Uh, no." Ga Eul shook her head. "It's such a nice view." She walked over to the metal railing, leaning over it to peer down at the lamplit streets below. "Do you come up here a lot?"
"Sometimes." He stepped closer to stand beside her. When he was little, he would come up there to get away from his parent's latest fight; it had been his secret hideout.
Now he usually only came there when he was trying to impress a lady.
Though he wasn't sure what he thought he would gain by impressing Ga Eul.
"I like it," she said.
Ga Eul turned her face toward him again, smiling, her eyes sparkling in the bright light reflecting off a nearby neon sign. The wind whipped her hair back from her face. Messing up her delicate curls.
A blush colored her cheeks. Or maybe that was the makeup. Maybe the lighting.
Suddenly, he wanted to kiss her.
And when Yi Jeong wanted something, he went for it. No questions asked.
Nevertheless, he tilted his head down slowly, giving her plenty of time to back away if she wanted to. But she didn't seem to want to, her eyes meeting his and then fluttering closed as their lips almost touched.
A jarring blast of music interrupted them.
Jumping back, Ga Eul fumbled with her pink evening bag.
"Oh, I'm...I'm so sorry. It must be my phone. I forgot to put it on silent." She fished out the offending object, which blared an annoying pop song at an ungodly decibel. "Oh, Sunbae, it's my mother. I should probably take this."
"No, no, go ahead. It's fine," he said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.
"Sorry," she repeated. Giving him a sheepish smile, she backed away, mumbling 'hello' into the phone.
Once she'd turned her back, he cursed under his breath.
He stood there awkwardly while she talked to her mother, shifting his weight from one leg to the other and trying to decide how best to proceed once she hung up. If it had been anyone else, he would merely suggest they pick up where they'd left off. But he hadn't brought her up there to kiss her.
"Sunbae." Ga Eul hung up her phone and slipped it back in her purse. "I'm sorry, but I think I better get going."
"Is something the matter?" The concern on her face made him forget his own discomfort.
"Well, it seems that my mother isn't feeling too well, and...well, my father's on a business trip this weekend. I think I better go see about her." She twisted her hands agitatedly around her purse.
"Oh. No problem. Do you need Ji Hoo—"
"Oh, no, no." She waved her hand. "It's nothing that serious. I'm just going to get her medicine and fix her some soup and make sure she's resting."
"Ah, I see. Sure. Let me call my driver, and he can take you."
"Well, I can take a cab." She bit her lip. "I guess I better tell Jan Di."
"Don't be silly. My driver's already here. I'll get him to take you." Pulling out his own phone, he tapped in a quick message. "Done. About Jan Di...if she wants to stay longer, Ji Hoo can drive her home." He gestured to an imaginary Ji Hoo.
"Ah, but...are you sure he wouldn't mind?"
"Not unless you think she would mind."
Ga Eul seemed to consider that.
"They did look like they were getting along earlier, didn't they?" She smiled, seeming to relax at the thought of their two friends enjoying each other's company.
"Getting along?" Yi Jeong kept his tone light. "Ji Hoo doesn't even talk to me that much, and we've been friends since kindergarten. Tell you what. We'll go ask them, and in the meantime my driver can pull the car around."
Ga Eul waited a beat, then answered, "Okay."
"Okay, let's go." He led the way back to the stairs, pausing to let her go down first.
They didn't speak on the way back to their friends, and after he'd arranged for Jan Di to go back with Ji Hoo, they didn't speak on the way to his car. His driver had pulled around to the entrance of the underground parking garage, and he said an awkward goodbye to her there.
At least, it felt awkward to him. He couldn't read her expression.
After she left, he found himself heading back up to the rooftop instead of mingling with the lingering guests. He took off his suit jacket and slung it over one arm as he leaned against the metal railing. Right about where he'd been standing with her. The wind rippling his dress shirt and slapping his face echoed his swirling thoughts.
They hadn't kissed.
But they'd almost kissed.
Somehow, that was worse than if they'd actually kissed.
Because if they'd kissed, he could convince himself she was like any other girl he'd ever kissed in his life.
Surely, her kiss wasn't so special.
He could tell himself he was scratching a momentary itch, nothing more.
But the fact that he couldn't stop replaying that moment, and wondering what would have happened if her phone hadn't rang, only confirmed his terrifying belief that he was falling for someone again.
He was falling for her.