A couple of minutes after Connor left, Abby felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around with a smart remark on the tip of her tongue, only it wasn't Connor. A tall guy was smiling down at her. He was extremely handsome with high cheekbones, blue eyes, and perfectly even, white teeth. He wore a blue silk shirt that showed off broad shoulders and a triangle of blond chest hair.
"Hi," he said, flashing his teeth and pointing to the railing, "you're in my spot, I'm afraid."
"Oh?" Abby glanced at Connor's suit coat. "We didn't see anything when we got here."
He leaned close, reached across her, and picked up a glass filled with watery amber liquid. "Well, I did set my drink down, so . . ."
Abby winced. "Sorry, I didn't even notice it." She reached for Connor's coat. "We'll just get out of your way."
He placed a hand on her forearm. "No, no, that's not necessary. There's enough room for both of us."
Abby shrugged and moved to the side so he could lean against the railing next to her. Down below, on the dance floor, the music changed to a slow song, Dancers threw their arms around each other and held on tight as they swayed in circles.
"You can make it up to me, though," said the guy, leaning over to be heard above the music. His breath was warm on Abby's neck, and it smelled like whiskey.
"Oh yeah?" she asked, warily.
"Tell me your name." When he wagged his eyebrows at her, she had to laugh.
They shook hands.
"So, this guy you're with," he asked after they'd listened to the music for a bit. "Is he your boyfriend?"
She shook her head and then stopped, uncertain. "Not really," she said.
Peter threw back the rest of his drink. "He won't mind if I ask you to dance then, will he?"
Abby glanced around. She spotted Connor near the bar. The line was two deep all the way around, and it looked like Connor would have a long wait just to get the attention of a bartender. For a moment, she considered dancing with Peter. He was charming and good looking, exactly the type of guy she usually fancied, but she couldn't dance with another guy while things were so up in the air with Connor.
"Sorry," she said with a regretful shake of her head, "but he would mind."
Peter looked around. "Then where is he?"
"Getting me a drink," said Abby, pointing to him. "There."
Peter followed her arm. "The skinny guy in the white shirt and gloves?"
When she nodded, Peter made a face. "You can do a lot better, you know."
"Oh, and by 'better' you mean you?"
Peter shrugged and ran a finger across her arm. "Maybe."
Abby shrugged him off. "Cut it out."
"What?" he asked, pretending innocence.
She rolled her eyes and willed Connor to hurry up and get back with their drinks already.
"If you won't dance with me, how about I buy you a drink?" he asked.
Peter signaled to a passing barmaid who was busy dropping off a tray of drinks at a nearby table. When she approached with her tray tucked under her arm, Peter ordered another whiskey and then looked at Abby.
Abby shook her head. "I already have a drink coming."
"That'll take at least an hour," he protested. "You might as well get something now while you wait."
Abby craned her neck to see how Connor was doing. He'd barely moved.
"A white wine for the lady," she heard Peter tell the barmaid. Abby glared at him, irritated.
He shrugged and flashed his perfect teeth at her. "You don't have to drink it."
Abby knew where this was heading, so she gathered up Connor's coat and started to walk away.
Peter grabbed her upper arm. "Hey, don't be mad. I'm just trying to be friendly."
"A little too friendly, if you ask me," she said tartly.
Peter chuckled. "You're fiery, just like your dress. I like that."
When Abby rolled her eyes, Peter chuckled. "I know, it's a terrible line. But it's true. You look amazing in that dress. Really sexy."
Despite her best intentions, Abby felt her face flush at the compliment. Peter must've noticed because he backed her up against the railing before she realized what he was doing, and he rested his hands on either side of her.
"Let me go," she said, getting ready to duck under his arm.
"Not yet," he murmured. He grabbed Connor's coat and threw it over the railing next to him. Abby thrust her hands against his chest, but he just chuckled and wrapped them both in one of his big paws.
"Ow," she said, as her knuckles ground together.
"Sorry." He relaxed his grip slightly but still hung onto to her. "I just want you to see what you're missing before you go back to that skinny boy you're not on a date with."
"I already know what I'm missing," said Abby, trying to pull her hands away. "And it's not you."
Peter just chuckled. He leaned in and pressed his lips against hers.
Abby jerked her head to the side and swore at him. She bent her knee and tried kicking him in the groin, but he must've anticipated her move because he twisted his hips to the side, and she ended up kneeing his thigh.
"Oi," said a wonderfully familiar voice. "What's going on here?"
Peter glanced over his shoulder at Connor. "Beat it, mate. A bit busy here."
Connor grabbed Peter's shoulder and spun him around. "I don't think so."
Peter stumbled but quickly found his balance. "Oh, it's the not-boyfriend," he said with a derisive laugh as he looked down at the shorter Connor. "Sorry, pal, just trying to show your not-girlfriend what a real man is like."
Abby couldn't stand it. "Connor's a million times the man you are, jerk." She scuttled away from the railing and out from under Peter's oppressive reach. When she reached Connor, she threw her arms around his waist. He held her tight with one arm while holding his other arm toward Peter in a defensive gesture.
"Looks like she chose mate," said Connor, backing them away from Peter. "And it wasn't you."
For a moment, Peter looked like he was going to take a swing at Connor, and maybe hit Abby too with the way she was molding against Connor. But then Peter took a deep breath, smoothed back his blond hair, and flashed them both a white smile.
"Fair enough," he said. "Can't help it if the lady has poor taste, can I?"
Abby opened her mouth to protest, but Connor gave her shoulder a squeeze, so she didn't say anything. After Peter left, Connor turned to her and placed both hands on her shoulders. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she said. "You?"
Connor leaned forward and crushed his lips to hers. Abby froze in shock a moment before remembering to kiss him back. Their lips tangled, teeth clanked. Connor's hands caressed her face, wove through her hair, and wrapped around her back. Abby linked her arms around his neck and pulled him tight against her. They were finally kissing, and it was passionate and aggressive, gentle and tender.
This was nothing like kissing a brother, Abby noted in the back of her mind. There were definitely sparks, and she knew she would not be the one to break Connor's heart.
Hours or minutes or seconds passed. The world could've stopped rotating for all Abby cared. They broke away, came together to kiss a few more times, and finally pulled apart, breathing hard.
"Sorry," said Connor. His lips were swollen, his cheeks flushed. His eyes held a look of passion that Abby had never seen in her geeky flat mate. He kept stroking her hair as if he couldn't get enough of her. It was incredibly hot.
"Sorry?" asked Abby breathlessly. "What for?"
"For kissing you. We're just mates, aren't we?" He suddenly seemed to notice how they were still wrapped around each other, and his face took on a confused look that was incredibly adorable. "Aren't we?"
Abby laughed and threw her arms around Connor for a hug. He hugged her back and she felt him nuzzle the side of her neck.
"Oh Connor," she said, laughing. "You are so thick, sometimes, but I love you anyway."
Connor stopped moving. When he pulled away to look deep into her eyes, Abby realized what she'd said. She swallowed hard and waited for the certainty that she'd just made a mistake to wash over her. Only it never did. In fact, the opposite happened. The words felt right. Good. Perfect even.
"What did you say?" asked Connor, trying to hide a look of hope that had entered his eyes.
"You heard me," she said. "I love you, Connor."
Connor's eyes teared up, and he swallowed heavily. "Really?"
She nodded. "Really and truly. I think I've known for a long time but I've been afraid of admitting it. I didn't want to ruin our friendship by being wrong."
Connor dashed the tears from his cheeks, but more just streaked down the old tracks. "I've loved you forever, Abby. I told you on the cliff top, but I've been too afraid to say it again. Tonight was going to be the night, and here you beat me to it."
She pulled him to her for another hug as tears pricked the corners of her eyes too. Only she was too happy to cry and just grinned from ear to ear.
They left the nightclub soon after, and took a cab home to the flat. When they got upstairs, there was another moment of uncertainty as Connor went back to their old routine. He took off his coat and tie, and puttered around the kitchen, turning on the kettle and pulling out mugs, tea, cream, and sugar.
Abby watched him for a moment. Her sweet, geeky flat mate with the too-big shirts and thrift-store waistcoats had come a long way in the past few months. He was still the same geek, albeit more stylish, but he seemed more adult now, more of a man, someone she could see building a future with. Or maybe she was the one who'd come a long way, taking a chance on love instead of denying that it could even exist in someone she was already friends wtih.
Abby turned off the kettle and grabbed Connor's hand.
"What're you doing?" he asked.
She smiled and pulled him to the bedroom, laughing when Connor let out an embarrassed "oh" of surprise.
When she turned to face him, he ran his fingers across the top of her bodice. "You know, Abby," he said with a dimpled grin, "this dress doesn't fit you at all."
"No, the top part is way too tight. And the bottom . . ." He pulled her flared skirt away from her body. ". . . is huge on you. What size do you wear, a small or medium? I bet this is an extra-large, at least."
Abby laughed. "I guess there's only one thing to do then, isn't there."
He peppered kisses down her neck and across her shoulders as he reached behind her to draw down the zipper of her dress. "Yeah," said Connor with a suddenly husky voice. "You'll just have to take it off."
And she did.