She brushed me away. “Maybe you should stop trying to get into my head. You probably wouldn’t like it in there anyway.”
“I think you’re wrong.”
She looked down at her hands and toyed with the rippled fabric of her dress. “No one else tries this hard. I don’t understand why you are.”
“I’m not like everyone else. I thought you’d figured that out by now.”
“Maybe that’s not what I want.”
“What do you want?”
She sighed and worried her lip. “We should keep this casual so no one gets hurt.”
“When you say casual, you’re saying you don’t want our relationship to mean anything. Is that right?”
She looked up, paralyzing me with a penetrating gaze. “It wasn’t important enough for you to want to keep back then, so why should I want it to mean anything now?”
She could have punched me in the gut, the way her words hit me.
I ground my teeth. “I could say the same thing to you, Maya. You weren’t the only one who got hurt, you know.”
She rose quickly. “I’m going to grab a drink.”
“Maybe you should slow down.”
“Maybe you should mind your own business.” She rose quickly, disappearing into the crowd.
MAYA. Jia leaned up against the bar as the bartender brought her martini. I’d texted her upon separating from Cameron. She showed up not long after, thanks to Paul’s VIP treatment. I was thankful for the company since my connection with Cameron had noticeably cooled as the night had progressed. Maybe that was a good thing though. Eli was off doing his thing, and Vanessa was in Darren’s clutches. Thanks to my significant buzz, I cared less and less. This was my night, and I wasn’t going to let him or anyone else spoil it.
“Did you come alone?” I asked.
“Yeah, the friend I was with bailed. No worries. This place seems great. Do you come here often?”
“It’s in the rotation.”
“You look cute.” She smiled and ran a finger down the ruching of my dress.
“Thanks, you too.”
She was wearing a sleeveless blouse and skinny jeans. Her hair was down, framing her face. Seeing her so casual seemed odd, wrong even. Having her see me in my weekend club attire also felt strange, as if I were exposing myself to a world that never saw me this way. Even though we’d been inching toward friendship, Jia represented that world in this context.
“It’s a little strange to see people outside of work,” I said. “I imagine everyone wakes up and goes to sleep in their suits or something.”
She laughed. “No kidding. You’d be surprised what you find under all those suits.” She lifted an eyebrow and the corner of her mouth quirked up.
I couldn’t help but laugh. I wasn’t remotely interested in anyone at the office. The thought of seeing someone like Dermott under his suit was nausea-inducing, if only because I hated that b*****d.
“Did you come with the ex?”
I rolled my eyes and groaned like an angst-ridden teenager whose mother had followed her to the mall. Thankfully, the sound was muted by the blare of the music. A part of me wished I hadn’t come with Cameron tonight. He was on the other side of the club, probably wishing he hadn’t too.
“You don’t look so happy about that.”
“I’m not exactly thrilled, no.”
“I take it the reunion isn’t going so well.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. It’s complicated.” I didn’t want to go into all the reasons why with Jia right now. “Honestly, I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t really want to think about anything tonight.” I waved my hand for effect. “It’s been a long week, and I just want to have some fun.”
“I say we drink to that.”
She lifted her glass, and I clinked my shot against its rim before swallowing down another ounce of sugary heaven.
I set it down and looked around. The bar was lit up in blue neon lights, its patrons laughing and talking. The music was loud, vibrating every corner of the dimly lit club. Despite my spat with Cameron, I caught myself smiling widely. This was the moment—that perfect moment when the night felt like it had possibilities. I wanted this moment to last forever. Liquid happiness and excitement mingled with the promise that I could lose myself in the music, in the fate of the night. This was my freedom.
“Let’s dance,” I yelled.
Jia smiled and nodded. She finished her drink, grabbed my hand, and led the way to the dance floor. We pushed through the crowd, now thick with all walks of life. The push of people gave way at a certain point. The music changed into a deep beat of a Lady Gaga song, asking someone to do what he wanted with her body. I hummed to myself, liking the sound of that. Maybe I’d drag Cameron into bed anyway. What did it matter anyway? Give Raina a run for her money. Give Cameron something to remember me by, because that would have to be it. I’d fall in love with him otherwise. That much was certain.