“Pretty simple, it sucks. Reilly seems to think that coordinating the entire f*****g holiday party is my personal responsibility.”
“Ugh, I wish I didn’t even have to go.” I cringed at the thought.
She glared at me. “You better go, because I’m busting my a*s on it.”
“I will. Dermott insisted that I go anyway.”
“Who’s Dermott?” Cameron asked.
“My boss. He’s a prick. Only a few notches below Vanessa’s boss, who is in the top echelon of corporate p****s.”
“Sounds like you two are living the dream.”
Neither of us could argue with that. Such was our life.
“When’s the party?”
“Thursday night.” Vanessa said before I could. “You should go with Maya. Would probably make it more tolerable.”
I fought the urge to snap at her. She was on edge, and she had no idea what was going down between Cameron and me.
“Sure. If Maya wants me to, of course.”
“I’m not sure if bringing an ex-boyfriend to the holiday party would really make a great impression.”
He noticeably grimaced. The dig had met its mark. Maybe he didn’t like that “ex” title either. A pang of regret hit me, but Vanessa spoke before I could smooth it over.
“Actually, being attached tends to work in your favor. I think I read somewhere that being married with kids makes you look more stable or something when it comes to promotions.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well, I’m not sure I’ll be able to swing that in time for the party. Thanks for the tip though.”
Cameron laughed. Our eyes met for a second. I didn’t like what I saw there. Possibilities. Promises. Dreams we’d given up on. Vanessa’s phone rang, interrupting our brief moment.
“Hello?” Her whole posture had changed, her shoulders high and tense. Her eyes were seemingly fixed on some detail beyond our table as she listened. “Yes, I’m at lunch.”
A man’s sharp voice could be heard even muffled through the phone. She worked her jaw, rolled her eyes, mouthed the word “f**k” a few times. Then she plastered on a disgruntled smile. “Sure, I’ll take care of it right away.” She ended the call and gathered her purse. “Sorry, guys. I have to run out and take care of something for Mr. Wonderful.”
“Reilly?” Cameron cocked an eyebrow.
“You guessed it.” She pushed up from the table, her shoulders sagging. Then she brightened slightly. “I’ll see you at the party then?”
He shot a questioning look my way. I tapped my foot nervously, feeling cornered by how this was playing out. I couldn’t refuse without major awkwardness. “Fine,” I relented.
He looked up and smiled. “I’ll be there.”
Vanessa bid a quick goodbye and took off, trashing her half-eaten lunch on the way. I fidgeted nervously with my watch, wishing the long hand would move a little faster for once. I picked at my lunch, secretly wishing I’d gone to Delaney’s by myself instead. I could use a drink.
“I called,” he finally said.
“I texted too.”
I nodded, my gaze skirting past him.
“Do you want to talk about why you’re avoiding me?”
“Because I’m not rushing to the phone every time you want to talk to me doesn’t necessarily mean I’m avoiding you. It means I have my own life. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m your girlfriend now just because we’ve slept together.”
He nodded slowly. “Are you this cold with everyone you sleep with, or am I getting special treatment here?”
I sighed. I wasn’t going to like wherever this conversation was going. I’d underestimated how awkward things could be with Cameron. This is why I didn’t date, why I never let things go further than sex. I’d never had to justify emotional distance with someone I’d slept with. Of course Cameron broke all of those rules simply by being Cameron.
“I don’t usually have to be, because the terms are clear from the outset.”
“What are our terms, then?”
“Honestly, I have no idea, because they keep changing. We went from friends to—”
“Wait, this is friendly?” He leaned in, eyebrows high, and gestured between the two of us. “This isn’t how I imagine friends interacting.”
“Which is why this is a bad idea.” I threw my hands up and leaned back, wishing he could get on board with my doubts.
“I want to know why you feel the need to shut me out? Where’s the Maya I used to know? We were never like this, ever.”