“And I thought it’d be perfect for you. Since you always like to try new food,” Haven says as we reach the table.
She might have said something on the way. I have no idea what she’s been talking about.
After we order, I do my best to focus on Haven and the details of the sponsorship deal she inked for me.
But when Sam Smith comes on the sound system, I don’t know that I can pay attention to anything with “Dancing with a Stranger” burning a hole in my mind. It’s on my goddamn playlist for Dean, the one I made when he came over to my hotel that first night.
And I can remember—my God, I can see it so damn clearly—the way I crushed his lips, the way he said Make it last, the way we did.
We made everything last.
And hell, there has to be a way to make us last.
I drag a hand through my hair, trying to slam the door closed on all these images of him. But I can’t. I just can’t, and I don’t want to.
“You like this song?” I ask Haven, my voice a little hoarse.
She tilts her head. “Yeah. I do. What about you?”
“It’s great. I love it.” I let out a deep sigh, and then hold my hands out wide, admitting defeat before I even start. “Haven, I have no idea what you’ve been talking about.”
I shake my head. “No clue. This song, this place, everything here. It’s all making me think of . . .”
She nods sagely and reaches out her hand, squeezing mine. “I’ve noticed you’ve been a little distant. And ‘distant’ is not a word I’d ever use to describe James Fitzgerald. What’s going on? Do you need to talk?”
The song floats through the restaurant, the chorus about not wanting to be alone tonight, and I swear it’s mocking me. It’s taunting me. And it’s tempting me too.
Then, in a flash of brilliance, I have an idea that snaps all my attention back to her.
“Would you be able to help me with something?”
I tell her what I need, and she nods approvingly. “All in a day’s work as an agent.”
She grabs her phone, we hatch a plan, then place a rush order. It’ll be in London Saturday afternoon.
The Greek place is great and wholly necessary.
Spending time with my friends roots me in London when parts of me—namely my heart—are elsewhere.
I don’t tell them as much, but I’m pretty sure they sense it.
After that dinner, Naveen declares he’s making a reservation for a sushi restaurant the next weekend. I spend the week counting down because it gives me something to do. It gives me a goal.
Time with them distracts me from thinking of Fitz. It’s the only thing that keeps my mind off him.
When Saturday rolls around, sixteen days after Fitz departed, we all go to lunch. We laugh and talk, and the entire time I keep thinking what a lucky fucker I am to have such great friends.
I have to keep on living. Keep on enjoying my life as best I can.
After we finish, Taron taps my shoulder, his eyes wide and curious. “So, whatever happened with that guy?”
Before I can answer, he shouts, “Ouch,” his face twisting in pain, like someone just stepped on his shoe.
Laughing, I glance at Maeve across the table. “Did you just ram your heel on Taron’s foot?”
“You evil, evil woman,” Taron hisses at her. “That smarts.”
Maeve slices an imaginary knife across her throat, staring sharply at Taron. “We’re not bringing him up.”
I lean back in the chair, cross my arms, and regard her with a smirk. “So, this,” I say, gesturing in a circle to the whole table, “is part of some plan you cooked up to induce amnesia in me?”
“No. We’re just trying to keep you happy,” she says, squaring her shoulders.
“A plan. Like I suspected,” I say, having caught her in the act.
“He’s onto us, guys,” Sam chimes in, then stares at me with inquisitive eyes. “But the more important thing is—is it working?”
“Fabulously,” I say, deadpan. “Also, thanks for making me your charity case. Appreciate it.”
“Oh, stop,” Maeve says. “We love you, and we want you to be happy here.”
“I am happy here. I promise. And I’ll stay happy as long as people aren’t constantly asking about him.”
“Speaking of never bringing up the NHL all-star,” Sam says, “he’s killing it in preseason.”
“Is that so?” I pick up my drink like it’s the most fascinating concoction in the world.
“His stats are great. His gameplay is top-notch,” my American friend adds, then rattles off stats I already know by heart. Points, goals, assists.
“Why are you smiling like you have a secret?” Maeve asks me with narrowed eyes.
“No reason,” I say, trying to rein in a grin.
“You are a certified fanboy,” Sam says, wagging a finger at me. Then he leans toward Maeve, a little closer than I’ve seen him get to her before. “I think your best friend just developed an interest in hockey.”