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In the ten minutes it had taken for them to drive to the hall, Lou had completely changed his countenance. He was smiling and happy, as if nothing had happened. Jayme felt like she’d been left out of some great adventure that he was enjoying without her. She was afraid to be left out of his world but was unsure how to get back into it after the apparent foolish assumptions she’d made earlier.
At that moment, he reached for her hand and kissed her fingers. “I’m sorry for the things I’ve been doing that upset you. I promise, I’m not doing anything you have to worry about.” He cut his eyes to her as he pulled into a parking space. Once he’d cut the motor, he turned to her. “Can you forgive me for upsetting you? Especially on Christmas Eve? No one should be upset on Christmas Eve. Santa might not show up at our house.”
“I’d really not like that to happen.” Jayme gazed into his eyes. “Did I ever tell you what I really want for Christmas?”
Lou’s mouth twitched and his lips curled ever so slightly. “No, but don’t you think it’s a bit late now? It’s only four hours away.” He toyed with her hand.
“I miss getting up in the morning and finding something under the tree that wasn’t there the night before. I guess I miss Santa Claus.” Jayme gave a nervous laugh, expecting him to laugh at her for her childish wish. He didn’t.
“I’ve never realty thought about it but, yeah, I do, too. It’s been a long time since he gave me what I really wanted.” He pulled her across, and lightly kissed her on the lips, “I’ll see what I can do about that.”
Jayme smiled. “You do that.”
He sat back in the seat, his attention on the brightly decorated entrance to the hall. “So, do you forgive me?” He adjusted his jacket before turning to her again.
“How could I not. Lou, I do love you.” She caressed his face.
“I love you, too, Jayme.” He climbed out of the car, and came around to help her out. “I hope we both have a great time tonight. No worries, only fun. Got it?”
Jayme saluted. “Yes, sir.”
“Good.” He held out his arm to her and she hooked her arm through his as they strolled up the steps to the brilliantly lighted dining hall that spilled forth holiday music.
Jayme sipped her drink as she stood at the side of the room, her gaze following Lou. He talked with a gathering of fellow business associates but his gaze kept drifting to Kelsey. He shared a smile with her when their eyes met, and then abruptly, his attention switched to Jayme as if he’d only just remembered she was there. He gave her his brightest smile and silently toasted her with a raise of his glass before taking a drink and turning back to his conversation. She returned his salute and emptied her glass. This party was not the happy diversion she’d thought it would be.
As she thought about him, watching him mingle with the others, she noted that his attention continued to stray to Kelsey. Sure Kelsey had a killer body and she knew how to dress to attract but did Lou have to be so obvious about it? Shouldn’t he be spending his time with Jayme? After all, they were a couple, weren’t they? They’d been together over a year but she hoped her earlier doubts didn't make him think the relationship was a mistake.
She wandered to the bar for a refill. Taking the refreshed drink from the bar tender, she turned to find Lou standing behind her. “There you are.” She smiled at him.
“Here I am.” He returned her smile. “Are you having a good time?” He reached around her to set his empty glass on the bar for a refill. As the bar tender mixed him a new gin and juice, he wrapped one arm around Jayme. “I forgot my cell. I’m going to dash home to grab it. I don’t want to miss any calls, you know. Could be big business.”
“I’ll go with you.” Jayme set her glass down. Lou placed his hand around hers on the glass.
“No. You stay hear and enjoy yourself. I’ll be right back. I promise.” The million dollar smile surfaced again.
“If you really want me to.” Jayme felt abandoned. “Hurry back, though. I don’t know that many people here. It’s awkward.”
He kissed her forehead. “You’ll be fine. Twenty, thirty minutes tops.”
Before she could protest the length he predicted, he’d downed his drink and melted into the crowd of party-goers.
* * * *
Twenty minutes stretched into thirty and then forty five. Jayme was getting a little upset when Lou finally strolled through the door, a smile and a touch of color that looked suspiciously like Kelsey’s on his lips. Heat flared up her spine as she looked around for Kelsey. She wasn’t in the room. Jayme wondered how long she’d been gone. She wondered but figured it was probably around forty five minutes. She fumed as Lou walked toward her.
Jayme decided not to make a big deal out of it in the presence of so many people she didn’t know. She didn’t want to cause a scene and mark herself as a drama queen. She might have the opportunity to work with these people professionally in the future. Better not to make a public display of the fury and hurt she felt. She turned to the bar and collected a napkin, turning back to wait for Lou to reach her.
He reached for her hand and moved in for a kiss. He was met with a napkin over his mouth. The puzzled look in his eyes would have been comically if it hadn’t been such a painful moment. He grabbed the napkin to complete the motion of wiping his mouth. His gaze on Jayme, he asked, “Was there something on my face?”
Jayme nodded as she took a long sip of her drink. She looked around the room again, and noticed that Kelsey had returned. “It’s not your color, either.” She remained calm on the outside though her insides were boiling.
Lou looked at the napkin, his eyes cutting from the evidence to Jayme’s face. “I…”
Jayme held up a hand. “Let it go, Lou. Not here. Finish up your party and let’s go home… if you still live there.”
Lou stuffed the napkin into his pocket. “I was hoping to make this a great holiday for you. I guess I blew it.” He turned to the bar tender and requested a gin. Jayme blinked hard to keep tears from forming.
“You could say that. This isn’t what I wanted for Christmas, Lou.”
“Me either.” He took a long drink. “I only wanted to make you happy.” They both stood with their backs to the bar, eyes sweeping across the crowd. “Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”
Jayme felt the bark of laughter trying to escape. She held it back. “Sure. Give me that one wish that I’ve long wanted for Christmas.”
“A visit from Santa?”
“Right.” Jayme finished her drink and went in search of her coat, Lou following silently behind.
* * * *
The ride home was slow. Lou didn’t seem to want to get there. Jayme wanted nothing more than to get home, get into her warmest night gown and curl up with a blanket to hold off the cold that ate at her. The snow on the ground wasn’t the only chill in the car. Though the heater blasted warmth, it didn’t make much difference.
She wanted to say something but was afraid anything she said would only make the night worse. It was their first Christmas in the house. She thought about the gifts she’d purchased for him that were gathered under the tree. He’d deposited several for her and the tree looked wonderful, sparkling with lights and ornaments. The sudden memory of the empty space now beside it marred her attempt to cheer herself up. She’d forgotten about the missing furniture and clothing. At least now she knew why.
They pulled up, waiting for the garage door to rise. Lou looked straight ahead, and tapped his fingers on the wheel. When they’d pulled in and the garage door closed, Lou killed the engine and sat back, his gaze remaining on the wall before them. “I think we need to talk before we go in.”
Jayme groaned. “It’s cold out here.” She hugged her coat close around her shoulders.
“That’s okay. This will only take a minute.” He turned in the seat to face her. “Jayme, we’ve been together for a long time. I don’t want to break the trust we’ve built. I’m not going to lie to you. Kelsey kissed me.”
“That was obvious.” She rolled her eyes.
“The point is I didn’t kiss her.”
“Where were you when this assault on your person took place? If you’d been with me, she wouldn’t have had the chance.” Didn’t he see that he’d made the opportunity for Kelsey by being with her instead of with Jayme? Did he really need his phone that bad or was that only an excuse to be some where else?
“That’s what I need to tell you. We were here.” He looked away.