Her New Year Baby Secret

By: Jessica Gilmore

‘I didn’t go into the closet with him.’ Sophie reached for her glass of champagne and took a much-needed sip, wincing at the unexpectedly dry taste. She pushed it aside and grabbed some water instead. ‘He followed me in there.’

‘He did what? I take it back. He’s not hot. He’s creepy. Well, kind of both. Do you want me to set Jack on him?’

‘I’m sure Lukas would be only too glad to have a word,’ Ashleigh chimed in with a dark look over at the corner Marco had disappeared into.

‘Finlay can be very intimidating,’ Grace said, smiling dreamily at her very new and very large pink diamond ring on the third finger of her left hand.

‘No, thanks for the offer, but I don’t need defending.’ Sophie lowered her voice. ‘I know him. He’s the guy...’

Three faces stared at her blankly.

She sighed. It wasn’t as if there had been many—or indeed any—guys since she’d moved to London. ‘The guy. From a few weeks ago. The export party guy. You know, in the snow... Italian, we went to a bar...’

‘Oh, the one-night-stand guy?’ Ashleigh exclaimed.

‘Just a little louder, Ash, I don’t think he heard you over on the other side of the room, but just one more decibel should do it.’

‘What’s he doing here? It must be fate.’

‘No, Grace, it’s not fate. It’s embarrassing, that’s what it is. I didn’t expect to see him again, that’s the whole point of a one-night stand.’

‘Ah, but the real question is are you going to see him again? Now that he’s the one-night stand and the quickie-in-the-closet guy?’ Emma’s eyes were twinkling.

‘We did not have a quickie in the closet. Your mind! Call yourself a Countess?’

‘It’s My Lady to you.’ But Emma’s smile was rueful. Her friends hadn’t got tired of teasing her about her newly acquired title. Sophie wasn’t sure they ever would.

‘You didn’t answer the question, Sophie. Are you going to see him again?’

‘Look, just because the three of you are all besotted doesn’t mean that I’m looking to settle down. I’ve been there and done that and it very much didn’t agree with me. I have agreed to dance with him later. But that’s all I want. Honestly.’

But the scepticism on all three faces showed that none of them believed her. And she didn’t blame them because she wasn’t entirely sure she believed herself. Oh, she didn’t want or need what her friends had, she wasn’t hankering after a diamond ring the size of Ashleigh’s or Emma’s, nor, beautiful as it was, did she want to wear Grace’s huge pink diamond. She was quite happy with a ring-free third finger, thank you very much. In fact Sophie’s ambitions were as far from domestic bliss as it was possible to get. She wanted to make something of herself. Prove to her family—prove to herself—that she hadn’t thrown her life, her chances away when she’d moved in with Harry. She didn’t have the time or the inclination for romance.

But shocking as it had been to see Marco, it hadn’t been unpleasant. After all, Emma was right: he was smoking hot. Smoking hot and charming. Smoking hot, charming and very, very good in bed. Not that she was planning to sleep with him again. Once was an excusable lapse, twice would be something far too much like a relationship.

But a dance wouldn’t hurt—would it?

* * *

Sophie had had no intention of using any of the secret signs Marco had suggested. She kept her hands firmly on her lap, on her knife and fork, or wrapped around her water glass to ensure that she didn’t inadvertently summon him over. But, as the night wore on, her resolve wavered. It wasn’t that her friends and their partners intentionally excluded her, but they just couldn’t help themselves. They kept separating off into cosy little pairs to sway intimately on the dance floor, no matter what the music, or to indulge in some very public displays of affection over the smoked salmon starter. In some ways it was worse when they emerged from their love-struck idyll and remembered Sophie’s presence, tumbling over themselves to apologise and making Sophie feel even more like a third—or seventh—wheel than ever.

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