Letting Go - Chapter 21

Laurel fought a smile as she entered the main lobby of Queen Consolidated and noticed the company’s CEO curl his arm around his secretary’s slender back and pull her to him. She almost laughed at the look Felicity shot him. An utterly WTF look coupled with a deep blush that belied her protestations about what exactly she felt about her boss. And clearly projected the embrace and the intimacy was all just a ruse on Oliver’s part. A cock-up that had everything to do with his bruised ego. Idiot.

And as usual, the idiot never thought about how his decisions and his actions might affect those involved in his decisions and actions. Sometimes they were harmless, sometimes they might seem harmless yet pack quite a punch. In this case, and even before, as he’d turned Felicity into his personal assistant, Oliver probably never stopped and thought about what this entire affair might mean for Felicity, her position within the company, her reputation...Her heart.

There were already rumors, not overly loud, not overly persistent, but there were rumors that there was more between the two than a strictly professional relationship. Those rumors have spread widely enough to reach Laurel’s ears. Some of them have reached her due to her past relationship with Oliver, some have reached her simply because they have spread outside the company. And now, with that blatant display of possessiveness on his part—which, for someone who knew him, looked as bogus as it indeed was—the rumors would just get louder, wider, and ‘stickier’.

She rolled her eyes as he met her gaze, trying to convey her censure, but the idiot male just grinned, proving his misinterpretation of her gesture as jealousy. She wasn’t jealous. She couldn’t be jealous of something fake. She rolled her eyes again and turned away, back to her unexpected—and unwelcome—date, utterly aware of her phone, heavy and silent, tucked into her purse. It was good knowing she wasn’t cut off completely.

The guests were mingling and Donner took it as a perfect opportunity for some more networking, tugging her along, introducing her to the people he knew, expecting introductions to those she did. She played along, the smile she perfected years ago—not too fake, not too bright, but just right—firmly in place, her hand tucked into the crook of his elbow. She was the image of the perfect arm candy, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect possible future Mrs. Adam Donner. However, she didn’t think the perfect girlfriend would keep a certain man, someone other than her date, constantly in her peripheral vision.

She reasoned it was only to keep an eye on Oliver, lest he did something stupid like ruin Felicity’s reputation even more than he’s already done. Unfortunately, her heart disagreed with her reasoning. She kept an eye on him because...Just because. Because he drew her in like a magnet, like a moth to a flame, because she couldn’t help it but look at him, drool a little, and think of if-onlys and what-ifs. However, since that way lay disaster and more heartbreak that she could bear, she decided to go with the reasonable explanation her mind and common sense provided. Keep an eye on him for Felicity’s sake.

She closed her eyes briefly as the sly whispers all around her rose in volume when Oliver pulled Felicity into his arms and started swaying with her to the soft, slow music that suddenly filled the lobby. She tightened her grip on Donner’s arm and gritted her teeth as she brought her heart rate and breath under control.

“Well, they finally acknowledged it in public,” Donner whispered.

“Acknowledged what?”

“Come on, Laurel,” he insisted. “Everybody’s talking about the two of them. Just look at them.”

She did and she didn’t see what apparently everybody else did. She saw a man determined to cure his heartache—or protect his bruised ego, depending on the perspective of the observer—by dancing with the only available woman who wouldn’t misinterpret his gesture. She saw a woman blushing partly because of her crush, but mostly with indignation toward her moronic employer...And she saw a man hovering at the edge of the crowd, watching the dancing pair with sad eyes as if he’s just realized something monumental. Well, well, well.

Laurel was sympathetic. It usually happened like that. Out of the blue.

“Excuse me,” she murmured and walked to where John Diggle stood. Silent and alone, his eyes on his two friends.

His face went blank as he saw her approach, and she grinned at him. “Hey, John.”

“Laurel.”

“Lose the doom and gloom look. It’s so last season.” When he just looked at her, her grin widened. “Dance with me.”

“Why?”

“I just feel like dancing.” She took his hand. “Come on.”

“You can dance with Donner.”

“I could.” She pulled him away from the crowd, placed his hands on her hips, and lifted her own onto his shoulders. “But I don’t want to.”

They swayed for a few moments and the stink-eye Oliver kept giving Diggle didn’t go unnoticed. It was a rather sexy stink-eye. “Will you tell her?”

John frowned down at her. “Tell who?”

“Felicity.”

“Tell her what?”

“That you have feelings for her.”

He missed a step. Well, more like lost his balance for a bit, since there wasn’t much stepping involved. “What are you talking about?”

She smiled softly. “It hit you when they started dancing.” She shook her head when he opened his mouth. “The way you looked at her was a dead giveaway, John. You should’ve seen your face.”

He pressed his lips together and glared at her. “I really have no idea what you’re talking about.” He looked over his shoulder. “And I don’t appreciate being used in whatever game you and Oliver are playing.”

“I have no idea what Oliver is doing. Okay,” she corrected, “I do, but I’m not playing any games. I just wanted to talk to you, and I’m sorry if I’ve—”

“What is it?” he asked, but she ignored him. She was looking at Donner who’s pulled his phone out of his pocket. What he read on the screen must not have been good, because he looked a little green and a lot jittery.

“Excuse me,” she said quickly, and pulled Diggle around, so she was partly hidden behind. She grabbed her phone and dialed the number that had sent her the last text. “Something happened,” she whispered when the call was answered.

ETA 5 minutes,” was the reply.

Great. They might not have five minutes. “Well, John,” she said breezily. “Thanks for the dance. And think about the thing I mentioned which you claim to know nothing about.” She patted his shoulder. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” And she left him there, focusing her attention completely on Adam Donner.

The evening was about to get rather interesting.


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