New Year's Eve

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Empty glasses

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Empty glasses. Blonde hair. Low whiskey laugh. Dishevelled hair. Wolf-whistles. Red fingernails on shirt buttons. His lips: Swollen, lust-filled. Hands grabbing. Long legs - hers - straddling his waist.

I push through the crowd, stumbling out of the double doors and into a sheet of icy rain. The cold air hits me like a freight train. Steadying myself, I gasp in lungfuls of night air and try to hold back hot tears as the world swims around me.

'Martha, wait!'

His tone, almost pleading, catches me off guard and I swing to face him. Impossible, gorgeous him. A smear of red lipstick mars his lips and twists my stomach into knots. He pushes back his hair, now slick and dark with water, and closes the gap between us with a few strides.

'Please, let me explain.' His voice is silky and slow, and when reaches for my hand, I let his fingers entwine with mine, holding onto the moment despite my anger. A wave of nausea makes me drop it.

'There's nothing to explain, Whittingham. I was there.'

'Look -' he begins, 'I assumed we were on the same page. In there - it was a bit of fun, nothing more.' He gestures towards the cabin where a small group is starting to gather under the veranda, watching the scene unfold with raised eyebrows. He follows my gaze, swears, and steps back. Instantly, his demeanour changes. Crowds aren't good for him. Crowds risk exposing everything we've worked so hard to hide.

He lowers his voice. 'I don't want to cause a scene, Martha. Just get back into the party, and we'll talk about it tomorrow.'

His words are a punch to the gut. 'You don't want to cause a scene? Screw you, Whittingham! Jesus! If you didn't want a scene, you should have thought more carefully before you-'

My voice cracks, stealing the words.

'I'm not dealing with your drama now,' he says, straightening up the way he does when his barriers fly up and his decision is made. 'I don't have to answer to you. It's not like we're - I mean -'

He hesitates as a panic flashes across his face.

I take a step back. 'Like we're what?'

Out of instinct, he reaches for me, stopping just short. He looks back over his shoulder and lets his hand fall to his side.

A heavy silence forms between us. The patter of rain drumming on the tarmac echoes my rapid heartbeat. We stare at each other, daring the other to make the next move. He is the first to drop his gaze, and I hold my breath as tears make my eyes smart.

'Like we're what?' I repeat through gritted teeth.

Refusing to meet my eyes, he shoves his hands deep into his pockets and kicks at a stone on the ground. 'I'm sorry,' he mutters, voice defensive. 'I only took what you offered, Martha. I never forced anything from you. We said we were -'

I cut him off before he could finish, each word cutting like a knife.

'Brody!' I shout towards the group of confused onlookers, flashing my brightest smile. 'I'll take that drink now and make it a double.' From the corner of my eye, I see a flash of blonde hair and long, bare legs and my anger flares. I kept my eyes away from hers.

'You're right. You took what I offered. Took and took and took. And I let you because I thought you loved me. Because I thought you had something to give. Don't imagine I will ever make that mistake again.'

When Brody comes back onto the decking, there is a cup in his hand. 'I've got your drink, darlin'. Come out of the rain and let me strip you of those wet clothes.' He winks at me, and the surrounding guys whistle.

As I go to leave, a powerful hand grips my arm. 'You've got to be kidding me. There is no way in Hell I'm letting you go with him. He ain't good enough for you, Martha. He'll only hurt you.'

'I'm used to getting hurt, Whittingham,' I growl, ripping my arm out of his grasp. 'After all, it's all I ever got from you.'

'Martha, baby. Please.' There's a desperate edge to his voice and my heart aches enough to catch my breath.

But I can't stay to hear another lie. Not again. And as tears roll down my cheeks, I shake my head and turn on my heel as the first fireworks light up the steely sky.

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