Being the Designated Driver meant I couldn’t get drunk. It didn’t, however, mean I couldn’t make other awful decisions at the New Year’s Eve party.
Christmas had come and gone in a flurry of lights and work and controlled chaos. It had gone so quickly that my apartment was still decorated in Christmas everything. Part of me wanted to ask Nick’s help taking them down, but after the Mistletoe Incident, I’d taken to actively avoiding him.
That, at least, didn’t matter… I had someone to flirt with, hug, and on occasion, kiss cheeks with. Sara was one of those women who made other women seriously question their sexuality. Barely taller than me, she was daintily built but surprisingly strong. She had glitter festively sprinkled in her blonde pixie cut, her shimmery makeup highlighting the crystal blue of her eyes, her lips pink and slightly pouted. More than that, she was a damn good friend, a great listener, funny, witty, sharp as a whip. She knew what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to take it. I admired that about her.
She’d convinced me to DD with her to a friend’s New Year’s party, and since I didn’t want her alone or driving drunk on New Year’s, I ditched the idea of sleeping through the whole ridiculous holiday, glittered and glammed myself up, and played chauffeur. We accidentally twinned, too, both in shimmering black dresses and sky high, glittering heels, although hers were shocking pink, and mine here electric blue– matching my lipstick, since I’d decided to go all sorts of daring tonight.
Not like anyone was going to care that I was super daring. Most of them were obliterated, sucking face, or downright ignoring me and my ginger ale. I’d disappeared into a corner anyway, blatantly ignoring most of the people there and playing on my phone.
“Looks like you’re having a blast.”
The dry sarcasm that floated past me made my heart sink even as my stomach clenched. I looked up to see Nick leaning against the wall in front of me, looking slick and put together in all black. “Nick,” I greeted curtly, nodding and forcing a smile to my lips. The Mistletoe Incident was still haunting me. I hadn’t heard from him for days afterward. From what I could gather, it may as well have not happened at all. “You clean up nicely.”
“Same to you,” he retorted. His eyes traveled up and down my body– my mind sneered at him, but my traitorous body lit up like a candle, every cell suddenly painfully aware that he was here, he was damn attractive, and he had kissed me barely a fortnight ago.
“Zoe, there you are, I was–” Sara appeared like an archangel come to rescue me, as though the throng of people had simply opened up and spat her out for me. She cut short when she saw who I was speaking to. “Oh, hi Nick, I thought you weren’t coming?”
He shrugged. “Taylor and Brett talked me into it.” He looked over to the two men hosting the party, linked arm in arm by the fireplace, champagne in both of their hands. I personally appreciated how one’s tie matched the other’s shirt, and vice versa. “Plus I’m driving a few people home, so.” He shrugged again, the gestured to the both of us. “Nice.”
“Thanks,” Sara grinned, then turned back to me. “I’m marginally drunk and want to dance with you. Let’s go.”
I smiled, genuinely charmed, as Sara linked her arm through mine and dragged me to the next room, where a dance floor, a cheap rainbow disco ball, and a fairly respectable sound system had converted Taylor and Brett’s dining room into a dance room. The music was a mix of dance pop, electro-swing, and the occasional holiday song, keeping the party lively. Sara pulled me toward the wall across the crowd from the door, then crossed her arms.
“You aren’t even tipsy,” I observed, still smiling.
“Nick was flirting with you,” she said bluntly, proving my statement despite blatantly ignoring it. “You’ve been doing everything but actively hiding from him for two weeks, and he has the balls–”
“Neither of us knew he was going to be here,” I soothed. “It’s fine, Sara. I can handle myself. He’s not gonna turn into the big bad wolf and gobble me down whole or some shit.”
“No,” Sara agreed, visibly relaxing– I hadn’t realized how tense she was until she wasn’t– “but still, he should be less… less…”
“Of a gigantic prick?” I supplied.
“I was going to say of a complete asshat, but yes.”
I pulled Sara in, wrapping my arms around her. “It’s okay, babe, I’ll be fine. We’ll just dance together for a little while and show him how much cuter you are than he’ll ever be.” Winking, I lead her to the dance floor, and we started to jam out.
It was four songs later when we finally dragged ourselves back into the living room to be social. Sara vanished in half a second to go refill her blood stream with alcohol. Facing the pulsing crowd, I felt my heartbeat spike even further, somehow, despite it already beating wildly from dancing. The room seemed to shrink around me, people everywhere, and so much noise I couldn’t hear myself think. My breath hitched. Designated driver or not, I wasn’t going to last til midnight at this party if I didn’t find somewhere quiet, and now.
Side stepping couple after couple, I managed to worm my way through the living room, past the host couple with a polite smile, and into their kitchen. It was, blissfully, empty.
I sucked in a breath as I all but ran to the opposite side of the room, snatching up a paper cup from the open bag of them laying on the counter and filling it with water from the faucet. Rather than drink it, however, I just stared into the cup, trying desperately to pull myself together.
Why had I come? I hated parties. I hated people, in large quantities, in small spaces. Everything always became too loud and too close and too overwhelming. On top of that, I was rapidly developing the migraine of the century. I set the cup down on the counter, then proceeded to lean on it with my hands over my face.
“Playing hide and seek with Sara?”
“Oh god not you,” I whispered into my hands.
I turned to Nick and shook my head. “Sorry, I just got overwhelmed. So many people and so much noise tends to give me headaches.”
“That sucks.” Somehow he looked genuinely concerned, despite his indifferent tone.
“Yeah. I came to–” Hide had been the next word on my tongue, but I derailed it as quickly as it came– “to take a minute for myself.”
“Won’t Sara miss you?” Nick leaned against the counter and I glared up at him.
“She’s a big girl, she’ll be fine.” I picked up my water and swirled it around some, still not drinking it. “But she’s not exactly getting home without me, since I drove her here.”
“I bet your after party will be twice as fun.” The smirk he was giving me finally clicked in my mind, his intentions suddenly clear. For a split second, outrage fired through me, not only for me, but for Sara. Then, as I thought about it, an idea formed. It slithered into my mind like the smile that slid onto my lips.
“Yeah, I sure hope so. She looks damn fine in that dress.”
Nick’s smirk widened into a grin. “You should go find her.”
“I will.” Abandoning my cup, I strolled out the door and back into the living room, looking for my sparkly angel. I spotted her with a full drink in her hand, chatting away with the host and hostess, and strode over to her. “Excuse me–”
“Zoe!” She turned with impeccable balance, her eyes clear, her face decidedly lacking the drunken flush she should have had. “Hi babe!”
“Hi,” I said, scrutinizing her face. “How many drinks have you had since we left the dance floor?”
“Oh, none, I got to talking with these two and it kind of just slipped my mind that I had it…”
“Perfect,” I chirped, grabbing her drink and setting it on the mantle. “Could you do me a solid and kiss me?”
“I– what?” She looked like I’d just asked her to take a bat to a baby seal, and I inwardly winced.
I grinned–well, grimaced– trying desperately not to grit my teeth. “Nick thinks we’re dating, it doesn’t have to be super intimate or anything, just enough to–” But my words were cut off by Sara grabbing me by the arms, yanking me in, and planting her lips against mine.
Whatever devious plans I’d had completely slipped my mind, along with every other thought I’d ever had or would ever have again. My hands landed on her hips to steady myself, and then clenched there, holding on for dear life. I felt light headed as she pulled me just a little closer, tilting her head slightly and deepening the kiss. My chest felt tight, my legs weak. Someone wolf whistled, and one of the hosts said, “Yes, girl, get it!”
It was over as suddenly as it had begun. Sara stepped back and looked over my shoulder, her lips vaguely blue tinted from kissing me, and grinned, the expression close to savage. “Does that clear things up?”
“No,” I said softly, just as Nick’s voice said “Exceptionally” behind me. I stared at Sara in a daze, trying to sort out the strange desire to grab her and drag her away, and the urge to turn around and kiss Nick until he felt as dazed and tongue tied as I felt right now. In the back of my mind, that small, rational part of me was running around screaming what the fuck? at the top if its lungs.
“Girl, drag him.” Brett was the one who spoke, which I only knew because he had the gold shirt and the black tie, while Taylor’s shirt was black, his tie gold. Otherwise I barely knew them well enough to keep their names straight. “Was he hitting on you?”
I wasn’t sure if he’d been speaking to me or to Sara, but I answered anyway. “And then some.” I turned trying to arrange my expression enough to look sour, but too busy spacing out over that kiss to pull it off. Nick looked particularly smug, which helped me by a whole lot. I turned coldly away from him and looked at Sara. “Anyway, love, I’m going back to my hideaway corner.” She made a kissy face at me again, which I returned, before striding past Nick with my head up and the haughtiest expression I could manage on my face. Nick snorted.
Back in the kitchen, I drank about four cups of water, contemplating pouring a fifth down my shirt to douse the flames of desire coursing through me. “Calm your tits, Zoe,” I muttered to myself.
“I dunno, Sara seemed to enjoy exciting them–”
“WILL YOU STOP THAT!” I whipped around and threw my cup directly at Nick’s face, failing spectacularly and causing him to actually laugh. “Stop sneaking up on me, it’s downright creepy.”
“Just because you weren’t paying attention doesn’t mean I was sneaking up on you,” Nick pointed out, scooping the cup up off of the floor and dropping it in the nearby trashcan.
“Following me around, then.” Almost growling, I grabbed another cup and filled it up with water, drinking it just so that I didn’t have to say anything else to him.
“It’s almost midnight,” Nick stated. “Don’t you want to track down Sara and get your midnight kiss?”
“If I kiss her again I’ll spontaneously combust, and blowing up the host’s house would be rude.”
I didn’t realize he’d been moving in on me, so when I turned around to find him practically on top of me, I almost yelped. “What?”
“It’s almost midnight,” He repeated, “and you’re not going out to kiss Sara, so…”
I would have– should have– said no. I would have pushed him away and told him to go stick something sharp and spiky where the sun didn’t shine. I would have, should have, had every opportunity to, and instead, I heard the shouted countdown and stalled. I watched his hands come up to my face, cradling it; I watched him move in that last bit of space, pressing his body against mine, trapping me between him and the counter; I watched his face come down toward mine. Through all of that, I could have stopped him.
Instead, I closed the distance between us, grabbing his shirt and dragging him down, just as the crowd outside began to shriek and cheer. Happy New Year.
It was the same fire that had lit me under the Mistletoe. I clenched my fists with his shirt in them, as his hold tightened on me. His hand dove into my loose curls and closed there, pulling slightly, keeping me close. I felt the electric shock jolt through my body, the heat pooling in my core. My breath hitched as his other hand dropped to my ass and pressed me harder against him, proving to me that I wasn’t the only one being dangerously affected by this moment.
For a split second, rational thought jumped ship, and I thought about letting him take me here, in a stranger’s kitchen, surrounded by people. The thought startled me back to reality, enough to cut off the kiss. Drawing back, I pressed my hands against Nick’s chest, keeping him from trying that move a second time.
“Happy New Year,” he said smirking.
“Happy New Year,” I replied, breathlessly.