Drip Drop Teardrop Page 3

A heavy arm thumped down across her shoulder making her spill her drink.

“Hey, pretty lady,” an unfamiliar voice slurred in her ear and she drew back from the breath that stank of alcohol and looked into the face of a very drunk guy.

Irritated, Avery tried to pull away from the stranger but he clung like a burr.

“You wanna dance?” His hips gyrated at her and she heard Sarah giggle beside her. She threw her an ‘I am not amused’ look.

“No thank you.” She tried to get out from under his arm again but her dark hair got caught in his grubby hand. “Will you let go,” she snapped. Why was it drunken guys thought it was OK to manhandle strange women in public?

“Hey, baby, chillax, I just wanna dance.”

She grimaced. “Chillax? Really?” She tried to shrug him off again and only ended up spilling her drink.

“She said get off her, man!” Josh was suddenly in the guy’s face, pushing him aggressively away from Avery so she lost her balance and would have fallen if Sarah hadn’t been beside her.

“Hey, man, chillax, chillax.” The guy could barely open his eyes he was that far gone.

“Chillax? I’ll f**king chillax, man.” Josh made to lunge for him but Adam thankfully grabbed his arm, pulling him back. “You better take off!”

The drunk stumbled down the stairs away from them, half the people at the nearby seats glaring at him and the other half at Josh. Avery was with the latter half.

“Jesus, Josh.” She thrust her empty glass at him, her cheeks burning with embarrassment. “I didn’t need your help.”

Josh glared at her, completely taken aback by her attack. “The guy wouldn’t get off you! I heard you ask him to a dozen times!”

“I was handling it,” she hissed, wishing she could melt into the floor so people would stop staring. This was why she had broken up with the idiot.

“No, you weren’t. You’re just a little thing, Avery.” Josh moved to brush a hand down her arm but she jerked away from him. “You’re not strong enough to deal with guys like that.”

A flush of anger crawled up from the pit of her stomach, up across her chest, spreading up her neck like a rash of indignation. She was so fed up of people telling her she wasn’t strong enough. You’re not strong enough to cope with college and work, Avery. You’re not strong enough to cope with a sick aunt, Avery, maybe we should look in to getting you some help. You’re not strong enough to beat off some drunken guy, Avery! These people had no idea who she really was - the crap she had gone through and was still going through. And all she wanted tonight was to freakin’ dance without people staring at her expecting her to fall to pieces!

“You’re not my boyfriend, Josh, and you won’t be ever again,” she snarled, ignoring Jemima punching the air in support, clearly glad Avery was finally telling him off. “So stop pretending we are something, OK.”

He looked like a wounded puppy but Avery refused to feel bad. He’d used that look too many times to manipulate her in the past. No wonder he thought she had no backbone. “But, Ave-”

“No. No ‘but Ave’ anything. I am going back down to the dance floor and if you follow me and try to dance up my butt again, so help me God I will kick you in the nuts.”

She swept past him hurriedly and down the stairs, hearing Sarah rushing to catch up with her. Once on the dance floor Sarah gazed at her wide-eyed, clearly desperate to laugh. Avery threw her a sheepish shrug, wondering where that blast of anger had come from, and then hi-fived the hand Sarah held up to her. They burst out laughing. God, telling Josh off had felt so good. Chuckling, she spun around letting the music take over again, stripping her life down to just this moment, on this floor, with this music in the air.

A little while later she felt a tug on her arm and Sarah was gesturing at her. She leaned in and Sarah yelled in her ear, “Hey! That guy is here. He’s staring at you again!” She pointed through the crowds and Avery followed her gaze to the tall, dark scarred guy across the room. This time when she looked he didn’t look away. Their eyes locked and Avery’s heart began racing like crazy, a hot tingling flush completely different from the heat she felt from the dance floor seized a hold of her, and for a minute she couldn’t breathe, the sound of the music growing muffled, like she was under water or something. And then she blinked and he was gone, the hotness disappearing with him. She took a huge gulp of air and turned to Sarah wide-eyed.

“You OK?” Sarah shouted, looking concerned. “He’s really creepy, Avery. And he looks really dangerous all scarred up like that. Maybe we should tell someone!”

Avery managed a weak shake of her head, not entirely sure what had just happened to her. But the last thing she wanted was drawing attention to the situation. Trembling, she had to force her body to respond to the music again until eventually her muscles relaxed into it, her heart racing at a normal speed for the exertion she was putting it through. At some point Sarah told her she was going to get another drink and Avery threw her a nod in response before spinning back into the throng of dancers, not caring she was alone; she just closed her eyes and let the music sluice over her.

The beat of the Black-Eyed Peas began to wind down as the mix of the next song seeped into it, and Avery opened her eyes in disappointment as Paul Weller’s You Do Something to Me came on. She wasn’t the only one confused by the song choice, but pretty soon people shrugged it off and coupled up, swaying to the sexy romance of the music.

Avery sighed and turned on her heel, intending to leave the dance floor. She walked straight into a brick wall of a chest. This beautiful, fresh woodsy smell fluttered up her nose and she tilted her head back slowly, her eyes taking in the dark suit, crisp white shirt, the broad-shoulders, the strong jaw. And then that face. That scar. For a moment she could look at nothing else. It was so deep the skin around it seeming to curl into itself, slightly red compared the paleness of the rest of his face. It was a hateful disfigurement. It was hard to see past it. But as that unfamiliar heat crawled up from her lower belly Avery managed to unglue her eyes from the scar and catch his gaze. His eyes bored into her with an intensity that freaked her out. His eyes were black. Jet black. Fragments of light flickering and reflecting back at her from them. Now that she wasn’t so transfixed by the scar she could see he was older than her by the sharp, strong planes of his face. He was so pale. And that scar… she shivered.

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