Her form-fitting red wrap dress was designed to be sexy and alluring. She knew she could attract just about any man here this evening but she didn’t care. Monica D'Angelo already knew what, or rather who, she was after. If Logan Carver was married, she’d simply congratulate him and wish him well. Only then, would she know he was never meant to be with her. However, if he were single, she’d lay out the plan she’d spent the last year preparing. She’d increased her visits to the gym, found her center spiritually, which only added to increasing confidence over the last decade.
Back in high school, Logan had been her best friend. He was always waiting for her outside of first period. They’d shared so much laughter together early in the morning. She’d been in the honors classes while he hadn’t, but that didn’t matter to her. Once in a while, he’d drive her home, once he earned his license. When Monica fought with her boyfriend, she’d turn to Logan for comfort and a listening, non-judgmental ear. At least, at the time, she thought he wasn’t judging her situation. Even in PE, they’d been square dancing partners—the only dancing they’d ever done together. But tonight, she was aiming to change that.
After graduation, they’d lost touch. Logan took a job near the pier working security. His goal was to go into law enforcement. Monica was college-bound and became a Nutritionist. After college, they met at a Starbucks once. Just once. Although she was engaged at the time to her high school boyfriend, Elijah, she couldn’t help but wonder what might have been. Monica knew Logan since they were freshmen. Elijah hadn’t enrolled in their high school until their junior year and sure enough, he was in the honors classes with her. Logan had always been a great friend and that high school social status didn’t matter to either of them.
During that fateful coffee break, they talked about their feelings. Logan was even more striking than Monica remembered. His dark brown hair was a little shorter but still spikey. His body had filled out to that of a well-toned man who was fully able to both serve and protect. As she leaned against the wall in the hotel ballroom the reunion committee reserved sipping her champagne, she reminisced about that visit.
“What if Eli never came to our school. Would you have still wanted to remain friends with me?” She’d asked him just before sipping her frappuccino.
He shrugged. “Mon, you know how shy I was. The only girl I felt comfortable talking to was you, and even then, I couldn’t tell you how I felt. I was scared you’d laugh or turn me down flat. That would’ve killed me!” He looked her straight in the eye and she knew, instantly, the way he held her gaze he was in love with her. Still. Probably had been since freshman year.
“Logan, I would never have laughed at you. You were so special to me.”
He snorted. “Then why did you never see me?”
“I hung out with you every day! Even then I thought you were so cute and sweet. Some mornings, I tried really hard to work up the nerve to…” she’d let herself trail off, suddenly shy and unsure of her own feelings.
“Go on,” he’d said encouragingly. “Work up the nerve to do what?”
“To kiss you.” Immediately she looked down at her drink as if it would make her invisible to him. She knew now, she’d never been invisible to him, the way he was to her.
“Seriously?” Logan, with his dimpled smile, looked shocked and pleased at the same time.
“Yeah. If I had the nerve to kiss you at school, how would you have reacted?”
“Mon, I’d have come in my pants, embarrassing us both.” He wasn’t embarrassed now. Logan was grinning like the fun-loving guy she always knew him to be.
“But knowing how close we were and how open we were with all our other conversations, I’m confident we would’ve gotten past it.” Logan had taken her hands then, both of their drinks pushed aside.
He looked at her and held her gaze. “I know we would have.”
“Logan, why didn’t you ever ask me out? We’ve been such good friends from the first day of school in art class since freshman year. I would’ve said yes, no question. You know, I always wanted you too. The closest we ever came to holding each other was all those square-dancing lessons we had in PE.”
“Monica, we were both afraid of rejection, afraid of losing our friendship.”
“Only failing to understand our friendship would be the strongest foundation to any lasting relationship.” She finished his thought aloud for them.
“Yeah.” His thumbs, as if on their own accord, started to brush against her hands, creating a warmth pulsing through her. Her heart did a little flip. “You have no idea how much I loved you. I loved going to all your volleyball matches when you finally wizened up to get out of PE. Your ponytail was distinctly you, but I longed to run my hands through your sun-kissed hair. It always looked so soft.” Logan leaned forward lowering his voice, “I wanted to hold your face and guide your lips to mine and claim you as my own. With all those stupid high school dances, I wanted to twirl you around outside the gym so you could make the stars jealous with the sparkle in your eyes.”
Monica had been speechless. She knew she couldn’t let him continue. Shouldn’t let herself feel what she’d lost with the choices she’d made. “Logan, I…”
“Mon, I still love you. That’s never changed.”
“Logan, I’m engaged.” Walking through fire naked would’ve hurt less compared to the sadness in his deep brown eyes. He pulled his hands away. Monica felt the loss of his warmth and his friendship with her declaration.
“You know I never liked him. He was never good enough for you.”
“I figured you’d say that, Logan. You never liked the boys I flirted with, and now I know why. They weren’t you.” She felt defensive and snapped. Even as she questioned her choice before meeting Logan today at Starbucks, she clung to her decision like a lifeline. Eli was established at work now, and a good provider. He’d treated her well, most of the time. They still fought and he’d called her names, but she’d stuck with him brushing off the insults.
Logan looked away for what seemed an eternity before he faced her again. She saw the vein in his neck bulge. She remembered that bulge from high school. It only came out when she and Eli had fought. He was protective of her. It makes sense now as to why being what he’d just revealed. “You think I’m jealous of that ass-clown? I’m telling you, Mon, there’s something about him I don’t trust. Don’t marry him.”
“And what? Marry you?”
“Why not? We know each other deep down, Mon. We were friends in every sense of the word.”
“Yet, our deepest desires for one another never came out. Eli loves me.”
“So do I.”
“Logan, thank you for the drink, but I think I should go.”
“Monica, call me if you ever need me. To hold you, to dry more tears, or to just kick his sorry ass.”
Where was this confident Logan in high school? She'd caught the dig to the tears. He’d dried many of her tears induced by Eli back in high school.
“Bye Logan.” She’d turned and left. Monica never looked back to see his heart shatter.
She’d grown her brown hair to the same length it was in high school, just past her shoulders. Gone was her adolescent ponytail. She was a grown woman on a mission. Still nursing her champagne more for show than anything, she scanned the growing crowd. A friend of hers, now a pharmacist, was student council treasurer and on the planning committee. She assured Monica that Logan had confirmed his attendance.
Then he entered, alone. Good, God! How could he be even more handsome than he was when she last saw him fifteen years ago just after college? The man, now fully formed, filled out a suit better than any model on the cover of GQ. She waited on the sidelines for a few minutes, stalking him with her eyes. She noticed a few of the used-up floozies they’d gone to school with heading his way. She couldn’t blame them. He was a sight to behold. Knowing the roots and what mattered to Logan didn’t keep her chomping at the bit to intervene. They were now sagging in more places than they should with very visible tattoos. Logan despised tattoos. He enjoyed a good workout routine and appreciated women to keep fit. Hence, her increased gym visits.
He dismissed them, sending them on their next hunt. She caught him scanning the crowd. Logan faced her. Like all those cheesy movies scenes when the two lovers locked eyes and the crowd disappeared, the cliché happened to them. He made a beeline for her. Monica couldn’t read his face. It was a mixture of feelings. Regret, anger, longing…was love still there?
“Monica! I was hoping I’d see you here.” Logan gave her a quick embrace before pulling back.
“Logan, it’s great to see you.”
“Is your husband here?” An innocent question to anyone else observing their conversation, but it was laced with disdain. Logan still didn’t like Eli. This time, she wouldn’t defend her choice. She didn’t like Eli either.
“You know that part in a conversation, where people say ‘sadly no, he had to…’ then they fill in the blank? This is not that conversation, Logan. Happily, he’s not here. We divorced before our second anniversary.”
“Mon, I wish I could say I’m sorry to hear that, but you know me too well. You could see through that bald-faced lie. He was never good for you.”
“I know. Even when we met at Starbucks fifteen years ago, deep down I knew. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.”
Logan, oblivious to all the single women (and some of the married ones!) watching him intently—again, can’t blame them because eye candy is eye candy and we all have a sweet tooth—took Monica by the elbow and led her out of the ballroom into the hallway. “There, slightly more privacy. Tell me what happened.”
Monica had a sense he already knew what happened. “Logan, you worked security the last time we saw each other. You had plans to enter the academy. Are you a cop now?”
“You are a true honors student. Yes. I went to college and majored in Criminal Justice and Public Policy. I’m a detective now.”
“Then you already know what happened, don’t you?”
“What gave it away?” He had his dimpled grin pasted on his familiar face; his brown eyes boring into hers. Her legs were weak and her heart did its little flip-flip like it tended to do when Logan was around. As innocent as his hand was on her elbow, her imagination got the better of her. In her mind, his hand started to trail up her arm and pull her into his warm, protective embrace. His forehead bent down to tap hers, bringing her out of her daydream.
“Oh, I know you. You never half-ass anything. I assumed when you love someone, you love them all the way. I imagine you kept tabs on me.”
Monica was still as radiant as he remembered. Her red dress had him all but dragging her up to a hotel room to show her just how much he missed her. He’d always wanted to have her hair down. He’d told her that at Starbucks fifteen years ago. Had she remembered? Is that why it’s down now? She’d hidden the freckles he knew were there with make-up. She never needed make-up and he’d told her all throughout high school she was a natural beauty. Monica always had low self-esteem where her looks were concerned.
After some of the stories she’d confided in with him, it made sense. Her aunt gave her make-up for Christmas one year and said “take a hint.” Monica was also concerned her breasts were too small. From every angle he tried to check her out without her catching him and from what he saw, they were perfect. Because they were hers. He mentally had to remind the hand that was on her elbow to stay put even though it was within distance of grazing the breast he’d longed to touch. All he had to do was reach out his index finger.
He wasn’t fourteen anymore. They were thirty-eight and only one month apart. He didn’t bother to hide the sheepish look he knew was on his face. “I did. I needed to know you were okay and happy. If you were happy with your life, I wouldn’t have come tonight. But I want to hear it from your mouth. That sexy mouth that I want to kiss, still, just as much if not more than I did in high school.”
“Then do it.” She was bold and her newfound confidence was sexy as hell.
Waiting for no further invitation, his mouth claimed hers. It was music to his ears. There was no gentle lead-up. His tongue flew straight past her lips and plunged to her mouth. Her arms wrapped immediately around his neck drawing him closer. His kiss was needy, claiming her the way he should’ve done in high school. Breathless, he pulled back. “If you leave me again, at least this time I have the real thing to dream about instead of just a pale comparison to what I imagined for the last twenty-four years.” His eyes were pleading with her to not leave him again. They were adults now. There was no time for stupid games when they’ve spent the prime of their lives apart. He was ready for this next chapter of life to be with her.
“Logan, I came here tonight for you.” She knew her own mind and had to be direct with him. After all this time, she owed him that much.
“It’s about time you came to your senses. Now tell me about the asshole you married.”
“I’m sure you read the police report and subsequent divorce papers.” Logan nodded but told her to continue anyway. “With all the name-calling, and cussing at me over the stupidest of things, our fights only escalated. One night, I pushed him over the edge. Looking back, it was on purpose to see how far he’d go. He slapped me. I left the house and filed a police report. The next day, I filed for divorce. The neighbors testified the verbal abuse was loud and increasing in frequency. Cheryl flew down from Seattle to stay with me for about a week. Eli had already moved out by then.”
“I’m glad your sister was there for you.”
“That night was the longest night of my life filling out paperwork, speaking to a social worker asking what help and support I needed. It felt endless. I didn’t need their kind of help. I have a great job, make good money, and can support myself. What I didn’t have was my best friend.” She looked up at him and his emotions were as clear and evident as they’d ever been. He still loved her. After all these years. “Logan, I’m sorry for not seeing our potential in high school. I wanted to kiss you and hold you so much. Do you remember how conservative and naïve I was?”
“Do I? That was what attracted me to you in the first place. That, your smile, and your freckles. You were my sweet little innocent friend. I would’ve only corrupted you if I told you what I wanted to do with you.”
“Logan, I’m not an innocent little girl anymore. I grew up real fast fifteen years ago, looking at myself and what I wanted in a relationship. Everything, everything, I wanted to lead me straight to you. I’m confident and know exactly what I want. I’ve been in love with you this whole time, only now, I see it.”
“It’s about time, Monica. I think we’ve outgrown the square dancing and I hear the music starting up. Would you like to dance?”
She smiled. Other than square dancing, she never danced, even with Eli—he didn’t care for it. “I remember you enjoyed dancing. Logan, I would love to dance with you.”
Logan led her to the dance floor. “Hey, do you remember the first gift I ever bought you?”
Without missing a beat, she quickly answered, “football jersey.”
She named the man and the team without pausing to think about it. “He was the quarterback and took the Superbowl our first year in high school.”
She leaned her head against his chest, wrapping her arms tighter around him. It felt so natural to hold her. It was a relief he finally had the courage to hold the woman he knew he wanted to marry since he was fourteen. Her warmth and lily scent encompassed him. It had him wondering why the hell he was dancing when he could’ve asked her to leave and head back to his place for a proper reunion. But holding his innocent Monica, her arms holding him close as if she’d been waiting to do it for years, was something to cherish. She tipped her head up to face him. “Of course, I remember. I have it in my car. It’s one of the few things I’ve never been able to part with. I remember you went to several stores and saved your allowance to get it for me.”
“Monica, I’ll get you whatever you want.”
“Just love me, Logan.”
“Consider it done.”