Chapter 14

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I tried to concentrate on work. For the first time in what felt like an eternity I led a meeting with an advertising company regarding a double spread in the next issue. Lewis seemed surprised and I heard whispers through the rest of the team. They were genuinely pleased that I seemed to have some of my zest back. Adding to my good fortune for the day, Bill called. The girls had asked to see me before the meeting with Caroline. The only downside, being Caroline was otherwise occupied today and it would have to be tomorrow morning. I didn't even care if it was because she was occupied with her boyfriend. All I could think about was seeing my girls.

They'd asked to see me.

It was like a spark had been lit inside me. A little of that fire had returned.

With another meeting down, and pizzas bought for the entire team, I headed off to the BBQ after a quick shower at home. Dressed in a giants t-shirt and jeans, and a slick of product through my hair, I was ready. On the way there I stopped at a hall mark store. It took me all of three seconds to locate what I was looking for, and I wrote out the card in the car. I slipped my emergency bottle of cool water cologne from the glove box and applied a little. I felt calm. Collected. Almost normal.

Trey was hosting the BBQ at his parents house, a sprawling two storey farm style house with climbing clematis trellis decorating the front and an immaculate lawn. This place was always a favorite retreat as a kid, and I smiled when I saw Trey standing there in his apron, a print of a naked woman adorning the front.

Typical Trey.

'Hey dude.' He slapped me on the back. 'Got some buddies from work over and a few girls too' he winked, slapping me again. 'Take your pick, but the red head with the jean skirt? She's mine.'

I shook my head with amusement and he led me onto the back lawn. The BBQ burned brightly, and sitting in lawn chairs, a few colleagues I vaguely recognized waved to me. I waved back, and then spotted Maggie leaning in close to a tall blonde guy with a quiff Elvis would be proud of. I tucked the card into my back pocket and strode over to Glen, a guy we'd gone to high school with. We talked about the good old days and he awkwardly asked about how I was doing. As I tried to keep things jovial, Sydney caught my eye. She was talking to Trey, a braid tied at the back of her head, the rest of her hair trailing over her shoulders. She wore a simple white sundress printed with pink flowers and ballet flats. She was diminutive next to Trey as she would be next to me, and she looked nervously around the gathered guests.

I strode up to her, suddenly nervous myself and caught my reflection in the kitchen window. I subconsciously ran my hand over my forehead, checking my hair, then my face for food remains. She saw me, a grin dimpling her cheeks.

'Well if it isn't mister big shot.' She teased, and stepped away from Trey. She hugged me, pulling away to give me a bright smile that lit up her eyes. 'You totally made my week Eeyore.'

I laughed, rolling my eyes. 'Sydney I haven't been miserable all day. I've had more good news and I'm on top of the world.'

Trey overheard and I filled them both in on the meeting tomorrow and briefed Trey about the game. He could hardly believe it and grabbed my face, kissing my lips.

'Hey! Don't go kissing my man without my permission!'

Maggie placed her arm possessively around my waist. 'This deserves a celebration! I'm so proud of you!' She stepped in front of me, and placed her lips against mine. I didn't want Sydney seeing that. I moved my head again and this time, Maggie frowned.

'Everything okay Daniel?'

'Im fine.' I insisted. 'I just...'

Before I could say anything more she disappeared. Someone she knew was waving to her and I was off the hook for now. Sydney raised an eyebrow and cocked her head towards the house. I followed her as Trey watched us, into the kitchen. She positioned herself on the kitchen counter and frowned, arms crossed over her body.

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