Ephiphany

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Ant kept hold of her hand the whole way through the crowded bar and out onto George Street.  Bree could’ve pulled out of his grip, but she’d started this by leaving her hand in his when he’d gone to walk away and now instead of being towed behind him like a useless weight she felt like she was sailing smoothing through the rough sea of rowdy drinkers.  Ant was acting like the world’s best blocker and pivot combined.  He kept glancing back to see if she was okay and instead of resenting his interference, she accepted it for the genuinely chivalrous gesture it was.  If only he knew how little trouble crowds gave her when there was a flat track and she was wearing skates not lime green stilettos.

Once they hit the sudden bright of street lights and the blare of passing traffic Bree let go his hand.  This was the real world and there was no longer a reason to touch.

Ant stopped and turn back.  He looked annoyed.  “Why’d you come with me?”

She looked down at his shoes.  She liked this pair.  Italian leather, they had interesting double stitching.  “Did you mean what you said?” 

She’d made a statement by leaving with him and he’d probably only done it for show, making her an idiot for abandoning a dinner set up to honour her win.  She looked up to see him frown.  He pulled his tie down and out from his collar, unknotted it, shoved it in his pocket and undid a couple of shirt buttons.  He took his suit coat off and flung it over his shoulder.  He was stripping his corporate self away while half of Sydney on the prowl for the next drink manoeuvred around them.  “Surprised the hell out of me, but yeah.  I mean it.  And I need a drink.  You coming?”

Wow.

She should go home.  All around her was the noise and activity of a Friday night in the city: doof-doof music from an illegally parked car, groups of people shouting and laughing, couples clogging up the footpath by holding hands, or stopping to argue, someone talking loudly on a mobile.  She should go home because she had a bout tomorrow and that would be sensible, like not combining work and alcohol, like not combining a big, terrifyingly attractive, grumpy man with her ridiculous need to believe he meant what he said. 

When had it started to matter what Ant Gambese thought so long as he stayed out of her business?  Somewhere in between, him saying, “God, this lift is an all stations”, “Here I got you a coffee anyway”, or “There were dolphins out there this morning”, she’d started to think about him differently.

He held a hand out.  She could take it again, or she could be smart, sensible, her usual guarded self around Ant. 

“It’s just a drink,” he said, but ‘just a drink’ didn’t hold hands.  And she didn’t need to hold hands with Ant, with anyone but the Trick’s team member who was giving her a whip.

Seconds before he dropped his hand and turned aside, she took it.  What the hell.  It was Friday night.  She’d beaten him in the comp.  He’d gone all caveman and defended her honour.  He was gorgeous.  It was just a drink.  It was just a hand so they didn’t get separated in the crowd.  Practical.

His eyes went down to their hands, then bounced back to her face.  A smile leapt over his strong jaw and danced in his dark eyes behind their thicket of black lashes.  She smiled back.  She felt squirmy good. 

Sensible was so overrated. 

Ant took them up the street a short way, not saying a word.  He kept her close to his side and well away from big groups and staggering drunks.  If she’d had skates on she’d have found it patronising.  In her good for the office, too silly for the street shoes, she was grateful.  She was also unaccountably excited.  It was only a drink with a colleague.  A colleague who’d just validated her skills and seniority in front everyone who mattered in her work world.  A colleague whose hand around hers ignited feelings she’d forgotten she enjoyed. 

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