A Different Blue Page 73

Apparently, the brown bag game was a Wilson family tradition and not an English tradition at all. The late Dr. Wilson had been the one to introduce his children to the game, and they had played it for as long as any of them could remember. It had been just over two months since I had a baby, and I could easily have begged off, claiming that I was not up for such a physical game. But I didn't want to pique the other guests curiosity or invite questions, so I joined in and found my distaste for alcohol was a real advantage, as my balance was still intact when everyone else was teetering. The final round was down to me and Tiffa, and Tiffa was talking trash, sounding like Scary Spice, as she glided in for the win.

“Ha ha ha!” she said to me, nose to nose, her eyes crossed comically, as I conceded the victory. This Tiffa was such a contradiction to Tiffa-the-Art-Connoisseur that I giggled and pushed her away.

“You laughed! You laughed at my ha ha ha!” Tiffa squealed and pranced around waving her hands in the air. “Give me a sticker, Blue Echohawk! You have succumbed to my wit! Now I must assign someone to kiss you and kiss you good! Wilson! Pucker up, luv!”

No one really paid much attention to the frozen look on Wilson's face. We were there together, after all, a couple, so to speak. Tiffa's guests were more entertained by her gloating than by the fact that Wilson had stood and was approaching me with the intention of delivering a kiss.

Alice, however, was watching with glee as Wilson leaned in and pressed his lips to mine in a kiss that was mostly air and mostly over before I'd even had a chance to prepare.

“Oh, Cor! That was pathetic, Darcy! What are we, five?” Alice groaned loudly. “This whole party is pathetic! I haven't seen a real kiss all night! All these pruny pecks and stickers and the bloody brown bag game. Cor!” Alice harrumphed loudly. She sat up and pointed to a nice looking guy most of the women had swarmed to when the Ha Ha Ha game started.

“Justin! You're not married, and you're absolutely scrummy. Go give Blue a real kiss, will you please?” Alice was a tiny bit drunk, I suspected. The man named Justin looked at me with interest.

“Now, Peter and I could show you how it's done, couldn't we Peter?” Alice elbowed her husband who had fallen asleep after failing at the brown bag game. He responded with a quiet little snore. Alice shoved him in outrage. “Cor! Puffing and snoring! What romance! Help me, Justin!”

“Help us all, Justin!” Tiffa added emphatically, nudging Justin forward. Everyone burst out laughing, everyone but Wilson, who stood stiffly at my side, his eyes trained on the hunky Justin who had decided to give Alice what she wanted and was heading toward me.

Wilson turned on me suddenly, and his hands cupped my face, his fingertips sliding into my hair. With his eyes on mine, he ducked his head and brushed his lips against my mouth, once and then again, as if afraid that Alice would start “Cor-ing” if he pulled back. His lips were firm and smooth, and his breath tickled my lips. My heart pounded in my throat and my mind screamed at me, demanding I catalog every detail of the event I had dreamed about but never dared hope for. Wilson was kissing me!!

And then I couldn't think at all. His lips were more insistent, his hands pulling me forward and into him as his mouth moved against mine, and then into mine, opening my lips gently, his tongue seeking entrance. And I let him in. And then his arms were wrapped around me, and the kiss became something else. It wasn't a game, it wasn't a show, it was ours, and the room around us did not exist.

We parted on a shared sigh. The room erupted in whoops and clapping as Alice jumped up and down and giggled like a little girl about to sit on Santa's lap.

“That was lovely! Darcy! If you weren't my wee little brother I'd stand on line! Peter! Wake up, man!” Alice turned on her tired spouse who had missed the entire spectacle.

Tiffa was staring at us with a small smile on her lips, as if she'd known it all along. Wilson's hand slid down my arm and captured my fingers in a clasp. His ears were red, but he didn't speak. He held my hand for the rest of the evening, and I swore my heart had swollen in size. I was breathless and thrilled and anxious to be alone, anxious to explore this new development.

As midnight neared, Tiffa turned on the television and passed around noisemakers and confetti. Apparently, another British tradition was watching Big Ben strike twelve, which Tiffa had tiVo-ed when it had actually occurred in London so that everyone would feel like they were right at home . . . in England. I didn't mind giving up Times Square for Big Ben. Or giving up American boys for a nerdy English school teacher. At the moment, I was completely enamored with all things British.

We counted down and then watched as the big clock welcomed the New Year into our corner of the world. Shouts of “Happy New Year!” and hugs and cheers and noisy revelry broke out around the room. Tiffa and Jack had tears on their cheeks as they kissed and held each other, obviously moved by the year they had had and the years that were to come. And I had helped give them that. I turned to Wilson with a smile, but he looked away, watching the room erupt without joining the celebration.

“Let's go,” he said suddenly, “Are you ready? I want to go. We'll sneak out. I'll call Tiffa in the morning and thank her for the party.”

“Oh. Okay,” I nodded as he hustled me toward the door. He grabbed our coats and was trying to slip out when Tiffa rushed over to us, calling out for us to wait. Wilson winced, and I wondered why he was in such a hurry to leave all of a sudden.

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