Page 32 of There I Find Light

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“I guess tonight might be a good argument for Florida.”

“No. I’m not upset about it. I mean, if they do it again, I guess I’d request an air mattress or something. Or two. More blankets.”

“They probably put such a sparse amount of blankets in there just to make sure that the couple they were trying to get together actually had to do what we’re doing right now—rely on each other for heat.”

“That might be. Still, if they’re going to get the wrong people, they need to have more preparations for the contingencies.”

They laughed a little, and it seemed cheery and cozy, rather than cold and dreary. It wasn’t hard to forget that she was lying on the hard floor and probably wouldn’t get any sleep. Somehow it felt like...not a magical night, but a good one.

“The phone call was from a business associate. She doesn’t work for my company, we knew each other from seeing each other around various business functions.”

“Okay,” she said as he paused.

“We met at a business function that we both attended dateless. We got to talking, and while we didn’t hit it off romantically, we made an agreement that if we didn’t have a date, and we needed one, we’d be each other’s go-to person. She’s a nice lady, and I like her okay, but...not like that.”

“And she feels the same about you.”

“Yeah. Exactly. It’s a no-pressure situation.”

“Well, that is nice. So the phone call... It was her changing her mind? Or finding someone new?”

“No. I guess that would be kind of a bummer too, but her sister has malaria and she’s in some African country. Zimbabwe or something. Anyway, Maisie was telling me that she needed to go to her sister immediately, not just because she was sick, but because the hospitals aren’t that great in those third world countries, and she wanted to make sure she was getting the best care possible. Of course I understood that.”

“Of course. She could die.”

“Exactly. So I feel a little guilty because I felt annoyed because the reason she was calling was because I have my company’s annual Christmas charity event this weekend, and she was going to be my date. I’m the head of the company, and I’m going to be in the public eye a good bit. Now... I’m going to be dateless. She wasn’t just a date, but she also helped me a lot. So, I lost my help and my date, and now I’m stuck here and can’t really do anything to fix it.”

“That’s terrible.” She didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t really know much about company charity events or big galas or anything of that nature, but she did understand the idea that it was easier to face something like that with someone reliable beside a person. Someone he could count on and depend on. Someone who would make things a little easier for him.

“It’s not the end of the world. Although, I don’t really have anyone else to ask. I’ve been thinking that I’ll probably just go by myself, but it’s going to be a lot harder. She really helped me with the silent auction especially. And that is our big fundraiser for the year, where we donate all the proceeds to the Chicago Midtown Humane Society.”

“Sounds like something near and dear to my heart,” she said, smiling a little. She donated plenty of time to the humane society in Blueberry Beach. When they had adopt-a-pet days, she would give pets baths, groom them, and even put little ribbons in their fur and make them look cute for people to adopt.

She loved taking an animal that looked a little mangy and unkempt and giving them what basically amounted to a makeover.

“I guess you’re a pet groomer. It makes sense.”

“Yeah. I’m pretty active with the humane society in Blueberry Beach. There isn’t one here, so their jurisdiction comes up this way.”

“Interesting.” The fire had died down, and he stirred behind her. “I’m going to throw a few more logs on the fire.”

“It’s my turn.” She moved, but he put a hand on her hip, and she froze.

“I’ll get it. I’m awake. Just let me, okay?”

She nodded, then realized that her back was to him and he might not see her.

“All right,” she said.

His hand lifted a moment later, and the heat that had been against her back disappeared. The covers fell back down as he stood, and he arranged them so that she was not uncovered, but it wasn’t the same. She missed his warmth.

Not that she was cold. She’d been nice and toasty since they lay down.

He threw a couple of logs on the fire then brushed his hands off.

“Do you want anything while I’m up?” he asked.

“No thank you,” she said without looking at him, her eyes on the fire. She was trying to think of someone that he could take. Someone who would be a good date for him to help him with his gala. Unfortunately, she really didn’t know anyone.

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