Today's Christmas snippet is from 'Orion Rising'. Even when the world has been overwhelmed by perpetual winter, there's still time for a Christmas party.
I was spared further questioning when someone put the music on. It wasn’t at all Christmassy. The room was loud with chairs and tables being pulled back to clear the floor for dancing. I retreated further into my corner and watched people take to the floor. Some were obviously already feeling the effects of the head gardener’s hooch, their movements jerky, enthusiastic, unsteady. Someone claimed Bernice for a dance and I took refuge in the shadows. I couldn’t dance, drunk or sober. Instead, I took another cautious sip of the hooch and wondered how soon I could leave without being noticed. The first song ended; couples broke apart and went in search of other partners.
“Come on, you anti-social git.” Bernice took my arm and led me out of my corner. “You owe me a dance.”
“How do you reckon that?”
“Because I do.” She grinned and I tried to dance, find the rhythm in the song.
“At least make an effort to look like you’re enjoying yourself.”
I gave Bernice a fixed grin. “Like this?”
“It’s a start. I think you need to unwind a bit, drink more hooch.”
“No thanks—I want to make it back to my room without help. I jigged about and tried not to feel like a gormless twit.
Bernice smiled. “You’re doing just fine.”
I felt like a puppet with wonky strings. When the music finished I turned back towards my corner.
“Dance?” A warm hand grabbed my wrist.
I spun around. Paul’s eyes were impossible to read in the dimly lit room, in the mêlée of the dance floor. His grip was firm.
All the hurt rose and faded when I saw the set of his jaw. I couldn’t deny him in the middle of a crowded room. “All right.”
He smiled and his hand fell away. We faced each other. If anyone was watching I didn’t notice. I was too busy trying not to look like a flat-footed eejit. It was impossible not to touch him, not when the space was small and crowded. We danced close. Each accidental touch was electricity revived. By the time the song had finished, I didn’t want to leave the floor.
“Drink?” he asked, in the brief silence before the next tune.
“No alcohol, please.”
“Don’t worry, there’s the non-alcoholic version of the infamous lemonade, too.” His smile was broader this time.
I followed him through the crowd, to the refuge of the service area, where one of the canteen ladies was acting as a barmaid. Paul asked for two drinks and leaned on the counter. “You can’t dance very well, can you?”
“No. Sorry about that.” I wasn’t.
He handed me a glass. The scent of lemons, free of alcohol, rose from a tumult of bubbles. “It doesn’t matter. As long as you’re having fun.”
I sipped the drink, “It’s all right. Parties really aren’t my thing.”
“I can tell.” Paul grinned. “They’re not mine, either, but I have to show my face.” He watched me over the rim of his glass.
“I suppose you do.”
He edged closer, his arm against mine while we leaned against the counter and watched the revellers. “I’m sorry.” His breath was warm against my cheek. All kinds of things threatened to spill over at that touch.
I didn’t want to give in so easily. I’d nursed my hurts for so long that they almost defined me. “For what?”
“This probably isn’t the best time or place for apologies.”
“I know.” He sighed and looked at his feet. “But I had to start somewhere.”
Michael and Paul fight to survive in a land frozen by endless winter. Will the ice between them thaw once and for all?
If you would like to know whether Michael accepts Paul's apology, you can always grab a copy of 'Orion Rising' here