Alexia refused gifts and thought family events were like emergency-room visits, painful and preventable. How she was going to sidestep her sister’s wedding was the question. If she didn’t go her family would hound her about it for a long time. If she did go they would make her crazy about not having a date.

So, Alexia did the unthinkable. She invited the least objectionable person in the singles apartment complex to go with her. Handsome, devil-may-care attitude, Derek Windham. Windham had been after her for a month for a date.

This was her opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. She would make sure her family thought he was a steady date so they would leave her alone, at least for a while, and she would make sure Windham had a miserable time at the wedding so he would never ask for a date again.

Despite her best reservations, Alexia purchased a green dress that showed off her auburn hair to perfection. She chose a pair of high heeled sandals that matched and accessorized with her best jewelry. She knew it was a mistake the moment Windham met her in the church parking lot by the way his eyes lit up. A voice whispered in her head “this is going to back fire on you!”

The rest of the evening passed as predicted. Her family gushed over Windham nearly welcoming him to the family on the spot. She knew they would like him because he had that dark Irish good looks that everyone likes. His green eyes were direct and honest looking and his manner polite and friendly.

Of course she, on the other hand, ignored him most of the night. Well, she seemed to anyway. Covertly she watched from a distance as he charmed the ladies and had serious discussions with the men. He seemed a perfect companion.

Finally, he trapped her for a slow dance. He asked charmingly but, his eyes held a no nonsense look that told her she would not get away easily. With no way to gracefully decline without making a scene, she acquiesced. She found that being held in his arms was not the torture she would have thought. He held her gently allowing her to feel the warmth of his body.

“Nice evening,” he stated. “Such a shame you have been too busy to introduce me to your friends.”

“I don’t know most of these people'” she replied. “I introduced you to my family.”

“Yes and then abandoned me to them. Do I displease you that much?”

“It’s not that,” she protested. “It’s just that I didn’t want to be here in the first place.”

“Then why come? Why invite me?”

She smiled at him. “For protection from my family.”

“Ah, I see. Well then, we will just have to let them think there is more to US than there is, won’t we?”

Puzzled she looked up into his eyes. She realized he was laughing by the sparkle of gold that appeared in his eyes. Nodding mutely she allowed him to gather her closer to him. She rested her head on his shoulder as her heart began to race and her body grew warm.

The end of the night arrived and Alexis dreaded going home alone. Surprised at her own reaction she tentatively offered a nightcap at her place before parting. She could see the regret in his eyes as he declined. No explanation offered.

As she changed into her pajamas she reviewed the night. She found that the moment she began to enjoy the evening was the moment she stepped onto the dance floor with Derek. When had he become Derek to her instead of just Windham? She supposed the moment he held her.

Regret settled into her heart. She had gotten what she asked for. She was alone, utterly and completely. She found that it was a lonely place to be.

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