This is a sequel, of sorts, to "Positive." I decided to make this its own story, rather than continuing "Positive," because I kind of like "Positive" as a stand-alone story, and I think the tone of this one is going to be different than "Positive." My stuff is usually fairly internal and angsty, and I am hoping this one will be a lot lighter!
It was the kind of gathering Jordan dreaded the most: a crowded hotel ballroom filled shoulder to shoulder with Boston's most superficial citizens. A fat, cigar-chomping developer guffawed with a weasel-faced bureaucrat. A faded socialite with a frozen face full of Botox flitted around the room. A tipsy trust-fund baby draped herself on some B-list local celebrity.
Amid the to-do, she stood silently clutching Reed Davis' hand, feeling as out of place as she always did at these $500-a-plate rubber chicken fundraiser dinners. Reed was talking to an unctuous state representative in some kind of semi-intelligible legal mumbo-jumbo. They would break into gut-busting laughter every few seconds and slap each other on the shoulder. Mr. Oily would look at her occasionally and give her a wink, and she would smile back, but really, they might as well have been speaking Swahili.
Finally, Mr. Oily slithered away, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Reed squeezed her hand and leaned down to her. "Have I told you how unbelievably gorgeous you look tonight?" he whispered in her ear.
"Yes, but it bears frequent repeating." She smiled up at him and gave his hand an affectionate squeeze in return. She did, of course, look gorgeous. She was wearing a slinky, midnight blue, cocktail-length dress she'd had in her closet for a year, and she had haphazardly pinned her hair up in all of about 20 seconds. Still, she outshone all the grande dames and debutantes who had spent hours with their stylists.
She hated that she had to come to these things. Only in his early 40's, Reed Davis was one of the city's top lawyers. His influence and generous donations had helped elect the current Mayor, and he had now turned his attention to the upcoming race for the Governor's seat. John Hogan, an old law school friend, was in the running for the state house, and Reed had become a close advisor. He had his own political ambitions too, and was waiting for just the right time to make a run for the Senate.
Jordan had known all this when they had started seeing each other the year before. She had thought it was something she could easily handle. A dinner here, a rally there. But as the campaign season heated up, she found herself at more and more of these things, wearing a plastic smile and enough jewelry to support a small 3rd world country.
But she had to come because she was Reed Davis' girlfriend. Lover. Companion. Mistress. Whatever. Girlfriend seemed so high school. Men like Reed Davis didn't have girlfriends.
Garret had dragged Jordan along to some obligatory awards banquet the previous year, and Reed had been seated at their table. He was witty, handsome, intelligent, charming, and charismatic. Like every one else in his orbit, she had simply gotten swept along. A year later, here they were, and she still wasn't sure how it had all happened, much less what to call herself.
Reed said something to her then, but she couldn't hear it over the din. She cupped her ear, and he bent down to repeat himself.
"I said, 'How are you holding up?'"
She gave him a light, dismissive wave. "Fine. Don't worry about me. Go schmooze. I'll...I don't know. Powder my nose."
He tilted his head and looked at her in knowing disbelief.
"I'm fine!" she laughed. "Go!" He planted a kiss on her forehead, and she was about to beat a hasty retreat for the ladies' room when they were aware of someone calling his name in the crowd.
"Reed! Reed Davis!" It was a petite blonde, late-20's maybe, with a spray-tan and a beauty pageant smile. She traveled on a cloud of perfume.
Reed smiled and stuck out his hand as she squeezed herself between two fat cats. "Kristi McArdle. Great to see you here. Congratulations on the big promotion."
"Thanks! I'm very excited!" she chirped.
Reed turned to Jordan. "Kristi McArdle, this is Jordan Cavanaugh. Kristi's come on board with the public relations team for John's campaign."
"Congratulations," Jordan said mildly.
"Thanks! I'm very excited!" she said again, in what apparently was her standard line. Her gaze was intent, and her eyes were cartoonishly huge. Jordan stifled a laugh and looked away.
"Speaking of congratulations, I'd really like for you to meet my fiance." Kristi stood on her toes and waved to someone in the crowd over Jordan's shoulder. "He's just getting me a drink. Here he comes!"
No. God, no. Jordan did not want to meet Kristi's fiance. He would be named Chip or Kip and was maybe a tennis pro or a local weatherman on one of the cable channels. Out of the corner of her eye, she could just see a tall figure emerging from the tuxedoes behind her.
Jordan braced herself and refreshed her phony smile.
"Come here, sweetheart. I have someone very important for you to meet!" Kristi grabbed him by the arm. The wine glass he was carrying bobbled and sloshed onto the sleeve of his tuxedo jacket.
The fiance laughed. "Oh, well. It's a rental."
The familiarity of the voice hit Jordan like a splash of icy water. She felt her knees begin to give way from under her.
Kristi pulled her fiance into view.
"This is my fiance, Woody Hoyt." He looked up then and realized that it was Jordan before him, clutching Reed's arm to steady herself. The laugh died in his throat.
They stood there, eyes locked in silence. They were both aware that there was speaking and introductions were being made, but neither heard a thing.
Kristi began to tug on his arm. "And this is...Miss Cavanuaugh. I'm sorry, I didn't get your first name."
Woody offered his hand. "It's Dr. Cavanaugh, actually," he said slowly. "And we've met."
After a moment, she reached out and took his hand. The tension was palpable.
"Hello, Woody," she said, finding her voice.
Jordan couldn't read him. Was he cold? Indifferent? Her heart pounded.
Kristi looked up at him questioningly.
"Uh, yeah. We used to work together sometimes in the M.E.'s office," Jordan said to her quickly. No need to go into their history.
"It's been a couple of years, hasn't it, Jordan?" His tone was pleasant and even.
"Yeah, I guess it has been awhile."
"Too long," he said simply. "You look great."
She smiled with relief. Any anger Woody had felt towards her had been lifted.
"So do you." And he did. Handsome, square-jawed, with that open, honest face and those blue eyes. A flood of memories from their time together came back to her. He smiled at her then, a warm, wistful smile, and his fingers brushed against hers.
It had been two years since she'd seen or spoken to him. Their temporary breakup had turned into a week, then a month, and the time between phone calls and emails lengthened until there was nothing, and he had transferred out of Homicide to Major Crimes. And that was it. She had almost blotted him and all that had happened between them from her mind.
Almost. And here he was again.
"Say, I don't mean to interrupt the reunion," Reed started sharply,"But if you'll excuse us, I see someone I really need JoJo to meet."
Woody raised his eyebrows and looked at Jordan. Suddenly, Reed's affectionate nickname for her was embarrassing. She blushed and looked down at her feet.
"Well, I certainly wouldn't want to monopolize JoJo here," Woody said, a hint of a snicker in his voice.
Reed and Kristi exchanged goodbyes, and Kristi gave Jordan's hand a firm shake.
Woody looked at Jordan a moment before being steered away by Kristi. "It was great seeing you again, Jordan," he said sincerely.
"You too, Woody." She smiled back at him and watched him go.
He looked back over his shoulder at her and mouthed the word, "JoJo?" and rolled his eyes.
She let out a spontaneous laugh and shrugged.
"What was that?" asked Reed.
"Nothing. Just a joke."
She followed Reed as he worked the room for another fifteen minutes or so and then asked if they couldn't just skip out early.
She spotted Kristi and Woody sitting at a table as they left the ballroom. They were laughing and talking, and he rested his hand atop hers. Her engagement ring sparkled in the light.
They drove home to Reed's house in charged silence. He had driven right past Jordan's building. She had wanted to spend the night in her own bed, alone, but she had been too weary to protest.
She sat removing her jewelry at the dressing table he had bought for her. He stood in her peripheral vision, watching her as he neatly hung his tuxedo jacket in its garment bag.
"So. You and this detective. I take it there's a history."
"Ancient history." She shrugged nonchalantly.
He was pacing the floor behind her. "You call two years ancient history, JoJo?"
"What...is this cross-examination, counselor?" she asked wearily.
He continued undressing in the thick silence. "What happened?"
"I don't know," she said in mild irritation at his interest in the subject. "At different places in our lives. Not meant to be. Pick your cliche."
"Is it a problem? Seeing him?"
"No," she said after perhaps too long of a beat.
"Because we're bound to be thrown together again like this, and I don't want it to be a problem."
"It's not a problem." She looked up at him finally. "Cross my heart."
He studied her a long moment, and then smiled as if he had decided to believe her. He kneeled down beside her, brushed her hair from her neck, and kissed her there. "I've been wanting to do this all night."
She bristled inwardly. "I think I'm just going to turn in. That last drink went right to my head. Do you mind?"
"No. Of course not." He said understandingly, although she could tell from the way he pinched his lips that he was a trifle hurt. "I have some papers to go over, anyway. Good night, Jordan."
He left her there, and she slid between the sheets and stared up at the ceiling. She lay there for a long while, trying to sort through the pile of emotions she felt after seeing Woody tonight.
There had been the initial shock of seeing him. Then the panic. She had not dealt with things well after her miscarriage, and she knew that she was to blame for their breakup. If he had been angry, he would have been justified.
Too, there was a feeling of undeniable sadness. Not only had she lost Woody, she had lost a child, too. She had not been prepared for motherhood, and on some level she was relieved when the pregnancy ended. Still, nine months later, she broke down in sobs one afternoon and grieved for what might have been.
But as she lay here now, she knew that she had been genuinely glad to see Woody. She was not only fine with seeing him again, she was actually looking forward to it.
Not in a romantic way, of course. She was secure in her relationship with Reed. What woman wouldn't want to be with Reed Davis?
She had been friends with Woody long before they had ever become romantically involved, and they could be friends again.
Friends. Yes. She was a big girl. She could handle it.
She rolled onto her side and hugged the pillow to herself. She was aware then that Reed had entered the room. She felt the bed sag under his weight and his breath on her neck as he bent over her to see if she was awake.
She snapped her eyes shut tight. He waited a moment, and then with a sigh he clicked off the light and rolled over.
She drifted off easily into sleep, thinking of the music and the champagne and the familiar feel of Woody's hand in hers.