Chapter 4

Kiss me damn it!I implore her, but I can't move. I'm paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by her. I'm staring at Regina Mills's exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized by the seductive scar on her top lip, and she's looking down at me, her gaze hooded, her eyes darkening. She's breathing harder than usual, and I've stopped breathing altogether. I'm in your arms. Kiss me, please. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and gives me a small shake of her head as if in answer to my silent question. When she opens her eyes again, it's with some new purpose, a steely resolve.

"Emma, you should steer clear of me. I'm not the woman for you," she whispers. What? Where is this coming from?Surely I should be the judge of that. I frown up at her, and my head swims with rejection.

"Breathe, Emma, breathe. I'm going to stand you up and let you go," she says qui etly, and she gently pushes me away.

Adrenaline has spiked through my body, from the near miss with the cyclist or the heady proximity to Regina, leaving me wired and weak. NO!My psyche screams as she pulls away, leaving me bereft. She has her hands on my shoulders, holding me at arm's length, watching my reactions carefully. And the only thing I can think is that I wanted to be kissed, made it pretty damned obvious, and she didn't do it. She doesn't want me. She really doesn't want me. I have royally screwed up the coffee morning.

"I've got this," I breathe, finding my voice. "Thank you," I mutter awash with humili ation. How could I have misread the situation between us so utterly? I need to get away from her.

"For what?" she frowns. She hasn't taken her hands off me.

"For saving me," I whisper.

"That idiot was riding the wrong way. I'm glad I was here. I shudder to think what could have happened to you. Do you want to come and sit down in the hotel for a mo ment?" She releases me, her hands by her sides, and I'm standing in front of her feeling like a fool.

With a shake, I clear my head. I just want to go. All my vague, unarticulated hopes have been dashed. She doesn't want me. What was I thinking?I scold myself. What would Regina Mills want with you?My subconscious mocks me. I wrap my arms around my self and turn to face the road and note with relief that the green man has appeared. I quickly make my way across, conscious that Mills is behind me. Outside the hotel, I turn briefly to face her but cannot look her in the eye.

"Thanks for the coco and doing the photo shoot" I murmur. How could I have been so stupid!

"Emma… I… " She stops, and the anguish in her voice demands my attention, so I peer unwillingly up at her. Her brown eyes are bleak as she runs her hand through her hair. She looks torn, frustrated, her expression stark, all her careful control has evaporated. It was a sight that frightens me

"What, Regina?" I snap irritably after she says – nothing. I just want to go. I need to take my fragile, wounded pride away and somehow nurse it back to health.

"Good luck with your exams," she murmurs.

Huh?This is why she looks so desolate? This is the big send off? Just to wish me luck in my exams?

"Thanks." I can't disguise the sarcasm in my voice. "Goodbye, Miss. Mills." I turn on my heel, vaguely amazed that I don't trip, and without giving her a second glance, I disap pear down the sidewalk toward the underground garage.

Once underneath the dark, cold concrete of the garage with its bleak fluorescent light, I lean against the wall and put my head in my hands. What was I thinking? Unbidden and unwelcome tears pool in my eyes. Why am I crying? Why does this woman bother me so much! I sink to the ground, angry at myself for this senseless reaction. Drawing up my knees, I fold in on myself. I want to make myself as small as possible. Perhaps this nonsensical pain will be smaller the smaller I am. Placing my head on my knees, I let the irrational tears fall unrestrained. I am crying over the loss of something I never had. How ridiculous.Mourning something that never was – my dashed hopes, dashed dreams, and my soured expectations.

I have never been on the receiving end of rejection. Okay… so I was always one of the last to be picked for basketball or volleyball – but I understood that – running and doing something else at the same time like bouncing or throwing a ball is not my thing. I am a serious liability in any sporting field. Romantically, though, I've never put myself out there, ever. A lifetime of insecurity – I'm too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me and that girl in debate, but no one has ever sparked my interest – no one except Regina damn Mills. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of August Marco and Graham Hunter, though I'm sure neither of them have been found sobbing alone in dark places. Perhaps I just need a good cry.

Stop! Stop Now! - My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration. Get in the car, go home, do your studying. Forget about her… Now!And stop all this self-pitying, wallowing crap.

I take a deep, steadying breath and stand up. Get it together Swan. You never get emotional over anyone or anythingI head for Abby's car, wiping the tears off my face as I do. I will not think of her again. I can just chalk this incident up to experience and concentrate on my exams.

Abigail is sitting at the dining table at her laptop when I arrive. Her welcoming smile fades when she sees me.

"Em what's wrong?"

Oh no… not the Abigail Nolan Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a back-off now Nolan way – but I might as well be dealing with a blind, deaf mute for all extensive purposes.

"You've been crying," she has an exceptional gift for stating the damned obvious sometimes, which is part of the reason why I think she'll such a great journalist someday. "What did that bitch do to you?" she growls, and her face – jeez, she's scary I remind myself never to piss her off.

"Nothing Abigail." That's actually the problem. The thought brings a wry smile to my face.

"Then why have you been crying? You never cry," she says, her voice softening. She stands, her green eyes brimming with concern. She puts her arms around me and hugs me. I need to say something just to get her to back off.

"I was nearly knocked over by a cyclist." It's the best that I can do, but it distracts her momentarily from… her.

"Jeez Em – are you okay? Were you hurt?" She holds me at arm's length and does a quick visual check-up on me.

"No. Regina saved me," I whisper. "But I was quite shaken."

"I'm not surprised. How was coffee? I know you hate coffee."

"I had coco. It was fine, nothing to report really. I don't know why she asked me."

"She likes you Emma." She drops her arms.

"Not anymore. I won't be seeing her again." Yes, I manage to sound matter of fact.

"Oh?"

Shit. She's intrigued, why couldn't she be less inquisitive and have more respect for privacy? I head into the kitchen so that she can't see my face.

"Yeah… she's a little out of my league Abigail," I say as dryly as I can manage.

"What do you mean?"

"Oh Abigail, it's obvious." I whirl round and face her as she stands in the kitchen door way.

"Not to me," she says. "Okay, she's got more money than you, but then she has more money than most people in America!"

"Abigail she's–" I shrug.

"Emma! For heaven's sake – how many times must I tell you? You're a total babe," she interrupts me. Oh no. She's off on this tirade again. I can't see myself as hot and I don't know why.

"Abigail, please. I need to study." I cut her short. She frowns.

"Do you want to see the article? It's finished. Graham took some great pictures."

Do I need a visual reminder of the beautiful Regina I don't want you if you were the last woman on Earth Mills?

"Sure," I magic a smile on to my face and stroll over to the laptop. And there he is, staring at me in black and white, staring at me and finding me lacking.

I pretend to read the article, all the time meeting her steady chocolate gaze, searching the photo for some clue as to why she's not the woman for me – her own words to me. And it's suddenly, blindingly obvious. She's too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result. Was that what Regina was driving at? Her words make sense. She's not the woman for me. This is what she meant, and it makes her rejection easier to accept… almost. I can live with this. I understand.

"Very good Abs, very well written" I manage. "I'm going to study." I am not going to think about her again for now, I vow to myself, and opening my revision notes, I start to read my mind firmly fixed on the need to study hard for my exams.

It's only when I'm in bed, trying to sleep, that I allow my thoughts to drift through my strange morning and the conversation that left me greatly unsettled. I keep coming back to the 'I don't do the girlfriend/boyfriend thing' quote, and I'm angry that I didn't pounce on this information sooner, when I was in her arms mentally beg ging her with every fibre of my being to kiss me. She'd said it there and then. She didn't want me as a girlfriend. I turn on to my side. Idly, I wonder if perhaps she's celibate? I close my eyes and begin to drift. Maybe she's saving herself. Well not for you, my sleepy subconscious has a final swipe at me before unleashing itself on my dreams.

And that night, I dream of chocolate eyes, leafy patterns in milk, and I'm running through dark places with eerie strip lighting, and I don't know if I'm running toward something or away from it… it's just not clear.

The next few days are filled with mental exhaustion and late nights as my final exams finally arrive. I've had no time to think about the woman that shot me down and for that I'm thankful; I never wanted to see or think about Regina Mills again.

I put my pen down. Finished. My final exam is over. I feel the Cheshire cat grin spread over my face. It's probably the first time all week that I've smiled. It's Friday, and we shall be celebrating tonight, really celebrating. I might even get drunk! I've never been drunk before. I glance across the sports hall at Abigail, and she's still scribbling furiously, five minutes to the end. This is it, the end of my academic career. I shall never have to sit in rows of anxious, isolated students again. Inside I'm doing graceful cartwheels around my head, knowing full well that's the only place I can do graceful cartwheels. Abigail stops writing and puts her pen down. She glances across at me, and I catch her Cheshire cat smile too.

We head back to our apartment together in her Mercedes, refusing to discuss our final papers. Abigail is more concerned about what she's going to wear to the bar this evening. I am busily fishing around in my purse for my keys.

"Em, there's a package for you." Abigail is standing on the steps up to the front door holding a brown paper parcel. Odd.I haven't ordered anything from Amazon recently. Abigail gives me the parcel and takes my keys to open the front door. It's addressed to Miss Emma Swan. There's no sender's address or name. Perhaps it's from my mom or James.

It's probably from my folks."

"Open it!" Abigail is excited as she heads into the kitchen for our 'Exams are finished hurrah Champagne'.

I open the parcel, and inside I find a half leather box containing two seemingly identi cal old cloth-covered books in mint condition and a plain white card. Written on one side, in black ink in neat cursive handwriting, is: "Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward"

I immediately recognize the quote from 'The Blue Carbuncle' a story in 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'. I'm stunned by the irony of the quote, my entire career is gonna be based around problems whose solutions are my reward but then I think maybe there's no irony perhaps it's deliberate. I inspect the books more closely, three volumes of The Adventures and Memoirs, The Return and Reminiscences and the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. I open one of the front covers and written in an old typeface on the front plate:

'London: George Newnes Ltd. 1892.'

Holy fuck! - they are first editions. They must be worth a fortune, and I know immedi ately who's sent them. Abigail is at my shoulder gazing at the books. She picks up the card.

"First Editions," I whisper.

"No way." Abigail's eyes are wide with disbelief. "Mills?"

I nod.

"Can't think of anyone else."

"What does this card mean?"

"I have no idea. I think it's a warning – honestly she keeps warning me off. I have no idea why. It's not like I'm beating her door down." I frown.

"I know you don't want to talk about her, Em, but she's seriously into you. Warnings or no."

Remember when I said I haven't through about Regina Mills all week: I lied… so her chocolate brown eyes are still haunting my dreams, and I know it will take an eternity to expunge the feel of her arms around me and her wonderful fragrance from my brain. Why has she sent me this? She told me that I wasn't for her.

"I've found one Holmesfirst edition for sale in Los Angeles at $14,000. But yours looks in much better condition. They must have cost more." Abigail is consulting her good friend Google.

"This quote – Holmes says it to Watson after Petersen discovers the Blue Carbuncle in his Christmas goose"

"I know," muses Abigail. "What is she trying to say?"

"I don't know, and I don't care. I can't accept these from her. I'll send them back with an equally baffling quote from some obscure part of the book."

"The bit where Holmes is bringing a jackass" Abigail asks with a completely straight face.

"Yes, that bit." I giggle. I love Abigail, she's so loyal and supportive. I repack the books and leave them on the dining table. Abigail hands me a glass of champagne.

"To the end of exams and our new life in Boston," she grins.

"To the end of exams, our new life in Boston, and excellent results." We clink glasses and drink.

The bar is loud and hectic, full of soon to be graduates out to get trashed. Graham joins us. He won't graduate for another year, but he's in the mood to party and gets us into the spirit of our newfound freedom by buying a pitcher of margaritas for us all. As I down my fifth, I know this is not a good idea on top of the champagne.

"So what now Em?" Graham shouts at me over the noise.

"Abigail and I are moving to Boston. Abigail's parents have bought a condo there for her."

"Good god, how the other half live. But you'll come to my show."

"Of course, Graham, I wouldn't miss it for the world." I smile, and he puts his arm around my waist and pulls me close.

"It means a lot to me that you'll be there Emma," he whispers in my ear. "Another mar garita?"

"Graham Lewis Hunter– are you trying to get me drunk? Because I think it's working." I giggle. "I think I'd better have a beer. I'll go get us a pitcher."

"More drink, Em!" Abigail bellows.

Abigail has the constitution of an ox. She's got her arm draped over Mickey, one of her fel low journalism students and her usual photographer on her student newspaper. He's given up taking photos of the drunkenness that surrounds him. He only has eyes for Abigail. She's all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels, hair piled high with tendrils hanging down softly around her face, her usual stunning self. Me, I'm more of a Converse and tank-top kind of girl, but I'm wearing my most flattering jeans. I move out of Graham's hold and get up from our table. Whoa. Head spin. I have to grab the back of the chair. Tequila based cocktails are not a good idea.

I make my way to the bar and decide that I should visit the powder room while I am on my feet. Good thinking, Em. I stagger off through the crowd. Of course, there's a line, but at least it's quiet and cool in the corridor. I reach for my cell phone to relieve the boredom of waiting in line. Hmm… Who did I last call? Was it Graham? Before that a number I don't recognize. Oh yes. Mills, I think this is his number. I giggle. I have no idea what the time is, maybe I'll wake her. Perhaps she can tell me why she sent me those books and the cryptic message. If she wants me to stay away, she should leave me alone. I suppress a drunken grin and hit the automatic re-dial. She answers on the second ring.

"Emma?" She's surprised to hear from me. Well, frankly, I'm surprised to ring her. Then my befuddled brain registers… how does she know it's me? Did she have me saved in her contacts? Why? When she wants nothing to do with me

"Why did you send me the books?" I slur at her.

"Emma, are you okay? You sound strange." Her voice is filled with concern.

"I'm not the strange one, you are," I accuse. There - that told her, my courage fuelled by alcohol.

"Emma, have you been drinking?"

"What's it to you?"

"I'm – curious. Where are you?"

"In a bar."

"Which bar?" She sounds exasperated.

"Just a bar"

"How are you getting home?"

"I'll find a way." This conversation is not going how I expected.

"Which bar are you in?"

"Why did you send me the books, Regina?"

"Emma, where are you, tell me now." Her tone is so, so authoritarian, her usual control freak. I imagine her as an old time movie director wearing jodhpurs, holding an old fash ioned megaphone and a riding crop. The image makes me laugh out loud.

"You're so… officious," I giggle.

"Emma, so help me, where the fuck are you?"

Regina Mills is swearing at me. I giggle again. "I'm in Boston… s'a long way from Albany."

"Where in Boston?"

"Goodnight, Regina."

"Emma!"

I hang up. Ha! Though she didn't tell me about the books. I frown. Mission not ac complished. God that woman was frustrating. I am really quite drunk - my head swims uncomfortably as I shuffle with the line. Well, the object of the exercise was to get drunk. I have succeeded. This is what it's like – probably not an experience to be repeated. The line has moved, and it's now my turn. I stare blankly at the poster on the back of the toilet door that extols the virtues of safe sex. Holy crap, did I just call Regina Mills? Shit. My phone rings and it makes me jump. I yelp in surprise.

"Hi," I bleat timidly in to the phone. I hadn't reckoned on this.

"I'm coming to get you," she says and hangs up. Only Regina Mills could sound so calm and so menacing at the same time.

Holy fuck.I pull my jeans up. My heart is thumping. Coming to get me? Oh no. I'm going to baff… no… I'm fine. Hang on. She's just messing with my head. I didn't tell her where I was. She can't find me here. Besides, it will take her hours to get here from Albany, and we'll be long gone by then. I wash my hands and check my face in the mirror. I look flushed and slightly unfocused. Hmm… tequ la.

I wait at the bar for what feels like an eternity for the pitcher of beer and eventually return to the table.

"You've been gone so long." Abigail scolds me. "Where were you?"

"I was in line for the restroom."

Graham and Mickey are having some heated debate about our local baseball team. Graham pauses in his tirade to pour us all beers, and I take a long sip.

"Abigail, I think I'd better step outside and get some fresh air."

"Em, you are such a lightweight."

"I'll be five minutes."

I make my way through the crowd again. I am beginning to feel nauseous, my head is spinning uncomfortably, and I'm a little unsteady on my feet. More unsteady than usual.

Drinking in the cool evening air in the parking lot makes me realize how drunk I am. My vision has been affected, and I'm really seeing double of everything like in old re-runs of Tom and Jerry Cartoons. I think I'm going to be sick. Why did I let myself get this messed up?

"Em," Graham has joined me. "You okay?"

"I think I've just had a bit too much to drink." I smile weakly at him.

"Me too," he murmurs, and his dark eyes are watching me intently. "Do you need a hand?" he asks and steps closer, putting his arm around me.

"Graham I'm okay. I've got this." I try and push him away rather feebly.

"Emma, please," he whispers, and now he's holding me in his arms, pulling me close.

"Graham, what you doing?"

"You know I like you Em, please." He has one hand at the small of my back holding me against him, the other at my chin tipping back my head. Holy fuck… he's going to kiss me.

"No Graham, stop – no." I push him, but he's a wall of hard muscle, and I cannot shift him. His hand has slipped into my hair, and he's holding my head in place.

"Please, Emma, baby" he whispers against my lips. His breath is soft and smells too sweet – of margarita and beer. He gently trails kisses along my jaw up to the side of my mouth. I feel panicky, drunk, and out of control. The feeling is suffocating.

"Graham, no," I plead. I don't want this. You are my friend, and I think I'm going to hurl.

"I think the lady said no." A voice in the dark says quietly. Holy shit! Regina Mills, she's here. How? Graham releases me.

"Mills," he says tersely. I glance anxiously up at Regina. She's glowering at Graham, and she's furious. Crap. My stomach heaves, and I double over, my body no longer able to tolerate the alcohol, and I vomit spectacularly on to the ground.

"Ugh – What the hell Em!" Graham jumps back in disgust. Mills grabs my hair and pulls it out of the firing line and gently leads me over to a raised flowerbed on the edge of the park ing lot. I note, with deep gratitude, that it's in relative darkness.

"If you're going to throw up again, do it here. I'll hold you." She has one arm around my shoulders – the other is holding my hair in a makeshift ponytail down my back so it's off my face. I try awkwardly to push her away, but I vomit again… and again. Oh shit… how long is this going to last? Even when my stomach's empty and nothing is coming up, horrible dry heaves wrack my body. I vow silently that I'll never ever drink again. This is just too appalling for words. Finally, it stops.

My hands are resting on the brick wall of the flowerbed, barely holding me up - vomit ing profusely is exhausting. Mills takes her hands off me and passes me a handkerchief. Only he would have a monogrammed, freshly laundered, linen handkerchief. RLM. I didn't know you could still buy these. Unclearly I wonder what the L stands for as I wipe my mouth. I cannot bring myself to look at her. I'm swamped with shame, disgusted with myself. I want to be swallowed up by the azaleas in the flowerbed and be anywhere but here.

Graham is still hovering by the entrance to the bar, watching us. I groan and put my head in my hands. This has to be the single worst moment of my life. My head is still swimming as I try to remember a worse one – and I can only come up with Regina's rejection – and this is so, so many shades darker in terms of humiliation. I risk a peek at her. She's staring down at me, her face composed, giving nothing away. Turning, I glance at Graham who looks pretty shamefaced himself and, like me, intimidated by Mills. I glare at him. I have a few choice words for my so-called friend, none of which I can repeat in front of Regina Mills CEO. Ana who are you kidding, she's just seen you hurl all over the ground and into the local flora. There's no disguising your lack of ladylike behavior.

"I'll err… see you inside," Graham mutters, but we both ignore him, and he slinks off back into the building. I'm on my own with Mills. Double crap. What should I say to her? Apologize for the phone call.

"I'm sorry," I mutter, staring at the handkerchief which I am furiously worrying with my fingers. It's so soft and it's smells of her.

"What are you sorry for Emma?"

Oh crap, she wants her damned pound of flesh.

"The phone call mainly, being sick. Oh, the list is endless," I murmur, feeling my skin coloring up. Please, please can I die now?

"We've all been here, perhaps not quite as dramatically as you," she says sardonically. "It's about knowing your limits, Emma. I mean, I'm all for pushing limits, but really this is beyond the pale. Do you make a habit of this kind of behavior?"

My head buzzes with excess alcohol and irritation. What the hell has it got to do with her? I didn't invite her here. She sounds like a middle-aged woman scolding me like an er rant child. Part of me wants to say, if I want to get drunk every night like this, then it's my decision and nothing to do with him – but I'm not brave enough. Not now that I've thrown up in front of her. Why is she still standing there?

"No," I say regretfully. "I've never been drunk before and right now I have no desire to ever be again."

I just don't understand why she's here. I begin to feel faint. She notices my dizziness and grabs me before I fall and hoists me into her arms, holding me close to her chest like a child.

"Come on, I'll take you home," she murmurs.

"I need to tell Abigail." Holy Moses, I'm in her arms again.

"My brother can tell her."

"What?"

"My brother Frederick is talking to Miss Nolan."

"Oh?" I don't understand.

"He was with me when you phoned."

"In Boston?" I'm confused.

"No, I'm staying at the 74 State."

Still? Why? What could she possibly be still here for?

"How did you find me?"

"I tracked your cell phone Emma."

Oh, of course she did. How is that possible? I'm pretty sure that's illegal, since knowing about is kinda my thing. Stalker,my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that's still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it's her, I don't mind.

"Do you have a jacket or a purse?"

"Err… yes, I came with both. Regina, please, I need to tell Abigail. She'll worry." Her mouth presses into a hard line, and she sighs heavily.

"If you must."

She sets me down, and, taking my hand, leads me back into the bar. I feel weak, still drunk, embarrassed, exhausted, mortified, and on some strange level absolutely off the scale thrilled. She's gripping my hand – such a confusing array of emotions. I'll need at least a week to process them all if not longer.

It's noisy, crowded, and the music has started so there is a large crowd on the dance floor. Abigail is not at our table, and Graham has disappeared. Mickey looks lost and forlorn on his own.

"Where's Abigail?" I shout at Mickey above the noise. My head is beginning to pound in time to the thumping bass line of the music.

"Dancing," Mickey shouts, and I can tell he's mad. He's eyeing Regina suspiciously. I struggle into my black jacket and place my small shoulder bag over my head so it sits at my hip. I'm ready to go, once I've seen Abigail.

"She's on the dance floor," I touch Regina's arm and lean up and shout in her ear, brushing her hair with my nose, smelling her clean, apple fresh smell. Oh my. All those forbid den, unfamiliar feelings that I have tried to deny surface and run rabid through my drained body. I flush, and somewhere deep, deep down my muscles clench lusciously.

She rolls her eyes at me and takes my hand again and leads me to the bar. She's served immediately, no waiting for Miss. Control-Freak Mills. Does everything come so easily to her? I can't hear what she orders. She hands me a very large glass of iced water.

"Drink," she shouts her command at me.

The moving lights are twisting and turning in time to the music casting strange colored light and shadows all over the bar and the clientele. She's alternately green, blue, white, and a demonic red. She's watching me intently. I take a tentative sip.

"All of it," she shouts.

She's so domineering. She runs her hand through her unruly hair. She looks frustrated, angry. What is her problem? Apart from a silly drunk girl ringing her in the middle of the night so she thinks she needs rescuing. And it turns out she does from her over amorous friend. Then seeing her being violently ill at his feet. Oh Emma… are you ever going to live this down? My subconscious is figuratively tutting and glaring at me over her half-moon specs I bit like Dumbledore from the Harry Potter Series. I sway slightly, and she puts her hand on my shoulder to steady me. I do as I'm told and drink the entire glass. It makes me feel queasy. Taking the glass from me, she places it on the bar. I notice through a blur what she's wearing; a loose black fitting shirt, snug jeans, black pumps, and a black pinstriped jacket. Her shirt is unbuttoned at the top, and I see the swell of her breasts peeking out from above her bra cups. In my drunken state of mind she looks absolutely delicious!

She takes my hand once more. Holy shit – she's leading me onto the dance floor. Shit. I do not dance. She can sense my reluctance, and under the colored lights, I can see her amused, slightly sarcastic smile. She gives my hand a sharp tug, and I'm in her arms again, and she starts to move, taking me with her. Boy, she can dance, and I can't believe that I'm following her step for step. Maybe it's because I'm drunk that I can keep up. She's hold ing me tight against her, her body against mine… if she wasn't clutching me so tightly, I'm sure I would faint at her feet. In the back of my mind, my mother's often-recited warning comes to me: Never trust a woman or man who can dance.

She moves us through the crowded throng of dancers to the other side of the dance floor, and we are beside Abigail and Frederick, Regina's brother. The music is pounding away, loud and cautious, outside and inside my head. I gasp. Abigail is making her moves. She's dancing her ass off, and she only ever does that if she likes someone. Really likes someone. It means there'll be three of us for breakfast tomorrow morning. Abigail!

Regina leans over and shouts in Frederick's ear. I cannot hear what she says. Frederick is tall with wide shoulders, curly blonde hair, and light, wickedly gleaming eyes. I can't tell the colour under the pulsating heat of the flashing lights. Frederick grins, and pulls Abigail into his arms, where she is more than happy to be… Abigail you little minx! Even in my inebriated state, I am shocked. She's only just met him. She nods at whatever Frederick says and grins at me and waves. Regina propels us off the dance floor in double quick time.

But I never got to talk to her. Is she okay? I can see where things are heading for her and him. I need to do the safe sex lecture. In the back of my mind, I hope she reads one of the posters on the back of the toilet doors. My thoughts crash through my brain, fighting the drunk, fuzzy feeling. It's so warm in here, so loud, so colourful – too bright. My head begins to swim, oh no… and I can feel the floor coming up to meet my face or so it feels. The last thing I hear before I pass out in Regina Grey's arms is her harsh epithet.

"Fuck!"