A Diamond for Christmas(8)

By: Joss Wood

Riley turned to walk down the landing back to her apartment. She was almost at her door when she heard footsteps on the flight of stairs just around the corner from her front door. She peeked around the corner to see James jogging up the stairs—he rarely used a lift—and instantly clocked his furious face, his tense shoulders and the muscle ticking in his jaw.

Riley winced as she noticed his flashing green eyes. He stopped at the top of the stairs and slapped his hand on his hips, lifting his head at her open front door. ‘Can I come in?’

‘Nope, you’re not bringing all that angry energy into my home. We’ll stay outside,’ she ordered. Not that she really believed in all that stuff, but if he came across her doorway she knew that she would strip him naked and do him on her couch, her yellow wingback chair, on her wooden floor...

She was nuts. Horny and nuts. A dangerous combination.

‘Inside, Riley.’

‘Not going to happen.’ Riley shook her head a couple of times and folded her arms.

James hauled in a breath, looked at the ceiling and sighed. ‘Okay, let’s do it the hard way then.’

Using his superior strength against her, he looped an arm around her waist and picked her up and walked her into the apartment as easily as if he were carrying a sack of potatoes. Dammit! He was seriously starting to annoy her with this carrying her around kick he was on.

‘Stop lugging me around!’

‘Stop being a brat.’ James dumped Riley on her purple-and-white-checked couch and loomed over her, his hands back on his hips. ‘Why did you tell my family that you were resigning when we hadn’t finished discussing it?’

Discussing it? Really? That was stretching the truth...

Riley blew her fringe out of her eyes and silently cursed James’s mum. Just after she’d told the Moreaus and Noah that she was leaving, Hannah had excused herself to go to the bathroom, AKA rat on Riley. She loved her second mum but right now she could strangle her.

‘I don’t need to discuss it; you’re the one who is harping on about it!’ Riley retorted, scuttling past him to head for her kitchen. ‘I’m going to make coffee; do you want one?’

‘I’ll have some of that whisky you keep on hand for Noah,’ James replied, following her across the room. Leaning a shoulder into the wall, he took the glass of whisky Riley handed him. She could feel his eyes on her back while she fiddled with the coffee machine.

‘What did you tell my parents, Riley?’

‘That I needed a change, to do something different.’

‘Is that the truth?’

‘It’s as good as any,’ Riley retorted. She hadn’t told them that she missed Morgan’s companionship now that she was engaged and in love. That without her, and without having any contact with him, her life was duller, lonelier, that she felt distant and separated from this family who she no longer felt a part of.

That she felt compelled to move the heck on.

‘So, not the full truth. Riley, we’ve always been honest with each other; you’re the one person in my life who has always been unflinchingly truthful.’

‘Stop badgering me, James. I’m just trying to...redesign my life.’

‘What are you talking about? You don’t need a new life!’

Did he actually hear the words that came out of his mouth? Riley wondered. And how dare he say that when all he could give her was a one-night stand three times?

‘I won’t understand if you don’t explain your crazy impulse to me!’ James snapped and she heard the frustration in his voice. Riley opened her mouth to speak and abruptly closed it again. What could she say to him? Would he even understand any of what she wanted to say?

Will you listen, James—really listen? If I say that I have always adored you but I can’t be in the same city as you and not talk to you? That I am so damn scared I’ll fall in love with you, even though I know that a part of me loves you anyway? That walking away from this half-life is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life? That I am terrified to go but even more scared to stay?

Riley sighed, pushed the coffee cup away and took the easy option, swallowing the words she’d been thinking. ‘Just let me go, James.’

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