Chapter 7

"Later, Em."

Emily barely acknowledged AJ's quiet words as he brushed past her. The strike of the clock signaling the New Year brought a change to her brother. She made a mental note to question him later as her eyes were automatically drawn to Nikolas as he stood across the crowded room with Dawn. The light in Emily's expressive brown eyes dimmed a little as she watched Nikolas kiss the young woman passionately.

"Fool! Will you ever learn?" she silently scolded herself. Her lecture was cut short when she was abruptly pulled into a pair of strong arms.

"Happy New Year," the husky masculine voice said before a wet kiss was placed on Emily's mouth.

Emily placed her hands on the solid chest and pushed. Hard. With fire in her eyes, she fiercely whispered, "Lucas! Cut it out."

His violet-blue eyes twinkled at her as he pushed aside her anger, "Aw, Em. Come on! Have a heart. It's the beginning of a new year. Can't we start this one off right?"

"I've told you before! I'm not interested. Now, let me go!" she said, pushing him again for emphasis.

His hold on her tightened with each push. His voice was light and teasing, but his eyes were becoming glacial as he said, "But I don't want to."

"But, she wants you to. Let her go, Lucas."

"Why don't you go mind your own business?" Lucas suggested as his steely gaze locked with Tommy's hard, green eyes. "You guys broke up, remember? This doesn't concern you."

"I'm not telling you again," Tommy said in hushed tones so as not to alert the other partygoers who surrounded them.

"Or what?" Lucas sneered. "What will you do if I don't let her go?"

"Okay, that's enough!" Emily interrupted them in her attempt to prevent a fight. "Cut it out!"

"No, Em, don't stop us now. It's just getting good. I wanna know what your big bad ex plans to do if I won't do as he demanded. Come on, Tommy! What will you do?" Lucas taunted.

A humorless smile came to Tommy's lips as he placed a hand on Lucas's upper arm. His hand closed around Lucas' arm in a vise-like grip. Squeezing him tightly, he said, "I don't want to fight you. I just want you to do what Emily asked and let her go. Can you do that?"

The pressure on his arm increased which each softly spoken word, causing tears of pain to well up in his eyes. Lucas bit his lip to prevent a cry from escaping his lips and shaming him in front of Emily. His pride demanded that he maintain his hold on her, but the longer he stalled the more Tommy squeezed. No longer able to stand the pain, he abruptly released Emily and shoved her at Tommy who placed his hands on her waist to steady her. "I was only playing with her. I'll see you around, Emily. You, too, Tommy."

"I'll look forward to it," Tommy assured him. He kept his eyes on Lucas' retreating form until he became lost in the crowd. Certain that Lucas would no longer be a problem, he released his hold on Emily. His gaze was intent as he said, "Are you okay? He didn't hurt you or anything?"

"No, of course not. He's harmless," she said, dismissively tossing her brunette curls.

"He didn't seem harmless. I think you take him too lightly," Tommy scolded her.

"And, I think you take him too seriously," she said, smiling. "He only does that stuff to piss you off. He likes getting a rise out of you."

"Yeah, whatever," he grumbled. "Just be careful around him, okay?"

Emily contemplated the fun in giving him a flippant response, but seeing how serious he was, she decided against it. She slowly nodded her head and said, "Okay."

"So, um...who did you come with?" he asked, nonchalantly.

"My family," she replied with a smile. She arched a perfect eyebrow and asked, "And you?"

Tommy laughed and said, "My mom and her husband."

"Her husband?!" Emily laughed. "He has a name."

Tommy shrugged. He and Emily had had that *discussion* before and he didn't care to have it again. Changing the subject to something he knew they would both enjoy, he said, "You were great up there."

"You think?" she asked with a frown.

"Oh, definitely. Everyone thought so, too. All eyes were on you...and the band, too, of course."

"Cool," she said with a grin.

Tommy grinned back at her and rolled his eyes. "Cool?! Is that all you can say?"

When she shrugged in reply, he laughed and said, "Wanna dance?"

"Yeah," she said, grabbing his hand and pulling him towards the dance floor. She made a conscious effort to make sure they were far away from Nikolas and Dawn. She wanted to enjoy herself and not dwell on what may never be, she decided as she and Tommy began to sway in time to the upbeat song.

Chapter 8