Later they danced to Celine Dion and Bryan Adams, the music having progressed to the nineties for the slower, more sensuous numbers. As he held her in his arms, swaying together to the music, he felt enormous contentment which he suspected wasn’t entirely due to the most wonderful chocolate cake he’d ever tasted. There was no wonder the ex- continued to hang around her when she could bake delights like that, he thought.
The said ex- made himself known once again, butting in on Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and looking smug, like he’d chosen that song especially for her. Greg considered punching him on the nose and booting him out of the door, but doubted Emma would approve, so instead shrugged and went to find himself another beer.
He met the other housemate, Mark, scraping plates of leftovers into an overflowing rubbish bin. “I can’t stand seeing dirty plates piled high everywhere,” he explained, sounding rather like Greg’s mother.
Greg stood, feeling awkward, wondering if he should offer to help but feeling disinclined to do so. He’d helped make the best chocolate cakes in the universe, for god’s sake – surely that contribution was enough in any man’s books? “Let me take that sack out to the bins,” he said. “I don’t think it will hold any more.”
Mark looked at him as if he’d just descended from heaven and gave him a beatific smile of approval, watching as Greg heaved the sack up out of its restrictive chrome bin, shook it down and pulled the drawstring on the top.
Mark held open the door for Greg to exit. Two large wheelie bins stood against the outside wall. When he returned, Mark was busying himself inserting a new liner into the rubbish bin. A pretty, dark-haired woman carrying a stack of plates had just entered the kitchen.
“For heaven’s sake, Mark, leave it for now and come and enjoy the party,” she remonstrated, looking up in surprise when Greg re-entered the kitchen. “Oh, oh! You’re Greg, aren’t you? Emma introduced us earlier but I was in a mad rush. I hope you’re enjoying the party.”
“Very much, thank you. But I’d love another beer.”
“Of course, of course!” she flung open the door of an enormous fridge and pulled out a chilled bottle, which she handed to him. “I’ll get Rob to put more in the ice bucket in a minute. I’m Jenny, in case you’ve forgotten. I taught your son, Toby last year.”
“Ah yes. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to meet, but I did see your reports afterwards. You’re Emma’s friend, I understand.”
“Absolutely. Come and meet my fiancé, Rob – he has something to do with finance too, but I’ve never really understood what. You come too, Mark. Harley is spreading embarrassing rumours about you and everyone keeps asking me if they’re true.”
Bemused and once again nursing a bottle of beer, Greg allowed himself to be led away from the kitchen by the formidable Jenny, with Mark scurrying along behind. Greg wondered if his little act of kindness in taking out the rubbish had earned him a new lifelong friend. In the music/dance room, the Whitney Houston song had finished and the mellifluous tones of Shania Twain now filled the room. Greg wondered if they’d reach the musical millennia by midnight. He’d danced to Lonestar and Christina Aguilera at his wedding and didn’t particularly want to hear either tonight.
He might have gone to extract Emma from the clutches of her ex-boyfriend had not Rob seized on him almost immediately and begun talking shop with the zeal of an insurance salesman. Right on cue, Bailey appeared to contribute more of his fascinating opinions. Emma stood behind him, looking a little flushed and slightly irritated that Bailey seemed to be blocking her route to him. He placed his hands on Bailey’s biceps and gently moved him out of the way so he could reel Emma in beside him. She gave him a grateful smile as she snuggled closer and he liked that.
He listened to Bailey and Rob discussing deleveraging for a few more minutes before glancing down at Emma’s glazed expression. The opening bars of ‘Endless Love’ sounded from the dance room and Emma took his hand and urged him away. In fairness, he didn’t need much urging at all.
“I don’t want you to explain what deleveraging means, so promise me you won’t,” she murmured as she settled into his arms.
It was the last subject he wanted to discuss.
She danced very close to him, nestling her head on his shoulder so that he could feel her breath tickling his neck and just knowing how close her lips were sent a rush of longing through him so strong that he had to struggle to keep it from becoming too obvious. When her lips grazed the sensitive skin beneath his ear he felt a surge of desire flood through his veins. He dropped his cheek onto her hair, from which the faint aroma of apple blossom arose, making him groan inwardly. Was he ever going to find anything about this delightful creature in his embrace that didn’t enchant him?
They stood in each other’s arms through song after silly, sentimental song hardly moving, just being together and filling their senses with each other. He vaguely wondered who owned this vast collection and assumed it had to be Jenny, or perhaps the domesticated housemate, Mark, who danced first with Jenny and then with a tall and intense looking man dressed all in black. He caught his eye at one point and Mark actually winked at him. He didn’t really care about the music or the winking; he just gave himself up to the pleasurable sensation of Emma’s soft body pressing against his as she danced drowsily and comfortably in his arms like she’d spent her whole life there.