“Does that hurt, sugar plum?” he asked me, and the butterflies in my stomach fluttered. God, that nickname… it still made my knees go weak.
“No, not at all,” I managed, biting my lower lip as he finished up with my cut and put away the first aid kit. “Thank you for helping me, Bastian.”
“Don’t mention it.” He grinned, pressing the tip of his finger against my nose. “Littlest sugar plum.”
It was what he’d called me when I was a little girl. The littlest sugar plum. The words felt so good coming from his lips. I wanted him to say them a thousand times over. I wanted to beg him to repeat them. But I held back, forcing myself to stay quiet.
“Well, I’m afraid duty calls,” Bastian spoke up again while Daddy fussed with my hand. “I have to get something done before the workweek starts.”
“Work never stops for you, my friend,” Daddy said and shook his head with a good-natured smile. “Another weekend spent in the city?”
“Actually, I’m being forced to attend a party on New Year’s Eve.” Bastian grimaced. “I have a private fitting with my tailor for a suit.”
“Sounds like fun!” Rosie said, clapping her hands together. “Where is this party happening, Mr. Lancaster?”
Bastian gave her a suspicious look, a sly smile playing on his lips. He didn’t answer her question though, and Daddy cut into the conversation with a firm handshake for his old friend. “I’ll see you on Wednesday for squash?”
“Of course.” Bastian’s eyes lingered on mine. “And I’ll see you on Sunday, sugar plum.”
“See you then.” I managed a weak smile while Bastian said his goodbyes to Rosie and left us there by ourselves.
“Well, girls,” Daddy spoke up. “I’ll clean up the broken bauble. Do you two need to catch up on schoolwork?”
“Yes.” Rosie nodded gravely. “You know they never stop giving us work to do, Mr. Halliday. Even over the holidays.”
“Tragic.” My dad’s eyes glittered as he winked at Rosie then made his way to clean up the mess I’d left out. I followed in Rosie’s footsteps as she ran up to my bedroom, giggling the whole way.
Once back in my room, we collapsed on my bed together, staring up at the ceiling.
“Do you think he’ll ever see me as anything but his best friend’s daughter?” I sighed.
“I think he already does.” Rosie rolled over on her stomach, picking up my old teddy bear Rags.
“I wish he’d make a move.”
“Maybe you need to make one.” Rosie’s eyes were teasing me. “You know, I don’t think he’ll turn you down. I think he’ll be more than eager for a taste.”
“I wish.” I groaned, pulling Rags into my lap and toying with his fraying paws. “He probably just thinks I’m a little kid.”
“Come on.” Rosie rolled her eyes. “Have you looked in a mirror lately? You’re gorgeous! Curvy in all the right places, with a butt I’d kill for. Long, pretty brown hair… bright blue eyes. He’d be lucky to have you, Holly.”
I smiled, though I still wasn’t quite buying it. What would Bastian want with someone like me? I was inexperienced. In fact, I was so inexperienced I hadn’t even been with a man. I’d been saving myself for Bastian since I was sixteen and knew how much I wanted him… how much I loved him.
“Maybe I really should make a move,” I muttered. “But I’m afraid he’ll turn me down if he knows it’s me.”
“Well then, you need to take advantage of the perfect opportunity.” Rosie’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Like that masquerade party your uncle dearest mentioned.”
I tapped my finger against my chin. “You think I should go to that holiday party?”
“Think about it,” Rosie purred. “It’s perfect. Masks, anonymity, and none other than Mr. Bastian Lancaster looking for someone to kiss at midnight….”
I hated the thought of him kissing someone else.
I pulled myself up on my elbows. “You think I’m brave enough to do that?”
“I’ll find out the location of the party.” Rosie giggled. “All you need to do is show up. I know he won’t be able to keep his hands off you.”
I got off the bed and made my way over to the vanity table. It still looked like something a child would own, but I didn’t care. I might have picked this out when I was a little girl, but a look in the mirror revealed I was anything but anymore.
“Okay,” I exhaled. “Let’s do it.”
The next time I saw Rosie was in the middle of the following week. She wore a triumphant smile as she sat down next to me in our economics lecture, shooting me knowing looks. We got our notebooks ready, and just as the door opened and our professor strolled in, she pulled my notebook toward her and started furiously scribbling on the lined paper. Then, she pushed it toward me.