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Collide (Collide #1)(11)
Author: Gail McHugh

Chapter Three

Deep Breaths

Over the next few days, Emily reluctantly unpacked the rest of her belongings that had arrived late from a hold up at the shipping company. Tonight, if it killed her, she would clear out the last of the items. Olivia helped her sift through years of memories. Those memories were all Emily had left, and she clung to them like they were her last heartbeats. The final item in the box took the breath from her, tightening her chest and spinning her emotions out of control. Sighing, Emily slumped on her bed, clinging to a photo showcasing the proud smile of her mother at her high-school graduation. The barrier that she had fought so hard to build over the last few months broke, and the tears came tumbling down. The reality of what had happened—the unwavering fact that she would never see her mother again—hit her hard in that moment.

Sadness clouded Olivia's eyes as she watched her friend crumble. “I don’t know what to say, Emily. I wish I could take this pain and hurt away from you.”

Unblinking, Emily reached out her hand, taking Olivia’s in her own. She was thankful that she had her there. The two friends shared a few minutes, neither saying a word, knowing nothing more could be said.

Standing up, Emily cast a withering smile at her and hastily wiped the tears from both their cheeks. She gave Olivia a hug and sauntered to the bathroom. She was exhausted—not only mentally but also physically. Working three doubles in a row, the last few days caught up with her, and she was looking forward to a relaxing evening on the couch with Dillon. Making her way into the shower, she tried to purge her mind of anything that had to do with her mom. It was difficult, but nonetheless, she did it. Once out, she slid into a pair of comfortable pajamas and set herself up on the couch with a glass of much-needed wine.

After a while, Olivia walked into the living room, wearing a red summer dress with her hair pinned-up off her shoulders and a clutch in her hand.

She eyed Emily, hopeful. “Just come out with Tina and me tonight. It will do justice to your mood.”

Giving Olivia a smile, Emily thought about her friend’s new love endeavor, Tina Reed, a twenty-four-year-old graduate of Columbia University. Having been burned by too many men in her past, Olivia swore them off for the time being, deciding women might suit her better.

Sighing, Emily tossed her hand through her hair. “I really just want to relax the night away.” She picked up the bottle of red wine and smiled. “I plan on polishing this off, too.”

Olivia placed a kiss on top of her head. “Okay, but if for some reason you change your mind, just call my cell.”

Emily nodded, and Olivia walked out the door.

Glancing at the clock, Emily noted it was a quarter past ten. Knowing that Dillon should’ve been there already, she wondered if another late night meeting had held him up. Her thoughts didn’t stray too far when her phone rang a half hour later. It was Dillon calling to announce that he was celebrating a new account out at a club in SoHo. He insisted that she meet him down there. Emily tried to argue that she was exhausted and already settled in for the night, but he wouldn’t relent, his dissatisfaction traveling through the phone. Letting out a sigh, Emily succumbed to his demand, dragged herself into her room, and prepared for an evening out despite her emotional and physical state.

It can’t be her, Gavin thought to himself, adjusting his eyes across the dimly lit club. He rubbed his palm over his face, staring in her direction. It was though. Molly—the waitress that never called him. Molly—the waitress that tugged at every sense, every fiber, and every male instinct in his body. Molly—the waitress that looked more ravishing now than he could’ve ever imagined. Gavin watched as she moved across the club, making her way through the endless bodies pressed against each other.

His eyes feasted upon her long auburn hair that spilled over her shoulders onto a tight black dress that fell just above her knees. The perfect amount of cleavage and neck burned a hole into his mind, awakening the undeniable primal urge he had to claim her. His eyes devoured her legs—sleek, long, and shapely—that came to a rest in black heels. Raking his hands through his hair, Gavin couldn’t help but feel the quickening in his heart as she approached.

He went to move toward her, talk to her, breathe in her scent, but a modest cough from Dillon reluctantly broke his gaze from hers.

“I see you looking, Blake, but she’s mine,” Dillon remarked, a crooked smile twisting his lips.

Gavin’s mouth fell open as if to speak, but nothing came out. His blue eyes swung over to the beautiful woman who had invaded his world a few days ago and then shifted back to Dillon.

“Wait, that’s…Emily?” Gavin asked, palpable confusion taking over his face.

“Yeah, man. I told you she was fucking gorgeous.” Dillon motioned for Emily to hurry up where she seemed to be frozen and rooted in one spot a few feet away.

Gavin took a long pull from his beer, a lump forming in his throat as he leaned himself against the bar. Unable to look away, he maintained eye contact with the woman that his friend just proclaimed was his.

Chewing on her lip, Emily tried to keep her panic at bay when she saw Mr. Tall, Dark, and Fuckable Handsome with Dillon. The air seemed to shift thick. Her balance was knocked askew with every step.

There’s no way they could possibly know each other. This is Manhattan for Christ’s sake, Emily thought to herself.

Each beat of her heart pounded harder the closer she got. A curious yet boyish smile rounded Gavin’s lips as a kiss of a dimple indented itself on his cheek. His piercing blue eyes were intense, unblinking in her direction. Emily’s gaze flicked down to his chest, the planes of his pectorals visible under his shirt. If it were possible, he looked even more handsome, relaxed in his casual attire of a black, V-neck T-shirt and jeans that hung perfectly on his waist. His eyes seemed to delve into her and smother every bit of oxygen from her lungs. Taking a long cleansing breath with sweat beading on her brow, Emily approached the two men, trying to focus solely on Dillon.

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