It was Friday night. Derek had accepted David and Phillip’s invitation out for a night on the town. It
certainly didn’t smack of the former revelry the friends typically celebrated. Joel had declined to come,
his excuse that of not feeling up to par. The others knew, however, that Joel merely didn’t wish to
pretend the previous closeness that seemed to have been shattered between he and Derek.
The evening was pleasant enough, however, and Derek found himself glad to have gone after all.
David and Phillip were always good for a laugh, though truth be known, Derek wouldn’t have minded
getting into a fistfight with someone that deserved to have his face smashed in. It might help let off a
little steam where Dominique was concerned. His perplexing feelings for her, to be precise.
He absently rubbed the palm of his hand over his heart, the dull aching a constant reminder of the
young woman who’d unwittingly stolen into his life. Derek purposely didn’t mention Joel and Dominique
during the evening, not wishing to have his worst fear confirmed, that the couple was inseparable and in
love. Derek dreaded the thought that he may have waited too late to consider his true feelings for
Dominique. He knew if she ever gave her heart to Joel completely, he wouldn’t stand a chance of
swaying her affections back toward him.
Did he even want that? Lord Derek Montford, breaker of countless hearts, lurer of innumerable
women to his bed, did he truly want to commit his life, his heart, to Dominique? He had already made
the mistake of pledging his future to another woman, and look how that had turned out. Of course, he
really hadn’t felt the emptiness one would expect from an engaged man thrown over by his fiancée. If
anything, it had been more of a quiet relief to know he didn’t have to marry Allison after all.
Two of the barmaids insinuated themselves at the handsome trio’s table, one of them plopping
herself between David and Phillip, the other doing her best to gain Derek’s attention. To her dismay,
Derek took another drink and completely ignored the soft curves pressed against him. He barely
acknowledged her when she kissed the corner of his brooding lips. She finally gave up and went around
the table to sit on David’s lap.
The two barmaids continued flirting with David and Phillip, the dim tavern starting to feel stuffier,
less appealing. Derek was just about to get up and leave his friends to their merriment and go home,
when another mug of ale was slammed down onto the wooden table. Derek looked up to see Joel
standing there, a second drink in his hand. David and Phillip voiced their delight in seeing Joel had come
after all, but he told them to continue on with their female companions. Grinning at the sight of their
randy friends, Joel motioned Derek to sit at a nearby table for more privacy.
“Thanks for the drink,” Derek said, sitting at a deserted table in the corner.
“Don’t mention it,” Joel replied as he sat, leaning his back against the wall.
“We didn’t get a chance to talk after the party the other night, but I appreciate you keeping me
apprised of those business dealings while I was out of town.”