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Seeing Red
By EponinesGhost

Chapter Five

Unexpectedly, Tracey felt creeping twinges of claustrophobia. The noise and crowd of the bar seemed to close rapidly around her as she stared at the last spot she'd seen Kelly, just near the exit. At the same time, all of her anger and energy drained away, leaving her somewhat lightheaded. She needed to sit down. Abruptly pulling away from Rochelle, practically unaware of her presence, she took a few wobbly steps to her right, sinking into a lone empty chair. Her knees were weak and her stomach seemed to have dropped to her feet. Belatedly she began to regret the two drinks she had so eagerly downed. You are not going to pass out, Kibre. It's just an extreme emotional reaction. Damn right it is. Breathe.

"I get it."

Tracey had closed her eyes once she had slipped into the chair. She heard Rochelle speaking somewhere above her shoulder. Taking a few more slow, steadying breaths before she looked up, Tracey was grateful that the redhead wasn't fawning over her.

"You get what?" Tracey warily took note of the way Rochelle's arms were crossed, the narrowing of the cool green eyes.

Bending forward to allow a server with a large tray to pass, and to bring her face closer to Tracey, Rochelle was surprisingly matter of fact. "I get why you were so anxious to have your little talk with me. Why things have been so different lately. I may not be a big-shot lawyer, but I'm not blind."

Here we go. Making no effort to hide her irritation, Tracey frowned. "I don't know what you're talking about."

To Tracey's total astonishment, Rochelle laughed. Shaking her red hair from side to side, she widened her eyes in disbelief. "You probably don't. Honestly, anyone else could see it from ten miles away, and you can't see it right in front of you."

Tracey had had quite enough of being mocked and made a fool of tonight. Some of the fire returned to her eyes as she snapped, "If you have something to say, Rochelle, please share it. Otherwise, let's get out of here."

Her hands moving to her hips, Rochelle seemed to consider her options. "Okay. I'll spell it out for you."

Swiftly she stalked over to a group of men two tables away and, after a short conversation, returned with another chair. Plopping it down, she sat close to Tracey, their knees nearly touching, only a small sliver of the table between them. Folding her arms on the edge of it, she leaned in to bring her eyes level with Tracey's dark ones.

"I don't think you were hung up on her when you met me ... at the beginning of our rela... arrangement." She stumbled on the last word, her eyes flashing bright. "Maybe you didn't think you had a shot with her ... maybe you were bound by some kind of corporate code ... but for whatever reason, you were free then."

When Tracey began to sputter a reply, Rochelle held up her hand firmly. "No, you let me finish ... " Her voice was unusually forceful, strong.

Tracey pressed her lips together and glared.

"So I thought I could handle it ... play by your rules. I was having a good time, telling myself that whatever happened would happen ... " At this point she looked down, seeming to gather herself. Tracey's expression softened. "I didn't expect you to fall for me, not really ... but I had hoped ... maybe in time ..."

Bravely she met Tracey's gaze again. "I didn't know about her."

Shaking her head and once again trying to interject, Tracey furrowed her brow. "Rochelle ... this isn't about anyone else ..."

Rochelle's hand slapped the table sharply. "The hell it's not. I saw you. I was right here! You can keep lying to yourself, but I deserve more than that ... At first I was confused, it all happened so fast. I knew you were going to break it off once I saw you here tonight, the way you were acting. Then on our way up to the roof ... you stopped suddenly ... you looked so lost ... then you were kissing me. I thought maybe you had changed your mind ... " She chewed on her bottom lip as she paused. "Even though I didn't understand ... I didn't care ... you wanted me again." The last part was barely above a whisper.

Tracey didn't know what to say. She had never intended for Rochelle to be hurt, even though she had known that at some point their two-sided agreement had become decidedly one-sided. That's why tonight had been the end of the line. Because she HAD known and she couldn't keep pretending she didn't. Forget Ravell. Who's the asshole now, Kibre?

Rochelle took a deep breath. "It all clicked when I saw her. Actually, when she was walking toward us ... your whole body went stiff, tensed up. I thought she might be your ex ... that there was some baggage there you wanted to avoid. But then ... the way you looked at her. You looked ... "

She averted her eyes for a moment, searching for the right words. When she turned back to Tracey, her face was completely vulnerable. "You looked the way I feel when I look at you."

No matter how much she wanted to deny it, to make the redhead feel better, Tracey knew she couldn't. That it would only make this worse. Not that it could be much worse. She said nothing, not even the sincere "I'm sorry" that she knew wouldn't be nearly enough.

"I'm not sure why you were trying to punish her like that. The way you talked to her ... flaunted me, us ... you're only going to push her farther away. I suspect you know that."

"I wasn't ... I didn't ... "

"Tracey, you were barely civil. You scored a couple of direct hits. She has very expressive eyes." Rochelle shook her fingers loosely. "And one hell of a grip. I think she was trying to break something." Carefully she flexed her hand.

God. Kelly's eyes. For a few seconds she saw them clearly in her mind. Then she was confused by the gist of Rochelle's comments. "She doesn't ... she is involved with someone ... they were together ..." What Rochelle was implying didn't make sense.

Rochelle smiled sadly. "And you were with me. That doesn't mean you don't have feelings for her. We both know that now."

"You're wrong ... she doesn't ..." Kelly's face flashed in front of her, stunned and wounded, as she watched Tracey across the room. Fuck. She had been so busy feeling sorry for herself ... being pissed off and jealous and destructive ... that she hadn't really seen. Rochelle was echoing her thoughts.

"Believe me, she wouldn't have been that upset if she weren't totally gone over you. If looks could kill, I wouldn't be here right now."

For the second time that night, the bottom fell out. Tracey was caught in a whirlwind of emotions. Could it be true? She had believed it before ... before tonight... with Ravell ... at least in the possibility ... She heard herself as she must have sounded when she was lashing out at Kelly ... twisting the knife by using Rochelle ... dammit ... if there had been a chance, even a small one ... what had she done?

"It doesn't matter now ... it's too late ..." Rochelle was right. She had pushed Kelly further away.

It took her a moment to realize that Rochelle was standing, scrutinizing her with a long appraising stare. Raising her chin somewhat defiantly, the tall redhead started to leave. "If you really believe that ... you're not half as smart as you think you are."

Part 6

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