“Auld Lang Syne” [PG-13] – 1/1

Here is a New Years tale set at least a week-and-a-half after “Revelations”. It’s called “Auld Lang Syne”:



SUMMARY: Cole and Olivia bring in the New Year at a swank party and discover more than they had bargained for. Set nine days after “Revelations” – alternate Season 5.
FEEDBACK:  Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, the Charmed Ones and other characters related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. The McNeills are my creation.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Someone once suggested that I write an Xmas story featuring Cole and the McNeills. I couldn’t think of one, and came up with a New Year story, instead. Two months late, I’m sorry to say. Hope you like it.


“Good afternoon, Mr. Turner,” the voice on the other end of the telephone greeted.

Turner. After nearly two months of acquaintance, Cole had learned that whenever his friend and neighbor, Olivia McNeill, felt nervous, she would call him by his surname. What she had to be nervous about on this gusty Monday, Cole had no idea.

He sighed. “Okay, Olivia, what do you want?”

“Who me?”


The other voice inhaled deeply. “All right,” Olivia admitted. “I only wanted to know if you’re free for tomorrow night. You know, New Year’s Eve?”

Now it was Cole’s turn to feel nervous. A date? Why would Olivia be interested in knowing whether he had a date or not? Was she interested in him? Or did she need a convenient companion for the New Year celebration, tomorrow? Cole suspected the latter. He did not mind. Somewhat. After all, the last thing he needed another romance so soon after his divorce. Rebound was not exactly his style. Yet, another part of him could not deny his attraction to the red-haired witch. Should he accept her offer? Or reject Olivia? Cole took a deep breath. “No, I don’t have a date. Are you asking me out on one?”

Silence preceded Olivia’s reply. “Well, I guess you can call it a date. I thought you wouldn’t mind coming to a New Year’s party with me. Warren Mitchell is the host. At the Mark Hopkins Hotel.”

“Sounds like fun,” Cole murmured. “What time should I pick you up?” The two friends proceeded to make arrangements for tomorrow night. Once they agreed upon their plans, the two friends hung up.

* * * *

A firm believer in being prompt, Cole appeared outside Olivia’s apartment at exactly eight o’clock, the following evening. A large tan trenchcoat barely hid an immaculately well-tailored tuxedo. After he rang the doorbell, relief washed over him when Olivia answered the door.

The figure that stood in the doorway, took Cole’s breath away. Literally. Beautiful seemed like an inadequate word to describe Olivia. She looked exquisite in a watered green silk gown with a halter top. A deep green Kashmir shawl barely covered her creamy shoulders. And tiny emerald earrings sparkled from her earlobes. Cole wanted to express how beautiful she looked. But fearful of seeming too appreciative or eager, he greeted his neighbor with, “Hey! You look very nice. But aren’t you going to be a bit cold in that?”

Olivia sighed and rolled her eyes. “So much for making an appearance,” she muttered. “Hold on.” She disappeared for a few seconds and returned with an overcoat covering her gown. “Okay, let’s go.” She and Cole headed toward the elevator. As they reached their destination, Cole wondered if he had just made a big mistake.

* * * *

Twenty minutes later, Olivia and Cole entered the elegant ballroom, where the party was being held. They had just left a smaller room, where the guests left their coats and wraps. Balloons and streamers decorated the Peacock Court. A large silver and red banner that read “HAPPY NEW YEAR 2003” hung from the back wall, behind the bandstand. On the latter, a swing band performed one of many old tunes from the 1930s and 1940s. Olivia recognized “Night and Day” as she and Cole entered the room.

Elegantly dressed partygoers danced. Olivia spotted her parents in the middle of the dance floor, oblivious to the others around them. Her older brother, Bruce, and his fiancée, Barbara Bowen, were sampling food from one of the buffet tables. “Where’s Harry?” Cole asked, referring to the McNeills’ youngest family member.

Olivia replied, “He was invited to a party at P3, by Paige. I guess this might be a little too stodgy for him.”

“Paige and Harry?” The idea seemed to be surprising to Cole. “You mean to say they’re now dating? I had no idea.”

“No, they’re not involved. In fact, Harry took his own date to the club.”

Cole nodded. “Oh.”

Olivia continued, “Paige had also invited Bruce and me, but we had already received Warren Mitchell’s invitation.”

“Oh, I see. P3 isn’t exactly your style,” Cole murmured.

“I didn’t say that.”

Cole shot back, “You didn’t have to. Besides, it was never really my style, either. Paige had also invited me, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea. I never liked the place and Phoebe might be there.”

Naturally, Olivia thought sourly. She wondered if Cole would ever recover from his bitter divorce. Or his ex-wife. Instinct told her that idea seemed impossible.

Cole continued, “The only reason I had put up with P3 in the past was because of Phoebe and her sisters. I prefer jazz. Especially Latin jazz and swing.”

“Really?” Olivia replied. “I might have preferred P3 some five to ten years ago. Personally, I think today’s rock music is going down the drain.”

A third voice added, “Typical Olivia. You always did have a dark view of the world. A true pessimist.”

The two friends whirled around. Olivia nearly winced at the sight of the tuxedoed man who stood behind them. No one could deny that Cedric Lloyd was a handsome man. At slightly under six feet, he possessed thick chestnut hair styled in expensive haircut, deep gray eyes and chiseled features. Olivia had known him since her years at Stanford University, eleven years ago.

Fixing a too bright smile on her face, Olivia greeted her old classmate. “Cedric! How are you? It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen each other.”

“Ten months, to be exact,” Cedric promptly replied.

A touch of spite crept into Olivia’s smile. “Oh yes. The Stefan Kakov case. How is Mr. Kakov, by the way? Still enjoying prison?” Before Cedric could reply, Olivia continued, “Cedric was the defense attorney for Stefan Kakov. You know, the so-called ‘businessman’ from Prague. It turned out that Mr. Kakov was merely a front for local Russian gangsters.”

Cedric’s demeanor lost a bit of its friendliness. “You should be careful, Olivia. Or else you can end up being sued for slander.”

“Slander?” Disbelief rang in Olivia’s tone. “Cedric, your client was convicted on four counts of racketeering and one count of attempted murder.”

The other man shot back, “It’s only a temporary setback. I plan to file another appeal on his behalf. Just to let you know.”

“I hope you don’t plan to use the same argument you had used in your last appeal,” Olivia retorted. She added to Cole, “I was one of the investigators in charge of the case. And a witness for the prosecution.”

Cole added with a nod, “Oh yeah. I remember that case. Last February, right?”

Gray eyes turned to Cole. Cedric held out his hand. “I believe we haven’t met. I’m Cedric Lloyd.” To Olivia’s surprise, Cole’s brows shot upward. “And you are?”

“Cole Turner.” He took Cedric’s hand and shook it. “I’m with . . .”

Recognition lit up Cedric’s eyes. “Oh yeah, with Jackman, Carter and Kline,” he finished, to Olivia’s surprise. “I’ve heard of you.”

An ironic smile touched Cole’s lips. “Not surprising, since we’re on opposite sides of the Giovanni case. I’m representing Mark Giovanni. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of each other over the next few years.”

Cedric responded with his own tight smile. “Well, that depends upon Mr. Giovanni. Hopefully, he’ll be convinced to give up his claim on the property in question. Or perhaps his attorney will convince him.” Calculation hardened his gray eyes. “I understand that you’re divorced. And once married to Phoebe Halliwell. You know, from the ‘Ask Phoebe’ column for the BAY-MIRROR. What happened?”

For a moment, Olivia thought Cole would strike the other man dead. Or transform the latter into a ball of fire. The rage disappeared from Cole’s eyes, only to be replaced by spite. “It’s simple,” he replied in his usual snarky tone, “we got divorced. Irreconcilable differences.”

A snide Cedric shot back, “So did any of these irreconcilable differences have anything to do with your disappearance, last summer?”

A pause that seemed to last forever followed. Cole’s eyes bored into Cedric. Long and hard. And the latter had the good sense to look uncomfortable. Then Cole responded with a chilly smile. “The answer to your question is no. My so-called . . . disappearance had nothing to do with my divorce. Anymore than your quiet little weekly ‘lunches’ with a certain Miss Kaye Ling, at the Carnahan Hotel in Room 1005, have anything to do with our case.”

Cedric’s face turned deathly pale behind the tan. An amused smile curved Olivia’s lips. Apparently, Cole had learned a lot about Cedric’s marriage to a certain San Francisco socialite. And his infidelities. “Is there something wrong, Cedric?” she asked. “You look a little . . . well, ill. Where’s your wife, Marta? Is she around?” Olivia glanced around the ballroom.

“I think I . . . uh,” Cedric glanced around nervously, “I better get going.” He flashed the couple an insincere smile. “See you . . . later.” Then he walked away. Quickly.

Both Olivia and Cole immediately broke into gales of laughter. Once it died down, Olivia said, “I’m sorry about what Cedric said to you. About Phoebe and last summer. You have to watch out for him. Cedric loves exploiting other people’s weaknesses to get his way. Even when we knew each other in college. Mind you, I’m not above doing the same, myself.”

Cole smiled and raised his hand. “Guilty as charged.”

Olivia continued, “It’s just that Cedric is one of those slimy little shits that really annoys me. You know what I mean, right?”

“Oh yeah.” Cole’s smile twisted into a grimace. “Troxa. Thankfully, he’s been dead for the past two years.”

Before Olivia could ask for details, the band commenced upon a rendition of an old disco tune called, “Ring My Bell”. Olivia winced. She had never been a fan of the post-1977 Disco era. “Listen, are you hungry? It’s either eat or dance to that piece of crap.”

Cole nodded. “Let’s eat.” The pair headed toward the nearest buffet table. They observed the couples in the middle of the ballroom, dancing . . . or trying to dance to the disco tune. Cole shuddered. “Maybe we should skip the food for now. I don’t know if my food will stay down after watching all that,” he commented. Then he linked his arm with Olivia’s and they continued toward the buffet table. “But I’ll try.”

* * * *

Despite the occasional bad tune, Cole managed to enjoy himself. The food, he had to admit, was superb. Thankfully, the band failed to follow up with another disco tune and returned to their old repertoire. Which gave Cole the opportunity to enjoy several dances with Olivia. As he danced with Olivia’s mother, over an hour-and-a-half later, Cole was unaware that another unpleasant moment loomed ahead.

“Gwen darling! Gwen McNeill!” The screech came from an elegantly-dressed woman in her fifties, who seemed as if she had went on one crash diet too many. The newcomer interrupted the dancing couple, as she threw herself into Gwenneth McNeill’s arms. “Darling! How are you?”

The Welsh-born woman responded to the other woman’s greeting with a polite smile. “Vanessa, darling. How lovely to see you. May I introduce you to a friend of the family? He’s an attorney for Jackman, Carter and Kline. Cole, this is Vanessa Probst. Her husband, Albert, owns, or should I say . . . ‘is’ Sewell Industries. Vanessa dear, this is Cole Turner.”

Bright pale eyes appraised Cole with interest. “Oh my dear, I’ve already met Mr. Turner.”

“You have?” Cole frowned. He did not recall meeting this dark-haired, anorexic-looking woman before.

Mrs. Probst continued, “Oh yes. At Adam Flannery’s ball in late September. He had hired Mr. Turner’s firm to look into purchasing the BAY-MIRROR. However, I hear that Jason Dean is now considering it.”

Adam Flannery’s ball. Cole recalled the handsome millionaire, whom an evil witch had cast a spell over, last fall. Flannery had also been genuinely attracted to Phoebe. In an effort to win his ex-wife’s trust, Cole had encouraged her to date the millionaire. Needless to say, his efforts and Phoebe’s interest in Adam had met a dead end.

Giving Mrs. Probst a polite smile, Cole replied, “Ah yes, now I remember you, Mrs. Probst. You wearing this stunning . . .”

“Silver gown with the halter top,” the socialite finished.

Cole’s smile widened. “Yes.” His eyes swept appreciatively over her figure, causing the older woman to blush. “And you look even lovelier, tonight.”

Mrs. Probst turned to the other woman. “So, Mr. Turner is a friend of the family?” She hungrily eyed Cole, making him feel uncomfortable. “Or Olivia’s friend? I saw them dancing together. Several times.” A knowing smile stretched her thin lips even further.

Cole quietly . . . and politely replied, “We’re just friends. Olivia and I. Neighbors.”

The socialite glanced at Mrs. McNeill. Who confirmed Cole’s words with a nod. “Oh. Well, my mistake. I had thought that Olivia had finally put Richard behind her, after a year.” Mrs. Probst failed to noticed the wince on the other woman’s face. “Mind you, I don’t blame dear Olivia. She and Richard were . . . well, you remember how they were like, together. Right, Gwen darling?”

Looking as if she wanted to sink in the nearest hole and die, Olivia’s mother murmured, “Oh yes.”

“So perfect,” Mrs. Probst continued. “Richard was perfect for Olivia. Rather like some golden couple. I understand he was a reporter for the BAY-MIRROR or some other paper. I don’t know much about his father’s family, but his mother was one of the Marshalls. I even remember the night they had first met . . .”

Mrs. McNeill interrupted in a sharp, yet sweet tone, “Vanessa dear, we’d love to continue this conversation, but Cole and I have a dance to finish. If you please.”

A red flush crept across the socialite’s thin emaciated countenance. “Oh. Yes, of course. I’m so sorry.” Mrs. Probst smiled. “Perhaps I’ll see you later, Mr. Turner?”

Cole opened his mouth, unable to answer. He turned to Mrs. McNeill for help, who promptly replied, “Perhaps dear. Cole still has a few more partners on his dance card, this evening. Including two with me. Excuse us.” To Cole’s relief, Mrs. McNeill steered him away from the socialite, who merely gaped at the departing couple.

“Sorry about that,” Mrs. McNeill quietly continued, “but that’s Vanessa Probst for you. She does tend to ramble on. And sometimes I swear that she considers herself to be San Francisco’s unofficial gossip.”

Cole smiled. “Don’t worry. She didn’t bother me at all.” It was a lie, of course. Although Vanessa Probst had struck him as an irritating woman, her recollections of Olivia and Richard Bannen had ignited a jealousy he had considered non-existent.

Come to think of it, the last time Olivia had mentioned her former fiancé/warlock-lover, Cole felt a jolt of envy. Much to his surprise. It seemed ridiculous, of course. Why should he feel jealous over a man he had never met? Well, that was incorrect. Cole had met Richard Bannen, twice. The first time had happened around the time he was assigned to kill the Charmed Ones. And during the second time, he had been on the run from demonic bounty hunters. And Richard was fleeing vengeful members of the Bannen warlock coven. Both demon and warlock had betrayed their alliances for the love of a witch. The pair met for a brief period to help each other elude their pursuers in another dimension.

Cole had long accepted that he would always love Phoebe, despite their divorce. And that Olivia will never stop mourning Richard, who had been killed by her emotionally disturbed aunt. Yet, Cole found himself experiencing waves of jealousy when Vanessa Probst rambled on about Olivia and Richard. Nor did he understand why. Actually, a small part of his mind knew why, but Cole refused to confront his feelings.

Green eyes that strongly reminded Cole of Olivia, bored into his. “Are you sure?” she asked in response to his comment about Mrs. Probst. “You seemed a little . . . I mean, when Vanessa began talking about Olivia and Richard, you seemed . . . upset.”

Cole gave the red-haired woman a reassuring smile. “Of course. Why would I be upset?”

Gwen McNeill continued to stare at him. “Only you can answer that question, Cole,” she answered cryptically.

Not saying a word, Cole found himself wishing he had never met Vanessa Probst. Or that she had never opened her big, fat mouth.

* * * *

The clock on the east wall read ten twenty-five. Another ninety-five minutes would usher in the New Year – 2003. And Olivia had no one to celebrate with . . . in the traditional fashion.

There was Cole, her escort for tonight. But one did not kiss one’s neighbor and close friend. Especially if one wanted to preserve that friendship. Olivia could only think of one other person with whom she could exchange a New Year’s kiss. If only Cedric Lloyd was not married . . . and repulsive. Otherwise . . .

“Well, well! Look who’s alone at last!” Olivia winced, as none other than Cedric sidled up to her side, near one of the buffet tables. “So, where’s your boon companion, Turner?”

Olivia coolly nodded toward the dance floor. “Over there, with Carol Bessin. Why do you ask?”

“I wanted to make sure that you were alone,” Cedric replied in a voice that seemed to ooze honey. “So that no one would interrupt us.”

Shooting her former classmate a dark look, Olivia added, “When you meant by ‘no one’, did you mean your wife?” She reached for a sliver of quiche.

A too hearty bout of laughter escaped Cedric’s mouth. “You . . . you haven’t changed much, you know that, McNeill?”

“Unfortunately, I can say the same about you.”

Cedric stepped closer, invading Olivia’s personal space. She could feel his hot breath on the back of her neck. “Look, why don’t we take a break from all of this,” he nodded at the partygoers, “and share a private drink, together. Alone.”

Goddess! Olivia heaved a sigh. She dropped a cherry tomato on her plate. “Cedric, please don’t. Just don’t. I wasn’t interested in you, twelve years ago. Nor was I interested in you, ten months ago, and I’m certainly not interested in you, now. One, you’re married. Two, I don’t like you, and three . . .”

A sneer marred Cedric’s handsome face as he finished, “Three, you’re holding out for Cole Turner. Am I right? Unless, you’ve allowed him to sample a bit, already.”

Olivia glared at him. “No, I haven’t,” she shot back, pointedly. “Nor do I intend to. Cole and I are friends and nothing more.”

“Friends, huh?” Cedric’s sneer grew wider. “It’s just as well. I’ve met the former Mrs. Turner at a party, recently. Let’s just say that she would be a hard act to follow.”

The other man’s words proved to be the last straw for Olivia. She fixed Cedric with a glare that would have eviscerated the Source. It certainly convinced the attorney to take a few backward steps. “You know something, Cedric? Your chances of getting into my pants just went from impossible to ground zero,” she said in a deadly voice. “Now, I suggest that you leave me the hell alone.”

Cedric’s face turned dead white. “Hey, Olivia! C’mon! I didn’t mean . . . uh, what I meant to say was . . .”

“I know exactly what you were trying to say.” Olivia’s death glare remained. “And I suggest that you keep your mouth shut before you say anything further.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just that a friend of mine from the BAY-MIRROR had heard about . . .”

Olivia interrupted, “If you’re trying to warn me about Cole, don’t bother. In fact, you’re the one who needs a little warning.”

Cedric’s fearful expression disappeared, only to be replaced by one of wariness. “Meaning?” he demanded.

“Meaning, when you and Cole fight it out over this Giovanni case, I would suggest that for once in your life, try to fight fair. If you don’t you’ll only end up burned.”

A derisive snort escaped Cedric’s mouth. “Look who’s talking!” he shot back, his sneer firmly back in place. “If I remembered correctly, you were quite the little manipulator back in college. And now look at you! Little Miss Do Gooder! It’s not your style, McNeill, so why don’t you give it a break!”

“So I’m a hypocrite! So sue me!” Olivia snapped back. “I know I’m not above manipulating someone, but at least I try to realize when the moment calls for a little manipulation. You seemed so determined to get the best of Cole before the case can get into full swing.”

A belligerent Cedric retorted, “I’m merely trying to stay ahead of the game, sweetheart. Something you would have understood if you had decided to become an attorney, instead of a cop. I want to win this case. And as for your precious Mr. Turner, I think I can handle him.”

Olivia rolled her eyes in disgust. She had forgotten how an intelligent man like Cedric could be so damn stupid. “Oh you can? All you’ve done is questioned Cole’s whereabouts from last summer. It’s only been over a week since he was given this case, and already he knows that you’re cheating on Marta with a Miss Kaye Ling, at the Carnahan Hotel. In Room 1005, I may add.” Amazing how she remembered all that. “You do know what Cole was doing, right? He was giving you a fair warning to play it straight. And when it comes to manipulation, Cedric, we’re rank amateurs compare to him. I suggest that you take my advice.”

The stubborn gleam in Cedric’s eyes told Olivia that he had no intention of following her advice. Figures! She heaved another sigh and placed two canapés on her plate. “I’ve had enough of this. See you later, Cedric,” she drawled. “Hopefully we won’t set eyes upon each other for quite a while.” Olivia started to walk away.

“Hey! Where are you going?” Cedric demanded.

Olivia paused. “To find a place to sit and eat.” She turned around to give him one last pointed look. “Alone.” Then she finally walked away, ignoring her companion’s abashed expression.

* * * *

Eleven fifty-four. At least that was the time shown on the ballroom’s clock. Cole’s eyes scanned the room. There seemed to be no sign of Olivia anywhere. He had spotted other members of the McNeill family . . . but no Olivia.

‘Why is it so important to you that you find her?’ The question reverberated inside Cole’s mind, over and over again. He saw other couples forming, staring at the clock and waiting for the moment when they could celebrate the New Year in traditional fashion. Was that the reason why he seemed so determined to find . . .?

“Hey! Ready for the New Year?” A female’s voice filled Cole’s ears. He spun around and found Olivia standing behind him.

Cole managed to keep the relief out of his smile. “Hey, yourself. Enjoying the party?”

One of Olivia’s red brows quirked upward. “Well, other than an unpleasant encounter with Cedric Lloyd and dances with both Connor Maxwell and David Levin – both lousy dancers, by the way – it’s been great. What about you?”

“Great.” Cole paused momentarily. “So, you had an unpleasant encounter with Lloyd?”

Olivia shook her head. “It’s nothing I couldn’t handle. Just another one of Cedric’s dumb come-ons. I’ve been getting them since college.”

Cole’s mouth twisted into a wry smile. “At least you didn’t have an encounter with one Mrs. Vanessa Probst, this evening. Or did you?”

“Oh dear God!” Green eyes widened in mock horror. “You poor man! Vanessa Probst? And you still have your sanity intact?”

“It was pretty damn close. But I managed.” Cole glanced at the clock. “Huh, it’s almost midnight. In less than two minutes.”

Cobalt blue eyes met green ones. The unmistakable air of heat seemed to sizzle between the pair. The feeling took Cole by surprise. Never had he imagined that he would experience such feelings with a woman other than . . . well, Phoebe. It was impossible. After all, he felt no love toward Olivia, other than as a friend . . .

“Ladies and gentlemen!” a voice boomed across the ballroom. It belonged to the party’s host, Warren Mitchell. Cole and Olivia tore their eyes away from each other and stared at Mitchell, who stood on the bandstand. “In less than . . . twenty-five seconds, 2003 will arrive. Time for the countdown!”

All eyes focused upon the clock on the wall. When the second hand struck ten, the countdown began. “TEN . . . NINE . . . EIGHT . . .” Again, Cole began to contemplate his actions once 2003 arrives. Should he kiss Olivia? Shake her hand? “. . . FOUR . . . THREE . . . TWO . . . ONE!” Then everyone shouted, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

As the band commenced on “Auld Lang Syne”, couples began to kiss. Both Cole and Olivia faced each other awkwardly. For a moment. Then they stepped forward. Again, doubt overwhelmed Cole. Should he kiss her? Would a peck on the cheek hurt? After a moment’s contemplation, Cole decided that it would not. He leaned forward to kiss Olivia’s cheek.

“. . . never brought to mind. Should auld acquaintance be forgot? And days of Auld Lang Syne!”

A slight moan escaped from Olivia’s mouth, as Cole’s lips left her cheek. He stared at her expression – blissful with eyes closed shut – and his heart turned a somersault. “Oh hell!” he murmured. Olivia’s eyes flew opened in surprise. Before she could say or do anything, Cole gathered her into his arms and kissed her. Long and hard.

“. . . days of Auld Lang Syne. Should auld acquaintance be forgot . . .”

Her lips felt warm, soft and welcoming. It seemed to Cole as if the world around him and Olivia had ceased to exist. He gave her lower lip a slight nip before slipping his tongue into her mouth.

“For Auld Lang Syne, my dear. For Auld Lang Syne!”

While their tongues explored each other’s mouths, every nerve in Cole’s body tingled with passion and delight. ‘This is wrong, Turner. Wrong! She’s your neighbor, for God’s sake! You’re not in love with her.’ Slender fingers slid through Cole’s hair, causing the temperature in his body to rise. Olivia’s soft body pressed against his. That, along with the wet warmth of her mouth, left his body feeling so hard that it ached.

‘End it now, Turner! Now! Remember Phoebe! The love of your life!’ Images of his ex-wife popped into Cole’s head. But it did not help. Olivia’s kiss grew harder and more insistent and Phoebe’s image immediately disappeared.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and the days of Auld Lang Syne! HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Cheers and whistles filled the ballroom. Cole realized that he should end the kiss now, but he found himself longing for a private hotel room, where he could enjoy a few private hours with Olivia. Enjoy more kisses, strip the gown from her body; explore the latter with his mouth and hands; lower her onto a bed and . . .

‘Goddamit Turner! Stop! Release her, now!’ Aware that the moment for kisses had finally passed, Cole immediately broke the kiss and cried out, “No!” He jerked away from Olivia’s embrace. The two neighbors stared at each other with stunned eyes. At least Cole felt stunned. Horrified, actually. Did he just . . . ? As much as his mind tried to reject it, he knew what he had done. Kissed his neighbor with the full-blown passion of an ardent lover. Christ! What the hell had he been thinking?

“Uh . . . Shit! I didn’t mean . . . uh . . .” In one of those rare moments, Cole found himself speechless. “Olivia, I didn’t mean . . .”

An icy mist glazed over Olivia’s green eyes. “Yeah, I’m sure that you didn’t.” She looked disappointed. Almost angry. “Looks like the bar’s open, again,” she said with a sigh. “Thank God, because I really need a drink.” She started to turn away.

Cole called after her. “Olivia! Maybe we should . . . should talk about what just happened.”

“What is there to talk about?” Olivia retorted. Anger radiated from her eyes. Real, genuine anger. “It’s the New Year and we kissed like everyone else. End of story. Nothing to get excited over.” Another sigh left her mouth. “Now, I really need that drink.” Before she walked away, Olivia added, “By the way, you don’t have to take me home, tonight. I’ll just leave with my family.”

Cole replied, “I don’t mind taking you home.”

A cool smile touched Olivia’s lips. “But I do. I’ll see you later.” She walked away, leaving behind a confused and devastated half-daemon in her wake.