This chapter was deleted from Playing At Love. It would have happened the morning after Felicity and Conor had that kiss in the pool in Los Angeles. It delved into Felicity's uncomfortable understanding of Conor and Sophie's tangled relationship. I ultimately decided to have her push off those thoughts until a later time (basically in Hitting That Sweet Spot, where it all came crashing down on her).
Felicity had her eyes trained down as she moved briskly along the hallway toward her own room, silently berating herself for ever allowing Conor to stir any emotions in her.
Felicity looked up and found herself a few feet from Sophie. Her friend had on running gear and was wiping at the sweat on her brow with a white hand towel.
“Yeah, of course.”
Sophie nodded. “Come with me.” She directed Felicity to join her in her room.
“Is Gavin in there?”
“No, I left him still working out in the gym.”
Felicity was relieved. She wasn’t in the mood to chat with him or anyone else but Sophie.
“Listen, I’m going to order down for a smoothie and maybe some fruit. Do you want anything to snack on? After I shower we’ll go to lunch,” Sophie said, picking up the phone.
“No, I’m fine.”
After making the arrangements, Sophie went to take a shower and left Felicity sitting on the balcony of the suite. Her hotel room was larger and posher than Felicity’s and she enjoyed the warm air and sun on her face while she waited.
When she had gotten back to her room the night before, a large part of her had hoped Conor would follow her. But a suggestive knock on her door never came. And she ended up feeling a fool for engaging him in that kiss. Once again, he was getting the best of both worlds without consequence or care.
She was lost in these thoughts when Sophie rejoined her. Her wet hair had been pulled back into a casual topnot and her face was freshly scrubbed and devoid of makeup. Most anyone else would have looked plain, but of course for Sophie the simplicity heightened her beauty.
“So, tell me what’s wrong,” Sophie said.
“I don’t want to go into it, really.”
“You’ll feel better if you do.”
Room service knocked and called out then and Sophie hurried to receive it. She brought the smoothie she had ordered back with her and retook her seat.
“So, go on. You were about to tell me what’s bothering you,” she said and squeezed Felicity’s hand.
Felicity took a deep breath. “How about this. Can I ask you a question that might be...uncomfortable?”
Sophie’s eyes lit up. “I’m intrigued! Yes, ask away.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Felicity said, “It’s about Conor and the way he was with you.”
“It’s okay. Ask me.”
Felicity looked behind herself toward the front door of the suite, wanting to make sure that Gavin hadn’t returned unannounced.
“Well, he told me that with you two...it started with him playing games with you, just to see how far he could take it. To amuse himself.”
Sophie sat back in her chair. “Okay.”
“What I’m wondering...when did it become more than that? When did the game playing for its own sake stop and the emotion take over?”
“You’d have to ask him, Felicity.”
“Thing is, Sophie, you know him. You probably didn’t want to admit it to yourself at the time, but you knew he was in love with you.”
It had been almost a decade since Sophie had been a part of Gavin’s - and by extension Rogue’s - life. She recalled the way Conor would flirt with her and even taunt her for having only ever slept with Gavin. He liked to tease her about what she was missing. But it wasn’t all that long before the flirting and teasing became something both more physical as he found ways to try to seduce her, which she always dismissed as an attraction that would have to be denied. But he had also become her confidant and friend. When she reviewed their history together she knew he had probably fallen for her back at the beginning, back when she moved to Ireland to be with Gavin. What a long time that was to have endured without true reciprocation.
Sophie shook her head a bit to push away the memories. “Why don’t you tell me what games he’s playing with you? That’s the only insight I can give you. I don’t want to talk about me and him.”
Felicity watched her for a moment, the realization that Sophie had fallen in love with Conor too just now occurring to her. She had always thought that the love part had been unrequited, that their episode together was just a physical connection. But she could see in her friend’s eyes that there had been more to it.
“Okay, this is weird now. I mean, it was weird to begin with but this is just not good.”
“Forget I brought all this up. Maybe we should just agree not to talk about him.”
“I just, I didn’t realize until now that you were in love with him too. I didn’t think it went that far.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s done and over. He and I never had a relationship. I chose Gavin. He knows that. I will always choose Gavin.”
“Oh Sophie,” Felicity said and held her head in her hands. Why did they all have to be so tangled up in each other?
“Let me try to help.” Sophie put a soothing hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I meant it when I said I thought you two would be great together.”
Lifting her head, Felicity gazed out at the wide expanse that was Los Angeles. The city spread out before them was as immense as an ocean of concrete and haze. She vastness made her feel even more confused. And lonely.
“I kissed him last night,” she said. “And that was all. And just this morning I had to wake him to get him to his interview. He and Colette had apparently overslept. He came naked to the door - well he had his bits covered but naked otherwise. And I could see her in the bed.”
Sophie winced. “I’m sure that didn’t feel very good. But, you do know that men are masters at compartmentalizing, right? It’s like they have all these little boxes in their heart where they keep things separated and don’t even think about how one affects the other.”
Felicity laughed without humor. “So, him going from me to her is just something I shouldn’t take personally, is what you’re saying?”
“Well, for lack of a better turn of phrase, yeah.” Sophie smiled to try to soften her words. “It doesn’t lessen what you felt with that kiss. Believe me, okay?”
Felicity hadn’t thought about the timeline of Conor’s love for Sophie that carefully before. But now she realized that he had been with Colette for the past few years while at the same time also in love with Sophie. Was he even capable of loving the one he was with? What if they actually were together somehow, would he find some other person to play games with?
“This has been enlightening, that’s for sure,” she said.
“Are you okay?”
Before Felicity could formulate an answer, they both turned at the sound of a door opening. Gavin was letting himself in. He gave them a wave and then peeled off his sweaty shirt as he moved toward them.
“Hello ladies.” Gavin leaned down to kiss Sophie.
“So you’re a bit of gym rat now, too?” Felicity asked.
Gavin flexed his abs and biceps in a cartoonish muscle man way, but his toned body showed well. “How am I looking, then?” he asked with a grin.
Felicity laughed. “You’re doing good, McManus. Keep at it.”
“Baby, I’m going to take Felicity out to lunch and maybe some shopping while she has some time. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure. I’m just going to shower and maybe see what Conor’s doing.”
“I sent him off to do an interview. He won’t be done until early evening, I’d imagine.”
“Alright. I’ll ring Seamus, Marty. See what kind of trouble we can get into before tonight’s party.”
“I was up there by the pool earlier,” Felicity said. “You know they’re setting up a stage with amps and speakers and everything?”
“Didn’t know we’d be performing. James must have arranged it.”
“Means you can’t get too sloshed right away,” Felicity said with a wink.
“The sacrifices I make!” he said, making them laugh.
Felicity was glad Gavin had come in when he did. It was a welcome distraction because she didn't know what more to say about everything.
© Lara Ward Cosio