Trapped, all bravado fled. The brunette mumbled something at Brett and escaped.
“That was fun.” Halstead grinned, trying to lighten the tension. His smile faded as he saw Sylvie’s pale face. “You okay?”
She blew out a slow breath, managing a smile. “Yeah, Jay. Thank you.” There was only a slight tremble in her voice as she squeezed Casey’s hand before finally slipping it out of his grip. “I – that was just a bit out of character for the guy I know. Or thought I knew.”
“Really? Hmm,” Jay mused thoughtfully. “I know you were mostly bluffing Casey, but I think I will run his name through the system, see if I get any hits. Better safe than sorry, especially in his line of work.”
He and Casey exchanged a meaningful look.
“Thanks Halstead,” Casey nodded, glancing at Brett. “Pretty sure it was just dumb kid bravado stuff, but appreciate it anyway.”
“Of course.” They clasped hands briefly, before he moved away to join a watchful Atwood and Severride at the bar.
Brett groaned, shaking her head. “See? I am utterly hopeless when it comes to anything even remotely related to the possibility of romance.” She said, frustration clear. “I didn’t mean to give him mixed signals – “
“Sylvie. Stop.” He interrupted firmly. “None of that was your fault.”
“But technically I did lie to him – my engagement has been over for a few months – “
“That is irrelevant. Unless you’re having second thoughts or actual regrets…”
“No.” She replied immediately, meeting his gaze. “I made the right decision. I’m where I want to be.”
Relief flowed through him at her instant and steady reply. He nodded. “Then my point remains the same. The fact that you were not interested should have been more than enough, full stop. That’s on Pace, not you.”
She nodded slowly, still looking miserable. Casey studied her for a long moment, his gaze unreadable.
“Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that you’re not going to be truly happy until you figure out what you want and reach out and take it.” He said bluntly. “And until you make that decision to go all in and take the leap, you’re not going to be satisfied with any relationship. I wasn’t.”
“That…isn’t my usual M.O.,” she admitted ruefully. “I told you, I’m more of a guppy than a piranha.”
“Passively waiting for the right person to find you isn’t living, Sylvie.” Her gaze flew to his face, startled by the use of her first name. “People like us – we tend to get inside our own heads a bit too much and second guess personal, emotional decisions. But taking that first step to be vulnerable first, and discovering that the person that you’re interested in reciprocates your feelings…there’s nothing quite like it. It gives you a confidence unlike anything else.” Standing up, he met her gaze for a moment, a slight challenge in his gunmetal blue eyes. “Have a good night, Sylvie.”
Her troubled gaze followed him all the way to the door.