Sunspear, Water Garden Palace – Sansa
Sansa sighed as she unwrapped a tampon and took care of business. Like clockwork, her period had come. She was well used to dealing with it and the disappointment that it represented about her.
Her personal life was a mess. She'd poured her heart into her career for most of her twenties, often willing to compromise other parts of her life to have professional success. And now, she was another month closer to thirty, and in a dead end-end relationship that she knew was going nowhere.
She washed her hands and stared at herself in the mirror, and took stock.
What the hell was she doing?
She had been with Harry for four years and knew it was going absolutely nowhere.
Disgusted with herself for wasting her time with a man that wasn't worth it, she threw the tampon wrapper in the garbage and then rummaged in her designer clutch to freshen her makeup.
Four years. Ugh. What an utter waste.
She wasn’t even sure she liked Harry much anymore. In fact, she knew she didn't and hadn't for a while. But she had been too busy to end things. She really hadn't dated much. Harry was only her fourth boyfriend, and the thought of another failed relationship made her depressed.
She had been twenty-four when she'd met Harry. He’d been a year older than her at twenty-five. At the time, he'd seemed perfect – a golden-haired prince of a man that she'd dreamed of her entire life.
Sansa had just moved to Highgarden after finishing her master's degree in fashion design and marketing. She had taken a job with the Tyrell fashion group, and she'd thought he was everything she'd wanted when Marg, her best friend, introduced her to the ambitious stockbroker. Sansa had willingly dived into the relationship, determined to make it work.
Now, as she took stock in the elegantly appointed washroom at her boss's mansion, she knew that had been hopeless. They had been hopeless and probably had been doomed from the start. All her relationships were doomed because Sansa knew what she wanted, and she had yet to find it.
She wanted heart-stopping, sweep you off your feet, can't live without you, love. A once in a lifetime love. Soulmate level love.
Alone in this bathroom, she could admit that she wanted something more than what she had settled for – what she always seemed to settle for.
What was it that her Dad always said? No use crying over spilt milk? He'd had the right of it. Things were over with Harry – she just had to end it.
Shaking herself from going down that road again of lamenting what she didn’t have, Sansa stared at herself in the mirror and took stock. She knew what she had to do. End things with Harry.
While she might have been depressed to get another period at twenty-eight, at least she wasn't pregnant with Harry the Horrible's baby. As much as she wanted the husband and family, she didn't want it with him. It was well past time to end things with him.
Like most women, she'd had a scare or two over the years, but the timing had never been right and she’d been grateful she’d never ended up having a child with someone she didn’t love with her entire heart.
She'd been what one might call a 'late bloomer' – not even dating until her third-year university and losing her virginity when she was twenty-one. Sansa was not a woman that played the field much – either in university or out of it. She was ambitious and picky, and it took a while for her to warm up to guys and trust them. She'd seen far too many friends derailed from their life plans by a handsome face. And she was determined that would not be her.
Which was why she was more annoyed at herself for staying with Harry than she was at Harry himself. Not that she was cutting him any slack. Harry was decidedly lacklustre for a boyfriend, and if she were honest, she couldn't quite figure out why.
Was it her? Was she lacking? Was there something wrong with her that she attracted only duds for boyfriends?
She knew she was slim, but she did have an ok ass. She had perky boobs, and her hair, arguably her best feature, got more than one comment. Sansa knew fashion and dressed to impress. She was smart, a great conversationalist, and she had a variety of interests and hobbies! She even liked kids and dogs and would put up with cats if pushed. All in all, she knew she was a catch!
So why on earth had she 'settled' for Harry?
Sansa was an accomplished professional in her chosen field, with a healthy bank account and a condo that felt far too lonely most days. Now, she was ready for the next step. The one thing that hadn't changed since she was young was the dream of having it all. Career. Husband. Family. None of those dreams had diminished over the years, even if people told her she was far too ambitious and picky sometimes. If anything, those dreams grew stronger by the day.
She had been fooling herself, thinking that was what she and Harry, had been working towards. She knew that they weren't. Harry was immature, socially ambitious, and a workaholic that barely made time for her anymore.
At twenty-nine, Harry Hardyng was a douche. She knew it, and so did her friends.
Sansa had attempted to broach the subject of marriage with Harry six months ago. Or – not even marriage. Just maybe one of them moving to where the other lived. She was in Sunspear, and he was in the Eyrie. How could they possibly have a future when they lived hundreds of miles apart from one another?
She thought that maybe after four years of dating, some of that long-distance, he'd want something more.
He'd laughed and told her he thought their life was fine.
What they had was hardly fine. It was barely even passable.
There hadn't even been any wiggle room. When Harry made up his mind, that was it. He liked the status quo, and it was slowly killing her. That conversation had been six months ago, and things had only deteriorated between them since that dinner. She knew they both felt it. Their relationship was over in all but name. Sansa knew she should have left him that night. There was no future between them.
But they'd been together for years, and she liked having someone in her life. It just seemed like most of the men she was dating were frogs instead of princes.
What had once seemed exciting and fun between her and Harry was now just grating and annoying. She used to be willing to put up with Harry and his antics.
Now, Sansa wanted what she'd always dreamed about. That incredible, soul-consuming, fantastic love. She wanted a husband that adored her and children that created a messy house. She wanted to love someone passionately and have that love returned.
And none of that would happen with Harry.
Here she was, hiding out in one of the elegantly appointed bathrooms in her boss's family's mansion, having a pity party because she'd known her period was coming, and she knew that she'd given up on her dreams for another month. Because she had stayed in a relationship for far too long with a man that wasn't worth it.
Who was she that she was willing to settle? Was this what she had become?
She was frustrated with herself at that moment for never really getting over that idea of true love. Was she just being naïve in thinking there was a perfect man out there for her?
Every single man she'd met, she'd compared to her ideal ‘dream guy.'
Dream guy would be handsome, yes. But kind. Confident. Passionate. He’d be a hard worker and he’d want a family. He’d be sexy as hell and maybe a bit of an alpha male – all growly and possessive and want to shout to the rooftops that he was her man.
That was not Harry. The man didn’t care that she spent her entire day surrounded by beautiful people.
Not that Sansa wanted some jealous possessive asshole. Just a guy that was hers and that she was his. Something … all-consuming and that they couldn’t stand to be apart from one another. And if truth be told, she might not have the most experience in the bedroom, but Harry did not get it done. She wanted a man that was more – that took control, knew her body, got her off.
Sansa liked dirty talk and dominant men and gods …. This was so not helping!
As she stared at herself in the mirror, she realized that every man she’d ever dated had come up lacking. Severely lacking.
She was angry - pissed off at herself that she found herself at such a dead-end in her relationship, again.
She took her lip gloss and put it back into her clutch, unable to keep her mind from straying to Elia Martell, her boss. Elia had been trying to convince Sansa that she had the perfect man for her.
Sansa snorted at that thought. So far, no man had even come close to being perfect.
Elia Martell was fifty-two, almost fifty-three and Sansa's mentor and close friend. The woman was a force in the fashion world and ruled her empire like a benevolent goddess. She had two children, a son named Aegon, thirty - almost thirty-one, and a daughter, Rhae, twenty-eight.
She also had a step-son that was thirty. A step-son that she'd been trying to set Sansa up with for the past few years.
One night when they'd drank far too much wine, the entire sordid story had come out about her step-son, and Sansa's respect for Elia had notched up even higher.
Elia married Rhaegar Targaryen when she was twenty-one and he was twenty-four. Eager for a family, she’d gotten pregnant quickly and at twenty-two, had her son, Aegon, followed a few years later by her daughter Rhae.
Unknown to Elia, her husband began an affair with a woman in the North - a woman Elia’s same age, within the first year of their marriage and had a child with her.
Elia hadn't known about the child or the affair until her husband had died when she was twenty-five. It had caused quite the scandal at the time because her husband had been with his mistress and they both died in the car accident.
At the time, her husband Rhaegar had been twenty-eight and his mistress twenty-five. Their son, Jon, was the same age as Aegon, just shy of three.
It was only then that Elia had learned the affair had started shortly after they had married. Her entire marriage her husband had essentially had a double life with another woman. A woman her same age, who had a son the same age as Elia’s own.
Unlike most women who might have rejected the child and sent him to live with his uncle in the North when he’d become an orphan, Elia had welcomed the child into her home. She was a widow at twenty-five and now had two three-year-olds and a one-year-old to raise by herself.
Elia had taken this Jon Snow into her home to raise him with his half-siblings. Aegon and Jon were only months apart, which made the betrayal all the more brutal. But Elia had never take it out on the boy – loving him as if he were he own.
Since that night, Sansa had her all about the fantastic Dr. Snow, not only from Elia but from Rhae, who also worked with them, and Aegon. It was clear that Jon's half-siblings and stepmother adored him.
Sansa had learned that Jon had ended up splitting his time between Sunspear and the Martells and his Uncle Benjen Snow in the North during his childhood and now was a trauma surgeon in the North. He was in his final years of training, having secured a coveted fellowship at Wintertown’s best hospital.
Despite working for Elia for the past three years, Sansa had yet to meet this mysterious Dr. Snow, as he rarely came south. And really, what were the odds of Elia’s step-son being Sansa’s dream guy? Slim to none the way Sansa could figure it.
So even though she was having a pity party in the bathroom, Sansa knew she had to get her ass out of the bathroom and back to work.
Today was a massive spring launch party for Elia's fall line at her family's mansion, the Water Garden Palace. Sansa, one of Elia's principal designers, was expected to be seen – to mix and mingle and generally be the star she was for House Martell, which had stolen her away from House Tyrell in the Reach. Even House Lannister and House Targaryen hadn't been able to compete with Elia's very generous offer.
Sansa had chosen to work for Elia because the woman was almost a legend in the fashion world, but more, her reputation as a truly amazing woman had proceeded her. And Sansa had worked her ass off for such an opportunity. It had been everything she'd ever wanted. Elia was one of her closest friends, a true mentor and a wonderful woman. Sansa adored working for House Martell.
Except her love life was an utter mess.
An hour ago, her boss, the fantastic and incomparable Elia Martell, had handed Sansa her dream assignment – heading up the new division of House of Martell Fashion in the North.
And Sansa had agreed, knowing it was the next step in her sky-rocketing career.
After practically fleeing the North ten years ago, Sansa Stark was finally going home. She had mixed feelings about it; things were hard there and had been for years. But she couldn't say no, given how much faith Elia was putting in her.
And no one knew the North as Sansa used to. There was something different about the North, even if Sansa had never felt like she'd quite fit in there. She'd left shortly after graduating high school for university in King's Landing, followed by her masters at the Eyrie and only rarely went home since then.
Still, there was no way Sansa could say no to this opportunity. She would be THE person in charge of finding and recruiting new designers from the North into House Martell. She would also be solely responsible for their new spring line, a year from now. It was a massive opportunity and one she couldn’t pass up.
Sansa knew that by accepting this job, there was no way that her relationship with Harry would survive. They'd already been doing long distance, first when she'd taken her first job at Highgarden, and now in Sunspear. Hell, maybe that was why she was willing to take the damn job in the North – to finally put this dead-end relationship to bed.
It would also mean that Sansa would have to face her mother with another failed relationship. Catelyn Tully Stark would not understand how Sansa could give up on Harry. On paper, Harry was everything her socially ambitious mother wanted for her in a partner. Too bad they were oil and water.
Besides the distance, they just didn't want the same things in life. Sansa might have the worst dating history of anyone she knew, but she was unwilling to compromise any longer. She wanted a family and didn't think that was asking too much. She wasn’t even thirty!
"Get it together," she whispered to herself, straightening the bright blue dress that Elia herself had designed.
Her love life might be down the toilet, but Sansa knew she looked good. With her height, slim build and uniquely red hair, there had been more than one fashion designer that had mistaken her for a model. But Sansa's heart was behind the runway – designing elegant clothes and helping run one of the major fashion houses in all of Westeros.
This was the event of the season – one that anyone who was a somebody in the fashion world attended, and her moping about in the bathroom would do her no good. Elia was counting on her, and Sansa was nothing if not the consummate professional.
With one last smack of her lips, Sansa fluffed her hair, thinking that while her love life crashed and burned, she looked good. Her long red hair cascaded down her back in loose waves, and the colour of the dress brought out her eyes.
Eyes that still held a touch of sadness for what might have been.
The whole period/no baby thing had just brought up all those old dreams that she'd tried hard to suppress while dating Harry.
Sighing, her phone chime. She dug it out and glanced down, wondering who on earth was texting her.
Marg: Sansa. Are you alone?
Suddenly, dread formed in her stomach.
Marg was Sansa's best friend, a woman a year older than Sansa, who lived in Highgarden. They'd roomed together through their master's degrees and when she and Marg worked for her family's fashion house in the Reach. It had been Marg that set Sansa up with Harry when she'd moved to Highgarden for her first job, with her new MBA.
There was no one more socially connected than Marg. And if she were texting now, it meant something was going on in their circle of friends.
Sansa: Yeah. Why?
Marg: Fuck, you know I love you, right? That I'm your person, and I'm here for you no matter what.
The pit in Sansa's stomach got worse. For months now, Marg had been begging Sansa to end things with Harry.
Sansa: Just spit it out
A picture came through of Harry. Wrapped around a stunning blond woman, hand up her skirt, clearly doing things to her. Intimate things. Coupley things. Sansa knew that woman – she also worked at House Tyrell. Her name was Maya, and she was a year younger than Sansa at twenty-seven.
Guess that answered her question if she had a future with Harry and when she might end things with him.
Angry now, Sansa shot a quick text message to Harry, telling him they were done, including the picture.
He barely responded, only to say that they both knew it had been over for months.
Come to think of it, it had been at least that long, if not longer since they'd even seen one another, let alone be intimate. Still, she’d schedule an appointment with her doctor to get tested, as Harry was clearly not to be trusted and push him out of her mind.
Resigned, but also relieved that it was over, Sansa stuffed her phone back into her purse, opened the bathroom door, and prepared to grin and bear it for the party. Plenty of time to throw herself a pity party later.
As she stepped out into the hallway, Sansa forgot to glance to her left and ran smack into a hard, male body.
Her nose smashed into a shoulder and stung, so she closed her eyes and prayed it wouldn't start to bleed. That was the last thing she needed today. Strong hands gripped her arms, steadying her, and for a brief second, she inhaled, loving the spicy male scent of whoever had caught her.
"Sorry!" they both cried at the same time, just as another little voice chimed, "Daddy, you ran right into the pretty lady!"
Sansa's eyes flew open to see a very handsome man standing in front of her, looking slightly stunned, holding her by the arms to keep her from falling, a look of shocked bewilderment on his handsome face.
Heart beating wildly, Sansa felt a tentative smile on her lips as their eyes locked. Her mind could only think about how damn attractive he was. Dark, curly hair. A smile that had a dimple popping. The man wasn't huge, but Sansa could tell he was fit. His eyes were grey, and she found herself staring into them as her heart thumped wildly.
For a moment, she wondered if this were THE moment. That moment in her life when she literally ran into the man of her dreams.
Then reality intruded, as Sansa realized someone had called this man Daddy. Someone little. Sansa looked down.
And saw someone who looked like Handsome Stranger, with dark curls and curious blue eye, staring up at her.
The truth crashed into Sansa.
This man was a father. And surely a guy that looked like him, who seemed kind and had such a great smile, had a wife because lord have mercy, who on earth would ever let a man like this to roam around by himself? He was far too handsome for him to be single!
"Hello," the handsome stranger said as his pouty lips quirked. Gods, she wanted to kiss those lips.
Sansa blushed and noticed he didn't let her go, which she could admit, didn't precisely track with the idea that he was here with someone. Because if this were her husband and father of her daughter – no way in HELL Sansa would let him go around rescuing women as they stumbled out of bathrooms.
"Hi," Sansa replied and knew she sounded breathless. But she couldn’t help it. Had anyone ever affected her like this?
Gods, this man! He was scrambling her brain and making her lady parts ache. He was just so handsome.
Sansa was trying to regain her equilibrium, sure some model gorgeous woman was going to call his name and come rushing down the hall to claim not only him but the adorable little girl who was shyly smiling at Sansa.
"Hi," the girl lisped. Sansa forced her attention aware from Handsome Stranger and to the little girl. She’d always been good with kids.
Sansa's shot her a smile. "Hi."
"You have mermaid hair," the little girl said and then pressed herself against Handsome Stranger's leg.
The man smiled softly at his daughter, which made Sansa's heart melt. He was about to say something, when Sansa crouched down, so she was eye level with the child. The little girl had bright blue eyes that matched her dress and she was staring at Sansa.
"Mermaid hair, huh?"
The little girl nodded, suddenly both mute and shy as she pressed closer against a black trousered leg.
Sansa's discerning eye took in the bespoke suit, which fitted the man to a T. Gods, he was freaking delicious!
Sansa looked up to see Handsome Stranger's eyes dancing with delight.
"She's into princesses right now. Ariel is a current favourite,” he said, that voice deep and holding a hint of a Northern accent, which, she could admit, she’d missed.
Who was he? And why was he so damn yummy?
Sansa winked at Handsome Stranger, whose smile got wider. His dimple popped and oh god, she wanted …. Something.
Turning, Sansa focused back on his daughter.
"Ahh, well, that makes sense, although can I share a secret with you?" she stage whispered the little girl, who nodded.
"I can't sing."
For a moment, silence reigned until the girl giggled, and Sansa's smile widened.
"Really. I like your dress," Sansa added, watching the little girl's eyes widen as she seemed to realize they were both wearing blue dresses.
Sansa was just about to share more when her phone buzzed with the distinctive sound that she'd assigned to Elia.
Too late, Sansa realized she had been gone for far too long from the party and needed to get back to work.
Genuine regret coursed through her, for she found this combination of Handsome Stranger and his charming daughter delightful.
"Thanks for the rescue," she said, sending him a wink as her phone buzzed again.
It meant Elia REALLY needed her! She wished she could stay, but she had to go.
Sansa had enough presence of mind to glance down at Handsome Stranger’s hand and see that it was bare before she spun on her heel and dashed down the hall and away from the temptation that was the best-looking guy she'd ever met.
Thank goodness he didn’t have a ring on, she thought as she hurried towards the expansive gardens of the Water Palace.
Not that no ring meant that he was single. Maybe there was a reason he didn't wear a ring. Or that his significant other wasn't with him today. There could be any number of reasons he was here alone, and not one of them meant he was single.
But as she stepped out into the elegantly appointed backyard and scanned for Elia Martell, she couldn't help but think that if the mysterious Jon Snow were anything like the man she'd literally just run into, well, then Sansa just might, MIGHT think about throwing her hat into the dating ring again.
A few minutes earlier ….
Sunspear, Water Garden Palace - Jon
"Mia, please, your dress is fine," Jon said, trying to keep his temper in check. He loved his daughter. She was the light of his life. She was his everything. They were a team. A dynamic duo!
But right now, she was driving him mad.
She was as stubborn as a pack of mules when it came to getting dressed. Somehow he'd ended up with a little girl that was obsessed with fashion. It baffled him that what she wore mattered so much to her, but it did.
Elia loved to dress up and often laughed that even though she wasn't Mia's biological grandmother, only her adopted one, Elia’s sense of fashion had somehow rubbed off on Mia.
"But Daddy, Nana Elia's seen me in this dress before," she said, stomping her foot, that bottom lip going into her signature pout. It was a blue creation Elia had gifted Mia with a few months ago when she'd made one of her rare trips North.
Jon sighed and knelt, so he was eye level with her. He knew this was his fault. He'd been so busy at work the week before they'd come down to Elia's big party that he'd failed to get Mia a new dress. Now she was upset, and he couldn't really blame her, but there was little he could do about it now.
"Mia, I'm sorry," he said, meaning it.
It wasn't her fault that he was a single father, with a demanding and busy career, with little family in the North where he worked to help him out. His uncle Benjen, who'd help raise him, was a great guy, but he could only handle so much Mia. The guy was a perpetual bachelor, and there was no way that Ben would ever go shopping for a dress for Mia.
His daughter stuck out her lower lip that quivered.
"I'm sorry too, Daddy."
Jon's heart ached. He did his best, gave her everything he could. But he could never make up for Mia's mother leaving when she was two months old, and his career as a trauma surgeon had left so little extra time.
He tried his best, but Jon was exhausted. Even the live-in nanny that Elia had arranged for them barely had Jon keeping his head above water.
For a brief moment, Jon closed his eyes and imagined someone else, here beside him, the way he'd always thought about having a family. There had never been a time when Jon had ever imagined being a single father – not after his own rocky start in this world. But circumstances and too much whiskey and sheer loneliness had led to Mia.
Not that he regretted his daughter at all. She was everything to him.
He felt Mia's hand on his cheek and opened his eyes to see blue ones staring back at him.
"Don't be sad," she said.
"Oh, baby, I'm not. I just wish I had more time. Daddy just forgot about the dress, and I know how important it was to you."
She kissed his cheek and told him it was ok and the surge of fierce love and protectiveness he felt for her rushed through Jon. As long as he lived, Mia would always come first. He might have screwed up his personal life spectacularly, but he had Mia.
Jon knew that he and Val had never been more than something casual from the first time they'd hooked up. He'd been in residency learning how to be a surgeon, and she was a nurse, and he'd been upset when he'd learned his ex was dating someone new. He'd been twenty-five, Val twenty-six, and they just sort of fell into bed with one another.
He and Val had been an itch for each other to scratch and were more off than ever on. Hell, they could go for two weeks without even talking, their schedules both so gruelling. They were just … convenient. There hadn't been anything between them but sex.
So he understood how she could walk away from him. They had never been in love, never really committed to one another. Never made any long-term plans. Hell, half the time, they weren't even really dating, just sleeping together.
But he would never, for as long as he lived, understand how she'd walked away from her daughter. Their daughter. How any person could do that baffled Jon. It hurt to think of what it did to Mia to have a mother that had rejected her so soundly. No matter how much Jon loved his daughter, he couldn't make up for what Val's leaving did to her.
Now he was thirty, almost thirty-one, with a highly intelligent, incredible daughter, and he knew that he was failing Mia on some level. Maybe it was time to take his stepmother up on her offer to move back to Sunspear.
Jon loved the North, but he had so much more family down south, even if he felt like the south was stifling him every time he was here.
"Maybe Nana has something," he said, winking at Mia as she fit her small hand into his.
She giggled, and Jon knew Mia forgave him. Mia was like that – her love so freely and easily given.
It had been a few years since Jon had come down to his step-mother's big fashion/gala event, and the first one that Mia was allowed to attend, and she'd been talking about it for months. In fact, the last time Jon had been here was five years ago, right before he'd found out that Val was pregnant.
Mia laughed again, and knowing he had averted the crisis, Jon brushed a hand through his curls and straightened his tie. He'd kept it simple, wearing a white shirt, a black designer suit and a blue tie to match Mia's eyes.
If Jon longed to meet someone that would understand not only his love of the North but also the love he had for his daughter well, he pushed those thoughts aside.
Jon hadn't been on a date since the moment Mia had been born, and even before that, he had been more dedicated to making something of himself than playing the field.
He was, he knew, a man who craved monogamy and a committed relationship with one woman. He wanted a real partner – an intelligent and driven woman, but someone who was warm and loving. His ideal woman would want a family and know that he and Mia were a package deal. He could admit that he had an affinity for slim redheads, which was maybe another reason he and Val would never have worked. She just wasn’t his type.
"Daddy, can I have some punch?" Mia asked as they stepped into the hallway, drawing him out of his pointless musings on his pathetic love life.
Elia had been begging him for years to come to her big fashion gala, and her latest' hook' had been so she could introduce him to her "incredible, talented and beautiful up-and-coming designer that would be perfect for you."
Jon had snorted at that thought, sure such a woman didn’t exist.
Jon was too busy paying attention to his daughter that instinct took over when he felt someone crash into him as he grasped onto bare feminine arms. Immediately Jon was assaulted with an incredible scent - lemons and lavender.
The woman that had stepped out from the bathroom was one that the universe had plucked from his very thoughts. His dreams!
Oh god. He was holding on to dream woman.
For a moment, he could only stare. She was stunning. Tall – almost as tall as he was. Long red hair. Porcelain white skin. Pink lips. Oh gods, her lips.
Did he groan? He swore he groaned.
"Sorry!" he cried at the same time she did as their eyes collided. There was a small smile tugging at her lips, and for a single second, it felt like they were the only two people in the entire world.
Hope surged in Jon.
Suddenly, he was excited about the party and the possibility this woman represented. He glanced at her left hand and didn’t see any rings there, so she wasn’t married, which was a good start. Surely someone like her had a boyfriend though? Maybe?
"Daddy, you smashed into the pretty lady!" Mia cried.
Jon watched as the woman's eyes tore themselves from his face, down to Mia. Since Jon watched Mystery Woman, he saw the moment Mystery Woman realized Mia was his daughter, and he couldn't help but smirk as her eyes darted past him and down the hall – as if she were searching for his wife.
He wanted to tell her that there was no wife. No girlfriend. No lover. No one but him and Mia. But he didn't because he didn't want her to think he was too forward.
Jon realized he was still holding onto her arms; although she was steady, she didn't step out of his grip, and he liked touching her.
"Hello," he said, immediately cursing himself for not coming up with something more original.
"Hi," She returned, eyes positively dancing.
Gods, everything about her called to him, and Jon knew he had to take a chance. At least learn her name and ask what she was doing here, at Elia's impressive mansion.
Just as he was about to introduce himself, Mia said her own hello.
There had been plenty of people that Mia had introduced herself to over the years. His daughter had a big personality and was outgoing, and believed everyone should want to be her friend. Jon had gotten pretty good at reading people, especially by how they first responded to his daughter.
Some were placating to Mia.
Some almost ignored her.
Some spoke to her like she was a dog or a puppy.
But Mystery Woman didn't. She gave Mia a real smile and said Hi, back.
Which, of course, led Mia to claim that Mystery Woman had mermaid hair. Mia had been on a Disney princess kick – the latest being Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
Jon was about to say more when Mystery Woman crouched down, so she was eye level with his suddenly shy daughter.
Jon felt Mia press herself into his leg.
Mystery Woman gazed up at him, her blue eyes dancing with mirth.
"She's into princesses right now. Ariel is a current favourite," Jon said, feeling like he sounded like an idiot.
But she winked at him, and Jon's smile grew. This woman owned him right now.
"Ahh, well that makes sense, although can I share a secret with you?" she stage whispered his little girl, who nodded, suddenly intrigued by the stranger as was Jon.
Who was she? Jon wanted to know her name. Hell, he wanted to know everything about her.
"I can't sing."
For a moment, silence reigned until the girl giggled, and Mystery Woman's smile widened. Jon’s heart thumped. She’d made his daughter giggle. And treated her like she was her own little person, which she was, but lots of people didn’t get that about kids.
The stunning redhead nodded and then, bless her, complimented Mia's dress, which was a very similar colour to her own. Jon saw his daughter's little chest puff out in delight, and he knew he had to get this woman's name, her number, ask her if she were single. He'd never felt like this about anyone. Ever.
Jon was just about to ask when her phone rang, and he saw real regret on her face.
She rose gracefully and glanced at the phone as it buzzed again.
"Thanks for the rescue," she said, flashing him another smile and then all but dashing away and down the hall, leaving Jon standing there, stunned.
"She's pretty," Mia said conversationally. "And her dress matches mine."
Jon could only nod as he led Mia down the hallway towards the party, wondering if he might see Mystery Woman again, and if he did, would she speak to him.
But as they stepped out onto the huge stone patio, Jon was swallowed up by Martells. His half-brother Aegon, and half-sister Rhae, who were delighted to see him and Mia, were waiting for them. Mia adored her aunt and uncle and the large Martell family. They hurried him over to the plethora of Martell cousins, aunts and uncles, all of whom had to comment on Jon's lack of appearance at Elia’s party over the last few years.
None of them could quite understand how insanely busy Jon's life was in the North.
Jon tried to look for Mystery Woman, but she was gone, almost like she'd never existed. He almost wondered if he'd imagined her, except Mia kept asking him to find the pretty lady with the matching dress.
He could have asked someone – likely Aegon. His half-brother always seemed to know all the pretty women at any place they were at, but Jon wanted to keep her to himself for some reason.
But as the party wore on, Jon never found her and was busy keeping Mia from eating too much junk.
Jon sighed and then turned his attention back to his family. That was why he was here, for Mia to get to know her aunts and uncles, connect with Elia, and take a short break from the insanity that was his life. Not to chase after women, no matter how intriguing they were.
How long had it been since someone had affected him like that?
When Jon thought about it, he couldn't ever recall anyone ever affecting him like that.
But it seemed like she was gone, so Jon resigned himself to the fact that it wasn't meant to be. He'd enjoy the next few days in Dorne and then head home to the North where he belonged.
He was determined to be the best father he could to Mia and a damn good doctor. It was enough. It had to be.
Jon wasn't a man that believed in fate or destiny or soulmates.
Or had Mystery Woman changed that? There was something that felt like kismet, running into her like that, but as the night wore on, he never saw her again.
Then shaking his head, Jon plastered a fake smile on his face and joined in the fray, knowing that he'd dream of Mystery Woman tonight despite his best intentions. Somehow, in a short five-minute encounter, she'd worked her way past all his defences, and he knew it would take more than one night to get over the stunning redhead that had rocked his world to its very foundation.