‘Did you get what you came for?’ Sarah’s cold voice stabs at my flesh. Oh God, does she know? Is there a double meaning there?
I turn, plastering on a false smile. ‘You mean measurements? Yes.’
She looks me over, her elbow resting on her hip, with her sloe gin and tonic suspended in front of her face. She knows. Oh, this is awful.
Jesse races into the bar, skidding to a stop in front of us. I look at him in horror. Could he be any more obvious? I glance at Sarah to gage her reaction to this little scene, finding her looking thoughtfully at us both. She definitely knows. I need to leave, right now.
I turn back towards the bar. Thank God, Mario spots me. ‘Miss O’Shea, here, you must try.’ He hands me a short of some sort.
‘Do you have my phone, Mario?’
‘You try.’ he demands.
In my desperation to get out of here, I knock the whole thing back in one foul gulp. It burns the back of my throat, continuing the burn as it makes its way down my throat and into my stomach.
My mouth forms an O as I squeeze my eyes shut. ‘Wow!’
‘It is good?’
I blow out a long, hot breath, handing the glass back to him. ‘Yes. It’s very good.’ I begin to get the aftertaste of…cherries? He takes the glass, winks and hands me my phone.
I smooth my dress, taking a deep breath, before turning back to face the two people I never want to see again. I’m sure there’s a gigantic, neon sign saying Tart flashing on my forehead.
‘You left this upstairs.’ Ward hands me my folder but doesn’t release it when I tug gently.
‘Thank you,’ I frown at him as he stares at me, his brow completely furrowed as he chews his bottom lip. He finally lets it go, and I tuck it in my bag. ‘Goodbye.’ I leave them both in the bar, making my way to my car. He can’t pursue me with Sarah there to bear witness and that is a major relief.
I get in and start my car, ignoring the voice in my head screaming “You’re probably over the limit!” This is so irresponsible of me, but desperation leaves me with no alternative. I reverse out of the space and see Jesse come bounding out of the doors. He can’t be serious? Why doesn’t he just come out and tell her exactly what just happened?
Frantically, I shift into first gear, pulling off sharply and leaving a cloud of dust in my wake. I’ve never drove my Mini so erratically. As the fog of dust clears behind me, I see Jesse in the rear view mirror, throwing his arms around in the air like some raving lunatic. I speed down the tree covered driveway, my head spinning – a mixture of drink and distress – trying to block everything out of my mind and concentrate on the road ahead of me. I’m in no state to be driving. All my senses are dulled, the drink only a minor contributing factor to my hysterical state of mind.
Glancing down at the dashboard, I note I’m driving stupidly fast and without the headlights or my seatbelt on. My head is all over the place. The gates come into view and I release the accelerator. ‘Open, please, open.’ I plead as I pull to a standstill. ‘Open!’ I thump the steering wheel in frustration and the horn screams, sending me on a startled jump in my seat. The sound of a car approaching drags my eyes to the rearview mirror. The headlights are getting closer.
‘Oh, f**king hell!’ I curse.
It skids to a stop behind me and the door flies open. Jesse gets out and strides forward at a leisurely rate, but I’m not trying to kid myself that he doesn’t look fuming. Just because he didn’t get his rocks off? I dramatically slump my arms and head onto the steering wheel, feeling completely flattened. My aim to escape, no questions asked or explanations given, has been well and truly dashed – not that I owe him any explanations. The situation, in all its hideousness, speaks for itself.
The driver door is yanked open and he grabs my arm, gently pulling me from the car and taking my keys from the ignition. ‘Ava,’ He looks at me all disapproving. I want to yell at him, but he gets in first. ‘You’re half pissed! I swear to God, if you’d of hurt yourself…’
I wince at his words, mentally scolding myself for being so reckless. I stand in front of him, soaking up his displeasure, feeling humiliated and pathetic. He grasps my jaw in his hand to look down at me. He’s moving in for a kiss, I can see it in his eyes. Oh, please. I really don’t need this. I pull my face from his grip.
‘Are you okay?’ he asks softly, reaching for me again.
I brush him off. ‘Funnily enough, no, I’m not. Why did you do that?’
‘Isn’t it obvious?’
‘You want me,’
‘More than anything,’ he states flatly.
‘What? I’ve never met anyone so full of themselves. Did you plan this? When you rang me yesterday, was this your intention all along?’
‘Yes,’ he admits. There’s absolutely no apology in his tone. ‘I want you.’
I have no idea how to deal with this. He wants me, so he took me. ‘Can you open the gates, please?’ I start walking towards them, but they’re still unmoving by the time I reach them. I swing around in the most threatening manner I can muster. ‘Open the damn gates!’
‘You honestly think I’m going to let you go wandering aimlessly out there when you’re miles from home?’
‘I’ll call a cab. It’s not your concern. Open the gates.’
‘Absolutely not, I’ll take you.’
I look at his car. It’s an Aston Martin – all black, shiny and beautiful – it figures. ‘Just open the f**king gates!’ I scream at him.