Oh God. He’s drilling holes into me, and Sarah’s stood right bloody there. I swivel back to face my audience. The panic must be clear on my burning face.
‘I think so,’ Mikael agrees. ‘Once I’ve discussed a favourable fee with Patrick,’ He points his champagne glass at my boss. ‘We can start building a specification, then you can get started on some designs.’
‘I look forward to it.’ I shift on the spot. I can still feel Jesse’s eyes burning into my back.
‘She won’t disappoint you, Mikael.’ Patrick chirps.
He smiles. ‘I know she won’t. You’re an exceptionally talented young woman, Ava. Your vision is impeccable. Now, if you’ll excuse me,’ I feel the colour deepening in my face as he shakes Patrick’s hand and then mine. ‘I will be in touch.’ he says, holding my hand in his, a little longer than necessary, before releasing it, strolling off and greeting an Arab man.
I’m still tucked tightly under Patrick’s arm as Victoria approaches us and leans against the worktop on a huff.
‘My feet are killing me.’ she exclaims.
In unison, Patrick and I look down at her six inch leopard print platforms with blood red piping. They’re ridiculous.
Patrick looks at me, shaking his head, before releasing his hold and declaring his departure. ‘Irene will be waiting for me downstairs. I’ve got all the photographs,’ He waves his camera at me. ‘I’ll see you on Monday morning.’ He kisses each of us. ‘You’ve both worked hard tonight. Well done.’ He takes his big body out of the kitchen, staggering slightly as he does.
Worked hard? I cringe.
‘Oh, I nearly forgot,’ Victoria drags my eyes away from Patrick’s swaying body, back to her. ‘Kate said she couldn’t wait around for you anymore, something about ice cream.’ She shrugs. ‘She said that she hopes you’ve had fun and she’ll see you at home.’
Hopes I’ve had fun? Sardonic cow!
‘Thanks, Victoria. Listen, I think we’re done here.’ I pick up one more glass of champagne as the waiter passes. I can’t drive, so I may as well make the most of it. And damn, I need it. ‘I’m heading home. Go when you’re ready. I’ll see you on Monday.’ I kiss her cheek.
‘I’m going to hang around for a bit with Tom. He wants to go to Route Sixty for a dance.’ She shakes her bum.
‘Be prepared for a late one.’ I warn. Once Tom’s on the dance floor you need a bulldozer to get him off.
‘No! I told him, I can’t stay late. I’ve got too much to do tomorrow. And I can hardly walk in these stupid shoes.’
‘Good luck with that. Say bye to Tom for me.’
‘I will when I find him.’ She limps off in her ridiculous heels, leaving me to finish my last glass of champagne.
I glance around the kitchen, but I don’t see Jesse or Sarah. I’m relieved. I don’t think I could look Sarah in the eye. I need to go and kick my loser arse around the house for being so weak and easy.
I reach the penthouse elevator and punch in the code. It’ll be changed tomorrow for the new owner. I huff a little burst of laughter. Of course, Jesse Ward is the new owner. It’s been one hell of a day. And now that I’m alone, I can feel the foreseeable guilt begin to tumble over me. Oh, what a foolish, desperate woman I am.
‘Leaving so soon?’
My shoulders raise and I wince at the cold, unfriendly voice of Sarah. Straightening my expression, I turn to face her. ‘It’s been a long and tiring day.’ I offer, inwardly cringing at my own double meaning statement. If only she knew how long and tiring.
She sips her champagne while eyeing me suspiciously. ‘You’re quite a surprise.’ she purrs.
She seems genuine. Is that a compliment? Oh God, don’t be nice to me. I’ve just screwed her boyfriend in his new bathroom, and now she’s being nice? Or is it her bathroom as well? Oh heck! I want to crawl inside myself and die. I’m deplorable.
I really don’t know what to say. ‘Thank you.’ I utter, turning back to the elevator when it opens. I need to get out of this place.
‘It wasn’t a compliment,’ she says categorically.
‘I didn’t think it was.’ I retort, without looking at her. Obviously, I was mistaken.
‘You know Jesse owns this place, right?’
I want to ask her if she’ll be living here too, but, of course, I don’t. ‘He mentioned it.’ I say casually, stepping into the lift and punching the code in. ‘It was nice to see you.’ I smile. I don’t know why I said that, it wasn’t nice at all. I still don’t like her, and she’s made it perfectly clear how she feels about me. I can’t blame her.
The doors close and I fall back against the mirrored wall.
What ever happened to the simple, single life for me? I’m such a f**k up.
After collecting my things from the changing rooms of the spa, I dump them in my car and wander down to the docks, sitting myself on a bench. The hustle and bustle of the docks is in full swing as people come and go, all looking happy and content. The flowers are in bloom on the elaborate lampposts, spilling over the baskets and cascading down the ornate iron, and the lights from the building all flicker and glow across the docks, dancing off of the rippling waves.
I sigh and close my eyes, listening to the sound of the water lightly lapping at the sides of the boats. It’s rhythmic and relaxing, but I don’t think anything will make me feel better at the moment. I get my phone out of my bag to call Kate. After letting it ring off, I leave a message.