‘What man?’ I blurt, far too quickly. I retreat in my chair to get some distance from the interrogating presence of my nosey, g*y friend.
‘Your reaction speaks volumes.’ His eyes narrow on me as my face burns up.
‘He’s just a client.’ I shrug.
Tom’s scrutinising stare moves to my fingers that are currently playing with a lock of my hair. I release it, quickly picking up a pen. I need to work on this lying business. I’m truly rubbish at it. His tongue moves into his cheek as he straightens himself and walks away from my desk.
What’s wrong with me? So what! I’ve been f**king a handsome, thirty-something man. Or is it forty-something? He’s my rebound f**k. I yank the box open, finding a single calla lily on top of a book that’s wrapped in tissue paper.
‘Giuseppe Cavalli. 1936-1961’
Oh? I open the cover. A note slips out.
To me, you are a book I have opened.
I can’t put it down. I need to know more.
Holy shit! What does he want to know? There’s absolutely nothing to know. I’m just a normal mid-twenties girl. He could start with telling me a few things, like how old he is, for a start. Is it normal to send gifts to someone you’re f**king? Maybe it is for a mature man. I don’t have time to think about this at the moment. I’ve got a heap of emails to respond to and furniture deliveries to chase. I throw the book in my bag, pop the lily in my top drawer and dart over to the deli for lunch, before cracking on.
At six o’clock, Margo hisses and bangs up to the pavement to pick me up. I battle with the rusty handle and finally climb in, pushing a dozen cake magazines and empty Starbucks cups to the floor before I can settle myself on the seat.
‘You need a new delivery van.’ I grumble. Considering how crazy tidy Kate is at home, Margo is the pits.
‘Shhhh, you’ll hurt her feelings.’ She grins. ‘Good day?’ She eyes me warily.
My shoulders slump spectacularly. I got zero work done. Instead, I spent all day thinking about a certain stunning creature of an age I don’t know. I get the book and note out of my bag and hand it to her across the van. She takes it from me, uncertainty marring her pretty, pale features, as she opens the front sleeve and the note slips onto her lap. She picks it up, scans the words and gapes at me.
‘I know.’ I say in agreement to her stunned face.
She reads the note again, her gaped mouth closing and turning into a grin. ‘Yikes! The Lord is deep.’ She thrusts the book back at me and pulls into the traffic.
‘He is.’ I start thinking about pillow talk, but just as fast, I stop thinking about pillow talk.
‘Just how good in bed are we talking here?’ Kate asks casually, keeping her eyes on the road.
My head snaps to the side to look at her, but she won’t return my stare. ‘Very.’ I reply. The best, amazing, mind blowing! I want to do it again and again and again!
‘Will this be a pin-ball rebound?’
I sigh. ‘Yes, I think it will. And not just because of the sex.’
She reaches over and squeezes my knee, smiling thoughtfully. She knows what’s happening here.
We slow at the entrance of a residential street, and Kate brings Margo to a stop.
‘Right, get in the back.’ she orders.
‘Get in the back, Ava!’ She reinforces her instructions with a batting of my knee.
‘Why?’ I know I’m frowning heavily. Why on earth does she want me in the back?
She points down the street and realisation dawns on me. I look at her, completely wide eyed.
She has the decency to look a little apologetic. ‘I’ve strapped, padded and cushioned, but this street is a f**king nightmare. That cake took me two weeks to finish. If it goes over, I’m f**ked.’
I turn my gaped mouth away from Kate and look down the tree lined street, with parked cars on both sides and room for one line of traffic down the middle. That’s not what’s bothering me, though. It’s the vicious, black, rubber speed humps dotted every twenty yards that have my attention. Oh God, I’m going to be tossed about like a penny in a tumble dryer.
‘Can’t we carry it?’ I ask desperately.
‘It’s five tiers and it weighs a ton. Just hold onto the box. It’ll be fine.’
I exhale, unclipping my seatbelt. ‘I can’t believe you’ve got me doing this,’ I grumble, climbing into the back of the van and wrapping my arms around the tall cake box. ‘Couldn’t you assemble it on site?’
‘I just couldn’t. Hold the f**king cake!’ she yells impatiently.
I tighten my grip, spreading my legs to keep my balance, and lay my cheek against the box. We’re positioned at the mouth of the road, engine revving and looking like something out of a comedy sketch.
‘Ready?’ she calls back.
I hear Margo crunch into gear. ‘Just bloody get on with it, will you?’ I snap. She’s giggling as she slowly starts creeping forward. A car horn starts honking impatiently from behind.
‘Fuck off, you tosser!’ Kate yells as we hit our first speed hump.
I’m propelled into the air, my face squishing against the box, my heels sliding from under me. ‘Kate!’ I screech, landing on my arse.
‘Don’t let go of that box!’
I scramble back to my feet, grabbing the box, just as the back wheels jolt down the other side of the hump. ‘Will you take it easy?’
‘I need a run up, else she won’t make it over!’ she exclaims, hitting another hump.