Still his eyes roam my face, intuiting more from me than I want to share. My cheeks heat and I turn away, scooping up my bag and tucking it under my arm.
Props are a funny thing, aren’t they? Just the simple act of putting my purse in place gives me an added layer of confidence, tethering me to myself and my feelings, reminding me of who I was before this night reached into my soul and swished everything up.
‘Thank you,’ he says, and I acknowledge the incongruity of that polite remark.
I spin and kiss him on his cheek once more. ‘You’re welcome.’
In the end I didn’t say goodbye. I just walked away as though I was heading to the shops or out to get coffee. No biggie.
I walked away and didn’t look back.
I couldn’t. I fear one last peek might have killed my will-power.
* * *
She is everywhere I look in the room. I smell her on the pillow as I press my head into it, and when I close my eyes I see her.
Ally naked, glorious, owning me, burning me.
My gut twists as though I’ve cheated on my girlfriend. My ex-girlfriend, who is now the fiancée of someone else.
It doesn’t change the way something strange is shooting through me. Emotions that are hard to interpret. Anger. Jealousy. Resentment.
And something I have to own as sinister.
Sienna would hate it that I fucked Ally.
And I think I kind of like that.
* * *
I check the details of my appointment once more, wishing my assistant Lesley would proofread her emails before sending them.
Two p.m. appuntment with Grayson Heynes. 44 West Eleventh, The Vilage. Complete renovashun. Meet at address.
Her spelling is so bad that I’ve often wondered how the hell she graduated from high school. But what she lacks in her ability with the written word she makes up for in every other way. Lesley is my organisational guru, and she works harder than anyone I’ve ever known. No matter when I email her, she writes back within minutes. She is calm and strangely unflappable.
God knows I need her stability.
More now than usual.
I have to admit that since the weekend I’ve been in a weird headspace. I went running twice—morning and night, both days. That’s not completely out of the ordinary, but it’s been a long time since I’ve pushed myself that hard.
Only I’ve found myself with an odd surplus of energy since that night with him.
I shy away from using his name.
It’s as though my blood has been supercharged and I am a different person altogether. I look the same, but I’m not. It’s really weird. And I don’t welcome the feeling—not one little bit.
Jeremy taught me everything I need to know about relationships. I will never again let a man change who I am. I will never again let a man make me doubt myself.
I shiver. I’ve been thinking of Jeremy more lately than usual. That’s Ethan’s fault too... Maybe Eliza was wrong. I’m not ready for this. What’s wrong with being celibate and alone anyway? I’m pretty sure I can get all my kicks from Game of Thrones.
Mmm... Jon Snow...
I feel nothing.
God, what kind of sexual spell has Ethan Ash cast over me that even invoking Jon Snow doesn’t dull the memories of our night together?
I turn my head, scanning the street in one direction. Nothing. Just the buzz of normal West Village life. A woman with two small children and a Golden Retriever on one side of the street and a tourist couple on the other.
Neither of those looks like my new client.
I turn in the opposite direction just in time to see a man step out of a black limousine. He wears a suit but it barely contains his strength. He’s short and broad, with close-cut blond hair, a golden tan, and he wears sunglasses despite the fact the day is bleak.
He moves towards me purposefully so I smile, glad I applied an extra layer of my favourite bright red lipstick.
‘Ally, please,’ I say, extending my hand, trying to place his accent. Australian?
He nods in answer. ‘This way.’ He gestures to the door of the townhouse behind me and I have to fight my smile.
I love these brownstones. Like every woman my age, I grew up on Friends and Sex and the City repeats, and these buildings exemplify New York to me. It’s why I love where I live, around the corner from here. Because I feel like I’ve walked onto the set of my favourite TV show and it’s every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.