‘Your implication being that knowing who one of the most pre-eminent astrophysicists of our time is makes me a nerd? I would think that’s kind of mainstream knowledge.’
He shrugs. ‘Not in my experience.’
‘Ah. So maybe your experience is just...limited.’
The bartender returns with our drinks, and before I can hand my credit card over Ethan Sexier-than-Thou Ash slides his own across the bar.
‘Maybe it is.’
His eyes hold mine and my tummy lurches as though I’ve just driven at speed over the crest of a hill. I’m in free fall.
‘Don’t use his card,’ I say, my voice croaky as I drag my attention to the waiter behind the bar. ‘It’s my shout.’
‘You can get the next round.’ Ethan’s voice brooks no opposition and the bartender taps his card on the machine.
‘Next round?’ I arch a brow. ‘Meaning...?’
He leans closer. He smells amazing. Like salt and sand and sunshine all rolled into one.
‘Meaning these drinks are on me.’
He pulls back just far enough to grin at me while his eyes meet mine, green versus blue, and I am losing whatever battle it is we’re waging. Then his fingers lift up and press lightly to the back of my hand. Just for a second, but it’s enough. Heat spirals up my arm spreading goosebumps on my flesh and, mortifyingly, tensing my nipples. His eyes catch the reaction and my cheeks flush bright pink.
‘It was nice to meet you...?’
His question hangs in the air but I’m flummoxed. The way my body has reacted is strange. Unexpected.
I deliberately don’t give him my name. Names are where the problems start.
I’m over Jeremy. I am.
If I ever see him again I think I could seriously find myself in a federal prison for life.
But the ghost of what we were...what he turned me into...is thick inside me. Always. I don’t remember the last time I looked in the mirror and didn’t see her. That woman. The woman he made me. The woman I came to loathe.
I fight the shudder. I’m not her any more. But it’s taken eight long months to claw my way back, and names are the beginning of forgetting that.
I lift the three drinks easily between my hands and give him one last smile without meeting his eyes before making my way back to the table.
Eliza and Cassie are staring at me, the former with a knowing smile and the latter with a dropped jaw.
‘You talked to him?’ Cassie squeaks in obvious disbelief.
‘He talked to me,’ I mumble, sliding their drinks across the table and looking guiltily towards the bar. He’s talking to someone else now. A guy. Is that who he came to meet? My heart drops. Does that mean he’ll be going soon?
‘He’s hot,’ Eliza pronounces. ‘Why the hell are you still sitting with us?’
I change the subject back to Cassie’s work situation, ignoring Eliza’s pointed stares and occasional jab beneath the table. But I drink quickly. Because I want to go back to the bar? Or because I need something to cool down my fevered blood?
Only it’s not working. My body is vibrating with a sensual need I haven’t felt in a long time. Heat is forming between my legs and I am so tempted to do something really stupid. Something I haven’t done in a long time.
Of their own accord, and definitely without my permission, my eyes shift towards him. He’s propped against the bar with glorious nonchalance, and he’s still chatting to the same guy, but his eyes are locked on me. He doesn’t try to hide it when I look up.
A thrill of something runs down my spine.
I’m so close to giving in to temptation, and that would be bad. Oh, it would be really good in some ways but...no. Bad. Definitely bad.
‘Okay, ladies,’ I murmur, pushing my almost finished drink aside and standing in one movement. ‘I’m going to head home.’
‘What?’ Eliza pulls a face. ‘Alone? Now? It’s so early!’
‘I know.’ I shrug. ‘But if I don’t go I think I’ll live to regret it.’
I wink at them, so that they can’t help but understand my meaning, and then blow each an air-kiss. There’s a slight tremble in my legs as I cut my way through the bar. Despite the fact we’re past the cut-off for free drinks it’s heaving busy now.