“There you are,” drawled a familiar and very unwelcome voice. Then the bony form of Joy was lounging all over Cristiano. In Fletcher’s words, Jared’s old consort was a cross between a whippet and a witch. I’d honestly never seen anyone so thin. My brows arched in surprise at the way she was petting Cristiano. Ava rolled her eyes while he sighed tiredly and tried to shift away from Joy. She just moved with him.
After licking her lips at Jared, Joy gave me a sickly sweet smile. “Happy birthday.” She had said it in the same tone as someone would say, ‘I hate you.’ “Hope you’re having a good time. Did Jared get you anything nice? I’m surprised he let you out of the apartment. When it was my birthday, he never let me out of the bed.”
How could I not pity her when this kind of crap gave her a kick? “Aw, such a precious little brat, aren’t you?”
Her smile faltered slightly. “Black is very slimming on you – good thinking, wearing that. Curves don’t look good on everyone.”
Groan. “As for you…I see you’re still a fan of the, um, starved look.” Honestly, if she swallowed a sprout, she’d look pregnant.
Jared, Ava, and Cristiano chuckled quietly.
“Such a joker,” Joy spat bitterly.
“I was actually deadly serious, but sure.”
“Personally, I wouldn’t be so happy if the guy I was Bound to would never be totally satisfied with me. Jared likes a little variety in his sexual diet. Even three consorts couldn’t keep him completely satisfied. Maybe right now he’s happy enough with just you, but that will change. Once the novelty wears off, his interest will wane.”
I was really supposed to believe that? Snort. I gave her a pitying look. “Jealousy isn’t attractive, you know. You don’t wear it well.”
Jared, who I could sense was totally riled, went to say something to the bitch. But then Denny – my very own personal saviour – appeared at her side and held up his index finger. A sting suddenly appeared at the tip, making Joy gasp.
“Two things can happen,” began Denny. “You could walk away of your own accord, or I could stab you with this and drag you away. I wouldn’t recommend the latter. It itches like crazy, and you’ll have an oozing spot tomorrow. So, what will it be?”
Joy shot me an ugly scowl, shoved away from Cristiano, and then marched off.
I sent Denny a smile. “You know I adore you, right?” He laughed and returned to his table.
Cristiano gestured at Joy’s retreating form. “I think she thought she’d find an ally in me.”
Confused, I asked, “Why would she think that?”
Cristiano frowned, apparently surprised by my question. Then he looked at Jared, arching a quizzical brow.
“She doesn’t see it,” Jared explained with a sigh.
Ava blinked rapidly, looking just as surprised as her brother. “Really? But he always?” She stopped as Cristiano took her arm and began to literally drag her back to their table. Wearing her cheery smile again, she waved at me. “Enjoy your meal! And happy birthday again!” I noticed that Salem followed the cute little thing with his eyes as she moved. She presented him with a bright, flirty smile to which he grunted. For whatever reason, she seemed to find that hilarious.
Sitting once again, I asked Jared, “What did you mean when you said, ‘She doesn’t see it’? See what?”
“That Dickhead wants you, of course.” He rolled his eyes, taking my hand and tracing over the Binding knot. “I think he’s right. I think Joy thought he’d be as jealous as she is about us and then they could be buddies who together made our lives miserable.” He pinned my gaze with his. “You know Joy was talking shit, don’t you? You’re all I want.”
Now it was my turn to roll my eyes. “If I thought you wanted anyone else, I’d plonk your bare arse on a cactus.”
He winced. “Fair enough. Okay, no more talk about other people. I think we should talk about how great I am and how hot you are for me.” I burst out laughing. “You know it’s true.”
“It’s true. Want to know just how hot I am for you? Or should I say how ‘wet’ I am for you?”
His eyes narrowed at my impish smile. He leaned forward and feathered his lips over mine, asking quietly, “You’re not wearing any underwear, are you?” When my smile widened, he groaned. “You can’t do this to me.” I just laughed again. “Come here. I want to feel you.”
“Oh no,” I chuckled, dodging the hand that reached for my leg under the table. “Too many people are around, and I’m unfortunately the focus of attention. You’ll just have to wait until we get home.”
He shook his head, looking pained. “It’s going to be a long-ass night.”
It was, but it was also a great night. The meal was delicious and the atmosphere was so jovial that it was almost effervescent, making energy cling to my skin and sprinkle from my fingers like fairy dust. Jared sucked chocolate sauce from my finger at one point just for an excuse to taste my energy-coated skin – according to him, my skin fizzed like sherbet or honeycomb whenever energy clung to it like that.
Eloise spent most of the night scowling and sneering at me from her seat, but that just made things even more fun. Collins was more interested in trying to get pally with the squad, but they only seemed interested in growling or snarling at him. Surely he’d worked out by now that they pretty much despised him. Could he not take a hint or something?
Antonio made a toast, once again wishing me a happy birthday, after which everybody then asked me to make a speech. Ha. As if. They simply laughed at my refusal, knowing that I wasn’t much of a public speaker.
When people asked for music, Fletcher – always prepared – plugged his iPod into a set of speakers. Everyone danced on a kind of makeshift dance-floor on the sand. Considering Fletcher’s taste in music, it was no surprise when ‘YMCA’ came on, or ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ – he actually dragged Luther onto the dance-floor and taught him the moves. As usual, I never danced to the slow songs, although it wasn’t for the lack of trying on Jared’s part to get me up there.
It was when he left me alone for a moment to go and speak to Antonio that a soft voice spoke. “Hi, Sam.”
Looking up, I found Antonio’s future mate smiling down at me. “Lucy…Hi. Sit down.”
Her expression was grateful and, if I wasn’t mistaken, contained a hint of relief. “Thanks.” She perched herself gingerly on the chair, as if ready to bolt at any moment. Whether she suspected I would send her on her merry way soon or she was just edgy because she knew that Jared would be back at any moment, I wasn’t sure. Many people found him intimidating. “I wanted to say happy birthday. I love that dress.”