“Luggage,” I reply happily, and take a sip. It’s just about the most delicious wine I’ve ever tasted. Luke picks up his menu and starts to read it, and I pick mine up, too — but to be honest, I’m not reading a word. I’m just sitting in a happy glow. I’m looking around with relish at all the smart women coming in to have lunch here, and making notes of their outfits and wondering where that girl over there got her pink boots from. And now, for some reason, I’m thinking about that nice card Luke sent me. And I’m wondering whether it was just being friendly — or. . or whether it was something else.
At this thought, my stomach flips so hard I almost feel sick, and very quickly I take another sip of wine. Well, a gulp, really. Then I put down my glass, count to five, and say casually, “Thanks for your card, by the way.”
“What?” he says, looking up. “Oh, you’re welcome.” He reaches for his glass and takes a sip of wine. “It was nice to bump into you that night.”
“It’s a great place,” I say. “Great for table-hopping.”
As soon as I’ve said this, I feel myself blush. But Luke just smiles and says, “Indeed.” Then he puts down his glass and says, “Do you know what you want?”
“Ahm. .” I say, glancing hurriedly at the menu. “I think I’ll just have. . erm. . fish cakes. And rocket salad.”
Damn, I’ve just spotted squid. I should have had that. Oh well, too late now.
“Good choice,” says Luke, smiling at me. “And thanks again for coming along today. It’s always good to have a second opinion.”
“No problem,” I say lightly, and take a sip of wine. “Hope you enjoy the case.”
“Oh, it’s not for me,” he says after a pause. “It’s for Sacha.”
“Oh, right,” I say pleasantly. “Who’s Sacha? Your sister?”
“My girlfriend,” says Luke, and turns away to beckon to a waiter.
And I stare at him, unable to move.
His girlfriend. I’ve been helping him choose a suitcase for his girlfriend.
Suddenly I don’t feel hungry anymore. I don’t want fish cakes and rocket salad. I don’t even want to be here. My happy glow is fading away, and underneath I feel chilly and rather stupid. Luke Brandon’s got a girlfriend. Of course he has. Some beautiful smart girl called Sacha, who has manicured nails and travels everywhere with expensive cases. I’m a fool, aren’t I? I should have known there’d be a Sacha somewhere on the scene. I mean, it’s obvious.
Except. . Except it’s not that obvious. In fact, it’s not obvious at all. Luke hasn’t mentioned his girlfriend all morning. Why hasn’t he? Why didn’t he just say the suitcase was for her in the first place? Why did he let me sit on the floor beside him in Harrods and laugh as I marched up and down, testing the wheels? I wouldn’t have behaved anything like that if I’d known we were buying a case for his girlfriend. And he must have known that. He must have known.
A cold feeling begins to creep over me. This is all wrong.
“All right?” says Luke, turning back to me.
“No,” I hear myself saying. “No, it’s not. You didn’t tell me that case was for your girlfriend. You didn’t even tell me you had a girlfriend.”
Oh God. I’ve done it now. I’ve been completely uncool. But somehow I don’t care.
“I see,” says Luke after a pause. He picks up a piece of bread and begins to break it up with his fingers, then looks up. “Sacha and I have been together awhile now,” he says kindly. “I’m sorry if I gave. . any other impression.”
He’s patronizing me. I can’t bear it.
“That’s not the point,” I say, feeling my cheeks flushing beet red. “It’s just. . it’s all wrong.”
“Wrong?” he says, looking amused.
“You should have told me we were choosing a case for your girlfriend,” I say doggedly, staring down at the table. “It would have made things. . different.”
There’s silence and I raise my eyes, to see Luke looking at me as though I’m crazy.
“Rebecca,” he says, “you’re getting this all out of proportion. I wanted your opinion on suitcases. End of story.”
“And are you going to tell your girlfriend you asked my advice?”
“Of course I am!” says Luke, and gives a little laugh. “I expect she’ll be rather amused.”
I stare at him in silence, feeling mortification creep over me. My throat’s tight, and there’s a pain growing in my chest. Amused. Sacha will be amused when she hears about me.