His eyes meet mine as I approach, and he smiles.
I swoon. I actually fucking swoon. I’m so pathetic.
“Ladies,” he drawls.
His voice hits me in all the right places.
“Hi,” I say to him.
Casting my eyes around the table, I greet the rest of them.
“I’ll go get us a drink,” Petra says. “What do you want?”
“Beer would great. Thanks.”
“I need another,” Ben says, getting up from his seat. “I’ll come with you.”
“Sit down, Andressa.” Carrick reaches over and grabs Ben’s now empty chair and pulls it next to him.
“Won’t Ben need that when he gets back?”
Tilting his head, he smiles. “He can get another.”
“Okay.” I slide into the chair, and I try not to be aware of him, but I am.
“So, you missed me then?”
I turn my face to look at him. “With every fiber of my being,” I deadpan.
A smile tips up his lips. “A simple yes would have sufficed.”
“Why be simple when you can be amazing?”
“True.” His eyes smolder at me.
And I love the smolder too much, so I look away.
“So, how has my new best friend been? Aside from being amazing, of course.”
Moving my eyes back to him, I raise my brows. “Best friend?”
“Oh, yeah. We’re best friends. Did you not know?”
“Apparently not. So, how are we best friends again exactly?”
“We’re best friends because”—he leans in close, moving into my space, with his lips next to my ear, and his hot breath makes me shiver—“you won’t let me shag you. Now, we’re going to be the next best thing, and that’s best friends because I don’t do things by halves, Andressa. I’m an all-or-nothing kinda guy.” He sits back in his chair, staring at me.
I feel a wobble deep inside of me. I swallow down. “Um, yeah…I’m kind of getting that impression.”
“So?” He’s still staring at me.
“How have you been?”
“Oh, good. Great. You?” I tuck a loose strand of hair that fell out of my ponytail behind my ear.
“I’ve been good.” He shrugs. “Better now that I’m with my best friend.”
“You really need to stop saying that. It makes you sound weird. And a little tragic.”
He lets out a loud laugh, his eyes bright with mirth. I feel that smile radiate inside my chest.
Petra comes back with my drink.
“Thanks,” I say, taking it from her. I put it down on the table. “Do you want your chair back?” I offer to Ben, lifting my bum from the seat.
“Nah, don’t worry. I’ll grab another.” He gets a couple of spare chairs from another table and carries them over, putting them next to me.
Petra sits by me, and Ben takes the chair next to her.
Reaching for my beer, I take a welcome sip.
“How are you finding Australia?” Carrick asks me.
“It’s great. I haven’t seen much of it yet, but I plan on doing a little sightseeing when I get the chance.”
“I plan on doing some shopping,” Petra imparts. “Namely a pair of Uggs. So much cheaper here than back home.”
“I might tag along when you go, if that’s okay?” I love Ugg boots.
“Sure it is.” She smiles. “It’ll be good to have another shopping buddy, seeing as though I lost my last one.” She leans forward and pointedly looks at Carrick.
I see him shift in his seat, and then he’s standing. My eyes follow him up.
“I’m going for a piss,” he says to no one in particular.
I watch his back as he heads into the bar, feeling oddly bad for him.
I hear the chastising low tone of Ben’s voice.
“Go easy on him with the Amy thing.”
“I know. I know.” She lifts her hand. “I’m just pissed off ’cause I’m serving on my own.”
“I know, but that’s not his fault. That’s on Pierce. Carrick feels like shit about it. Told me himself. And I was there that night at the club. Amy did all the chasing. She wouldn’t leave him alone. He was hitting it off with this other bird, and Amy was in there. It was her idea for the three of them to leave together. Seriously, any guy would have had a hard time saying no to that. It was his birthday, and he was hammered. You know Carrick. He wouldn’t have touched Amy if he knew it meant she’d get sacked. He’s not exactly challenged for women.” Ben picks his bottle up from the table and takes a drink. “You know, he argued with Pierce about it the next day.”
“He did?” Petra sounds surprised.
“Yeah, I heard him and Pierce going at it in Pierce’s office.” That’s Robbie. “He said that Pierce was out of line for sacking her. Carrick tried to get her job back, but Pierce wouldn’t budge.”
“And the job she’s got now—who do you think lined that up for her?” Ben adds.
“Carrick? Did he really?” Petra asks.
Ben takes a sip of his beer, nodding his head. “He’s not a bastard, Pet. You know that.”
“I know he isn’t. Just…Amy never said,” she mumbles into her drink.
“Yeah, well, she wouldn’t, would she? She was after more than the one night—like they all are. She’s gonna paint him in a bad light.”