I see Ben’s eyes lift, and I turn my eyes to see Carrick heading back to the table. He drops into his seat and picks up his beer.
“So, are we staying here all night or moving on?” Carrick asks.
“Moving on!” says Petra and Ben at the same time.
We’ve worked our way down a few of the bars, and I’m starting to feel a little tipsy and tired and ready for my bed.
Petra looks nowhere near done. She and Ben are at the bar, getting some more drinks.
I wait for her to come back to our table, and then she takes her seat next to me.
“Petra, I’m gonna head back to the hotel. I’m knackered. You don’t have to come,” I say at the disappointed look in her eyes.
“Nah, I’ll come. I don’t want you walking back on your own.”
“I’m ready to go, so I’ll walk you back.” That’s Carrick.
I see Petra’s eyes swing to him.
“Um…okay. As long as you don’t mind,” I say to him.
“We are staying in the same hotel, so it’s not a massive chore.” He grins.
“Of course. Yeah,” I reply, feeling a little stupid.
He gets up from his chair. Getting his phone from the table, he slips it into his pocket. I grab my handbag from the floor before hanging it on my shoulder.
“I’ll see you back at the hotel,” I say to Petra.
“You sure you’re okay with going back with Carrick?” she says quietly.
“I’m fine.” I laugh a little awkwardly, knowing what she’s thinking. “I’ll catch you later.”
I give a wave to the table and walk around to Carrick.
“Ready?” he asks.
“Yeah.” I follow him out of the pub and onto the street.
It’s late, but the temperature is still high, not that I’m not used to it. Living in Brazil, the weather can get a little heated.
For a while, we walk side by side in silence until Carrick breaks it. “Whereabouts in Brazil do you live? Or did live until you moved to the UK.”
“Santos. It’s in São Paulo, on the coast.”
“Yeah, I know Santos. Beautiful beaches.”
“I spent a lot of time on those beaches.” I smile fondly at the memory of spending time at the beach with my mum. “I lived in central São Paulo for a while, too.”
“I went to the university, lived on campus, saved traveling back and forth. My mum wasn’t so keen on me living away from home though.” I laugh lightly, remembering how stressed she was about me moving out that first time.
“You ever go to watch the Prix back home?”
“A few times. Uncle John got me tickets.”
“You saw me race?”
“I did.” I smile. “And you were awesome, especially that year when you beat Leandro Silva taking that corner on the Bico de Pato. It was outstanding.”
Staring at me, he blinks. “How did I never meet you before a few weeks ago?”
“Because Uncle John probably didn’t trust you around me.” I give him a knowing grin.
“Yeah, good point—not that I can be trusted much nowadays either. Kidding.” He holds his hands up, laughing. “We’re best friends, and I don’t shag my best friend.”
“You really need to stop saying that.”
“What? That we’re best friends?”
“Because it makes you sound weird, like you’re a five-year-old boy.”
“I’m definitely no boy. And I was going more for charming than weird. Clearly, that’s not working.”
I laugh at the mirth in his eyes.
“So, John’s not your real uncle, right? But you call him Uncle John?”
I instantly tense at the question, worried about the direction it might take. “Yeah.” I swallow down. “He’s a close family friend. He’s known me since I was a baby. He’s my godfather.”
I think Carrick senses my discomfort because he changes course. “So, what did you study at university?”
“Figures.” He smiles warmly. “I never went to university.”
“Too busy racing?”
“Yeah. I think I would have liked it though.”
“Hmm…yeah, the student life would definitely have suited you,” I tease. “Parties, women, and booze.”
He laughs lightly. “I’m not as bad as the press makes me out to be, you know.”
“But you’re not far off…”
He gives me a sobering look. “Not too far, no.”
Looking up, I see that we’ve reached the hotel.
Carrick holds the door open for me, letting me in first. We walk through the lobby and get into a waiting elevator. I press the button for my floor, noticing that Carrick doesn’t press the button to his floor.
“Which floor?” I ask him.
I press the button for the penthouse and then move back to stand beside him.
We’re silent as the lift starts to ascend, the tinny elevator music playing in the background.
Carrick shifts his stance and pushes his hands in his pockets, his arm knocking against mine. “Sorry,” he murmurs.
“It’s okay,” I reply. God knows how I managed to get the words out because I’m feeling all kinds of weird and wired due to this intense blaze of heat now licking its way across my skin from where his arm just touched mine.