“Are you saying I’m not normal?” I try to give sass under his scrutiny.
“No. I’m saying you’re unique.”
“Unique bad or unique good?” I bite my lip.
His mouth kicks up at the corner, but a flare of something else is in his eyes, something a little more serious. “Oh, definitely good. You’re…unprecedented, Andressa.”
A frisson of pure delight shivers through me.
“So, you want the necklace?”
He hasn’t stopped looking at me, nor I, him. I’m dazzled, caught in his sweet spell.
He tears his eyes away from mine, and I instantly miss his stare on me. Then, I see him getting the necklace off the rack.
Before I can stop him, he’s holding the necklace up and saying to the market vendor, “How much?”
The vendor says, “Fifty-five ringgit, but you can take it for fifty.”
Carrick pulls his wallet out, and I see him get out way more than fifty ringgit.
He hands the money to the man. “Keep the change.”
I don’t know how much Carrick gave him, but the man’s eyes light up at the money, and he quickly tucks it away into his money belt.
“Here.” Carrick gestures for me to turn around.
So, I do, putting my back to him. “You didn’t have to do this,” I say softly.
“I wanted to.”
He places the necklace around my neck. The pendant lays cool against my skin.
Fastening it, he lays his hands on my shoulders. “Now, you’ll always have your security blanket with you.”
I feel something deep and meaningful settle inside my heart.
I lay my hand over the pendant. “Thank you.” I glance at him over my shoulder.
His eyes flicker to my lips. The blue in his eyes darken, and then he lifts his gaze back to mine, stepping away from me. “Come on. Let’s go get that food.”
We walk on a little farther until Carrick stops outside a small restaurant. It’s so obscure that I would have walked past it.
“Here?” I point to the building.
“It doesn’t look like much from the outside but wait until you see the inside.”
Carrick opens the door for me, and I step into a little Malaysian oasis. He wasn’t kidding. I’m almost tempted to step back outside to check that I’m still in the real world. I feel like I’ve just stepped into Narnia.
The ceiling is high, and pretty red lanterns are hanging from it. The tables are dark wood, all laid with colorful place settings, differing in rich reds and greens and purples. The wooden chairs have cushioned backs, all equally as colorful as the place settings. The walls are gold-lined with beautiful paintings, and a drape is hanging around the back window, which surprisingly looks out onto a pretty garden complete with a water fountain.
“Mr. Ryan!” A small, Malaysian chap comes wandering over from the bar area with a big smile on his face. “Good to see you again. I was wondering when you would be coming in. And I see you’ve brought a friend. Hello,” he says to me, smiling wide.
“Guntur, this is my friend Andressa Amaro. Andressa, Guntur Wan. He is the owner of this fine place,” Carrick informs me.
“Beautiful place you have here,” I say.
“Thank you,” he says with a wave of his hand. “But the decor is nothing compared to the food.” He gives me a wink, making me chuckle.
“He’s not kidding,” Carrick tells me as Guntur seats us. “Why do you think I haul arse over this way every time I’m in Kuala Lumpur?”
“Well, thank you for bringing me with you.” I smile, meeting his eyes over the table.
“What can I get you to drink?” Guntur asks us.
“Sparkling water for me,” I say.
“Same,” Carrick tells him.
Guntur hands us each a menu. “We’ve added a couple of new dishes since you were last here,” Guntur tells Carrick, patting his back in a friendly way. “I’ll be back soon with your drinks.”
“So, how did you find this place?” I ask Carrick. “It’s not exactly on the tourist map.”
“When I first started in Formula One and I was out here for my first race, I met Guntur through one of the sponsors. He’s a relation of some sort. Guntur is a huge race fan. Anyway, he gave me his card for the restaurant, told me to come out. Said he served the best nasi lemak in the whole of Malaysia. I had no clue what nasi lemak was, but I was bored one night, so I took a drive and came out here. Had some nasi lemak plus a ton of other food, and now, I come back here to eat every time I’m in Kuala Lumpur. And Guntur is a great guy.”
“Yeah, he seems nice.” I rest my chin on my hand. “And what is nasi lemak?”
“It’s their national dish. It’s basically rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf.”
“Are you into cooking?” I ask, bemused, trying to imagine him in the kitchen.
“No, I’m reading it from the menu.” He gives me a cheeky smile, eyes flickering down to the menu before him.
Laughing, I shake my head at him.
“So, what are we having?” Guntur has appeared back with our drinks.
I thank him as he places my water down in front of me, and I glance down at my menu. With no clue what to order, I look at Carrick for help.
“You want me to order for both of us?”
“Please.” I smile.