Twisting my head, I look over my shoulder, and through the crowd of people, I see Carrick. It’s impossible not to see him. He stands out wherever he goes.
He looks stunning in his tux, top button of his shirt undone, his bow tie lost somewhere along the way. Strands of his hair, in that little to no effort style of his, tease his forehead. His blue eyes dance under the lights as he stops to chat with some racing fans.
My heart sets off, doing a little thumpity-thump beat in my chest.
And I really need to get a grip because I’m starting to sound like a love-struck teenager. I’m actually making myself feel nauseous with my moon-eyed thoughts.
“You’re definitely okay?” Ben’s voice comes in my ear. “Because we can make a break for it before they get over here, if you want?”
Turning to look at him, I smile at his quip. “I’m good. But thanks for being awesome.”
He gives me a wink, followed by a smile.
I know he can see through my bullshit, and I appreciate that he doesn’t call me on it.
My mask is beginning to slip, and I really need to get it set back in place before Carrick sees it, too.
“Here you go.” Petra hands me what looks like a Jägerbomb and then gives one to Ben.
“This a Jägerbomb?” I ask.
“Yep. And you’ve got one more to drink after this, so get supping, girl.”
To be quite honest, I’m ready for this drink now. I need the alcohol courage to get me through the next however long of the Sienna show.
“On the count of three…” Petra starts.
I tip the glass to my lips before the countdown even begins, and I down the whole thing.
“Fuck!” I blow out a breath of fire, slamming the glass down on the bar.
Petra is staring at me with what can only be described as total admiration.
“Attagirl!” Lifting a hand, she high-fives me. “Come on, Benny Boy, we got some catching up to do.”
They both down their Jägers. A string of curses come from them as they blow out fiery breaths. I laugh at them, feeling a little lighter already.
I’ve just downed my second shot when I sense Carrick behind me. He doesn’t have to say anything nowadays for me to know he’s there. I can just feel his presence, like he’s actually touching me.
Thankfully, after the Jägers, the room is starting to look an awful lot prettier. So, I think I can contend with him and the pop princess.
Then, I do feel him. His hand gently presses against my waist. My body freezes and then explodes back to life. Memories of his hands on my naked skin in that hotel room in Barcelona flood my mind.
“Hey.” His deep voice comes in my ear, causing a shiver to hurtle through me.
Turning, I look at him, loving the feel of his hand, and it stays on me, sliding around my back, eliciting more shivers to run deep inside of places where I really shouldn’t be feeling shivers.
His blues glitter at me, and I feel a flutter in my chest. He just looks so beautiful.
I really hate that.
“Hey.” I smile.
I glance around for Sienna, but she’s nowhere to be seen. Maybe she got carried off by the natives—wishful thinking on my part.
“Congratulations on the win, by the way. You were amazing. Really, really brilliant. The way you greased that corner on the last lap—amazing!” I’m grinning like a lunatic now and waving my hands about like a conductor. I need to get a grip.
This is what too much alcohol does. It turns me into an even bigger idiot than I already am.
“Thanks.” He smiles, and it reaches all the way to his eyes. Then, he dips his head to mine. “I missed you earlier. I wanted to celebrate with my best—” He pauses for a beat as though thinking over his words. Then, he says, “Mechanic. One minute, you were there, and then you were gone. Where did you go to?”
I ran off because I couldn’t bear to watch her all over you.
And that thought is like a douse of water over my fire.
I can feel my smile fading, so I force it back, brightening it up. “Sorry about that. I had an errand to run.” Liar. Liar.
“Right.” He nods, not moving his eyes from mine, and I’m starting to feel a little more than exposed, like he can see right through my bullshit, just like Ben could before. “Maybe we can have a drink tonight to celebrate?”
“Sure.” I smile widely again.
Then, I watch as his eyes do that thing they do where they run down me, taking me in, stripping me bare. He hasn’t done that since Barcelona. It makes me feel weak and needy for what I can’t have.
He brings his mouth to my ear. “You look beautiful tonight.” His words whisper over my skin, making my head feel light.
“Where’s Sienna?” It’s like a reflex, but it’s definitely the kick I need back to the here and now.
Something akin to annoyance flickers through his eyes. He drops his hand from me, taking a step back. “Restroom.”
“Carrick, you want a drink?” That’s Ben.
He lifts his chin in Ben’s direction. Then, his eyes follow, and I feel like I can finally breathe for the first time since he arrived.
“Beer would be great. Thanks, mate.”
Realizing that I’m facing Carrick with my back to Ben and Petra, I turn around to face them, standing beside Carrick.
Petra’s eyes are on me the moment I turn. I can see the concern in them, so I give her a reassuring smile.