As Weekends Go (Choc Lit) (8 page)

BOOK: As Weekends Go (Choc Lit)
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Chapter Ten

‘I see the girls have taken delivery,’ said Kenny, his grin befittingly smug. ‘They think it’s from Jurassic man and his mates. Look at Blondie. She’s well rattled.’

Alex cast an eye towards the alcove. ‘How old are you, Millsy?’

Kenny rubbed his hands together. ‘
What?

‘Well, they won’t get rid of them now, will they?’

‘’Course they will.’

Without warning, Kenny stood up and marched towards the restaurant.

Alex sprang out of his seat. It wasn’t his style to hound women, especially married ones who’d left him reeling, but he couldn’t let Kenny go barging in there alone.

‘Don’t get cocky,’ he said, joining him by the rear entrance steps.

The maître d’ looked like he was about to ejaculate when he saw them. ‘Mr Heath, Mr Mills. Wonderful to—’

‘Sorry, can’t stop,’ said Alex, cutting him off mid-smarm.

He followed Kenny towards the alcove.

It all unfolded so quickly that Rebecca couldn’t take it in. Some guy in a pink shirt had swaggered across the alcove and was pulling up two spare chairs to their table.

‘Evening, girls. Mind if we join you?’ he said, bouncing down next to Abi.

We?

Rebecca froze as Alex Heath lowered himself into the other chair beside her.

‘Hello, yet again,’ he said to her, looking almost repentant. ‘How are you?’

She felt Abi’s knee knock against her own under the table – their little ‘Pinch me! Is this for real?’ signal. ‘Fine, thanks,’ she squeaked, knocking knees back. ‘
You?

‘Yeah, not bad.’ His face broke into that now familiar warm smile.

Thickset and his buddies looked like someone had come along and neutered them.

‘I understand you two already know each other?’ said Kenny, glancing from Alex to Rebecca, eyebrows raised. He presented his friend to Abi. ‘This is Alex,’ he said, giving her the cheekiest of boyish smiles. ‘And I’m Kenny, the one who stares at beautiful women in red bikinis.’

Abi shook both their hands. ‘Abi,’ she said, looking dazzled, ‘and Kenny, meet Rebecca.’

‘Hello, Rebecca. So, you’re staying up at the manor then?’

Rebecca noted the packet of Rothmans poking out of his shirt pocket.

‘Er … yes, that’s right,’ she said, wanting to snatch them, ban or no ban, and light one up to calm the nervous tremors invading her limbs.

A waiter, sporting a cheesy grin and two beers, intervened. ‘Hey, long time no see!’ He bumped fists with Alex, then Kenny, giving Rebecca and Abi the once-over.

‘Yeah, I practically had to drag him here,’ said Kenny.

The waiter topped up both women’s flutes. Alex thanked him for the beers, but passed his to Kenny and ordered a mineral water. Rebecca could hear them all bantering about him insisting he was driving.

A regular enough conversation,
yes
, but this scenario certainly wasn’t.

In fact, nothing about this trip so far had been regular.

Rebecca clasped her hands together in her lap, squeezing them tight, hoping the pressure would still those damn tremors.
Breathe, Rebecca, breathe.

A fresh clutch of people were rubbernecking through the latticework.

‘So, where were we?’ said Kenny, addressing both Rebecca and Abi as the waiter scampered off.

‘You were asking us about Hawksley Manor,’ said Abi, not a frayed nerve in evidence.

‘Oh, yeah.’ Kenny glanced sideways at Alex. ‘So is it just the two of you then?’

‘Yes. Rebecca’s husband’s at a sales conference near Brighton and my boyfriend’s in Spain. We thought we’d escape for the weekend. Well, actually, my boss and his wife offered us their room because they couldn’t make it,’ said Abi, giving a little cough. ‘Or, rather, rooms plural. They upgraded us.’

‘Nice touch. What do you do?’

‘Oh, just cater for his every business need.’ Abi laughed. ‘He’s an accountancy consultant. I’ve been his PA for six years.’

‘What, in London?’

‘Yes. Not far from the Savoy,’ said Abi, pausing to sip her champagne.

‘And what about Rebecca?’ Kenny asked, flashing his grin at her.

Oh, hell!
This would be interesting.

‘Um, well, I’m not working as such at the moment. I was made redundant from my admin job a while back and have been studying, mainly art and design. I did a one-year course in my teens and never really followed it through, so lots to catch up on …’ She’d hoped to leave it there – she already felt like she was speaking with a mouthful of marshmallows – but both men seemed riveted.

‘Bex can design posters and invitations, the clever bunny,’ said Abi, beaming at her. ‘As well as writing quizzes for people, being the best cook and most welcoming hostess I know, of course. Shall I go on?’

‘Please do,’ said Alex.

Abi stared at Rebecca, mouthing the words ‘party shop’ to her.


Oh, yeah!
What sort of party shop?’ Kenny interrupted. He smirked at Alex who shook his head at Rebecca, as if to say ‘ignore the smutty git’.

Rebecca grinned. ‘My older sister owns it,’ she said. ‘I help out there now and again. They cater for everything, really. Children’s birthday parties, fancy dress, Christmas, Halloween, you name it; sell all the accessories – novelty gifts, cards, balloons …’

‘Sounds good,’ said Alex, smiling that smile of his at her. ‘What’s it called?’

‘Revellers Retreat,’ said Rebecca, returning the gesture.

She seized her glass and gulped down a mouthful of champagne, triggering a coughing fit worthy of oxygen.

‘Are you all right?’ Alex raised his hand as if to slap her on the back.

‘F-fine, thanks.’

‘Here, take this,’ said Abi, throwing her a tissue.

‘I’ll get you some water,’ said Alex, standing up and heading back towards the main restaurant.

The rubbernecking both in and beyond the alcove intensified as the maître d’ steamed forward to meet him halfway.

Rebecca wanted to crawl beneath the table. This was the second time she’d drawn unnecessary attention to him.

Kenny, by contrast, sitting back in his chair, looked vaguely amused by it all.

‘Are you okay?’ said Abi, reaching across the table to her.

Rebecca nodded. ‘You can tell I don’t drink champagne very often, can’t you?’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Alex, placing a glass of water in front of her as he retook his seat. ‘There you go.’

‘Thank you,’ she said, comforted by his kindness.

‘Talking of champagne,’ said Abi, shifting the spotlight. ‘This’ll make you laugh!’ She explained to Alex and Kenny about how they’d come to be drinking Laurent-Perrier and what message their admirers whom, Rebecca noticed, still looked peeved, had wanted relaying to them upon delivery of it.

‘Dancing dinosaur and co,’ said Kenny, giving the group of men a cursory glance. ‘Sounds about right.’

Alex shook his head. ‘Put them out of their misery, Millsy.’

Kenny held up his hands defensively. ‘Okay. I confess. It was me who sent it over.’

Rebecca saw Abi’s frown change to laughter as Kenny rattled off about recognising her in the alcove and then Alex spotting Rebecca, and how the prank had come about.

The rest was a blur because, although Rebecca found it equally funny, all she could see in her mind was him and Alex Heath spying on them.

She lunged for her glass of water. It wobbled precariously. Alex steadied it, accidentally brushing her hand, sending little pulses of warmth through each finger.

Completely unfazed, Abi now appeared to be telling Kenny where she and Rebecca lived, chattering away to him as though she’d known him forever.

All Rebecca could think of to say to Alex, however, was, ‘You must think I’m so clumsy.’

‘Not at all,’ he said, immediately turning his chair to face her. ‘It’s our fault for hassling you.’

She started twiddling her wedding ring, the nearness of him robbing her of any sensible reply.

He leaned forward as if about to tell her some big secret. ‘You’ll wear the gold off if you’re not careful.’

She grinned at him, the tight ball of tension in her chest loosening. ‘Habit, I’m afraid.’

She found his voice strangely soothing. She’d often tried to work out his accent. She’d heard it so many times during post-match interviews on TV, but had always thought it sounded untypical for someone supposedly from Yorkshire.

Abi let out a meteoric gasp. ‘Bex! Kenny runs the gym in Clapham that one of my work colleagues is thinking of joining.’

‘Well, I’m not there all the time,’ said Kenny, taking a swig of his beer. ‘I coach at the Leeds one mainly.’

Rebecca’s eyes wandered to Kenny’s cigarettes again. A smoking gym instructor. How wonderfully ironic. Greg would be appalled.

She tuned back into the conversation and, to her dismay, heard Abi say to Alex: ‘Oh, no, Bex is the footie fan. That’s how she knew who you were when she saw you walk past her doorway yesterday afternoon.’

Oh, great. Now it really would look like she’d engineered the whole staircase episode. Why hadn’t she just admitted she’d known who Alex was all along when he’d introduced himself to her in reception? She could have left out the bit about stalking him down the corridor on tiptoes.

But then, rather unnervingly, Alex said that his room was actually on the floor above and that the only reason he’d been walking past Rebecca’s doorway was because some bloke on her floor had spotted him coming down the stairs, called him over for an autograph and kept him talking for five minutes. And, even more weirdly, that he’d originally planned to see his parents this weekend but had had to postpone until during the week.

‘Spooky,’ said Abi. Then, clearly registering properly what Alex had said: ‘Third floor? That’s the mega bucks rooms, isn’t it?’

Rebecca prayed for divine intervention.

‘What’s the matter, girls? Not rich enough for you, are we?’ slurred a roaring great voice through the latticework.

Not that kind of divine intervention.

‘Oh, lord, it’s the dinosaur, being egged on by his entourage,’ said Abi.

‘Hey! Are you deaf?’ shouted the same voice, out-booming the music.

‘What was that, mate?’ Kenny bellowed back, eyes glinting.

‘You heard, barrow
boy!’

Kenny leapt up so fast he jogged the table, sending Alex’s unwanted beer sloshing straight into Rebecca’s lap.


Jesus
, Millsy!’ Alex pulled Kenny’s arm back.

Rebecca grabbed the nearest napkin and started patting her sodden dress, her stomach churning at the thought of a mass punch up.

It was chaos that ensued, though, rather than violence. Dinosaur and co being ejected, kicking and cussing, from the area and, finally, the club, by several bouncers. Fans trying to muscle their way into the alcove. The maître d’ clucking mother-hen-like around Alex, who’d repositioned himself to shield Rebecca from view and was glaring at Kenny as if he was about to deck him. Abi trying her best to humour everyone.

Now, to top it, Miss England and Miss Ireland were approaching their table. Or at least that’s who Rebecca imagined them to be. Absolute goddesses, the pair of them. Rebecca didn’t know where to put herself. If one of them was Alex Heath’s girlfriend, she’d be mincemeat.

She scraped her chair out of the way before she was stilettoed to death as they homed in for an impromptu selfie with Alex. She was sure she saw Abi throw them a naughty smirk as they teetered off when it became clear neither Alex nor Kenny seemed further interested.

‘Are you okay?’ Alex asked her when things had finally calmed down.

‘Just about.’ Rebecca wanted to laugh manically. She caught the look he threw Kenny, who promptly apologised all round, offered to replace the beer-stained dress, and continued guzzling his drink.

Alex pulled his chair in closer still. The music had gone up a notch, and pounded now, even in the alcove. ‘So,’ he said in her ear, ‘what did you think of my sign language by the pool this afternoon?’

Rebecca laughed. ‘Well, we certainly kept the audience entertained.’ She gave her shoulder a little pat. ‘It’s not sore at all now. That massage I had this morning has worked wonders.’ She saw a smile curve his lips. ‘I’m glad you were so forgiving in reception yesterday.’

Alex held up a hand. ‘Nothing to forgive. I’m pleased you’ve recovered.’

They sustained their longest mutual gaze yet, before Alex broke it.

He took a sip of his water, wincing slightly.

‘Painful tooth?’ Rebecca asked, seeing him grimace again.

‘Yeah, I’ve cracked it.’ He placed a finger towards the back of his jawbone. ‘It’s normally all right, it’s just this water being so freezing cold.’

‘Ain’t you got that fixed yet?’ cried Kenny. He turned to Rebecca. ‘I think you might have to chaperone him, Rebecca, hold his hand. He’s cancelled about four appointments.’

‘Slight exaggeration,’ Alex countered, glaring at him.

Rebecca smiled to herself. She kept getting little blasts of Alex’s lovely aftershave. Hugo Boss
.
She’d know it anywhere. She’d once sat beside a man who’d asked her opinion on it before buying himself a bottle during a flight to the Canaries. The smell of it had stayed with her for days. She’d have bought Greg some, but he only ever wore one fragrance.

‘So, what do you think of Hawksley Manor?’ Alex asked, once Kenny had stopped ribbing him.

‘Oh, it’s glorious.’ Much to Rebecca’s clichéd embarrassment, she then asked him if he stayed there often.

‘Mostly during the summer months, and only if we’re playing golf on consecutive days,’ he said, stretching a muscular arm across the table. ‘I took part in a charity match on Thursday. Once I knew I wasn’t seeing my parents, we decided to stick around for the whole weekend. Saves driving back and forth to Leeds. Bit lazy, really, but the hotel’s got everything I need. Means I can have the odd beer or two if I want to as well.’

Something inside Rebecca softened. ‘Leeds is where you live, I assume?’

‘Not for much longer. I’ve bought a place in York. Should be able to move in before the new season starts, hopefully.’

‘Ah, well that’s a bit nearer for you.’ She clocked his watch, the brand name refreshingly unfamiliar to her, even if it was probably worth thousands.

BOOK: As Weekends Go (Choc Lit)
6.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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