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.”
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.”