Authors: Victoria Browne
Tags: #Romance, #Erotic, #Fiction, #Holiday, #Chic Lit, #Humor
It must have been at least 1 am before Ash got into bed. She lay there thinking about the night and how she had enjoyed herself, and for the first time it struck Ash how happy she was with Dave. Suddenly she came over all goose-pimply. She smiled to herself thinking how much she liked him.
,’ she said out loud, ‘
he weekend came around quickly. Ash arranged a night out with Dave, Peter, Issi, Leon and Jules, though Rachel was still away.
It was Saturday evening and she had about forty minutes left before she had to meet Jules and Leon in a bar close to Soho. Jules had met a new man and was keen to show him off to Ash for the seal of approval. For a strong, determined, career-minded woman, Jules did get it wrong a lot with men. Each time she met some new high-flying businessman who supposedly had all the boxes ticked, he would turn out to be a moron. But this one was different, according to Jules.
* * *
6.45pm—outside the Couch bar, Dean Street
‘Ash, Leon,’ a voice came from one of the swarms of people standing on the pavement outside the bar smoking and drinking.
‘Jules, hi.’ Leon saw her and raised his hand.
She stepped sideways, past a few people to the very edge of the pavement.
‘Guys, hi. Shall we go inside and get a drink?’ Jules grinned at them, leading the way.
They walked up to the bar quite easily as most people were outside.
‘So where is he?’ Ash looked around.
‘Oh, he won’t be long. He’s just finishing up at work,’ Jules said quickly, then lent forward over the bar to order the drinks. They took their glasses and found a free table.
‘So tell me, what does he do?’ Leon asked, picking up his usual beverage of Jack Daniels and coke.
‘Oh,’ Leon sounded shocked. ‘So not in the fashion industry then?’
‘Thank God he is not!’ added Ash.
‘And why’s that?’ Jules straightened her back defensively in her seat, and looked at Ash.
‘Honey, your track record isn’t a good one, and they all come from the same industry in one way or another.’
‘She’s right, Jules. Your man taste is shit. So anyway, what exactly does this new bloke do then, in IT?’
‘Well, I’m not too sure, but he has a boat!’
‘A boat? oow!’ Ash said, looking at Leon.
‘A boat for work, you jokers. He fixes the computer systems on the Thames, but that’s kind of the extent of what I know about his job. His business card say’s Network Operations Manager, if that helps!’
‘Ah right,’ Leon’s face lit up.
‘Do you know what that is then, Leon?’ said Ash.
A few moments later, Jules stood up. A big smile spread rapidly over her face.
They all looked up at a guy in his mid twenties, broad-shouldered with light strawberry-blond hair. Ash couldn’t help but notice his brilliant blue eyes. He was gorgeous, she thought, and felt slightly intimidated by his charming smile.
, she thought as he looked down at her,
‘Hi babe,’ he said leaning over to kiss Jules, who then introduced him as Jon. They sat for a while making polite introductory chitchat for a while before relaxing into more pointless conversation, then headed off to meet the others.
* * *
8.10 pm—Cheers bar, Regent Street
Dave, Peter and Issi all stood at the bar, drinking beer and having a loud debate over the headlining story of a three-year-old girl who had been snatched from a car in a busy shopping centre.
‘If it was my child I would never have left her on her own in the first place,’ said Issi.
Peter took a sip of beer. ‘Well now the police think the parent’s may have killed her as they’ve found blood in the kid’s bedroom.
‘No! You’re joking, when did all this happen?’
‘Today on the news, Issi, keep up mate!’
‘Er guys, sorry to butt in on your exhilarating conversation but maybe we should head off to meet Ash and the others soon. We need to be there by 8.30.’
* * *
8.30 pm—Wagamamas noodle bar, Wigmore Street
Jules, Leon, Ash and Jon stood outside. Ash felt her phone vibrate in her pocket.
‘Hello babe,’ said Dave.
‘Where are you guys?’ she said, looking up and down the busy street.
‘Just walking through Cavendish Square, see you in five mins.’
‘OK, see ya babe.’ She put her phone back in her pocket. ‘Right they’ll be here in five. Let’s go in. Get a table.’
They stood inside the doorway, waiting for someone to come over. Leon and Jon had been in constant conversation ever since they got in the cab at Dean Street. Jules was pleased but slightly concerned at how well they were getting on. Jules was more than aware of Leon’s deep interest in women who didn’t want any commitment,
, she thought.
The restaurant was heaving with people. It was noisy. People were talking over one another, sounds of pots and pans hitting the cooker tops blending in with the spitting of the fat from the flames that spread under the large woks, steam and smoke wafting through the air. Moments later, a waitress came over, leading them to a pine table bench that stretched the whole length of the restaurant. The bench behind them and the bench in front were both completely full, so they sat squeezed in alongside some noisy Chinese tourists.
‘I bet the noodle bars aren’t like this in China,’ Ash whispered to Jules, looking at the tourists, but then had to shout to make herself heard.
‘No they’re busier, trust me. This is quiet compared with some places I’ve eaten in over there.’
Suddenly there was some movement along the table. She looked round to see the others making their way along. Dave bent to kiss Ash placing one hand around the side of her face then whispered in her ear. ‘You look lovely.’
He sat down beside her; opposite sat Peter and Isabella. Ash leaned forward and in a raised voice introduced everyone to each other. The mood was good: Ash looked to her left and saw Jules chatting away to Jon, his hand on her leg, whispering in her ear as Jules giggled. Opposite sat Leon, Issi and Peter. Ash smiled to herself. The poor girl sat between two men who shared the same pastime, chasing women and by the looks of it, saw each other as healthy competition. Still, from where Ash was sitting Issi didn’t seem to be bothered as she laughed, turning her head from side to side like a tennis umpire trying to keep up with the witty jokes and innuendo. Male ego, she thought to herself.
‘You OK, hun?’
Ash jumped back to reality and turned to smile at Dave.
The noise in the restaurant didn’t die down. It seemed that with more people waiting by the door they should drink up now; the food had been eaten and other people could take their seats. Dave asked for the bill.
Spilling out on to the street Ash led them to a bar up the road, a prestige bar on Cavendish Square where she had arranged for them all to be on the guest list. She walked them through into the bar. The lights were low and behind the bar were every type of spirit and liquors you could imagine, all lined up in front of the long mirror. They waited for everyone to get their drinks, standing chatting, huddled at the bar.
Walking to the rear of the room where it opened out into a much larger area, they found two tables close together, big enough for them to fit round. Dave nudged Ash, gesturing at Peter and Leon who were still trying it on with Issi. Ash smiled, shaking her head, thinking how Issi looked so happy with all the attention.
Jules and Jon were now practically sitting on top of each other and seemed like two young teenagers being forced to come along with the family when all they really wanted was to be tucked away in a room somewhere discovering what the other one liked. It was nice to see Jules simply being herself around him, rather than bragging about how successful or how well known in the magazine industry she was. And tonight she was looking radiant. She had a way of giving off an air of supermodel chic with her tall figure and the slightly angular beauty of her face, and sometimes came across as unapproachable to those who didn’t know her, but looking at her now, Ash saw another side to her—the warmth and effervescence of her spirit.
Jules glanced up as she put her drink down. Ash gave her an approving smile, curling the corner of her mouth on one side and Jules winked back.
Later that night, after a few more champagne bottles had been turned upside down in the silver bucket, it was clear that the Leon and Peter’s persistence toward Issi was paying off—but not in the way anyone would ever have guessed. Issi was not swaying towards one or the other. As she had told the girls in the ladies toilet, ‘Why choose? Why not have both?’
After returning to the table Issi began snogging both men—she was most definitely a girl of her word. But how far would she take it? they wondered. By now it was getting very late and everyone was ready to go home.
They all joked outside with the doormen as they waited for cabs. Even though Ash and Jules were quite drunk they still noticed that Leon got into the cab with Peter and Issi. As the cab drove off, Jules turned to Ash.
‘Unless I’m very much mistaken… as I am really drunk… but Leon’s flat is not on the way to Wandsworth, is it?’
‘No,’ Dave butted in, ‘and I’m glad I’m staying at your place tonight, Ash.’
‘So are they, by the looks of it,’ said Jon.
They all laughed in disbelief. Dave opened the cab door.
‘Right, well we all live in the same direction—unless you two fancy a foursome at Ash’s place, that is!’
‘As much as I fancy the pants off your girlfriend,’ Jules replied, ‘I think I’ll take a raincheck, but thanks for the offer all the same, Dave.’
* * *
Issi woke up feeling a semi-hard cock pressing against her back. She could also feel a warm heavy arm, wrapped around her waist as she came to her senses, trying to work out through the dehydrated haze in her head where she was. She suddenly realised she could feel a hand sandwiched between her thigh, and it did not belong to the same body as the arm wrapped around her waist. Gradually the night before started to come back to her. A smile crept across her face as she lay there, remembering the details.
11 am. The two boys sat in the living room at the table drinking coffee and reading yesterday’s paper, while Issi cooked breakfast. The sun was bright, shining in through the windows. It was already hot outside, gearing up to be another scorcher.
Dave opened the front door briskly, walking up the hall. He glanced into the kitchen to see Issi from behind, cooking naked with his black apron on. Dave popped into his room then hurried back down the hall again.
‘Morning lads.’ He walked into the living room and straight over to the window, looking down to the pavement below where Ash waited. ‘So I was right not to invite Ash up.’ There was no reply to this comment. ‘So I take it everything went well last night then?’
Leon grinned. Peter shrugged.
‘Well? If any of you wanna come, me, Ash, Jules and Jon are going to Hyde Park. I just came back to get the van keys.’ Dave started to head out of the door.
‘OK, I’ll ring you later,’ Peter called after his brother.
’ he shouted back as he shut the front door, laughing to himself. His face said it all as he skipped down the steps to where Ash stood, shaking his head and smiling. Dave threw his arm around her shoulder, guiding her towards the van.
‘You don’t wanna know,’ he stopped and looked at her. ‘I’m glad I met you, babe.’
Ash smiled and hugged him just as Issi looked out of the window above them. She wished she had a connection like that with someone. She watched as they walked to the van, laughing and joking, two people who seemed to be in love. Deep down she knew they were laughing at her expense—not that she cared: it was her life, why not live it to the full before she met Mr Right?
Her thoughts were interrupted by a painful slap on her naked bum cheek from Peter. He pulled her on to his lap, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
‘Come on… go get dressed, babe. We can all go meet them at the park.’ He looked at Leon for agreement.
‘Can’t, mate, I’ve got to go and meet some art dealer with my dad. He wants to buy me a painting for my flat.’
‘Sounds fun,’ Peter bantered.
‘It’s not—it’s art coupled with my dad who makes it very much
‘Well, it’s just me and you then, babes, so go on, go put something little on for me.’
ater that week Rachel planned to return home. She still felt low but ready to get back to her life. She had also planned to return home with Gemma Collingridge, Rachel and Ash’s childhood friend.
After spending the past week with one another, Rachel had suggested that as Gemma was so unhappy living in the same town as her ex husband, maybe she should have a break, try a different way of life in the big city with her two old best friends. After long chats and much pondering Gemma had quit her job as an estate agent in Salisbury, packed up everything she needed, and the rest of her things Rachel’s grandfather said to leave them in the spare room until she needed them.
Robert was happy to see Gemma moving on with her life as he thought she was a lovely girl. Mary would be looking down—so happy to see the three of them all back together like they used to be, playing after school in the garden and getting up to mischief. Gemma had been so upset when Ash moved to London, as was Rachel, but Mary and Robert always knew their granddaughter would follow Ash: the two of them were inseparable.