“Well, you’ve still been top seller in Huddersfield despite taking time off and being on a four-day week.”
A waiter set bowls of steaming creamy soup in front of us.
“Yes, I came joint with Rachel, that’s why we’re both here.”
I glanced at Rachel chatting animatedly to Jeremy.
“And I’m sorry about the divorce,” I said. “It must have been tough.”
“Yeah.” He shrugged. “We’d only been married eighteen months. But it seemed she preferred my best friend to me so what could I do?” He bent his head over his bowl and scooped up a spoonful of soup.
I watched the way he blew gently on the liquid before opening his mouth. A small dent appeared in his cheek, then his Adam’s apple bobbed low as he swallowed. How could anyone choose someone else over him? Not only was he drop-dead gorgeous, he was charming, successful and right up there with Tobias and Bret and all the others in my books. Plus, I’d bet my right arm he’d know just what to do in the bedroom. I’d bet those square fingers knew which buttons to press and that mouth knew just how and where to kiss. His ex-wife was a fool. But her loss was my gain, because here I was, little mousy Ashley, sitting next to hunky, newly single Shane Galloway.
He glanced at me. “I know what you’re thinking,” he said.
I bet you don’t.
“What?” I asked, taking a sip of my own rich soup and thoroughly enjoying a tingle of desire for a real man instead of a fictitious one for a change.
“How could I not have seen it coming?” he said.
“No, not at all. Although looking back the signs were there. Hell, they both disappeared for twenty-five minutes at our wedding reception.”
I gave a sympathetic frown. “Do you think they were…at it?”
“I don’t think, I know. She threw the information at me in an argument last Christmas. They’d been shagging in the ladies’ toilet for heaven’s sake.” His brown eyes captured mine and he sighed. “I’m sorry, Ashley. I don’t normally meet someone and start boring them with this.”
I shrugged. “It’s good to talk about bad stuff that’s happened. It gets it off your chest.”
“Yeah, but it’s history, I guess with the New Year coming up it makes you think of all that’s happened, but now I’m looking forward to starting afresh.”
“Is that what you’re going to do?”
“I’ve already done it. Since I got home from Oz I’ve been getting my teeth back into life.” He smiled broadly. “I know I’ve got a good career if I just keep working hard and I wish Mandy and Jared well. No hard feelings, no bitterness, because that would just drag me down.”
“Very sensible, and of course you wouldn’t want to be dragged down any longer.” I drew my gaze from his face, took another sip of my soup, and let the creamy potato coat my tongue and warm my throat. I forced myself not to think of all the dragging down I’d like him to do to me. Had we been on The Lost Soul, he a pirate and me a willing wench, he could have dragged down my garter and petticoats, my pantaloons and corset all day, every day until we reached shore.
“And what about you, Ashley?” His gaze settled on my mouth. I licked my lips and hoped I didn’t have a sprig of stray herb stuck in my gloss. “What are you hoping for next year?” He glanced at my hands, the way I had his. Was he checking for a wedding ring? Surely not.
“Mmm, well I don’t know really.” I could hardly tell him that losing my virginity was top of my to-do list. That finding a hot hunk to screw me silly was becoming increasingly pressing.