I blink. My cheeks grow hot and I’m wishing this is all a huge mistake. Bram can’t be here for me, can he? I mean, the last time I saw Bram was at Steph and Linden’s wedding and even though we shared a hot make-out session, it wasn’t long before he found another pair of lips to hook up with. And by “not long,” I mean minutes.
“Nicola,” he says in his Scottish accent, looking incredibly dapper as he leans across his spiffy car. “Are you ready?”
Oh, fuck. He is here for me.
I nearly drop the booster seat.
I squeeze Ava’s hand and take in a deep breath. I want to kill Stephanie, even though I never told her I made out with her brother-in-law, so there’s no way she could possibly know that I hate Bram with a passion.
Remember what I said about pride and how it’s something I’ve got in spades? Well, Bram bruised that far more than he could possibly know.
And now I have to get in a car with him, with my daughter, when I’m at one of the lowest moments of my life.
He eyes the heavy seat in my hands. “Do you need a hand?”
I’m this close to telling him, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and that I’ve changed my mind all together about the party. But Ava pulls me forward toward the car, as if I’ve never taught her to be aware of strangers, and says, “Come, mommy. His car is shiny.”
She’s going to get herself in a whole load of trouble when she’s older.
My eyes briefly meet Bram’s and it brings out one hell of a jackass smile from him, a smile that boils my blood.
I guess I’m going to the party with Bram McGregor.
I steady myself, throw my shoulders back and hold my head up just like I used to do in high school when I was the new girl in the halls and not accepted yet into the throngs of mean girls with inflated self-entitlement. I flash Bram a confident, albeit hella fake, smile and walk over to his car, all prepared to handle the situation with ease.
But he’s fast and he comes around the hood and right up to me, quickly taking the booster seat out of my hands. I’m prepared for him to smell like cigars and mint again, but this time it’s just something fresh and earthy like the woods after it rains.
“I can handle it,” I tell him. I can’t help but snipe at him, aware that I’m being a bit of a bitch.
He doesn’t seem to notice and before I can ask him if he knows what he’s doing, he’s opening the back door to the vehicle and strapping the seat in like a pro.
I’m almost impressed. “You always give rides to moms?”
He raises his brow. “None as beautiful as you.” He looks at Ava and crouches down to her level. “What’s your name, little one?”
“I’m not, little one,” she says, frowning. “I’m Ava. And I’m a big girl.”
He nods, his face sincere. Now looking at him in the waning daylight, he looks different than I remember six months ago. Older, I guess, though I know he has to be around thirty-five. Maybe the suit and the way it cuts to his body perfectly is making him look more mature. Maybe it’s the car. Maybe it’s the few strands of grey I can see at the temple of his thick head of dark hair. Maybe it’s because I’m sober and so is he. At least, I hope so.
“So, are you the designated driver for the night?” I ask him, picking up Ava and placing her in the booster seat. “Or did you lose a bet?”