Skin of the Night

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Chapter 2: What's His Scheme?

“Order us a round, yeah? Strongest cocktail they’ve got,” I said while tearing my eyes away from the two men, and I wondered to myself if the encounter with them had ruined my chance at a pleasant night.

When she chuckled and sent me a wink, I knew I was forgiven.

“Sure. I’ll be right back,” she obliged and turned around in her black heels. Impressed, I watched her graceful strut return to the bar. Olivia had always been great at rising above things. Less could be said for myself. I had much to learn from her in that regard.

If only Jason had been here. Right about now, he would have laughed his lungs out while paying my back repeated pats, but he’d had coursework to mind, which I had respected. Nevertheless, I could have used his moral support, so I decided to send him a text.

Me

Today, 20:47

‘You didn’t warn me about dickheads when you told me about this place’

Jason Night

Today, 20:48

‘Thought that was a given? You wanted a place with lawyers. You can’t have one without the other’

Me

Today, 20:48

‘You twat! 😂I’m not a dickhead’

Jason Night

Today, 20:48

‘You’re not a lawyer’

‘Yet’

Me

Today, 20:49

‘I just accused a man that Livy wanted to get off with of sleeping with his mum. Doubt your coursework is more entertaining...’

Jason Night

Today, 20:50

‘Lmao. You did what? 😂😂😂’

‘Did he deserve it?’

Me

Today, 20:50

‘100 % 😌’

Jason Night

Today, 20:50

‘Fucking hell. I would’ve paid good money to see that 😂👏You okay? x’

Me

Today, 20:51

‘Yeah. Would’ve helped to have you here though 💕😒’

Jason Night

Today, 20:53

‘I’d set him straight. Granted, you already did’

‘I’m honestly proper laughing. I love you to bits Cara 😂😂😂’

Me

Today, 20:53

‘Yeah I can defend myself. What a bellend tho 😤’

Jason Night

Today, 20:54

‘You must be the worst wingwoman throughout history 😂Poor Livy. She upset?’

Me

Today, 20:54

‘Don’t feel bad for her. I took a bullet for her there 😘’

Jason Night

Today, 20:54

‘Best wingwoman throughout history then? x’

Me

Today, 20:54

‘You know it x’

I had been distracted the extent that once Olivia returned it felt like only a minute had passed. When she placed an espresso martini in front of me, I looked up to find her smiling. Caught by it, I grinned back. The sweetheart had brought me my favourite cocktail.

“Next round’s on me,” I said.

“I didn’t pay for it.” She pressed her lips together to hide her smile.

“What?”

“The lad you insulted did. Asked for your name, too, but I didn’t give it to him. I gathered I would leave that choice to you.”

I gaped at her in my disbelief. He’d bought me a drink? After all that?

Responding to impulse, my eyes travelled in his direction. Spellbinding blue met mine, and I struggled not to be arrested by the sight of them. While smirking, he raised his glass at me and paid me a wink. His friend chuckled beside him, head shaking from side to side.

“Seriously? What’s his scheme?” I grumbled irritated and broke contact with his eyes to meet Olivia’s, who sat down beside me and raised her cosmopolitan to her plump lips.

After a sip, she reflected aloud, “Perhaps you changed his mind about his disinterest. Perhaps you’re his type, feisty as you are.”

I scoffed. “He needs to piss off.”

“You can have him. He put me off with his attitude. His friend, though, Andrew, he seems nice. He apologised on William’s behalf. William is the arsehole.”

I blinked at her. “You had a conversation with them?”

She chuckled. “He insisted on paying for our drinks, Cara. What was I supposed to do?”

Ignore him? I would have.

“Poor you. I wouldn’t wish their attention upon anyone.”

She laughed and gazed around the room again, probably to locate new targets. Meanwhile, I stared at the cocktail Mr Arsehole had bought me. I wanted the content of it, but it seemed wrong to accept it. So instead, I just continued to stare at it, conflicted.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Cara. Consider it an apology. Drink it,” Olivia scolded.

“You do realise that if he sees me drinking it, he’ll consider himself excused?” I countered. “I, for one, do not intend to allow that. He ought to learn the etiquette of chivalry. I’d rather buy my own.” I stood.

“If you approach, he’ll speak to you,” she warned. “Is that what you want?”

“Who says I’ve got to reply? I might as well return the favour: not interested,” I stated cheekily before I headed for the bar. Eyeing her over my shoulder, I found her grinning at me, silently commending my fierceness.

As I approached, I sensed his eyes upon my figure, and it demanded my every ounce of willpower not to meet them, but I managed.

When I reached the counter, I had ensured that I would arrive at the far end of them, just in case. Spreading my hands across the dark stone of it, I searched for a bartender, but to my regret, all three of them were busy serving other customers, so I waited somewhat vigilantly.

I took note of the fact that Mr Arsehole continued to stare at me. It made me feel strangely uneasy. Hyperaware of myself, I shifted my weight onto my right leg and resorted to studying the wall of myriad bottles behind the bar.

Stiff in my figure, I recoiled a step when his muscular and bare forearms entered my field of vision. From the corner of my eye, I saw them rest against the counter beside me. He’d rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, and the grey waistcoat that he wore on top of the white fabric was unfairly provocative, as it clung to his robust anatomy. He looked noble. How ironic.

“I’m sorry about earlier, Miss. You’re right. I was rude. Unnecessarily so. If you’d give me a second, I’d like to explain why.”

His voice really was remarkably sensual.

Just then, a bartender spared me from having to respond to the imbecile. Blonde with blue eyes, he looked positively northern. An alluring grin decorated his mouth when our eyes locked.

“What can I get you, Miss?” he politely enquired.

Leaning slightly forward, I smiled back at him. “An espresso martini, please, and a gin and tonic.”

Nodding, he handed me the payment terminal he’d just typed into. I was about to grab it when Mr Arsehole beat me to it. Snatching it away from me, he inserted his own card.

“No!” I admonished and stared at his hands.

They were large, and had a few veins present at the back. Odd as it were, I found them awfully beautiful, and I couldn’t help but think that they looked experienced. In a brief moment of weakness, I wondered what it would feel like to have them caress my naked skin. However, I quickly murdered such an outrageous idea. Handsome or not, he was a nasty character.

His eyebrows arched at my response. Through a lopsided smile, he said, “So this is what I’ve got to do in order to get your attention?”

“You had your chance earlier, Mr Arsehole, and you wasted it,” I grumbled and snatched back the device.

He sighed. “If you withdraw my card, our dear bartender will have to restart the whole process. Are you going to let him become collateral damage just because you can’t swallow your pride?”

The audacity of that man!

I looked to the bartender who was now smiling to himself.

“You should have a sign on the door that warns of arsehole clientele,” I told him. He pressed his lips together and winked at me while William resorted to a chuckle beside me.

I had never met a more irritating man in my twenty-three years of life.

“Andy, my friend, has got a girlfriend,” the source of my annoyance suddenly said. “Or, he used to. She broke up with him today, and he’s not remotely over her. I was fending you off earlier to spare you. So you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, Miss,” he continued. “I’m the nice guy. Now, unless you’d like to be his rebound, I gather I did you a favour.”

I pressed my lips together and despised the fact that I found his reason valid. Then again, he might just be telling lies. I didn’t know the man. What’s more, if he was telling the truth, he could have ‘fended me off’ more politely.

“How can I trust what you’re saying?” I reluctantly replied.

“Let’s settle this first. May I buy your drinks for you?”

Finally, I met his eyes, and they were smouldering. The sight made a lump gather in my throat. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the man was rather intense. Everything about him was.

Struck speechless by the look of him, I could only nod my head.

“Thank you,” he said, before he sent me look of wonder. I frowned back at him, puzzled by the expression on his face.

“May I have your name?” he asked while completing the transaction.

“Oh, you’d like to know, wouldn’t you?” I retorted and tore my eyes away from him to watch the bartender perform his magic.

He chuckled again. “Yes. If it’s not obvious already, I truly regret my behaviour. I hadn’t thought you’d be so... intriguing.”

I snorted. Did he really consider that to be a legitimate excuse for his behaviour? What if I hadn’t been intriguing? What then? Would he have considered his conducts justified?

He was obviously a conceited idiot. Why was I wasting even a breath of air on him?

Even though I was wearing heels, he towered beside me, unusually tall. Since I felt small and vulnerable this close to him, I wondered how tall he truly was. Taking my own height into account, and adding it to the fact that I was wearing heels, I reckoned he was at least six-foot-four, maybe five.

He was strong, too, which I could tell from the way his shirt and waistcoat strained against his body, as well as the general width of him, given his broad shoulders and back.

“Who would have guessed? Seducing Mr Arsehole one-o-one: accuse him of sleeping with his mother. Turned you on, did it? The idea of her?” I cheekily responded.

Frightened, I gasped when he suddenly leaned toward me. Only centimetres separated our noses from touching. He was so close that I could smell the alcohol in his breath when it fanned against my face.

In my momentary fear, my eyes locked with his. Hypnotised by their dominating content, I swallowed. Perhaps this wasn’t a man to be trifled with. He didn’t strike me as the sort of man who allowed others to walk over him. On the contrary, he looked to be in the habit of performing that deed himself. I felt walked over. In all fairness – under the burning heat of his gaze – I felt withered. Crushed.

"You did,” he replied firmly.

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