I close my gaping mouth. ‘I’m happy for you.’ I’m ecstatic, in fact. ‘So why are you here again?’
‘There are private suites.’ She grins.
‘Your bedroom is private!’
‘It is, but it’s not…’ her grin widens. ‘furnished suitably.’
My lips clamp shut, my eyes widen… and I laugh. Holy shit, the filthy little minx! ‘You have no shame.’ I’m really laughing, tears and all. It feels so good to be sharing this with my fiery friend, even if the topic up for discussion is a million miles away from what either of us would have guessed we’d be chuckling about just a few months ago. Plush sex clubs, The Lord of the Sex Manor—to whom I’m now married and with whom I’m having a child—and sexy, cute members of said Manor, one of which Kate is experimenting with. My life has turned upside down and inside out.
‘I can’t believe you.’ I snort. ‘And who have you and Sam invited to play? Before you made this new rule, I mean.’
Her blue eyes dance in delight. ‘A certain dashing, black haired moody type.’
She nods with wide eyes. ‘Just as moody in the bedroom. It’s hot!’
‘I will not!’ She measures out at least eight inches between her palms. ‘And he’s fucking brilliant with it.’
‘Oh God! Stop!’ I blurt on a hushed snort.
She falls back in her chair and fights to keep her laughter under control. ‘He might be good, but he can’t match Sam for stamina and skill.’ She sighs on a smile. ‘And he doesn’t make me laugh like that adorable twat.’
I can’t help the huge smile invading my face. She’s not said in as many words, but she’s just admitted to liking Sam. We have a breakthrough, and I’m so happy. ‘You don’t know how pleased I am to finally hear you say that.’
‘Yes, I do.’ Kate retorts dryly, leaning across the table. ‘Let me just tell you one more thing, and then we speak no more of Mr Moody, okay?’
‘Ooh, this sounds interesting.’ I mirror her pose, leaning in myself so our faces are only a few inches away from each other. ‘Dish.’
‘He has a piercing.’
‘Nipple?’ I ask, far too enthralled, but she shakes her head. I sit up straight and measure roughly eight inches between my palms. She nods. ‘No!’ I look over to the reserved, stand-offish Drew, my eyes automatically dropping to his crotch.
‘You won’t see it through his jeans, Ava.’ Kate chuckles, and I’m off again, too. Uncontrollable, belly clenching, might pee my knickers laughter. Through my tears, I see Kate stick her tongue in her cheek. ‘I nearly cracked a tooth.’
‘Please!’ I’m falling all over my chair. I’m helpless.
I battle to pull myself together and wipe my eyes, looking up at my Lord of the Sex Manor, who’s staring down at his giggling wife with a bemused look plastered all over his face. ‘No, nothing.’ I bet he knew about this, which was why he persistently told me to mind my own business.
I refuse to look at her because I know she’s waiting for it, but I’m not giving her the chance to increase my fit of laughter with a private quip or a funny look.
Jesse sits down next to me. ‘Here’s your dinner.’ He signals Pete, who’s wandering over with a tray.
‘Ooh, I’m starving.’ I get myself comfy in my chair and smile a thanks when my steak is placed in front of me. ‘Medium?’ I ask, shoving a potato straight in my mouth.
Pete smiles fondly. ‘Just to your liking, Ava.’ He hands me a knife and fork, and then sets Jesse’s plate down. ‘Can I get you anything else, sir?’
‘No, thanks, Pete.’
‘I’ll leave you to eat.’ Kate makes to stand, but I wave my knife at her.
‘No, sit.’ I munch my way through my spud. ‘It’s fine. Sit down.’
She lowers to the chair again. ‘Okay, you don’t have to get all violent on me.’
Jesse’s hand is suddenly wrapped around my wrist and pulling it down to the table. ‘Don’t wave your knife, Ava.’ he cautions harshly.
I look at my knife, which is now safely set on the side of my plate. ‘Sorry.’ I start carving my way through my steak and sigh, long and satisfied as I plunge a piece into my mouth.
‘Good?’ Jesse asks, and I look at him, finding a pleased beam around his fork.
‘As always,’ I confirm before returning my attention to Kate, but I quickly realise that our new company is preventing any further questioning. In fact, I can’t think of anything to talk about now. All of the interesting stuff is now off the cards, even more so when Sam and Drew join us.
My chewing slows down, and I watch as Drew sits on one side of Kate, and Sam on the other. I’ll never look at them the same again, and damn if my eyes won’t stop wandering into Drew’s lap. A piercing? And a piercing there? I would never have thought, and I fail to prevent the small chuckle that spurts from my mouth around my mouthful of steak. Kate catches my eyes and sticks her tongue back in her cheek.
I’m coughing and spluttering all over the place. Jesse’s cutlery hits his plate and his hand lands on my back. He starts smacking me. ‘Fucking hell, woman. Slow down, it’s not going to walk off your plate.’
This doesn’t help me in the slightest. I’m gasping for breath, trying to swallow down my half chewed piece of meat and through the tears that have sprung into my eyes, I can see Sam and Drew staring at me with perplexed looks on their faces, and my delinquent best friend with the biggest smirk spread across her pale features. ‘I’m okay.’ I wheeze, coughing again to clear my throat. ‘Went down the wrong way.’
‘Here,’ Jesse takes my knife and fork and replaces them with a glass of water. ‘Drink.’
‘Thank you,’ I accept the glass and gulp it all down, striving to avoid Kate across the table, but failing miserably. Her mischievous mood is like a magnet to my vulnerable state. This time she’s mimicking a blowjob, her fist casually wanking thin air in front of her mouth. I spit my water across the table, all over Drew and Sam, and I aim well because I catch Kate, too. Sam and Drew fly up from their chairs, but Kate stays exactly where she is, laughing.
‘Fucking hell, Ava.’ Jesse grabs a napkin. ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ He starts dabbing at my mouth while I fall apart all over the place, hearing Sam and Drew cursing to themselves and Kate’s continued giggles.
‘I’m sorry,’ I laugh. ‘I’m so sorry.’ I look at Sam and Drew, both patting themselves down with napkins that Mario has brought over. I refuse to look at Kate, but I do cast my eyes around the bar, finding half of the occupants observing my little performance.
‘Are you okay?’ Jesse’s concerned voice drags my attention back to him.
‘I’m sorry,’ I repeat myself. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’ I do, and the wicked cow is sat opposite me, silently willing me to look at her. I don’t. I take my cutlery back and turn my eyes down to my plate, and that’s where I’ll be keeping them until I’ve finished my dinner. She’s loving this.
I see Sam lower back into his chair opposite me. ‘Is this what pregnancy does to women?’ he asks on a chuckle.
‘It’s better than mood swings.’ Kate snickers.
‘Yeah, let me know when they start,’ Drew pipes up. ‘I can handle being spat at, but I’m not up for a tongue lashing.’
Oh, good Lord! I can feel my shoulders starting to jerk up and down, and I know Kate is grinning at me again, but this time I control it. I keep my head down and work my way through the rest of my dinner.
‘I take it you’re done?’ Jesse says to my empty plate, pulling it away and handing it to Pete.
‘Hmm,’ I fall back in my chair. ‘That was heaven.’
‘We can see.’ Drew’s eyebrows are raised and following the clean plate to Pete’s tray.
‘Say your goodbyes, lady. It’s getting late.’ Jesse leans over the table and shakes hands with the boys before standing and giving Kate a peck on the cheek.
I join him and lean down to kiss each of our friends. ‘Ring me,’ I whisper to Kate as I pull away from her cheek.
‘I will,’ she sings.
As we exit the bar, Jesse looks down at me with enquiring eyes. ‘Gathered yourself together now, Mrs Ward?’
I meet his stare with a questioning look. ‘You knew, didn’t you?’
‘About Kate, Sam, and Drew.’ I let him guide me through the entrance hall, but keep my eyes on his.
There’s no denying the flash of surprise that flies across his face. ‘Is that what you were laughing about? She told you?’
‘Yes,’ I confirm, wanting to add that she actually told me a lot more—a lot, lot more. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘And give you something to get your knickers in a twist over?’ he jibes.
‘I wouldn’t have.’ I announce confidently, as we crunch our way across the gravel. ‘Shall I take my giant snowball?’
‘No, you’re coming with me.’ I’m directed into the passenger seat of the DBS, but I don’t say a word. I don’t want to drive the humongous thing.
He starts the engine and cruises sensibly down the driveway, and it’s not until I feel his hand rest over mine that I realise mine is laid flat on my stomach. I don’t need visual validation that he’s looking at me, so I continue to watch the trees slowly passing the passenger window as I feel his fingers lace through mine and squeeze gently.
I smile to myself. This is just so right.
There’s that familiar whirring again as I come awake. I sit up and immediately feel gut wrenchingly sick. Flopping back to my pillow on an enormous groan, I soon appreciate my error when my stomach turns, indicating that I haven’t got time to lay here and determine just how crap I feel. I’m going to be sick.
I dive from the bed, straight into the bathroom, where I just about make it to the lovely toilet before I decorate it with last night’s dinner. ‘No,’ I whine to myself as I yank at the roll of toilet paper. It doesn’t feel so right now. My body is completely rejecting my contented thoughts. I hug the toilet for an age, my head resting on my arms as I fight off the sweats and moan under my breath to the empty space surrounding me. ‘Rubbish,’ I grumble. ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ I look down at my stomach. ‘You’re going to be challenging like your father, aren’t you?’
On a long, drawn out sigh, I pull myself up and go to the bedroom, tugging on the nearest thing I can find, which happens to be Jesse’s discarded shirt from last night. I don’t bother to try and make myself look better because I want him to see me suffering. I go downstairs and meet him as he rounds the corner from the gym, looking all spectacular in his running shorts with a towel draped across his naked shoulders and his hair a mess of damp locks all over his glistening head. It makes me feel sicker.
‘Oh baby,’ he mumbles sympathetically. ‘Crap?’
‘Terrible.’ I try to pout, but my exhausted body won’t allow it. I’m just standing in front of him lifelessly, my arms hanging limply by my sides. I’m feeling mighty sorry for myself.
He picks me up and carries me into the kitchen. ‘I was going to ask why you’re not naked.’
‘Don’t bother,’ I grumble. ‘I’ll throw up on you.’
He laughs and sits me on the worktop, brushing my wild mane from my pasty face. ‘You look beautiful.’