It felt churlish to keep protesting, so she took it. "Thank you," she murmured. "I don't...I'm not being weird. It's just, that's what I want to do—I want to be an artist, and it's cool when you see people who aren't super- famous or whatever making it work, and I..." She broke off, sure that she was only sounding more crazy, not less.
"Then all the more reason for you to have it," he said simply. He slipped the other card back into his briefcase. It was worn, she noticed now, the edges well-thumbed, and there was writing inside. She wanted to ask who it was from, but she didn't—she had 'some' sense of what was appropriate, after all.
"I'm Holly," she said instead. He smiled. "And I'm Jack."
The way Jack was looking at her right now made Holly glad she'd applied a wash of color to her lips, put in the dangly star earrings. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ears. "Ah, so, where are you off to today in your suit and with your briefcase then, Jack?"
His face tightened a fraction. "Oh. It's a...family thing."
Before she could ask anything else an alarm went off on his phone, making them both jump. "Sorry," he said as he switched it off. "I've got to go—my parking ticket is about to expire." "You set an alarm for that?"
He smiled a little sheepishly. "Just to be safe." Holly laughed, somewhat delighted.
"Sorry," Jack said again. "I might risk a parking ticket to keep talking to you, but I can't miss this..."
"Right." But he hovered for a moment longer. "So, I think it's your turn to buy the coffee next time."
Holly cocked her head at him. "Or, actually, four coffees, plus half a biscuit."
He grinned, and Holly couldn't help grinning back.
Then she sighed. "I definitely do owe you, but I don't live around here." Would it be inappropriate to move to Devon as the result of a single conversation?
"Great. Me neither."
"I'm in London at the moment," Holly said, her eyebrows raised.
"Well, that works, because so am I." OK, she knew what it looked like but this was 'not' fate. 'Fate' wasn't real.
Jack took a pen from his briefcase and reached for her takeaway coffee cup, which she handed over to him. He wrote his number on it, passed it back to her. "There. Now you've got to call me—this is what all those rom-com movies start with, right? Next thing you know we'll be caught in the middle of a montage."
Holly just stopped herself from snorting—snorting was not attractive. "I love a good montage."
"Me too," Jack said, and though he added a wink to make it jokey, Holly couldn't help it—she blushed again.
Jack turned to leave and Holly made her way back to the table where Lily was sitting.
"Well, that took longer than expected," Lily said, looking up and giving Holly a knowing look.
"He was just being polite," Holly said primly. Though she couldn't help the glance over her shoulder to where Jack was now leaving the coffee shop. He had a nice back, she decided. A back she really wouldn't mind seeing without that jacket on. 'Stop that, Holly!'
"This might just be me," Lily said mildly, "but I don't make a habit of handing out my number when I'm just being polite to someone."
Holly glanced at the number scrawled on her coffee cup. "It will probably come to nothing. I mean, I can't 'actually' call him, can I? I'm about to start a new job and I'll have to move and—"
"And it's complicated," Holly finished with a shrug.
"Look," Lily said, taking a sip of her mint tea, "I never thought I'd meet Steve the way I did, but when I bumped into him outside that club—"
"Your eyes met across the smoking area and you knew he was the one. I know, Lils, I was there."
"I'm only saying...sometimes fate steps in and you have to—"
"Yes, yes." Holly didn't like it when Lily started playing the "fate" card—it was a way for people to justify the bad things in life, in her opinion. "Come on, let's go—aren't you worried about the parking?"
This excerpt is from the ebook edition.
Monday we begin the book GIVE THE DEVIL HIS DUKE by Anna Bradley.