Next to Holly, Lily cleared her throat. "I'll get us some drinks, shall I?"
"No," Holly said, "you sit. I'll get them."
Lily scrunched up her face. "I told you, I'm not a—"
"'Sit,'" Holly repeated firmly, and Lily sighed, going to perch on the nearest empty table—of which there weren't many. There were tiny little Christmas trees on each of the tables, Holly saw now, each with a wooden star on top. Cute.
"She's not a what, exactly?" asked the man. "An invalid."
"Oh. Well, that's good to know, I suppose."
"Look," Holly said, over the sound of "Last Christmas." "Let me buy you another coffee." She glanced down at the mess on the floor. "Or another two, I should say. As for your shirt..." She wrinkled her nose again as she looked at it. "This is the one and only time I wish I was one of those girls who had cleaning supplies tucked into her handbag or knowledge of some kind of secret stain remover, but I have neither of those things, so in all honesty I think all hope might be lost for the shirt." She grimaced. "Sorry."
He laughed, and the sound was open, those deep brown eyes warming so that their depths weren't quite so unreadable. "That's OK, I have another one hanging up in the car."
"You carry a spare shirt in the car?" "Well, I was right to, wasn't I?"
She couldn't imagine ever packing a spare of something, just in case—it required a level of organization she wasn't capable of. She wasn't convinced she even had enough clean underwear for the Christmas mini-break—she had thrown pants in at random while shouting downstairs to Lily that she was coming.
She wondered what was so important that he had thought to come prepared with a spare shirt—a wedding, maybe? 'His' wedding? No, surely not—if it was his wedding, he wouldn't be standing here with her; he'd be all flustered and running off to get to the church on time. He did have two coffees, though. Off to meet someone? It shouldn't bother her. She didn't even know his 'name,' for God's sake: What right did she have to care if he was off on a date?
He picked up his briefcase and they headed to the counter together, where the woman serving was surprisingly calm and friendly, given how busy it was. Was this what life was like in the countryside? No London barista had ever beamed at Holly like that before.
"What can I get you?" She tucked a strand of her honey-blonde bob behind her ears, showing off sparkly earrings.
"Ahh..." Holly glanced at the man.
"A black Americano and an oat milk latte, please."
The woman looked at Holly expectantly. "And, umm..." She caught sight of the specials. "A cinnamon spiced latte and a mint tea." Not that she saw the point in paying for mint tea, but Lily was drinking it by the bucketload these days, refusing to even drink decaf coffee in case it was bad for the baby.
Holly glanced at the man. At five foot ten she considered herself pretty tall, but she felt small next to him. It wasn't just his height—it was the way he was standing there all broad-chested in his black suit jacket, confidence somehow radiating from him. "Um, can I get you a cake or something too? To make up for almost knocking you over?"
"You don't have to." "I want to."
"All right, then..." He ran his gaze across the display of cakes behind the glass. "The chocolate-and-ginger star looks pretty good." It 'did' look pretty good—and perfect for Christmas. It's exactly what she would have gone for—and it was the only one left. He let out a little chuckle. "You want that one, don't you?"
She realized she must have been looking at it a little longingly, was probably one step away from drooling. 'Nice one, Holly.'
"No, no," she said quickly. "It's all yours." She ordered it, along with a lemon torte for Lily, who was going through a lemon craving phase.
"That'll be £16.80 please," said the woman, smiling again.
It was only then, after a quick pat of her jeans, that she remembered. She slapped her forehead. "Oh God, I don't have my card. I forgot it when I was leaving the house and I...Look, wait here," she told him. "I'll go and ask my sister. Hang on."
She turned, feeling her face burn—'not' a good look for a redhead— at the mortification of having to go and ask her big sister for money, but he caught her arm, his fingers resting there. Only lightly, but enough that she felt the pressure of them through her sweater, felt a little thrum of heat at each point of contact.
'Stop it, Holly.'
"It's fine. I'll get them," he said, his eyes meeting hers. "But I—"