I look beyond him to the lights on in Drury’s. “I should get back. I’ve got to get through this leaving party before I can find my bearings. You’ve dropped quite a fucking bombshell on me.”
I’m expecting him to speed off back home to hole up with Carrie just as soon as I make a move, but he doesn’t.
He gets out of the car when I do and bleeps the central locking. “I think I need a drink after all this. Think prissy Pam will mind if I gatecrash?”
The prospect is a good one. Having Jack at my side in Drury’s will be a strangely comforting norm amongst the turbulence.
“I’m sure you’ll be very welcome.”
There’s a smile on my face as we cross the car park. A friendly slap on the back as we head in through the rear entrance.
But an ache in my heart that no amount of rational thought will ever make go away.JackI feel like an absolute prize fucking asshole as we head into Drury’s. Mike might be putting a thoroughly gracious front on it, but my confession has him reeling and I know it.
That’s the thing with Mike – he’s always trying to be the reasonable one. Always trying to do the right thing, for everyone. Not least for me.
And certainly not least for Carrie Wells.
If he was a lesser man, I’m sure he would’ve fucked the girl already. If he was a lesser man, I’m sure he’d have told me to fuck off with my stupid fucking confession after one paltry week of knowing her.
But he’s a better man than I’ll ever be, and in my gut that’s why I know he should be the one to make a move on Carrie, even if I’m the one in danger of recklessness.
Even if I’m the one who’s seen her pretty little tits.
The thought crosses my mind that maybe the little minx is playing both of us for a fool, but I doubt it. If Carrie Wells is playing a game, she’s playing a good one. She seems too sharp to risk pitting the two of us against each other, not least because she seems awfully settled at my place.
It’s like she belongs there already.
I wave to Mike’s colleagues as we step inside the pub, cringing as prissy Pam Clowes jumps from her seat and grabs Mike by the elbow. I think she’s always had a thing for him, even if he’s always been oblivious.
I have to stifle a laugh as she presses her mouth to his ear, as though I’m about to witness another confession of devotion that will leave his brain spinning even faster than it is already.
Pam’s whisper is ragged and harsh and nothing like I was expecting. It’s loud enough that I hear it over the chatter from the leaving party table.
“Carrie Wells is here!”
My eyes widen as his do.
“Carrie is here?” he asks and she nods.
“Smoking out the front with Eddie Stevens. They just came in and got tequila. I’d have stopped the barman if she wasn’t legal.” She pulls her phone from her handbag. “We should call Rosie and Bill, or maybe the police.”
I’d leap into action myself, but he’s already on it. His hand lands on hers, stopping her as she scrolls through her contacts list.
“No need,” he says. “I’ll handle this.”
“But they’ll want to know…” she counters.
Mike shakes his head but doesn’t elaborate, and it’s the look she gives him, bewildered speculation that has me jumping in to save him the unwanted scrutiny.
“She’s staying with me,” I tell her, just like that.
Both of them stare. Pam takes a minute to find her words.
“Carrie Wells is staying with you?!”
“She’s doing some work on my land,” I elaborate. “She’s good with fencing.”
I nod. “Fencing.”
“Fencing,” Mike confirms with a grimace.
I don’t hang around any longer, prising Mike from Pam’s grip and asking him for his assistance outside.
We leave her open-mouthed as we march our way through the packed pub. I hope for some reason Pam’s losing her fucking marbles and Carrie is safe back at home where I left her, but I hear her wild laughter before we’re even out through the door.
She’s had more than one tequila, that much is certain. She sways outside the window with a cigarette in her hand, laughing along with Eddie fucking Stevens as he recounts some idiot fucking story that he probably made up on the spot.
His eyes are all over her, his tongue practically lolling as she braces herself against him for balance.
I have the strange urge to rip the bastard’s head off, but I think Mike is gunning for him even more than I am.
“What’s fucking going on here?” he asks, heading right between them to break the contact.
“Having fun,” Carrie sneers and laughs right through it. “You guys were long-gone, why should I stay home alone on a Friday fucking night?!”