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384 pages, Paperback
First published April 15, 2021
“I think I’m in love with Cristian,” she said as her mouth curved into a nervous smile.
“Oh,” I replied, trying to sound buoyant as my heart sank.
“I know, I know.” She was blushing and grinning, and I wanted to break something in half. Not him. Cristian, the coked-up shoe guy.
“Really?” I said, bracing myself. “The cobbler?”
“The shoe designer—Cristian, yes,” she said, sighing. “Anyway, I’m going to Rome for the summer with him, to see if it can be a thing.”
That explains the bikinis.
“He’s going to break up with his girlfriend,” she said quickly. To reassure me, I suppose.
And then she took a deep breath. “Birdy, I think I might . . . I mean I think we might be in love. I think this is it.”
“I’m having the guinea fowl, with a glass of white,” a Very Confident American Tourist had said. “Which would you recommend?”
“Oh gosh, I hate recommending wines,” I’d joked, scanning the list in a panic.
He chuckled. “Sounds to me like you’re in the wrong business.”
“Quite,” I quickly replied, grinning, as a memory of Heather complaining about how Americans only ever drink bloody Chardonnay flashed before me.
“Take the Chardonnay,” I said firmly.
“Oh, I love Chardonnay,” his partner said in one of those perfect little Texan accents. “Can I have an ice cube in that?”
I’ve been called many things in my life, but this is the first time I’ve ever been called a breath of fresh air. My mum used to call me boisterous. My dad called me a little attention seeker. My first flatmate, an uptight cow who worked in HR, called me a lying, thieving little cunt because she thought I stole her MAC makeup pen. (I borrowed it and lost it, so I technically didn’t steal it, but either way, she couldn’t have known it was me.) I’ve been called a fucking loser enough times for it to feel normal. Heather mostly calls me wonderful, but then I have always saved the best of myself for Heather.
I look over at James and my heart flutters.
We both reach for the champagne. He gets there first and I deliberately “accidentally” touch his fingers. I can’t help myself. Even I can’t have misread the signals. Plus, I’m this fancy protégée sommelier, and everybody knows newness is eighty percent of attraction. Surely I am fanciable in this scenario?
I try to push the thought out of my head, suddenly embarrassed.