Nobody but Him

By: Victoria Purman

There was another option to choose from. Mmm, maybe this guy? A very tall, very broad-shouldered man had moved in front of her and was heading back to his seat. Julia craned her neck to take in his full height, then let her eyes wander down the strong planes of his back, which was barely disguised under a fine knit black jumper. And, oh yes, there was a tight arse and long, long legs covered in dark denim. Eye candy. At last, she thought, and she let herself enjoy the view for a moment longer. Whoever he was, he was a way better alternative than most of the other blokes in the bar; the check-shirted, baseball-capped locals.

Julia heard another harrumph of annoyance from the table and she snapped out of the perve fest real fast. Her defiance meter cranked up and, on a scale of one to ten, she was going Spinal Tap: the full eleven.

‘So sorry to keep you waiting, ladies and gentlemen.’ With perhaps a little too much ironic emphasis on the ladies and gentlemen, and maybe a tad excessive in the fake English accent department, Julia lowered the tray onto the edge of the table, using her butt to wedge herself between the two women.

‘So, what do we have here? Champagne for the ladies? Our very best Australian bubbles for you both, none of that inferior French plonk.’ She placed the flutes carefully on the table and noticed The Princess was wide-eyed and red-cheeked. Julia hoped it was from embarrassment.

‘And now.’ She reached for one of the tumblers on her tray. ‘Aged Scotch whisky on ice. For this discerning gentlemen, I presume?’ Lord Muck smiled hesitantly at Julia and raised his finger in the air to indicate his choice. She gently placed it on the table and the ice cubes clinked together with a tinkle.

‘And finally, a soda water for the non-drinker — or tonight’s exceedingly generous designated driver.’

Julia took a couple of shimmying steps to reach the other end of the table and found great delight in focusing her gaze on the women, making sure they got every not-so-subtle nuance of her derision.

‘Well, congratulations to you, sir, for ensuring your friends get home safely. What a magnanimous gesture.’ She lifted the glass from her tray, condensation already making it a little slippery. ‘My name is waitress and if you need anything else, just whistle. You know how to do that, don’t you?’ She winked at the older man. ‘You just put your lips together and blow.’

Finally Julia turned her attention to Sexy Guy, who was about to sit down. He didn’t react, glancing down as he pulled his chair closer to the table. Once he’d sat down, he leaned back and looked up into her eyes.

A shock of recognition hit her like a wave.

A cold shiver iced its way up her spine, lodging in her throat and a bizarre buzzing in her ears suddenly blocked out all the bustling, happy sounds of the pub. It seemed like forever before she realised she’d actually forgotten to breathe.

Dirty blonde hair, short and ruffled. A tanned face. A strong jaw shaded with growth, hiding the small scar on his left cheek she knew to be there. And the sapphire blue eyes that had once buckled her knees.

The switch was imperceptible to anyone else at the table, but his expression transformed in a blink from smiling to steely. His full lips drew together and disappeared into a tight scowl.

All Julia’s Melbourne bravado drained away and pooled in her feet like she was wearing big cement boots.

‘Ry.’ It came out before she could think, softer and breathier than she would have liked.

‘Thanks for the drink,’ he replied, his voice gravel. He averted his eyes and studied the menu with intense concentration.

Julia shakily placed his drink on the table before him, spilling it so a dribble of soda water wet her fingers. If he noticed, he didn’t look up as she walked with trembling knees back to the bar.

‘Ryan?’ Amanda’s perfectly French-manicured hand on his arm was insistent and he shook it off. He raked his fingers through his hair and felt a familiar ache in his jaw. ‘How do you know that awful waitress?’

Her carefully enunciated vowels hit him like a cold shower.

‘Excuse me.’ Ry pushed back his chair, stood to his full, imposing height and scanned the room. As he headed towards the bar, manoeuvring in and around the crowded tables, he realised she’d disappeared. He swore under his breath, realising he had no clue what he would have said to her if he’d found her.

At the bar, Lizzie had her hand on the beer tap, expertly filling a glass with pale ale.

She lifted her head. ‘Another drink?’

‘No. No, thank you.’ Ry hesitated. Rubbed his jaw to release the tension. ‘That new waitress who just served my table, the one with the chestnut hair, curly, about this tall?’ He held up a flat palm to his shoulder.

Lizzie bit her lip and shrugged. ‘I’m sorry, Ry, I didn’t have time to tell you. You know our young waitress, Kimberley, with the pierced eyebrow and the pink hair? She called in sick at the last minute and Julia’s done me a huge favour by covering her shift tonight. You know Saturday night is our busiest, right?’

‘It doesn’t take a degree in hotel management to know that Saturday night is busy in a pub, Lizzie,’ he replied, his mouth a grimace. Then he paused, shaking his head a little. ‘Wait a minute … how the hell do you know her?’

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