Royal Holloway University of London
“Knock, knock, chicky! Let’s go get our party on.” Jessica, one of my flatmates, giggles from the door. Her American accent makes me miss my best friend. I’m so happy this is my last day in this flat, and I’m more than a little excited to start my new life back in London at the Royal College of Art. That’s the university I’ve wanted to go to ever since I was a little girl, but I allowed my Uncle Marcus to talk me into doing something “respectful” instead and ended up going to Royal Holloway to study international business. I’m an artsy fashion girl, not a business girl.
“Come on, Ana. I want to get my drink on before too many locals get to the pub.” My second flatmate, Donna, finally joins us.
“Let’s go, ladies.” I grab my purse and turn to head out with them.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Donna asks as she looks me up and down.
“Of course!” Neither of them has ever understood my fashion sense. They’re both in low-rise, belted jeans, a slouchy shirt, and high heels. But not me. I’m wearing a royal blue, three-quarter sleeve dress with a flirty skirt, black tights, and black high-heeled suede boots. The boots give me height so I don’t look like a little girl, and the blue makes my turquoise eyes appear darker. I love the look, but I know it’s not the fashion choice of these girls. All year they’ve tried to get me to wear more casual clothes that are drab and colorless. So not me.
“Well, at least next year we won’t have to worry about other students thinking our flatmate is crazy,” Jessica mumbles as they both turn their backs and walk out the door.
I don’t know why they’re insisting on taking me out if they don’t want to spend time with me. Oh well. I’m just going to have a couple of drinks, then head to London to have dinner with my daddy. All my things have already been moved to my new flat, so that’s one less thing I have to worry about.
The pub is only a five-minute walk from our flat near campus but isn’t popular with the masses, as they like the clubs more. My best friend, Maya, and I found this place last year over summer break while she was visiting from the States. I enjoy the quiet atmosphere and meeting the locals. I know my flatmates prefer the more club-like pubs, but it was my turn to choose, and the pub is where we are going.
When we arrive, Jessica makes a joke about hoping to get lucky, and I laugh at her as I scan the dark wood-paneled room. Across the bar, three guys from campus sit at a table, but my attention is drawn to the man at the next table. He sits up from leaning his chair against the wall, and our eyes meet. His stare is hot and demanding, and I can’t turn away. Instantly, my skin tingles with awareness.
The look in his eyes almost causes me to stumble. I want to be forward and walk over to him, but I’ve never been that kind of girl. I flirt and have fun, but I never feel comfortable making the first move.
“Well, look at that table full of campus hotness,” Donna exclaims from behind me. I have to force myself to look away from the stranger to look at her. I hadn’t actually given the guys from campus much more than a cursory glance because I was so enraptured by the lone man with the short, military-style haircut.
“How about we have a wager? You first, Ana,” Jessica says.
I laugh in response. Donna and Jessica always want to wager for everything: drinks, dancing, phone numbers…the list just goes on and on.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch movement. It’s him. I stand frozen as I watch the tall, dark and kissable man take a swig of his drink. His eyes never leave me as I move across the room.
“Ana? Did you hear me?”
“No, sorry. What?” I laugh to cover the embarrassment I feel from staring so hard at a total stranger.
“Walk over to that table and challenge them to do some shots.”
“The table with the group, or the one with the guy by himself?” I hope they say the single guy, because that other group, now that I look closer, are a bunch of cheeky bastards I’ve seen around campus.
“Bloody hell,” I reply with a sigh, then I force myself to give them a toothy grin in hopes they don’t see how nervous I really am, or how disappointed. Pushing back my shoulders, I walk toward their table, and can feel his eyes on me the whole way. I try my best to block him out so I can do this. I know if I fail, I’ll have to buy the girls’ drinks for the night, and I bloody don’t want to do that again. The last time I lost, they drank me out of my allowance for the entire month. I absolutely hated asking Daddy for more money, not that he minded, but it’s a pride thing for me.
I reach them and lean my hands on the table, my back to the guy I’d rather be talking to, and the blokes are now silent, their attention focused entirely on me.
“Tenner to the bloke who’ll drink a shot of my choice with me without coughing.”
“No, thank you,” one of the guys says to me in a nasally tone.
“Oh, come on! A tenner just for taking a shot of American whiskey. Who could turn that down?” The ten pounds won’t break my allowance, but I know it’s not a lot to these gits.
“We said not interested,” another one says, his voice even snootier than the first’s. They all stand and walk away from me.
“You pansy wankers,” I say as they push past me. Now, what am I going to do? I avoid looking at the bar.
“Can I help you?” a gruff voice asks from behind me.
I turn and see shocking blue eyes staring at me from the other table.
“Oh! No, but thank you. It was just a silly wager the girls over there dared me to do.” I move to walk away, but his next words stop me.
“I might still be able to help. What was the wager?”
I open my mouth to decline again, but he speaks before I can.
“Look, angel, I’m only in town for the rest of the day; when are you going to get another chance? So tell me.” He leans back in his chair, his long legs stretched out under the table, and his big arms on display through the short-sleeved shirt strained to its max. I fidget for a moment, moving from foot to foot, as I try to remember how to speak.
You can do this, he’s just a man in his mid-twenties. That’s close enough to my age. There’s nothing to be afraid of…so talk!
I suddenly realize my silence, not to mention the fact I’m just standing here staring at him, has passed into the awkward stage; so I force myself to stand taller and push my chest out slightly, then I clear my throat.
“All right. I wagered those gents a tenner they couldn’t do a shot of American whiskey with me without coughing,” I tell the hot stranger, and feel my breasts grow heavy with need when that sexy mouth of his shoots me a lopsided grin, a dimple appearing on his left cheek.
“Angel, how about we double it, two shots each, and I’ll do it with you?” he asks as he leans forward again, his grin widening, the dimple showing more. His straight white teeth, firm kissable lips, and a five o’clock shadow just adds to the bad boy air he gives off.
If he’s going to give me a nickname, two can play that game. I’m certain he’s military, judging by his haircut and commanding presence, so I decide to give him a name related to that.
“You’re on, soldier boy.” I tilt my chin at him in challenge.
“How about we just stick to angel and soldier boy and forget names?” I suggest. I know I’ll probably never see him again, and though it will be fun to have this moment with him, I would rather not have his actual name haunting me. The nicknames will be bad enough.
“How about you call me Lieutenant and I’ll call you Angel?”
“Okay, Lieutenant. Come on then.”
I watch as he pulls those long legs back, then stands up in front of me. I don’t feel the urge to step back, being five foot I’ve been around tall men all my life, so I’m not intimidated by them. However, he isn’t as tall as my dad or brother. I can see the confusion on his face, which I figure is due to my lack of reaction to his six one height.
“You’re not the biggest guy I’ve seen,” I say as I turn back toward the bar. My friends are watching me, and I need to play this off. “Don’t worry, Lieutenant.”
“Lead the way, Angel,” he says from behind me.
His hand rests on my lower back and the tingles I get from his touch causes the hair to rise on my arms and neck. I’ve never reacted to a man like this before. I manage to make it to the bar without tripping and falling on my face.
“Oi, Patrick, line up two shots each of Maya’