I glance up to find Lewis standing on the other side of the bar, his daughter strapped to his chest in some sort of carrier thing, her tiny legs just poking out at the bottom, and I can’t help but laugh. “Jesus, what is she, like a week old and you’re already introducing her to the family business?”
He grins. “Something like that.”
“Actually,” Ava chimes in as she comes up behind him, looking amazing considering she literally just gave birth to this kid a week ago. “It’s more like he can’t bring himself to put her down. Like, ever.”
Lewis’ grin widens as he throws an arm around Ava’s shoulder, pulling her close as he drops a kiss to the top of her head. I don’t think he’s stopped smiling since his daughter was born.
“Maybe,” he admits. “Anyway, I’m gonna take another couple of weeks off,” he says, pausing to glance down at his daughter, obviously smitten. “I mean I can come in to help out if it gets busy, but you know, I’d prefer not to for a bit longer. Just wanted to check in that you were cool with that?”
Laughing, I shake my head at him. “You realize I actually work for you, right? So you know, if you wanna not work that’s…”
Lewis waves a hand. “Not how I roll, man, you know that.”
He’s right too. Because in the year or so that I have worked for Lewis, he’s always treated me like a colleague, an equal even. Certainly not like he’s the boss and I’m an employee in this multi-million dollar pub franchise that he’s the sole heir too. The dude is seriously loaded but he’s pretty much the most chill, laid-back guy I’ve ever met in my life. You’d never know that he doesn’t actually have to work a day in his life for the rest of his life if he chose to. Which he doesn’t, still coming in and working shifts in the pub every week. It’s only in the past two weeks that’s he’s finally decided to taken actual break and given he and Ava have just welcome their first child, it’s totally understandable.
But all of this is why I keep working for him. Well, that and my photography doesn’t earn me enough to pay the bills just yet.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say, waving a hand right back at him. “And of course it’s fine. Spend time with your family, enjoy it and I’ll see you whenever you wanna come back.”
“I’ve already spoken to Oliver,” he adds. “He’s happy to help out if you need it, so just give him a buzz.”
“And,” Ava says, smiling. “I’m sure V wouldn’t mind helping out if you get desperate.” She’s smirking at me now, a look on her face that tells me she knows just how desperate I am for Victoria.
I open my mouth to respond, but as if she has somehow been magically summoned to appear, the door to the pub suddenly opens and in walks the object of my affections.
My walking fantasy since the first day I met her.
My dream fucking girl.
“Ah, speak of the devil,” Lewis says, grinning.
Victoria walks up to the bar, going straight for Lewis and Ava’s daughter. “What are we talking about?” she asks, as her fingers curl around a tiny foot.
“You, actually,” Lewis replies.
“What about me?” V asks, glancing at Ava and then me.
I hit her with a grin, because in the year that I have been working here, I have not kept my crush on my boss’s best friend a secret, shamelessly flirting with her every chance I can get. I’m pretty sure she likes it, even if she also likes to pretend every now and then like it’s annoying. She certainly never asks me to stop flirting with her and when she’s drunk, she even flirts back.
It’s the going further part that never happens. Not for lack of trying on my part considering how many times I’ve asked her out only to be shot down every single time.
I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about that part, so I just keep trying, hoping that one day she decides to change her mind.
“We were just saying how Ed might need some help in the bar for the next couple of weeks and that maybe you could be the one to help him?” Ava says, smiling sweetly at Victoria.
Chuckling, Lewis turns to V. “That okay with you?”
Victoria looks from Lewis to Ava to me, an unreadable look on her face as she shrugs and says, “Sure, not a problem.”
“Great,” Lewis responds, clapping his hands once, just as his daughter starts to fuss.
Ava reaches for her, taking her from Lewis as he unstraps her from his chest. “I’m just going to head upstairs and feed her,” she says, smiling at us. “V, come with me?”
Victoria narrows her eyes a little, as though she isn’t sure why Ava is asking her, but she just shrugs again, before nodding at Ava as she starts to walks over to the back stairs to the apartment she and Lewis used to live in, but now just occasionally use when they come down to the pub. It’s kind of become an office and baby area for them since they moved into their huge house in Chelsea.
Before they disappear, Lewis reaches for Ava, pulling her close and kissing her deeply. He then drops a kiss on his daughter’s head, his eyes following their every move until they have disappeared.
“God, you still have it bad, huh?” I tease, knowing that what Lewis and Ava have together is serious relationship goals. The two of them are crazy about each other and that only seems to have intensified since their daughter was born.
Lewis turns to me with a grin, nodding his head once as he says, “Yes I do. Now speaking of having it bad, what are we doing about you and V? Because what you’re currently doing, it ain’t working mate.”
I burst out laughing, my head falling back a little. “Seriously?”
“Seriously what?” Lewis asks.
“Seriously you’re trying to help me land your best friend?” I ask, knowing that even though Lewis has witnessed my shameless flirting with V, he and I have never actually talked about the fact that I totally do have it bad for her.
“Well, you fancy her, don’t you?” he checks, his eyes narrowed in question.
“And I’m pretty sure she fancies you, so…”
“Oh, she fancies me,” I reply, rocking on my heels a little as I give him a quick nod.
Lewis raises a brow. “Right, and that’s why you and her are currently not shagging then, is it?”
Chuckling, I shake my head. “Who says we aren’t?”
“My wife,” Lewis dead pans. “And my wife knows everything.”
Laughing, I move down to serve a customer before coming back to Lewis. “Right, so I’m guessing she’s asked Victoria?”
He shrugs now as though he has no clue. “Yeah I guess so. I don’t know all the details. But listen, why don’t you just ask her out if you like her?”
“You have?” he repeats.
“Yep, about thirty-four times I think. Not that I’m counting,” I add with a wink.
“Clearly,” he says. “And clearly, it’s also not working. So you gotta change tactics, Ed.”
I exhale, shoving a hand back through my hair as my gaze drifts to the stairs V disappeared up. I’d love to know what her and Ava are talking about right now, if maybe it’s a similar conversation to the one Lewis and I are currently having. Like my boss and his wife are scheming on how to get us to hook up. Which actually might be a good thing, all things considered.
“Okay, wise one,” I say, turning back to my boss. “What should I do?”
A huge grin spreads across Lewis’ face and I swear his eyes actually light up with excitement. “You gotta go big,” he says. “Like huge, sweeping grand gesture big! I mean I married Ava two weeks after I got her back, that’s how big I went. So yeah, it’s gotta be so big, it’s impossible for her to say no to you like she apparently has been.”
I give him a slow blink, kinda surprised because this is not what I expected him to say. “You think?”
“Uh huh,” Lewis says, pulling his phone from his back pocket. “Okay, so I’m going with—”
The sound of footsteps on the stairs and voices stops him from finishing his suggestion and we both turn in the direction of the noise, just as Ava and V re-appear, seemingly engrossed in their own conversation.
As soon as Ava is close enough, Lewis immediately reaches for his daughter, fussing over her as he straps her back into the thing on his chest, whatever he was about to say to me now apparently forgotten.
“So, Ed,” Ava says, turning to me, a smile on her face. “I have something you might be interested in.”
“Uh huh,” I say, my eyes moving from Lewis to Ava now. These two are definitely up to something.
Ava smiles. “Yes, Aiden just texted me. He’s in urgent need of a photographer for a couple of hours’ work. Wondered if maybe you might be interested?”
My eyes practically bug out of my head, not expecting her to say that. “Aiden as in Aiden Morrissey, the award-winning screenwriter?”
“That’s the one,” Ava replies, smiling. “What do you think? It’s some scouting work, looking for possible locations around London. Should be pretty straight forward and you know, might help you get some more work.”
“Um, I…” I stutter, at a loss for words.
“Yes, this is perfect,” Lewis says, winking at Ava before turning to V. “He’s gonna need an assistant for all his shit too, so you should help out.”
Victoria narrows her brows at him. “What the fuck, I’m nobody’s assistant.”
Lewis laughs. “Yeah, yeah, but we all know how obsessed you are with the movies and shit, this will be perfect for you. You’ll love it.”
“Obsessed?” V dead pans.
“Obsessed,” Lewis clarifies with a nod. “You may recall my daughter is named after an action hero, at your suggestion.”
V smirks, glancing at Ripley who is now fast asleep against Lewis’ chest. “Seriously, Lewis, it’s a fucking cool name and you know it.”
Lewis glances at Ava, who is smiling. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Anyway, this will be awesome. You might even get to help out with other shit too.”
Victoria turns to me, and I can’t resist smiling at her, as I say, “Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Her gaze holds mine as she looks at me in a way that I swear says she’s legit thinking about it. “And what am I getting out of this exactly,” she asks. “I mean am I getting paid?”
Laughing, I throw the dish towel over my shoulder. “If by paid, you mean getting to enjoy the pleasure of my company, then hell yeah, you’re getting paid,” I tell her, giving her a wink. “Paid pretty damn well, I’d say.”
She swallows hard, not looking away even as the lightest of flushes colors her cheeks. “I see,” she says. “Sorta seems a bit lame though. Payment wise, I mean.”
Lewis laughs and when I glance over at him, he widens his eyes at me, rolling his hand a little as if to say, come on, grand gesture!
“Okay, fine, what if in addition to the time spent hanging out with me, I also take you out for dinner. Drinks too. Whatever you want. Wherever you want. Does that sound more appealing?”
Say yes. Please, just say yes.
V’s eyes narrow as she stares at me for a second or two and I can’t resist drinking her in. She is seriously so fucking hot, she’s literally all I think about. No other woman has come close since I first laid eyes on her. This tiny little spitfire with one hell of an attitude, who’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind, ever. It’s part of what attracts me to her, the fact she doesn’t take shit from anyone and as much as I get the feeling she’s seriously trying to make me work for her attention, I can’t deny it also kinda turns me on too.
That and how she looks, because holy shit, is this five foot nothing girl, with the tattoos and the purple streaked hair and the huge green eyes, just fucking gorgeous.
I give her a quick wink, my grin turning to a smirk, before V turns from me to Lewis. He just grins, giving her a thumbs up which only makes her roll her eyes before she turns back to me.
“Come on, we’re at what, thirty-five now?” I ask.
She rolls her eyes at me now. “I think it’s actually thirty-eight.”
Chuckling, I shake my head, loving that she’s been secretly counting the number of times I’ve asked her out as well. “Don’t make me get to forty, V,” I say, hand on my chest as I give her a faux frown, sticking my bottom lip out in a pout. “I don’t think my heart could take it.”
I hear Lewis chuckle as Victoria takes in a long deep breath, her eyes never leaving mine as she slowly lets it out.
I watch her, my breath trapped in my lungs as I wait for her to give me the answer I’ve been dying to hear for the better part of a year now.