“Well,” I said, flattered at the description. Bombshell. Well. “Yeah.”
She snorted. “Rough life, Jensen, let me give you a cuddle.”
I laughed at this, realizing that each time she spoke, I fell in love with her a bit more. I understood Ruby’s infatuation. “You’re adorable, and you know what I mean. The attraction may not be mutual—”
“—and if it’s not,” I continued over her, “that’s okay. I’m here for a laugh. I’m here to get away.” I looked at the wall displaying hundreds of bottles of wine and felt my brows rise as if it were there to challenge me personally. “I’m here to get rather sloppy, actually.”
“Let me tell you a little something about my brother,” Hanna said, leaning in. “He used to be this legendary player—honestly,” she added, most likely at my surprised expression. “And then he married a witch who broke his heart. She broke all our hearts, really.”
I frowned at this, thinking on a nine-year relationship and how that must have stretched beyond Jensen and deep into his family.
“Now he’s a workaholic who doesn’t remember what it’s like to be spontaneous and have fun just for the sake of having fun,” she continued. “This vacation is so good for him.” Her eyebrows twitched when she added, “It could be great.”
I watched her make her way back to Will, whose arm snaked its way unconsciously around her middle, and studied the five of them huddled together, waiting for our table to be called.
True to expectations, I was seated beside Jensen at the broad hexagonal table in the center of the dining room. The restaurant was gorgeous, with a statue that appeared to be an inverted tree trunk coming out of the ceiling, its branches and leaves built up entirely of thousands of tiny lights. Waiters wore crisp white shirts with black aprons tied neatly around their waists, and filled our glasses with water ribboned with tiny bubbles.
My wine haze from the afternoon had cleared, and I agreed to share a bottle of the house pinot noir with Jensen.
Why in the bloody hell not.
I could tell he was trying to relax. Part of me loved that it wasn’t in his nature, though. I always felt that I was nearly too relaxed for everyone around me; someone had to be the pillar. I could try to be the pillar, but as I probably could have predicted, that plan was doomed before it even began when—ever the gentleman—Jensen poured my glasses larger than his, and more frequently, too.
“Are you forgetting my propensity to ramble drunkenly?” I asked, watching him drain the bottle with a long pour into my glass. The appetizers fanned across the table: endive with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and a sweet balsamic glaze; tiny meatballs with rosemary and sweet corn; a bowl of perfectly charred shishito peppers; and—my favorite—a shrimp-and-calamari ceviche that made my eyes water with its perfect tartness.
“Contrary to what I said,” he told me, putting the empty bottle back on the table, “I think I like your rambles. You aren’t some crazy lady on the plane anymore.” He lifted his own glass to mine and clinked it gently. “You’re Pippa.”
Well. That was rather sweet.
“I think tonight I want you to ramble,” I said, flushing and leaning a little closer.
Jensen’s eyes dropped to my mouth, and then he seemed to remember himself and he sat up. “Unfortunately,” he said, “I’m the least interesting person at this table.”
I glanced around at our friends. Ruby and Niall had their heads together, Hanna had gotten up to use the restroom, and Will was reading the scotch menu, clear across the other side of the table and—in a restaurant like this—only in the loudest shouting distance.
“Well,” I allowed, “that may be true—as I’ve heard nothing from you to dispute it—but as you’re my only option at the moment, I want to hear you talk.”
He blinked down into his glass, took a long breath, and then looked over to me. “Give me a topic.”
Oh, the heady power. I leaned back in my chair, sipping my wine as I considered this.
“Don’t look so Machiavellian,” he said, laughing. “I mean, what do you want to hear me talk about?”
“I certainly don’t want to hear you talk about work,” I said.
“I could ask why you haven’t been on a proper holiday in two years, but—”
“But that would be discussing work,” he interjected.
“Right. I could ask about this softball team Hanna keeps mentioning,” I said, and Jensen rolled his eyes in exasperation, “or your ability to run several miles every morning without requiring payment or some sort of monster chasing you . . .” I chewed my lip. “But really, I think we both know that I find you rather sweet, and more than rather attractive, and I know there is no London mistress, or Boston wife, but I want to know whether you have a girlfriend.”
“You think I would be on this trip,” he said, “with my sister and her husband, and Ruby and Niall and . . . you . . . if I had a girlfriend?”
I shrugged. “You’re a mystery to me in many ways.”
His smile was a tiny tilt of his mouth. “No, I don’t have a girlfriend.”
I smacked the table, and he startled. “Lord, why not?” I cried. “Virility such as yours should not go wasted.”