Nick was there first of course, but then he knew the way better than she did. It had once been a rather dull country pub only frequented by locals, but since it had been bought recently by a rich celebrity who wanted decent food near his country estate it had been transformed into one of the new gourmet pubs. With box bushes in zinc pots outside and bleached wood inside, it spoke of well chosen cold wine and imaginative seasonal menus extolling good local organic produce.
“I don’t think many of your neighbours have discovered this place yet,” said Nick, leading her to a table at the back of the restaurant area. “So we should be left in peace and I’ll be able to tell you exactly what I think of your very tight jeans.” He patted her bottom as they walked through the room.
After studying the menu and ordering her usual choice of a grilled chicken salad, Alex said, “This Mary woman, you know she was at the concert last night as well. I feel as if she’s stalking us!”
Nick laughed. “I don’t think that’s very likely Alex. She’s probably got better things to do.” He waved to the waitress and ordered wine and mineral water.
“You’ve obviously met her before,” Alex said, spreading her napkin over her lap. “How did that come about?”
“Gallery I think,” Nick said, breaking the fresh walnut bread and spreading it with thick chunks of unsalted butter. “ Mmm, yeah I think that was it. Helen must have introduced us.”
“So Helen knows her as well? How come I’ve only just met her?”
“Well you don’t go to many art exhibitions, do you sweetie?” He shook his head. “I think that’s what happened. I can’t honestly remember.”
Alex was quiet, crumbling her bread with her fingers, but not eating any.
“This bread is wonderful,” Nick mumbled with his mouth full. “I’m going to get us some more. Do you want some?”
“No, not for me,” Alex smiled. “You go ahead.”
Another basket of bread was brought to the table with a portion of green olive oil, which Nick started attacking with great enthusiasm. “You should try some of this, it’s really good,” he said, offering her the bowl.
“Honestly, I’m fine. I want to save my appetite for the main course.” She toyed with her glass, turning it as she spoke. “So do you think this Mary what’s her name is attractive?”
“Who?” Nick asked. “Who are we talking about now?”
“Mary Reid! The woman you couldn’t take your eyes off last night!”
Nick grinned. “Why, I do believe you’re just the tiniest bit jealous, Alex!” He reached across the table and stroked her hand. “Why on earth should I like her more than you?”
“I don’t know, you tell me. You ran after her quickly enough today.”
He shook his head, still laughing. “You’re blonde and gorgeous. There’s no contest.” He picked up her hand and kissed it. “How can I resist? You’ve got me on a string just where you want me.”
She pulled her hand away, feeling reassured. “Well that’s better then. I shan’t say another word about your other women.”
“There are no other women Alex. No one else but you, my sweet. No one else I would even consider committing adultery with.”
“Nick, really! Do you have to say that so loudly! Someone might hear!”
to be continued March 10