The Viking Blues: The Bennett's Bastards Series, book four
Mind the gap
Oliver Bennett smiled and the woman sitting opposite him held her breath.
It was a common reaction, and one he knew how to elicit with little effort. As the second youngest of nine siblings, Ollie had grown up learning to read body language, learning to listen, and realising what people didn’t say was sometimes just as important, if not more, than what they did.
Leaning towards him with her arms spread open on the table, her head tilted slightly to one side, her cheeks flushed and her eyes slightly downcast so she could look up at him from under her lashes, her body language practically screamed “Yes, I am a sure thing.” And after releasing the breath he was sure even she hadn’t realised she’d been holding, she gulped down a lungful of air, causing her breasts to rise and fall in a way designed to attract his attention.
And attract his attention they did.
Creamy flesh swelled above the low-cut neckline of her tight red T-shirt, and a slow appreciative perusal revealed two perfectly pebbled nipples poking against the soft-looking cotton. Oliver could well imagine how they’d feel in his hands and taste on his tongue as he laved them with attention. Oh yeah, Ollie was a boob man, and breasts—especially a pair as nice as….
He’d completely blanked on her name.
Something beginning with an H… Helen, Heidi…. Crap.
Ollie mentally listed all the H names he could think of, waiting for a pause in the conversation so he could apologise and ask the pretty blonde for her name again, but she continued talking as though her need to breathe was secondary to pushing words out of her mouth.
She was up from Adelaide… here for her cousin’s wedding… yadda, yadda, yadda… and oh-em-gee Melville’s Crossing is just the cutest little town….
Oliver’s eye twitched and he forced a smile. “Melville’s Cross,” he said, cutting off her one-sided conversation.
“It’s Melville’s Cross, not Crossing.”
The blonde shrugged and twirled a lock of long hair around her slender fingers in such a way that drew his attention back to her breasts. “What’s the difference?”
“Well, “crossing” would suggest John Melville was just passing through when he discovered the place,” he said, making eye contact again, “and not looking to build a settlement.”
The indifferent look on the woman’s face told him there was little point in continuing the history lesson so he smiled again and reached for his beer.
“So, what’s there to do around here on a Friday night?”
Ten years ago—hell, twelve months ago—he would have suggested going back to wherever the lady was staying for a couple of drinks and a night of no-holds-barred fucking. It was a routine he knew well, one that was beneficial to both parties involved and always ended amicably. Ollie got laid, the lady got an evening of pussy pampering and everyone went home happy. Win-win.
As he watched his companion over the rim of his glass, Oliver knew tonight would be no different. Blessed with his father’s charisma and his mother’s Nordic good looks, he could count on one hand the number of times a woman had turned him down.
He was about to suggest they get out of there when Dave, the publican, approached their table with the basket of hot chips Ollie had ordered before the pretty blonde had caught his eye and he’d invited her to join him for a drink.
“Sorry to interrupt, Ollie,” Dave said as he put the food down. “But I was wondering if I could borrow a moment of your time.” The older man glanced at… Haley? before landing back on him.
“Kinda in the middle of something here, Dave.” He flashed an apologetic smile at his date. “Can it wait ‘til another time?”
The old publican flicked his weary gaze between Oliver and his companion again, then he shook his head and smiled tightly. “’fraid not, son. It’s a matter of some… delicacy.”
Confusion warred with curiosity over his friend’s meaning, which in turn warred with mild irritation at being interrupted. Ollie hadn’t scored in months and his balls were bluer than a clear summer sky. His dick already stood at half-mast, eager to get better acquainted with… Heather?
Shit. He really needed to ask for her name again, but Oliver also knew Dave wouldn’t have interrupted if whatever it was he wanted him for wasn’t important.
Flashing another apologetic smile at his date, he said, “Sorry about this.” Taking a twenty out of his wallet, he placed it on the table. “Why don’t you refresh our drinks while I speak to my friend.” Then he winked and grinned as she flashed him a coy smile of her own. “And help yourself to the chips before they go cold. I’ll be back in a tick.”
“A man willing to share his chips?” she said, her voice a smoky purr. “I’ll definitely be waiting.”
Slipping from the barstool, Oliver followed Dave out through kitchen to the rear of the pub. Plastic milk crates and wooden pallets were stacked against the back wall and perched on top of one of those stacks was a hooded figure.
A woman, if he wasn’t mistaken. Not that he could tell from the way she was dressed in baggy jeans and sneakers, nor by her face which was obscured by the hoodie and the thick brown hair that had escaped it. He could hear the person muttering to themselves, but it was too quiet to make much sense of what was being said, let alone hear if the voice was feminine or not.
But all women moved in a certain way and judging by her size and the way she jiggled her arse as she tried to get comfortable atop the stack of plastic crates, Ollie would bet good money he was right.
“Why am I here, Dave?” Ollie said, watching the woman as she reached into her pocket and withdrew a small silver flask.
Dave gestured at their mystery guest. “Someone needs to take her home, and you’re the only yahoo in there tonight,” he said, thumbing over his shoulder at the pub, “that I trust to do just that.” He sighed and rubbed at his grizzled jaw. “I’d take her if I could but it’s a Friday night and I’m down two staff members. I’m swamped.”
Ollie’s confusion over the whole situation caused his brow to furrow tightly. What the hell did any of this have to do with him? But before he could ask, the woman cried out, “Oh shit!”
A second later the stack of crates she was sitting on toppled over, sending her in a flailing heap towards the ground.
“Jesus.” Both men rushed forward but Oliver was quicker. He caught her amid a hail of bouncing milk crates, preventing her from smacking face-first into the cold concrete. “I don’t suppose you called Scott or Marie?” he said over his shoulder at Dave.
Surely helping a drunk woman was more in the realm of the local copper or his doctor girlfriend than a perverted blacksmith?
He helped the woman get back on her feet. “You all right, love?”
She kept her head down but nodded so he let her go, holding his hands at the ready in case he had to catch her again. And thank goodness he did. Within seconds of letting go of her, her knees wobbled, seemingly unable to hold up her weight—slight as it was—and she crashed into him again. Her hands scrabbled in his shirtfront, popping a few buttons loose, and Ollie gritted his teeth to quell his irritation.
He had a sure thing waiting for him inside, but here he was, in the summer heat and humidity with a drunk woman he didn’t know clinging to him like a lifeboat. What the hell had he done to deserve this?
“For fuck’s sake,” he grumbled under his breath, then added as he turned to Dave. “Call Scott and Marie. She needs help. Proper help.”
In a display of strength he hadn’t expected, the woman shoved out of his hold and began patting down her pockets. “Where is it?” she muttered quietly, and something about her voice pulled at him. Something old and remembered.
But before he could think too deeply on the matter, Dave growled at him.
“What the bloody hell do you think Scott or Marie can do for her that you can’t? I just want to make sure she gets home safe and unmolested. And it’s not like you have anything better to do.”
Ollie’s dick would disagree. “Did you not see the blonde I was sitting with?”
“Sure did.” Dave lit up a cigarette, drew the smoke into his lungs then raised one brow and exhaled through his nostrils, making him look like an annoyed dragon. “And I’ll give you free chips and beer for a month if you can tell me her name.”
Ollie narrowed his gaze and glared at the old man, then admitted defeat. “Shut up, Dave.”
The old man grinned. “That’s what I thought.”
"It's not like she cares what my name is, either, you know," he said, a resigned frown pulling at his mouth. "They never do."
The woman wandered away from the two men, her muttering voice teasing Ollie’s senses again. It was so familiar, and yet… not. “I just had it. What did I do with it?” She kicked the milk crates out of her way.
“We can debate your dating practices another night. Right now I just—”
“Dave!” One of the cooks popped her head out the kitchen door. “We need you, it’s getting crazy in here. Oh, hey Ollie,” she added with a little wave, a bright smile lighting up her face when Oliver waved back.
One of the downsides to living in a small town: single men were at a premium and everyone seemed to have a daughter or niece or cousin they wanted him to meet, even with his reputation as an unrelenting man-whore. But reputations aside, Ollie was also one of very few single blokes in town who had a steady income, and it never ceased to amaze him what people were willing to overlook when money was involved.
“I’ll be there in a sec, Tammy,” Dave said, stamping out his smoke, then waited for the girl to leave before continuing. “Listen, I know you’ve got a girl waiting for you inside, but you and I both know you’ll be sitting on that same stool at the same time with a different blonde next Friday night.” He nodded towards the woman who’d wandered into the garden, still searching for whatever it was she thought she’d lost. “Here and now you have a friend in need, and I asked you to help her because you’re a good man, Oliver. I know you two had a falling out, but I also know I can trust you to do the right thing.”
Ollie stared at Dave like the crazy person he obviously was. “What are you talking about?” he said, then gestured to the woman. “I haven’t got a clue who she is.”
Dave’s weathered face stretched into a look of disbelief, his bushy eyebrows shooting into his receding hairline. “You don’t recognise her?”
Watching her as she walked back towards them, he took in her baggy jeans, sneakers and the hoodie pulled low over her eyes. She was taller than average, but so were a lot of women he knew. And while the brown hair escaping her hoodie had a distinct curl to it, that didn’t help narrow it down either.
Her voice however… he knew that voice. Didn’t he…?
Caution tempered his words. “Should I recognise her?”
The publican sighed wearily as he moved to stand beside the woman and yanked back the hoodie, revealing Ollie’s former best friend and the only person outside his family he’d do anything for.
*NB Please note this work is unedited, and potentially subject to change. © Jennie Kew 2021