And then Menez’s dark brown voice monotoned through loud and clear. ‘Hey, Vincent, you got my message.’
Robbie Probert, devotee of the Church of Chelsea would be having a silent aneurysm if he could hear this now. Vince merely cocked a wry grin. ‘Hey, wanker, you’re lookin’ real good on the bench. Next time, I’ll get Leon send you some hot cocoa.’
Menez’s chortle bristled through the speaker. ‘I don’t need no cocoa to give me a nice, warm feelin’.’
‘Well, maybe you should stop thinkin’ of the other players in that way. Ain’t it time you came out?’
Before Menez could reply, Leon cut him off. His timing suggested this was a little game Leon and Vince had played many times before. Their chuckles rippled in the air and Nancy fidgeted. She flexed her fingers and wedged her hands beneath her thighs. Her eyes skittered sheepishly in Vince’s direction. Vince’s mirth had already dropped from his face. ‘I need a piss.’
Leon’s voice remained dry. ‘We can stop off at Dennis’s restaurant. It’s just a mile from the Bullring.’
Nancy watched Vince grind his jaw. His non-reply implied he conceded. Brian Ferry continued to massage the airwaves with his Slave to Love. Never had the passion in a song relate so little to the present situation. Coventry was twenty minutes from the next stop yet it might as well have been ten hours. Perhaps she could make her leave then, call a taxi from outside John Lewis’s. The idea of cutting her journey short would have branded her as crazy to her friends. She was being a boring tit again.
At that moment, Vince glanced her way. For a micro second, their eyes met. A hot balloon exploded within her ribcage. His dark lashes hooded his eyes in a half-leer. Black pupils set upon slate scored into her. Was he laughing at her? The shadows beneath his eyes suggested so. He was horribly handsome. She would rather encounter the leer of Gavin, the goggle-eyed publican of the Felix Holt than to take this memory home. Once, Vincent Jonas was a two-dimensional image on celebrity mags. He was as real to her as Bono or Prince William. He was a throw-away pinup or object of scorn. Now, he had invaded a part of her brain too close for comfort.
He had looked at her.
Only, he hadn’t. He had the look, the sort that could elevate and electrify the recipient, but also hurt.
Not once had any of her four boyfriends in her lifetime had ever made her feel the way Vince had made her feel at that moment. She doubted that anyone in Glebe Hollow ever could.
Nancy turned away and gazed at the water droplets on the window. She knew Vince was now gazing ahead, basking in his former indifference. Their meeting of eyes had been pure accident. He would have no recollection of looking at her and probably would fail to give a description of her face once she had been dropped off.
She hated him.
The limo slowed at a junction and turned off Heath Street. Leon pulled over outside a classy restaurant. A placard declared in Roman italics that Dennis’s is now overbooked for the evening. The place was anything but grand. Leaded bay windows framing diners implied exclusivity.
The engine cut and Leon turned to face her. ‘Make yourself right at home, Nancy. We’ll be on our way after a short break.’
She gave a small nod, although she suspected a protestation would have made little difference. Leon got out, closed the door then opened the passenger door for Vince. Vince unclipped his seatbelt and got out. His brogues clopped onto the pavement. She watched the two of them make their way into Dennis’s restaurant.The moment they had disappeared through the glass doors, automation seized her. She rummaged through her bag for her mobile, but not to call a taxi, but to call Bex. A squalid side of her wanted to tell Bex that she was now in Vincent Jonas’ limo. Nancy had been ‘chatted up’ by Vince’s PA and had performed a shoot next to Vince as they had exited the Nexus nightclub. ‘Don’t believe me?’ she could hear herself say, ‘check out the Birmingham Post tomorrow. No, check out the Daily Mail, the Star or wait for Heat, Hello or Chat.’ Nancy could feel a barrage of words volleying for an outlet. Bex for once wouldn’t have got a syllable in. ‘Me and Vince chatted for hours,’ Nancy wanted to add. ‘He told me about the pressures of being in the public eye, said one day, he’d like to settle down, have a family. He asked about my interests. I told him I love travelling, meeting people and partying. I didn’t tell him I sell insurance. Well, it’s hardly glamorous, isn’t it?’