"Darn it," Ruth exclaimed, glancing down the bar as Fay and Adam walked in. "I only needed to wait a few minutes and you could have had your Sambuca with these two."
"Too late," Nick said, standing to greet them.
"Well hello there Mr Transfer rep," Adam said with a big smile, holding out his hand to Nick. Nick took his hand and Adam shook it, leaning closer for a friendly pat on the back.
"Where did you come from? You never mentioned you'd be back so soon."
"Actually it was a spur of the moment decision," he informed them. "How are you two doing anyway?" he asked, looking from one to the other.
"We're fine," Fay smiled, putting an arm around his neck and kissing him on the cheek.
He put his hand on her back and grinned. "Hey, I should go away and come back more often. It's great; I get all the girls kissing me!"
"Err," Adam coughed to get his attention and glared at his hand.
He laughed and removed his hand from Fay's back, holding both up in surrender. "Look, no hands now."
Adam smiled and Nick went on, "I wouldn't dare risk your wrath by touching her for more than a few seconds."
Adam nodded. "Wise man."
"Besides, I must be on my best behaviour now that you're my new boss," Nick said.
"I am?" Adam laughed. "How don't I know about this?"
"Sal employed me on behalf of you," Nick explained with amusement.
"Oh. Do you ever get the feeling that everyone else knows more than you?" he asked Fay.
"No, actually, I'm glad you're back. Going to need your help. It's getting quite busy now at the airport," Adam said.
"Yeah," Nick agreed. "Sal was run off her feet earlier. I helped her out though," he added.
"Good man," Adam replied, patting him on the back again and glancing at the beer in Nick's hand. "Put a beer behind the bar for Nick will you Ruth and I'll have one too.
What would you like sweetheart?" he said, turning to Fay.
"Glass of white wine please," she smiled.
"A wine for Fay, and one for yourself," Adam said to Ruth.
"Cheers Adam," Ruth replied, pouring a wine for herself and Fay and pulling out another beer for Adam. She may as well give up on the idea of waiting to start drinking later.
Everyone was far too excitable to let her. She handed out the drinks and reminded Nick that his beer from Adam was waiting for him when he was ready.
"Thanks boss," Nick said, grinning at Adam.
"Don't mention it." Adam grinned back. "You can make up for it by doing double shifts at the airport for me."
Nick laughed. "He's such a slave driver," he said to Fay.
As they continued to chat, Nick was aware of the fact that Sal would be there soon and his eyes kept swinging towards the doorway at the other end of the bar.
He sensed the moment she entered but continued chatting to Adam and Fay while vaguely conscious of Sal's actions near the doorway where Ruth was standing chatting to Bill.
The atmosphere of the bar seemed to suddenly increase in tempo then. It always appeared to do that when Sal walked in as everyone became attuned to her enthusiasm.
As soon as she walked through the door, Sal did what she always did when she walked into 'The Wheelhouse' and flung her arms around Ruth.
"Love you Ruth," she said, hugging her tightly.
Ruth had become accustomed to Sal's affectionate nature and knew that if she didn't get a hug off her when she entered, there had to be something seriously wrong.
"Love you too Sweetie," she said, returning the hug before stepping back to take a look at her. "You're looking exceptionally elegant tonight, Sal."
Sal giggled. "Thanks. Oh, did you see who returned today?" she said, glancing down the bar at Nick and heading in his direction.
"Yes," Ruth replied, following Sal's path but from behind the bar.
Fortunately for Nick, Adam and Fay turned when Sal approached them and missed his expression when he caught his first real glance of Sal that evening.
His eyes automatically widened as they ran over that little black dress that clung to every curve of her sensational body.
He kind of knew he would feel like that, after all, that was why he had asked her to wear the dress, wasn't it?
But the effect of just the sight of her walking towards him in that incredibly sexy dress took him by surprise.
Maybe it was because he hadn't seen her for so long, maybe he'd forgotten the effect she had on him, or maybe she'd just got even sexier since he last summer. Was that even possible?
But nevertheless, damn it, she looked sensational! And too bloody sexy.
Why did he torture himself like this? He knew why, because the temptation, as far as Sal was concerned, was far too much for Nick to resist.
While Adam and Fay's attentions were diverted, Ruth made a beeline for Nick and whispered,
"You should put your eyes back in their sockets now Nick, before Sal notices," she warned.
His glance shot away from Sal then and he took a quick swig of his beer.
But Sal wasn't going to make things easier for him when she said to everyone, "Look who came back," and, walking straight up to him as he sat on his bar stool,
she slipped her arms around his middle and rested her head on his chest, cuddling him affectionately.
Oh God, now not only did he feel seriously aroused but strangely emotional too. A dangerous combination.
But nevertheless, her actions made it impossible for him to do anything other than instinctively put his arms around her, squeeze her tightly and place a kiss on the top of her shiny,
She looked up at him and smiled. "I'm glad you're back, Nick."
"Me too," he replied warmly, his eyes twinkling into hers.
"Look, we're all back together," she said, withdrawing from Nick to greet Fay and Adam with kisses on their cheeks.
"Yes," Adam grinned, "The Fantastic Four."
"What about Ruth?" Sal asked.
Adam gave it some thought. "The Magnificent Seven?"
"Too many," Fay said.
"The Three Amigos?" Nick suggested.
"We're not Amigos," Fay said, gesturing to herself and Sal. They all laughed.
"Has everybody suddenly lost the ability to count?" Ruth asked.
"Ocean's Eleven, Three men in a boat, Terrible Twos..." Adam went on, listing random numbers.
"Twelve monkeys," Nick chipped in.
"That's about right," Ruth said, shaking her head at them.
"The Dirty Dozen," Nick grinned.
"Five!" Ruth stressed. "There are five of us!"
"The Famous Five!" Sal exclaimed.
"Oh yeah!" Fay said.
Nick shook his head. "We don't have a dog."
Ruth put a hand to her head in exasperation.
"The incredible...err," Nick paused to think. "Well, we're pretty damn good anyway," he finished.
"Yeah," they all agreed.
"Have you finished now?" Ruth asked. They nodded. "Thank God for that! I thought this was going to go on all night!"
They all burst out laughing.
"Hey Sal," Nick said, placing a hand on her arm.
She turned to him inquisitively. "Yes?"
"If I remember rightly, a cheeky little rose , not too dry, not too sweet?"
Her face lit up. "You remembered my favourite drink! He's so clever," she said to Adam and Fay, linking her arm through his.
Nick ordered the drink for her from Ruth, she poured it and he took the glass off Ruth, handing it to Sal with a wink.
She smiled and withdrew her arm to take it. "Thank you Nick. Hey, I put on my best dress like you said. Do you like it?" she asked.
Oh boy, he knew without a doubt that Ruth had to be grinning at that very moment. A quick glance confirmed, yes, he was right.
He gave a small cough. "Yes Sal, you look..." Damn, why did it seem like the whole bar had gone silent at that moment. "... beautiful," he said quickly and took another swig of his beer.
Sal became still for a while, a slight smile on her face as she watched Nick. He'd never said that before.