Six of Hearts(8)

By: L.H. Cosway

“So, where to?” Jay asks, now in the driver’s seat and waiting for my instructions. I got a little lost in the fantasy there.

“Oh, our house is in Clontarf. Do you know the way?”

“I know the gist of it. You can direct me once we get close,” he responds, smiling, and pulling away from the curb.

As he starts the engine, the radio comes on, heavy rock music blasting from the speakers. I glance at the dash to check what station is playing, my nervous disposition urging me to fill this short car journey with some variety of conversation.

“Oh, I see you’re a Phantom FM fan,” I say over the music. The sentence couldn’t have come out any nerdier, but it’s the first crappy thing that popped into my head.

Jay’s eyes flick to me, then to the dash, then back to the road ahead of him. His expression is blank before the edges of his mouth curve in a smile.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” he finally responds before lowering the music so we can talk properly. Oh, no, don’t do that. “They play some good shit.”

“You should give Radio Nova a listen. They play some, uh, good shit, too.”

Jay lets out a deep chuckle, and I resist the urge to face-palm. “Oh, yeah? What kind of good shit?”

“Um, the usual rock fare. They play a lot of Fleetwood Mac. I love Fleetwood Mac.”

Jay laughs some more, and I can’t tell if he’s laughing at me or laughing with me. Then he gives me this warm look that tells me it’s the latter. There’s the fire again. I really wish he’d stop looking at me like that, but asking him to stop would surely be too weird a request.

“What’s a kid like you doing listening to Fleetwood Mac? Shouldn’t you be swooning over Brandon Flowers or something?” he teases, and it raises my hackles slightly.

“I’m not a kid. I’m twenty-three, for your information.”

Jay turns his head to look at me again for a brief moment. His lips curve, and it makes me realise he was only teasing.

“So, Fleetwood Mac?” he probes.

I shrug. “I don’t know. I just love every single one of their songs — not to mention there was this palpable angst about them back in the day. So many emotions flying around, you know?”

“I get you,” says Jay, fixing his attention back on the road. “Do I bang a left here or a right?” he asks as we approach a roundabout.

His turn of phrase amuses me as I respond, “Go left, then keep on driving straight ahead. Our house isn’t far. Also, on the subject of our house, why on earth do you want to rent a room when you’re driving around in a car like this? People who drive Aston Martins can generally afford to buy their own house — buy several, in fact.”

Jay gives me a sneaky look. “If you really want to know the truth, I won this car on a bet.”

I raise an eyebrow. “That must have been some bet.”

“It was. Found myself playing poker with a bunch of guys who performed with the circus one night. Long story short, I came away with an Aston Martin, five grand, two llamas and an elephant. I was feeling generous, so I let them keep the llamas and the elephant. I mean, who has a backyard big enough for an elephant?”

I stare at him, my mouth open slightly. “Is that true?”

His hands flex on the steering wheel. “Of course it’s true. Why would I lie?”

Laughter bubbles out of me. “You must lead a very colourful life, Mr Fields.”

The way he smiles after I say it makes me think he likes that idea. When we pull into the drive, Jay gets out first, and before I have the chance to do it myself, he walks around the car and opens my door for me. I like that.

I rummage through my bag as I exit, trying to locate my keys. By the time I reach the door, I still haven’t found them, and I try to backtrack in my head to remember if I forgot to bring them with me this morning.

A little jingle sounds at my ear, and I turn to see Jay standing behind me, my keys hanging from his hand and a brazen gleam in his eyes.

“Are these what you’re looking for?” he asks with a smirk.

I stare at him, hands on my hips, while a little rush of curiosity goes through me. “Okay, how did you do that?”

He gives me the keys before answering innocently, “Do what?”

I snicker. “You’d make a great pickpocket, you know.”

“Correction,” Jay replies. “I made a great pickpocket.”

I laugh in spite of myself. “Are you sure this is something you want to be telling a prospective housemate?”

“Generally, no, but you’ve already decided that you like me, and discovering I used to pick pockets isn’t going to change that,” he says with absolute certainty as he rocks back on his heels and looks down at me, a devilish smile on his lips.

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