When I asked on Facebook which character people wanted to meet first, I wasn’t surprised that model-turned-stunt-performer Astin Mack was at the top of the list. I didn’t expect a tie with his best friend Tate Gardner, but she’s given me permission to let him go first; she’s nice like that.
I’m super excited for you to read this. Astin has caused me some of the biggest issues writing this novel, but I adore him and his blue eyes and leather jacket and the way he teases Hollie. All the pain, ranting, and listening to No Doubt deafeningly loud has paid off.
This scene is the first time we meet Astin, right after Hollie’s been shut out of the theatre for arriving late (she has a small bladder. It’s not her fault she needed to pee!). She’s in the middle of playing Angry Birds Star Wars when she knocks over her drink. And so our story begins…
She jumped up, snatching her phone out of the way as she stood up the empty glass. Stepping back, she slammed into someone behind her. ‘Sorry!’
She turned around. She’d not just walked into anyone. She’d walked into a super hot guy wearing a leather biker jacket and with startling blue eyes. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but she couldn’t work out what it was.
And she’d introduced herself to him by smacking into him with her arse. Genius.
He chuckled, revealing a handsome smile framed by a five o’clock shadow. ‘It’s fine,’ he said. He held out his hand, and a tea towel landed in it seconds later. Hollie looked up and saw the bartender she’d been speaking to earlier. He shook his head. She stuck her tongue out at him in return.
The hot guy she’d just bumped into put the tea towel on the table and started mopping up the lemonade.
Attractive, well-dressed, and cleaning up after her. What planet had this guy come from?
‘You don’t need to do that,’ she said.
‘Not sure I trust you to do it yourself if you manage to knock lemonade over playing on your phone.’ His gravelly voice had a slight Texan twang in the same way that Hollie’s had a Brummie one — it was noticeable, but only in certain words. And, if he was anything like her, when he was angry.
She took the tea towel from him and placed it on the table. Pulling it towards her, she wiped a pool of lemonade on to her feet. It missed the inside of her boots by less than a centimetre, landing in a puddle on and around her feet.
‘See?’ he said, shaking his head. He took the tea towel back and continued to clean up after her.
Hollie sighed. ‘Want a drink? It’s the least I can do, since you’re cleaning up my mess.’
‘Can I trust you to carry them to the table?’
‘Nope,’ said the bartender, appearing beside them. He placed a lemonade and a ginger beer on to the table next to them.
‘When the bartender knows your order, that’s when you know you visit somewhere too often,’ he said, returning the soaked tea towel to the bartender.
‘It’s not my fault you like to annoy your best friend before the show. I’ve told you before to get a hobby,’ said the bartender.
‘I’ve got plenty of hobbies,’ he replied, ‘I was just dropping off a book for Liam to read between rehearsals.’
‘More than you,’ he replied, flashing the bartender a cheeky smile. A very attractive cheeky smile.
Hollie held out some money to the bartender, but he put his hand up. ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re both doing my job for me.’ He walked away, retrieved a mop from behind the bar, and cleaned up the puddle of lemonade.
Hollie moved her stuff from the now-sticky table and sat at the one where the bartender had placed their drinks.
‘Thanks for your help,’ said Hollie as she moved her jackets on to the back of her chair.
‘No problem,’ he said, sitting opposite her. ‘I’m Astin, by the way.’
‘I take it you missed the start?’
‘How’d you guess?’
He shook his head again, a look of mock pity on his face. ‘You know, there’s nothing worse than a girl sitting alone in a bar.’ Had he just hit on her? Perhaps the night wouldn’t be such a loss after all.
‘You mean there’s nothing worse than cheesy pickup lines?’ she replied.
‘Sarcastic and English. Interesting.’
‘I should warn you: I don’t speak like Giles from Buffy.’
‘That’s ok — I’m more of a Kate Beckinsale kind of man.’ He leaned back in the chair, placing one foot over his knee.
She met his eye for a second as she spoke: ‘So you like your women in catsuits?’
He smirked. ‘I wouldn’t say no.’