Someone sat on the bar stool beside her and said, ‘Dance wiv me, sugar doll?’
Julia rolled her eyes at the thick British accent as she came face to face with an elaborate dragon tattoo. ‘Spike, how often have you asked me that these last five months?’
‘Pretty much every time we’ve been at a club togever.’
‘And how many times have I said yes?’
He grinned at her in his infectious, unabashed way. ‘None. But I live in hope.’
She blocked him with a sardonic eyebrow lift. ‘Never going to happen.’
Sure, Spike was a good-looking guy. Hot, she supposed if you were into grungy, high-cheekboned, ratty-haired, earring-wearing, tattooed, rock-star types. Julia wasn’t. She liked well-groomed men with bare earlobes who changed their clothes at least once a day and smelled like anything from Calvin Klein. Spike smelled like beer nuts and hair gel. And he never seemed to change his clothes. Every time she’d seen him (and that had been way too many times as far as she was concerned) he’d been wearing some version of tatty jeans and black singlet. Sure, the style showed off his great biceps and the impressive tattoo so popular with his band of hardcore groupies, but there was no excuse for an unoriginal wardrobe.
Now she could dress him like a rock god.
‘Why not? You know I’m just gonna wear you down.’
Julia laughed at his complete and utter brashness. She’d never met someone so young who was so damn cocky. Most twenty-year-old guys she knew were either gauche or monosyllabic in her presence, but not Spike. There was a directness, a confidence in his inky-blue eyes that a lot of men never mastered.
Cleary Spike was getting laid far too easily.
But Julia didn’t let any guy call the shots. Growing up as nothing much more than a marriageable commodity to her father, she’d learned to take charge real quick. She said who and when and where. Men didn’t wear her down. ‘Not even in a million years.’
‘Okay.’ He folded his arms across his chest, a move she was sure was designed to draw her gaze to those biceps. Julia didn’t fall for it. ‘Give me one good reason and I’ll stop botherin’ ya.’
‘I’ll give you three,’ she said briskly and held up three fingers to emphasise her points. ‘Number one. You’re twenty years old, Spike. Number two. You’re called Spike for fuck’s sake. Number three. You’re a drummer.’
He grinned. ‘So was Ringo, baby.’
Julia rolled her eyes. ‘I rest my case.’
His grin broadened. ‘It’s just a dance, sugar doll.’
Julia raised another finger. ‘Number four. Sugar doll? It might work with the groupies but I’m neither sweet nor am I a doll.’
He laughed and a spurt of irritation crinkled her brow. ‘Oh I bet you’re sweet as under all that posh.’
And he looked at her in a way that left her in no doubt that he wasn’t talking about the way she might move on the dance floor. If he mentioned honey pots she was going to pour her vodka shot over him. ‘You’ll never know,’ she said as she returned her gaze to the dance floor.
Quentin poked the tomatoes and breathed in garlic and basil, feeling all the cells of his body roll over and sigh contentedly, the way they always did when he had a wooden spoon in his hand. He grinned at Poppy over the huge pot, as she brushed yet another smear of flour across her face, a determined little frown creasing her forehead. She and Julia were wrestling with the pasta maker. He wanted to go over and help, but he knew better. If Signora Rosa didn’t bust his balls for trying to take over her class, Julia was sure to shoot him one of her fuck you glares. And even for someone with an ego as healthy as Quentin’s, those glares were becoming a bit much.
He was finding himself increasingly fond of the incendiary redhead over the last month, but the feeling was most definitely not reciprocated. It seemed to Quentin that his presence was like a splinter in Julia’s heel – what had been a minor irritant at first was rapidly deepening to an unbearable agony. She was working hard to pin on a brave face, making sure her irritation didn’t peek through when Poppy was watching. But Quentin wasn’t entirely sure he could take one more of her martyred sighs without snapping and spitting at her to get down off her crucifix.
A noble man would have bowed out, given the two women some alone time in Poppy’s final weeks. But the last time Quentin had been anywhere near nobility was a gig in Sydney when he’d played support for a hot new band from the US and they’d given him a Duane Noble custom hand-built acoustic to play.
Julia scowled at him now as she caught him watching them with the pasta machine. She poked her tongue out at him, and he raised an eyebrow back at her.
This was a whole new level of juvenile, even for Julia, and his face flushed. Juvenile was usually his department. His father had once told him he deserved an honorary doctorate in juvenile. If there was one thing Quentin resented more than anything else right now (and god knew he was resenting a helluva lot), it was being out-juveniled. Lately, he’d been having the most horrible creeping feeling that this whole thing, this thing with Poppy (and Julia), was some sick experiential learning gig set up by a whacko god to teach him to grow up. Talk about overkill.
Before he could poke his tongue back at Julia, Poppy looked up, flicking a glance over them both, and Julia blew him a kiss. ‘How’s it going over there, Ten?’ she asked sweetly. ‘That ragu going to be good enough to grace our perfect pasta?’
Quentin forced a smile onto his face and let out a long whistle. ‘I think so, Ms Julia. Question is, will your pasta be man enough for the job?’
He’d chosen his words deliberately, knowing Julia’s sensitive radar for sexism. To divert attention from his needling, he leaned forward and scooped some ragu onto a spoon, breathing on it to cool it a bit before tasting its rich sweetness. But when he looked up again, all innocence, Poppy was facing him, hands on her hips. She was wearing a simple turquoise headscarf today, turban-style. It set off her brown eyes and lent her a strange grandeur. Poppy was fearsome generally, but over the last month she had assumed a whole other level of don’t-fuck-with-me.
‘Cut it out, you two,’ she hissed. ‘You’re like children. So com¬petitive over every little thing. Grow up.’
‘Competitive?’ Julia arched a perfect eyebrow and swept her fierce gaze over Quentin. ‘That’s ridiculous, Poppy. For me to be competitive, Ten would have to represent some competition.’
Poppy flashed Julia a hard glare. Quentin gritted his teeth and nodded. ‘No competitiveness here, Pop.’
What would you do differently if your days were…
Live every day like it was your last.
Mathematician and many-time Loser in Love Poppy Devine believes in being prepared. So when she discovers she has breast cancer, all she has to do is dust off the carefully numbered bucket list she prepared years before with her best friend Julia.
There are only two problems: Quentin, a gorgeous younger man with rock-star ambitions, wasn’t on her list. And take-a-risk Julia, has suddenly come over all disapproving.
Together with Poppy’s hippy mother Scarlet, the three form an unlikely alliance to help Poppy realise her goals. Sky diving, swimming with sharks, cooking classes in Tuscany, visiting an orphanage in India are all part of the journey. Along the way, Poppy is forced to confront her best friend’s grief, her fraught relationship with her mother, and the fact that she really might be using her last available time on earth to make the most imperfect match of her life.
But Poppy comes to learn that when your days are numbered there’s no such thing as perfect and love really is all you need.
"I've read a lot of spectacular books this year that have floored me with feelings and reactions that, if the same book was read for a second time, probably wouldn't get that same response. However, Numbered by authors Amy Andrews and Ros Baxter is a book I could read again and again and still get the feeling, the same wrecked, emotional tornado I felt reading it this first time and to me that is a book that CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be missed. Hearts and flowers all the way, just simply breathtaking reading. Absolutely up there with the best books I have read this year without a doubt."
"Beautifully written with heart and humour, Numbered is a poignant yet life affirming novel about friendship, love, hope, grief and redemption, a wonderful read that will likely leave you smiling through your tears."
"Numbered had some fantastically funny moments and it is a wonderfully well written tale of making every moment count but more than anything else it shattered me, into a million tiny pieces on more than one occasion."