Thank you to everyone who read chapter one, and as always, thanks to Hubby for the edit.
By six, my feet were aching and I was glad it was time to start packing up. I was starting to think agreeing to go out wasn't such a good idea. I hadn't had anything to eat since lunch, plus I'd still have to change, and get ready. A night in front of the TV was sounding increasingly appealing.
The sound of laughter and footsteps approaching told me that just wasn't going to happen, and I was proven right a moment later when Kelly, Chloe, and Maria rounded the corner.
"You ready to knock off?" Maria asked. She had a large duffle bag wedged under her arm, and I could tell by the smirk on all three of their faces something fishy was going on.
"Yeah. Gimme a sec." I packed up the last of my kit and turned to Charlotte, who was going over the itinerary with the evening and night crew. "Am I good to clock off?"
"Sure. Thanks for all your hard work today. Have fun tonight."
"You're not coming?"
"Nah, I've got a hot date with the Hubby." She grinned and wiggled her eyebrows.
Charlotte had married her school sweetheart when they were both twenty-one, and even after ten years and a couple of kids, they were still disgustingly in love. It was adorable.
"Oh, I will."
Charlotte's comment caused us all to giggle, and I followed my friends down the corridor to the breakroom. The instant we were inside, Maria slammed the door shut and unzipped her bag.
"Look what I've got." She produced two bottles of prosecco with a grin.
Laughing, I asked, "Where did those come from?"
"When Kelly and Chloe told me we were going out tonight, I nipped to the supermarket on my break."
"At this rate, we're not even going to make it to the bar," Kelly said, rooting around in the cupboard for some glasses. All she could find were plastic beakers, so Maria filled those with wine and handed them out.
Slipping the bottle out of sight, we clutched our beakers, and joined the queue for the canteen to grab some dinner before we began getting ready. By the time we'd finished eating, we'd already made it through one bottle, and Chloe opened the next, as Maria pulled some outfits out of her bag.
"What do you think?"
I looked down at the array of clothes she'd spread across the table, and grimaced. "It looks like a glitter factory exploded."
"Yeah, the theme of the fashion spread we filmed was sequins," Chloe said, picking up a pair of leggings that had gold trimming running down both sides.
I picked up a glittering silver bomber jacket. "We're going to look like Christmas baubles in these."
"Good job we'll be too drunk to notice." Kelly gulped down a mouthful of wine.
We continued rifling through the clothes, and Maria assigned things based on our sizes, colouring and style. Being the second tallest after Chloe, I was given a black sequin mini dress. Given the circumstances, I was pretty lucky with the outfit, as the bottom sequins had an iridescent sheen that shimmered blue and green under the light, so it complimented my hair. Coupled with some tights and heels, I was ready for a night out.
Once we were all dressed and had finished the second bottle of wine, we headed to the hair and makeup department. Keeping out of sight at the back, I did mine and my friend's hair and makeup, and then we were all set.
I shoved my stuff back in my locker, not even thinking about how I'd collect it or get home, and then the four of us headed for reception, where the guys were already waiting for us, along with a crowd of other crew members. I spotted Seth towards the back of the group, chatting with the sound engineer, Keith. His eyes widened when he saw me, then he grinned. I smiled back, then turned to my friends.
"Ladies, looking lovely as always," Jon said smoothly. He snaked his arm around Chloe and the pair started whispering.
Rich edged hesitantly towards Maria, while me, Kelly, and Mike chatted.
Once it was deemed everyone was there, we exited the studio en masse and made our way up the road, where evening revellers were already gathering. The television studio was centred right in the middle of the city's thoroughfare and popular nightspot, meaning there were plenty of restaurants, pubs, and bars nearby. We queued up outside Bar Twenty-One, and I tried not to shiver in my ridiculous outfit, as the bouncer admitted patrons.
Finally, we were let in, and the sound of lively music overtook the noise of chatter and traffic from outside. Once in the bar, the mass gathering of employees broke off into smaller groups to claim tables, buy drinks, or squeeze themselves onto the cramped dancefloor.
Me, Kelly, Chloe, and Maria headed for the bar, keen to take advantage of the ladies drink free offer, which was limited to a small range selected by the management. We all appeased ourselves with more wine, and then snagged a table, where Jon, Mike and Rich soon joined us. We chatted merrily, slowly consuming more alcohol as the bar filled up with people, and the music became more lively.
When Uptown Funk started to play, Maria jumped up from the table and grabbed my hand. "Let's dance."
Winding our way through the crowds, we made our way to the dancefloor and were joined by the others. Jon was quick to wrap his arms around Chloe's waist, and I could see Rich edging towards Maria. As Mike had already captured the attention of some woman with long red hair and rather large boobs, me and Kelly were left dancing together.
When the Mark Ronson song ended, another floor-filler started to play, and we all remained on the dancefloor, switching partners with each new track.
"That dress looks great on you," Jon whispered in my ear, as his hands lingered on my hips.
"Don't you even dare say it would look even better on your bedroom floor."
Jon smirked. "Well, now you've suggested it."
I braced my hands against his chest. "Nah-ha, buster. You've got about as much chance of taking me home as your precious Blues do of winning the Championship."
"You only say that because you bleed claret and blue," he said referring to my support of Aston Villa F.C, which often had Jon and I at odds, as he supported their rivals, Birmingham City F.C.
Jon laughed, and twirled me around, spinning me out onto the dancefloor and then pulling me back to him. Before he could inch closer, the song ended and I stepped away, leaving Maria to take my place.
In need of another drink and a breather, I headed for the bar, and spotted Seth chatting to a bubbly blonde whose breasts were almost spilling out of the tight pink top she was wearing. I could tell by his posture he wasn't into her, and remembering my earlier promise to save him from any adoring fans, I approached.
"Hey," I said, slipping around Seth's other side.
He turned towards me and smiled. "Hey."
I leaned across him and introduced myself to the woman. "Hey, I'm Jade. I work with Seth. You don't mind if I borrow him for a few minutes, do you? I need to talk to him about some boring office stuff."
"Erm yeah, sure. I'll just be over there with my friends." She grabbed her ridiculous looking cocktail, and nodded her head towards the table where a group of middle-aged women were gathered together, cackling like hens.
Once she'd returned to her table, and was out of ear shot, Seth let out a sigh. "Thank you so much for saving me. Can I get you a drink?"
"Ladies drink free, remember. How about I get you one? What are you having?"
"I'll get another beer, thanks," he said, nodding towards the half empty bottle on the counter.
I hailed the barman, and ordered a beer and another glass of wine, then settled myself on the stool as Seth swivelled towards me.
"Having fun?" I asked. "I mean, female admires aside."
"Well, the beer isn't bad, but I'm too old for all this shit now." He motioned towards the dance floor, where Jon once again had his arms around Chloe, who now seemed to be warming to his advances, as she trailed her arms down his back. Rich and Maria were dancing together, holding onto each other, but with a good distance between their bodies, as they moved stiffly. Kelly was chatting to some random, but the grin on her face told me he wasn't bothering her. Mike, I assumed, had vanished with his red head.
I nodded empathetically. "Honestly, if the others hadn't dragged me out, I'd have been happy with a quiet night in front of the telly."
"Ah, but then I'd have missed out on seeing you in that dress … it's some outfit."
I self-consciously tugged at the material, wishing it was just a little longer. I felt oddly exposed as Seth's gazed lingered on me, and a look flashed across his eyes.
"Yeah, Maria snagged it from wardrobe. I could hardly go out in my jeans and an Avengers t-shirt."
Seth laughed, then asked, "So, how was Extraordinary X Men?"
My eyes widened and then I grinned. "You're a fan, too?"
He took a sip of his beer. "Yeah, why do you think the band's name is stylized with a Y?"
"After Cable's clone?"
"The one and only."
I took a sip of my own drink, and we fell into an easy conversation about comics, which quickly turned into a debate over which Marvel movies were better, the Disney ones or those produced by 20th Century Fox.
"Yes, but the Fox movies have Jean," I insisted. "I love her."
I hiked up the sleeve of my dress to reveal the tattoo I had on my upper left arm depicting the iconic comic book scene where Jean Grey had transformed into Phoenix.
Seth leaned in closer, his fingers lingering on my arm, just below the tattoo, as he studied it. "That's some great artwork. So close to the original."
"Yeah, I researched for months to make sure the I found a tattooist who could match the style."
My skin tingled where Seth's fingertips touched, and I felt warmth rising in my body. I leaned back a little to put some distance between us, and took another swig of wine. As Seth gulped down a mouthful of beer, the moment passed, and I figured I'd imagined the heat between us.
The easy conversation resumed, moving from films to TV shows we'd seen recently, and then onto books we'd read. I didn't intentionally leave out any mention of music, it just didn't come up, as we chatted about our favourite fantasy series. I only noticed the passage of time due to the glasses and bottles slowly filling up on the counter, as we continued drinking and talking.
Finally, I realised how long we'd been together, when the bar started to quieten down, with patrons either leaving to head home, or moving onto one of the clubs that were open later.
Kelly appeared, Maria at her side, both looking flushed. "There you are," she said, dropping into the stool next to me, and eyeing the empty glasses and bottles around me and Seth.
"We've been searching everywhere for you," Maria added, sitting down beside Kelly.
"What? I've been here, with Seth."
"Yeah, I can see that." Kelly's eyes flicked between me and him, and her brows creased slightly. "Now. But we thought you'd been carried off by some nutcase, or something."
"Actually, Jade's been saving me from the nutcases," Seth said. He finished his beer and placed the bottle with the others, then stood from the stool. "And thanks for the drinks."
"Anytime. I'll see you at work."
"Yeah, catch you later." With a wink, Seth made his way to the doors, leaving Kelly and Maria staring at me.
I turned to face my friends. "What?"
"Well, you two looked awfully cosy," Maria said.
"Oh don't you start. Rich has already accused me of making eyes at him. He's easy to talk to, and doesn't hit on me like Jon. I like him."
"Uh-huh," Kelly said, in that way I knew meant she was fishing for gossip.
"Shut up. Anyway, tell me about the guy you met on the dance floor."
Kelly's raised eyebrows were replaced with a grin. "You saw?" I nodded and she continued. "His name is Carl, and he's a sweetheart. We're going out for dinner on Friday."
"Awesome. Just be careful he's not trying to get with you because you're off the telly, like that Robb guy did."
Kelly's last boyfriend had seemed like the perfect catch when they'd first met, but after a few months together, he started trying to wheedle invites to the studio out of her, and she realised he was only seeing her because of who she was.
"It's all right, I don't think he knows."
"Okay, just keep an eye out, yeah?"
Satisfied with Kelly's answer, I turned to Maria. "So, what's the score with you and Rich?"
Maria laughed. "What? Me and Rich?"
The alcohol making me forget my earlier promise, I said, "Yeah, he likes you."
Maria's eyes widened and her body went ridged. "Seriously?"
"That's what he said to me earlier. But shit-" The memory came flooding back. "I wasn't supposed to say anything."
"Oopsie," Kelly interjected, and we all started giggling.
When Single Ladies, by Beyoncé started playing, Maria grabbed me and Kelly and dragged us to our feet. "Enough boy talk. More dancing."
We headed back to the dancefloor, and were joined by Chloe, who had ditched Jon. Despite our various states of drunkenness, we managed to pull off the dance routine invented by the Queen Bey herself. Though, when the song ended, we all collapsed against each other in a heap of laughter. Still clinging to each other, the four of us headed to the doors and staggered outside to find a taxi to take us home.