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Authors: Nikki Moore

Cocktails in Chelsea

BOOK: Cocktails in Chelsea
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Cocktails in Chelsea

Book 4 #LoveLondon Series

NIKKI MOORE

A division of HarperCollins
Publishers

www.harpercollins.co.uk

Harper
Impulse
an imprint of

HarperCollins
Publishers

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk

First published in Great Britain by Harper
Impulse
2015

Copyright © Nikki Moore 2015

Cover images © Shutterstock.com

Cover layout design © HarperColl‌insPublishers Ltd 2015

Cover design by Steve Panton

Nikki Moore asserts the moral right

to be identified as the author of this work.

A catalogue record for this book is

available from the British Library

This novel is entirely a work of fiction.

The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are

the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to

actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is

entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved under International

and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.

By payment of the required fees, you have been granted

the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access

and read the text of this e-book on screen.

No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted,

downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or

stored in or introduced into any information storage and

retrieval system, in any form or by any means,

whether electronic or mechanical, now known or

hereinafter invented, without the express

written permission of HarperCollins.

Digital eFirst: Automatically produced by Atomik ePublisher from Easypress.

Ebook Edition © February 2015 ISBN: 9780008114770

Version 2015-02-26

This is for all the fabulous, lovely and enthusiastic bloggers, reviewers, readers and fellow authors who have supported and generally raved about the #LoveLondon series so far. Every review, rating, Tweet, Facebook mention, blog post, purchase or email is truly appreciated. You’re all stars; thank you.

Spring is a time for new beginnings so this story is also for anyone starting out on a journey, whether it’s a professional or a personal one. Be fearless, and enjoy it.

Contents

#LoveLondon Series

Skating at Somerset House

New Year at the Ritz

Valentine’s on Primrose Hill

Cocktails in Chelsea

Strawberries at Wimbledon

Picnics in Hyde Park

Cocktails in Chelsea

Thursday

Sofia Gold sighed as she stepped into the trendy bar on the King's Road. If she cared less about being polite, she’d be wearing her own clothes. Instead, she was tugging down the hem of the clinging, vibrant yellow designer dress Tori and Christie had wrestled her into and fighting the urge to pull the plunging neckline up a few inches closer to her chin.

While showing off tons of leg and cleavage wasn’t her at all, she had to admit the yellow outfit didn’t look
too
bad with her long golden hair, which Christie had made her straighten. It was just a shame she was being slowly crippled by towering four inch high heels. They might make her short legs look amazing, but the balls of her feet were already aching and they'd only left the girls’ exclusive white-pillared, black-gated residence twenty minutes before.

Of course she liked partying, enjoyed going out and having a laugh. After all skating ramps and riding the waves on her beloved surfboard couldn’t take up all of her spare time. She was also lucky enough to live in Bournemouth, and the coastal town had a great night life humming with stag and hen parties despite its reputation as the retirement capital of the south. The difference was, she usually went into town in tight jeans, mid-range heels at most and a cropped vest-top, not in outfits that felt designed to torture. Plus she drank at lively bars with the best, pulsing music and happiest, loudest crowd, not airy warehouse spaces with tons of lighting, exposed vintage-looking iron pipes and dark wooden floors packed with privileged and wealthy trust-funders.

But Tori and Christie were Mum's best friend's daughters and she'd promised to make an effort during this visit. If she offended them it'd be a giant dinosaur bone of contention with her mother for years. The idea of being on the wrong side of her mum was scarier than the thought of wearing the outfit for the evening.

'You look lovely, Sof,' Tori leaned close to whisper into her ear, 'but you would look better if you stopped pulling at the dress constantly. Just try and own it.'

'Thanks,' Sofia murmured.

It was good advice.

Except.

Except she felt awkward and out of place. It wasn't her scene. Everyone was on show, all the little circles of people air-kissing and studiously not watching each other while totally watching each other, there to be seen and talked about. What did she know about dressing in luxury brands and living it up with the glitterati in the capital? Nothing.

'Come on darling, don't stand there gawping.' Christie grabbed Sofia's elbow, wrenching her from her thoughts and steering her around a couple of smooth looking guys in casually stylish jacket and jeans combos. 'Let's order some champagne. Despite being on the French Riviera at the moment, Mummy was so pleased you agreed to come that we simply have to make the most of it. She'll be very upset if she thinks we're not looking after you,' Christie continued sharply, her narrowed blue eyes bright against her English rose complexion.

Sofia nodded, letting the other girl lead her to a high, round table with black stools set around it, glad to sit down and take the weight off her feet. Trying to ignore the way the tight dress rode up her thighs, she glanced across at the assorted wall-mounted optics behind the bronze-tiled bar, smiling slightly. She guessed it wasn’t so bad here, because although hanging out with friends with cold beers on the beach was more her thing, she had a serious soft spot for cocktails. The colours, flavours and varieties were amazing and she loved watching barmen create dizzying concoctions. There was something ridiculously sexy about guys throwing and twirling bottles around in that confident, competent manner they had. Although that could be less to do with their skills and more to do with her long-time crush on Tom Cruise. The late 80’s film
Cocktail
, though dated, was one of her older sister Isobel's favourites and they'd watched it a load of times as teens.

She studied the embossed ivory drinks menu. The booklet was thick, the cocktail list vast; champagne based, gin based, rum based, vodka based, whisky based, exotic, with a twist and traditional. She’d have preferred to stay in tonight after this morning’s tiring, chilly coach trip to Victoria and the stuffy, harried tube journey from there to Chelsea, but the cocktails would definitely serve as compensation for having to leave the house

Running a polished oval nail down the list of vodka cocktails, she frowned, feeling like her hands belonged to someone else. The sisters had insisted she get her nails done and she'd agreed out of courtesy, and she had to admit the French manicure with the light pink overlay was kind of pretty. It wasn’t a word she usually associated with herself. Not that she was complaining. She loved her life, the adrenaline thrill of all the outdoorsy stuff she was into, so if the result was that she came across as a bit of a tomboy and wasn’t one of those glam girls that men chased, so what? It did however mean that tonight was her chance to be something different, so she should really just try and enjoy it. Once she was home, it was back to good old Sofia, hanging out with the guys she designed skate-parks with and her surfing buddies.

Anyway, what was the worst that could happen over the next few days of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend? She could take in a bit of lively, diverse springtime London - eat, drink and see the sights - and hopefully sneak off to watch a footie match. She’d heard Chelsea were playing a home game against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon at Stamford Bridge. She chewed her lip and looked over at the other two girls. It was no wonder she felt out of place here. Tori and Christie probably wouldn’t be caught dead at a footie match full of chanting, sweaty, beery men and cheering women. Unless they sat with all the WAGs then they’d probably be right at home. Or maybe she was being too quick to judge. What did she really know about their lives nowadays? It’d been years since they’d spent any real time together.

She looked at the bar again. 'Shall I go and get the drinks?'

'Don't be silly,' Christie drawled, craning her head to look over Sofia's shoulder at someone. 'It’s table service.'

'Its fine,' Sofia replied, smiling tightly, 'I'm not too sure what I fancy so I'll go and have a scope at the bar.'

'Scope?' Christie repeated, looking faintly horrified.

'Christie.' Tori chided in cultured tones, tucking an escaped strand of glossy chestnut hair behind a diamond-studded earlobe. 'Be nice.'

'Nice is so boring.' Christie flapped a hand dismissively at her younger sister.

Tori turned to Sofia, squeezing her upper arm. 'Ignore her. If you want to go to the bar, do. You may as well order us a bottle of Moet and give them Mummy's name while you’re there. We have a tab here.'

'Okay, no probs,’ Sofia nodded, sliding off the stool.

'Oh, Sofa?' Christie's voice cut through her. 'Please don't embarrass us.'

Sofia heard Tori gasp her sister's name. She closed her eyes, counting to five in her head as slowly as possible.
Remember Mum
. 'Yes, Christie,' she gritted, opening them again. 'I'll try.’
Really hard not to strangle you with your ice-blonde ponytail.

Sofa. The childhood name she’d always hated. Whenever their families got together - biannual short breaks at a fabulous holiday home in St Ives - she’d always felt like the fat girl because the sisters were both so effortlessly, elegantly slim. The nickname referred to the couple of extra pounds she’d carried until her mid-teens, later lost through swimming in the sea every morning, pier to pier from Boscombe to Bournemouth.

Clanking across the floorboards in her high heels, she let out a long, loud sigh as she reached the bar. Resting her elbows on the wooden surface, she leaned forward to study the bottles in orderly rows inside the glass, condensation-coated fridges.

'Careful,' a deep, mildly sarcastic voice rumbled in her ear, 'or you'll give them a show a few hours early.'

Turning scarlet as she realised the ruddy dress had crept up at the back, she straightened, whipped her head around and opened her mouth to respond. But there wasn’t time to challenge the comment because its owner had already placed a tray of glasses on the bar and melted away. She caught a glimpse of a white shirt, tight black trousers and dark hair as she stared after him. She also clocked that he was tall. Very tall.

Sofia gulped. He'd been out of order, there was no doubt about it, but still, what he'd said, how much had people seen? Had she actually flashed her tiny pink knickers at the whole place? Fleeing to the toilets, she spent a few minutes trying out different poses in front of the full-length mirror before coming to the conclusion that although the dress was quite short, her knickers probably hadn't had an outing. 'Thank god.' She exhaled, running both hands under the cold tap to get rid of her momentary fluster.

Returning to the bar, she waved at the staff member who was stacking glasses on a shelf. 'A bottle of Moet please, and two glasses.' What was she doing? Why had her voice come out all cut-glass? It was like being here worked like osmosis, absorbing the traits of the people around her. Or maybe it was Christie's comment about embarrassing them. Yeah, perhaps it wouldn't hurt to be someone else for this visit. She grinned. High-society Sofia, quaffing champagne and living the good life.

'Yes, of course.' The barman's smile was fleeting as he turned to glance at her, and the coolness in his eyes was baffling. It was the guy who’d made the comment about her dress. It was a shame he seemed off with her, because he was cute. Mega-tall and lean, thick messy black hair, light stubble and doe-like chestnut eyes under straight black brows. He looked intense and intelligent, a touch dorky… and really, really appealing.

'Thank you.' She picked up a menu, enunciating her vowels, 'And I would like-'

'Let me guess,' he interjected, 'a champagne cocktail.'

'No, actually,' she lifted her chin and looked down her nose at him, his tone annoying her, 'I'll have a Sex on the Beach.' The choice was pretty apt, seeing as the beach was practically her second home.

There was the hint of a genuine smile on the barman's face but it disappeared swiftly as another thought seemed to occur to him. He muttered something under his breath. It didn't sound complimentary.

'Excuse me?' she demanded, putting her hands on her hips.

Little rich girl slumming it,
Nathan thought, but offered a bland, 'Nothing,' in reply to the haughty blonde, before making a big deal of checking the various fridges. 'I'll just go out back to grab the champagne,' he called over his shoulder as he strode away.

He’d seen the way she looked at him, the hunger in her eyes. He was sick of rude, entitled women and this bloody place. As soon as he had enough money that was it, he was out of here. Perhaps it'd be different if he was on the other side of the bar, the one buying expensive drinks and being fawned over by beautiful girls, but he wasn't, and although female customers flirted with him every night, it was obvious they only saw him as someone who served them. Someone who wasn’t worthy. Jesus, he was getting bitter. What was wrong with him?

He marched down a corridor and into one of the storerooms, grabbing the chilled champagne from the fridge and slumping back against its door. Blowing out a breath, he rubbed his eyes with shaking fingers. He was so bloody knackered from working all these insane hours. Sometimes he could hardly think or see straight. But it'd be worth it, to show everyone he could do it on his own, that he didn't need to rely on his cousin Matt to get ahead. Matt was a great guy and a famous music producer, but there was Nathan needed his cousin’s money or connections to open doors.

His thoughts circled back to the blonde he was holding the champagne bottle for. She looked pretty much like the other girls in here, all perfect hair, nails, face and expensive outfit, but there was something a bit different. Her body was slim but athletic, her stomach toned enough that abs were visible through the skin-tight dress, but she wasn't as thin and angular as some of the other women. Then there was the vulnerability in her massive green eyes and a slight softness around her mouth. Her full, sexy mouth.

His body reacted to that thought.

'No. No way. You don't want her.' She was the last sort he'd go for. He liked the nice, sincere, girl-next-door type. The kind he'd want to take home to his grandparents. Not that he was looking to do that at the moment. His business plans meant too much for him to get sidetracked by a relationship.

Or by an uppity but gorgeous girl on a night out with her friends.

No.

Pushing away from the fridge, he slammed out of the storeroom.
Just do your job Nathan.

Where the heck is he?
Sofia wondered. Mr Hot but Grumpy had been gone for ages. Was he treading the grapes to make the Moet himself?

'Madam.' He swept in behind the bar, bending over to get an ice bucket and giving her a delicious view at the same time. Straightening up, he planted the frosted champagne bottle in the bucket and set it down in front of her with two slim flutes. 'Sorry to keep you waiting.'

The fact he barely glanced at her was irritating. Especially when her eyeballs had nearly fallen out of her head at what an awesome backside he had in his tight trousers. 'Yes,' she retorted, 'I had started to wonder if you'd flown to France to get it from the vineyard yourself.'

Raising an eyebrow, he opened his mouth to say something but then closed it again, staring at her silently with wide, brown eyes.

It made her realise how bitchy she'd sounded. 'Sorry,' she murmured, 'I was-,' pausing, she searched for an excuse, but there wasn't one she wanted to share with him. So, 'I'm sorry.… ?' she simply said, making eye contact so he could see her sincerity and understand what she was asking.

'Nathan.' He supplied, surprise registering on his face before he stepped away. 'No problem. Right, let's get you that drink.'

'Sounds good. I do love cocktails. Don't you think you owe me something in return though?' she prompted, mimicking Tori's pronunciation. It wasn't hard, a game they'd played as children. One memorable, humid afternoon the sisters had encouraged her to walk around the attic playroom of their holiday home with a book on her head, reciting phrases from their elocution lessons for endless hours. Her neck had ached for days.

BOOK: Cocktails in Chelsea
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