“You sound dreadful, Lucy,” David said into the phone.
“I know. Damn stupid cold. I’ve got a nose like a cherry tomato. And it’s sore.”
He had to admit the poor girl sounded ill. Far too ill, and contagious, for him to offer to go round and rub her front. But he was her best friend. The least he could do was offer to post Day Nurse through her letter box.
“Do you want anything from the chemist?”
“No. I’m drugged up to the eyeballs already. A bloody con, though. I don’t feel any better.” She coughed and spluttered, and David was tempted to wipe the screen of his phone.
“But I need a favour. I’m supposed to play tennis this afternoon. Can you cover for me?”
“Cover what for you? You’re not going to play are you?”
“Course not. I’m bloody dying here. I need you to take my place.” On hearing a very deep sigh on the other end of the phone, Lucy added, “It’s only doubles.”
“But I haven’t played for about six weeks.”
The students had been long gone for their mammoth summer break, but Professor David Forbes had loads of paperwork to go through and extra tuition for those who he knew would be doing retakes. There hadn’t been much time to get to the tennis courts. In fact he hadn’t had much time for anything. The closest he’d come to any balls had been catching an occasional glimpse of Wimbledon on the TV.
“Come on David. Show some balls—” Lucy managed a phlegm-filled giggle and there was another cringe from David. “—and help me out. Alistair and his wife are playing, and I was partnering with Judy.”
“You don’t know her, but that doesn’t matter. You can make her do most of the work and tell her all about that, er, coefficient of rest, or whatever the hell it is you’re always going on about.”
“It’s coefficient of restitution, and if you listened to me you’d be a much better player.”
There was a sneeze.
“Okay, I’ll do it.” Anything to get her off the phone. “You go back to bed. What time
do I need to be there?”
“Forty-love!” Judy yelled in David’s face, waving her racquet with all the zeal of an ostentatious cheerleader as she headed back to the line for what undoubtedly was going to be her final serve to win the game.
Where the hell had Lucy met this Billy Jean King impersonator? David crouched lower at the net this time, having narrowly missed heading one tennis ball, and waited for that ultimate pang as ball connected with racket. The equation for the angular momentum flashed before his eyes.
“Out!” shouted Alistair.
“Never!” argued Judy. “It was in, wasn’t it David?”
All eyes were on him. Unfortunately, his eyes hadn’t been on the ball. What the hell?
Let her drop a bloody point. He’d only just managed to hold his game after battling at deuce.
This partner was one deuce of a woman!
“Yes, it was over the line.” He watched her petite frame with particularly slender sun-kissed legs, stride back to the edge of the court. Her top rose teasingly as she got ready to toss the ball. There was something he wouldn’t mind having tossed…
“David! Are you ready?”
Shit! He suddenly regretted his support for the opposition. The sooner this match was over the better.
“Are you coming for a drink?” Alistair asked as they were leaving the changing rooms.
David thought for a moment. He’d only met Alistair and his wife a couple of times, and Lucy had always been the gregarious chatterbox who made the get togethers bearable. The idea of being alone with the couple who ran an online furniture business was not appealing.
The risk that Billy Jean Judy might join them was down right appalling.
“I can’t, I’m afraid. I need to get back to the university. Tutorials to prep for.”
Just at that moment Judy emerged wearing tight black jeans and a pretty embroidered white blouse. “I’m so sorry. Have I kept you all waiting? I couldn’t find my locker key.”
David stared. The screechy, domineering voice that had yelled at him with every passing stroke on the tennis court, was replaced by a soft sultry sound. And the woman was apologising. May be this woman was more friendly offside, as it were.
“I think you’ve scared him off, Judy. David has to leave.”
David scowled at Alistair. He wasn’t scared. Well, not exactly.
“Oh, I hope you’re not leaving on my account.” Judy gazed him. “After putting up with me in that match, you must let me buy you a drink.”
His eyes landed on the exquisite pale blue stitching on her blouse. The small pinch of the buttonhole across her breasts to be precise. “Er. Well, maybe just one.”
Then Alistair’s wife tapped his arm. “Have you forgotten we’ve got to get back. James is coming home for the weekend.” She turned to Judy. “I’m sorry, darling, but I’m sure David will keep you company.”
After the couple had left, Judy insisted on going to the bar to get the drinks. David waited at a table in a quiet corner, trying to determine how to find out where Judy had bought that blouse. Then his phone pinged. It was a message from Lucy.
‘Forgot to tell you – Judy is a lesbian’
Well. That was interesting.
“Here you go.”
Judy leaned across the table to place his glass of chilled white wine on the beer mat. The move was slow, deliberate, and provocative. David got a whiff of Chanel No 5.
“Thanks.” He leaned back in his chair in an effort to look more at ease than he felt.
“We had a good win there, didn’t we?” Judy took a slurp from her pint of lager.
“Yeah. You hit the ball well.”
“I’ve been playing since I was six. How’s Lucy, by the way?”
“Full of cold. Hopefully getting better.”
“We usually carry on our doubles play from here.”
For a moment David felt exhausted. Surely she didn’t expect him to play any more. There was no way he could go through another match with this woman. Besides, they’d just showered. Then he perceived the faintest twitch in Judy’s left cheek. Was she disappointed that he wasn’t Lucy?
“I haven’t played, er, mixed doubles for a very long time.” With her eyes firmly on David, Judy held the pint glass at her mouth. This time there was no gulp. Just a sip.
David gazed at her lips and waited.
“I could give it a go if you want to.” She laid her hand on his.
The words left his mouth before he had chance to think. “Where did you buy that blouse?”
She pulled her hand away. “Oh.” Her fingers traced the blue stitching leading down to a white lace bra. “I’ve got the receipt back in my apartment. I could show you.”
David drained his glass and pushed his chair back from the table. “There’s something you should know.”
They were walking out of the bar.
“I can play mixed doubles all on my own.”
Judy’s lips widened into a broad lascivious smile. “You’re Lucy’s best friend aren’t you? I’m sure you’re a man of many talents.”
“Yep,” he said, suddenly full of energy for game, set and match.