“Neil Durant, did you just swear?” Afric whispered, her eyes alight with humour.
“How do you know my last name?”
“Michaela mentioned it.”
“Michaela mentions an awful lot.”
“She likes you. Have you ever noticed how alike you both are? You could be twins, the non-identical kind.”
“We’re not that alike,” I countered.
“Yes, you are. You’re both really prim and proper, maybe a little anal retentive, though that’s not a bad thing. I’m the opposite of anal retentive and am currently in the horrible situation of having my accounts audited. The joys of self-employment.” She made a bug-eyed expression and mimicked putting a gun to her head.
I lifted my eyebrows. “You’re being audited?”
“Sadly, yes. I really regret deciding to do my own taxes these last few years. I’m trying to find an accountant with a penchant for masochism to sort things out for me.” She gave a self-deprecating laugh. “So far, I haven’t had any luck.”
I picked up my coffee and took a sip. I wasn’t an accountant, but I had a head for numbers and was excellent at taxes and personal finance. “I could help you. I’m very good at keeping tidy accounts,” I offered.
Her eyes widened. “Seriously?”
I nodded. “I can certainly take a look.” I’d blurted the offer, but now that I was thinking about it, this could be a good exchange. Afric was assisting me with Annabelle, and in return, I could organise her accounts.
“Are you certain?” she went on. “Because, believe me, it’s a lot of work.”
“I don’t mind the work,” I said, then cleared my throat. “I’d actually like to make a formal agreement. Just so things are clear.”
Her brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”
“Well, helping you with your accounts could be my way of paying you back for your advice on my, um, situation. This way, we’re both getting something out of it.”
She stared at me, the beginnings of a smile shaping her lips. “You’re one of those people who insists on paying back loans as soon as possible, aren’t you? If someone gave you a pound for a cup of coffee, you’d be forcing that pound back into their hand the very next day, right?”
I pursed my lips because she wasn’t wrong. That’s exactly how I was. “Where exactly are you finding cups of coffee in London for a pound?” I shot back, and she smirked.
“Fine. I agree to the exchange. Want to shake on it?”
A part of me would prefer a written contract, but in this case, a handshake would have to suffice. Afric reached across the table, and we shook hands, her soft palm sliding against mine. I was momentarily aware of the sensation of her skin before she let go and asked, “Are you free later today?”
“Um … I’m not sure.”
“Let’s exchange numbers so that I can text you directions to my flat,” she went on, not giving me time to protest. She pulled out her phone and looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to call out my number.
Reluctantly, I recited the digits, and a moment later, my phone buzzed with a text. I opened it and grimaced, then glanced at Afric in annoyance. “Did you just send me a dick pic?”
She chuckled in amusement. “I like to think of it as redistribution. I’m a female streamer, so I get an inordinate number of dick pics sent to me daily. I do the arseholes a favour by sending the pictures to my friends so that we can judge them. I mean, look at that one. It has a bend in it. I wonder if that’s a positive or a negative with the ladies.”
I was certain my face showed my disgruntlement as I swiftly deleted the image from my phone. “Please don’t send me any more of those.”
“Because I didn’t ask for them.”
At this, she slammed her hands down on the table dramatically. “Well, neither did I!”
Several people from nearby tables cast us curious glances. I looked to Afric and frowned again. Everything about her was so loud and brash that I failed to realise how young she actually was. If she was Michaela’s age, that would make her mid-twenties at most. I had just turned thirty. I needed to be the grown-up here.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. The men who send you those pictures are out of line, and you shouldn’t have to deal with that. Isn’t there any way you can block them?”
“Not really, no,” she answered glumly. “But thank you. I appreciate the sentiment.” She cleared her throat before continuing. “Anyway, you can stop by my flat sometime this week. Whenever suits. I’m normally home in the evenings. We also need to assess how Annabelle feels about you. Do you two ever talk on the phone, or is it always by direct message?”
“We don’t talk on the phone. If we did, she’d easily figure out the truth. I don’t sound anything like Callum.”