The restaurant was the sort of thing I expected. Big, fancy with extortionate prices on the menu. Zack and Amber's fathers were already there. Along with two other guys who must've been business associates of some sort. I recognised Jeremy Kilby instantly and next to him a young guy who looked very unhappy. Zack hadn't told us a lot about it. But we did know Jeremy was in fact Michael's dad. The young guy spotted Zack and glared. He spotted Amber and sent a smile. She rolled her eyes and looked away. Amber and Zack sat far away from the guy. Leaving me little choice but to sit next to him. At least he didn't seem to dislike or overly like me. For once I was thankful for my average looks. He stank of alcohol and the bags under his eyes told me he took drugs.
“I like the show you want to produce. Being the chat show host appeals. Though I do have one condition.” Jeremy and Amber's father were deep in conversation. I hadn't realised they were involved in producing shows now. Then again they branched out a lot. Amber dad used to just be an accountant, then he learnt lots of new skills. When he got money from a dead grandparent of Ambers that was that. He has his hands in a food chains, a clothing brand and airline. And now he was stepping into show producing. He had to know a lot of people. Though Jeremy would be a result of Michael and Zack's connection most likely.
“Name it,” Amber's father said offhandedly. A waiter arrived and the three of us made orders. I was glad it was Italian so I could actually understand the fancy names on the menu.
“Evan needs an internship somewhere, I was hoping one of you're company buildings would be happy to take him on,” Jeremy replied. I saw her father consider this with cold calculation. His eyes shifting to study Evan.
“I'm sure something can be arranged,” he said after some hesitation.
“Well, with that bit of business out of the way, we should probably enjoy our meal,” Jeremy said with a big grin. Evan glanced at his father, the hatred clear in his eyes. He turned his attention to Amber as the two began talking about recent events and the news.
“Hey there,” he murmured. Looking past me at Amber.
“Hi,” she replied politely, not looking his way as she ate. I glanced at him then her and understood why she'd wanted me here. This guy was obviously a sleaze, but she couldn't just ignore him around her father. Evan grinned at her cold attitude and looked away with a small knowing smile. He thought he had her, what an idiot.
“I'm Lily,” I said. Holding out a hand and offering myself as a distraction. Based on his quick assessment of me I wasn't impressive enough.
“Evan Kilby,” he replied, not even bothering to shake my hand. I sent Zack a side-glance and he shrugged. Obviously both he and Amber were used to him.
“So Zackery, how's school?” his dad asked. I could sense the groan Zack wanted to make.
“Fine,” he murmured. Zack acted confident and could act anyone off the stage. But his dad was only interested in academics, the one thing he wasn't brilliant in.
“Ah yes, how's Michael doing?” Amber's dad asked. I saw Zack's hand clench a little. But it didn't seem like Amber's father was going to make crude jokes, not while Jeremy was here. I glanced at Evan. The way he'd looked at his father and Zack had nothing on how angry he looked at the thought of Michael.
“He's doing well. It took some convincing before he agreed to lived with me. I can't believe how they were living before ...” Jeremy trailed off, his expression guilty.
“Who cares?” Evan said with a dismissive hand wave. Jeremy sent his son a look that yelled 'behave' and regained his composure.
“I care,” Zack muttered. Evan glared at him but didn't say anything. Conversation was pretty stunted after that. I noticed how Amber picked at her food, barely eating it. When we finished the main meal Amber excused herself and headed for the bathroom.
“I'll go see if she's okay,” Evan offered, already standing. Oh wow, he really was arrogant. I stood up quickly, putting a warning hand on his chest.
“I think it's best I check on her. Thanks,” I said. The thanks didn't sound very sincere but I didn't care. He frowned but didn't try to stop me heading to the bathroom. I walked in as Amber's dress fluttered into a stall behind her. I threw a hand to stop it closing.
“Oh no you don't,” I yelled, taking her by surprise. She opened her mouth to yell back but stopped. She covered her face with one hand in an attempt to hide her embarrassment of being caught. I pulled her out of the stall and took her to the sink. I grabbed tissues, sensing the oncoming tears. She murmured thanks as I handed them over. I stood there next to her, waiting for her sniffles to die down. When she finished she looked up and met my eyes in the mirror.
“My mum won't return my calls,” Amber finally said, her voice horse with emotion. I took her hand in mine and made her face me and meet my eyes.
“Your mum's an idiot then. You're an amazing person. And it's her waste not to know you,” I said, no clue if what I was saying would actually help in the slightest. Amber smiled at the words, but it was faltered within seconds.
“I'm not amazing. I'm a bully,” she said.
“Were,” I corrected, refusing to give up that easily.
“Still makes me a bad person,” she said, wiping away the last of her tears. She turned on the tap to wash the rest of her make-up off.
“It makes you human, Amber. Everyone makes mistakes,” I said with a shrug.
“Is that why you keep talking to Lewis? You think he deserves a second chance?” she asked, taking me by surprise. I opened my mouth to reply and closed it.
“I don't know to be honest. And you stepped in to protect him as well,” I pointed out. Amber shook her head with a small smile.
“I did that because I couldn't have Quinn getting overconfident. I'm the queen bitch around here. No guys going to steal that title,” Amber replied proudly. She was definitely back to her old self now as she reapplied her make-up with perfect precision.
“Glad to hear you haven't lost your spark,” I said with a soft smile. She returned it and pulled me closer. I hadn't even realised she was still holding my hand.
“Thanks,” she whispered before kissing me. It wasn't long or passionate, just a peck that mingled with her salty tears. She pulled away wiping at her eyes again.
“Damn it,” she muttered. I stood there, unsure what to do as she repeated the washing and reapplying of make-up process. When she was fixed again she smirked at me.
“I keep forgetting we're just friends,” she said. Was that what caused the second bout of tears? I looked away, concentrating on the tiled floor.
“Even if you say I can trust you, Amber. The past is the past,” I said. I looked up to see how she took it. She nodded, accepting what I had to say.
By the time I was dropped off at the barracks Amber's composure had returned. With it, a determined expression that set me on edge. Just when I thought I'd managed to quiet things down.