Read an Excerpt
‘Come on,’ he whispers, rising from his seat and beckoning me to follow him.
‘Where?’ I whisper back.
He goes into the big drawing room where the fire is still blazing away, sits down on one of the chintzy sofas, and pats the cushion beside him.
‘Sit down,’ he says. ‘I want to talk to you.’
This sounds ominous, but I take my seat regardless and am immediately swept up into an octopus-handed monster of a snog that ends with me virtually on my back and him on top of me, his hands up my sparkly jumper.
‘Sorry,’ he says, raising his head a fraction. ‘I didn’t mean for that to happen.’
‘No, right,’ I snort but I can’t seem to wipe the grin from my face. It’s so wide I’m getting cheek-ache here.
I notice that my hands are in his hair. It’s luscious hair, so thick and dark, but I’ve messed it up beyond repair. His neck is lovely and firm under my thumb tips. I feel I could press as hard as I liked and still feel resistance. God, he’s such a man. Such a manly specimen of one too. I think I might be delirious again.
‘I do want to talk to you, though,’ he says, sitting back up and pulling me with him. He keeps one arm slung around my shoulder. I wish we could sit like this to watch the film, all cosy and snuggled, with kisses during the advert breaks. He would reach for a Quality Street from the bowl, unwrap it for me and pop it in my mouth. Heaven on Earth. Unless it was the strawberry cream, bleurgh.
But the threads of my thoughts are unravelling again and he brings me back to reality with a little pat of my shoulder.
‘Earth to Bella.’
‘Sorry. Miles away. What did you want to talk about?’
As if I didn’t know.
‘There’s an us?’
‘Well, it looks like it to me. Don’t you think?’
‘I’d like to hire you. For the kissing thing.’
‘Thanks, I accept.’
We kiss again, but he tears himself away before tongues are involved.
‘Technically,’ he says severely, ‘you’re still another man’s fiancée.’
‘But you know I’m not really.’
‘I’d like it out in the open.’
‘I wouldn’t. Not yet. Please. Give me today. Maybe I’ll say something tomorrow. Then I’ll have Mum ranting at me in the car all the way to London … Oh, can’t I save it till New Year? It’s so much less aggravation.’
‘For you. Not for me.’
‘It’s just a few days …’
‘I don’t want to be your dirty little secret, Bel. I don’t like dirty little secrets. I’ve seen what they can do. I see it every day.’
‘I’m not covering up a murder, for God’s sake! Even though you did accuse me of that.’
‘I know all the best lines, me.’
I pause for a wry smile. Got to get my daily quota in somehow.
‘So you’re serious?’ I ask, almost not wanting the answer.
‘About you? Yes. As serious as I can be after 24 hours.’
‘How serious is that?’
‘Very. It takes less than that to end a life, and less than that to start one.’
‘That’s – profound.’
‘Yeah. But I’m a straightforward man when it comes down to it, love. I know what I want when I find it. And when I find it, I want to keep it.’
“Love”. The word creates a frisson. All the words, actually. Lots of frissons.
‘Of course. I was hoping you might feel the same.’
‘You’re really nothing like Rupert.’
‘Good. Tell your mum it’s finished.’
He tweaks my nose.
‘You know what I mean, madam.’
I am under pressure. I feel it bearing down on me from all sides. Even the tree and decorations transmit coercive vibrations.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Let me persuade you.’
He’s very good at persuasion. His technique involves the entwining of limbs and the melding of mouths. We lie beneath the glittering streamers and the great, laden branches of the pine tree and give ourselves to the kiss. Everything else lies outside us, irrelevant and unworthy of notice. There is only hot breath and tight embracing and tongues that push and push as if they think they might magically get longer if they only try hard enough. His hand slips under my sweater again and this time he reaches the lacy cups of my bra. We bite and moan as he squeezes my breast and I buck underneath him, grinding our pelvises together.
Christ, if I’m not careful we’ll end up having sex on this sofa.
How brilliant. I want it. Now.