‘Excuse me, this is for you.’ A bar girl appears out of nowhere behind me and places a drink on the table in front of me. I catch her arm just as she’s about to disappear again.
‘I didn’t order a drink.’ I hand the glass back to her but she doesn’t move to take it from me.
‘Courtesy of the guy at the bar.’ She nods over to her right and I see who I think at first glance is Justin Timberlake, leaning casually on a bar stool, smiling sheepishly over at me.
‘But…’ Now the bar girl has disappeared completely. I glance back over to the bar and see that it’s not actually the Justin Timberlake smiling at me but he certainly bears a resemblance to him. I turn back round to Jenny and Lola who are gawping at me incredulously.
‘You know what?’ I say, taking a sniff of the glass and deciding that it smells quite like the vodka and Coke I was enjoying earlier before the nasty tequila. ‘I think I might stay for just one more drink.’
‘Erm, I don’t think so.’ Jenny’s tone is so disapproving that I laugh out loud.
‘Jenny, I will be fine.’
She glares over towards the bar. ‘Just because some good-looking guy sends a drink over doesn’t mean you have to accept it.’
‘That’s right.’ I nod, lacking some conviction, as I slurp from the glass in my hand. ‘Aren’t you the one who’s been telling me for the last week that I need to have some fun?’
‘Well...’ Jenny huffs, rather flustered. ‘He could be an axe murderer for all you know.’
‘That is true,’ I agree, glancing over at cute bar guy. ‘But unless he intends to brandish his axe and murder me right here in front of a hundred witnesses then I think I’m safe, don’t you?’
They both hover, twitching, clearly weighing up whether to stay as my chaperones or admit defeat.
‘I promise I will not leave here with the axe murderer. I will only stay for one drink – just one – and then I will get a taxi home, alone,’ I try to reassure them. ‘Honestly I’m a big girl.’
‘You promise?’ Lola glances over my shoulder and inspects the guy again, who appears to be watching us intently.
‘I promise.’ I nod.
They reluctantly leave and walk towards the door, and as I wave them goodbye, I hear a voice behind me.
‘Can I join you?’
I turn around and am face to face with the Mr Timberlake Lookalike, who is even more gorgeous up close. His warm blue eyes have a glint of mischief in them, and a soft smile turns up at the corners of his mouth, creating the smallest of dimples. I love dimples. Wavy, thick blond hair is cut short and styled, and I have to fight the urge to reach up and run my fingers through it.
‘It would be rude to say no given that you’ve paid for my drink,’ I say, sounding self-assured. The alcohol is fuelling my confidence, which would ordinarily have disintegrated by now, turning me into a mumbling idiot.
He gestures for me to sit down and I shuffle into the vacant booth to my left, taking a further sip of my free drink. He sits down surprisingly close beside me and I can smell the faint scent of his aftershave – crisp and fresh – and that, along with his close proximity, is a heady mixture.
‘I’m Johnny.’ He smiles, not taking his eyes off me for a second, and I feel my insides somersault with a desire I didn’t know was still in me after the last few weeks.
‘I’m…’ I pause. ‘I’m Louise,’ I lie, deciding that maybe tonight I can be someone else, somebody totally different, someone carefree, and not a thirty-two-year-old reject, recently dumped out of the one relationship she actually thought was going somewhere. Anyway, Louise…yes, I can be Louise, who works in marketing and is super-sexy and confident.
‘So, Louise, tell me something about yourself.’
Hmm. Something about myself? Well, about Louise…Marketing isn’t quite exciting enough…
‘I’m a lawyer,’ I blurt out.
‘Wow.’ Johnny smiles, seeming more than a little impressed. ‘A lawyer. That’s pretty serious stuff. Have you tried any cases?’
Shit. I wasn’t expecting the third degree. I was hoping just the lawyer thing would be good enough to impress him.
‘Erm, I really can’t talk about individual cases.’ I sip the vodka and Coke. ‘Confidentiality issues.’ Christ, I don’t know how that came to me. I guess I’ve watched far too many crime programmes on television.
‘Of course.’ He nods.
‘So what do you do?’ I ask, keen to divert the subject away from me and my fake career.
‘I’m a sports physio.’
That makes sense. He looks pretty toned himself. In fact, he looks incredibly hot; almost too good to be true.
And so the conversation continues. He tells me about his friends, all sporty footballing types, and his family, an older brother and younger sister, and we chat comfortably, like we’ve know each other for ages. The DJ seems to keep upping the volume so we have to sit closer and closer together to be heard. He’s leaning in to hear me as I tell him about my fake life as Louise and he’s paying attention to my every word. It’s surprising how easily the lies fall from my mouth once I’ve got going and I’m almost regretting not telling the truth as there’s definitely chemistry between us. Mind you, I doubt I will see him ever again after tonight so I guess it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like I think from one drunken conversation that Johnny could potentially become my boyfriend. This is just Friday night flirting, plain and simple.
‘Another drink?’ Johnny asks, noticing my empty glass.
I’m tempted, really tempted, but a tiny, sensible voice somewhere deep in the back of my head is shouting through the drunken fog, ‘It’s late. Go home. You have drunk enough tonight. Leave now before you end up even more drunk and you fall flat on your face.’ The voice is right; that really is something that would happen to me.
‘That’s very kind,’ I say, ‘but it’s getting late and I think I’d better be going home. Do you have some friends you need me to help you find?’ For the first time since Johnny joined me it’s occurred to me that he’s alone.
He glances round the bar. ‘I think they must have moved on. Don’t worry, I’ll text them.’
‘Okay.’ I pick my bag up from the table and get to my feet a little unsteadily. Shit. How much did I drink tonight?
‘I’ll walk you to a taxi.’ Johnny smiles. ‘Just to make sure you’re safe.’
Hmm, chivalry? That’s quite rare these days...
We slalom through the throngs of revellers still intent on partying long into the night and finally reach the door. As we step out onto the street I feel the rush of fresh air hit me like a sandbag and I wobble.
‘Hey, are you alright?’ Johnny grabs my elbow and stands me back upright.
‘I’m fine, thanks.’ I nod, although I don’t quite feel fine.
As a taxi pulls up Johnny helps me into the car and then walks round to the other side and climbs in himself.
‘I think you need a cup of coffee or some water, maybe both.’ He smiles warmly at me. ‘I only live two minutes away. I’ll take you back to mine.’
Oh, how convenient. Actually a glass of water does sound nice.
He tells the driver the address. As we pull away from the kerb, I suddenly start to panic. I don’t know Johnny that well, or at all really. What if Jenny is right? He could be an axe murderer after all and I’m heading straight into his lair. I promised Lola and Jenny that I wouldn’t leave the bar with him. God, I am such an irresponsible idiot. I will probably be subjected to a painful and torturous death and then buried in a shallow grave, left for some dog walker to find, and what for? All for the ego boost of having some hot guy flirt with me? Damn the stupid, poisonous tequila for numbing my sensibilities. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m very rarely sensible. I have dysfunctional written all over me and this is the culmination of my hideous life: a hideous ending.
‘Don’t worry.’ His caramel tones draw me out of my troubled thoughts.
‘What?’ I glance at him nervously.
‘I’m not a psycho or anything. I’ll get you some water and a quick coffee so I can make sure you’re okay and then I’ll get you a taxi home.’ He smiles kindly and his dimples reappear.
He doesn’t seem like an axe murderer. Having said that I doubt many of them walk around wearing a printed t-shirt which announces their intention to maim and kill. He seems genuine enough, though, and I still feel like I’ve got some of my wits about me…which is a good job, as the car seems to be slowing down and, yep, Johnny’s unclipping his seatbelt and climbing out. He walks around to my side of the car as I fiddle aimlessly with my own seat belt. Finally it releases me. The door opens and he leans in and gently helps me out.
‘How are you feeling?’ He makes sure I’m upright and standing.
‘Actually I feel fine.’ And I do. Well, maybe a little drunk and merry but definitely better than I have felt for the last three weeks.
‘It’s just in here.’ Johnny takes my arm and gently steers me towards a smart block of flats which form an enormously tall building in the shape of a large tube with a distinctive cone on top like a party hat. As he buzzes us into the entranceway I notice that everything is clean and shiny and it still has the distinct ‘new smell’ about it.
‘Have you lived here long?’ I mutter, taking in the modern art hanging on the walls and the security cameras following our every move.
‘No, just moved in a few weeks ago. They’re new, just finished.’
‘Very nice.’ I continue to glance around as we enter the lift.
He presses the button for the top floor and the lift sets off. The unexpected movement disturbs my whole ‘I’m not that drunk’ notion and I cling to the side for support. It feels like being on the big dipper at the seaside and a slight feeling of nausea creeps in.
Must not be sick. Must not be sick.
We slow to a stop and the doors ping open, revealing yet another clean, shiny corridor. Johnny escorts me out and, with his arm placed at the bottom of my back, he guides me to flat 312.
As we step inside he flicks a switch and soft, warm spotlights light the hallway like an airport runway.
‘Go straight down to the kitchen.’ He points to a door at the bottom of the hallway and I shuffle carefully towards it.
Physiotherapy must pay pretty well, I muse. This place must cost a fortune. The kitchen looks like something out of a magazine for the rich and famous. White surfaces gleam under more spotlights and every gadget going lines the worktops, but besides that it’s very minimalist and clinical. Ooh. I spot an expensive coffee-making machine, one of those where you can make every single drink by just placing a little foil pod into the top of the machine. I wander over to it and start randomly pressing buttons. I’ve always wanted one of these. I think it would actually be a good investment considering the amount of time and money Sophie and I spend drinking cappuccinos.
‘Would you like a demonstration?’ Johnny’s voice behind me makes me jump and I turn around guiltily, like a child caught with her hand in the sweet jar.
‘I’m just jealous,’ I blurt out. ‘I’ve always wanted one.’
‘Maybe a coffee would do you some good right now.’ He smiles and walks over to the sink, takes out a glass from the cupboard above and fills it with water. ‘But drink this first.’
I take the glass and sip at the water. See, I tell my conscience, which is still prodding me nervously, he’s a gentleman and he’s being considerate and has shown me nothing but good manners and kindness. And he’s good to talk to. He actually listens, which makes a change. And let’s face it, he’s pretty hot too.
I watch as Johnny grabs two little foil pods and two mugs and starts pressing buttons on the machine. He clearly presses the ‘on’ switch first – I missed that one. With a few short whizzes and puffs, two coffees appear and he hands me a mug. I drink the last of the water and place the glass in the sink, clinging on to the steaming hot mug with my other hand.
‘Come with me.’ He smiles. ‘I want to show you something.’
I’m intrigued and a little buzz of adrenaline shoots up my spine as I follow him out of the kitchen and into another room. The lounge is also minimalist with two large cream leather sofas and an obscure creation in the centre of the room which I presume must be a coffee table, although it looks more like a spaceship landing pad.
‘Look over here.’
Johnny is standing in front of large glass doors which I hadn’t noticed at first, but now I see they frame a view of the whole city. Twinkling lights and illuminations create the most amazing scenery.
‘Wow,’ I gasp, standing open-mouthed, staring out at the night skyline. It looks like something from a movie. ‘I didn’t realise this view could exist in real life and look so magical. You must be able to see for miles.’
‘Not many people get to see it from this viewpoint. And it is beautiful.’
I realise that he’s standing very close to me now as we both gaze out at a mixture of stars and lights. I don’t know if it’s the water, the coffee or my adrenaline but I’m suddenly feeling a lot sharper and focussed. As I turn to look at Johnny he’s already looking at me, and times stops for one tiny instance and we just stand there, caught in a moment. Then, in a second, his lips are on mine; warm and soft, yet demanding. The sensible part of my brain kicks me hard and I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but what the hell. It feels good. It feels good to be touched, to be found attractive, for somebody to want me. I kiss him back, feeling the palm of his hand tracing down my spine to the curve in my lower back, which kicks off all sorts of sensations shooting around my body. His hand reaches down to the hem of my dress and pulls it up as he strokes the back of my thigh, and I have to visualise biting my lip to stop myself from screaming out in pleasure.
In a split second of clarity I realise that Chris hadn’t made me feel this way for a long time. In fact, it’s now glaringly clear that he hadn’t touched me this way in a long time. I think that says it all. I should have seen the end of our relationship coming with flashing lights and howling sirens.
As Johnny kisses my neck I can smell his scent, a mixture of the crisp aftershave and a faint hint of soap, and I breathe it in as if my life depends on it.
This is going too fast, way too fast. My conscience screams at me, but I mentally swat it down like a fly and I close my eyes, enjoying the feel of his lips on my skin, enjoying the way my body is responding to him. I feel him gently bite at my earlobe, causing my lower abdomen to do a complete somersault and the room starts to wobble again.
‘I want you Louise’ he whispers seductively in my ear and I reach my hands up the back of his neck into his thick wavy hair feeling excitement tingling down my spine, knowing I want him too. Before I can say anything Johnny’s scooped me up in his arms. Wrapping my legs tightly around his body to hold on I can literally feel the heat between us as he carries me through to the bedroom.
I know I’ve only just met him but I’m caught up in the moment, swept along by lust. As we reach the bed Johnny lays me down gently and starts to quickly remove my clothes with expert hands.
‘Do you have some protection?’ I murmur as his mouth finds mine again.
‘Of course’ he sits up leaning over to the bedside table and pulls a box of condoms from the draw. ‘See’ he waves a red foil packet at me.
I lay back feeling the comfort of the soft bed beneath me as Johnny removes his jeans and shirt. Closing my eyes I gasp at the feel of his tongue as it traces my inner thigh gently nudging my legs further open. I hear the tear of the foil condom wrapper and I know this is my last chance to stop this before there’s no going back.
But I don’t want to stop.
I open my eyes as Johnny leans over me and the pull of his blue eyes and dimples is too strong and I reach up tugging his body down towards mine. I can feel him hard against me and I wriggle to adjust myself underneath him. As I feel him push inside me my body succumbs to him and I know right then and there that I’m in serious trouble.
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