Authors: Lisa Swallow
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College, #Romantic Comedy, #Contemporary Fiction, #British, #Inspirational
By Lisa Swallow
Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Swallow. All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: January 2014
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
For Nick, for listening to me talk about my imaginary people, even at 1
Table of Contents
I wrap my arms around Evan’s naked chest and burrow my face into the ridges of his muscles. He smells of coconut sunscreen and seawater, and his skin is cool as the evening breeze takes away the day’s warmth. In response, Evan trails his fingers across my shoulders and hooks a thumb beneath the strap of my bikini top.
“You’re getting quite a tan,” he says, indicating the white line, and then placing his lips gently on my shoulder.
I shiver despite the warmth of the evening and the igniting heat of his kiss. The fabric isn’t much of a barrier between my skin and his. Being semi-naked around each other all the time should be natural by now, after two months in a hot European summer, but the flare-ups from our bodies meeting never changes.
Shifting around on the white sand, I lie back against Evan as he rests against the cooler we've dug into the sand. The picnic finished, we settle to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean for the last time, drinking local wine from plastic cups. The calm water lapping the shore nearby is the only sound around us. Peace and serenity – like so much of our life recently.
“I wish we could stay forever,” whispers Evan, “just me and you.”
I rub my head against his shoulder. “Real life has to catch up.”
All this time, living and breathing each other, time passed so quickly. Evan’s laid-back nature tempered my occasionally uptight reactions, and we met in the middle. We’ve learned to talk about the past and the future. A safe place to explore who we are underneath, without any intrusion from the real world. Over the last couple of days, a nagging fear about what happens when we return to our old lives has crept in. And I’ve pushed the doubt away, refusing to spoil
Ness and Evan.
“I’m going to miss this,” he says, stroking my arm with his fingertips.
I wriggle against the ticklish feeling. “This?”
“You. Practically naked half the time. I don’t have to
fantasize about you with no clothes on when we’re here.” Evan’s hands shift to my waist and he pulls me closer. I take his arms and wrap them around me, running my hands along his toned arms before turning my head and kissing the curve of muscle on his bicep.
“I think I’d get some odd looks walking around Leeds in a bikini.”
Evan nudges his nose into the hollow of my neck. “Don’t talk about Leeds.”
Pulling away, I turn around and climb onto his lap, straddling him. I smooth Evan’s brown fringe from his eyes. His hair has grown and touches his ears again, softening his features – or maybe that’s from the freedom of the last few weeks. Evan tans easily, and I can't help finding the golden tint to his taut muscles even sexier.
Evan’s brown eyes shine as he gives me the smile that irritated me so much when we first knew each other. It irritated me because that smile was part of what made him difficult to resist – and the Evan I met at the beginning needed to be resisted.
“Don’t try that with me,” I say, pulling a stern face.
“That ‘come to bed’ smile you use on all the girls.”
Evan’s too-sexy smile becomes a grin. “Only on you. And I’m not trying to get you into bed.”
“No.” He reaches behind me and pulls on the string of my bikini.
I grab his hand. “Evan!”
“Come on, it’s getting dark. There’s no one around.” Evan lowers his voice and moves his face closer, placing the softest of kisses on my lips and leaving the suggestion of what could follow when he pulls away again.
The evening darkens rapidly as the sun sets behind the horizon. We’ve come here every day this week, walking along the beach in the evenings, and rarely see anyone else. Evan nips my shoulder, and then kisses my collarbone, following up with a trail of kisses to the top of my breasts. Without saying anything else, Evan pushes the flimsy material out of the way and cups my breast with his hand. Circling my nipple with his thumb, he gazes up at me, an eyebrow raised in challenge.
Heat floods to my face, and a gasp I try to stop escapes my mouth. Apparently, this is all Evan needs, because he places both hands on my waist and pulls me towards him, replacing his thumb with his mouth. I grasp Evan’s hair and hold his face against me; the intensity of his mouth fills my body with desire and pushes logic from my mind.
Digging his hands into my backside, Evan pulls his face away. “I want you here. Now. I want to hold this moment in my mind for the days I’m not with you. That way, you’re with me forever and always.”
Evan’s eyes are dark; the smile is replaced by a look telling me everything I need to know. Telling me exactly what he’s going to do, whether we’re on the beach or not. In response, I slowly lick my bottom lip, enjoying the groan it elicits from him. Evan twirls his hand into my hair and tugs me closer, sliding his tongue into my mouth with an urgency that knocks the breath from me and fills my stomach with quivering butterflies. How can I refuse?
I didn’t think starting med school would lead to nausea and heart palpitations. My first diagnosis: I’m nervous as hell. The lecture theatre is huge and crammed full, apart from half a row of seats at the back.
There are several-hundred bodies in here and I don’t know anyone. I glance quickly from person to person, trying to find someone who doesn’t look part of a group. Did I miss the opportunity to fit in by not getting back from Europe in time for the socials? When I walked in, apart from a few curious looks, nobody said hello. Everyone else who comes into the theatre is greeted with a wave and smile from at least one person. There are some faces in the crowd I recognize, but nobody registers me.
I find a row with vacant seats near the back of the lecture theatre and choose the spot closest to the edge and the door, maintaining as much personal space as possible. Sitting, I take a deep breath and release the air, calming myself. Shifting my focus from the crowds to my messenger bag, I take twice as long as I normally would to find a pen and paper so I don’t have to acknowledge anyone.
Ironic how the confident, smartest-girl-at-school side of me is easily swallowed by a change in environment. I’m no more relaxed here than in my old job at the call centre.
A middle-aged man quiets the crowd as he switches on the mic then launches into a PowerPoint presentation, introducing us to our next five years of med school. Five years. And then, I’ll have more years on top of that if I want to be a psychiatrist. Lucy edges into my mind, followed by images of a broken Evan from last year and I blink. This is the reality behind why I’m here.
The door at the back of the lecture theatre creaks slowly open and closed, and I’m aware of someone hovering next to me.
“Can you shift over a seat?” hisses a male voice.
Without looking, I tut and move along.
“Two seats. There’s two of us.”
I sigh deliberately and shift again, still not looking at him.
“You were the one sitting on the edge. There’s six seats between you and the next person!” he says.
“Yeah, well there was no one here.” I turn my head and meet the pale blue eyes of the guy who now sits next to me.
His dark blonde hair is short, spiked into the middle like so many guys these days. We study each other, the first-impression-appraisal, and I can’t tell what his impression is of me. Noncommittal, I guess, because he glances away as quickly.
The door creaks again and another student walks through. He’s a little older than most of the students here – I’m guessing he’s had a year or two out before uni because he looks older than the fresh out of high school med students around me. Dark brown hair falls across his face, some pushed behind his ears. If I’d arrived late at a lecture I’d slink in like the blonde guy did, but he doesn’t seem to care; evidently, he’s one of those people with natural confidence that some of us would love to have.
The guy next to me waves and the newcomer takes up the vacant space next to him. I settle into my seat and focus on the welcome speech of the department head at the lectern.
“Have you got a pen?”
I narrow my eyes and turn. “A pen?” How can anyone come to their first day without a pen?
“For him.” He indicates the brown-haired latecomer who gives me an apologetic grin.
I lean down to retrieve a pen from the front of my bag. The pen I offer is one of my cheapest, because I don’t know if I’ll get it back.
A dizzying morning of lectures, introductory seminars, and paperwork later, I hide in the corner of the bustling med school cafeteria, wishing Evan was with me. Or that we were back in Europe. I drift away to memories of the sun, sea, sand, and sex. For two months, we spent every day and night together. The intensity of living completely enmeshed lives caught up with us halfway through the trip, but we worked through. Evan’s laid-back nature met my uptight attitude somewhere in the middle, and cancelled out the tension. And there’s nothing like mind-blowing sex to get over whatever frustrations we have with each other.
I blink out of my daydream. The dark-haired one of the two guys proffers the pen and I take it.
“Thanks. It’s just a pen; you could’ve kept it.”
The first meeting appraisal takes place again as we sweep our gazes over each other. I wish everyone had name badges because if he introduces himself, I swear I’ll forget in two seconds. He's wearing a Nirvana T-shirt, with a blue and white checked flannel shirt over, and scruffy jeans. Bit of a grunge cliché. I glance at his Converse trainers. Yep.
“Mind if I…?” He indicates the vacant chair opposite me, and I nod.
The guy sits and cranes his neck. I follow his line of vision, and his blonde friend crosses the cafeteria with two drinks. He takes a seat in the third chair at the table, greeting me with a hello.
The patterned metal table is sticky with coffee rings from past occupants, and I place my cup in the centre of one to cover the mess. I don’t feel like talking right now. Pulling my phone from my bag, I reply to a text from Evan, and then set the phone on the table, focusing on a different spot in the room. I’m out of place. So many people seem to know each other.
Am I having doubts about this new path already?
“I’m Jared.” The blonde guy holds his hand out.
Unused to guys doing this, I blankly shake his hand. “Ness.”
His friend smiles. “Like the monster.”
God, that gets old sometimes. “Vanessa,” I say, shooting him a look.
“Ollie,” he replies, but doesn’t offer his hand.
“Oliver.” He uses the same tone as I did on him, accentuating the syllables. I decide I prefer his friend.
“My head hurts,” moans Jared, rubbing his temples, “and it’s only day one.”
“That’s probably more the amount you drank last night,” retorts Ollie.
Jared shrugs and gulps his coffee. “Possibly. Or the amount of sleep.” He pulls out a ragged timetable of classes.
How can his timetable be such a screwed up mess when we’ve only had our paperwork for half a day?
He smoothes the paper on the table, soaking it in coffee as he does. “Six? We finish at six? We’ve been here since nine!”
I consider whether Jared knows he’s signed up for five years of this, and from the look on Ollie’s face, I can tell he thinks the same.
“Don’t worry, buddy. We won’t eat into your drinking time too much,” says Ollie.
“Some of us aren’t used to this!”
“Most, I think,” I say. “I worked last year, so I’m a bit more used to early mornings.”
“Yeah. It’s a bit of a shock to the system after school. Ollie went travelling, so he’s okay. Although it’s made him a bit annoying, thinks he’s a man of the world now,” teases Jared.
I'm thankful we have something in common to talk about. “Travelling? I was away over the summer. In Europe.”
Ollie flicks his fingers at me. “I can tell. You’re tanned, which isn’t good for you, you know.”
I rub my bare arm. “Thanks for the tip,” I say, layering on the sarcasm.
“Summer? Ollie disappeared for two years. And came back just in time to start med school with me.” Jared grins.
I hope Ollie doesn’t tell us stories about all the life changing experiences he’s had. A taste of freedom in Europe whetted my appetite for seeing more of the world, but I’d made my choice.
“Someone has to keep an eye on you, cuz,” says Ollie.
“Oh, you’re related. I thought you were friends.”
“Friends? Did you think we were lovers?” asks Ollie with one eyebrow raised.
What a weird thing to say. “No, and would it matter if I did?”
We regard each other for a few moments. Ollie is one of those people I can’t figure out straightaway. His calm persona isn’t arrogant, but guarded. The ‘big brother’ act to his cousin ages him.
“I haven’t seen you at any of the socials?” asks Jared.
“No, I only got back to Leeds a couple of days ago. And it’s been hectic finding somewhere to live.”
“Oh? Not in Halls?” he asks.
I wrinkle my nose. “No, I prefer my independence. I’d rather live with people I know.”
Although I’m not living with Evan – I drew the line there – I don’t want our relationship suffocating me. He’s sharing with Matt, and I’m with Abby again. And hoping I don’t regret sharing with her this time.
“I’m in Halls. Ollie shares.”
“I don’t think Vanessa wants a blow-by-blow account of our domestic situation.”
I frown at him calling me Vanessa.
Ollie pushes his seat back, stands, and grabs his bag. “You can tag along with us if you want.”
Hesitating, I consider if I want to be friends with them. But they took the time to talk to me, which is more than anyone else has done. I guess I need to start making new friends soon. This is a start.
I sit on a low wall across the road from the med school, waiting for Ness. The building is on the edge of campus, an imposing grey structure spanning the road and connected to the hospital. The same concrete and glass style as much of the campus, but somehow, the medical school feels separate to the rest of the university.
My classes don’t start for a couple of weeks, but I decided to come to Leeds with Ness. I don’t want to be dragged back into Lucy dramas in Lancaster, and I’m not used to life without Ness yet, so coming here made sense.
So far I’ve resisted too much partying with Matt, but the days are long and boring. I’m using the spare time to find a job, fed up with living hand-to-mouth and eating pasta every night.
Ness appears through the sliding doors and she’s with two guys. I straighten and check them out, watching to see if they’re checking her out. One of them isn’t much taller than Ness, blonde and joking around. The other guy is as tall as me, but his hair is longer. He’s not paying much attention to either Ness or the blonde guy, watching the others around him instead.
Stupid jealousy. But why couldn’t she make friends with girls instead?
Ness spots me, waves, and the trio head over. As they approach, I stand and embrace Ness tightly. I’ve missed her, which is worryingly strange. I’ve only been apart from her for a day. Ness runs soft fingers along my arm and turns to her new friends.
“This is Ollie and Jared. This is Evan.”
Jared grins. “Hey, Evan.”
I glance at the second guy who looks from me to Ness. His gaze lingers on her a little too long for my liking, and I wrap an arm around Ness’s shoulders.
He smiles. “I’d hang onto her too.”
I don’t like him. And I give him a look which should make this evident.
“You guys want to come for a drink with us?” asks Jared.
Ness looks to me and I shake my head. She looks back to Jared. “I think I’ll give it a miss.”
Ollie digs his hands into his jeans pockets. “I didn’t think you’d be the sort to have someone make your decisions for you.” He looks to me again.
I definitely don’t like him. Ness doesn’t reply and I groan inwardly. Ness doesn’t like people running her life.
“No, it’s because I’m tired.” Ness’s voice holds a hint of irritation, which pleases me, because this suggests she doesn’t like this Ollie guy either.
“Fair enough. See you tomorrow.” Jared shoves Ollie. “Let’s go.”
“See you later, Vanessa. Evan.”
The two guys walk towards the campus, and I watch them before turning back to Ness.
“Vanessa?” I ask her.
“He made the monster joke.”
I grin at the memory of using the same joke last year and she fights down a smile.
I slide my hands up Ness's back and pull her into me. “I missed you. Seems strange not having you around.”
Ness rubs her nose against mine kissing me softly. I fight the desire to hold Ness’s head, delve my tongue into her mouth, and kiss her properly and hard to show Ness how much I missed her.
“Things will be a bit different now,” she says, as she pulls away and plants a kiss between my eyebrows.
That’s what I’m scared of.