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If only, p.12

If Only..., page 12


If Only...

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  “Evie!” shouts Cole. “Kick your legs!”

  I kick, but it isn’t until I see the others standing on the edge of the water that I start to panic. Why are they all jumping up and down? How did they get out of the water so fast?

  “EVIE!” shouts Steve. “Lie on your back and kick your fucking legs. If you get stuck in that washer, you won’t be getting out!”

  What the fuck is a washer? Won’t be getting out? I twist around until I’m on my back, but with my life jacket on, it takes longer than normal. Panic slithers through my veins like I’m slithering through the water, and then I think of Lucca. And Fabio. And I kick like there’s no tomorrow. I kick until I can’t feel my legs anymore and the trees start to appear above me. I kick until a pair of hands grab at my life jacket and yank me out of the water.

  “Jesus fucking Christ!” Gerard yells, huffing as he hauls me up the muddy bank. “We thought you were a goner.”

  “What happened?” I ask, coughing.

  Steve’s face suddenly appears in my vision and he’s frowning. “You got thrown out of that raft like a little rag doll. I’ve never seen someone go so high in the air.”

  I have an uncontrollable urge to punch this guy. “I’m glad I amuse you,” I splutter.

  He laughs and slaps at my thighs that are tingling like mad. “Good to see you’ve got some strength in those legs. I was convinced you were going in the washer.”

  I see Cole’s concerned eyes just before he turns away from me.

  “You don’t get out of there unless you’re immediately rescued, and we wouldn’t jump in to save you because it’d be suicide,” Steve says seriously. “People have died in that.”

  I think I’m going to be sick.

  After we’ve dragged the raft along the side of a muddy, cow-filled field, Steve directs us back to the river. It’s the calmest and widest bit of it I’ve seen, and it looks more like a lake. I inwardly sigh in relief.

  “Turn the raft over, boys,” he says.

  They all heave the raft up in the air and then flip it over.

  “Put it in the water,” he tells them, “and push it to the middle, then tie it to that buoy you can see.”

  Once the raft is in place, he tells them to all come back and stand on the bank of the river. “After my whistle,” he says, “you dive in and swim to the raft. Last one there is out immediately. Then you all climb on and wait for me to blow my whistle again. Once you hear the whistle, the last man standing wins.”

  “What do we win?” one of the guys asks.

  “A crate of beer,” Steve says.

  “What if I win?” I ask.

  Steve laughs.

  They all laugh.


  Steve blows his whistle and I dive smoothly into the water and swim as fast as I can to the raft. Thankfully, I’m not the last. The guy who asked what we’d get if we won was.

  “Climb on,” calls Steve.

  I don’t have much upper body strength and I’m absolutely shattered from my near-death experience, so I already know I’m going to struggle with this bit. I hook my hands over the rope and try to pull myself up like you do when you’re trying to get out of a pool, but it’s no use. I drop back down in exhaustion. Next, I throw my ankle over the top, but it’s too slippery.

  “Here,” says Cole, offering me his hand. “I’ll pull you up.”

  I huff but slide my hand in his, ignoring the tingling where our palms connect.

  It seems I’m the last one to stand, and almost immediately Cole’s hand disappears from my grip. But then I feel him right up against me. “Getting you wet was my favourite thing to do,” he breathes into my ear.

  Before I can say or do anything, Steve blows his whistle. Cole’s hands quickly slide around my hips and up to the middle of my back, and then he gently pushes me right back to the edge of the raft.

  “I’m going to drop you in slowly,” he tells me, “so none of the others shove you too hard.”

  Then he gently nudges me, and I plop off the side of the raft and into the cold water like a dollop of yoghurt falls off a spoon.


  Apparently, today is the day that I turn into a man. The law says I no longer require a legal guardian and I’m officially old enough to do whatever I want. Luckily for me, Joan and Simon have said that I can carry on living with them for a while, although they want two hundred pounds a month for board and lodgings. It’s not exactly breaking the bank, but it’s two hundred pounds a month that I don’t currently have. They say it’s a way for me to get used to paying bills and having responsibilities. I guess it could have been worse—they could have kicked me out.

  I stare at the four birthday cards that sit on top of the mantelpiece and wonder why Evie’s mum is bothering to throw me a party. My mates from college are only bothered about getting smashed at their big house, and Nico isn’t even here. I’d much rather spend my birthday with Evie. Just the two of us.

  Speaking of . . . I hear a knock on the door and I know it’s her because of her little tap-tap. She always knocks twice.

  “Happy birthday!” she squeals, throwing her hands around my neck before I even have chance to open the door properly. “I love you.”

  I stumble back, bringing her into the house with me. “I love you too,” I tell her.

  She pulls away and holds me at arm’s length. She looks sheepish, but I stand still and wait for her to tell me whatever it is that she’s done. “I have something to tell you,” she whispers.

  I stare at her twinkling green eyes and nod at her to continue.

  “I cancelled your party,” she says. “I know you didn’t really want it, so I’ve bought myself a brand new car, booked us a log cabin in Scotland and arranged it all with our families.”

  Wait. What? “You’ve bought yourself a new car?” I ask.

  She steps back and nods towards the outside. I pull the door open wider and see a sleek white BMW sitting at the kerb. “Wow,” I breathe. “That looks lovely.”

  “It drives lovely too,” she says, throwing the keys at me. “I put you on the insurance.”

  I smile at her and pick her up in my arms. “How is it that you still manage to surprise me after nearly two years together?”

  She laughs and kisses along my jaw. “I like to keep things interesting,” she says. “I’d be boring if I didn’t.”

  “You’ll never be boring,” I tell her, meaning every single word.

  “Now, how about that birthday blow job I’ve been promising you?”

  I let her slide down until her feet touch the floor, and then I push her through the hallway, kicking the door shut behind me. “Have I mentioned that I love you?” I say, guiding her up the stairs.

  She nods. “You might have.”

  “Have I mentioned that I want to marry you?”

  “You’ll say anything to get a blow job,” she replies without hesitation.

  I hook my fingers into the back pockets of her jeans, forcing her to stop halfway up the stairs. “I’m being serious,” I say.

  She spins around on the step, putting her arms out to steady herself. “You can’t be,” she says.

  “If you were eighteen, I’d marry you tomorrow.”

  She laughs. “Well, make sure you ask me again when I’m eighteen.”

  “I will,” I promise.

  “I’ll hold you to that.”


  “Are you sure I look okay?” I ask Lorna as the minibus we’re in pulls up at the wine bar.

  She turns and looks me up and down. “You look good enough to eat. Now come on.”

  I tug at the bottom of my little black dress. I’ve only ever worn it once, and I’d forgotten how short it is. It’s quite floaty though, so at least it doesn’t hug me like cling film. It has tiny thin straps over my shoulders and another strap that sort of sits like a band around the top of my arm, completely exposing the skin on my shoulders. It’s plain black, so I’ve added a bit of colour with my stilettoes that have
pink, orange and blue straps wrapping over my feet and a pink clutch bag.

  “Your hair looks awesome,” she says. “I think I’m going to ask for ombre next time I go the salon.”

  “What colours could you have?” I ask, looking at her white-blonde hair.

  She shrugs. “I’d have to dye the roots a darker colour.”

  “Aren’t roots what you’ve been trying to avoid for the last twelve years?”

  “You have a point.” She stands up in the seat and pulls her skirt down. The boys were complaining that we were taking too long to get ready, so they made their own way here and we think they’ve already been out about an hour. The other two girls didn’t want to stay over, so they’ve gone back home.

  She leans over and hands the driver some cash, and then she nods at me. “Let’s go and get shit-faced.”

  She pulls the sliding door across and I feel the cool late summer breeze as it whirls across my shins. We quickly trot across the cobblestones and step into the bar. It feels as if the music stops as every single man turns to stare at us.

  “Is it me,” Lorna whispers, “or do you feel like a cow at a cattle market?”

  I don’t answer her. I’m too busy scanning the eyes that are focused on us. I’m looking for the amber-coloured ones that have been with me in my dreams since I was fourteen.

  “He’s at the end of the bar,” Lorna says before walking towards the group of men that she sits with at work. I watch her toned, sky-high legs as she sashays their way.

  I take a deep breath and slowly let my eyes slide across the room. Cole is on his phone, but just as my gaze lands on him, he turns and looks to see why the rest of the guys have all turned around. He seems to stops mid-sentence when he notices me. His eyes move painstakingly slow from my head all the way down to my toes as he visibly undresses me. He snaps his gaze back up to my eyes and then resumes his conversation, turning his back to me.

  Well, that stung.

  I can still feel his hands on my back where they burned an imprint right before he pushed me into the water.

  Gerard is suddenly by my side, waving a glass of white wine in front of my face. “Smell this,” he says. “It’ll help you forget that you almost died today.”

  I laugh and grab it out of his hand, taking a massive swig while letting him guide me towards the bar.

  “And there’s plenty more where that came from.” He grins. “I’ve put a grand behind the bar.”

  I brush a piece of my hair off my face and roll my eyes at him. “You clearly get paid too much.”

  He waves his hand dismissively. “It’s a one-off. I just hope they know that they won’t be getting a Christmas party this year.”

  I laugh, then tip my glass back and let the rest of the crisp, cold white wine slip down my throat.

  Three and a half glasses of wine later, I turn around and shake my head at Stuart. “No, thank you, I don’t want another one.”

  I don’t know how I’ve managed to end up standing next to Stuart for the last hour, but I have, and he’s been trying to force more wine down me without much success.

  “I’m a bit fed up with the wine,” I tell him, pushing the glass away. I laugh because I feel like it, and it feels good to laugh for no reason whatsoever.

  “How about whiskey then?” he asks, pushing a glass towards me.

  I pick it up, sniff it and pull a face before putting it back into his hand. “I’m going to the toilet,” I tell him. “And when I come back, I still won’t want any more wine . . . or whiskey.”

  I giggle to myself as I push away from the bar and try to walk as normal as I can towards the other end of the room. I push open the door to the toilets that are completely black and glittery and stare at myself in the mirror. I’m at the level of drunkenness that I know I’m drunk. It’s strange because I know I’m probably saying some things that are stupid and laughing at stuff that’s not really funny, but I can’t stop myself from doing it. I don’t get drunk often enough, and I quite like myself when I’m a little bit drunk. I seem fun. I seem like the old me.

  When I walk back out, the number of us seems to have dwindled. I feel myself frowning as I look around for someone that I know. Then I start to panic when my eyes keep skipping over faces that I don’t recognise. I don’t have any money with me to get a taxi because I gave my bag to Gerard.

  “They’ve gone to the club across the road.”

  I spin around on my heels and find Cole casually leaning against the wall of the darkened corridor. His legs are crossed and he’s absentmindedly playing with his phone.

  My god, he’s fucking delicious. I used to worry that he would look at a prettier girl and realise that he could do so much better than me. And now I remember why.

  I take a deep breath and step towards him. “Why didn’t you go with them?”

  He locks his phone, shoves it into his pocket and looks down at me. “I knew you weren’t with them. Thought it best I wait for you. Wouldn’t want you getting mugged on your way back to the hotel, would we?”

  I narrow my eyes at him. “How much have you had to drink?”

  “Too much. Why?”

  “Your face looks funny,” I say.

  I notice his mouth twitching. “I think that says more about your alcohol consumption than mine.”

  “So are we going to the club?” As I stand and look at him, I feel myself swaying.

  “How did your date with Clive go?”

  It was awful. Clive argued with me and now he’s acting like he hates me. “It’s none of your business,” I say quickly.

  “And what about your night of passion with Aiden? Did he press your buttons? Did he light up your world?”

  It hasn’t happened, it probably won’t happen and he won’t ever light up my world. Not like you did. “Again,” I say with a huff. “None of your business.”

  “Two men in one week,” he says, shaking his head while tutting at me. “If you ask me, you sound like a bit of a slut.”

  “I wasn’t asking you,” I tell him. “Now just fuck off.”

  Cole pushes off the wall and stalks towards me. I back up, feeling a little intimidated by his angry glare. My head bangs against the wall behind me and then he rests his hands on either side of my head. “Don’t think for one second that this isn’t hard for me,” he says.

  I blink at him, confused by his change of tone. “What’s hard for you?”

  “This,” he snaps. “Us.”

  “There is no us.”

  “Exactly.” He lets his head drop so that our foreheads are touching. His eyes are level with mine and his mouth is centimetres away from my lips. “You can’t possibly know what seeing you again has done to me—what I wouldn’t give for one more night with you.”

  I don’t know what to say to him. There’s nothing to say, but at the same time, there’s a whole library’s worth of words that still need to be spoken. I used to dream about him saying things like that to me. I’d cry for him. I’d stare at his picture and read all the cards and letters he’d ever written me, over and over again. I grieved for him like he’d died. I cried harder over losing him than I did over the death of my twin brother.

  I slowly lift my hand and gently touch his cheek. He breathes out heavily, sending a waft of whiskey over my face, and closes his eyes.

  “There you are,” says Gerard as he stumbles around the corner.

  We jump apart quickly.

  “I knew Evie didn’t go with you all so I waited for her,” Cole tells Gerard.

  “Good thinking, mate.”


  Gerard holds out his arm for me to link. “Come on, you two. There’s a whole stage for you to be dancing on.”

  As soon as we get in the club, I take a shot that’s offered to me and down it in one go. I notice Cole doing the same. I take a second and neck that one too.

  Within ten minutes, my blood is pounding through my veins and my legs are shaking with the urge to dance. “Dance with me!” I say to Gerard.
  “No,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m too old. I’ll pull my hip or something.”

  I groan and try to grab his hand.

  “Cole will dance, won’t you, Cole?” he says, pushing Cole towards me.

  Cole grins and takes my hand without saying anything. He pulls me all the way to the middle of the dance floor and starts to sway his hips to the slow beat of the music. It’s sweaty and hot, and I feel like I’m fizzling like a firework. I tip my head back and let my pelvis swivel to the beats of the song.

  Cole is a really good dancer. He’s slow and sensual when he needs to be, with the ability to dip and sway his hips in a way that’s so sexy I can see other women looking at him lustfully. When the next song comes on, it’s a little more upbeat and I shriek and throw both my arms into the air. I shimmy my hips and shake my head as the music pumps through the speakers and vibrates through my chest.

  At some point during the next song, I feel Cole’s hand on my hips. He’s behind me, breathing down my neck as his whole body moves with mine. He holds firm and steady until his hands start to roam up and down the side of me. I’m already out of breath from dancing so much, but his touch ignites a fire deep in the pit of my stomach and it completely blows all the remaining air out of my lungs.

  We don’t speak. We don’t kiss or do anything other than dance, but his hands roam all over me, causing goosebumps to explode onto my skin underneath the tips of his fingers. I don’t touch him and I don’t think he expects me to. We’re sweaty and panting just like the way we used to after we’d had sex, and it’s all I can think about as he grinds against me.

  “Oh, God, Cole,” I breathe. My eyes widen when I realise I just whispered those words out loud, but thankfully Cole doesn’t say anything.

  When he pushes my hands above my head and forces me to keep them there, I nearly explode. His fingers slowly trail a blazing line down my arms and then further south along my rib cage, cupping just the tiniest bit underneath my breasts without actually touching them. He carries on until he wraps his fingers around the tops of my thighs, causing his fingertips to brush very close to somewhere he shouldn’t, and pulls, forcing me to fold into him.

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