Craving the Forbidden(3)

By: India Grey


And in that second she was eight years old again, holding her mother’s hand and aware that people were staring at them, judging them. The old humiliation flared inside her as she heard her mother’s voice inside her head, strident with indignation. Just ignore them, Summer. We have as much right to be here as anyone else …

‘Sophie?’

‘Yes,’ she said, suddenly subdued. ‘Sorry, Jean-Claude. I can’t talk about this now. I’m on the train and the signal isn’t very good.’

‘D’accord. I call you later.’

‘No! You can’t call me at all this weekend. I-I’m … working, and you know I can’t take my phone on set. Look, I’ll call you when I get back to London on Monday. We can talk properly then.’

That was a stupid thing to say, she thought wearily as she turned her phone off. There was nothing to talk about. What she and Jean-Claude had shared had been fun, that was all. Fun. A romantic adventure in wintry Paris. Now it had reached its natural conclusion and it was time to move on.

Again.

Shoving her phone back into her pocket, she turned towards the window. Outside it was snowing again and, passing through some anonymous town, Sophie could see the flakes swirling fatly in the streetlamps and obliterating the footprints on the pavements, and rows of neat houses, their curtains shut against the winter evening. She imagined the people behind them; families slumped together in front of the TV, arguing cosily over the remote control, couples cuddled up on the sofa sharing a Friday evening bottle of wine, united against the cold world outside.

A blanket of depression settled on her at these mental images of comfortable domesticity. It was a bit of a sore point at the moment. Returning from Paris she’d discovered that, in her absence, her flatmate’s boyfriend had moved in and the flat had been turned into the headquarters of the Blissful Couples Society. The atmosphere of companionable sluttish-ness in which she and Jess had existed, cluttering up the place with make-up and laundry and trashy magazines, had vanished. The flat was immaculate, and there were new cushions on the sofa and candles on the kitchen table.

Jasper’s SOS phone call, summoning her up to his family home in Northumberland to play the part of his girlfriend for the weekend, had come as a huge relief. But this was the way it was going to be, she thought sadly as the town was left behind and the train plunged onwards into darkness again. Everyone pairing up, until she was the only single person left, the only one who actively didn’t want a relationship or commitment. Even Jasper was showing worrying signs of swapping late nights and dancing for cosy evenings in as things got serious with Sergio.

But why have serious when you could have fun?

Getting abruptly to her feet, she picked up her bag and hoisted it onto the luggage rack above her head. It wasn’t easy, and she was aware as she pushed and shoved that not only was the hateful dress riding up, but her coat had also fallen open, no doubt giving the man in the seat opposite an eyeful of straining black corset and an indecent amount of thigh. Prickling all over with embarrassment, she glanced at his reflection in the window.

He wasn’t looking at her at all. His head was tipped back against the seat, his face completely blank and remote as he focused on the newspaper. Somehow his indifference felt even more hurtful than his disapproving scrutiny earlier. Pulling her coat closed, she sat down again, but as she did so her knee grazed his thigh beneath the table.

She froze, and a shower of glowing sparks shimmered through her.

‘Sorry,’ she muttered, yanking her legs away from his and tucking them underneath her on the seat.

Slowly the newspaper was lowered, and she found herself looking at him directly for the first time. The impact of meeting his eyes in glassy reflection had been powerful enough, but looking directly into them was like touching a live wire. They weren’t brown, as she’d thought, but the grey of cold Northern seas, heavy-lidded, fringed with thick, dark lashes, compelling enough to distract her for a moment from the rest of his face.

Until he smiled.

A faint ghost of a smile that utterly failed to melt the ice in his eyes, but did draw her attention down to his mouth …

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