Chapter Nine

A shaft of sunlight filters through the gap in the blinds, warming my eyelids, stirring me from the deepest of sleeps. Blearily I open my eyes, expecting to see an embroidered Indian bedspread strewn with discarded clothes, clashing scarlet walls and piles of clutter. Instead I’m greeted with a vista of pristine white. An arctic landscape of clean sheets, bare walls and acres of empty carpet.

For a split second I wonder where on earth I am.

Then it comes back to me.

It’s the morning after and I’m in Nate’s bedroom. In Nate’s bed. With Nate.

As it registers, I shoot out my hand to the other side of the vast mattress. Only he’s not there. Momentarily I feel myself stiffen. Insecurities bubble up inside before I become aware of a faint whooshing sound. It’s coming from the en suite. Of course. Nate must be in the shower. Closing my eyes, I sink back under the duvet. Cocooned within the soft, warm depths, I stretch and curl back up like a question mark, relishing the fresh linen sheets, the huge, plump mattress, the softest feather pillows, the memory of last night . . . It’s like being in some super-expensive hotel.

OK, enough about the bed, Lucy. What about the sex?

A delicious shiver runs up my spine, sending little shockwaves all over my body. Like someone with a wonderful secret, I want to hug the memories to my chest and never let them go. To keep them tucked inside and think about them over and over, relishing them, reliving them, moment by delicious moment.

It was amazing, and yet completely natural, as if we’d never been apart. Everything just fitted together. Like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we simply slipped back into place. That’s what I remember the most, because the rest of my memories are hazy. Blurred by lust and alcohol, I vaguely recall coming back to the penthouse, kissing in the hallway, items of clothes being removed until suddenly we were both naked and tumbling into bed. The feeling of skin against skin, his mouth, fingers, thighs . . .

I blush at the memory, my stomach fluttering as sensations flood my body, my skin still tingling. A flashback of our limbs tangled together, followed by another, and another, and another, and—


Nate’s voice snaps me back and I open my eyes to see him standing at the foot of the bed, wearing just a towel. His muscular body is still dripping with droplets of water and I watch a trickle run between his pecs, over his six-pack, weaving its way down to his navel.

Even with a hangover, my body responds. It’s all I can do not to grab hold of him and drag him back under the covers with me. In fact, maybe I should.

Oh my God, what’s got into me? Since when did I turn into some sex-crazed nympho?

Since last night, pipes up a little voice. Sex with Nate was always amazing, and last night proved nothing has changed. I feel my groin ache at the memory. Right, OK, play it cool, Lucy, play it cool.

Easier said than done when you’re completely naked and in his bed.

‘How are you feeling?’ Padding over, he sits down on the side of the bed and gently brushes the hair out of my face, his face crinkling into a smile.

Horny. Happy. In love.

As the thought fires across my brain, I feel a stab of alarm. Whoa. Not so fast. This was just one night, remember? He could have cold feet. He could have changed his mind. He could be thinking this was one big mistake.

‘A little hung-over,’ I say, trying to sound casual, while my skin is tingling at the touch of his fingertips. ‘What about you?’

‘Pretty good.’ He nods, his eyes meeting mine. ‘Pretty damn good.’

There’s a pause and a look passes between us, and in that moment I know that everything he said last night still stands. Nothing’s changed. He feels the same. I feel a burst of euphoria that sends my defences crumbling.

‘Yeah, me too,’ I reply softly.

A grin flashes across his face. He looks pleased, and more than a little relieved. It’s then that I realise he was probably as nervous as I was, if not more. After all, last night he was the one baring his soul to me, confessing that he’d made the biggest mistake of his life losing me, asking me if I believe in soulmates.

My stomach gives a leap.

‘So, can I get you anything? Are you hungry?’

‘Mmm.’ I let out a little yawn. ‘What time is it?’


My whole body recoils as if I’ve just been dragged under a freezing-cold shower. ‘Six?’ I yelp in shock.

‘Actually, it’s nearly ten past,’ corrects Nate, obviously missing the trauma in my voice.

Me? Awake? At 6 a.m.? I’m usually unconscious until 8.30. Noon if it’s the weekends. I can’t remember the last time I was awake at six o’clock in the morning.

Actually, yes, I can. I was twenty-three and clubbing in Ibiza, the difference being I hadn’t yet gone to bed.

‘How about I fix you some fresh juice?’

‘Oh . . . um . . . yes, please. That sounds lovely.’ I smile. OK, so it’s a bit early for me – I stifle another yawn – but I’m awake now, and what better reason to stay awake than a semi-naked Nate.

‘OK, coming right up.’ Easing himself off the bed, he reaches for a pair of small wire-framed glasses on the bedside table and slips them on.

Gosh, he wears glasses now, I realise. I suddenly remember the empty contact-lens cases in the bathroom. So that explains it, I muse, trying to get used to this new, serious-looking Nate.

‘Trust me, it’s good freshly squeezed. I have a juicer.’ He smiles, bending down and giving me a kiss.

God, he’s still bloody cute, though, glasses or no glasses, I muse, feeling his soft mouth against mine.

‘I’ll get up and help you,’ I murmur, making to get out of bed, but he pushes me back gently.

‘Relax. I’ll get it.’ His mouth twitches with amusement. ‘I know how much you like staying in bed . . . I don’t think we ever got out of bed in Italy, did we?’ He throws me a look and I feel a rush of delight. So he hasn’t forgotten those lazy mornings we spent in Italy, lying spooned together for hours in my tiny single bed, listening to the world go by outside the window.

‘True, but I can make coffee,’ I suggest, and at the mention of coffee my taste buds ping awake. I love my morning coffee. It’s my sacred ritual. Nothing comes between me and my strong latte.

‘Sorry, I don’t have any coffee.’ He pulls an apologetic face.

‘Oh, right, of course.’ I nod, remembering he’s just moved in. He probably needs tons of stuff. ‘Well, no worries, I’ll just run out and get some from—’ I begin, but he cuts me off.

‘Actually, I don’t drink coffee.’

For a moment I just stare at him in disbelief, memories of us wandering around the backstreets of Venice and drinking endless espressos come flooding back. I think we lived on the stuff for the entire summer.

‘You don’t drink coffee?’ I finally manage hoarsely.

‘No, I gave it up,’ he says matter-of-factly. ‘Caffeine is really bad for you. You know it’s more addictive than nicotine?’

‘Um . . . no . . . really?’

‘Totally.’ He nods, his face serious. ‘You should give it up, Lucy. You’ll feel so much better for it.’

And with that he’s disappearing out of the bedroom, leaving me lying in bed. Nate’s bed. A blissful smile splits across my face. I still can’t quite believe it. That we’re here, together, after all this time. It’s amazing. Nothing’s changed between us, and yet . . .

As I think about the coffee, I feel a slight niggle. Not everything is the same about Nate. Rolling over on to my stomach, I bury my head in the pillow. I wonder what else has changed.

‘Are you certain you don’t want me to ask my driver to give you a ride downtown?’

Less than an hour later and Nate and I are riding down in the lift together, along with the same uniformed doorman I encountered yesterday. I feel a flash of embarrassment. It’s like the walk of shame, only in a lift. But if he recognises me, he doesn’t let on. Instead he stares discreetly at his highly polished shoes.

‘No, honestly I’m fine. I’ll catch the subway.’

‘Are you sure you’ll be OK?’ Nate looks at me, his face etched with concern. He’s swapped his glasses for contact lenses, and his pale blue eyes search mine.

‘Yes, I’m sure,’ I say, and can’t help laughing. ‘I’m going to go straight to the gallery, start work early. I’ve got masses to do. We’re having an exhibition on Friday.’

‘Am I invited?’

‘Of course.’ I smile. ‘If you want to come.’

‘Try stopping me.’ He smiles back, and wrapping his arm round my waist, he pulls me towards him. I feel a warm glow inside. I can’t remember feeling this happy. It’s like someone just dipped me in melted happiness.

The lift doors ping open, and as we walk out into the lobby, Nate’s arm stays firmly round my waist. As does the smile that’s plastered to my face. All the way through the revolving doors, and out on to the pavement, and the bright, early morning sunshine.

‘Wow, the city looks so beautiful,’ I exhale, feeling a wave of euphoria. Looking out across the park, I get a sudden urge to get up this early every morning. ‘From now on I’m going to get up at six every day,’ I declare firmly.

‘Really?’ Nate regards me with amusement. ‘Six a.m.?’

‘Yes, absolutely.’ I nod, trying to stifle a yawn.

‘So I guess this means you’ll be wanting an early night tonight?’

I turn to see Nate looking at me expectantly and feel a stab of dismay. He’s using this as an excuse. He obviously doesn’t want to see me tonight, I suddenly realise. Which of course is OK, I tell myself quickly. I mean, I’m with him right now and I was with him the whole of last night, so it’s fine if he doesn’t want to see me tonight as well. I’m not disappointed or anything.

‘Because you see, I was kind of hoping we could have dinner tonight.’ Unlooping his arm, he turns to me. ‘But I’m in the studio all day recording shows, so it might not be until fairly late.’

Like a kite caught on a blast of wind that sends it soaring upwards, I feel a rush of joy.

‘Well, maybe not every day,’ I say. ‘In fact, I was thinking of giving tomorrow a miss.’

‘Cool.’ He breaks into a grin. ‘I’ll see you tonight, then.’ And giving me a kiss, full on the mouth, he strides briskly across the pavement and disappears into the waiting black Lincoln town car.

I float downtown in a bubble of happiness, smiling at complete strangers, giving away my last ten dollars to a man spray-painted silver and dressed like the Statue of Liberty, and thinking about last night.

Snippets of our conversation provide the backing track as I glide through the turnstiles and into the subway station. I don’t hear the rumble of the train, the screeching of the brakes or the thud of the sliding doors as I climb on board. Everything fades away, like a movie with the sound turned down, and all I can hear is Nate’s voice. I made the biggest mistake of my life when I lost you and I’ve never stopped regretting it.

As the train rumbles downtown, I gaze into the darkness of the tunnel, my mind floating backwards. I’ve thought about you for years. Wondered where you are, what you’re doing, if I’d ever see you again.

Until finally I reach my stop and I get off and climb up the steps, into the cacophony of city noise. Sometimes I even used to imagine seeing you again, bumping into you in the street.

I walk through the busy streets, dodging traffic, pedestrians, pavement cafés, and now I’m here at the gallery and I’m pushing open the door. Do you believe in soulmates?


Suddenly the sound comes back on, at full volume, and I hear Magda’s voice blasting at me.

‘What are you doing here? It so early!’

Dressed in her usual immaculate ensemble of black Chanel, diamonds and gravity-defying hairdo, she’s sitting frozen behind the reception desk, a half-eaten bagel in one hand, an iced frappuccino topped with swirls of whipped cream in the other. She looks like a thief caught in the middle of the act.

Hastily dabbing away the smears of cream cheese from around her mouth with a scarlet fingernail, she drops the bagel and frappuccino like contraband goods and comes clattering over on her vertiginous heels. Valentino scampers along beside her, perfectly coordinated in a diamond collar and matching black jacket.

‘I thought I’d start work on Friday’s exhibition,’ I say, my voice muffled as she grabs hold of me and gives me my usual greeting of two lipstick kisses. ‘Make an early start.’

OK, so that’s not strictly true, but I can’t tell her about Nate, can I?

‘You’re wearing the same clothes!’

‘Erm . . . excuse me?’ On second thoughts, I might not have a choice.

‘The same clothes as yesterday!’ Her eyes are running over me like scanners. ‘Did you stay out last night?’ she persists. ‘Were you with the client?’

‘Well, actually . . .’ I begin, my cheeks reddening. Oh shit, I’ve been busted. She knows I’ve spent the night with Nate and it looks really unprofessional. I feel a stab of panic. How am I going to explain this?

‘Aha! I knew it!’

But if I thought she was going to be angry with me, I couldn’t be more wrong. Clapping her bony hands together with glee, she beams delightedly. ‘Are you seeing him again?’

‘Tonight. He’s taking me out for dinner,’ I blurt before I can stop myself. I can’t keep it inside. I just want to tell someone. Correction: I want to tell everyone.

Magda’s face lights up like a hundred-watt bulb. ‘What did I tell you?’ She throws me a triumphant smile. Then her expression falls serious. ‘Did you look at his shoes?’

For a moment I regard her in confusion. Then it registers. Of course. The checklist.

‘Made in Italy,’ I say, suddenly remembering my earlier snooping and feeling a faint flash of embarrassment.

Magda, however, has no such reservations. She couldn’t look more thrilled if I’d handed her a winning lottery ticket.

‘Loozy, this is unbelievable,’ she gasps in a hushed voice.

Which is somewhat of an exaggeration. I mean, shoes do have a habit of being Italian, even mine, and they’re only from Nine West, but still, I feel a ridiculous beat of pleasure that Nate is ticking off her checklist.

‘And his watch?’ She leans closer, her eyes wide.

‘Um . . .’

I can’t remember if he was even wearing a watch, but then it wasn’t his wrist I was looking at, I muse, my mind darting off to a totally different body part.

‘I’m not sure,’ I say vaguely, but if I’m expecting it to put Magda off, I’m wrong.

‘Don’t worry,’ she’s saying determinedly. ‘It will be fine. It will be more than fine! Trust me, I am never wrong when it comes to matchmaking. I even managed to fix up Belinda, my sister’s daughter, once we’d addressed the waxing issue.’

Now I know why she’s been so successful as a matchmaker: this woman is like Jason Bourne on a mission.

‘Well, that’s the thing, you see, you don’t need to matchmake . . .’ I need to explain about me and Nate, about how we’ve already met, about everything.

But Magda’s not listening. She’s waving her skinny arms around like propellers and gushing, ‘Oh, this is wonderful! Wonderful!’ before putting them on her tiny hips and fixing me with an accusatory look. ‘Is this not wonderful?’

‘Well, yes . . . but . . .’ I try again, then pause. Oh, what the hell. Why explain? I’ve met Nate again and it’s fantastic – no explanation needed.

Breaking into a huge, delighted, over-the-moon grin, I nod happily. ‘Yes, it’s pretty bloody wonderful.’

You're the One That I Don't Want