Chapter Eleven

According to my New York tourist guide, there are thirteen thousand registered yellow taxi-cabs in Manhattan. In addition there’s all those other private-hire vehicles, and limos and black cars – I’m not sure exactly how many – but it’s a lot. Which means that basically there’s literally tens of thousands of taxis prowling the city.

And yet I can’t bloody find one of them!

Fifteen minutes later I’m still standing on the pavement. Waiting. OK, don’t panic, there must be a cab somewhere, there just must be, I tell myself, waving desperately at every passing vehicle in the hope that one of them might be a cab.

Oh look, one’s stopping! Finally! Brilliant!

I feel a jolt of relief, swiftly followed by something else.

Er, actually, no, it’s not brilliant. It’s not a cab at all. It’s some creepy man in a car. And now he’s making a rude gesture.

Urgh . . . Jumping away from the kerb, I march quickly in the other direction – not so easy in three-inch heels – and continue scanning the traffic for a yellow light. But nothing. The knot in my stomach tightens a notch. Shit. I’m going to be late. Like really late. Like my romantic-dinner-with-Nate-is-going-to-be-ruined late.  

No sooner has the thought popped into my head than I see a flash of yellow.

Hang on a minute, is that . . .?

Out of nowhere a cab appears and swerves up beside me. Oh my God, where did that just come from? For a moment I stare frozen in astonishment as it drops off its passengers next to me on the kerbside and flicks on its light. I mean, how can that be? One minute it wasn’t here and then the next . . .

Lucy, for God’s sake, just get in.

‘East Fifty-Seventh Street, please,’ I say to the driver, jumping inside. Gosh, listen to me – I sound like a proper New Yorker. Then smiling happily to myself, I can’t resist adding, ‘And step on it.’

Robyn is right – it’s super swanky.

Arriving uptown at the restaurant, the uniformed maître d’ leads me through the intimate dining room, with its subdued lighting and murmur of chinking cutlery, to a candlelit table tucked away in the corner. And Nathaniel, looking immaculate in his dark grey suit.

He’s chatting to someone on his iPhone. He sees me and smiles.

My stomach flips right over like a pancake.

‘Sorry, Joe, can I call you back?’ Then without missing a beat he says approvingly to me, ‘Wow, you look amazing.’

‘Thanks.’ I smile, my anxieties about what to wear melting away. I don’t know why I was so nervous. Nate’s seen me in his boxer shorts and a sweatshirt, my hair scraped back and not a scrap of make-up. Admittedly it was ten years ago, but still. ‘Sorry I’m late.’

‘I’m glad to see nothing’s changed,’ he says, standing up and giving me a kiss.

I feel a tug of longing. Yup, he’s right. Nothing’s changed.

‘So how was your day?’

Broken from my lustful reverie, I see the waiter pulling out my chair for me. ‘Oh, you know,’ I say, sitting down.

‘Busy? Me too.’ Nate nods consolingly, though that’s not exactly what I meant. To be truthful, it all passed in a blur of butterflies and anticipation of this evening. ‘We were filming all day in the studio. It was pretty exhausting.’

‘What were you filming?’ Knowing Nate, it’s most likely some drama or documentary about history or politics, which is what he majored in at Harvard.

‘A game show.’

A game show?’ I feel a snap of surprise, followed by something that feels like a tiny beat of disappointment. Which is ridiculous. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with game shows. My parents watch them all the time.

‘I know what you’re thinking – what is Nate doing producing game shows? – but in terms of viewing figures . . .’

‘No, not at all,’ I protest quickly. ‘I love game shows!’

So OK, that’s a bit of a fib. I can’t remember the last time I watched a game show. I think it was probably last Christmas at Mum and Dad’s, when we watched Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Kate was there too and she did her usual trick of answering all the questions before the contestant and getting them all correct. Me? I needed to phone a friend on the first one.

‘Really?’ Nate looks pleased. ‘Which one is your favourite?’


‘Um . . . gosh, there are so many,’ I say vaguely. ‘It’s hard to choose.’

‘You never could make a decision,’ he says with a smile, and reaches for my hand across the table. ‘Remember Italy and the ice cream?’

His warm fingers wrap around mine and I feel a warm fuzziness.

‘Well, there were so many flavours and they were all so delicious,’ I protest, thinking about how I used to make him wait for me as I tasted a scoop of every single flavour. Meanwhile he chose vanilla every time. ‘Saying that, the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted wasn’t in Italy. It was in Paris, at this tiny little café up by the Sacré-Coeur.’

‘When were you in Paris?’

‘Last New Year’s Eve.’

‘Hey, so was I!’

‘No way!’

We look at each other.

‘Oh my God, what a coincidence. Did you watch the fireworks?’

‘Over the Eiffel Tower, yeah.’ He’s nodding, his face breaking into a smile. ‘They were pretty incredible, weren’t they?’

‘The bit where all the rockets shot out from the sides . . .’

‘ . . . and then the whole tower exploded at the stroke of midnight,’ he finishes, and then we just stare at each other in disbelief.

‘You were there,’ he says after a moment.

‘So were you,’ I murmur.

My stomach flutters as my mind flicks back. To think that we were so close, that we were in the same city at the same time, watching the same fireworks burst into the same patch of sky – we just didn’t know it.

‘Wow, that’s insane,’ says Nate, grinning. ‘You and me, both in Paris last year for New Year’s Eve. What a total fluke.’ He laughs at the absurdity.

‘I know,’ I agree, and ignoring my fluttering stomach, I laugh too. ‘What a total fluke.’

After a few moments the waiter comes to take our order. Everything on the menu sounds delicious, though there are a couple of things that I’ve never heard of and I have to get the waiter to explain. I’m not used to eating in this kind of restaurant. Compared to my local Italian back home in London, with its red-and-white checked tablecloths and waltzy background music, this is a different world.

I try hard not to be fazed and plump for the wild mushroom pasta, whereas Nate opts for the fish and a green salad. ‘And a bottle of champagne,’ he says, shooting me a smile across the table.

My insides do a loop-the-loop. I swear at this rate they could rival the Red Arrows.

‘What are we celebrating?’ I whisper, as the waiter disappears.

‘My decision to walk into a gallery.’ He smiles and then looks at me thoughtfully, as if there’s a lot of stuff going on inside his head. ‘I wasn’t going to, but if I hadn’t . . .’

‘So what made you?’

‘I dunno.’ He shrugs. ‘It was totally random. I’m never usually in that part of town, but I was on my way to a business lunch and had five minutes to kill, so I was just walking around. In fact, I nearly walked right past it, but then . . .’

‘Then what?’ I ask, interested.

‘I’m not sure.’ He crinkles his brow. ‘I suddenly had this desire to go inside. It was really weird.’ He shakes his head dismissively, then laughs. ‘Trust me, I don’t normally go around buying expensive art on my lunch break. It’s usually just a salad.’

I laugh, and at that moment the waiter reappears with the bottle of champagne, which he duly opens with a deft flick of his wrist and pours into two glass flutes.

‘Here’s to Venice,’ Nate says, passing me a glass.

‘To the gallery.’

‘To us,’ he adds quietly, holding my gaze as he clinks his glass against mine.

A tingle runs all the way up my spine, and I take a sip, savouring the sensation of the cold bubbles fizzing on my tongue.

I feel as if I’m in a dream, as if I’m going to pinch myself and wake up back in my old life. Instead of here with Nate, in some fabulously posh restaurant, sipping champagne and making eyes at each other across the table.

Suddenly we’re interrupted by his iPhone ringing. He glances at the screen, then frowns. ‘Sorry, Lucy, but do you mind if I take this call? It’s work.’

‘No, it’s fine, go ahead,’ I say happily.

He throws me a grateful smile, then picks up. ‘Hi, John. So, as we discussed earlier, depending on the pilot, I would see this as a straight-to-network show and I’d be very happy to ensure that Regis takes a consulting, executive producer role and credit . . .’

As he starts talking business, I take another sip of champagne and glance around the restaurant. It’s a well-heeled crowd. Mostly couples, and mostly older, the women all look the same, with their Hamptons tans and professional blow-dries, whereas the men are all salt-and-pepper hair and bespoke suits. Though there’s a couple over there who look quite funky, I notice, spotting an unshaven man in the corner wearing a pair of dark sunglasses.

I give a little snort of derision. Honestly, who wears sunglasses inside a restaurant? Who does he think he is? Bono?

Absently I watch as he moves slightly to the side and I get a better look at him.

Oh my God, it is Bono.

I feel a sudden thrill. I can’t believe it. A famous person, eating dinner in the same restaurant as me! See, this is what’s so fantastic about coming to swanky restaurants in Manhattan. This wouldn’t happen in my local Italian back in Earl’s Court.

‘OK, cc me in on the email and I’ll call you tomorrow. Thanks, John.’ Hanging up, Nate turns back to me. ‘Hey, sorry about that.’

‘Oh, it’s OK.’ I smile, then lean across the table and whisper, ‘Guess what, Bono’s sitting behind you!’

I’m expecting Nate to look excited and try to sneak a peek, but instead he just sort of shrugs disinterestedly and says, ‘Oh, really?’ and reaches for his champagne.

‘Yes, I’m pretty certain it’s him.’ I nod, shooting another covert glance over his shoulder. ‘I mean, he looks exactly the same.’

‘Are you a big U2 fan?’

‘Well, not really, but I saw them in concert once and they were amazing.’

‘Yeah, me too. A friend of mine won tickets to the last gig of their three-night run in Dublin and took me along. It was a few years back now.’

‘June 2005. The Vertigo tour,’ I finish before I can stop myself.

‘Wow, you are a fan!’ he laughs.

I stare at him in astonishment. ‘I was there.’

‘’Scuse me?’ He looks at me as if he’s misheard.

‘My boyfriend took me to the same concert. Well, he wasn’t really my boyfriend,’ I add hastily. ‘We just went on a few dates and—’

‘You’re kidding!’

‘No, really, we were totally mismatched. He was into going to festivals and taking hallucinogens. OK, so I ate hash cookies once, but that’s only because I thought they were real cookies—’

‘I’m talking about the concert,’ interrupts Nate, and I blush.

‘Oh, right, I know.’ I shake my head in disbelief. First New Year’s Eve in Paris and now this . . . It’s almost as if we’ve been meant to meet again. As if all these years we’ve been circumnavigating the globe, going to the same places at the same time, but we just kept missing each other.

Until now.

‘Anyone would think you’ve been following me,’ he says, breaking into my thoughts, grinning.

‘Or you’ve been following me,’ I protest indignantly. Goodness, I’m getting as bad as Robyn. Of course it’s just a coincidence. There must have been thousands of people at that concert.

‘By the way, that’s not Bono,’ he confides, his eyes flashing with amusement.

‘It’s not? How can you tell?’ I look over to see he’s standing up, ready to leave. I get a jolt of surprise. Oh my God, the man is a giant. Seriously, he must be about seven foot tall. I feel a flash of embarrassment. ‘Well, the resemblance was very striking,’ I say in explanation.

‘I suppose you think that’s Madonna sitting in the corner over there too,’ he teases.

‘And next to her are Posh and Becks,’ I giggle loudly.

‘Ssh.’ He frowns slightly and gestures with his hand for me to keep my voice down. ‘A little less on the volume.’

‘Oh, sorry.’ My giggles immediately disappear and I feel a bit awkward. As if I’ve just been told off. Still, I suppose I can get a bit loud and silly when I’m tipsy, and this champagne has gone straight to my head. That always happens when I drink on an empty stomach, I muse, feeling a flash of relief as the waiter arrives with our food.

‘Mmm, this is heavenly,’ I say, tasting a delicious mouthful of pasta. ‘Do you want to try some?’

‘No, thanks. I’m trying to stay off the carbs,’ says Nate, making a start on his green salad.

‘So you can’t eat pasta?’ I ask, momentarily trying to imagine life without macaroni cheese and failing.

‘Or potatoes or bread.’ He nods, spearing a lettuce leaf. ‘And pretty much any baked goods.’

‘So no biscuits?’ I squeak.

‘Well, I wouldn’t be eating cookies, anyway. They’re full of refined sugar.’

‘Right, yeah.’ I nod, trying not to think about all the packets of Hobnobs I’ve devoured over my lifetime. ‘Absolutely.’

‘When I think about what we used to eat when we were in Italy.’ He rolls his eyes and shakes his head. ‘All that pizza and ice cream. I mean, can you imagine eating that now?’

I don’t have to imagine – it’s pretty much all Robyn and I do eat. Our apartment is strewn with Domino’s takeaway boxes and empty cartons of Ben & Jerry’s. I feel a beat of alarm. What if Nate wants to come back to mine?

‘God, no,’ I say, and giving a little shudder, I make a mental note to nip to the loos to text Robyn and tell her to get rid of the evidence. Just in case.

‘Since living in LA, I’ve adopted a much healthier lifestyle,’ he continues, putting down his fork and leaning across the table towards me. ‘I go hiking in the canyons. I run along the beach . . .’

Slow-motion footage of a muscular Nate running along the beach, suddenly springs into my mind and I feel a lustful twinge.

‘What kind of stuff do you like doing?’

‘Me?’ I suddenly return from my daydream to see him looking at me expectantly.

‘Yeah, to keep fit.’ He smiles.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Shit. Think of something quick. I don’t want to look like I’m some kind of slob who sits on the sofa every night watching Oprah and eating biscuits. Well, not every night.

‘Oh . . . um . . . I love rollerblading . . .’

OK, so ‘love’ is rather a strong word. I went once in Hyde Park and didn’t know how to stop. I ended up crashing into a group of French tourists. Not good for Anglo-French relations.

‘ . . . and yoga.’

I’ve been once, maybe twice, but still, I love the idea of doing yoga. All that nag champa incense and a bendy pretzel body like Gwyneth’s.

‘Wow, really? Me too,’ says Nate, looking pleased. ‘We should do a yoga class together.’

Oh crap.

‘Well, I’m not very good,’ I say hastily. In fact, if the truth be told, the last time I went to yoga, I nearly put my back out trying to touch my toes.

‘Don’t worry, I can help you. I studied with a great teacher in LA,’ he says, reaching across the table for my hand and giving me a smile that makes me feel all funny behind the knees. ‘In fact, maybe we should have some private classes together, just you and me.’

Instantly I can feel my reservations vanishing as I imagine Nate and me doing sun salutations together every morning, going out for fresh juice afterwards, wearing all that fabulous gear to show off our amazing yoga-honed bodies. My mind starts running off with itself . . . Just think, we could go on those weekend retreats, or we could go live on a beach in India and spend our days going, ‘Ommmmm.’

Not that I particularly want to go live on a beach in India and go, ‘Ommmmm,’ but even so.

‘That sounds great.’ I nod, smiling dreamily.

‘It does, doesn’t it?’ He grins, and we fall silent and stare doe-eyed across the table at each other, like a couple of loved-up teenagers. Truly, it’s horribly embarrassing.

Bloody fantastic, though.

The rest of the evening slips away in a hazy blur of delicious food, ice-cold champagne and flirtation. We skip coffee and dessert, as Nate doesn’t drink it or eat them; instead he asks me back to his for a night-cap. By the glint in his eye, it’s pretty obvious he’s not talking about a cup of cocoa.

I feel a frisson of excitement as he asks for the bill.

Although the chocolate profiteroles with hot sauce did sound to die for.

‘You OK?’ he asks, stroking my hair as I lean against him on the back seat of the cab on the way back to his penthouse.

‘Yeah, fine.’ I nod. I can feel the hardness of his thigh pressing against mine through my flimsy silk dress. It’s only a few hours since we were in bed together, but it already feels like eons ago.

‘Sleepy?’ Tracing his fingers underneath my hair to the nape of my neck, he moves them slowly down to my collarbone.

I swallow hard. ‘No,’ I reply, trying to keep my voice even. This feels like the longest cab ride ever. Filled with champagne and the anticipation of what lies ahead, every red light takes for ever, every block an eternity. I move my hand to his lap, feeling the hardness beneath. He flinches slightly and his breathing grows heavier. ‘Are you?’

‘No, me neither.’ He reaches his hand down into my dress and I feel a shiver run down to my groin.

God, this is so surreal, both of us having this perfectly normal conversation, while at the same time not being able to keep our hands off each other.

It’s also the biggest turn-on.

‘So if we’re not feeling sleepy, what shall we do?’ I ask innocently, while untucking his shirt and sliding my fingertips underneath his waistband.

‘Hmm, I’m not sure,’ he says, still playing the game. ‘We could watch a DVD.’

The breath catches in my throat. ‘What movies do you have?’ I manage. My entire body is pulsating and it takes every drop of self-control not to demand he has sex with me there and then, on the back seat of the cab.

I know. What am I like?

‘Oh, I’m sure I’ve got something that you’d enjoy . . .’ He trails off, his breath hot and ragged against my ear.

‘Really?’ I say thickly.

‘Really,’ he gasps, his voice trembling.

Then suddenly we’re pulling up at his building, and Nate is paying the taxi, and we’re walking in through the revolving doors and across the lobby. I’m so heady with desire I barely notice the doorman, or the ride up in the elevator. All I’m aware of is Nate’s body standing close to mine, the warm musky smell of him, the sound of his breath, short and urgent against my neck.

Now the doors are sliding open and we’re walking into the apartment and saying goodnight to the doorman, and it’s just the two of us, alone at last.

‘You know, I’m not really in the mood for a DVD.’ I turn to him, feeling as if my whole body might explode at any moment.

‘What are you in the mood for?’ He looks at me, daring me.

I can’t do it. I can’t play this game any more.

‘This,’ I say, and pulling him towards me, I kiss him. Last night I was so drunk on red wine the sex was all a bit hazy. Caught up in the whirlwind of seeing him again, of being with him again, it all seemed to happen so fast.

But now I’m getting a glorious rerun, just in case I missed anything, I muse, feeling a shiver of delight as, kissing me back, he pulls me to the floor.

Afterwards we just lie there, dozing. Bathed in a warm fuzziness, I rest my head on his chest, listening as our breathing slows to normal. For a while neither of us speaks, then turning his head, he kisses me gently on the cheek and says quietly, ‘I’ve got something to show you.’

‘Oh, I think I’ve seen everything,’ I say, raising an eyebrow and smiling.

He clicks his tongue reprovingly. ‘No, you haven’t.’ He grins, pulling himself up.

Naked, he disappears for a moment while I lie on the white carpet, warm and contented. I stretch out like a cat and let out a yawn. I feel sleepy, spent, satisfied.

‘I just found it today,’ he says, reappearing. ‘I thought I’d lost it years ago, but it just turned up out of the blue.’ Propping myself up on my elbows, I gaze at him as he bends down to kiss me. ‘A bit like you, hey?’

I look at him in confusion. What is he talking about? Then I notice he’s wearing something round his neck. A pendant. Half a coin.

My heart leaps and I feel a shockwave of amazement, incredulity, excitement . . . and something else. This must be more than just coincidence. This must be Fate.

‘Well, it’s funny you should say that . . .’ Rolling over, I throw out my arm and reach for my bag, which is lying discarded on the floor, along with my clothes. With my fingers, I fumble around inside, until finally I find it. My half of the necklace.

‘Look.’ Triumphantly I loop it round my neck and we exchange looks of delight.

‘Hey, I wonder if they still . . .’ Leaning towards me, he gently reaches for my necklace and puts it together with his. The two halves click into place, like two pieces of a jigsaw.

‘It’s a perfect fit,’ I murmur.

‘Are you talking about the necklace or . . .?’ He raises his eyebrows suggestively.

‘Nate!’ I giggle, and swat him playfully.

‘What?’ he laughs, then pauses thoughtfully, tracing a finger across my shoulder. ‘You know, now I’ve found you again, I’m never letting you go.’

‘Yeah, right,’ I tease, but inside I feel a burst of happiness.

‘No, I’m serious.’ His blue eyes search mine and he looks at me for a long moment. ‘You’re never going to get rid of me.’

‘Well now, there’s a coincidence . . .’ Reaching up, I pull him down towards me. ‘You’re never going to get rid of me either.’

You're the One That I Don't Want