by Hedonist Six
Publication Date: March 24, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance, Novella
Publication Date: March 24, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance, Novella
Sally is a self-confessed player and party girl. Her life revolves around fun nights out, casual encounters and no emotional attachments other than with her best friend and colleague, Becky. When she is faced with a ghost from her past – Gareth – all the walls she’s carefully constructed around herself fall apart, revealing old wounds she thought had healed a long time ago. He wants a second chance, and she’s shocked to find that maybe she’s not as over him as she would want. Meanwhile, her current suitor, Becky and Sally’s charismatic manager, Mark, is keen to take their casual relationship to the next level.Sally’s uncomplicated life is about to become very messy indeed.
This novella is a stand-alone follow-up to The Rebound List, which focuses on Becky's journey-- can be read as a standalone / out of order!
Working for one’s fuck-buddy is a funny situation to be in. One moment you’re trying to be professional, then, you see them, or as in this case, get a suggestive message from them, and all propriety goes out the window.
Today is no different, judging from the words that have just popped up on my phone, while I was supposed to be working on a spreadsheet of sales stats.
‘ Tedious management meeting. Can’t stop thinking about the other night… M’
Neither can I. Mark, who has got to be the sexiest man I’ve ever hooked up with, ordered some takeout for the both of us, allowing us to enjoy a not so quiet night in without the added hassle of cooking, or heading out for food. We tried watching a movie, but were quickly distracted by each other’s company.
It’s impossible for me to be near him without my hormones going haywire, and the feeling is mutual.
By the time the end credits rolled along, he had me bent over the edge of his bed and given me an orgasm I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We finished the evening in the bath, letting the hot water calm our taxed muscles, while still unwilling to keep our hands off each other. All in all, a perfect night in. I went home before things got awkward for either him or me.
I respond with ‘Likewise, perhaps we can do it again sometime ;)’, and put my phone away before anyone comments.
My affair with Mark is common knowledge in the office, but luckily I haven’t had to deal with jealousy as such. If anything, a few of them seem to feel sorry for me, or so they say, for getting involved with a guy who’s never had a steady relationship in all of the five years he’s worked here.
They don’t realise that it’s perfect how things between us are. I don’t do steady relationships either.
“Is Sally Irving in?” This simple question, spoken by a familiar voice, rudely drags me out of my daydream and back into reality. It can’t be!
Despite the years that have passed since I last heard this voice, and the fantasy I had just been absorbed in, there’s no way I would make a mistake identifying this ghost from my past.
“You’re looking for Sally?” I can hear Cath’s clear soprano respond. As Mark’s assistant, she’s the one who usually deals with the occasional visitor to our floor. “How exactly did you get in here?”
I peek over my PC screen across the office towards the man with the bunch of tulips in his hand. He has his back turned towards me, not giving me much to go by, except the long-ish dark brown hair, broad shoulders, and faded brown leather jacket. Fuck.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!
“Psst, Becks,” I whisper-shout, but Becky next to me is so focused on her computer screen that she’s completely oblivious to the disaster that’s about to unfurl around me. The furrow in her brow tells me she’s probably struggling with Excel again, which means she might as well have blinders on. She finally looks up when I throw a paperclip at her.
“What? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of—” The irritation sounds through in her voice. I know she hates interruptions, but this is an emergency, damnit!
“Shh!” I slink back into my chair and gesture at her to keep her volume down. “There. That guy Cath’s talking to. Please be a dear and get rid of him. Tell him I’m off sick or whatever. Or dead. Tell him I died last month. Try to make it convincing.” My heart is hammering in my throat, making it hard to keep my voice from cracking, and I’m starting to feel faint like all the blood has drained out of my head.
Becky takes a moment, scrutinising my face, before checking out the figure in brown leather. Please, don’t argue!
“Fine. I’ll do it, but only because I love you. Don’t think you can get out of this without providing some sort of explanation later!”
I put my head in my hands and shrug. “Whatever. Just please, make him leave.”
I hear her roll her chair back, followed by the click-clock of her heels against the shiny office floor.
“Cath, I’ll take care of this, thanks.” Becky’s voice sounds suspiciously upbeat, as usual when she’s handling someone.
“So, who are you?” she asks the man. I half hope he’s just some random person who shares some familiarities with the person I’m thinking of. Maybe a courier, who happens to have a voice that sounds just like—
“Gareth Doyle. Sally and I go way back.” Fuck. It is him. Gareth. Now there’s a name I’ve tried so hard and nearly succeeded to banish from my memory. Gareth fucking Doyle.
“Right, Mr. Doyle.” Knowing Becks, and hearing the ridiculous tone she’s using to address him, I have to assume she’s enjoying this role a bit too much. Fine, as long as she does the needful. “Well, it’s terrible timing, Sally’s actually on holiday at the moment.”
“Oh. When will she return?”
“Not for a couple of weeks, I’m afraid.”
I lean up just enough to catch another glimpse, ignoring the risk of him turning around at some point and spotting me. At least from behind it seems he hasn’t changed too much, even the hair is almost the same as I remember.
“Oh well, not sure they will last that long, but perhaps you can tell her I came by and left these for her.” Gareth hands Becky the colourful bouquet.
“I’ll let her know. Thanks.” She keeps standing there, flowers in one hand, her other on her hip, waiting for him to make a move.
I breathe a sigh of relief when, after a few seconds of indecision, Gareth does indeed walk out the door. My hands are shaking, beads of sweat collecting around my hairline. What the fuck was he doing here?
And why am I so affected by him, despite everything that’s happened? It’s totally ridiculous, bizarre even. I’m panting, as if the atmosphere has thinned out and I simply can’t get the oxygen I need. Jesus.
Becky returns to our desks, and I can’t face her. All I want to do is curl up into a ball and vanish. My stomach is all twisted up, confused and achy. If I’m not careful, I’m going to be ill right here.
“So. These are for you.” She drops the flowers on top of my IN tray and sits down.
“Hey… Hey, Sal, are you OK?”
I once again cover my face with my hands, unable to wrap my head around what just happened.
“You didn’t tell him I was dead. He’s going to come back. I need to—” I can’t finish; my throat feels dry, and I’m no longer sure what I was going to say anyway.
“What’s wrong? You eat guys like that for breakfast, what’s with this one?” Becky puts her hand on my shoulder, but I shake it off.
“I can’t. Gimme a second.” I get up and rush off towards the exit. God, please make it so he’s not lurking out in the hallway. Make it so I don’t get caught!
Luckily, the coast seems clear and I make a dash for the facilities. I need some alone time. No questions, no talk, just time.
The knot in my stomach is tighter than ever. Before I know it, I’m forced inside a stall, and faced with what’s left of my lunch inside the bowl. Sadly, that doesn’t do much to calm me down, just makes me angrier at myself. How dare he just drop right into my life while things are going exactly how I want them to? How fucking dare he?
My phone buzzes inside my pocket and I fish it out, with shaky fingers, managing to narrowly avoid dropping it into the mess in the toilet. It’s Mark.
‘ Meeting just finished but you weren’t at your desk. Let’s go out, somewhere nice. French food maybe, or anything you like .’
Clutching the phone in my hands, I sink down to the floor, with my back against the stall door.
Taking a deep breath, I type out a typo-littered response. Sure, dinner would be nice. I guess. Ugh, I don’t know anymore...
I was happy, dammit. Things were going pretty well with Mark, who seems to understand me in a way most guys don’t. And now, all I see are complications.
I hate complications. That’s the main reason I don’t date, never have, ever since...
Why, of all times, does Gareth have to turn up now? It’s been eight years, and only the latter half of them were worthwhile. After the hell he put me through, it took a whole four years to find my way back to normality again. Now, within seconds of seeing him, it’s as if years of progress have been wiped away.
I thought I was over all this. I thought I was over him.
“Sal?” Becky’s voice echoes against the tiled walls.
Shit, can’t people get a hint? I decide to ignore her, but she knocks on my stall soon after.
“Sally, are you OK? Don’t make me bust the door in.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I snap.
“Alright.” Becky doesn’t sound convinced, and predictably I don’t hear her walk away either. “Then why are you sitting on the floor?”
Fuck, she’s right. I take a deep breath, trying to focus my attention on the task at hand. Pass for normal, get the fuck out of here and think later. Or ideally, don’t think at all, I’ve got dinner with Mark to survive without losing my shit.
“There, happy now? I got up,” I say, after getting up and flushing away any evidence of my breakdown. If I’m going to make it to dinner, I’d better brush my teeth first.
“Sal? Who was that guy?”
“Didn’t you hear him? His name’s Gareth. Just some guy I used to know.”
“It seems like there’s a lot more to that story than what you’re letting on.”
“Whatever.” I shake myself off, breathe deeply another few times to let my nerves settle, and open the door, attempting to act normal.
Once outside, I blank Becky and walk straight to the mirrors along the wall to fix my hair. Well at least I didn’t cry. He didn’t manage to break me completely. It’s hard to look and feel halfway normal with makeup smeared all over your cheeks.
“You know you can talk to me, right? You don’t have to be some kind of lone crusader in all of this, it’s OK to let people in sometimes.” Becky is right, but I can’t face her or anyone right now.
“Mark is taking me somewhere nice for dinner, I should probably finish off for the day and pack up my stuff.”
Becky’s reflection in the mirror shrugs and turns towards the door.
“If you change your mind, you know where to find me. Anyway, I have a date with Alex tonight too, so...” Her use of the word date grates at me. What Mark and I have planned is so not a date, and I intend to keep it that way.
When the door shuts behind her, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Her barging in here and insisting to check on me served its purpose as a distraction, but talking it out means releasing everything I’ve worked so hard to bury for years. I can’t risk that.
Call me “H.” or Hedonist if you prefer. I’m a Romance writer based in London and I’ve always been a dreamer, though it didn’t occur to me to write down the stories I kept dreaming up until 2012. You’ll not find flowery language and poetry in my work. What you will find though is believable characters, none of whom perfect, going through life and trying to find happiness. Just like the rest of us.
I first started writing because I craved to see more of “my kind of books” on the shelves. In any scenario, you’ll find me rooting for the underdog. The (emotionally) scarred hero who hasn’t really had much (or any) luck in love. The shy office worker who wants to pursue the man of her dreams, but hasn’t quite mustered the courage yet. All my characters are beautifully flawed and messed up, in a way that makes them perfect for one another.