“All you have to do is marry the guy.”
“How can I make him? He’s the one that has the upper hand here. It’s not like I really want to marry the guy either. But I will; would if he was willing.”
What are we going to do?” Jim said.
Jessica shook her head. They were acting like this was her fault. If they thought it was her fault, his father would also.
“I’ve already decided that I’ll speak to his father. Tell him that I will do anything, but I can’t make his son marry me.”
Jim shook his head, and flared his nostrils. “We know we are asking a lot of you, Jessica, but think about it, do you want anything to happen to our kids, to mum and dad?”
“Why the hell do you think I am doing this? You two have to be kidding me? I do everything for you, and this is how you are treat me, you have some nerve.”
“Jim didn’t mean that, we’re just scared, scared for our families, for our own safety. The beating they gave Jim was just a warning, next time it could be worse, I…”
Jessica shook her head, tears rolling down her cheeks. She left ten minutes later, unable to look at her brothers a moment longer. She hated them for putting her in that position, but she understood why. Although she hated them, she loved them. Of course, she did. They were her brother’s.
She had not told Amy the truth behind dating Curtis, she would not understand. She did not want Amy to meet him. Jessica would have allowed it, if things were different, but she would not let her best friend get messed up this situation she was in.
Jessica made a few enquiries to locate where TJ would be. To fix this and to find another way to pay off the debt. She was so worried that her family would not be safe once Curtis told his father that they were not getting married.
She arrived at the restaurant and stood outside for a few minutes, taking long deep breathes, ready to do what she had to.
Her next task was getting passed the bodyguards. They knew her, as they had followed her many times, even when Curtis was not with her. She had seen them, she was sure they thought she had no idea, but she knew they were there.
She was about to open the door, when a hand flew above her head, and held it closed. She looked up and knew who it belonged to.
“What do you think you are doing here?”
“Well…” she stuttered.
I know what you were thinking, but you are not doing it. I told you I would tell him and sort this out.”
“Yeah, I know what you said.”
“Get inside, act like you were meeting me here. Trust me, you do not want to go in there and do what you came here to do.”
“My father would not take kindly to you telling lies about his son.”
“Yes, I would deny it, you know that right.”
“You know what, I don’t know what I was thinking, saying I would do this in the first place. You are just as bad as your father. Do what you want.”
He smirked, and did just that, he took her hand led her to a table, not before placing his lips on hers; all for show she knew that. The moment his lips were on hers, her heart fluttered. Damn it, she thought.
“You’re unbelievable; you know that, don’t you.”
“No I’m not, you don’t know anything about me,” he said.
“So tell me.”
“Not here, first we will eat and then go for a drive.”
“Right,” she murmured.
“Don’t be like that, smile. Fake it, you can hate me all you like, but while he is watching, fake it,” he said, taking her hand, smiling at her.
Before she could reply, a shadow loomed over them, she knew who it was. She could feel him, just from the way he stood. He was not alone.
“You two, any closer to a date, it’s been a month now.”
Not yet, Dad, but we will, give us time.”
“You have eight weeks, and then I want a date.”
“You will have it; we will talk about it soon, won’t we?”
They left an hour later, he drove to the beach and together they walked along the sand. The men were not far behind.
“So tell me?”
“You want the truth,” he said.
“Fine, you want the truth. Do you think I want to do what he expects me to do. I never wanted any of it.”
“The family business, I never wanted that, I wanted…”
“What, what did you want?”
“I wanted to be…” he stopped walking, and turned to face her. “No laughing, promise me?”
“I wanted to paint.”
“What like houses?”
“No, not houses.”
“Like what then?”
“Portraits, landscapes, I was good at it, at school.”
“And then what?”
“At sixteen, I left school and that was it, my dream was over, and my career in the family business began.”
“So why not tell him what you want. Surely he would understand.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
I guess so.”
“Why would you pretend to go through with this marriage thing?” she frowned and shook her head. “Can’t you find a woman without your father’s help?”
“Of course I can,” he said.
“So why haven’t you?”
“I did, but sadly things didn’t work out.”
“Don’t tell me your father did not approve of her?”
“No, it was not that either. I met her when we were seventeen, by eighteen I knew she was the one.”
“For her, I wasn’t.”
Jessica placed her hand on his arm, but as she felt the electricity once again, she removed it.
“She was not in love with me; it took me a while to move forward. She was the first and the last woman I fell in love with. No other woman has made me feel the way she did. And I know eighteen was young to feel that, but I did.”
“She was not even willing to try?”
“No, she had already moved on, dating the guy she later married. I have dated other woman, but nothing serious.”
“I can’t believe that none of those woman had feelings for you.”
“Some did, but once they found out who my father was, they didn’t stick around.”
“Scared of your father, really?” she said, sarcastically.
He started walking again, storming ahead, taking large strides. So big she had to run to run to catch up. Jessica tried to apologise as she ran along the beach, she was not looking where she was going and did not see the pebble sticking up in the sand. She lost her footing and fell head first towards the water. The shock of the fall and the waves that thrust up against her had her in a state of confusion. A second wave hit her pulling her deeper into the water, and then she was floating further out, panic set in. Losing her footing again and again, as she fought against the waves, bust she was soon pulled under. There was water in her nose and mouth, she was gasping for air as she fought to keep her head above the water, just as she was about to go under for a third time, a pair of strong arms encased her and held her, pulling her to safety. She caught her breath and shuddered. They were both drenched.
Her tears were masked by the sea water, she was grateful for that as he held her close to his chest. Asking her over and over again, if she was okay. She simply nodded, unable to speak.
Curtis carried her to his car.
“My place isn’t far from here,” he said, placing her inside and driving them as fast and as safely as he could.
He insisted on carrying her inside. He then ran a bath for her, while he took a shower in the guest room.
His house was amazing; it was as he said only a few minutes’ drive from the beach. He handed her clean towels and a dressing gown, before crossing the hall to the guest room.
She closed the door, pealed of clothes and stepped into the bath, allowing the warmth of the water to warm her body. She sat, not laid; she was too scared to lie in the water, the image of the waves washing over her, appeared in her mind.
She heard the shower in the room across the hall. She listened, imagined him beneath it, but the thought was soon replaced with the image of slipping beneath the waves. The knock on the door, brought her back to the present.
“Are you okay in there?” he asked through the door.
“I’m fine,” she said, opening her eyes, before standing and allowing the water to swirl and gurgle its way down the plughole as the bath emptied. Stepping onto the rug, she then put on the dressing gown and then opened the door, and made her way down the stairs. She found him sat on the sofa, dressed in tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I ordered in some Chinese, and made some tea.”
“Thank you, I love Chinese.”
“It will be here in ten minutes.”
Ten minutes later, the food arrived. While he dished out, Jessica sat quietly, watching him. Plate full, he handed her one. She took the plate, all the time, her eyes were on him, she was unable to say what she needed to, instead they ate.
Plates empty, she placed it on the table and turned to face him.
“I need to apologise for what I said,” Jessica said.
“Don’t be, you are right, of course I am, he has a lot of power in this town. How would it look if I, his son, turned against him?”
No one is asking you to, but surely you should be able to do what you love, marry for love.”
“I know I am not the one you want to marry and that this isn’t real,” she said. “I get that, do you think I don’t want to marry for love too. We both should be able to marry who we want. You should do what makes you happy.”
“Thank you, but I don’t know if that would be possible. It’s a nice thought, though.”
“You could you find the one, and have it all, you know that don’t you.”
“So could you. What do you want?”
“Maybe we can talk about me another night, I am exhausted,” she said, leaning back in the chair, her eyes closing. She should not fall asleep, not here, not in house. Not so close to him, yet her eyes closed, and sleep took her.
The next morning, Jessica woke early and the sun shone through the curtain, nothing felt familiar to her. She opened one eye, and then the other; she remembered where she was. She was still at his house, on his sofa, wrapped in a dressing gown, naked beneath it.
“You’re awake,” he said, carrying in her clothes and laying them beside her.
“I am sorry, I should have taken you home, woken you. But I didn’t like to. Anyway, I’ll let you get dressed. Are you hungry?”
“I am. Even after eating all that food last night.”
“Good, I’ll make us some breakfast.”
He left her alone to dress.
As soon as she was done, she found her way to the kitchen; the scent of a cooked breakfast had her heading in the right direction. Bacon, eggs and mushrooms, directed her to him. She found him at the stove.
“Don’t sound so surprised, I can cook.”
So I see.”
“I was not sure what to make, so I cooked everything.”
“I can see that. It looks amazing,” she said, sitting at the large table in the centre of the kitchen.
“Yes, it looks edible. I think it’s great that a man can cook. I mean, a breakfast isn’t hard, but it does look really good.”
“I’ll have you know I am a great cook, I can cook many things. Maybe one day you can try my steak and ale pie, or my lasagne,” he said, placing one of the plates before her. A pile of toast sat in the centre.
“Okay, well maybe one day you can cook for me again,” she said.
Maybe I will.”
Jessica picked up the knife and fork, and tucked in. Once the food had been eaten, Curtis drove her home. Parked outside her home, he kissed her on the cheek before driving off, saying he would pick her up at seven.
Closing the door to her flat, she hurried to her bedroom, opened her bedroom door and sat on the bed. A lot had happened since she met Curtis, she did not want to marry him, she thought. Trying to convince herself she had not felt a thing for the man and that he was not the man for her.
Sat on her bed, she opened her laptop, searching for a gift for Curtis as a thank you for saving her life. There were many ideas, but he had money and they all looked cheap and tacky. It was then an idea came to her, she googled a few ideas, and decided she would pop into town and buy what she wanted there.
She picked up her bag, and checked her purse was inside, it was then she saw her phone, she turned it on, but it did not respond. It was then she realised she had it in her pocket the night before, and it had gotten a little wet. Unlikely to ever work again. She tossed it on the bed, annoyed that she would have to replace the device, what with, she had no idea. Jessica was still in-between jobs. Money was tight. She had looked for permanent work, but she had not found the job for her. Temping was what she did, and that too had dried up. The company only called her when they needed her.
She was not sure how would now her phone was dead. She just hoped the sim was okay. She would have to buy a cheap one until she could afford to replace it with a better model.
Jessica hurried into town, with thoughts of what she wanted to buy, with what little money she had left. She had to do it, to thank him. She stood outside one of the shops, staring in the window; they had a sale on, perfect.
“Jessica, earth to Jessica!”
“Amy, hi,” she said, turning to find her friend stood beside her. She had not heard her call her name, until she physically shook her.
“I’ve been texting and calling you. You never called back me back.”
“I am so sorry,” she began, before explaining how her phone got wet. She lied, said she dropped it in the sea, telling the truth meant telling her about Curtis. Jessica was not prepared to do that, not now, maybe never.
“You need a phone, how else will I get hold of you?”
“My home phone works.”
“Don’t say that, who uses one of those, other than my mother?”
“My parents and quite a lot of people still do.”
“Okay, but seriously, you need a phone. I just got this new one, upgraded it the other day. It’s amazing, it does so much more than my old one.”
“Sounds good, but you know Amy I can’t afford a new one, not right now. Not like the one you are describing. I’ll just a twenty pound one.”
“Oh no, Jessica, don’t do that, if you want it, you can have my old one. It’s not that old, about six months old.”
“Are you sure, and it would only be until I can afford a new one.”
“Of course I am, I will get the bits together and then I’ll bring it over. Are you in tonight?”
Jessica shook her head.
“Tomorrow, I’ll pop it over then, okay?”
Jessica nodded her head. “Perfect, thank you.”
“It’s fine, anyway, are you ever going to tell me what happened the other night, when you dashed off?”
“That, I am so sorry, I meant to explain.” How could she tell her what really happened, instead she went on to say about a family meal.
“Oh, well we need to go out again, are you free Friday?”
“I don’t know, I may have plans?”
“Jessica, you’ve met someone, haven’t you?”
"No!” she lied.
“You know I know when you are lying don’t you.”
It was not true, but she was right on this occasion.
“I may have, but I am not saying a word about it, we may or may not be going out on Friday.”
“Is he cute?”
“Does he work, can he drive?”
“Oh come on, I only want a little bit of a hint.”
“Okay, he is gorgeous and I just don’t know if we would be good together. I promise I will tell you all about it soon, not yet, but soon, okay?”
“Good, I think we better have a girls night in. I’ll get us some take-out when you are free, okay?”
“Sure, I’d like that. We haven’t done that in such a long time.”
She nodded, hugged Jessica before promising that she would call round the next day with the phone. If she was not in, she would leave it with her parents.
Jessica turned to face the window again, she saw that his men were once again, watching her. She did her best to ignore them, and walked inside the shop. She picked up the few items she planned to buy for Curtis and had them wrapped, in plain white tissue paper. She then walked back outside, the men were gone. She had very little in her bank, and was thankful that her friend had made the offer, as a new phone meant less on the present for Curtis. She was skint, but she did not want him to know that.
She arrived home, placed the gift on the table and walked into her room; she had a few hours to spare before he was due to pick her up.
Jessica pulled on a red dress, a pair of heels and applied a small amount of make-up. Curtis arrived at five to seven.
Her parents were at the window as he opened the door and allowed her to enter; she waved to them, before they drove away.
They arrived at his house; he parked the car, opened her door again and led her inside. Jessica followed him into the kitchen; the table was set for two.
“Are you going to tell me what you have there?”
“No, but you can open it and find out.”
“It’s for me?”
“Yeah, it’s for you,” she said handing it to him. She had held it carefully, not to rip the tissue paper.
He frowned, tearing the paper off. He stared at it, then at her.
“You don’t like it?”
“I do, I just don’t understand why you would buy this for me?”
“It was a thank you, and now you can do what you love.”
“Oh I can, can I?”
“It’s a nice gesture, but…”
“You don’t like it?”
“No, I do. I just don’t know if I can, and if I can what I would draw.”
“You could always draw me. I may not be the best subject; you may want someone shapelier or prettier.”
“Don’t say that, you are pretty, Jessica.”
“If you say so,” she said, shrugging. “I could draw you, if you really wanted me to?”
“Sure, but first I think we should eat, before it gets cold.”
“Okay, after we eat.” He agreed.
Jessica nodded, she was hungry and the moment she bit into his pie, he was right, he could cook. The pastry melted in the mouth. She had to admit she could have eaten more, but declined second piece, lying that she wanted to save room for pudding. He had made a chocolate cake with chocolate custard. It reminded her of one she had in school; it was one of the fondest memories from school she had.
Meal eaten, she was not sure if he would really draw her, until he suggested where she should lay. Lying on the rug in front of the roaring fire, she did as she was instructed, while he scribbled away, looking up at her every now and again. She felt herself blush. He was smiling, nibbling on his lip. She had thoughts of his lips as she lay there staring at him. She realised she was more attracted to him than she wanted to be. She had noticed he had a six pack beneath that top when they were both soaked through. She had felt how rock solid his chest was.
He sat back and told her it was done. She stood and sat beside him, eager to see his drawing, but he held it against his chest.
“Come on, surely I get to see it?”
“It’s not very good. I’m not sure I should show you.”
She leaned towards him and tickled him in the attempt to prise his fingers from the pad. It fell to the floor, forgotten as he laid her down and kissed her, a real kiss, hot and passionate. The deeper the kiss became the more she realised her feelings for him were changing.
She had to put a stop to this, she tried to push him off, but she did not want him to stop. Even when he led her to his bedroom and they undressed each other, she knew she should not let it continue, but she was lost in the moment. His hands were moved over her body as she looked at him in all his glory, she had been right. The body she expected to see beneath that t-shirt was now beneath her fingertips. She was not as experienced as he was in the bedroom; in fact she had only slept with two men. The thought of those boys to the man stood before her vanished the moment he laid her on the bed and made love to her.
Jessica had never had sex like it. Those boys had thought of themselves only, but not this man. Hours later she left the bedroom, once taking a long hot shower, where there love making continued.
An hour later, he was in the kitchen, draped in a towel; she wore one of his t-shirts and sat on the sofa staring at his bare torso.
“Red or white wine?” he asked, removing two glasses from the cupboard.
“White,” she replied, bending down and picking up the drawing pad as she looked at the image he had drawn, her mouth fell open. He had not lost his skills. He had captured her perfectly.
“Now that’s cheating,” he said, sitting down beside her.
“It’s good; I mean really good.”
“I had a good subject.”
“Thank you, can I keep this?”
“No, I’m going to frame it.”
“And hang it where?”
He took her hand. “I have not decided yet.”
She was staring at him, confused by her own feelings, and what had just happened, but it just sex?
“Curtis, I need to ask you something, about what just happened.”
“You mean the great sex we just had, or…”
“Not just that and it was great sex, really great sex.”
“It was, but you mean us, it was just sex Jessica.”
“Was it?” she said, and then downed the contents of the glass of wine he had handed her.
“Of course it was.”
Jessica placed the empty glass on the table and then sat back to face him.
“Be honest, because I don’t believe you.”
“Fine, but you need to be honest too.”
“I am. Do you think I would have allowed that to happen, if I didn’t like you?”
“I didn’t want to,” she replied.
“Like I said, I did not want to like you like that, but you have grown on me.”
“I have?” he teased.
“Yeah, you have, but don’t worry; I know this doesn’t mean I expect you to go through with the plan.”
Curtis took her hand. “Thank you, and if I am honest, I don’t know what I want. I’m not sure if I want more than this or what any of this means.”
“What happens if I want to?”
“Of course you do, for your family?”
“What if I want to do this, for me, us?”
He tilted his head, and placed his hand on her knee.
“I am not sure if you really mean that, Jessica.”
“Well, I do, Curtis, I like you, and maybe we could make this work.”
“You will always think that I am doing this for my family, problem there is, you are right, but it’s not just that. Okay, that is the reason we were forced together, but we have a connection, don’t you feel it?”
“I don’t know what I feel.”
She removed his hand, stood and went in search of her clothes, after saying it was best her took her home.
He drove her home in silence. Jessica was confused. She had to show him that her feelings which had crept up on her were real. She understood where he was coming from, she got that, she had to find another way to show him that she was in love with him. She did not care how, but she would.