Salt – Free First Chapter of my Novel

To celebrate the start of 2020 I am posting the first chapter to my novel here. Enjoy:



It had been one of those days, one of those weeks in fact. A never-ending drudge of meeting after meeting with agendas focused on making his life more difficult, a client who couldn’t say what she wanted but knew it wasn’t what he’d delivered. As expected the taxi was late so they’d caught the worse the Boulevard Peripherique had to offer. He was thankful he didn’t need to drive in Paris when he noticed that every car on the road was dented or missing a door mirror. He wondered how so many mirrors were coming to a grisly end when five minutes later he watched a scooter take one off, weaving through traffic as if nothing had happened. The remnants of plastic and glass dangled by a wire like a badly broken limb.

Dan had almost laughed when the security queue forced him to run through Paris Charles De Gaul, his wet leather soles slipped as he side stepped people stopping to check phones or look at flight boards. He rushed past people lucky enough to shop while he didn’t even have enough time to buy food let alone the cigar he had been imagining all week.

It was no surprise when the snow fell heavier since checking in but he shook his head and sighed when he looked out of the window and saw nothing but bright white where lights lit the huge flakes. Snow didn’t normally bother him but he knew that not being able to see the runway was a bad omen for his chances of arriving home on time.

Dan managed to board the aircraft without being too late and just as expected it was a full flight. He was surrounded by people trying to get back to the UK after a week of working or a few days of Christmas shopping. He could tell the two groups apart as the workers wore a look of exhaustion while the shoppers were excited about their purchases.

He pressed his face against the cold glass and checked his watch when he saw the snow had settled on the ground. He could see the foot prints of the ground workers and the dark stripes where the luggage trolleys had been dragged alongside. This wasn’t the first-time Dan had been in this situation and experience told him they would cancel his flight leaving him stuck alone in a snowy Paris.

He folded his jacket and stood to put it into the overhead locker, he looked back down the plane, there was one empty seat behind him and none in front. He allowed himself a smile when he sat back down, his luck had changed and he would at least have a little more space if the journey did happen. His brief flash of happiness quickly faded when the flight attendant walked down the aisle counting empty seats. As she walked the heads of men popped into view like meercats, dozens of pairs of eyes watched her bum in tight trousers. She was one of the older members of the cabin crew but still had the Meerkat Factor. On any normal day he would have found a reason to turn around as she walked past but not today, she was an attractive woman but not attractive enough to break the uneasy feeling he had about this flight. He often wondered how they managed to keep track of their count especially with the distractions that come from a plane full of frustrated passengers but they always managed it and today her job was easier because she only had to count the two empty seats.

Dan took his iPhone from his pocket and without needing to check he remembered his headphones were packed in his luggage. He was past the point of being angry and now resigned himself to the entire journey being a nightmare.

Dan had moved completely through the Kubler-Ross model, bad days often worked like grief. First, he denied his taxi would be late, then anger at being stuck in traffic. He tried bargaining with the God of journeys, if he could just make the flight. Security had been a brief depression as he simply knew that everything bad happened to him. Now though he had reached acceptance. He was having a shitty day and each new shitty thing made him smile, perversely he found that each event going wrong was funny. He had embraced the suck and now his trip was like an episode of Fawlty Towers.

The flight attendant walked past again, looking at her little pad and shaking her head. They were waiting for someone and Dan guessed they had checked luggage on board so the flight wouldn’t take off without waiting. He leaned across to the window and could see the snow building up on the wings, they would need to go through de-icing adding even more time to the delay.

Dan turned back from the window and there he was. The guy they had been waiting for. He was huge. He looked like a Smeg fridge with limbs, his shaved head brushed the ceiling as he walked sideways between the seats. The monster looked like a white version of John Coffey from The Green Mile and Dan pitied whoever would be sitting next to him for the ninety minutes back to Birmingham. His heart sank when he realised that he would be the one sitting next to the Green Mile giant. The week would end with him pinned against the inside of the aircraft by the walking white goods, there was no way the armrest would stay down so he would have a sweaty thigh pressed against him all the way home. It was no surprise when the giant slowed at Dan’s row, checked his ticket and looked at the empty window seat.

Dan looked down, assigning himself to the fact that fate had gone to the effort of calling in a giant to add to his torment. A monster who would probably also want to talk all the way back to England and with no headphones there was no defence against a long dull conversation. Dan picked up his water bottle and slid over to the window. Nothing happened, he looked up and the giant was gone. His mouth opened but made no sound when he saw her. She smiled at him, dimples forming on each cheek reddened by the cold. The blue of her eyes almost shone back at him, they were large and almond in shape, her eye makeup accentuated the feline allure they held. Dan had seen a lot of women and many had been beautiful but none like her, she made his stomach flip like they were in turbulence rather than still grounded. All the nerves he had left behind with his acne came rushing back when his eyes broke from hers and locked to the cupids bow of her lips.

She held up her ticket and smiled again, raising her eyebrows as she did. He smiled back at her, his mind was stuck on her and had no time to formulate a clever greeting. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a high ponytail on her head, his mind raced to imagine touching her hair while they kissed.

A moment passed before she pointed to the seat beside him and he realised that her smile was the polite kind that means. ‘Could you move your seatbelt please?’ Rather than the kind that means ‘You’re gorgeous, ask for my number.’

‘Sorry.’ Dan said pulling the belt across and fastening the buckle.

‘Thank you.’ She smiled again. ‘Do you like the aisle or window?’

‘Sorry?’ Dan said.

‘Do you prefer the aisle or window? I’ve got the aisle seat but you look squished up against the side. I’m happy to swap if you want.’ Her voice was soft but energised, the kind of voice that makes anyone who hears it feel happy.

‘I am a little bit cramped but they always ignore my choice for an aisle, so you should just enjoy the extra room.’ Dan said. Ordinarily he would have taken the risk of looking at her body but his eyes were fixed on her face. She was beautiful, she probably had the prettiest face he had ever seen but it was her eyes that held his attention.’

‘Oh, ok then, if you’re sure?’ She said.

‘Yeah honestly I’ll be fine.’

‘Oh, ok.’ She said as she slipped her jacket off and looked for a space in the overhead locker, there was no space for her bag but her coat slipped in above a black Samsonite.

She stopped and looked down at the seat and then along the length of the plane, along the length of the airplane elbows and knees poked out into the centre. ‘If you don’t mind the aisle, do you think I’d be able to sit by the window? I know its cheeky.’ She said smiling.

‘Err yeah, no problem. If you want to?’ Dan said unfastening his seatbelt.

‘If it’s no bother, I hate getting bumped by the air hostesses. Would it be ok?’

‘Yeah, no problem, I hate being squashed up against the window. I was just being polite earlier.’ Dan smiled as he slid across the seat and into the aisle.

‘Polite is good but not getting banged by trolleys is even better. So, thank you.’ She sat on the seat and slid across to the window.

Dan stood in the aisle watching as she moved, she looked tiny in the seat, he hadn’t realised how small she was until she adjusted the belt and most of it was through the buckle. Dan smiled as he waited in the aisle watching as she pushed her bag under the seat.

Dan waited until she was finished and sat down beside her, he reached for the seatbelt and strapped himself in. He still couldn’t believe that he had been given this girl to sit next to instead of the giant some other poor sod was squashed in by. He had sat next to all types of people before on flights ranging from a big bodybuilder guy to an obese woman who spread onto his seat like a puddle of hot snot but the worst he had ever experienced was an old guy with body odour. It had been summer and Dan sweated in just a polo shirt and jeans but this old guy wore fifteen layers, half of which had not seen the inside of a washing machine for some time. The guy smelled bad from five rows away but up-close Dan was close to vomiting. Since then Dan always carried a small tub of Vicks to rub on his top lip. A tip he picked up from a nurse he once dated. He looked at the girl again, she was a sign that God didn’t completely hate him.

‘Hi. I’m Dan by the way, how was your day?’ He twisted in his seat and offered his hand to her as he spoke.

‘Hi. Emma. I’m good thanks, traffic was a nightmare getting here. I wasn’t sure if I would make the flight, I think without the snow delay I’d have missed the flight.’ She said.

‘I know. I’ve had one of those days where nothing goes right. My taxi was late and then we caught all the traffic but fingers crossed we’ll get in the air soon.’

The pilot’s voice came through the speakers and announced another thirty-minute delay while the runway was cleared of snow and then they would take their turn in de-icing before take-off.

‘I wasn’t sure we’d get home with this snow.’ Emma said.

‘I’m still not sure if we will, or if we do it’s going to be a late night. Have you got far to go at the other end?’ He imagined a scene where he would save her from the horrendous journey by offering her his bed in a cross between a classic knight in shining armour and a 1970’s pool cleaner porn film.

‘Not really, what about you?’

‘Well I’m in a hotel tonight, in Birmingham. So just a quick drive.’ Dan said.

‘Oh cool, I’m just outside Birmingham. Do you know Leamington?’

‘Yeah, kind of. I’ve never been but I know where it is.’

‘Where do you live??’ Emma asked.

‘Down in Weymouth. Well I’ve got a place there but I travel all the time with work so I stay wherever suits the job.’

‘Oh cool, like a flat or something?’

‘Well no, I live on a boat but I’m not there that much anyway.’

‘A boat? I’ve never met anyone who lives on a boat before. That’s really cool. What do you do?’

‘I’m a management consultant which is a fancy way of saying I go and help people do the things they should already know how to do and then go somewhere else to tell them what I just learned in the last place. They say management consultants steal your watch and then charge you to tell you the time.’

She laughed, ‘That’s funny but isn’t it difficult?’ Emma asked. ‘We had some of those guys in and it looked hard.’

‘No not really. It’s like anything, the hardest thing’s dealing with people. All my jobs have been like that, the work’s easy but the people are difficult.’

‘I can see that. Do you enjoy it though?’ Emma asked her eyebrows raising as she spoke.

‘It’s interesting and pays the bills, I wouldn’t say it’s a calling though, just a job that’s better than the ones I’ve had before. What do you do?’

‘Oh, well it’s a bit embarrassing to be honest.’ Emma said

‘How so? It can’t be that bad.’

‘Well it just always gets questions.’ She said.

‘Ok well I promise not to ask questions.’ Dan smiled excited at what he might uncover.

‘Well ok, but you will anyway.’ She paused. ‘I work for a women’s underwear company.’

‘I see.’ Dan said imagining her in lingerie. He smiled, desperate to avoid asking if she modelled.

‘And no, I don’t model it, before you ask.’ Emma said blushing slightly.

‘The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, although I’m sure you could.’ The image was clear in his mind now, she would match any of the girls on Instagram.

‘Oh, behave you, those girls are stunning. I’m a buyer, I buy the bits that go into the bras and stuff.’ Emma said.

‘Ah well I understand purchasing and I promised not to ask but I’m sure those girls are not that different.’

‘They are though. We have this one girl who models for the catalogues and she’s absolutely stunning. Anyway, what brings you to Paris?’ Emma asked steering the conversation away from underwear models. She had started to like Dan and didn’t think the best way to continue talking was to talk about gorgeous women in underwear.

‘Work. I’ve got a client who’s not happy so I needed to come over and smooth things over, it’s been a tough week but we got there in the end. How about you?’ Dan said.

‘Shopping. I’d got some holiday left over for the year and if I don’t use it I lose it so I just found a cheap flight and came over to get some gifts ready for Christmas. I’d not been before so it was really good. I’ve probably put on a load of weight though, the food here’s gorgeous.’ Emma said.

‘I doubt you’ve put on much in a couple of days, you look pretty slim to me. Who were you buying for? A boyfriend or just family stuff?’ Dan asked dropping the bait and hoping she wouldn’t sense he was trying to find out if she was single.

‘No, no boyfriend or anything like that, I’m a single pringle. It was just family stuff although I ended up buying myself a few things.’

‘Well that sounds nice.’ Dan’s brain went blank as he processed the chain of events that had landed the gorgeous single girl next to him. ‘If you can’t spoil yourself at Christmas. When can you?’

‘Exactly but I might regret it when I get my next credit card bill. Oh well, how often’s a girl in Paris?’

The pilots voice cut through the plane before Dan could reply, the pilot apologised and explained that the flight would be cancelled as the airport was closing runways. A collective groan went through the aircraft splattered with the occasional ‘Fuck.’ He continued to explain how there would be an airline representative waiting for them in the terminal to explain what happened next. Most of the passengers didn’t hear him as they were already taking down luggage from the overhead lockers and swearing.

‘Oh shit. What happens now? I’ve never had a flight cancelled before.’ Emma said looking at Dan nervously.

‘Usually they give you a voucher for a hotel and then fly back tomorrow. It’s happened a few times to me. It’s not really a problem unless you need to get back. I know a few hotels if you aren’t sure where to stop.’

‘No nothing planned, it’s just that I don’t know what happens. If you know somewhere that’d be great. I don’t really know anywhere other than where I stayed before.’

The passengers continued taking bags from the overhead lockers, grumbling and complaining as they did. Most of them always had problems with this airline, flights were always cancelled and luggage lost. Today the pilot had caused the snow too.

Dan jerked his head at the angry passengers. ‘It’s better to wait until the panic’s over unless you want to get out fast?’

‘No, it’s ok, I don’t want to get squashed. What happens with the stuff in the hold?’

‘Usually they keep it so it doesn’t need to go through security again so we can fly out early tomorrow.’

‘Shit. All my stuff is in there though. Can I get it back?’ Emma asked.

‘I don’t think so but if you go to a hotel they’ve usually got everything you need other than clean clothes. Toiletries and stuff like that. If you need something cleaning then they can sometimes do that as well though. Is there something specific you need?’ Dan said.

‘Nothing I can’t live without I guess, just make up, clothes and stuff. I guess I can rough it for a night.’

‘It’ll be like camping, just in a warm hotel room, in Paris.’ Dan paused. ‘You get something to tell people about anyway.’

‘I guess so, makes it a bit more interesting. It’s just a bit frustrating.’ Emma said.

‘I know, I shouldn’t have expected an easy trip really. Never mind. Have you eaten?’ Dan asked.

‘No. I haven’t, I was gonna get something here but then I was late. Will anywhere be open?’

‘It’s Paris, there’s always somewhere open.’ He smiled. ‘I know somewhere that does good pasta if you like it?’

‘I love pasta. Italian’s my favourite. It’d be really nice if you could show me somewhere. Thank you.’

Dan took back every bad thought he’d had about the God of Travel, the snow looked more like a blessing every minute.


The black leather seats, worn smooth by thousands of bodies, creaked beneath them as the taxi squeezed between the lines of parked cars, the big Mercedes struggled in the city but the airports still used them for their comfort and reliability. Paris had a system of parking spaces although they were largely misunderstood or ignored by everyone and came from a time when cars were small and rare. Dan understood now why the French were so good at building small cars and had left the Germans to focus on the big autobahn cruisers. He wondered how the Americans had coped when they brought their Cadillacs and trucks over to live on European airbases. The drive had been smooth until they reached the tight cobbled streets. The tyres crunched in the snow as the Mercedes slithered to a stop behind a pristine Renault Clio. This stood out as special amongst Parisian traffic, in all of his trips Dan was yet to see a car over two years old which wasn’t dented, scratched or held together with duct tape.

‘Here we are.’ Dan said as he leaned forward and handed the taxi driver a bunch of Euro’s.

‘Where is it?’ Emma asked.

‘Just there, the red building.’ Dan said opening the door and stepping out into the frigid air, his shoes soles slipped in the snow but he stayed upright and retained his dignity. ‘Be careful, it’s slippy.’

Emma slid across the seat and stepped out after him, he took her arm as she stood upright. ‘Thank you, it’s freezing. Are you sure they’ll still be serving food?’ Emma asked.

‘Yes, they open late and don’t close until the last person’s finished.’

The driver opened the boot and handed their hand luggage to Dan. ‘Merci.’ Dan said taking the bags. He turned to Emma as she reached out for her bag. ‘It’s ok, I’ve got yours.’

‘Oh ok. Thank you.’ Emma said.

The driver got back into the warmth of the car and pulled away. The wide tyres struggled for traction as the Mercedes slithered away. They stood in the silent side street, the old street lights stood like giant glowing dandelions in the falling snow. The buildings were dark and shuttered apart from one casting a warm glow onto the pavement. Dan ushered Emma across the pavement as the snow settled gently in her hair like tiny crystals glittering beneath the dandelions. A weathered red sign, hand painted in gold hung above the entrance. The same red paint had been used on the window frames. A red canopy was folded against the building, in the summer it would cover guests sat outside enjoying the atmosphere but tonight even the hardiest of foodies was inside. The scene looked like more like a painting than reality, the style upscale chain restaurants were desperate to achieve.

Dan pushed the door and held it open with one arm, standing aside as Emma stepped into the warmth. He followed and a bell jingled above their heads as the door closed behind them. Dan smiled at the lady behind the bar who returned the gesture and pointed to a table in the window. Their shoes left wet footprints on the worn oak floor as they walked to their table. The waitress smiled and picked up menu’s from behind the bar. Dan removed his coat and hung it on the stand behind him, he hung Emma’s coat and scarf on the next hook.

‘It’s lovely in here. Like something in an Audrey Hepburn film.’ Emma said looking around the restaurant.

‘I know, I’ve eaten here a few times now and it’s really good. The waitress is the owner’s daughter, it’s been in the family from before the war.’

‘Oh wow. That’s crazy.’ Emma said.

The waitress handed a menu to each of them. ‘Bonsoir Monsieur. I did not think to see you here so soon.’ Her English was almost perfect but her thick accent made every syllable sexy. She was young and casually beautiful in the way only French women manage. ‘Was it from the snow?’

‘Yes, the flight was cancelled but it does mean I get to eat here again.’ Dan smiled and closed his menu. ‘I think I know what I’ll be having.’

Emma flicked through the menu, feeling a little pressured. She wasn’t sure what to order but most of all she wasn’t sure what the relationship was between Dan and the waitress. She liked him and she thought he had been flirty with her but now he seemed to have brought her to a restaurant where he possibly had a history with the waitress.

Dan noticed Emma struggling with the menu. ‘Could we have some water please?’ Dan said to the waitress. ‘Do you like white wine Emma?’

‘Yes, a little too much.’ Emma spoke without taking her eyes from the menu, she was sure he’d been showing an interest in her but now she knew she couldn’t compete with the exotic French waitress and her tousled hair.

‘Two Chardonnay’s.’ Dan said.

The waitress smiled and sashayed back to the bar.

‘Do you know what you’re having? Emma asked, looking up at Dan across the menu, she blushed as she compared herself to the waitress walking away.

‘Yes, I always have the Leek Fettucine, it’s gorgeous but it’s not on the menu. I only found this place because I worked with her husband and I eat here whenever I can.’

‘She’s married?’ Emma asked, her cheeks cooling.

‘Yes. He works for one of my clients and I was over here for the first time and mentioned that I didn’t know where to eat and that was that. I’ve eaten in other places but this is the best I’ve found anywhere.’

‘Oh ok, sounds good then. What’s in whatever you’re having?’ Emma’s cheeks had returned to normal now she knew there was nothing between Dan and the waitress.

‘Leeks and fettucine mostly.’ Dan smiled, his eyebrows raising as he looked at her.

Emma smiled a half smile, the left corner of her mouth raising while her eyes looked into Dan’s. ‘I know that, but what else?’

‘Well you asked.’ Dan said in a feigned innocent voice. ‘There is a little bit of prosciutto ham and it’s in a cream sauce. It’s nice and simple.’

‘Ok then, that sounds good. I’ll have that.’ Emma closed the menu and put it on the table in front of her.

‘Good choice, it’s my favourite.’

The waitress returned, casually balancing a tray with a carafe of water and two glasses of wine, she put the carafe and glasses on the table and paused looking at Dan.

‘Two of my usual’s please Anais. Unless it’s too late to order that?’ Dan said.

‘No no, it is no problem. It has been a quiet night from the snow but you are always welcome here, Romain will be sad to have missed you this time. I will bring the food quickly so chef can leave, I do not have such a way to travel.’ Her voice able to make travel plans sound exotic.

‘Merci Anais, I appreciate it.’ Dan said as she turned back to the bar.

‘She’s beautiful.’ Emma said quietly.

‘Yes, she is but Romain tells me that she’s got a temper on her. He’s come home from trips a couple of times to find his shirts missing their sleeves because he didn’t call her and she assumed he was with another woman.’

‘Oh, well I am sure she’s worth it.’ Emma said taking a sip of her wine. Her lipstick left a perfect red print on the glass.

‘I don’t know about that. I like shirts too much but he still married her.’

‘He’ll probably remember to call every evening though.’ Emma said.

Dan laughed, ‘You’re probably right but I’d be pissed off about my shirts becoming waist coats. Have you ever done anything like that?’

‘Like what?’ Emma asked taking another sip of her wine and looking at Dan.

‘Like cutting up some guys clothes or whatever because you thought he was cheating on you?’

‘Nope. If he wants to cheat then he is welcome to it, I just won’t be there when he gets back.’ Emma said. ‘Have you ever cheated?’

‘No, not really.’

‘What is not really? You either did or you didn’t.’ Emma said putting the wine glass down and looking across the table at Dan hoping he wasn’t a cheater or at least if he was he would be honest about it.

‘What I mean is, I’ve never really had a proper relationship. I never bothered when I was younger and I’m always travelling so I haven’t had chance to settle down.’

‘I see.’ Emma said wondering if he was just a player and whether he was sexy enough to play with.

‘I’ve never wanted to be in a position where I’d want to cheat. Now I’m getting older I’ve thought about it a bit but until now I haven’t found anyone.’

‘So, you just like to play the field?’ Emma said thinking that yes, she liked him enough for a one-night stand.

‘No not really. I mean I’m not innocent but I’m no playboy. It just wouldn’t be easy to settle down when I work away most weeks and then at a weekend I’m playing catch up with stuff I couldn’t do during the week.’

Emma looked out of the window, the snow still fell gently, the flakes dancing downwards in the streetlights. They were in no rush to end their gentle journey to earth where they would join their friends. Each flake seemed to understand that they had a brief life of uniqueness before they merged into a mass of white and then eventually vanished completely to become no different from their rain drop cousins.

Dan could see the snow but he watched Emma. She was beautiful and unique and perhaps as delicate as a snowflake. He wanted her and had done since the first time he saw her emerge from behind the giant, she was gorgeous and he knew he liked her more than physically. He watched the glass raise to her red lips and again thought of the snowflakes she reminded him of, beautiful to look at but one touch and they melt away, destroyed and lost forever.

‘It’s beautiful here. The snow and everything, it’s just like a dream.’ Emma said, still looking outside.

‘Definitely beautiful.’ Dan said thinking about more than the snow. ‘I like Paris a lot, but I prefer it at night and tonight it’s quiet.’

She turned to look at him again, her lips had left another red mark on the glass. ‘I’m almost glad the flight was cancelled. Emma brushed her lipstick from the glass with her thumb and lowered her eyes. ‘This is much better than rushing around to get a taxi.’ She lifted her eyes to meet Dan’s again praying the night would continue to go well.

‘I’m glad the flight was cancelled. Most people go to cities in the day time, alone, rushed and stressed. Cities are best experienced at night with someone, countryside in the day time and cities at night. That’s what I think.’

‘I haven’t thought about it like that but I agree, especially with the snow. It makes the lights look prettier.’


The snows surface had frozen. It spread out in front of them like a glittering white carpet, cracking like a crème brulee with each footstep. They walked closely together, the chill made it natural despite being strangers heading to an apartment. They were in Paris, romance ran through the city like The Seine but they still had their English ways and they were no longer teenagers who could get away with snogging in a bus stop. Their breath swirled behind them like a pair of cigar smokers. She stood tiny against him. His arm draped around her shoulders holding her close, her head rested against him as they walked through the deserted streets. Dan’s work week had been hard by anyone’s standards but it was all a distant memory to him now as he ushered the most beautiful girl he had seen through the white streets of Paris.

‘It’s just along here.’ Dan said pointing ahead.

‘Ok, I’m glad it’s close. I’m freezing.’ Emma said tucking her chin further into her chest feeling nervous but oddly comfortable.

‘Here we are, let’s go get warm.’ Dan said pointing to a bright red door. He held his wallet against a black steel box on the brickwork with a small blinking red light. There was a click and the light turned green, Dan pushed the door open and let Emma walk inside.

‘So, this place is yours?’ The hall was dark until lights flicked to life above them as Dan closed the door against the cold night.

‘No. The company owns it as an investment and it’s cheaper than hotels. Sometimes there’s a couple of us here but everybody else has found a reason to work from home so their Christmas holiday starts a bit earlier. The building’s shared with a few other people who do the same thing or use it as offices, the big companies use hotels but we tend to buy properties to have them as assets.’

Emma stopped, stunned as her eyes moved around the interior. She stood on a polished chess board floor stretching out in front of her with doors along the left and a sweeping staircase hugging the wall, curving to a balcony above them. Everything in the room was black, white or a natural wooden finish.

‘This is amazing.’ Emma asked unable to stop looking around the hallway. ‘Is it your company?’

‘Well not really, I’m just one of the partners. We basically thought instead of spending a fortune on hotels all the time we’d buy property in the places we visit a lot. It just made sense for a small team like ours and it’s an investment rather than dead money.’

‘I can’t believe this building though. It’s absolutely gorgeous.’ She walked to a wall sconce casting a soft white light upwards, she touched it as if it held magical powers.

‘It is nice. We’ve got the first floor. The rest’s other offices, it’s just us in the entire building tonight. It was part of a bigger house once upon a time apparently, the whole block was but now it’s just apartments and small business offices. The doors here are into what was the old downstairs rooms. Just go up while I do the alarm.’ He pointed to the stairs.

She climbed the stairs. The stone steps, worn smooth made her wonder how many people had climbed these stairs and who they were. She reached the landing, the stairs continued higher into the building but she stopped. The same black and white theme continued here and seemed to throughout the building as her eyes followed the staircase upwards. The doors on this floor were painted the same red as the front door. She wondered why these doors were so different to the rest of the interior. Her thoughts stopped when she felt Dan’s hand on her hip, she turned to face him and smiled.

‘The doors are red because it’s our company’s name.’ Dan said touching his wallet to another black box.

‘What’s your company’s name?’ Emma asked watching the light turn to green. A kaleidoscope of butterflies took off in her tummy when she realised that the green light confirmed she’d be spending the night with this man. She panicked, then remembered she’d waxed last week. She’d have hated to miss out on the perfect end to the evening because of prickly thighs.

‘Red Door Consulting. That’s what we’re called.’ Dan said pushing the door open for Emma. ‘We were stuck for a name, we didn’t want anything cheesy and we were all out of ideas and then when we next met up for a meeting we met outside a pub. It was summer so we sat outside while we waited for everyone to arrive. Then when we went to walk in the place had these bright red doors and we all just stopped and knew that was the name.’

‘Have you got a website and stuff?’ Emma asked.

‘Yeah, red door consulting dot co dot uk. Easy to remember. Dan smiled and closed the door behind them leaving them in darkness until he clicked the light switch.

Emma gasped as the room lit. The ceilings looked even higher than in the hall, the walls segued into the ceiling with a deep architrave, the walls were the same shade of white used throughout the building but this hadn’t been due to a job lot of cheap paint. Whoever had decorated this building had understood that the interior needed no colours, they had allowed the intricacy of the woodwork to define the room and highlight the herringbone patterned parquet flooring.

‘We looked into the meaning of red doors just to make sure that we weren’t choosing a name that would harm us in anyway and we learned that historically red doors meant everything from good luck to safety for travellers so we stuck with it. Now we just make sure all the buildings we own have red doors. I don’t know if anyone understands at first but it’s kind of like having a sign outside that’s secret until we tell people and then they get it. Sorry, I’m rambling. Would you like a drink?’ Dan said.

‘Err sorry what?’ Emma said realising that she had only been half listening to Dan while she looked at the room.

‘Would you like a drink? We’ve got some wine and beer and pretty much any kind of soft drink imaginable.’

‘No, I’m fine thank you, if I drink much more I’ll pop.’ Emma said still admiring the décor. She flinched from her daydream when she felt a hand brush her hip, but relaxed when she remembered it was Dan. He brushed her hair aside, she tilted her head instinctively closing her eyes as she did. Emma felt a light gasp leave her lips when she felt his lips touch her neck, starting at her ear and moving down to her shoulder. Her arms fell limp as he continued to kiss the taut muscle connecting her brain to her heart. She softened against him, her legs lost their strength, she felt like they had turned to marshmallow. A rush of goose pimples exploded across her arms in a tingle of excitement, her head felt heavy as the pleasure spreading through her body became almost painful. He pulled her closer. Both hands on her hips now, she could feel the warmth of his body against her. Emma didn’t notice as her bag slipped to the floor, the jury was still out on whether she would have noticed an earthquake. Her neck was her one weakness and he’d found it immediately. Usually guys took a few weeks to understand it about her, if at all, but he had found it with his first touch. If he hadn’t been holding her tight her legs would have buckled completely and left her a contented puddle of quivering goose pimpled flesh on the floor.

Dan slid his hand from her hip slowly to her breast, his hand gently squeezing from underneath. He held her like this, his hand a living bra, feeling the weight and softness of her breast. She groaned again, her mind freed of conscious thought as her body reacted to this stranger’s touch. His fingers massaged her though her blouse, stroking the lacy pattern of her bra and finding her stiffening nipple.

He turned her to face him so their mouths could meet, they kissed. Their first kiss wasn’t a tender, gentle brush of lips, they’d moved past that point. Their first kiss was a need filled tangle of lips and tongues which didn’t stop when he lifted her off the ground.

The brown leather Chesterfield creaked as Dan lay her down, he reached down to push off his boots. Emma didn’t know when he unlaced them, she joined him and kicked off her heels.

His fingers flicked open the buttons of her blouse, parting the fabric as he slowly worked lower. He felt the soft warmth of her skin and stopped kissing her, kneeling upright between her thighs he paused to take in the view. The lace of her bra encased her breasts, they stood firm and pert, her flawless skin gave her the appearance of a model after several hours of Photoshop.

Her eyes widened as he looked at her and he realised he had paused longer than expected, time stopped as he looked down on the girl before him. He smiled, his eyes narrowed then he pounced on her, his mouth on her neck quicker than any Bram Stoker creation. Her back arched, lifting her body closer to his as he kissed from her throat to her chest. Her hands pulled at his shirt, untucking it, her fingers slid up his back, nails trailing raised skin as she urged him closer.

His tongue danced across her chest as he pulled her jeans open. He pushed down the cup of her bra and found her nipple. She groaned as he took it into his mouth.

Emma reached down and pushed off her jeans. Dan’s jeans followed moments later, he kissed her mouth leaving her nipple taut and ready. He supported his bodyweight with one hand, his other pushed her white thong aside. She was ready for him and he was ready for her.

He pushed inside her and stayed that way until morning.



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