#BlogTour #Excerpt – THAT GIRL by Rachel Strong

Clarissa Jean (1)

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That Girl
By author: Rachel Strong

Blurb:

After serving half of a three-year prison sentence, James is out and ready to try and get his life back on track, which means forgetting about the girl who sent him to prison in the first place – despite the fact he’s still in love with her!
Katie knows that she can’t see James, but that doesn’t make it any easier. If she does it could send him straight back to prison, but, she still loves him and is desperate to make things right and tell him how sorry she is for ruining his life.
After accidently bumping into each other, James and Katie can’t stay away from one another and so begin to see each other in secret. After a slight wobble on James’s part, when he decides he can’t take the risk of going back to prison, Katie decides enough is enough and it really is time to move on and put James behind her.
Heartbroken, James decides to try and get his life in order. But due to his conviction it’s not as straightforward as he would like, leaving him miserable and despairing at what his life has become.
When a job opportunity comes up hundreds of miles away he doesn’t hesitate to head south and put his troubles behind him.
Can James and Katie forget each other and move on with their lives without one another?

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Excerpt:

Chapter One

January 2012

Katie

All I can think about is him! Today’s the day he’s being released – I know this as his parole officer sent me a letter informing me. I want to see him, but I know it’s not allowed, I know he would end up back in prison for breaching his license conditions. I’ve thought about him every day for the last eighteen months’ – but I didn’t think I’d want to see him as much as I do right now.

“Kate, you’ve been staring into space for most of the day, that essay won’t write itself you know,” Mum sighs, walking into the kitchen with a basket full of washing.

She is the last person I can talk to about this. She knows he’s coming out today, she saw the letter too, she hasn’t said anything – but I know she thinks he shouldn’t be released yet. “I know,” I reply, getting up from the table. “I’m going to pick Hollie up from nursery,” I tell her, picking up my car keys and heading for the front door.

I drive to the nursery on auto pilot, I’m not meant to pick her up for another hour, but I have an overwhelming urge to see my daughter, an evening of Disney princess’s and snuggles is what I need right now. She will take my mind off it all.

But the moment I see my dark haired beauty, she takes me right back to him – she looks so much like him.

April 2008

  “Happy Birthday!” I exclaim, hugging Becca. “Eighteen at last!”

  “Thank you,” she giggles, hugging me back. “Come on, come and meet Liam.” She’s grinning and I don’t have chance to reply before she grabs my hand and propels me in the direction of two lads – one of them grabs my attention straight away! He’s incredibly tall, with short, ruffled, light brown hair. He has an impressive muscular physique, with huge biceps and broad shoulders. I really can’t stop staring at him – he’s hot . . . I hope to god he’s not Liam!

  “Liam,” she begins, putting her hand on the one with short, dark hair – much to my relief! “This is Katie, my cousin. Katie, this is Liam.” She’s smiling so much I’m scared her face is going to crack.

  “Nice to meet you, Katie,” Liam grins, whilst shaking my hand.

  “You too,” I reply. It’s nice to finally meet the guy my cousin hasn’t stopped talking about for the last month. I don’t think I have ever seen Becca as happy. I really am pleased for her.

  “Katie, this is James, Liam’s best mate,” Becca adds as an after-thought, indicating to Mr Gorgeous – who I can’t stop staring at. I need to get a grip, it’s embarrassing.

  “Hi,” I reply, suddenly going all shy.

  “Hi.” He smiles and I feel my cheeks turning red. He’s got a cute smile, I could stand here all night staring up at James, but at that moment my mum calls me away. “See you later,” I say reluctantly, heading across the room, to where my mum is standing impatiently waiting for me with my grandma.

* * *

  “Katie, you know you can’t see him,” Becca warns.

“I know,” I sigh, “It’s just . . .”

“It’s just nothing! Seriously, stay away from him, it really wouldn’t be fair on him if you did, he would go straight back to prison.”

I stare at her in shock – amazed that she’s worrying about James going back to prison, when two years ago she could have killed him.

“He’s my fiancé’s best friend,” she says, when she sees me looking at her with my mouth hanging open. “He’s done his time, let him be whilst he’s on license. You don’t want him to go back inside, do you?”

“No, do I hell, I didn’t want him to go in the first place,” I reply, whilst wondering where James is, what he’s doing and how he feels to be free after eighteen months in prison.  “What about Hollie?” I add, because I know he’s going to want to see her.

“You know all that, you know he is only allowed supervised contact with her – and that doesn’t mean you!”

I sigh loudly. “I just . . . I just . . .”

“I know, Kate, I know, but it’s time to move on. You’re eighteen years old, you have your whole life ahead of you and there are so many nice boys out there that you could fall in love with…”

“I have a child.”

“So? Katie, you’re beautiful and such a lovely girl, you could have any lad you want. James Askew is not the be all and end all!”

He is to me – I would do anything to be with James – I still love him!

James

“Seriously, Mum, stop staring at me,” I laugh, though I’m not joking. I’ve only been home two hours and every few minutes she comes over and either squeezes my arm, ruffles my hair or kisses the top of my head like I’m five years old. And now she is sitting across from me at the kitchen table, just staring at me with a silly grin on her face.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it, I missed you,” she says, sipping her tea.

“I know you did, but it’s starting to creep me out a bit,” I reply with a sigh.

“Yea, come on, Lynn, leave the poor lad alone,” Dad says with a laugh, from the other end of the table.

“It’s alright, I’m gonna go upstairs and un-pack, she can’t stare at me there.” I stand up, push my chair in and head into the hallway, sticking my tongue out at Mum as I pass her.

“Cheeky boy,” she calls after me.

“See, he’s fine, I don’t know what you were worrying about?” I hear Dad say, as I’m halfway up the stairs. I stop and listen.

“He’s trying to act fine for me, Will. He’s putting on an act, he’s not the same old Jamie.” Mum sighs sadly.

I don’t want to listen to anymore, so I carry on upstairs to my room.

It kills me to think what I have put my mum and dad through over the last few years. How did I get myself into this mess? Is the question I have been asking myself over and over again, ever since this whole nightmare began. Three years ago I had a job I loved and a gorgeous wife, now I have neither, it’s all gone. No job and a wife that wants nothing to do with me and who’s taken my son thousands of miles away.

I know it’s all my fault – I only have myself and my own stupidity to blame. But at the end of the day, if I could go back and change it all, I doubt I would, as I know I couldn’t keep away from Miss Katherine Greene! And no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, I know I’d be with her like a shot if I could – I love her, even after everything that happened.

 

April 2008

  “Put your eyes back in your head, Askew!” Liam laughs, patting me on the back.

  “Have you seen her?”

  “Yea.” He laughs again, clearly amused by me. “What are you like? Come on, let’s get another?” he suggests, shaking his empty pint glass at me and heading for the bar.

  The last thing I wanted to do tonight was come to Liam’s girlfriend’s eighteenth. He didn’t want to come on his own and I felt sorry for him, so I had to give in. I’m glad I came now, because the tiny brunette in the short, pink dress has made my night. She’s absolutely stunning and it certainly beats sitting at home, moping over the fact my that girlfriend of two years has just dumped me.

  I spend the rest of the night watching Katie on the dance floor amongst a gaggle of girls. I want to go and talk to her, but I don’t know what to say. I’m not normally nervous when it comes to girls, but it’s been a while since I’ve done any chatting up and I think I’ve forgotten how.

  By the time I’ve plucked up enough courage to go and talk to her, the party is wrapping up and everyone is moving on to a club. I only agree to go as I really want to get to know Katie. When we get there, I spend ages trying to locate her, but after an hour I give up – she’s nowhere to be found. I’m seriously disappointed.

  “Where’s Katie?” I shout to Becca, over the music.

  “She’s gone home.”

  “Oh, can I have her number?” I ask cheekily.

  “No.” Becca laughs and walks away, leaving me gutted that I’m not going to end the night with Katie.

* * *

  The knock on the door brings me out of the past and back to the present. “Have you got a minute?” Dad asks, opening the door slightly and sticking his head round.

“Yea,” I reply, trying my best not to sigh. I just want to be left alone for a bit.

Dad comes in and closes the door whilst I sit up on the edge of my bed.

“Don’t suppose you’ve given much thought as to what you’re gonna do with yourself now, I mean work wise?” he asks, sitting down beside me.

I can’t stop the sigh that comes out. “No, not really.”

“I was thinking you could come and work for me?”

“What, as an accountant?” I exclaim with a groan. This is what I have tried to avoid my whole life – working for my dad.

“Well, no, seeing as you’re not qualified, but we could use you in the office and put that math’s degree to good use. What do you think?”

“Can I think about it?” I ask, not wanting to say no straight away. I need to come up with a good excuse as to why not.

“Yea, okay,” Dad replies, sounding disappointed and making me feel guilty as I know he’s only trying to help. “Dinner won’t be long,” he adds, standing up and heading for the door.

“Okay.”

“Listen,” he begins, turning back to face me, “go easy on your mother. I know she’s a pain, but the last couple of years haven’t been easy on her.  If she’s being too . . . over the top, just let her, she’s just pleased to have you home.”

This makes me feel even guiltier than I did before – if that’s possible? “Yea, I will.”

“Great, see you in a bit.” He opens the door and leaves me to it.

Fuck!” I mutter, throwing myself down on the bed and rubbing my face. What have I done?

Later on, when I can finally escape my parents and I’m in bed, I realise as much as I hate the idea, I have no option but to accept my dad’s job offer. I need a job and it’s not like I can go and get my old job back.

Chapter Two

James

“Does Becca know you’re with me?” I ask, having a swig of my beer.

“Yea, course she does. You know, she doesn’t hate you, Jay, she just doesn’t like what you did,” Liam replies, as we walk over to the sofa at the far end of the kitchen.

“Really?” I reply, sitting down.

“Yes, really,” he insists. “So, I bet you’re glad to be home?”

“Yea,” I nod.

“You don’t sound thrilled.”

“It’s weird, taking some getting used to. I woke up this morning and forgot I was out.”

“You’ll be fine in a few days. In a couple of weeks, you’ll feel like it never happened.”

“You reckon? I don’t think I’ll never forget I’ve been in prison,” I sigh dejectedly.

“Jay, you know it wasn’t all your fault, she was to blame too.”

“I shouldn’t have done it and I shouldn’t have lied. I wish I could go back and stay well away from her!”

“I doubt you would though,” Liam points out.

April 2008

  “You don’t mind Becs coming round, do you?” Liam asks, throwing a can at me.

  “No,” I reply, naffed off. If I’d have known Becca was coming round I wouldn’t have bothered dragging my ass back from Manchester. I have an essay to write and an exam to revise for. Instead, I’ve trekked all the way home to Blackburn, for nothing – it’s not even like I have a girlfriend to come home to anymore.

  “Sorry, I know we’re meant to be having a Fifa night, but I haven’t seen her all week.”

  “You will be,” I joke. “If you start making me want to throw up I’m outta here!”

  “I promise we’ll behave – well, wait till you’ve gone at least. Anyway, Katie is coming over with her.”

  “Okay,” I reply, trying to act like I don’t care.

  Even though last Saturday night I seemed to be a little bit obsessed with Katie, over the past week I haven’t really given her much thought. I’ve had so much uni work to do and I’m still pretty gutted that Hailey finished with me. But now I know she’s coming over, I can’t stop thinking about her. 

  When the girls arrive, other than saying, “hello,” Liam and I don’t really pay them that much attention, they’re too busy talking and laughing and we’re too busy playing Fifa.

  After an hour or so, I get up and go into the kitchen for another beer and find Katie leaning against the counter, texting furiously on her phone.

  “Alright?” I say, going to the fridge and getting another bottle of beer out.

  “Hi.” She smiles at me and I notice her cheeks going slightly pink. “You’re getting very competitive in there – anyone would think it was a matter of life or death,” she says, laughing.

  “It is; didn’t you know?” I smirk, as I open the bottle with the bottle opener. “Anyway, where did you disappear to last Saturday, after Becca’s party? I was gonna buy you a drink – or two.” I can’t help but grin at her.

  “Oh damn, what a shame – If only I’d known.” She grins back at me.

  “It’s okay; I’ll just have to take you out sometime soon?”

  “Yea, I suppose you will,” she replies, before walking out of the room and back towards the living room.

  I follow her and try my best to stop grinning, whilst checking out her ass in the tight jeans she’s wearing.

* * *

  “Sorry, what did you say?” I ask, coming out of my own little world.

“I said, Becca and I have said that you can see Hollie at ours, if you want? We talked to Kate and the social worker, and we planned that Kate can drop Hols off at ours, and you can come over?”

“Oh, erm . . . Thanks.”

“Well, it’s up to you, you don’t have to.”

“No, it’s not that, it’s . . . I’m not sure I want to see Hollie.”

“You don’t want to see your daughter?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t been part of her life since she was a tiny baby, she’ll have no idea who I am.” I shrug my shoulders, not sure how to explain to him why I don’t want to see my daughter.

“No I suppose so. But you’re missing out on so much if you don’t see her. She’s your little girl, yea you’ve missed out on a big chunk of her life so far, but you can make up for that by being in it for the rest.”  I know Liam has a point, but if I see Hollie, then I have to be involved with Katie and I’m not sure how I can cope with that. And it’s rubbish that I can only have supervised contact with her, I hate the idea that I’m deemed ‘un-fit’ to look after her on my own, like I’m going to do something to her. It absolutely kills me – she’s my daughter for god’s sake!

“So what are your plans now?” he asks, changing the subject.

“No idea. Dad wants me to go and work for him.”

“Really?  Hell fire, Jay, that’s your worst nightmare come true!”

“I know, but I don’t think I have much choice to be honest. I need a job and it’s not like I can go and get another teaching job, is it?” I laugh sarcastically.

“But accounting, I really can’t see you doing that.”

“Well I won’t be, not sure what I’ll be doing to be honest, but I really can’t see it either,” I reply miserably.

Katie

“He doesn’t want to see his own daughter?” I ask, furious.

“Liam says he seemed really depressed,” Becca replies.

“I can imagine he is, being sent to prison is a horrendous thing to happen to you,” I say, much calmer, propping the phone between my head and shoulder, leaving both hands free to riffle through my wardrobe.

“Anyway, I just thought I’d let you know, but don’t worry, Liam is on the case of making him see sense.”

“Okay. He has to see her, Becca, she needs him in her life.”

“I know, we’ll make him see sense, don’t worry. I’m seeing him with Liam tomorrow.”

“You are?”

“Yea, he’s coming to the Rovers’ game with us. Anyway, get yourself out and stop worrying, okay? Hollie is already fast asleep, Uncle Liam wore her out chasing her around the house and she went out like a light.”

“Thank you, Bec, I’ll see you in the morning. Give her a big kiss from me.”

“I will do. There’s no rush for her in the morning, have a lie in.”

“Okay, bye, Becca.”

“Nighty night.”

I end the call, throw my phone over on to my bed, and continue the search through my wardrobe, for something to wear tonight. But my mind is so much on James that I’m finding it difficult.

April 2008

  “You don’t have to walk me home you know, it’s only around the corner,” I say to James, as we set off walking in the direction of my house.

  “Yea I do, it’s dark and you never know who is out and about. Anything could happen to you and I don’t want that on my conscience,” he laughs. Butterflies suddenly explode in my tummy.

  “Oh, okay then. Though I think you just wanted to get me on my own.” He glances at me and smiles. Over the past week, since Becca’s party, I have become slightly obsessed with James – he’s all I can think of. I’ve looked him up on Facebook millions of times, spending ages gawping at his pictures – he’s bloody gorgeous! So when Becca asked me if I wanted to go over to Liam’s with her tonight, as James was going to be there and she didn’t want him to be a gooseberry, I didn’t think twice before agreeing. “How do I know you’re not a nutter? You could be about to murder me!”

  “Nah,” he begins, as he stops walking, pulls my arm gently so I stop walking, and turns me so I’m facing him. “The only thing I want to do, is this!” Before I know what’s happening, he bends his head down and kisses me gently and slowly. What a kiss!

  “Well . . .” I start, trying to catch my breath. I have never been kissed like that – my legs feel a little bit like jelly. “You can’t go around kissing random girls like that, I know nothing about you!” I pretend to be outraged.

  “Okay,” he says, taking my hand as we set off walking again. “You know my name . . .”

  “Only your first name,” I lie. I know his last name from stalking him on Facebook.

  “Okay, my last name is Askew . . .”

  “What’s your middle name?”

  James laughs. “Seriously?” he asks, looking down at me with raised eyebrows. I nod. “Okay,” he relents, realising I’m serious. “James William Askew. Happy now?”

  “Yea,” I grin. “How old are you?”

  “Twenty-one – twenty-two in August. I’m a student; I’m doing a PGCE in Secondary Mathematics. I have a degree in maths, so hopefully come September, I’ll be a teacher somewhere.”

  “Wow, you’re clever,” I say, impressed. James shrugs his shoulders. I can tell he’s embarrassed. All I can think is that I wish he was my maths teacher. “Brothers or sisters?” I continue.

  “One of each, I’m the middle one. My brother, Rob, is twenty-four, he’s in the army, he’s out in Afghanistan at the moment, and my sister, Beth, is nineteen, she’s at uni doing Medicine – she wants to be a doctor.”

  “Wow, a family of clever clogs then?”

  “Yea, I suppose. My mum is a surgeon, she specialises in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and my dad is an accountant, he owns his own business. Any more questions?” he asks with an amused smile.

  “Do you drive?”

  “I feel like I’m being interrogated! Yea, I drive.”

  “What do you drive?”

  “A car,” he smirks at me and I raise my eyebrows. “BMW One series,” he adds.

  “You’re a student and you drive that!” I exclaim.

  “Graduation, slash, twenty first present.”

  “Wow, lucky boy!” I say, realising he’s a bit spoilt. “So where do you live?”

  “Billinge End Road, but technically in Manchester, cause I’m at uni there.”

  “In one of those massive houses?” I state, getting a picture of his life, he’s from a seriously rich family.

  “I know you’re probably thinking I’m a spoilt brat, but I’m not, honestly,” he insists.

  “I’m not thinking that at all,” I protest, though it’s exactly what I’m thinking. To be fair, he doesn’t look, act, or sound like a spoilt brat, so I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. “What football team do you support?” This is the decider, the wrong answer and I could really go off him.

  “Blackburn Rovers – season ticket holder – which I paid for myself!” he adds with a laugh.

  “That’s alright then.” I can’t help but smirk. “Well, this is my house,” I say with a sigh, as we reach the bottom of my drive.

  “Oh, okay.” He sounds disappointed “Are you going to invite me in?”

  I laugh. “No.”

  “That’s not fair – it’s my turn to interrogate you.”

  “We’ll save that for our date.”

  “Date?” he questions.

  “Yea.”

  He doesn’t say anything, just smirks, pulls me closer and gives me another of those amazing kisses.

  We stand there for quite a while, kissing, until he pulls away, pulls his phone out of his back pocket and says, “put your number in here?”

  I take it from him and do as he asks.

  “Well, bye,” I say, handing him his phone and walking backwards up my drive.

  “Bye,” he replies.

  I turn round and head towards my front door, resisting the urge to look back at him.

  When I get in the house I go into the living room and peek out of the curtains. He’s still there, messing on his phone.

  As I go up to bed, I can’t keep the grin off my face. When I reach my room my phone buzzes with a text.

Wednesday, pick you up at 7?

  I collapse on my bed feeling happy and excited.

* * *

  God, it only seems like two minutes ago, not three and a half years! All of a sudden I don’t want to go out any more, I want to see James. I want to see James so badly it hurts. I know that I could send him straight back to prison, just by being in the same room as him, but that doesn’t stop the overwhelming urge to just grab my car keys and drive to his parent’s house, as I have a feeling that is where he’ll be.

I get as far as the front door before realising how stupid I’m being. I can’t go chasing after him. I just have to accept it

Chapter Three

James

I was dreading seeing Becca – when the shit hit the fan with Katie, she gave me a really hard time, so I was expecting some of the same today. But instead, she grabbed hold of me, gave me a hug and told me she was pleased to see me.

It was brilliant being able to go and watch Blackburn play today, it may only be a small thing, but I have missed it so much, and by the end my voice was hoarse from all the shouting!

After the game – which Rovers drew nil-nil – we all go back to Liam and Becca’s and order a Chinese.

“Have you thought about seeing Hollie?” Becca asks.

“Yea, I’ve thought of nothing else.”

“You have to see her, James. You have already missed out on so much of her short life, you can’t miss any more – you have to be part it.”

“I know and I want to be – I just wish it could be in better circumstances.”

“You have to make the best of a bad situation.”

“I know, and I’m going to,” I reply positively.

“You really need to stop being so miserable too, Jay. You’re out and you need to get on with your life, put all that shit behind you,” Liam adds.

“I’m going to, honestly I am,” I try to convince them, because the look on both their faces is telling me they don’t believe me. “I’ve decided that I’m going to take up my dad’s offer. I hate the idea, but I really need a job and I can’t face the thought of going for job interviews and having to explain why I lost my last job or where I’ve been for the last eighteen months.”

“You’d be daft not to, it’s a really good opportunity,” Liam agrees.

“I’ll probably hate it, but I’ll give it a go!”

I stay at Liam and Becca’s till quite late and when I get home I tell Dad my decision, he is extremely happy and insists I go to the office with him on Monday morning.

* * *

“So, how did it go?” Mum asks, when I walk into the kitchen on Monday night, after my first day.

“It was okay, I suppose,” I sigh, throwing my car keys down on the kitchen table and then collapsing in a chair.

“That bad, eh?” she sighs sympathetically, sitting down across from me.

“No, to be honest it was actually okay, I enjoyed it. Was good to be able to use my brain again . . .”

“But?” Mum interrupts.

“It’s not teaching and it’s boring as hell!”

“I know, sweetheart, but it’s a job, and right now you need one, even if it’s just to keep your brain working. Things will get better; I promise . . .”

“You really think so? Because I don’t. What I’ve done is going to haunt me for the rest of my life!”

“No, Jamie, what she did! It won’t.”

All I can do is look at her. Even after the truth came out she still refuses to accept what I did. “I’m going to get changed,” I say, standing up and ignoring what she said. I really can’t be bothered going through it all again.

When I get upstairs to my room, I lie on my bed and the minute I close my eyes all I can see is Kate.

All of a sudden I sit up, I can’t keep doing this to myself, I can’t keep thinking about her, I’m going to drive myself mad! I decide I need to go for a run and clear my head. So I get up, get changed and go down stairs.

“Where are you going?” Mum asks, coming into the utility room, where I’m crouched down tying my laces.

“For a run,” I reply, jumping up and opening the door.

“But it’s chucking it down,” she calls after me, as I shut the door and set off on my run, heading for the woods, which leads down towards the park.

It really does help – my head feels a lot clearer and I start to feel more positive about things and the future. I just need to look forward and stop obsessing about the past. I can’t be with Katie and I need to accept it – for my own sanity!

When I get home my sister Beth is there and as soon as I walk through the door she launches herself at me. “Jamie!” she exclaims, hugging me.

“It’s nice to see you too,” I laugh, hugging her back. Beth and I have always been extremely close. When I was away she wrote to me at least once a week and came to see me as much as she could, even though she’s at uni, training to be a doctor.

“It’s so nice to be able to hug you properly, without being told off by a prison officer – even though you’re pissed wet through and stink!” She pulls away abruptly, pinching her nose and laughing.

“What do you expect? I’ve been for a run.” I laugh at the look of disgust on her face, whilst kicking my trainers off and following her into the kitchen. Mum and Dad are sitting at the breakfast bar, a bottle of Champagne and four glasses in front of them.

“What’s that for?” I ask, nodding at the bottle.

“Well, we just thought we’d have a little celebration,” Mum says with a smile.

“For what?” I ask abruptly.

“Well – you being home,” she begins.

“And joining the family business,” Dad finishes for her, with a big grin on his face.

“Right, okay.” I reply un- enthusiastically. I’m really not in the mood for this. Being released from prison isn’t something to celebrate, because I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. And as for joining the ‘Family Business’ I couldn’t think of anything worse, as ungrateful as that sounds.  “I’m going to have a shower. Open it without me, I’ll be back in a bit,” I say, heading for the hallway and the stairs.

“He may be home, but the real Jamie isn’t here,” I hear Beth say, as I’m halfway up the stairs. I can’t help but stop and listen.

“No, he’s not, but I can see glimpses of him in there. He just needs time to adjust. Hopefully being back at work will help him move on and forget everything,” Dad replies.

That girl has a lot to answer for,” Mum adds.

“Yea, she does – god help her if I ever run into her,” Beth muses.

I decide to stop eavesdropping and go upstairs, where I quickly get un-dressed and get in the shower. I stand there for ages, letting the hot water fall over me.

No matter how much I try, I don’t think I’m ever going to be the same again!

* * *

“Do you to see much of Hollie?” I ask Beth, later that night, when we are finally left alone by Mum and Dad.

“Not really. I saw her a few weeks ago when Mum and Dad had her for the weekend. She’s bloody cute and she knows it.” Beth laughs slightly.

“Does she have any idea about me? I mean . . . does she . . . does she know I exist?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Hollie today. I still haven’t decided if I want to see her or not, part of me really wants to – she’s my little girl and I want to be around for her. But the other part of me is terrified by the fact she is way too close to Katie for my liking. If I have Hollie in my life it means Katie will have to be too and I’m not sure how the hell that would work – what with me not being allowed anywhere near her.

“Mum talks to her about you and she knows that you had to live away. If we show her a photo of you she’ll say, that’s my daddy.”

“So, me not being around isn’t bothering her in the slightest?”

“Oh, Jay, come on, you not being around is the norm for her, she doesn’t know you, she doesn’t remember you. But if you were to continue not seeing her, she will hold it against you when she’s older. I mean, how would you feel if you never saw Dad all your life and then found out when you were older that he had the chance to see you but he chose not to?”

All I can do is look at Beth, I know she’s right. “It’s not that I don’t want to see Hollie, because I do. I’m just scared that if I do, I’m going to want to see Kate!”

“James, you can’t see Kate, you know you can’t.”

I sigh loudly. I want to see Katie, despite the fact she totally ruined my life! Since I’ve been out all I can think about is her, god knows why, after what happened.

“James, can I ask you something?”

“What?” I reply, dreading what’s coming.

“Do you still love her?”

“I don’t know,” I reply. An image of Katie – sitting in the living room here, after the very first time I took her out – comes into my head. I should have realised that night that something wasn’t quite right.

April 2008

  I don’t know why I was so nervous about tonight? Because the minute I picked her up we started chatting straight away, like we did on Saturday night, and the nervousness soon went away.

  I take her to an Italian on the way to Preston, which she tells me is her favourite restaurant. The minute the waiter leaves, after taking our order, I say, “so, my turn to interrogate you.”

  She lets out a nervous little laugh. “Oh dear, I was hoping you’d forgotten about that. There’s not much to know, I’m pretty boring.”

  “I doubt that. Come on, full name?” I insist.

  “Katherine Greene.”

  “Middle name?”

  “I don’t want to tell you,” she replies, going all shy.

  “I told you mine, so come on?”

  “Okay,” she sighs, rolling her eyes and having a sip of her wine. “Martha, it was my great grandma’s name.”

  “Okay,” I reply, trying not to laugh.

  “Now you’re going to take the mickey out of me.”

  “No, no I’m not,” I say. “How old are you?” I ask, changing the subject.  She shifts nervously in her seat. “Seventeen, well, nearly seventeen.”

  “You’re still only sixteen?” I exclaim. I assumed she was around about the same age as Becca – in fact she looks slightly older, so when she tells me how old she actually is I’m left stunned and a bit disappointed.

“Yea,” she replies sheepishly.

  All I can do is stare at her. I don’t know what to do. If I’d have known she was this young I really don’t think I would have asked her out. There isn’t much I can do about it now, not now that I’m sitting here with her.

  “You don’t look very happy?”

  It’s my turn to laugh nervously. “I just thought you were older, that’s all.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  “It’s okay. So are you still at school?”

  She nods slowly “Yea, I’m in sixth form.”

  “Okay,” I gulp. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about her now. She’s a bloody school girl for fucks sake! “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I ask, deciding to carry on asking her the questions she asked me.

  “A brother, well, half-brother. My dad was married before; he’s a lot older than my mum. My brother, Paul, is twenty-nine and I don’t see him all that much.”

  Even though her age seriously nags at the back of my mind, I have a really good time with Katie and when we come out of the restaurant I find myself asking her if she wants to come back to mine for a bit. She hesitates for a minute but then agrees.

  My mum and dad are away, so I have the house to myself and the minute we sit down – once she’s stopped raving how amazing my house is, I grab hold of her and kiss her. I know I shouldn’t be doing this, as she’s so much younger than me, but I really like her and I can’t help it.

  “Sorry,” I say with a nervous laugh, when I pull away.

  “It’s okay,” she replies shyly.

  “I’ve been dying to do that since you got in my car.”

  “Me too.”

  I pull her closer and kiss her again. Kissing her is not the only thing I’m dying to do – but I’m not going to try anything with her, it’s way too soon. I think it would scare her away. I get the impression she is very innocent.

  “I haven’t told Becca about us, she didn’t want me to get involved with you,” she says, out of the blue.

  “Yea, I gather that, seeing as she wouldn’t give me your number.” I lean back with my arm around her.

  “You asked Becca for my number?”

  “Yea, after her party, when you mysteriously disappeared – now I know why!” I reply, thinking of her age again.

  “Oh, she’s just a bit over protective of me – she’s like my big sister.”

  “But she’s not that much older than you?”

  “No, I suppose not.”

  “What about your mum and dad, are they bothered about you seeing me?”

  “Erm . . .”

  “They don’t know, do they?” I ask, with a sigh. I’m not happy about this situation.

  She squirms and sits up. “No.”

  “So where do they think you are right now?”

  “At my friend Hannah’s.”

  There is something else that’s nagging at me, there has been ever since I met her and I’m not sure what it is. For some reason I feel like I should be staying well clear of this girl – but I don’t know why. “You should have told your mum and dad where you are!”

  “I know, I know, it’s just my dad is soooooo over protective of me and you’re almost five years older than me. If my dad knew I was out with a twenty-one-year-old he’d have a fit!”

  “Okay, you have a point, I suppose – though you’re sixteen, it’s not illegal!”

* * *

  I should have known after that conversation, the look on her face when I said, ‘You’re sixteen, it’s not illegal,’ she seemed so nervous and shifty.

 “You’re not going to try and see her, are you, James?”  Beth asks, looking worried.

“No, I’m not, don’t worry,” I reassure her. “I’m not allowed to, if I do I’ll go straight back inside and there is no way I want that to happen!”

“Good,” she smiles, satisfied with my answer.

I know I have to stay away from Katie, because I know that even if I just catch a glimpse of her, I won’t be able to stop myself!

Katie

“How was he?” I ask Becca. I’m sitting at the breakfast bar in her kitchen, Tuesday afternoon, three days after she saw James.

“A shadow of his former self,” she replies.

I take a deep breath. “I’ve totally fucked him up, haven’t I?”

“No, you haven’t. Kate, it’s not your fault and you know it, he made the mistake.”

“Did he look the same?”

“Yep, maybe more muscular – looks like he spent nearly all his time in the gym.” She lets out a little laugh.

“Is he living with his mum and dad?”

“Yea, he is. He’s put his house up for sale.”

“I want to see him, Becs. I want to see him so much it hurts.”

Becca sighs loudly. “You can’t and you know you can’t. Please, Kate, for his sake, don’t go near him. I think prison has really affected him, I don’t think he could handle another eighteen months.”

I look away and blink away the tears. The last thing I want is to send him back to prison. It’s all my fault that he ended up there in the first place – no matter what anyone says. I should have kept my big mouth shut.

“Do you know what you need, Katie Waity?”  Becca asks, breaking into my thoughts.

“What’s that then?” I sigh.

“A man.”

I smile sadly at her. “Really?” I ask, un-convinced.

“Yes. You live the life of an old spinster. I know you have Hol, but you need someone for you and I’ve had an idea.”

“You have?”

“Yep, he’s called Alex, he’s twenty and gorgeous . . .”

“You mean Cooper?” I say, realising she’s trying to set me up with a guy who has just started work experience with Liam.

“Yea.” She grins at me, mistaking my question for interest.

“Nope, no way.”

“What, why?”

“Because if I’m going to get with someone new, it’s going to be with someone I meet myself, not someone you set me up with!”

“Oh, okay then.” She sighs loudly. “Let’s go out Saturday night, just you and me?”

“Sounds good. I’ll have to check my mum can have Hollie.”

Yea!” she exclaims, hugging me. “We will find you a new man!”

I doubt it, there is only man I want, and I can’t have him!

 May 2008

  I’ve been seeing James for three weeks now and I’ve loved every minute of it, he’s amazing! He’s a proper gentleman, not like the lads at school. I can tell he’s been brought up well and if I was to let him meet my mum and dad – which is not happening, not in a million years – I think they would approve, especially my mum.

  Today I’m meeting his family. It’s his mum’s birthday and I’ve been invited round for Sunday lunch, to say I’m nervous is an understatement!

  James picks me up at one and drives me over to his house in his shiny, black BMW. I feel so grown up having a boyfriend that can drive. I’ve told my mum and dad that I’m going out for a meal with Hannah and her family – I know they won’t check up on me as they have no reason not to trust me.

  When we walk into the house – which is actually more like a mansion than a house – James takes me into the large Kitchen and introduces me to his mum, dad, brother and sister. They’re all really friendly and nice and make me feel totally at ease – especially his brother Rob, who is the spitting image of James; you could mistake them for twins, if you didn’t know Rob was two years older. He immediately starts joking around and taking the mickey out of James, which James takes well and gives Rob back as much as he gets.

  I have a really nice afternoon, James’s mum is an amazing cook and I eat way more than I intended to, causing my skirt to feel a bit snug.

  James hardly leaves my side, he either has his arm resting on the back of my chair or is holding my hand and every so often he’ll ask if I’m okay.

  James’s dad, Will, is constantly topping up my glass of wine and by the time the meal is over I feel slightly tipsy.

  Afterwards, James and I go up to his room for a bit. I’ve been to his house a couple of times now, but I’ve never been in his room, which is huge and has an en-suite, in fact his room is bigger than my mum and dad’s.

  “See, I told you you didn’t need to be nervous,” he says, collapsing on his double bed.

  “I know, they’re really nice. I had a lovely afternoon,” I reply, perching on the edge of his bed. I suddenly feel nervous. In the last three weeks he hasn’t tried anything on with me, all we have done is kiss. But now, I’m getting the feeling that he might want more and I’m not sure I’m ready.

  “You look terrified, Kate.”

  “Do I?” I ask, trying my best not to let my nerves show.

  “Yea, I don’t bite you know,” he states, grabbing hold of me and pulling me closer. I end up led beside him with his arms around me.

  “No?” I grin.

  “No,” he replies, kissing me.

  I’m not sure how long we’re led there kissing, but it feels like a while, when all of a sudden he stops. “I know why you looked nervous, but we don’t have to do anything, not until you’re ready, okay?”

  “Okay,” I reply, smiling up at him.

  “Though, just so you know, I’m dying to and it might kill me,” he says with a laugh.

  “I do want to, I just – haven’t done it before,” I say in an almost whisper.

  “No, didn’t think so, seeing how freaking young you are.” he sighs, letting out a small laugh. “Anyway, it’s getting late and it’s a school night, I better take you home.”

  “Okay,” I reply, watching him stand up. I really do have the perfect boyfriend!

* * *

   It’s Friday afternoon and I’ve brought Hollie over to Becca’s, to see James for the first time since he came out of prison.

I ring the doorbell and glance down at Hollie, who is clutching my hand. She’s totally unaware of how big this visit to Aunty Becca’s is. I’ve explained to her that her daddy is coming to see her, but she doesn’t seem fazed by it – all she’s bothered about is Uncle Liam. The entire drive over here she’s wittered non-stop about him and when the door is flung open by Liam, he immediately picks her up and whisks her off down the hallway, with her squealing in delight.

“Are you okay?” Becca asks, appearing in the doorway.”

“Yea, I suppose, I don’t know,” I reply, squirming, because I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this. I didn’t expect him to want to see her so soon, he’s only been out of prison a week!

“She’ll be fine, stop worrying. James is her daddy, he’s not going to do anything, he’s not going to snatch her from you.”

“I know, that’s not what I’m worried about.”

“What is it then?”

“I don’t know,” I whine.

“Look, just relax, make the most of your free time. I’ll give her tea and I’ll drop her off about seven. You get yourself in town and find yourself something gorgeous to wear for tomorrow night.”

“Okay,” I agree with a laugh. “Thank you. Bye, Hol,” I call down the hall, but I doubt she hears me as she’s screaming and shouting.

I give Becca a little wave and head towards my car and get in, I start the engine, take a deep breath, reverse off the drive and drive down the road.

What is your problem, Katherine, why are you so worried about Hollie seeing James? I think, as I get to the end of the road and indicate right. That’s when I see the black BMW with the registration JW21 ASK “Jamie,” I whisper. I’m that stunned I stall the engine. All I can do is watch as he turns into the road.  My heart is beating dangerously fast. I catch a quick glimpse of him. He’s still as gorgeous as ever.

I feel paralysed. I don’t know what to do. I just sit there trying to control my breathing.

All of a sudden a horn beeps loudly from behind me, bringing me back to where I am. I look in the rear view mirror and realise that there are a row of three cars behind me, so I quickly start the engine and drive home in a daze.

 

 

About the Author:

1530523_1687888068153432_4227585715699439335_n
Rachel Strong

Bio:

Rachel Strong is a romance author and lives in Lancashire, England, with her husband, three children and little dog Daisy. Rachel works part time as a Health Care Assistant at her local hospital, but her real passion is writing.

Ever since she can remember, Rachel has been writing stories but didn’t really take it seriously until summer 2012 when her husband discovered one of her stories, read it and convinced her that it was good. She loves writing and creating characters, sometimes a whole day can pass her by, just sitting at her laptop, typing away.
When she’s not writing, Rachel loves to read slushy romance novels, chick-lit and a good thriller. When she finds a spare moment she will be found curled up on the sofa with her nose in a book.

Rachel’s debut novel ‘Complicated Love’ is out now with her second novel ‘That Girl’ is due to be released this coming June.

Find her here:

http://www.rachel-jayne-strong.co.uk/
Twitter
Facebook
GoodReads

Visit All the Stops on the Tour:

June 13th

The Bookworm Lodge – http://www.thebookwormlodge.com – Book Excerpt/Promo Post
Little Shop of Readers – http://littleshopofreaders.com/ – Book Promo Post
T&L Book Reviews – http://tasz1976.wordpress.com – Book Excerpt/Promo Post
One Book At A Time – Booksandwinearelovely.blogspot.com – Book Promo Post
The Writing Garnet – HTTPS://Thewritinggarnet.wordpress.com – Book Review

June 14th

Grass monster – Amazon/GoodReads – Book Review
Vikbat – http://vikbat.blogspot.co.uk/ – Book Review/Promo Post
The Bookdragon – http://sheisadude.blogspot.com/ – Book Review
Boundless Minds – http://www.boundlessminds.org – Author Guest Post
ItsShelbyMariee – http://itsshelbymariee.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1 – Book Review

June 15th

JustaBooklovinJunkie – http://jabooklovinjunkie.blogspot/ – Book Review/Excerpt/Promo Post
Liz Ellyn – https://lizellyn.com – Book Review
Fervently Curious – ferventlycurious.wordpress.com – Book Review/Excerpt
Love Sex and Other Dirty Words – http://lovesexandotherdirtywords.com – Book Promo Post
Little Novelist – Www.littlenovelist.com – Book Excerpt
Hello…Chick Lit – http://hellochicklit.com – Book Promo Post

June 16th

Rachel Brimble Romance – http://www.rachelbrimble.blogspot.co.uk/ – Author Guest Post
Have books, Will read – http://www.havebookswillread.wordpress.com – Book Excerpt/Promo Post
Bookmyopia – http://www.bookmyopia.wordpress.com – Book Excerpt
Book Lover in Florida – https://bookloverfl12.wordpress.com/ – Book Excerpt/Promo Post
Ali – The Dragon Slayer – http://cancersuckscouk.ipage.com/ – Book Review
The Book Basics – https://thebookbasics.wordpress.com/ – Book Review/Promo Post

June 17th

Steamy Book Momma – http://steamybookmomma0.blogspot.com – Book Review
Book Groupies – http://bookgroupies2.blogspot.com/ – Book Promo Post
Brittany’s Book Blog – http://www.brittanysbookblog.com – Book Review
Sparkles at Midnight – http://www.sparklesatmidnight.com – Book Review
MsWanderlust – http://www.mswanderlust1963.wordpress.com – Book Review/Excerpt

Book Tour Arranged by:
now booking tours for July/August/September

HCL Book Tours Logo (2)

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