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Authors: Charlotte Eve

Barely Yours

BOOK: Barely Yours
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Table of Contents

 

Barely
Yours

 

 

 

 

 

Charlotte Eve

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Garden of Eden Press

Cover Image © 2016 feedough – Depositphotos.com

 

 

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

This book is a work of fiction. the names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writers imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

Due to adult themes, this novel is suitable only for those aged 18+.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Charlotte Eve was born to English parents and grew up between London and New York. She returned to England to study, and has settled in London, where she loves the history, the culture and the tea. Maybe not the rain though. Charlotte still visits New York as often as she can, to shop until she drops.

 

 

To find out whenever Charlotte releases a new book, be sure to sign up for her mailing list at: 
tinyletter.com/charlotteeve

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had everything. My life was perfect. But in the blink of an eye, it was over.

Everything changed.

Emma looked especially beautiful that night. Her honey blonde hair tumbled across her shoulders, her striking blue eyes sparkled like precious jewels, and her pale slender neck was enhanced by the diamond necklace I’d given her that evening, just because. Because she was my wife. And I loved her with all my heart.

I’d taken her to the opera.
La traviata
, Emma’s favourite. And afterwards, we’d had dinner at Picollinos, our favourite restaurant. Champagne. Candles. Our usual table.

I can even remember the feel of my hand on the small of her back, guiding her into limousine, waiting to take us home to our beloved daughter. In the back of the car we held hands; a simple squeeze of her fingers told me that she knew just how lucky we were. And in reply, I looked into her eyes and mouthed the words, “I love you.”

But then, from nowhere, a sound like none I’d ever heard before. A shattering of glass, and a twisting, shrieking splintering of metal. There was a scream, then blackness.

Nothing.

And when I woke up, Emma was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART ONE

Three Years Later

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, so I know
it’s a total cliché, but guys these days really
could
learn a thing or two from the olden days – about how to treat a gal right. I mean, if Mr Darcy used Tinder, he
wouldn’t send you a dick pic before at least saying ‘hello,’ right?

But I guess that’s just how it is these days.

I mean
seriously
. You’ve no idea
the amount of unsolicited dicks that have popped up on my phone recently. I thought when I moved to London, things would be different. That English guys knew how to behave. That they’d been brought up to be real gentlemen. But nope. Turns out that dick pics are standard procedure on
both
sides of the Atlantic.

In the end I deleted Tinder from my phone.

I’ll do romance the old fashioned way
, I thought.
I’ll meet someone in real life.

But guess what? That didn’t work out either. I tried going out to bars, and cafes, but it seems like you can’t even catch a guy’s eye these days, because – guess what! – they’re all glued to their cell phones.

So yeah, dating in London hasn’t exactly lived up to my expectations. And besides, my time here is coming to an end, and then I’m off to see more of the world. Brazil, maybe? I’ve heard Latin American guys are real romantics.

And until I set off travelling again, it’s just me and my old fashioned heroes and heroines.

With a quick look around me to double check the coast is clear, I slip my paperback out of my bag and then quickly disappear once more into a world of lords and ladies, true love and destiny. Of men who
really
knew how to treat a girl right ...

 

§

 

“Chrissie? Chrissie?”

The shrill, nasal voice cuts through me, yanking me from the pages of my book.

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. Reading is permitted
only
on your lunch break, and certainly not on the shop floor. What kind of impression do you think it makes to have my staff sitting around
reading
all day?”

I snap my paperback closed and look up.

“Sorry, Iris,” I say, grinning sheepishly and quickly slipping the book back into my bag “It’s just that the store was so quiet, I guess I figured five minutes wouldn’t hurt.”

“You
figured
, did you?” Iris says, folding her stick-thin arms across her chest, and adjusting her pearls. “Well, I don’t pay you to figure. I pay you to
do as I say
. Now, if the shop is indeed as empty as you insist it is, why don’t you go downstairs and clean the stockroom?”

“But I cleaned the stockroom yesterday,” I offer. “It’s spotless.”

“Honestly,” Iris huffs to herself, “you silly girls and those stupid romance novels. They leave you all giddy and empty headed. You really believe some prince charming is just going to waltz in here and sweep you off your feet, so you’ll never need to do a day’s work again? Well, let me tell you, young lady, that is simply not true. Take me for example ...”

Iris nods at herself, forcing me to look her up and down. From her helmet of badly dyed black hair to her grey and pink twinset and pearls, she’s like something straight out of an eighties fashion magazine, and I can see why no men have attempted to sweep
her
off her feet recently. And on top of that, she’s just so self-satisfied and smug, simply because she runs this overpriced children’s boutique, right in the middle of Chelsea. I’m just glad I won’t need to be staying here for too much longer.

Just one more month,
I remind myself.
Then you’ll have enough for that one-way ticket to Brazil
.

“That’s right,” Iris continues. “I’m an independent business woman ...”

But as she continues to talk, it’s like somebody turns the volume down on her, leaving me in a giddy silence.

Because the hottest guy I’ve ever seen in my freaking
life
has just walked in.

I cut her off midsentence. “Um, excuse me, Iris,” I say. “I’d better attend to this customer.”

I dash out from behind the counter and start to approach him. We’re supposed to ask customers if they’d like any help with anything, but as I get closer, I feel the words jamming in my throat.

It’s crazy. He looks like he’s leapt straight from the pages of the very book I was reading; he’s every cliché come to life. Tall. Dark. Handsome. I mean, holy shit. Is this guy even
real
?

I squint closely at him just to make sure.

A lock of luxurious dark hair tumbles over his forehead, leading down to two thick, black eyebrows set above a pair of smouldering eyes – so dark they look almost
black
. His nose is long and prominent, but in that good way – I guess you’d call it distinguished. And
OMG
. Those lips! I know it sounds weird, and I can’t describe it any better than this, but they just make him look ... well ... intelligent
.

His jawline is so strong, it looks practically carved out of rock. And as my eyes travel further down, reaching his shoulders, I realize just how damn broad they are, and I can’t help but picture a strong muscular chest beneath his beautifully tailored navy suit and that deliciously crisp white shirt that even
I
know must be expensive.

And it’s like my eyes just keep moving on down, beyond my control now – reaching the prominent bulge
in his suit pants, making me wonder what’s underneath that tailored fabric, too ...

Whoa, hold it Chrissie!

In the nick of time, I remember that this isn’t some fantasy, and I’m actually right here at work, standing in front of this sexy stranger, so I quickly pull my eyes up to meet his gaze again. I just know that my cheeks are flushed bright red; I can feel the heat dancing on my skin.

Oh crap, did he just see
where I was looking?!

Did he catch me checking him out,
down there
?

Jeez, I hope not.

Pull yourself together, Chrissie, and talk to him!

“Can I, uh, help you,” I stammer, my cheeks still burning with heat.

But before he even has a chance to answer, Iris has appeared from behind me, practically barging me out of the way, surprisingly powerfully for someone her size.

“I’ll deal with this gentleman, Chrissie,” she hisses from between gritted teeth, as a pointy elbow digs me sharply in the ribs. “How may I help you, sir?” she adds sweetly, suddenly all fluttering eyelashes and cartoonish charm.

“Hi,” he says. “I was actually looking for ...”

His voice trails away as Iris hurriedly leads him to the other end of the store, and as he steps away to follow her, I realise he’s not alone. Because hiding behind his legs, is the cutest, shyest little girl who’s ever set foot in this shop, and believe me, this shop is always
full
of cute kids. She lingers near me, shooting a look over at her daddy, then back up at me, those big blue eyes peeping out from her shaggy blonde bangs, melting my heart.

“Well, hello there,” I say gently, bringing my face down in line with hers, so she wont be too nervous. “And what’s your name?”

I look into her eyes, but she shyly avoids my gaze, staring at the floor and playing with the hem of her black and white checked gingham dress. I’m guessing she must be about three years old. If this job has taught me anything, it’s that kids her age can be
really
shy; and this little girl is no exception.

“Well, my name’s Chrissie,” I say. “It’s
Christina
for long, but nobody ever calls me that. Your dress is
very
pretty. Where did you get it from?”

The little girl’s still too wary to answer me, but she quickly looks up and smiles before looking back down to the ground again. I can tell she’s pleased I like her dress.

“Hey,” I continue, “d’you think they’d have one in my size? Then we could be dress buddies!”

She still doesn’t answer me, but she makes the tiniest little peep of laughter.

I’m getting there
, I think.

“Okay, I’ve got an idea,” I grin. “Do you want to meet some of my friends?”

She looks up at me, those bright blue eyes suddenly quizzical. She’s definitely interested now, but still wary too.

“It’s okay,” I say, gently. “They’re much smaller than you, and they don’t talk very much either.”

She seems satisfied with this explanation, and I reach out my hand to her. She pauses to think for a moment, before thrusting her tiny paw decisively into mine, gripping my fingers tight.

And so, hand in hand, we head over to the small part of the store where we keep a selection of toys amongst all the amazingly overpriced designer children’s party wear and maternity clothes.

“This is Sophie the giraffe,” I say, handing her a small rubber teething toy. “Sophie is very kind and gentle, just like you. Oh, and who’s next?” I say, seeking out another toy. I scan the shelf for just the perfect thing for this shy but fierce little girl. “And this,
this
is my very best friend in the whole shop!” I say, holding out an adorably cute plush tortoiseshell kitten. “This is Dottie the kitten,” I explain, “and I know she
looks
cute, but I think she’s got a fierce streak too, just like you.”

The little girl’s eyes light up, and I feel a flash of happiness. She’s obviously fallen head over heels in love with this little toy; after six months working in this shop, I can tell that reaction a mile off.

She cradles the fluffy kitten in her arms, rocking it like a baby, and I smile, pleased with my work.

“Now, Tabitha,” comes the impeccable English accent, by far the sexiest one I’ve heard in my whole year here in London. “Leave that nice lady alone.”

“Oh no,” I stutter, blushing
again
as I make eye contact once more with this totally gorgeous guy. “I mean, we’re having a great time, me and ... Tabitha.”

I look down at the little girl, who smiles approvingly as I say her name.

“Me and Tabitha have been making friends. In fact, I think we may have accidentally made a
friend for life
here,” I add a little apologetically, just as Tabitha holds out the toy kitten to her father, expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” I grin sheepishly, “but I think you might have to get your wallet out a second time.”

“Well now,” he says rather coldly, looking me up and down with those burning black eyes, “quite the sales woman, aren’t you?”

“I’m sorry, I, I,” I stammer.

He chuckles quietly, pulling out his wallet, brow furrowing.

“No harm done,” he sighs. “The hearts of little girls are mysterious things. And Tabby certainly doesn’t do things by halves. I think you’re right. We might well have made a friend for life.”

And then something really weird happens.

Because all of a sudden, it’s like time ...
pauses
, and we’re the only two people in the world, staring at each other, everything else melting away into nothingness, just those big black eyes of his boring into mine, those thick sensuous lips curling into a smile, just the beat of my heart and the hairs standing up on the nape of my neck and ...

Clap clap!

Just as quickly as it started, the moment’s shattered by the sound of Iris clapping her hands and chirping, “Excellent, well, if you’d like to make another purchase sir, then please follow me to the till!”

My mystery man nods and takes his daughter’s hand, and she trots obediently behind him as Iris leads the two over to the registers, leaving me standing in the middle of the shop floor, more than a little dumbstruck.

Whoa.

That look between us.

What the hell just happened there?

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