Authors: Tess Stimson
is the author of four previous
novels, the most recent being the top ten bestselling
The Adultery Club
, and one biography. She writes regularly for the
as well as for several women
‘C’mon, Cate. Relax,’ Dan murmurs. ‘I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want
‘I know, but . . .’
He strokes the side of my cheek with the back of his hand, tilts my head and kisses me softly on the lips. It’s like being in a movie; I
could do this all day.
Then his hand slides up my calf, and I quickly cross my knees so he doesn’t get the wrong idea.
‘Hey. It’s OK, you know. My students won’t be here for ages. We’re cool.’ He drops gentle, nuzzling kisses down my
neck; it tickles, and I giggle. ‘Just go with the flow, baby. Soon as you want me to stop, say so, and I will.’
His knuckles brush my breast, back and forth, back and forth, and even though I’m wearing a bra and a school blouse and a gross woolly
jumper, my nipple goes all hard, and a warm wet feeling spreads between my legs.
‘You’re so beautiful, Cate,’ Dan says thickly. ‘Please, can I just look at you properly? I
won’t do anything, I swear. I just want to see you. Let me undo your blouse, please. That’s all, I promise.’
‘You’re not scared, are you?’
‘At least take off your sweater. That’s not going to do any harm, is it?’
did I tell him I was a virgin? Talk about red rag to a bull. He’s even more determined to get
into my knickers now. It’s Mum and Dad’s fault. First they make me go to a girls’ school, and then they send Ben off to board. What’s the point of having an older brother if all his hot friends live, like, three hundred miles
away? Honestly. Dad wasn’t joking when he said he’d send me to a Romanian convent. He might as well have done. How am I supposed to get any real experience when I never meet any boys?
In a private act of defiance, I pull up the hem of my jumper with both hands, feeling unexpectedly sexy and grown-up as Dan’s eyes darken and
he touches his tongue to dry lips. I struggle to get the sweater over my shoulders, and he helps me, his hands pulling and touching and smoothing a bit more than I need, actually, somehow he’s untucked my blouse at the same time, and I know I
didn’t leave that many buttons undone—
‘God, Cate. Feel what you do to me.’
He grabs my hand and puts it on his
. I’m kind of grossed out, but it’s cool at the same
time. I can’t believe how hard it is under his jeans. I mean,
hard, like a bone or something. I squeeze it a bit, just to feel, and he rocks back on his heels and closes his eyes and moans.
‘You have no idea how sexy you are, Cate. You’re driving me crazy.’
I undo another button on my blouse, just to see the effect it has. He gulps, rubbing his hand against his chin. I can’t believe I have this
over him, it’s a total trip.
I try out this sexy look my best friend Fleur taught me, and daringly unfasten another button, so my shirt falls open to my waist. I’m so
glad I wore my new lacy pink bra from Miss Selfridge. I hadn’t planned to let Dan see it, exactly, but then, I hadn’t planned not to either. God, imagine if I was wearing my period pants – not that it matters, I’m not letting him
go below the waist yet, but still. No one feels hot and sexy in their period pants.
I suck in my stomach as Dan’s eyes travel up and down my body, and sit up a bit straighter. I wish I wasn’t wearing my school uniform.
He must think I’m such a baby. I mean, he’s twenty-three. His students are older than I am.
He pushes me gently back against the sofa pillows and slides his body over mine, his hands crushing and squeezing my breasts. I like it, but I stop
him when he tries to pull them out of my bra. I sort of ache between my legs, and when his knee pushes my thighs apart, I rock my hips a bit against him, as if I’m scratching an itch. It feels really good, like having a hot drink on a cold day.
It’s getting a bit warm in here, so I don’t mind too much when Dan slips my blouse off my shoulders. My pleated grey skirt has somehow
got rucked up around my waist, and I hook one bare leg around his hips as he pulls me close, his hands roaming all over my back. God, this is really good. I must stop in a minute, though. I don’t want things to go too far. In a minute, I’ll
He leans up on one elbow, staring at me with such intensity I barely recognize him. Then he dips his head to my breast, and I realize
with a gasp of shock and pleasure that my bra has somehow come off, and his lips are on my nipple,
my naked nipple
, I’m naked from the waist up, and his hand is between my thighs, oh God, that’s good,
I’ve got to stop now, but that’s so good—
‘Dan . . .’
His fingers slip beneath the edge of my cotton panties, and they’re stroking me
! It feels so much better than when I do it, it’s hot and wet and heavy and—
‘Dan, no . . .’
Every time he sucks my nipples, I can feel a zing down below, oh, God, this is so good, but I have to stop him, I have to stop—
Suddenly he leans back and unbuckles his jeans. I have a brief glimpse of his thing, red and swollen and totally huge, and suddenly all the warm
lovely feelings vanish as if someone’s thrown a bucket of cold water over me. I struggle up from the sofa, pulling down my skirt and grabbing my jumper from the floor.
‘I can’t, Dan. I’m sorry, I just—’
‘Cate, come on, I’ll be careful, it won’t hurt.’
I pick up my bra from the floor and clutch it to my chest. ‘I’m sorry, Dan,’ I mumble, cheeks flaming. ‘I have to go home.
My mum will be wondering where I am.’
He leaps to his feet, his thing sticking out of his jeans. It looks purple and angry. I can’t take my eyes off it.
‘Are you kidding me? You can’t come on to me like that and then stop! I’m not a fucking robot, Cate!’ His expression
hardens, and he turns and tucks himself away. ‘I can’t just switch it on and off like a tap, even if you can!’
‘I didn’t mean—’
‘Christ! This is what I get for dating a kid!’
‘Dan, that isn’t fair—’
‘Nor is behaving like a prick-tease. Do you have any idea how much my fucking balls ache right now?’
All of a sudden, I start to cry. Dan hesitates, then exhales and slowly runs his hand through his hair. ‘Look, I’m sorry,’ Dan
says, as I sniff miserably. ‘I shouldn’t have pushed you, I obviously got it wrong. I didn’t mean to make you do something you weren’t ready for.’
He hands me my blouse, waits until I’ve turned around and put it on, then pulls me into his arms and rubs my back gently. ‘You’ve
got to be more careful, Cate. I’m a decent guy, and I stop when I’m asked. But there are some men out there who think that when you set something in motion, you’ve got to follow through.’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—’
‘Yeah, I know. It’s OK.’
I hiccup. ‘You’re not going to dump me?’
‘You think I’d do that because you won’t sleep with me?’ He holds me away from him, his expression serious. ‘What
kind of man do you think I am? I care about you, Cate. You’re beautiful and funny and totally nuts. I love being with you. And besides,’ he grins, ‘I’m depending on you. Who else is going to keep me on the straight and
My breath frosts in the cold March air as I walk home. I’m so embarrassed, I wish the ground would just open up
and swallow me. It’s not as if I’m saving myself for Prince William or something. Basically I want to get on with it and then I can forget about it – well, not forget about it, exactly, but tick it off
the list. Lose virginity, check.
So why does it feel like such a big deal? I mean, Dan’s really nice and totally hot, and he’s twenty-three, at least one of
us’ll know what we’re doing. Fleur’s right, he’d be a great person to do it with the first time.
I wish she hadn’t gone back to France last summer. I really miss her. She’s so cool, and she knew all these really neat places to
hang out after school. Plus, she didn’t think I was sad for wanting to study hard so I can get into NYU and be a journalist. The only thing the other girls at school care about is when they’ll get into a size zero.
Last year, I gave up chocolate for Lent, like everyone does, but my best friend, Clem, gave up everything containing sugar.
. Pretty much all food has
sugar in it, right? Basically, she had to live on celery and lettuce, so then everyone else in the class copied her. It was like this
weird virus. For weeks, no one could think about anything but diets. People were, like, fainting all over the place. The swimming team had a total crisis, because everyone stopped swimming in case it gave them muscles. Girls would sit round me at
breaktime and watch me eating an apple – an
, for God’s sake – with their eyes totally focused on my mouth, until I couldn’t even chew. All they read were stupid glossy magazines with
pictures of skinny stars in them, and they’d talk and talk and
about celebrities and what they ate and how thin they were.
Most of them gave up after a few weeks, but a few kept going. Clem even wrote this whole pro-ana blog on her Facebook page, until Mrs Buchanan, our headmistress, found out and made her take it down.
Dan calls them the girls from St Thinian’s. He says men don’t like skinny girls, or women who obsess about their weight. He says
older women can be really sexy because they’re not always worrying about how they look. Yeah, right. Like you wake up one morning and think,
Oh, I’m thirty, I’m just going to let it all hang out from now
I should stop thinking about it and just sleep with him. Get it over with.
Dad hates him. Every time he comes over, he gives Dan this laser-beam glare. He’s like,
Are your intentions
honour-able, young man, because if not I’m going to chop up your body and feed it to the fishes.
It took me for ever to talk Dad into letting him design the new logo for the company. But Dan was really cool, he knew all this stuff about
Ashfield PR, so in the end Dad gave in. I wish he’d stop acting like this Victorian paterfamilias, it’s so embarrassing.
I think Mum quite likes him, though it’s hard to tell with her. When she’s acting like a zombie she doesn’t even talk to you;
you can be like, ‘The house is on fire and I just stuck an axe in my foot’ and she’ll just sit on the bed and like
at you and not even move. Or else she can be this nutso freak, painting all
night and jabbering on at you at a million miles an hour and doing crazy stuff, like when she decided to knock down the conservatory last summer and build an open-air theatre for this stupid triptych she was doing. Luckily I came home early the day the
demolition crew arrived or we’d have ended up with half the house gone. I wish I could just talk to Mum sometimes. I really envy Clem that. Her mother is so normal. You can talk to her about school and boys and
stuff and she really
But it’s thanks to Mum I met Dan in the first place. Like, a few months ago, she’d promised to go to the opening of Eithne’s
new show in London, but when it came to it she couldn’t face the thought of going alone. Dad was too busy, as per, so she dragged me along, which actually wasn’t too lame after all because all these cool people turned up, it was in all the
papers the next day and everyone at school was seriously impressed. Clem even asked for my autograph; I worry about that girl sometimes.
So anyway, we’re in this huge hall, and I kind of left Mum alone for a bit to sneak a quick glass of wine, and when I go back, she’s
yakking with this guy about art or something, and I’m like,
Wow! he’s hot
, and I give him my best smile, but he just keeps droning on about expressionism or individualism or whatever, and I’d had
enough by then and dragged Mum away.
Then a week later, I’m at home on study leave and Mum’s gone Christmas shopping, and Hot Guy turns up on the doorstep! He’d
obviously gone to a lot of trouble to track me down, so I couldn’t leave him sitting there. He was actually a lot more interesting once you got him off the subject of art. Anyway, I asked him if he wanted to come to our New Year’s Eve party,
and he said yes straight away. So that was it, really.
I wish Eithne would send us that statue she promised. I’m going to be
dead if she doesn’t
I bump open the garden gate and trudge up the drive. I’ve got a ton of work to do. I shouldn’t have gone over to
Dan’s. Now I’m going to have to stay up all night if I want to finish that stupid essay on the American Revolution.
Cannelle leaps up to welcome me as I let myself into the kitchen. I give him a big hug, then throw my bag on the kitchen table and put the kettle
on the Aga hotplate. I wish we had a proper electric one, like everyone else does. I loathe this crappy thing.
My nerves are totally jangling. I’ve got a headache, and I’m all achey. It’s like PMT, or something. God, I hate being a
Mum bursts through the back door and I jump, spilling hot water on my hand.
‘Darling, I’ve had a marvellous idea! I need to go down to Brighton tomorrow, I have to see the sea – I need that colour in my
mind’s eye, nothing else works, I have to
there.’ She swoops me around the kitchen, and I nearly trip over the dog. ‘Why don’t you come too, Cate? We’ll have a wonderful time
I prise her off me. ‘Mum, I can’t. I’ve got exams soon, I can’t just bunk off.’
‘Of course you do, darling. I hadn’t forgotten, I just thought you could do with a break. We don’t spend enough time together,
I miss you, sweetheart, and silly old school will still be there next week—’
It’s as if she still thinks I’m in kindergarten.
I nearly had sex with my boyfriend on his sofa this
afternoon, Mum! Why don’t you know to ask me about that?
‘You’re not getting it, Mum,’ I snap, going to the sink and running cold water over my scald. ‘I don’t want to go
to bloody Brighton and see the sea. I’m not five years old, I’m seventeen and I’ve got to study!’
‘All right, darling. No need to get quite so huffy. I just thought it would be fun, I was only trying to
help take your mind off—’
Suddenly I’m so angry I want to scream. Why can’t she just be normal for once? Why does she always have to be like this?
‘Look, if you really want to help, call Eithne and ask her about the artwork she promised us!’ I yell. ‘The auction’s on
Saturday and her name’s in all the brochures and if she doesn’t turn up I’m just going to die!’
She looks bewildered. ‘I’m sure she’ll—’
‘Oh, never mind! I’m going over to Clem’s!’
I grab my bag and storm back outside. Tears blur my vision. It’s like I don’t belong
– not at school; not at home; not with Dan. I wish I could just do my own thing and not have to be responsible for anyone.
I take the short-cut to Clem’s, ducking down an alleyway that runs past the railway station. My breath forms smoky plumes as I jog quickly
along the path in the dark, imagining rapists and murderers lurking in every shadow. I wish I’d brought Cannelle. My heart’s racing by the time I get to the car park and turn towards Clem’s street, though it slows a bit when I spot a
couple snogging in one of those disgusting 4x4s parked near the platform gate (Dad bought one last year; like doesn’t he even
about the planet?). At least someone’s around if I get jumped by the mad
axeman. God, look at them, they’re really going for it—
They suddenly separate, and the woman flings open her door, so the light comes on inside. I think I know her. She’s got the kind of mad
hair you don’t forget, like rusty bedsprings – shit! She was the doctor who looked after Sam when he was little! I got dragged along to his annual checkups every year until he was about five.
I recognized Dad instantly, of course.