Read Twelve Days - The Beginning Online
Authors: Jade Reyner
Twelve Days – The Beginning
by Jade Reyner
Copyright © Jade Reyner 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this e-book may be reproduced in any form other than that in which it was purchased and without the written permission of the author.
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ePub ISBN 9781909425255
Mobi ISBN 9781909425248
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
To my husband for his never ending support in helping me to achieve my dream and his patience and understanding throughout. I couldn’t have done it without you. x
To my eldest son, for your enthusiasm and ideas. You have encouraged me as much as Daddy has and I am so lucky to have you both in my life. I love you both with all of my heart.
To my parents, for assisting me in all of my bizarre endeavours, and never giving up on me. You mean the world to me – this one’s for you.
To my two brilliant proofreaders, you know who you are. You have both given me the belief that I could actually do this and without your help I would have given up a long time ago. Thank you both for your unconditional support – and regular offers of chocolate!
To my sister and brother-in-law for their technical input. Thank you, but beware – more will be required!
And finally but most importantly, a massive THANK YOU to all of you who are reading this book. It means the world to me to finally get my book out there and I hope that you are enjoying reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the sequel, ‘Twelve Days – The Future’ which will be available soon.
Thank you to each and every one of you.
Much love, Jade x
Proofread by Sarah Kean-Price of Marmalade Copy. To contact in reference to further projects of your own, please e- mail
This book is dedicated to my very special son.
You are my inspiration and my hope on a daily basis.
Mummy is so proud of you. You truly are my Angel.
The door slammed shut, rattling on its hinges. She had left him. Finally. It was as simple and as complicated as that.
She walked on unfeeling legs to her battered run-around and got in, turning the key, putting it in gear, automatic pilot. She turned the steering wheel, praying she had time, praying her car would take her somewhere. Anywhere.
She needed a drink. Boy, did she need a drink.
But first, she needed somewhere to live.
Twelve days earlier
The music was pounding - The Communards ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, - and Elise allowed the beats to sweep her away. She loved this track; an absolute must-dance-to, guaranteed to fill the floor. As the track reached its crescendo, Elise raised her arms above her head and closed her eyes, allowing the music to wash over her, spinning round, losing all sense of her surroundings. The rhythm was pulsing through her from head to toe, allowing Elise to forget everything but this moment. This perfect synchronisation of mind, body and senses. She could feel herself getting warmer as she continued to absorb the music and was immensely grateful for her lightweight, short-sleeved black dress. A crepe material, which fitted on the bodice and then flared out at the waist to finish in a floating skirt just above her knees. She felt good and she knew that tonight, she looked good.
Suddenly a pair of strong arms grabbed her from behind, breaking her out of her music induced reverie and nearly causing her heart to fail.
“Jesus, Cole, you scared the shit out of me!”
She whirled around to face her work colleague and best friend Cole Andrews and punched him lightly on the arm. Her already racing heart felt like it was about to jump out of her chest – he had scared the crap out of her – and as her bright blue eyes met chocolate brown, she raised an eyebrow sardonically. He was struggling to hide his very obvious amusement and when she went to punch him again, he caught her wrist easily and continued to smile at her in his infinitely adorable way.
Cole was beautiful; there was no other word for it. He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome with the most gorgeous brown eyes. His hair was a lighter shade than his eyes and flopped over his face in the most ridiculously heart stopping way. Elise’s breath hitched as she looked at him in the muted lights of the crowded dance floor, waiting for the now familiar attraction to pass.
When Elise had first begun working for Andrews & Andrews Accountancy, Cole - as the junior partner - had been assigned to train her and generally make sure that she didn’t mess up. It had been love at first sight for Elise and in the early days she had seriously struggled with her concentration. Every time he leaned over her she would have to hide her shudders and pretend that the computer programme that he was demonstrating really was the most interesting thing in the world.
As time passed they had started to spend lunchtimes together and soon realised that they both shared the same terrible taste in music, both hated exercising and both had a serious weakness for chocolate. The day they shared their first Dairy Milk was the day their friendship had been cemented and over the last five years, Cole had remained her one constant. He had picked her up and put her back together more times than she could remember and in return, she had rescued him from the clutches of some seriously psycho dates. In all that time they never once talked about the undercurrent of attraction between them although they were both
more than aware that it was there. Neither of them wanted to ruin the friendship that they had built; both recognising the beauty of their relationship and so, by an unspoken agreement, things remained purely platonic.
There was also the fact that neither of them wanted to cross the line; - break the rules, so to speak. Their friendship remained exactly as it was for one very good reason and one very good reason alone.
Elise was married.
Cole was still grinning inanely at her as she shook herself out of her trance, belatedly realising that Jimmy Somerville had long since stopped asking her not to leave, and she was now being told to ‘Sit Down’ by James.
“Looking hot tonight, beautiful” Cole declared and Elise struggled not to blush under his intense gaze. Despite their understanding and her marital status, there was still that underlying sexual tension between them both and it was difficult to rein it in sometimes. Tonight they were at the work Christmas party, drinks were flowing, the mood was high and that sometimes made the resolve just a little bit more tricky.
“Back atcha” Elise replied, admiring Cole in his black trousers, dark shirt and leather jacket. Boy, did this man know how to dress.
“So, how come you’re here on the dance floor mauling me rather than chasing Annabel into the nearest dark corridor?” Annabel was the new receptionist - young, lively and beautiful and the latest object of Cole’s desire.
“She took a bathroom break about half an hour ago and has been avoiding me ever since.” Cole replied with a grimace.
“Uh oh. Don’t tell me she took her bathroom break with Amelia?”
“Oh dear, you’re screwed.” Amelia who worked in the back office had been Cole’s last love. Unfortunately for her she’d been in love and he wasn’t, resulting in her being on a one-woman campaign to make sure that no one else fell foul of his charms. There was also the fact that if she couldn’t have him, she didn’t see why anyone else should.
Cole shrugged “Plenty more fish and anyway, I’ve not seen you properly since you got back from the conference and I’m pretty sure you owe me a dance, sweet-cheeks.”
Ugh! Elise rolled her eyes at the use of her seriously annoying nickname. She didn’t even know where it had come from but the way Cole said it just riled her and he knew it.
“Cole Andrews, I would not dance with you if you were the last man on the planet!” she declared and started to head for the bar, suddenly in desperate need of refreshment. Cole just laughed, grabbed her arms again and turned her back around towards the dance floor.
James had finished and had given over to the ever popular 5,6,7,8 line-dancing number by Steps. Knowing that she could not resist the challenge of the complex dance routine, Cole manoeuvred them to the centre of the packed floor, thus ensuring she had no means of escape.
Her mini tantrum short-lived, Elise allowed Cole to lead their dance and laughed along with him as they tripped and stomped their way through the number. Other colleagues, some more inebriated than others, were having similar difficulties and it wasn’t long before the dance floor was a mass of giggling, swaying and out of control bodies.
Once the number had finished, Elise realised that she really did now desperately need refreshment and signalled to Cole that she would be leaving the floor. Cole grabbed her hips to halt her progress so that he could join her and Elise stiffened momentarily, trying to mask the sharp stab of pain. She had her back to Cole and prayed that he had not picked up on her slight movement and intake of breath. Cole unfortunately had missed nothing, and immediately spun her around to face him, pulling her eyes up to meet his.
“Elise, what the fuck....?” His eyes displayed a myriad of emotions ranging from shock, to disbelief and finally settling on anger. “Elise, no! You’re kidding me, not again...”
She didn’t want to hear any more. Steeling her resolve, she placed her fingers gently over Cole’s mouth and silently shook her head, her eyes imploring him to let this go. Gradually he released his hold and watched helplessly as she spun away, back through the throng towards the bar.
Tonight she was having fun. This was her night. She didn’t want to think about anything – at all. Not what she was doing, not Cole and his sympathy and certainly not Dale at home, waiting for her. Tonight was about freedom, removing herself from her life for just a few moments in time, maybe pretending she was someone else. Tonight was hers because it was all she had and she was most definitely not going to think about anything else. Tonight she didn’t want to remember; tonight she wanted to block it all out, just for a while. Tomorrow there would be plenty of time for remembering. Remembering the hurt, the pain and the terror. The sadness and the disappointment and the loss. The mourning and the grief.
Remembering Dale, her husband, and the fact that last night he had raped her – again.
The bar was packed – unsurprisingly, as it was free, and Elise had to wait a while to get served. When she had approached the bar, she had decided that she was going to get drunk; steaming, over the top, serious-hangover drunk. But by the time the bartender had reached her, she had calmed down some and remembered that she would need to stay sober to keep her wits about her. Dale had not been happy about her coming to the party in any case, a fact that he had demonstrated with absolute clarity last night. Having not seen him today, she had no idea what she would face when she returned home. All she knew was that if she rolled up steaming drunk, he would not be best impressed and would most likely demonstrate again, why she should not be allowed out on her own.
Grabbing a couple of mineral waters, she headed back to the table at the rear of the dance floor where Cole was now sitting with their friends. Pausing, she watched the dynamics of the table as Cole regaled them with some story or other.
To his left sat Bobby, the serious but dependable Deputy Manager. Bobby was in his late thirties and when Elise had first met him she had decided that he really needed to lighten up a little and have a serious makeover. On closer acquaintance though she had come to realise that he was quick-witted and caring and that underneath that serious exterior, was a calm and thoughtful man. Bobby was out on borrowed time tonight and she knew that his phone would be right next to him, gripped tightly in his hand. Bobby’s wife, Helen, was due to give birth to their first child any day now and although Bobby did not want to leave her side, Helen had insisted he come to the Christmas do - more to give her a break from his overprotective worrying than anything else.
On the other side of Cole sat Amelia; OK, not really one of their friends, but a relatively permanent fixture wherever Cole was. She was pressed tightly to his side, her ample chest brushing seductively against his arm. Cole was ignoring her – totally, and talking to Celeste on her other side.
Celeste was Elise’s partner-in-crime at these do’s. Fun and bubbly, she knew how to have a good time and loved the music and dancing as much as Elise. Her sense of humour was similar and there was many an occasion when Celeste and Elise would be sitting in a corner in hysterics, while everyone else just stared at them in disbelief. Elise loved Celeste and although they had only been friends a short while, she desperately hoped that the bubbly brunette would hang around for a long time to come. She needed someone uncomplicated like her to balance out the madness that was her existence.
Finally her eyes came to rest on Olivia, a new addition to the group. Olivia had only been working at Andrews & Andrews for a couple of weeks and was still learning the ropes. In her early twenties, Olivia was a good few years younger than Elise’s thirty-one, but they had still managed to share some good conversations. She was pretty, in an understated way and had an air of brittleness about her. She lacked confidence and stayed close to Elise and Cole, they being her main contacts at work, but she had something about her that Elise didn’t quite trust. When she had first arrived, Cole and the rest of the male staff had struggled to keep their
comments to themselves. The combination of helpless-female and a well-endowed chest was toxic and if it hadn’t been for her age and inexperience, Elise knew that she would have been preyed upon well before now.
Finally reaching the table, she slotted in next to Cole where Bobby had been sat. He had just headed out to call his wife and check that she was still OK.
“Thanks, babe.” Cole gratefully took the mineral water and downed it in one. Amelia watched his throat move as he gulped down the water, a look of pure lust on her face and Elise had to struggle to stifle a laugh.
“So, what took you so long? I was beginning to think you’d run out on us” Cole draped his arm across her shoulder - much to the annoyance of Amelia - and turned the full level of his stare towards her. Whilst his comment was light-hearted, his eyes betrayed the depth of meaning and she knew that he had been terrified that she had bolted. Grateful for the fact that he cared, she squeezed his hand under the table before reaching for her water.
Celeste was busily chattering across the table from her and, for want of escaping his gaze, Elise turned from Cole and tuned in to what she was saying.
“Anyway, I saw him as I was coming out of the bathrooms and he is hot, hot, hot! I couldn’t stop staring; he must have thought I was a right idiot!”
Turning, Elise followed Celeste’s gaze to the edge of the dance floor and for the first time noticed the stranger in their midst. He, whoever he was, was talking to Stephen, her desk partner and nemesis. They had been sited next to each other for the last three years, and she had never been totally comfortable around him. Stephen was blond and blue eyed like her, and rocked the surfer look. He also rocked the bad boy vibe and was forever regaling Elise with tales of his endless conquests. The fact that he had a fiancée seemed irrelevant and it was for this that she distrusted Stephen. Whilst her relationship with Dale wasn’t great and hadn’t been for some time, she had promised to Love, Honour and Obey and believed that they were vows not to be taken lightly. Although Stephen wasn’t married, he was in a committed relationship and that, in Elise’s mind, amounted to the same thing.
As if he could sense her looking, the stranger glanced across the floor and his eyes locked on hers. He was too far away for her to tell what colour they were, but there was a certain power to them which held her gaze captive. He was older, possibly mid-thirties, and although she didn’t technically agree with Celeste’s definition of hot, hot, hot, there was something about him that drew you in.
Glancing in their direction, Stephen murmured something in his ear and they both headed across the floor towards them. Opposite her, Celeste squealed and started frantically praying to a higher being for the floor to open and swallow her up. Olivia, remained passive and calm, with no flicker of emotion as she watched the two men saunter across the dance floor. Elise felt Cole’s arm tighten reflexively and shot him a glare as Stephen reached their table.
“Ladies... may I introduce our newest off site rep, Vaughn Granger. Vaughn, this is Olivia, Celeste, Amelia, Cole and Elise” Stephen brandished his arm around the table dramatically, encompassing them all with his action.
Vaughn stepped forward and for the first time Elise got a good look at him close up. He was, as she suspected, a little older, but he was in good shape and from what she could tell, his body was pretty good. His face had an edge and he had relatively short dark hair which curled slightly and complemented his almost black eyes. As he leaned forward to shake their hands, Elise caught the waft of alcohol and realised that he had wasted no time in making his acquaintance with the complementary bar. Given her current fragile state, the smell was off-putting and somewhat nauseating and she decided that, despite his obvious charms, she didn’t much care for this new member of staff.
Without asking, Stephen had edged into the booth next to her, pressing his thigh along hers and seeming to enjoy her resulting discomfort. Vaughn took Stephen’s actions as an invitation and slid in opposite her, next to Olivia. Although Vaughn continued to stare at Elise, she didn’t miss the way he sat just a little too close to Olivia, his eyes flicking over her breasts on a regular basis.
After their arrival, conversation was stilted. Vaughn had seriously hit the bar and was struggling to string any useful words together. Stephen filled the gaps with ridiculous stories, which Amelia laughed at just a little too loud, and he annoyingly continued to press his thigh closer and closer to hers. Feeling distinctly uncomfortable, Elise excused herself to visit the bathrooms and caught Celeste’s eye, indicating for her to join her. The two escaped from the table and as Celeste climbed over Olivia and Vaughn, Elise noted the way that Vaughn had dropped his mouth to Olivia’s ear and whispered something to her. She repressed a shudder as she considered what he must smell like up close and thanked all that was holy that all she’d had to contend with so far, was Stephen’s thigh.
“So, what do you think of him?” Celeste demanded as soon as they were out of earshot. Celeste was perpetually single and perpetually on the lookout for her soul mate.
“Isn’t he a bit old for you?” Elise replied. Celeste was twenty-six, meaning that there must have been something like a ten-year age gap.
“No, don’t be daft. I like older men, and besides, it’s not as if I have tons of success with men my age. Don’t you just think he’s to die for?!”
Elise didn’t. However, she didn’t want to crush her friend so she settled for a tactful “He’s OK, I suppose - he seemed to be pretty cosy with Olivia though, Leste; you may have some competition”.
Celeste blew some hair out of her eyes as she studied her reflection in the mirror. “Nah, I’m not worried about Olivia, she may have bigger boobs than me, but I can beat her on experience any day!” Elise laughed. Her friend was incorrigible and she knew firsthand that Celeste was not short on experience. On one memorable occasion, Elise had gone round to visit Celeste and, finding the flat door open, had pushed inside. Following the sounds coming from the bedroom, she had tiptoed tentatively through the door only to pull up short in
complete shock at the sight of Celeste with not one, but two naked men. Although she had run out as fast as her legs would carry her, Elise had never forgotten this incident and had sometimes wondered what it had felt like to have two men in her bed. Or if she would ever have the courage to broach the subject with Dale.
“Leste, what do you think of Olivia?” Elise asked, keen to change the subject but also to hear if her friend shared her misgivings.
“I’m not sure really. She seems pleasant enough but there’s something about her that I can’t put my finger on”
“Me either. Maybe it’s just the whole ‘innocent’ act? I don’t know.”
“I don’t think she’s as innocent as she makes out,” Celeste intoned, “I know we’ve only just met Vaughn and I do kind of like him but she didn’t seem to be backing away from all his whispering and attentions. When I brushed past them, I’m sure I heard him telling her that she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen”
Elise rolled her eyes. That old line. “Oh God! Maybe but then he is pretty drunk so I guess it’s kind of hard to take him seriously. Do people really fall for that line these days?”
Celeste laughed, “I doubt it but if he was staring into my eyes and telling me I was the most beautiful girl in the world, I wouldn’t still be sitting at this lame party, I can tell you that for nothing!”
Giving her friend a light punch on the arm, Elise exited the bathroom and they returned to their table to find the status quo as it was when they left. Stephen shuffled along to allow Elise to sit on the end of the bench and watched with interest as her eyes automatically went to Vaughn and Olivia.
Never one to be slow on the uptake, Stephen leaned over and whispered in her ear, “What’s up, cupcake? You want a piece of that ass but you’re all jealous ‘cos Olivia’s got it covered?”
“Shut up you idiot, of course not.” She hissed back. ”Have you forgotten that I am a married woman? And in any case, I really can’t imagine wanting to have anything to do with someone who still uses the ‘you’re the most beautiful girl in the world’ chat up line.”
Stephen just grinned and turned back to his conversation with Cole; apparently having rapidly developed a huge interest in cricket, Cole’s sport of choice.
Left with no one to talk to, Elise suddenly became aware of her surroundings and the fact that the lights had dimmed indicating that the night was drawing to a close and that the slow dances were on their way. In her younger years Elise had loved this part of the evening; the guessing games as to who would dance with who and the hope for a surreptitious grope with the current object of her desire. Once she had met and married Dale, that had all changed and now, having been married for 10 years, she found the whole spectacle tedious. She refused to consider why that might be, concerned that she would realise that she was jealous that she no longer had the freedom to enjoy this part of the night.
As if sensing her unease, Cole extricated himself from both Amelia and Stephen and took Elise’s arm, gently leading her to the floor. ‘I will always love you’ by Whitney Houston was playing and Cole sang along in a low voice, taking care to ensure his hands never touched her sore hips. It was at times like these that Elise realised how much she loved Cole and although she knew that there would never be anything more between them, it made her sad in a way that she really didn’t want to analyse.
“Hey,” said Cole, “looks like we’re both off the hook tonight.”
Elise followed his gaze to see Stephen and Amelia glued to each other, their mouths duelling as if their lives depended on it.
“Ugh! Seriously, why would anyone go near that?”
“I guess it depends how desperate you are,” replied Cole “and it makes me inordinately happy to know that I finally have ammunition to rid myself of that bitch.”
Hearing Cole speak so strongly about Amelia brought Elise up short. She knew that things had not ended pleasantly but didn’t realise that he had such negative feelings. She was about to question him further when the music finished and the lights were raised, indicating that the show was over and it was time to go home.
Negotiating their way off the dance floor, Elise watched as Vaughn, Stephen, Amelia and Olivia all headed out of the door together and tried to quash some ugly visuals that had just popped into her head. Celeste was sitting forlornly in the booth, also having watched the foursome leave and raised her eyes heavenwards as they approached.
“What is wrong with me, guys?” she asked, her voice laced with desperation. “Apart from the obvious, what does that Olivia chick have that I don’t? Why can’t I get lucky just once?”
“Ah bella,” said Cole in his worst Italian accent, “why don’t - a we go a - to a - McDonalds and a – drown a - your sorrows in a - chocolate a - milk?”