Chapter one - The date from hell

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***Important Note***

This story is temporarily paused because I don't have any free time to write at the moment. I'm hoping to get back to working on the story again soon, but in the meantime I want to avoid anyone else reading the chapters I've posted so far and then being disappointed that it isn't complete yet. Please bear with me.

As soon as I'm in a position to start writing again, I will remove the "On Hold" label from the title, so save it into your library or follow me for updates when I start posting again.






She never saw it coming.

There was no warning. No dark sense of foreboding as the tiny black and white ball sailed across the screen and hit the back of the net.

"Yessss!" Jared jumped up, fist thrusting towards the ceiling as an exultant cry spread through the crowded pub. Her glass, knocked from her hand by the sudden movement, cartwheeled once in midair before smashing against the edge of the table.

He snatched his phone out of harm's way and dried the screen with a loving caress before stowing it safely in his pocket. His friends slithered back to avoid the spreading puddle of vodka and coke dripping off the table like an alcoholic waterfall. Those sitting at nearby tables offered cardboard coasters in a pitiful effort to mop up the mess.

Only then did he spare a thought for Jessica. "You okay?"

The white top had looked so pretty in the shop. Now it had a new pattern; a diagonal slash of dingy brown, like one of those canvases you might see hanging in the Tate Modern. Cold, wet denim clung to her thighs, as her jeans had soaked up nearly half of the liquid. Jess carefully collected some of the larger glass shards that lay in her lap as she bit back a curse. "I think I'll live."

Someone threw Jared a dry bar towel. He grinned as he blotted the coke from her chest until she snatched it off him. The day before, when he'd asked her out, his uneven grin had seemed cute. That was before four and a half pints twisted that cute grin into a lecherous leer that turned her stomach. He bent close to her ear, his beer-breath reeking. "I didn't expect you'd be practising for the wet t-shirt contest tonight."

He was right. The coke hadn't just stained her top. It had turned parts of the white polyester transparent, and Jared's mates into giggling thirteen-year-old boys. The one, admittedly tarnished, silver lining was that it had also stained her white bra a pale beige, so it was less noticeable at a distance. Jess covered the worst of the mess with the towel. "I'd better go and clean up."

"You can come back to our place if you like. We'll get you out of those wet clothes and dry them on the radiators." One of his friends laughed as Jared waggled his eyebrows.

Did he honestly think his offer would appeal to her?

Jess collected her bag and her jacket. She had no interest in spending another minute in their company. "I think I'll be okay. I'm nipping to the ladies room. I won't be—" Her words were smothered beneath a chorus of cheers and boos as one of the teams playing on TV scored another goal. She slipped through the crowd, past flashing fruit machines and the thumping bass of the jukebox, doubting whether he'd even notice she was gone.

She rinsed out the stain and held her top under the hand dryer, hoping it would dry enough for her to get home. It hadn't been a great night, even before the accident, but she couldn't lay the whole blame on Jared's slightly hunched shoulders.

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