HEART – the prologue

PROLOGUE: heavy-hearted

 

JAKE

 

Neve can barely contain her excitement as we drive along the Brighton shorefront, the sea shimmering in the August sun. I can feel it in the way her fingers clench my thigh and her constant fidgeting. Try as I might, I can’t stop looking at the ever-increasing amount of leg on show as her squirming pushes her skirt higher and higher, exposing more and more of her smooth skin. Skin I want–no, need–to run my fingers across. Skin I know gets softer and softer the higher I get. The harder I get. Keep your eyes on the bloody road, Jake.

“Look, it’s the pier! We could go tonight! We’ve never been to the fair! I can’t believe we’re actually here!” I can’t believe we’re actually here, either. Hours away from home, but this is where she will soon be. Hours away from me.

Before the black cloud, which is now permanently on the horizon of my mind descends, I try to just focus on the weekend ahead. “Sounds like a plan,” I say, smiling across at her. The open window ruffles her hair and, yet again, I am overwhelmed by how beautiful she is. If I believed in God, I’d spend my days on my knees, thanking him for bringing her into my life. For bringing light into my dark. As it is, I don’t know what I’ve ever done that deserves such a return.

“Fancy a paddle?” I ask, manoeuvring the van into a parking space. Neve’s squeal of excitement makes me laugh, and I swear she’s out of the van before I’ve even grabbed the keys from the ignition.

I take her hand and we walk down the steps to the beach. The pebbles crunch and shift under our feet, turning our walk into the gait of unsteady drunks. Neve’s breathless laughter as we tighten our grip on each other catches on the wind, making an older couple nearby look over and smile. I smile back, knowing we look like the perfect vision of a young couple in love. And we are.

For now.

We stand at the surf’s edge, Neve in front of me, her back pressed to my chest. Outside of bed, this is probably my favourite way to hold her. She fits perfectly into me: her head under my chin, her slight body within the width of my chest. I wrap my arms closer around her, unsure whether it’s protection or possession which compels me to do so. I just know that holding her tight like this soothes me, calms me. She shields me from the noise of life’s strife. I wonder who the hero is here.

A couple of hours later, I hold open the door to the B&B Grace helped me book online. I just hope the pictures on their website aren’t a scam and our first holiday together isn’t going to be spent in some windowless cell.

Neve’s reaction to the pure-white bedroom reassures me and I breathe a sigh of relief. My own response is almost as strong as hers, but mine is more about the king-size bed than the sea view. It will be a luxury after the narrow cosiness of single beds on the only nights we’ve slept together before. We’ve been together for eight months, and I can still count the number of those nights on my fingers. If loving her within such confines was amazing, what is the luxury of this bed going to be like?

Aware I’m getting hard at just the thought of sharing a bed with her, I follow Neve’s oohing and aahing into the bathroom. The sight of a huge, walk-in shower does nothing to calm my imagination. If it was up to me, we wouldn’t make it out of the room for the next three days.

Pulling on my hand, Neve leads me back into the bedroom, a familiar grin on her face. My heartbeat quickens, sensing what may lie ahead. She steps away, pulling her tee shirt over her head and shimmying that oh-so-short skirt down over her hips. I can’t stop my eyes skimming down from her face, past her heart-mark, over the fullness of her amazing tits and pausing at the triangle of skin hidden by her ridiculously, sexily-small knickers. If I was painfully hard before, I’m in bloody agony now and all I can think about is sinking into her. Reaching around to unclasp her pink lace bra, she smiles.

“What are you waiting for? We have a king-size bed, no parents and three days. I want you. Now.” I’ve never been this hard in my life and there’s no way I’m going to be able to hold out for long if she’s in this sort of mood. I love this sort of mood.

Neve steps toward me as I yank my shirt over my head. She raises herself on tiptoes and kisses me. Hard. My cock twitches in response, desperate to be released from the confines of my jeans. I grip her head in my hands as my tongue fights back.

“No, you don’t,” she says, pulling my hands from her hair and holding them behind my back. “I’m in charge.” Shit. Willing to let her play the role this time, I dutifully keep my hands behind me as she sinks lower.

I love this girl.

 ***

 I love tipsy Neve. No, I adore tipsy Neve. It was her friendly tipsiness which finally brought us together. I’ve been friends with Flynn for years but hadn’t really paid much attention to Neve until a couple of years ago. All of a sudden, she went from being his mildly-annoying little sister and became this beautiful girl I was completely tongue-tied around. When I found myself keeping her company last New Year’s Eve, whilst Flynn and Cass were up to no good upstairs, it was like meeting her for the first time. She was chatty and funny and sexy and witty and…just everything I wanted. I couldn’t believe it when she returned my kiss at midnight. That was the start of the best year of my life.

Making my brain focus on the here and now, I scoop her up in my arms and somehow manage to get us both across the pebbles to a flat section of beach. She gave up on her shoes a while ago and has been dancing barefoot along the boardwalk, laughing and blowing kisses at passers-by. She has none of her usual inhibitions after a couple of drinks. That public guard, an attempt at rendering her heart-mark invisible, disappears and everyone else gets a glimpse of the girl I know in private.

It’s unbelievable how much difference a small patch of skin can make. Not just to Neve, but to other people, as well. You wouldn’t think they would even see the red, heart-shaped birthmark on her neck, less than a couple of inches across, as it’s usually covered by her hair. But they do. I can feel their response in the way her body tenses next to mine, the way her hand tightens its hold on mine. That’s why I nicknamed it her heart-mark, to make it seem less of an issue; because it isn’t one to me.

With more laughter than elegance, I get us both sat down on the beach, Neve nestled between my legs. The rise and fall of her breasts against my arms as she breathes in the sea air elicits the expected reaction from me, making her giggle and grind herself further back into me. God. I kiss the top of her head and squirm to relieve the pressure in the front of my jeans.

“I love you, Myrtle.”

“I love you, too.” Her head rests back against my shoulder and it’s not long before her breathing deepens. I can feel the beat of her heart through her thin top, and I swear mine syncs with hers.

This is a moment to store, like a photo: a moment to notice every detail of. So that, when this ends, I can look back at it and remember being this happy. I look around me, taking in the hazy waves of the sea and the skeleton of the pier silhouetted against the dawn sky. I smell the combination of the sea air and Neve’s shampoo. I hear the sound of her breathing, underscored by the wash of the waves over the pebbles. I will never forget this.

I can’t ever forget it.

Her.

And, even though I know it has to end, I’m grateful for every minute I have had with her. She has shown me love. She has shown me life.

When we get back home, I will have to focus on the future. Her future. Looking around the university campus earlier proved that. This is the point when our lives take different paths. I have to stay at home. More than my future rests on it. Neve will be here, making new friends, a new life. A life I can’t be part of.

What other choice do I have? Sacrifice Grace and Josh so I can be happy? I promised Dad that I would look after them, and I can’t go back on that. As much as I wished my fucked-up mum was different, that my life was different, it isn’t. That is my reality, not sitting on a beach with the girl of my dreams.

The acceptance of my fate brings tears dangerously close to the surface and I need to distract myself. I pick up a pebble and throw it, aiming for the receding sea. I miss. And again. Scouting for a larger one, I see it: a heart. Her heart. Well, a grey pebble the same shape as her heart-mark. Rubbing my thumb over its smoothness, I know I was meant to find this. I was meant to carry her to this exact spot, sit here and find this.

This way, I can carry her heart forever.

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