While I’m writing, I have quite tight playlists that ‘go’ with the book. For #FORFEIT, the playlist had just twenty-three songs. Twenty-three. At my desk, in the gym, in the car, that’s all I listened to – for a year. Nuts. I’ve edited the list down to the twelve songs I think sum up #FORFEIT.
Here’s track five, Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding…
‘For God’s sake, you’re twenty-two. The world’s your oyster. What do you want to do?’
‘I want to be a chef again.’
‘So be a chef again.’
‘You know I can’t, not after Lucy.’ He took a long drag on the cigarette and let out the smoke with another lengthy sigh. ‘Besides it’s not that simple. I want more.’
‘Everything’s that simple. How much more?’
‘I want my own restaurant and I want… you.’ He glanced back at her, shaking his head. ‘Seriously, I don’t know what you’ve done, but it’s killing me. The other week I actually stood in Boots smelling shampoos, trying to find the one you use. It’s coconut and lime, right?’
‘Coconut, lime and macadamia oil. My mum makes it.’
He closed his eyes and laughed. ‘I can’t believe I’ve just told you that.’
She struggled not to grin, though there was nothing she could do about her burning cheeks. He was obsessing over how her hair smelled? ‘But what’s so difficult? Aside from the last one, they’re all totally achievable. Your family has a chain of restaurants and you are a chef. Why don’t you just do it?’
He swore and ran his fingers through his hair, staring at the ceiling. ‘I’m too young. I need more experience. I can’t do it.’
‘Can’t or scared to?’
‘I’ve been sous chef for a genius head chef on that stupid yacht for two years. I can turn out top end food, fine dining. I trained with some amazing people. Anthony’s got two stars now and Grandpa Oliver… have I ever told you Oliver’s my middle name?’
‘Alexander Oliver Golding.’ The only way to say it was with a plum in ones mouth. She giggled. ‘You’re so public school.’
He smiled for a second. ‘I don’t want, well I’m not aiming for a Michelin-starred place, but I can’t…’
‘You can do whatever you want to do.’
He sighed. ‘Back in the day, Rob and I used to talk about opening a restaurant.’
‘He hates his job too. Can you imagine how much of the girls’ lives he misses out on? He managed the bistros until he fell out with Dad.’
She nudged him. ‘I dare you to tell Robbie.’
‘Dares?’ The frown still lurked, but at least he was smiling. ‘I haven’t recovered from your last one. Are you sure you’re not achievable?’
‘Oh, stop it.’ She swatted his leg but laughed as he gently tugged her hair. ‘I don’t have my beer goggles on now, sunshine.’
God, she’d missed him. And two weeks in the Med hadn’t done him any physical harm. His skin was chestnut brown and by the look of his t-shirt, the boy was buffer than ever. She’d forgotten how perfect he was, too blinded by her KSCP, the nice guy who’d saved her life. But sat beside her, his thumb running along the edge of the wine glass, was the Xander who’d kissed her for hours when they were coked up but didn’t take advantage because he’d made a promise; the Xander who’d licked salt off her stomach before he’d knocked back a shot of tequila and gently taken the lemon from her mouth.
It was madness, but her heart thumped against her chest and she stared into his deep, brown eyes, desperate to do it all again. For months, she’d pretended she didn’t fancy Xander, but who was she kidding? She fancied the pants off him. Literally.
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