I never knew that something was missing.....until I met him.
We met in a Jewellery store on a Friday.
He was Irish, intelligent and witty and I couldn't stop thinking about him.
We laughed our way around London and fell desperately in love.
He was the most perfect experience of my life.
Tender, raw and real.
But all isn't as it seems with the beautiful Alastar O'shea.
The secrets he keeps are deep and disturbing.
But I'll do anything to keep him safe.
My love, my life, my ultimate sacrifice.
** This is a T L SWAN SCREENPLAY **
My breathing is shallow.
I’m too terrified to make the slightest sound.
He’s coming. I can hear him upstairs. This time he will kill me.
I curl into a ball underneath the table in a desperate bid to hide in this cellar—my prison. Having been locked down here for over a week, I’m certain my days are numbered.
I’m not sure how much more I can take, but I know it won’t be long now.
My eyes stay fixed on the door at the top of the stairs while my heart hammers furiously in my chest. My chances of survival are probably better if I take the lighting out, that way he can’t find me when he returns. But the thought of being down here in the darkness petrifies me beyond anything.
It’s my wildest nightmare.
I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Either way, death feels so near.
My only hope is if my saviour comes looking for me, but I desperately hope he doesn’t. I know for certain that if he does, he will be killed right beside me.
The darkness will double.
Tears pool in my eyes as I continue to softly pant through shallow breathes. How did my life come to this?
If I couldn’t trust him, who can I ever trust again? I can’t believe he is capable of such atrocities
I loved him; with all of my heart I loved him.
My beloved protector has become my captor and now I feel nothing.
The door opens with a slow creak and I squeeze my eyes shut as I feel the adrenaline surge through my bloodstream.
Oh no, please, no.
Please don’t hurt me.
“Where are you?” He growls as he descends down the creaky steps.
I scrunch up my face as tears of fear begin to roll down my cheeks.
“Don’t hide from me!” he screams. His footing is heavy and I know he’s been drinking. “It will only make it worse for you when I find you.”
I hold my breath as he jumps from the bottom step, his footsteps are now getting closer.
My eyes stay shut in the dark of the basement, and it isn’t long before I feel his hand take hold of my hair and the pain surge through my scalp as he drags me from under the table.
He kicks me, knocking the wind from my lungs instantly, and I curl into a tight ball to try and protect myself.
His boot connects with my abdomen next, the taste of blood filling my mouth as a deep internal pain permeates throughout my body.
Death would be easier than enduring this.
I can’t go on.
Please kill me. I beg somebody to kill me.
Stop this torture.
Set me free.
Boredom is the root of my evil.
Midlife crisis? Is there really such a thing?
I always imagined it happening around the age of fifty and it entailing a sports car, Botox, and perhaps a mild fetish for gay porn. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would go down like this at the tender age of twenty-five.
I had it all. Life as I knew it was perfect. I had my high school sweetheart Liam, a dream job at the auctioneers, and a deposit saved for our very first home together.
It’s funny, you know. They always say that you don’t know what you have got until its gone. With me it was the exact opposite. I knew what I was missing. I knew my heart yearned for a man that I had never met.
I wanted him.
To melt when he looked at me.
To catch on fire when he touched me.
I could see it so clearly in my mind and I could feel the heat when I was alone in my bed.
I wanted the fairy tale.
How can you want someone so desperately, when according to everyone else you are already living the dream?
I had a perfect man—a perfect, reliable man—but my life was empty.
My soul was dying day by day.
Like a lost sheep, I would cry myself to sleep at night, knowing what I was missing—knowing that he was waiting for me—yet hating myself for feeling this way.
I didn’t know who I was searching for, I only knew he was in London. He had to be in London because he wasn’t anywhere I had been before and London had been at the forefront of my mind for the longest time.
Then, on one fateful day, it began… and my life changed.
The day when I met him.
I didn’t exactly meet him, but I talked to him. I wrote to him, to be exact. When working at the auctioneers, my company had acquired art. We sent it over to London to be auctioned off, knowing that there were collectors over there that were interested in this particular artist. We would fetch a much higher price than here in Australia. My job description was to liaise with the art department from the auction house to ensure that the transfer ran smoothly.
He—also known as Mark White—was head of marketing for Chesters in London. We spoke by email every day for three weeks. At first our conversation was work related, slowly moving onto the weather and polite chitchat. But then one Monday, a day that I will never forget because it is burned into my damn brain, everything changed.
I had returned back to work after a particularly boring weekend with Liam; one where we didn’t go out because we were saving. Liam didn’t like to waste money so we never did much. We had fallen into a routine, and whether it was laziness, complacency, or just damn stupidity on both of our parts, the cracks in our relationship had begun to show without us realizing it.
We were both responsible for the other’s boredom but we didn’t know how to pull each other out of the funk.
That was our life.
That was what we did—our routine.
How do you change something when it’s the only thing you know?
And, fuck, if I couldn’t make it work with Liam who I knew was a good man, what chance did I have with a complete stranger?
Anyway… back to the story.
That morning my email pinged and it was Mark, I smile as I remember it like yesterday.
Good Morning, Emerson.
My eyes darted guiltily around the office to see if anyone knew what I was doing, and I smiled mischievously while I typed back.
Good Morning, Mark.
An email immediately bounced back.
How was your weekend?
Extremely dull. How was yours?
He typed back.
I nearly emailed you on the weekend to say hi.
You should have. It would have brightened my day.
And he replied.
What are you wearing?
Four words, four stupid words, and my whole life changed. What are you wearing? I instantly became uncomfortable and nervously found a way to get offline. I knew it was wrong. I had a perfect boyfriend for Christ’s sake, even if I did find myself constantly thinking about Mark. His life was fun, vibrant, unpredictable, and here I was living the life of a sixty-year-old. A deep, sinister sadness fell over me and I realized I missed hearing about his life, his dates, and the fun he was having when I wasn’t speaking to him. Then, after two days of radio silence, I did the unthinkable. I messaged him back and told him exactly what I was wearing. The lines quickly became blurred. We started messaging each other at all hours of the day, talking about everything but art related topics. I would even hide in the bathroom at work to converse with him.
My relationship with Liam suffered as I begged him to take me out, for us to travel overseas, to do something, anything exciting.
I tried to save us, I really did.
But Liam constantly refused to break routine and barely six months later, my world crumbled before completely falling apart.
I would research London for hours, dreaming of a life that I knew existed somewhere out there in the universe.
I desperately felt I was missing out on someone very special—that my destiny was with another and not the man I was planning a future with.
But why and who?
Who was the man who was calling me and why did I have this obsession with London?
One day I found myself sitting on my lounge crying, holding my phone waiting for the only excitement in my life, Mark, to email me while Liam was in the shower. Somewhere along the way in between the online laughs and chats, I had changed.
I wanted more.
What had happened to my happy life with my beautiful, dependable man? What had I done? How do you reverse something like that when I had already set the wheels of change in motion? The stable life I had wanted had become the boring life I despised. I fell out of love with my life and Liam, and fallen in love with the idea of being carefree and desired. I wanted to live while I was still young enough to live.
And here I am, just twelve months later, on a plane to London.
This could very well be the stupidest thing I have ever done and I’m using all my savings on a hunch. A hunch that I hope I don’t live to regret. I have an internship with Chesters, the same company Mark works for. I’m going to work alongside him, and although we have never openly said that anything will happen between us, I know we are both secretly hoping it will.
Brielle, my travelling partner, is a different kettle of fish. She’s totally in love with an adultering prick who she recently caught out again with a girl we both know. In my heart of hearts, I know that if we stay in the same old town she is going to go back to him and I am going to go back to Liam for no other reason than him being a comfortable habit.
When Liam and I finally broke up, I think he was as relieved as I was.
He knew things hadn’t been right between us. We had become best friends. The fire had gone out between us a long time ago. It was him who encouraged me to apply for the position in London, actually, and when I finally mustered up the courage, I made Brielle apply for a nanny position in the same city. My lifelong best friend and I would lie on the beach dreaming of what we were going to do in London and all the fun we were going to have. It was the distant comfort of that dream that got us through the doom and gloom and forced us to face the hard decisions that had to be made.
Fate stepped in and we were both successful with the jobs we applied for. It was as if the universe was approving of our escape plan.
Now we are on flight bound for London.
Both of us tired, nervous, excited, and absolutely terrified.
Brielle is going to be a live in nanny position with a female Supreme Court Judge who is a widow with two small children. I am working in an art gallery with a man I have been secretly lusting over for twelve months. This could be heaven or it could be hell, and right now, I would love to run home with my tail between my legs.
I have no idea what we are doing.
I drift somewhere between sleep and consciousness as the sound of the airplane engine drowns out all of my thoughts. It’s comforting really. I haven’t been sleeping well. To be completely honest I haven’t been doing anything well. My judgment seems clouded and I have been forgetting everything. I feel foggy but I think that’s just nerves.
Brielle is in conversation with two guys across the aisle from us.
“This is Emerson,” she introduces me.
I pull my hands through my hair self consciously. I must look like hell having literally just woke up. “H-hello,” I stammer.
The two guys smile broadly and lean over to shake my hand. “I’m Jonah and this is Rick.” The blonde guy smiles. Rick is blonde and nice looking, and Jonah is a stunner. With dark skin and black hair, he looks more like a model than a backpacker. Brielle’s mischievous eyes meet mine and I smirk. She just silently called shotgun on Jonah. Hmm. I raise a brow in question and shake my head subtly.
“Where are you guys going?” I ask.
“We start a Contiki tour around Europe in ten days.”
“Oh.” I smile. “That’s exciting.”
They both nod and smile broadly. “We are staying in London for the next week or so.”
“Oh, we are, too.” Brielle smiles.
The boy’s eyes light up in excitement. “We should go out at the weekend,” Jonah suggests.
“Yes,” Brielle replies. “We should.”
The stewardess walks up the aisle with the lunch tray and interrupts our conversation.
I shuffle around, searching in my bag before I retrieve my book and put my head onto my headrest, Brielle grabs my hand. “I’m excited.”
“I wish I was more excited. I’m nervous than anything.” I sigh.
Her face drops. “Why?” She frowns.
I shrug. “If I was staying with you I would be happier. I’m living with two strangers, I have no idea what the apartment is going to look like, and I am starting a new high pressure job with a guy I have been crushing on for over a year.” I widen my eyes. “Kind of overwhelmed at the moment.”
She smirks. “When you put it like that…”
I open my book just to stop thinking about everything. I feel my anxiety rise.
“Once you have met everyone…” She tries to reassure me.
I nod. “I know.” I smile. “It will be fine. Once I get my head around everything, it will be good.”
“And what about Mark?” she asks with a raised brow.
I bite my bottom lip to stifle my nervous smile. “He’s picking me up from the airport.”
She takes my hand in hers. “Just take it slow with him, yeah? You are coming over here to escape boredom and reality. Don’t go falling in love or anything stupid.”
I frown. “As if. That’s not happening.”
Her eyes hold mine in question.
“I’m here to have fun, I promise you. No man will ever determine the quality of my life again. I’m done with being serious. I’m so done with boring.”
She laughs out loud in excitement. “I love that you’re done with boring. Let the fun begin.”
The flight is long and tiring. “Prepare for landing,” the voice announces over the loudspeaker.
Chatting on and off with the boys for the last twenty-four hours has made us feel way more familiar with them than we should, and we’ve made plans with them for Saturday night. I know it would be better if we were going to live together, but Brielle’s—or Brelly as I call her—new position is live in. The judge apparently works back late through the week and wants the convenience of a permanent resident in her home, which is understandable I suppose. Brielle will get weekends off and even has her own private furnished one-bedroom wing off the main house, complete with a kitchen, separate exit, lounge and bathroom. I’m living with some guy and a girl. Mark helped me organize everything and said that when he checked it out, the apartment and the flat mates were nice. I really do hope that’s true.
Customs is ridiculously slow and a man has been pulled into the office up ahead. Don’t tell me the idiot has been busted for drugs…
“What do you reckon he did?” Brelly murmurs as she cranes her neck to spy on the commotion.
“I don’t know. Something stupid probably.” We shuffle up as the line moves forward. “I wish we had come earlier so we had a week together before you start work,” I murmur.
“Yeah I know, but she needed me to start this week because she is going away next week. I need to learn the kids’ routine before she leaves.”
I shake my head. “Who leaves their kids for three days with a complete stranger?”
“My new boss, apparently.” She shrugs.
“Well, at least I can come and stay with you when she’s away next week. That’s a plus,” I add. “Yeah, but I’m sneaking you in. I don’t want it to look like we are partying or anything.”
I smile broadly.
“What?’ She smirks.
“We’re here.” She pulls her shoulders together and widens her eyes. “Oh my God, I know. I just hope her and the kids are nice.” I raise my chin optimistically. “They will be. Who couldn’t be nice to you?”
Looking down at herself she tries to smooth the wrinkles from her skirt. “She is picking me up. Do I look okay?”
Brielle is a beautiful girl with dark brown hair that hangs just below her shoulders and a figure to die for. She has the straightest, whitest teeth known to man after having thousands of dollars’ worth of Orthodontic work which her father always reminds us about. Any employer will be so lucky to get her. She’s way too good for that imbecile on the other side of the world.
I smile nervously for her. “You look exactly what a twenty-five-year-old school teacher nanny from Australia should look like.”
She bites her bottom lip to hide her smile.
“So, what’s the boss’s name?” I frown.
She rustles through her bag and pulls out her phone to read the email from the nanny agency.
“Mrs. Julian Masters.”
I nod. “And what’s her story again? I know you told me before but I’ve forgotten.”
Brielle’s eyes light up with excitement. “She is a Supreme Court Judge, was widowed five years ago.”
I frown. “What happened to the husband?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t know that yet. Apparently she’s quite wealthy.” She shrugs. “Two kids, well behaved.”
“I hope so.” She frowns. “I just hope they like me.”
The line shuffles up in front and I feel my nerves rise again. “So, we are definitely going out at the weekend, yes?”
She nods. “Yes.” Her eyes flick to me. “What are you going to do until then?”
I shrug. “Look around, I guess. I start work on Monday and it’s Thursday today. Are you sure you can go out on the weekends?” “Yes!” she snaps exasperated. “I told you a thousand times, we are going out on Saturday night.”
I nod nervously. “Yeah, right. Okay.”
“Did you get that thingy for your phone sorted?” she asks.
I frown. “Not yet, I will find a phone shop tomorrow so you can call me.”
“And Mark is picking you up?” she asks.
“Yes,” I mutter as I look around nervously. My heart rate has picked up dramatically at the mere thought.
She smirks cheekily and I shake my head in a dismissive gesture. The truth of the matter is that I have no idea what the attraction to Mark is. I may not even like him in the flesh, although I think it would be highly unlikely if I didn’t. We seem to get along very well, and it was at his insistence that I applied for this job.
“I need to go to the bathroom. How long is the drive from the airport to where we are staying?”
Brielle shrugs. “No idea.”
My eyes scan the customs area for a bathroom. “It must be on the other side of the gates.”
We are called to the front of the line to the customs desk, then half an hour later we exit, walking into the arrivals of London International airport. It’s a noisy, crowded, bustling space, and a row of men stand to the left along the wall holding small signs with names of the people that they are picking up. We both look around nervously.
“Do you see our name?” I ask.
“Shit, no one is here to pick us up!” I snap. “Typical.”
“Relax, they will be here,” Brelly murmurs.
We keep walking toward the baggage terminal but I still don’t see anyone with either of our names on their signs.
“What do we do if nobody turns up?” I frown.
She runs her hands through her hair as her eyes scan the space. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to lose my shit.”
I look over her shoulder and see a tall, broad man in a suit holding a sign with the name Brielle Johnston on it.
“Oh, look, there is your name. She must have sent you a driver.” I point to the man and she turns around and waves meekly at the distinguished looking driver.
He walks over and smiles warmly. “Brielle?”
She smiles nervously. “Yes, that’s me.”
He holds out his hand to shake hers. “Julian Masters.”
Oh. I bite my lip to stifle my smile as I watch the color drain from my dear friend’s face. Julian is a man, not a woman as we thought.
Brielle’s saucer size eyes meet mine in shock. Oh my God. I want to burst out laughing. Her face is priceless.
He raises his eyebrows impatiently.
“Um, so, yeah, I’m Brielle.” Her eyes flick nervously to me. “And this is my friend I am here with, Emerson Mathews.”
He nods warmly and shakes my hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Hello,” I squeak.
“I thought you were a woman,” Brielle breathes.
His brow furrows. “No, last time I checked I was all man,” he grumbles, unimpressed.
I swallow the lump in my throat. Awkward.
Brielle fakes a smile and I drop my head to hide my face.
“We will have to wait about fifteen minutes for your baggage, I’m afraid.” He gestures to the carousel in the corner. He then paces off in front and Brielle punches me hard on the arm. “Oh my fuck,” she whispers. “He’s a fucking man.” I giggle with my hand over my mouth like a child as we follow him marching through the crowd.
“I can see that,” I whisper.
“Excuse me, Mr. Masters?” she calls.
He turns around. “Yes.”
We both wither under his glare. “We are just going to use the bathroom,” Brielle tells him nervously.
He nods one curt nod and gestures to the right. We look up and thankfully see the neon sign.
Brielle grabs my arm and drags me into the bathroom. “I’m not working with a stuffy old man!” she shrieks as we burst through the door.
I shake my head. “It will be okay. How did this happen?”
She takes out her phone to check the email again and I duck into a cubicle. I really am busting.
“It says woman,” she cries through the door. “I knew it said woman.”
I frown as I sit down. “He’s not that old,” I call out. “I would prefer to work for a man than a woman, actually.” Damn it, I need to calm her or she will get on the first plane back.
“You know what, Emerson? This is a shit idea! How in the hell did you talk me into this?” she shrieks through the door.
I smile sympathetically as I exit the cubicle and wash my hands. “It doesn’t matter, you will hardly see him anyway, and you’re off weekends when he’s at home.” I need to diffuse this. “Stop the carry on.”
Steam practically shoots from her ears. “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to fucking kill you.”
I know I shouldn’t, but I want to laugh. This is frigging hilarious. “Listen, just stay with him until we find something else. I will get my phone sorted tomorrow and we can start looking elsewhere for another job,” I reassure her.
She puts her head into her hands in dismay.
“At least you got picked up. Nobody cares about me,” I scoff as I stare at my reflection in the mirror and reapply my lip gloss. “I look like shit. Mark probably saw me and ran a mile,” I reply flatly as I try to fluff my hair.
She looks up from her hands. “Oh, Em. What are we doing?”
I put my arm around her and we walk out through the door. “It will be okay. I will call you tomorrow and we will work it out.”
We walk out and take our place next to Brielle’s new boss. My eyes flicker back to Mr. Masters. He’s about forty, immaculately dressed, and kind of attractive. His hair is dark with a sprinkling of silver. I swallow nervously as my eyes glance to Brielle who is also summing up her new house companion. “Did you have a good trip?” Mr. Masters questions as he looks down at Brielle.
“Yes, thanks,” she whispers. “Thank you for picking us up.”
He nods curtly.
I look to the ground to hide my smile. This is hilarious. I’ve never seen her so out of her comfort zone.
“Emerson,” A male voice calls from behind, and when I turn, I realise it’s Mark.
“Hello.” I smile nervously.
He kisses me on the cheek. “Sorry I’m late.” He turns to Brielle. “You must be Brielle?”
“Yes.” She smiles before she gestures to Mr. Masters. “And this is…” She hesitates, obviously not knowing what to introduce her new employer as.
“Julian Masters,” he announces sternly for her as he takes Mark in a firm handshake.
Brielle and I fake smiles to each other. This is so damn awkward.
Mark is blonde and handsome. His hair is neat, he’s dressed nicely, and… what else? Oh, I know… Short. He is really, really short – so much shorter than I imagined. I am not completely sure of whether it’s the jet lag or the let down of my imagination running away with me but I really thought I was going to see fireworks the instant I met him.
Finally, after ten minutes of uncomfortable silence, Brielle spots her bag as it comes out on the turnstile. “That’s my bag.” She points to her luggage coming out underneath the rubber flaps.
Julian Masters raises an eyebrow. “The one with the pink ribbon?” he asks dryly.
Brielle nods and drops her head in shame, and I want to hoot with laughter. I told her the pink satin ribbon looked ridiculous and not to tie it on the handle, but she insisted it was a good I will easily find my bag tactic and that was the only color ribbon she’d had. Her luggage comes around and he aggressively grabs it from the turnstile and turns to her. “The car is this way.” He gestures to the right.
She nods nervously. He turns back to me and shakes my hand. “Nice to meet you, Emerson.”
I smile. “Likewise. Please look after my friend,” I reply as my eyes flick to Brielle. She looks so scared, I think she might run over water to get back to Australia any minute now.
He walks off, wheeling her baggage behind him, and she turns to cuddle me.
“This is shit,” she whispers.
I smile into her hair as she grips me tight. “It will be fine. He’s probably really nice.”
“He doesn’t look nice,” she murmurs as she pulls out of my grip.
“Yeah, I agree. He looks like a tool,” Mark adds as his eyes follow Julian across the airport.
My eyes flick to Mark in annoyance. He is not a part of this conversation and I’m trying to sweeten the deal here. Shut up! Is he not aware that I have been in a plane for twenty-four hours and have jetlag with a bad case of don’t bloody mess with me?
“Mark, look after my friend, please.” Brielle smiles.
He smiles and rubs his chest like a stupid gorilla. “Oh, I intend to.”
I frown and he winks cheekily at me. Hmm. My disturbed eyes meet Brielle’s and this time it’s her who is smirking at my situation. We both look across the airport and see Julian Masters looking back impatiently for Brielle.
“I better go.” She frowns.
I nod. “I will get my phone sorted and then call you tomorrow. You have my apartment details if you need me beforehand.”
“I will probably turn up in an hour. Tell your room mates I’m coming in case I need a key,” she whispers.
“Go,” I mouth. She nods and tentatively walks over to her new boss, and they continue off into the distance together, soon disappearing from my sight. My eyes fall back to Mark and then over to the luggage carousel. “There it is, that one.” I point to my suitcase as I go to retrieve it.
“Stand back and let a man do his job,” Mark announces.
I feel the womens’ lib hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. “I can lift a suitcase,” I mutter with a frown. Damn, this jetlag is making me bitchy.
He laughs heartily. “That’s why you have me. I’m going to look after you for this entire trip.”
I fake a smile. Oh, great. Lucky me.
“It’s on the third floor,” Mark tells me as he unlocks the bottom front door of my new apartment block. The building is old and smells musty.
I feel the apprehension swirl in my stomach.
We walk up the flights of stairs in silence until we get to number fourteen and he unlocks the door, holding it open for me. I peer in like a curious child.
“It’s a nice apartment.” He smiles.
“Yes.” I nod, still unsure as we walk in together. “Thank you for organizing everything.”
“And your room is through here.” He opens the door and I smile. Oh… my bedroom is nice. It has a large bay window with a window seat. It’s airy, big, and painted white. The bed is Queen size and the headboard is cast iron in a mint green kind of color. There is also a desk, a large wardrobe, and a full-length mirror on the far wall. I look around and for the first time since leaving home, I feel excited. Mark throws my suitcase onto my bed. “The others wont be home until after six. They’re all working.”
“And I have taken tomorrow off work so I can show you around London.”
Oh, he’s being so nice. I smile broadly. “Thank you. That would be lovely.”
“Would you like me to make you a cup of tea or something?” he asks.
I nod. “Yes please.”
He disappears into the kitchen.
I walk over to the window and pull the sheer curtains back and look out onto the street below. There’s old houses and apartment blocks and terraces down the street. I smile proudly to myself because I did it. I did this. I’m in London and this is really happening.
Mark reappears with my tea. “Do you want to go out for dinner tonight?”
Hmm. I am as tired as hell. I frown. “Do you mind if we take a rain check? I’m exhausted and would really just like to sleep.” I sip my tea as I watch his face.
“Of course.” He fakes a smile. “I will pick you up about nine in the morning and we can explore London?” he offers hopefully.
I smile in relief. “Sounds great, and thank you for being so great today.”
He stands and his eyes search mine. Oh no. He’s coming in for a kiss. He leans in and I quickly peck him on the lips. “S-see you tomorrow,” I stammer.
He pulls back and I see disappointment cross his face. “Goodbye then.” Flustered, he leaves in a rush.
“Goodbye.” I smile, but as I watch him disappear down the stairs, my heart drops and I feel bad.
This is not what I had imagined and I have absolutely zero physical attraction to Mark.