tagRomanceCaught by the Tide Ch. 05

Caught by the Tide Ch. 05

byevanslily©

"Well?" I demanded, my initial horror turning to anger as he continued to gaze back at me in silence, his eyes sweeping the length of my body as if he was drinking in the very sight of me. "Daniel?"

The sharpness of my tone seemed to bring him to his senses. "Becca, I'm sorry." He looked and sounded uncharacteristically ill at ease. "I know that I'm the last person in the world you want to see--"

"Too damn right," I shot back, clutching at the duvet I'd thrown around myself, suddenly remembering I was naked beneath it. "I can't believe you've come here. I can't believe you had the nerve--"

"Listen--it's not what you think--"

"It's not what I think?" A snort of sarcastic laughter burst from my throat. "Don't tell me, I got it all wrong? You didn't have a holiday in Corfu with some floozy a week before our wedding--?"

"Please?" He looked upset. "I need you to listen to me--"

"You have to be kidding. You seriously think I'm going to listen to anything you say, ever again?" I peered out of the doorway, knowing that Luke could return at any moment. "I'm sorry you've had such a long drive for nothing--"

"Becca--"

"--but there's nothing you can say--do you hear me? There's nothing you can--"

"It's your mother."

"--say that'll make any diff--" His words finally registering, I stopped mid-sentence to stare at him, something in his expression chilling me to the bone. "Wh-what?"

"Your Mum. She's--she's had a heart attack." He drew a breath, lifting a hand to his forehead, agitatedly brushing at his hair. "We've been trying to contact you all morning--your mobile phone's not working--it's just been going to voice mail. We tried ringing you here at the hotel but they said your number was engaged--"

"Oh God." I could actually feel the colour draining from my cheeks as cold fear washed through me. "Oh God..."

"But they're doing all they can--the doctors are doing all they can--"

"She's still alive?"

When he nodded, I slumped back against the door frame. "I thought--I thought you were going to say she was--oh God..." Daniel reached out as if to pull me into his arms but I flinched away. "How--how bad?"

He hesitated. "Apparently--it was quite a big one," he said at last, seeming to choose his words carefully. "They--they had to resuscitate her in the ambulance--"

"No..."

"But they got her back. They managed to stabilise her. And now they're giving her clot-busting drugs and--" He stopped with a frown, looking first right then left along the corridor. "Can I come in? Do we have to have this conversation out here?"

I stared at him blankly for a moment then glanced back over my shoulder into the room, another wave of horror surging through me as my gaze fell on the dishevelled bed. "No..."

"Look, I won't--"

"No!" I swung back around but couldn't quite bring myself to meet his gaze this time. "No--wait. Wait--there," I finished lamely, closing the door in his surprised face.

"Becca!"

Ignoring him, I turned around, only then appreciating how violently I was trembling. Mum had had a heart attack. She'd had to be resuscitated on the way to hospital. And while she'd been in agony, while she'd been on the brink of death, I'd been in bed. Having sex with a man I'd only just met...

Letting the duvet slip to the floor, I stumbled to the wardrobe to retrieve my suitcase. Daniel would take me straight to the hospital. I needed to pack. To get dressed...

"Becca--please?"

I froze as Daniel called through the door for a second time. Luke. He'd promised to return--he could be back any moment. When he came through the door at the end of the corridor, he'd see Daniel outside my room. And Daniel would see Luke...

"Just--just a minute!" I called, frantically scooping up the duvet and throwing it over the bed. Even in my confused state, I knew it shouldn't matter, but it did. I didn't want Daniel to know I'd spent the night with another man. A mere seven days ago, I'd been ready to become his wife. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer...

But as I tried to make the bed, whimpering as my sore arm protested at the effort, I realised it might not be that easy to hide the evidence. Even in Luke's absence I could still smell him everywhere, the aroma of our love-making heavy in the air. Surely Daniel would be able to smell that too?

I flew around the bed to pull up the other side of the duvet before turning to drag back the heavy curtains, flinging the sash windows wide open and allowing the cool sea breeze to blast into the room. Then dropping to my hands and knees, I picked up the nightshirt Luke had stripped away from my body in the middle of the night and then began to search for discarded condoms. I couldn't find any. Instead, I discovered the telephone, the receiver beneath the bed, some considerable distance from the base. No wonder no one had been able to contact me, I thought guiltily, remembering how I'd sent something flying as Luke had brought me to the most mind-blowing orgasm I'd ever experienced.

Straightening up, I returned the telephone to the bedside table before hurrying to the bathroom to pull on a robe. Then I returned to the door, letting Daniel into the room without a word.

I felt his gaze boring into my back as I turned to pick up my suitcase then hauled it over to the bed. "Becca, I'm sorry--"

"I really don't want to hear that right now--"

"Hear me out. I know that I'm the last person you would've wanted to show up like this but we didn't know what else to do. Your sister's in no condition to drive--she's in such a state we're scared she's going to go into labour. Graham would've come to get you but we decided he should stay with Sarah. So we thought--"

"We?" I whirled around to glare at him. "We thought--we decided--what the hell? There is no we anymore, do you hear me? You're not part of my family anymore!"

"Becca--"

"Why are you even here?"

"Because she called me, okay?" Daniel looked distressed. "Your Mum. It was me she called in the middle of the night--at four o'clock this morning, okay?"

"You?" I stared at him, my brain refusing to process this new piece of information. "She called you?"

"Ours is the first number--I mean--the number at our place--at the flat--" He shook his head, apparently finding it a struggle to avoid words that made reference to our former coupled status. "It's the first number she's got on speed dial."

Of course it was. Number one--Becky and Daniel, number two--Sarah and Graham...

"I could hardly hear what she was saying," he continued. "But I could tell she was in pain, how scared she was. So I called an ambulance and got round there as fast as I could."

I heard the catch in his voice, understanding for the first time that although we were no longer together, he still cared about my Mum. Maybe even as much as she cared about him. And as it occurred to me that he'd been there for her when I hadn't--that he'd been on the end of the phone when she'd called and I'd been a hundred and fifty miles away--I felt an irrational pang of jealousy. "You're still in the flat?" I exclaimed, needing to lash out, needing to cause him pain too. "I told you to get out!"

"I'm getting out!" Daniel flashed back. "I'm going to stay with Chris. But your Mum said you weren't due back until tomorrow--"

"Oh--that makes it all right then, I suppose?" I stomped over to the wardrobe, managing to gather up all of my clothes from the rail before staggering back to the bed to stuff them into my suitcase. "Then take your time, Daniel. No hurry. If Mum said it was okay, then obviously, it's okay. Nothing to do with me. Nothing to do w-with me-e-e--shit!" To my dismay, I found myself in tears, my chest heaving with sobs. "Mum..."

"Oh Becca--don't. Please don't." I could feel him hovering behind me as I emptied the chest of drawers, finally managing to retrieve what remained of my clean underwear. He'd never been able to read me when I cried, trying to hug me when I didn't want to be touched, leaving the room when all I wanted was to be held. "She'll be okay. She's a fighter, love. She won't--"

"Don't call me love!" I choked, blindly squashing in the last of my clothes. "You don't have the right anymore. And you don't know that she'll be okay. You wouldn't be here if you really believed that."

I wasn't surprised when Daniel didn't reply. And after snatching up the underwear I'd deliberately left out of the suitcase and grabbing the jeans and pink t-shirt I'd worn yesterday evening from the back of the chair, I escaped into the bathroom, closing the door with a bang.

"Oh God," I breathed, bracing myself against the sink, still shaking from head to foot. "Oh God. Oh God..."

But after a moment, I realised I had to move fast, spurring myself into action by tugging off my bathrobe and spinning on the taps. Luke could be back at any moment now and I didn't know how I'd cope if Daniel was the one who opened the door when he knocked. Yet somehow I needed to let Luke know what had happened, I thought, holding my injured arm behind me while I awkwardly used my left hand to splash tepid water on to my face. I couldn't just leave without saying goodbye. Not after last night.

I looked longingly at the shower but knew it was impossible. Instead, I topped and tailed as best I could then pulled on my clothes, finding even that a struggle, my arm stinging in protest at every movement. Then, having swept the remainder of my belongings into my still damp beach bag, I tugged open the door to find Daniel standing exactly where I'd left him.

"I'm ready," I said, seeing his gaze zoom to my bandages even as I spoke and inwardly berating myself for not donning a cardigan.

"What the hell--?"

"I fell." It wasn't exactly a lie, I thought, slipping on my shoes before sliding past him to shove the floral-patterned bag into my suitcase and close the lid. "It's just a cut--no real harm done."

"You fell?"

"I said it's fine." I took one final glance around the room to check I'd packed everything, finding it difficult to repress the vivid memories of the passion-filled night I'd spent there with Luke. Of the pleasure we'd shared while my mother was having a heart attack... "Can we get going now, please?" I said, hearing the unsteadiness in my voice as I tried to lift my suitcase.

Daniel immediately moved in front of me, snatching it from my grasp. "Don't be daft. I'll carry that."

I didn't have the strength to argue. Slinging my handbag over my shoulder, I picked up my key card for the last time and followed him out of the door. But when he reached the end of the corridor and stabbed at the call button for the lift, I suddenly realised I had one chance left. "I'll take the stairs," I said, already hastening towards the top of the staircase. "It'll be quicker this way--by the time you get down to Reception I'll have checked out."

I raced down the stairs, barely hearing Daniel's plea that I take care, reaching the bottom just as I heard the familiar ping of the lift arriving on the first floor. To my relief there was no queue at the front desk, the same girl who'd been on duty last night smiling at me in welcome as I ran across the deserted foyer.

"I need to check out," I said breathlessly, thrusting my key card under her nose. "I'm supposed to be staying until tomorrow but--there's been an emergency." I couldn't bring myself to tell her what the emergency was. Saying the words aloud would only make them more real. "I need to get home as soon as possible."

The girl's smile faded. "Oh--I'm sorry to hear that. Just one moment." Taking my card, she turned to the computer on the desk beside her. "I just need to bring up your bill."

As she tapped rapidly at the keyboard, I found it difficult to rein in my impatience. "Actually, I really need to get a message to someone."

"One second," the girl murmured. "Nearly there--ah." She looked up at me with another smile. "It's just printing off now. Won't keep you much longer."

To my frustration she arose from her seat, actually disappearing from view for a few seconds before returning with a sheet of paper. "Here you go," she said brightly, putting it on the desk in front of me and offering me a pen. "If you could just sign--there."

I turned around, relieved to see the lift had yet to arrive. "I need to get a message to Luke Foster," I said, scrawling my signature in the white space she was pointing to. "Would you be able to do that for me?"

"Of course. I take it he's a guest here? What room is he in?"

I stared at her in dismay. "I don't know. Does it matter?"

She shook her head. "No, no. I can look it up. One moment."

"Wait--" I bit back a groan as she began tapping at her keyboard again,. "Could you not take the message first and then look him up? It's just that--" And then I stopped, hearing that distinctive ping. There was no time left... "Please?"

All at once I saw a flash of understanding in the receptionist's expression as her focus shifted to a spot somewhere behind me and I knew she was watching Daniel emerge from the lift. "Ah," she said, sotto voce, making me wonder just how many clandestine encounters she'd witnessed during her hotel career. "Yes, of course. What was the message?"

"Could you tell him--?" Then I broke off, realising I hadn't thought this through at all. What did I want to tell him? "Tell him that--that I--"

"Ready?" Daniel said, arriving at my side. "Is everything okay?"

I swallowed hard, my gaze still holding that of the receptionist's. But when she raised her eyebrows, I gave my head the slightest of shakes and turned to follow him out of the hotel. "Everything's fine," I said with a lightness I didn't feel. "All--all checked out."

"My God, there's some money here," Daniel said as we reached the car park, waving around at the numerous parked Audis, BMWs and Mercedes. His battered Ford stood out like a sore thumb amidst the expensive saloons. "How much did it cost to stay here? It couldn't have been cheap."

It hadn't been. I'd cleared out the last of my savings to pay for it, figuring there was nothing I wanted to save for anymore. "It was a hell of a lot cheaper than a cancelled honeymoon in the Maldives," I said, making sure the bitterness was evident in my tone as I surreptitiously scanned the rows of parked vehicles, trying to spot Luke's Mercedes. I couldn't see it but then it had been dark by the time we got back last night. I wasn't sure I'd recognise it in the daylight.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Daniel wince. "I should probably have paid something towards all that," he admitted, unlocking the car doors.

Abandoning my search, I opened the passenger side and climbed in. "Yes, you bloody well should've," I muttered, twisting in my seat to watch him put my suitcase in the boot. But then I knew full well he couldn't have contributed a bean.

Daniel was a dreamer. He'd tell anyone who'd listen that one day he was going to make it big. And if the power of his conviction was anything to go by, well, maybe someday he would. But in the meantime, he worked in telesales for a stationary company and born charmer that he was, he was good at his job. It was just his pay that was less than spectacular.

Growing weary of the 'some day soon' promises and emboldened by a bottle of wine one evening, I'd pointed out to him that in order to make it big he might need rather more than blind ambition--it might actually require effort on his part. Naturally, I'd been shot down in flames. Accused of being unsupportive, I'd spent the rest of the night apologising. I hadn't bothered to offer my opinion since. But privately I remained convinced that dreams remained mere fantasies without a plan of action. To my mind it was like expecting to win the Lottery without ever buying a ticket.

It was only as we pulled out of the car park that I finally spotted Luke's car, the sight causing my stomach to lurch. So he was close by after all. Had he discovered I was gone yet? Should I have thrown caution to the wind and left him a message?

No, it was probably better this way, I tried to assure myself, taking one last glance back at the hotel as we drove up the hill. After all, Luke had made it very clear there was little chance our time together would turn into anything more permanent. He'd said himself he doubted we'd ever see each other again after the weekend. So I'd had a fling. A holiday romance. A one night stand...

"What a stupid thing to do."

"What?" Startled by Daniel's choice of words, I turned to look at him, my heart rate quickening. He knew?

"I can't believe I was so stupid. You and me--we were great together."

I began to breathe again, my relief at not having been found out switching to irritation at the note of self-pity in his tone. "Daniel--"

"I can't believe I threw it all away." He shot me a mournful glance, using the puppy dog eyes that had got him out of many a tight corner in the past. "How could I have done that to you? To us? How could I have--?"

"Do you really think I want to talk about that?" I couldn't believe he thought now was the right time to be having this conversation. "Do you honestly think it's something I'll ever want to talk about with you?"

"But Becca, we need to talk. I need to explain--"

"Oh, I'm sure you do. I'm sure you'd like to clear your conscience, get it off your chest. But newsflash--I don't want to hear it, okay? You made your bed, well, you can fucking well lie in it." Hearing my own words, I gave a snort of humourless laughter. "Well, you fucking well fucked in it, didn't you?"

"Becca--"

"No, Daniel--"

"You have to know that I didn't see it coming. I didn't go looking for someone else, I swear to you--"

"I'm not listening--"

"It just happened, okay? I met her in the bar, the night we arrived in Kavos. She told me she'd just split up from her boyfriend. The guys were late coming down, so in the meantime I bought her a drink and we got talking--"

"La-la-la-la-la!" I sang tunelessly, sticking my fingers in my ears and squeezing my eyes tightly shut. It wasn't enough. I could still hear him.

"--and I don't know how it happened--why it happened--but it did. We just clicked. And I don't know how to explain it--the only way you could ever understand is if it happened to you, Becca. It just felt right. As though we were supposed to be together. Meant for each other."

I stopped singing, my hands falling back into my lap as I turned to look at him. "As though--as though you'd known her for years?" I ventured, the oddest sensation prickling down my spine, making the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Because, as it turned out, I understood exactly how that felt...

He nodded emphatically, squeezing then flexing his fingers over the steering wheel. "It shouldn't have made any difference though, should it? I was engaged to you--I was marrying you. And it's over now. It was over before it began, really." He paused, looking more miserable than ever. "And I don't know if you'll ever be able to forgive me. But believe me, I know--I know I've made the biggest mistake of my life."

I stared at him, this time at a complete loss for words. "Daniel--" I faltered at last, only to be interrupted by the sound of his ringing mobile phone. Saved--quite literally--by the bell, I snatched it up from the dashboard tray and examined the display. "It's Sarah," I told him even as I flipped it open and held it to my ear. "Hello?"

"Becky? Is that you?" The relief in my sister's tone was palpable. "Oh thank God."

"Mum--?" Suddenly I couldn't draw enough breath to frame the question.

"Still with us. She's holding her own. Oh, Becky." Sarah sounded so distressed my stomach contracted with fear. "I knew something like this would happen. She's been so stressed. So worked up... Are you on your way here?"

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