Lost and Foundbyrachlou©
With one eye still on the winding road, Rosie glanced at the luminous clock on the dashboard. It felt like she'd been driving along this damned road forever. Surely the village was just over the next hill? But the inky blackness was impenetrable; the only light came from a few distant stars, far above. So she sighed and fixed her eyes back on the ribbon of pitted tarmac, determined to push on in the hope of reaching civilisation before midnight.
A few miles further along, the car began to splutter and cough. Speed dropped from a respectable sixty miles an hour to less than ten. Slowly but surely, the small mini ground to a halt and the engine died with one last wheezing shudder.
Rosie stared in dismay at the fuel gauge. The tiny marker was firmly on the red and although the low fuel light wasn't winking, Rosie knew the symptoms of an empty fuel tank all too well. This wasn't the first time her mini had run out of petrol—she was a poor student and more often than not she could not afford to put much petrol in her car. Usually it did not matter when she was caught between her flat and campus, but this time she was stuck in the middle of nowhere, it was late at night, and it was also freezing out there.
She shivered, even though the car was still fairly warm, aware the heat would not last long now the engine had stopped.
"Fuck!" Rosie's profanity echoed fruitlessly around the cramped car. Her breath began to steam up the glass, while outside a chill wind swept across the bleak moors, occasionally buffeting the car with icy blasts.
She peered into the back seat at the bags she had thrown in earlier. There were a couple of fleece jumpers in there somewhere, but not much else that would be of any use. Despite her dad's nagging over the years, Rosie never had gotten around to storing useful things like a torch and a blanket in the car. No doubt her dad would have a field day on this one. She shuddered to think of his reaction when he came to rescue her.
She rummaged in her bag for her mobile phone and peered at the screen. It was at that moment she began to wish she had stayed at college instead of agreeing to come home for the weekend. A stupid house party at the manor was unlikely to be that wonderful. But the invitation was not the reason she had agreed to return, she reminded herself grimly. Marc was the reason. Marc, the sole reason she had left in the first place. She had only agreed to come home for the party in the hope Marc would be there.
Marc: her first love. The man she had thought would be her only love. Until they'd had that awful argument and she had stormed out of his life on a wave of vodka and regrets. As is often the way, the argument had been about something and nothing, but Rosie's hot temper had fanned the inferno into a blazing row where things were said in the heat of the moment that could not be taken back so easily.
"I can't help it if Aaron fancies me!" she'd yelled outside the Wild Boar pub. Of course she had known Marc was jealous of Aaron, but she had had too much to drink and Marc had been ignoring her—or so it felt like.
"That doesn't give you an excuse to be all over him like a disease!" Marc had been livid, she remembered with shame.
And with just cause...
She knew she had behaved badly that night, but the lack of attention coupled with Aaron's easy flirting had been a recipe for disaster. One she had come to regret bitterly in recent months. She had left for college a week later and even though she had wanted to make up with Marc, he had not rung her. Now it was eating away at her insides like a cankerous growth.
The persistent patter of rain in the window reminded Rosie that she needed to call her dad before her parents began to worry. Once again she looked at her phone screen and with a sinking heart she saw that it had turned ominously black. The battery had died in the time it had taken her to drift off down memory lane.
She thumped the dashboard and tossed the small object into the back of the car. Now she was screwed. The chances of somebody else driving along this road at this time of night were pretty much zilch. Her only hope was to try walking until she reached one of the outlying farms. She was fairly certain that she had to be no more than six or seven miles from the village, although the familiar landmarks were difficult to define in the darkness.
Rosie rooted around in her rucksack trying to feel for the fleeces she had packed. It was not easy in the dark, but with the temperature dropping she knew she would need the extra layers. After she had dragged on as much clothing as she could manage, she opened the car door and stepped out on to the road.
It was so dark Rosie could barely see her nose in front of her face, but she knew there was little point in waiting for a knight in shining armour. With a sigh of resignation, she began walking down the road, her shoulders hunched against the biting February wind and her hands shoved deep inside her pockets.
The wind howled relentlessly, finding every exposed millimetre of skin and sucking the last bit of warmth from Rosie's body, but she carried on walking, praying that round the next bend she would see lights twinkling in the distance. Farther back up the winding road, her car had disappeared, swallowed up by the dark night.
Small flakes of snow began to swirl in the icy air. As she soldiered on, her breath steamed in front of her face and the snow began to settle on the tufts of springy heather growing along the side of the road. It felt like she was the only person left in this godforsaken wilderness; even the sheep had disappeared to warmer places.
On and on she walked and colder and colder she became. Eventually her feet began to turn numb and she wondered how long exposure would take to kill her. It would be a lovely funeral, she decided bleakly. Her parents would cry inconsolably and everyone would toast her memory at the pub afterwards. She was just trying to think of a suitable song for the service when the sound of a motorbike approaching roused her from the stupor she had fallen into.
"Hello!" she yelled as she turned to face the oncoming bike. But the wind sucked the words from her mouth instantly, swallowing them up in a swirl of snowflakes. The blinding headlight momentarily dazzled her and she shielded her eyes against the halogen glare whilst praying the biker actually saw her and did not mow her down. That'd spoil the whole open coffin service, she thought.
When the bike abruptly stopped, she opened her eyes and stared at the familiar figure. It was Marc.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, her teeth chattering.
"I could ask you the same thing," he replied with the barest hint of a smile when he lifted the visor of his helmet. "Didn't think you were planning on coming back anytime soon."
"I heard there's a party at the manor—social event of the century, mum told me. I could hardly miss that could I?"
Marc snorted derisively. "Really? That's a rather optimistic assessment considering who's hosting it."
Rosie had to admit Marc had a point there. Colonel Tavistock and his wife were hardly Posh and Becks. "Free booze is free booze," she countered.
"True," he admitted finally. "Anyway, it's a little cold to be standing around discussing your social engagements, so do you want a lift home—or would you rather walk?"
Her temper was beginning to fray around the edges at Marc's snotty attitude. She wasn't the only one at fault here—his stinky behaviour had led to their argument in the first place. "You know what?" she snapped, "I think the walk'll do me good." She stomped off down the road, trying not to think about how far the temperature had dropped in the time they had been stood talking.
After a few minutes, the bike pulled up alongside her again.
"Stop being stupid and get on," Marc growled. "You'll freeze to death out here in this."
"Like you'd care," Rosie muttered. But he was right. She was beginning to realise that leaving the relative warmth of her car had been an insane idea. It was colder than Siberia on this exposed section of road. Very reluctantly she took the spare helmet from him and climbed on whilst trying to ignore the pang of longing that ripped through her when she slipped her frozen arms around the familiar bulk of his body.
* * *
By the time they pulled into the village, snow was falling heavily and the roads were white. Marc slowed down outside Rosie's gate and switched the ignition off while she climbed down from the bike and brushed the flakes of snow from her fleece.
"Thanks for the lift," she said as she handed his helmet back. "Next time I'll stay with the car, I think."
"Next time try putting some petrol in it," he scolded. Then he smiled. "It's good to see you again."
"Yeah, the pool team has missed their star player."
Now she knew he was taking the piss—she was the worst player the team had ever had.
"You're too funny," she muttered with a scowl.
He laughed then looked up at the snow. "I better get home before I turn into Mr Frosty," he said.
"You can come in if you like?" It suddenly mattered a lot to her that they talked.
"I have to get home," he replied. "Stuff to do."
Her spirits plunged lower that the arctic temperatures. It was obvious Marc had not forgiven her. If it were not for the fact she was loath to show him how upset she was, Rosie would have cried her eyes out. Instead she pasted a bland smile on her face.
"Yeah, me too," she said, "Like defrosting."
Marc fired up the bike and brushed some of the snow from off his legs. "See you at the party tomorrow," he said before he sped off down the lane towards the main road.
A brief ray of hope filtered through her depression as Rosie watched the tail lights disappear in the swirling snow. Maybe all was not lost? If he was going to the party, she would have a chance to talk to him and sort things out. Rosie grinned. She was suddenly inordinately pleased that she had bought a new dress for the occasion. It certainly would not hurt to look her best tomorrow night.
* * *
Tiny lights winked from the huge elm trees growing along the gravel driveway that led to the entrance of Tavistock Manor. Not many cars were in evidence as most of the village had chosen to walk despite the heavy snow, but Rosie was glad her dad had decided to drive. Her new shoes would be unlikely to appreciate the foot high snowdrifts along the edge of the road.
She followed her parents inside the manor house and was instantly enveloped in a crescendo of noise and moist heat. Mum had not been kidding when she claimed it would be the social event of the decade. Round here it probably was. The villagers were not used to much beyond the occasional pub quiz and disco at the village hall. This was infinitely more upper class.
"Hey, Rosie!" yelled a familiar voice and she turned around. It was Jane, her old school friend. Jane teetered over on high heels and the two embraced.
"Wow, you're looking hot," marvelled Jane as she took a step back and admired Rosie's new dress. "Gone all designer now you've escaped into the big wide world?"
Rosie knew Jane was joking, but she sensed a slight note of envy nevertheless. Jane was stuck in the valley: her parents were farmers barely struggling to stay afloat amidst difficult economic conditions. Once upon a time Jane had had plans to go to Art School, but not any more. Now she was trapped on the farm, unable to leave with her mother sick.
"Yeah right," scoffed Rosie. "I picked this up at New Look last week!"
The girls linked arms companionably and threaded their way through the milling groups of people, heading towards what Rosie hoped was a bar. Most of the faces were familiar, but a few strangers were apparent here and there.
"Ooh who's he?" remarked Jane as they paused in the doorway to what appeared to be a library.
"No idea, but he's rather nice." Rosie glanced at the tall bloke standing with a glass of wine in his hand, chatting to Colonel Tavistock's horsy wife. His face was arranged in an expression of polite interest, but when he caught the girls' eyes, he raised one eyebrow in a discreet fashion.
They edged closer and Rosie immediately spotted that her friend's interest was apparently mutual. She melted into the shadows beside a potted palm and watched with fascination as the tall guy made his excuses and headed straight for Jane. Within moments they were engaged in animated conversation and Rosie was unceremoniously dumped.
"Catch you later," she said dryly as she left Jane flirting like mad. Not that she could blame her friend. The guy was pretty hot compared to the rest of the eligible men in the county. It was no wonder Jane was determined to have a crack at him. Under different circumstances Rosie would have been tempted herself.
But she only had eyes for Marc.
Almost as if he had read her mind, the man himself appeared. "Looking good," he commented as his eyes slid up and down her body. She was instantly on fire under the heated scrutiny of his gaze, but she tried to maintain a demeanor of cucumber coolness.
There seemed no point in assuming anything after his attitude last night. For all she knew, he had met somebody else and was just being polite.
"Didn't think you were coming," she continued when he said nothing more.
"Oh, you know, free booze is always worth turning up for."
"I doubt it will last long with this lot," Rosie said dryly as they both watched Fred Garret and Harry Smith staggering past with two full glasses of beer apiece.
"No, I think you're right," laughed Marc before his face took on a serious expression and he reached for her hand. "Come with me," he said softly, "We need to talk."
Rosie allowed his fingers to thread through hers and he pulled her along a corridor and into an inner hallway. It was quiet in this part of the house. Dark oil paintings hung on gloomy walls and thick carpets muffled their footsteps. From the main part of the house, loud music began to play and there was the faint sound of breaking glass. Marc pushed open a small door at the end of another corridor and they began to climb up a circular stone staircase.
"I don't think we should really—"
Marc shushed her. "It's okay, nobody'll know we're here. This part of the house isn't used any more."
"How come you know about it?" Rosie was curious despite her apprehension. This was the first time she had had access to the manor as the last time a party had been held, she had been poorly with the flu.
"Remember Clarabelle Tavistock?"
A sudden vision of a stuck-up blonde girl with skinny legs sprang into Rosie's mind. "You mean their daughter who went to Oxford three years ago?"
"Yeah, that's her." Marc opened another door at the top of the staircase to reveal a large attic room in what appeared to be one of the turrets of the house. "Clarabelle and I had a thing going on a few years ago. She used to smuggle me in late at night through a door in the servants quarters. We conducted our trysts in this very room."
Rosie was instantly consumed with jealousy. The thought of Marc with that blonde bitch was almost too much to bear. Clarabelle had gone out of her way to treat Rosie with absolute contempt before she left for Oxford University. Rosie had hated her.
"Lucky you," she managed to spit out.
"No, not really," Marc said when he turned around and saw the scowl on Rosie's face. "She was a crap lay."
"Yes, really. No tits and an annoying habit of neighing like a horse when she came."
Rosie burst out laughing. "You're making that bit up!"
"Hmm, maybe the last bit." He grinned. "I can't really remember to be honest," he admitted. "It was one of those short lived things that died a death after a few weeks. I think she dumped me when she met some rich third cousin of royalty at the hunt ball."
He pulled Rosie into his arms. "Anyway, I didn't drag you up here to talk about stupid Clarabelle."
Rosie pressed against him and inhaled the scent of his skin. He smelt wonderful as always and she sighed with pleasure. "What did you want to talk about then?" she whispered before kissing his neck, nibbling the skin gently with her teeth.
His hands slid down her back and cupped her bottom. "Maybe talk can wait a few minutes," he muttered.
"A few minutes?" Rosie took a step back in outrage and glared at him. "It's been ages!"
"And who's fault is that?" he reminded her before pulling her with him as he edged back towards an old bed in the corner.
She sniffed, ashamed. "Dunno."
"Exactly," he said sternly. He sat down and looked up at her, his hands resting lightly on her waist. "All that upset for nothing."
"I'm sorry," she apologised, gazing down at his handsome face. It all seemed so stupid now. A storm in a teacup, as her nana used to say.
"Me too," he replied. "We were both stupid that night." He sighed. "No more silliness?"
"No more," she agreed with heartfelt determination. Marc meant too much to her to risk losing him again over a stupid argument. From now on, she was not going to allow her temper to get the better of her.
"Now perhaps we can seal the deal with a..." He pulled her down and kissed her.
It was as if they had never been apart. Rosie's hands remembered the lines of his torso as she traced a path long since etched in her memory. Millions of dust fairies danced in the air when they fell back on to the old bed cover, but neither of them noticed.
"I like the dress," Marc whispered between light kisses along her collar bone. "Very sexy, Miss Miller."
"You don't think it's too tight?" She shivered beneath the light touch of his fingers as they slid down her neck and reached the tempting swell of her breasts.
"Hell no, short and tight always looks great on you, but I have to admit, I prefer you naked."
Marc eased the dress from Rosie's shoulders and pulled the fabric down as far as it would go. His mouth was hot on her skin and delicious longing sent sharp pangs of desire between her legs as he teased her.
Eventually frustration took its toll and Marc pulled away. "I know I said I liked this dress, but seriously, it's not easy to get the damned thing off!"
He rolled on to his back, taking her with him. The dress rode up her thighs and she sat up, straddling his lower torso, very much aware that he was hard as stone between her legs. Suddenly the tables were turned and she was in control.
"You're clearly out of practice," she said as she yanked the hidden zipper down and pulled the dress over her head to reveal a new La Senza bra.
"Damn right I am," growled Marc. His hands reached up to cup her breasts, pausing to rub the swollen tips of her nipples through the lace. It felt like the last few months had disappeared into a black hole—time apart had done nothing to quell the intense passion. If anything, absence had only served to stoke the fires of desire to an even greater height.
Marc deftly released the catch on her bra and released her breasts for his pleasure. Once again Rosie found herself at a serious disadvantage as he took one aching nipple in his mouth, sucking gently. They rolled back over and Rosie lay half sprawled beneath him, unable to do anything other than grip his arms and will him not to stop.
"Oh god, I've missed you," she gasped, remembering how little it took for him to make her cum.
The sensation of his hot mouth on her breasts was nearly enough to tip her over the edge. She writhed beneath him, desperate to feel his cock inside her, to feel like they were truly back together again.
"Patience, Rosie, patience!"
Marc's fingers found her wetness and she moaned incoherently, grinding against him, wondering how he managed to stay in control when she was losing the plot big-time. Abruptly he pulled away and stood, leaving her lying bereft on the bed, shaking with thwarted desire. In the half light, she watched as he quickly stripped his clothes off, revealing the tight, hard body she had longed for every night for months.