Only a Taste
Chance Encounters #3
Publication Date: December 7, 2016
Genres: Adult, Realistic Romance, Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
A Sexy Multicultural (British Indian) Romance
Some of us have to choose; family, or love?
When Mandi (Mandeep Garg) is forced to move back in with her conservative parents, she’s preparing to say goodbye to all the freedoms she’s enjoyed so far: no curfews, no questions, and the freedom to date or hang out with whoever she wants. She spends her last night of independence with Callum, whom she has only just met. Sparks fly almost immediately. Can she say goodbye?
TV Chef Callum Byrne is used to getting what he wants, both from relationships and life in general. From his first meeting with Mandi, he realises she’s refreshingly different: his fame doesn’t impress her much. She tells him she’s only looking for one night of fun. Will he let her go?
Chance Encounters is a series of stand-alone contemporary romance novellas set in jolly old England, following a set of loosely connected people as they find love in unexpected places. Can love conquer all, from class differences to age gaps? One-click and find out.
I lie awake, staring at the chandelier which glistens in the faintest beginnings of daylight filtering through the French windows. Beside me, Callum's deep, even breaths suggest he's still sleeping, so I take care not to move much so I don't disturb him.
There's a horrible, heavy feeling in my chest, like a weight holding me down under water. I'm drowning, desperate for air, but relief seems so impossibly out of reach, I don't know what to do.
This has been the best night of my life, and with it, it's the worst. What if I didn't go home today? What if I just ran away, wouldn't that solve everything?
I know it would not. The guilt of leaving behind my family would eat me up.
But don't I deserve to be happy too? Do I have to do without so Mum and Dad can be proud of who I am? Why does it have to be one or the other?
I turn onto my side, facing Callum's sleeping form. He looks so peaceful, like an angel - as stupid as that sounds. At dinner, he insisted I keep an open mind tonight, suggesting he's after something more than just a one-nighter. Could this beautiful man actually be that interested in me? He's successful, famous even, whereas I'm a failure professionally and not even a nice person most of the time. Sarcastic: definitely. Nice: not so much.
And then there's the baggage: not just one or two issues, but a whole collection the size and shape of a super conservative extended family.
Whatever this is between Callum and me, it can't work out. There's no happy end to be found here.
Tears sting in my eyes, and I'm annoyed at myself for letting it get so far. Alice was right: this was supposed to be my farewell party. A last celebration before I'd have to forget myself and fit in with what is expected of me. It was never meant to be a beginning of anything, just an end.
I didn't think it could happen, that I'd go to bed with someone and get tangled up in complicated emotions afterwards. It certainly never happened to be me before. But for some reason now that I'm here, looking at him, I'm not thinking of whether he'll wake up if I try to escape now, or whether I need to worry about him calling me when it's all over.
It's the opposite. I wonder how long I can stay here with him, before real life catches up with me. I'm terrified that he won't want to call. All the while, I have nothing to offer him at all.
The more I think about it, the more I know what to do. I need to be really clear with him, tell him that as nice as our time together has been, this is it. This night will become a nice memory for us to keep, perhaps to think back to as that crazy day in Brighton. Nothing more.
It hurts to look at him now, knowing I'll probably never see him again after this. I lie back down on my pillow and cover my eyes with the back of my hand, doing everything possible to swallow my tears.
What the hell? I've never been the emotional type, why start now?
He's just a guy. We just had sex. No big deal. So why is my heart trying to make it into something more meaningful?
"Morning, beautiful." Callum's voice pierces through the silence. "You're up early."
"How did you know I was?" I ask, hoping my voice doesn't betray my innermost feelings.
"Your breathing. You sounded different when you were asleep."
It's time. The moment of truth. I have to tell him now, before he manages to distract me with his boyishly handsome looks and ruffled bed hair.
I lean up on my elbows and look over at him. Shit. Just seeing his half-naked form as he sits up, ready to get out of bed, is making my heart beat faster again. I don't know if I can do this! If only I had a choice...
"I had a lovely time last night..." I start.
He turns, his blue eyes piercing me and peeling back my defences layer by layer. "Me too."
"But..." Even my voice sounds breathless now, that's how uncharacteristically nervous I am. I've never had this problem before, why start now?
"But things are very complicated right now and you're not looking for anything," he repeats my words from last night almost verbatim.
I press my lips together, again fighting the sting of tears and nod.
His expression is no longer carefree, but has hardened as he continues to look at me. I wonder what he's thinking. I wonder if I really want to know.
"Look, it's not you, OK," I try to justify myself. "Things at home... My parents are very traditional."
"They'll never let me date, especially not outside our community."
"How old are you again?"
I remain quiet. He'll never understand. I'm not even sure I understand. It's so unfair that I have to choose between their happiness and my own. But crying about it isn't going to change a thing.
"I really like you, Callum. I wish things were different."
"So do I." He turns around again, leaning forward to pick up his clothes off the floor.
There's nothing more to say, so I just watch him as he gathers his things and heads to the bathroom. The door shuts behind him with a painfully loud click. I fall back into my pillow, and focus on deep, even breaths. Stay calm. Soon, this awful moment will pass.
I stay like that for about five minutes, until the bathroom door opens again, revealing a fully dressed Callum. If it wasn't for the slight stubble on his chin - which could be justified as fashion - nobody could tell this overnight stay was unplanned.
"I have to get back into London for a meeting this morning," he says, while picking up his wallet, phone, and other items still on the antique-looking chest of drawers opposite the bed. Then he turns to face me, his expression is firm, almost neutral, although his eyes still betray the fiery passion that had made last night so special.
One, two steps forward, and he's at my bedside. He leans down, his face just an inch from mine, sending my self-control into a tailspin.
"I've heard what you said, and I understand," he says, while running his forefinger over my chin.
The tickle of his breath against my lips is almost too much, forcing my eyes to flutter shut a few times while he speaks.
"But don't think I'll give up that easily. This isn't goodbye." He emphasises his statement with a kiss that knocks the wind out of me, then lets go and leaves me panting in bed as he makes his exit.
"Just leave the key in the room, it's all paid for. See you later, Mandi." The door clicks into place behind him, and the silence that remains overwhelms me.
After what feels like forever, I finally lean up and retrieve my phone from the bedside table and dial.
"Hey," Alice's groggy voice answers. "What time is it?"
"Dunno. Hey, can you come and get me whenever you're ready? I'll text you the address," I say, doing my utmost to disguise the disillusionment in my tone.
There's a pause, and something sounding like a yawn on the other end. "Dude, you have to tell me all about last night, how was it? I'm assuming it went well since I didn't hear from you..."
"Get ready, come pick me up, I'll tell you all about it on the drive home." I hang up before she has the chance to say anything else. Hopefully by the time we get together, I won't feel so raw, so vulnerable. I'll tell Alice what she wants to know, minus his identity and the part where I wished he wouldn't leave me behind, even after I told him to.
This is all an impossible dream, isn't it? He can't be serious, that after everything I tried to say he'll continue to pursue me? He can't possibly.
And yet, against my better judgement, I desperately hope to see Callum Byrne again.
Call me “H.” or Hedonist if you prefer. I’m a Romance writer based in London and I’ve always been a dreamer, though it didn’t occur to me to write down the stories I kept dreaming up until 2012. You’ll not find flowery language and poetry in my work. What you will find though is believable characters, none of whom perfect, going through life and trying to find happiness. Just like the rest of us.
I first started writing because I craved to see more of “my kind of books” on the shelves. In any scenario, you’ll find me rooting for the underdog. The (emotionally) scarred hero who hasn’t really had much (or any) luck in love. The shy office worker who wants to pursue the man of her dreams, but hasn’t quite mustered the courage yet. All my characters are beautifully flawed and messed up, in a way that makes them perfect for one another.