‘Was that true?’ Lily asked Jackson as they strolled up the path behind Gemma and Tess. Gemma had stridden on like a woman on a mission, urging Tess – in a sharp schoolteacher tone – to keep up.
Jackson stopped and looked Lily in the eye. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Am I a complete arse for lying?’
‘God no.’ Lily grabbed his hair with both hands and pulled his face down to hers; she gave him a long, lingering kiss. ‘Best lie I ever heard.’
‘I’m glad you think so. No offence to your friend but she is bit full on.’
‘No offence taken on my part.’ Lily took a breath, almost afraid of the answer to her next question. ‘So what are you doing this evening?’
‘Well, to paraphrase my fellow surfers in Oz, I thought I’d fire up the barbie and throw on a couple of steaks. Are you up for that?’
‘Oh yes please.’
Jackson sat on the terrace in the late afternoon sunshine while Lily showered and changed. Gemma had very graciously allowed Lily in the bathroom first – provided that she was being truthful about not washing her hair and promised not to use up the hot water.
‘You could have showered at my place if it’s such a big deal,’ Jackson said as they sauntered back down the path to the beach car park.
‘It’s fine,’ Lily said, swinging her bag – packed with overnight essentials and a change of clothes for the morning – over her shoulder.
‘Let me take that, it looks heavy.’ Jackson reached for the bag.
‘No. It’s fine.’ Lily didn’t want him thinking she was making assumptions.
‘Give it here,’ he said, lifting it off her shoulder. ‘Whoa, that’s heavy. What have you got in here.’
‘Just stuff.’ Lily made a grab for the bag, but he dodged out of her way and laughed.
‘I hope the reason it’s heavy is because the just stuff is overnight stuff.’
Lily looked down. Was he mocking her?
He stopped walking, grabbed her arm and lifted her chin. ‘I’ve been thinking,’ he said, his voice soft. ‘If this is a full on, no strings attached, holiday romance we’re having…’ He waited.
‘Why don’t you move in with me until I have to leave? My bed is a lot more comfortable than that camp bed you’re sleeping on.’
Lily blinked back her excitement. Part of her felt disloyal to Will – but who knew what he was up to? And anyway, she reminded herself, they had broken up. Part of her felt it was wrong. But a bigger part of her wanted to punch the air and shout yes. ‘Okay. That would be nice. Thank you.’ She worked hard to keep her tone level and restrained.
‘Great. We can pick up more of your stuff tomorrow.’ They’d reached his car and he opened the boot and dropped Lily’s bag in. ‘And, you can wash your hair as often, or not, as you like. There is no restriction on hot water.’
‘Glad to hear it.’
Lily felt excited as they drove off down the country lanes, the top down, the sea always part of the vista. Excited and scared. What was she doing? He could be an axe murderer. She glanced over at him, his surfer hair, too long, brittle and bleached, waving in the wind, his tanned-skin, much softer than it looked. His soft blue eyes, now covered by sunglasses, but the long, dark lashes clearly visible from the side. His hands on the wheel, his muscular forearms, his muscular thighs.
‘What the hell,’ she said, not meaning to say it out loud.
‘What’s that?’ Jackson turned briefly and smiled at her showing his teeth. She’d forgotten his teeth, straight and white against his tan.
When they got to Jackson’s he lit the barbeque before taking a shower while Lily sat in the garden soaking up the last rays of the day and sipping chilled white wine. When Jackson reappeared he smelt delicious. Lily inhaled his lovely odour.
‘Mmm. What’s that?’
‘That lovely smell. I mean, it’s you. But what is it?’
‘Shower gel and shampoo.’ He shrugged.
‘Is that all? It smells lovely. You smell lovely.’
‘God, what did I smell like before?’
This is an excerpt from chapter nine of Mermaid Hair and I Don’t Care. This is a first draft so please excuse typos etc.