Still Me

Page 24


Sam’s arm reached across and pulled me towards him. ‘Don’t go,’ he said sleepily.
‘I have to.’ His arm was pinning me.
‘Be late.’ He opened one eye. He smelt warm and sweet and he kept his gaze on mine as he slowly slid a heavy, muscular leg over me.
It was impossible to refuse him. Sam was feeling better. Quite a lot better, apparently.
‘I need to get dressed.’
He was kissing my collarbone, feathery kisses that made me shiver. His mouth, light and focused, began to trace a pattern downwards. He looked up at me from under the cover, one eyebrow raised. ‘I’d forgotten these scars. I really love these scars here.’ He lowered his head and kissed the silvery ridges on my hip that marked my surgery, making me squirm, then disappeared.
‘Sam, I need to go. Really.’ My fingers closed around the bedspread. ‘Sam … Sam … I really … oh.’
Some time later, my skin prickling with drying sweat, breathing hard, I lay on my stomach wearing a stupid smile, my muscles aching in unexpected places. My hair was over my face but I couldn’t summon the energy to push it away. A strand rose and fell with my breath. Sam lay beside me. His hand felt its way across the sheet to mine. ‘I missed you,’ he said. He shifted and rolled over so that he was on top of me, holding me in place. ‘Louisa Clark,’ he murmured, and his voice, impossibly deep, resonated somewhere inside me. ‘You do something to me.’
‘I think it was you who did something to me, if we’re going to get technical about it.’
His face was filled with tenderness. I lifted my own so that I could kiss him. It was as if the last forty-eight hours had fallen away. I was in the right place, with the right man, and his arms were around me and his body was beautiful and familiar. I ran a finger down his cheek, then leant in and kissed him slowly.
‘Don’t do that again,’ he said, his eyes on mine.
‘Because then I won’t be able to help myself and you’re already late and I don’t want to be responsible for you losing your job.’
I turned my head to see the alarm. I blinked. ‘Quarter to eight? Are you kidding? How the hell is it a quarter to eight?’ I wriggled out from under him, my arms flapping, and hopped to the bathroom. ‘Oh, my God. I am so late. Oh, no – oh, no no no no no.’
I threw myself under a shower so rapid it’s possible the droplets didn’t make contact with my body, and when I emerged he stood and held out items of clothing for me so that I could slide into them.
‘Shoes. Where are my shoes?’
He held them up. ‘Hair,’ he said, gesturing. ‘You need to comb your hair. It’s all … well …’
‘Matted. Sexy. Just-had-sex hair. I’ll pack your things,’ he said. As I ran for the door he caught me by the arm and pulled me to him. ‘Or you could, you know, just be a tiny bit later.’
‘I am later. So later.’
‘It’s just once. She’s your new best mate. They’re hardly going to fire you.’ He put his arms around me and kissed me and ran his lips down the side of my neck so that I shivered. ‘And this is my last morning here …’
‘Sam …’
‘Five minutes.’
‘It’s never five minutes. Oh, man – I can’t believe I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing.’
He growled with frustration. ‘Dammit. I feel okay today. Like really okay.’
‘Believe me, I can tell.’
‘Sorry,’ he said. And then: ‘No, I’m not. Not remotely.’
I grinned at him, closed my eyes and kissed him back, feeling even then how easy it would be just to topple back onto the Burgundy Bedspread of Doom and lose myself again. ‘Me either. I’ll see you later, though.’ I wriggled out of his arms and ran out of the room and along the corridor, listening to his yelled ‘I love you!’ And thinking that despite potential bedbugs, unsanitary bedspreads and inadequate bathroom soundproofing, actually, this was a very nice hotel indeed.
Mr Gopnik was suffering acute pain in his legs and had been awake half the night, which had left Agnes anxious and fractious. She had had a bad weekend at the country club, the other women freezing her out of conversation and gossiping about her in the spa. From the way Nathan whispered this as I passed him in the lobby, it sounded like thirteen-year-old girls on a toxic sleepover.
‘You’re late,’ Agnes growled, as she returned from her run with George, mopping her face with a towel. In the next room I could hear Mr Gopnik’s uncharacteristically raised voice on the telephone. She didn’t look at me as she spoke.
‘I’m sorry. It’s because my …’ I began, but she had already walked past.
‘She’s freaking out about the charity reception this evening,’ murmured Michael, heading past me with an armful of dry-cleaning and a clipboard.
I racked my mental Rolodex. ‘Children’s Cancer Hospital?’
‘The very one,’ he said. ‘She’s meant to bring a doodle.’
‘A doodle?’
‘A little picture. On a special card. They auction them off at the dinner.’
‘So how hard is that? She can do a smiley face or a flower or something. I’ll do it if she likes. I can do a mean smiling horse. I can put a hat on it too, with the ears sticking out.’ I was still full of Sam and found it hard to see the problem in anything.
He looked at me. ‘Sweetheart. You think “doodle” means actual doodle? Oh, no. It has to be real art.’
‘I got a B in GCSE art.’
‘You’re so sweet. No, Louisa, they don’t do it themselves. Every artist between here and Brooklyn Bridge has apparently spent the weekend creating some delicious little pen-and-ink study for cold, hard cash. She only found out last night. Overheard two of the Witches talking about it before she left the club and when she asked them they told her the truth. So guess what you’re doing today? Have a great morning!’
He blew me a kiss and hurried out of the door.
While Agnes showered and had breakfast I did an online search of ‘artists in New York’. It was about as much use as searching ‘dogs with tails’. The few who had websites and bothered to pick up the phone answered my request like I’d suggested they waltz naked around the nearest shopping mall. ‘You want Mr Fischl to do a … doodle? For a charity lunch?’ Two put the phone down on me. Artists, it turned out, took themselves very seriously.
I called everyone I could find. I called gallerists in Chelsea. I called the New York Academy of Art. All the while I tried not to think about what Sam was doing. He would be having a nice brunch in that diner we’d talked about. He would be walking the High Line, like we were meant to. I needed to be back in time to take that ferry ride with him before he left for England. To do it at dusk would be romantic. I pictured us, his arm around me, gazing up at the Statue of Liberty, dropping a kiss on my hair. I dragged my thoughts back and racked my brains. And then I thought about the only other person I knew in New York who might be able to help.
‘Speaking?’ The sound of a million male voices behind him.
‘It’s – it’s Louisa Clark. We met at the Yellow Ball?’
‘Louisa! Great to hear from you! How are you doing?’ He sounded so relaxed, as if strange women called him every day of the week. They probably did. ‘Hold on. Let me take this outside … So what’s up?’
He had this way of making you feel instantly at ease. I wondered if Americans were born with it.
‘Actually, I’m in a bit of a bind and I don’t know many people in New York so I wondered if you might be able to help.’
‘Try me.’
I explained the situation, leaving out Agnes’s mood, her paranoia, my utter stammering terror faced with the New York art scene.
‘Shouldn’t be too hard. When do you need this thing by?’
‘That’s the tricky bit. Tonight.’
A sharp intake of breath. ‘Oooh-kay. Yeah. That’s a little tougher.’