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Love Uncovered (Babes of Brighton Book 2) by Laura Barnard (1)

Chapter One

Friday 21st July

‘You need to calm your cooch,’ Erica says before following with a maniacal laugh.

I smile to myself then grab my crotch jokingly. ‘I can’t help it that she’s excited.’

After a whole month of living with her and Jack, listening to them shag non-stop, I’m finally getting Tom down to Brighton.

I haven’t been able to get him out of my head since that holiday to Luna Island just over a month ago. Those big broad shoulders, blonde hair and piercing green eyes. We had an instant connection and spent most of the holiday fucking like animals.

And I can’t wait to get my greedy little hands on him.

Have I heard from him since we got back from holiday? No, of course not. Guys like Tom don’t text or call, they just show up and demand sex with their very presence. And I can’t fucking wait.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve carried on having sex, you know, just to de-stress, but after shagging him all holiday it’s like I know nothing will live up to him. He’s a fucking beast in bed!

‘All I’m saying,’ Erica warns with a cautionary smile, ‘is not to jump up at him, fanny first, as soon as he arrives.’

‘I’ll try,’ I joke, rolling my eyes.

All the guys are coming down for a weekend in Brighton: Tom, Nicholas and Charlie. I’m guessing it’s the highlight of their month. Brighton is a fucking gem. I can’t imagine the boredom of living somewhere normal like Peterborough. I shudder at the thought.

‘Well, get ready. They’ll be arriving at their hotel in the next two hours.’

Butterflies dance in my stomach. I grin and waggle my eyebrows comically.

‘I’ll be ready, don’t worry.’

But the truth is that I’m nervous. Why the fuck I am, I’m not sure. I never get worried. Men are the one thing I know I can handle. They’re ruled by their dicks so if you flash a bit of boob they’re putty in your hands.

But something about seeing Tom again has me fidgeting with my necklace and feeling like I’m back in high school.

The thing is that there’s no promise Tom is even looking forward to seeing me. He could be excited for all the potential Brighton pussy on offer.

‘Are you nervous?’ Alice asks me, a bewildered smile on her bright-red painted lips.

‘No! You’re nervous!’ I retort like a child.

She grins big, widening her sea green eyes. ‘Okay, Brooke, whatever you say.’

Dammit, that bitch has always been able to read me.

‘I don’t know why we’re bothering to meet up with his mates,’ Evelyn whines. ‘We already have to put up with Jack full time.’

That girl seriously needs to get laid. It might dislodge the stick out of her arse.

* * *

Two hours later and we’re meeting them outside their hotel. I spot him before he sees me. Tom ‘Manwhore’ Maddens. God, he’s as hot as ever in dark jeans and a white shirt, his broad shoulders barely fitting in it. They deffo put something in the water up there in Peterborough.

He spots me and grins, a cheeky glint in his eyes.

‘Well, well, well,’ he says, his piercing green eyes dancing with mischief, ‘look who got hotter.’

‘Moi?’ I flutter my eyelashes, faking shyness. I offer him my hand for him to kiss, but he instead uses it to pull me hard into his solid chest.

I look up at his face, my chest heaving from the shock and proximity of those lips. The urge to reach out and touch them is strong. Or, you know, to sit on his face.

‘You look utterly fuckable,’ he says with a smirk.

Jesus, why is it he makes me so hot and irrational? I’m sweating like this is a first date in high school.

‘You’re not looking too bad yourself,’ I retort, licking my lips.

He leans over so his mouth is down to my ear, lowering his voice to a whisper. ‘You should see how pretty my hotel room is.’

I pull back, my heart rate beating so loudly I’m surprised he can’t hear it.

‘Play your cards right and you never know.’

Well, I want to keep some bloody mystery. Not give him confirmation that he’s getting a bunk up later, when, well... okay he totally is. I want me some more ‘Manwhore’ Maddens. But I don’t want him to know I’m a sure thing.

I nod around at the others in hello, but my full attention is on Tom. It’s like my body craves him.

We order drinks and find our reserved booth in our local night club, Phoenix. The guys seem to be impressed with the place. It makes me wonder if there isn’t anything half decent in Peterborough. I’ve never been there, so I’d have no idea.

I suppose when I think back to when I first arrived here I was amazed at how cool it was. Over the years I must have got pretty jaded.

I decide after a few hours of chatting loudly over the music to take the girls onto the dance floor. We need to show the guys we’re not going to dote on them the whole time they’re here. They’re not celebrities for God’s sake.

Some banging tunes come on meaning we’re out there for quite some time. Next time I check my diamante watch I see that we’ve let forty-five minutes go past. Whoops.

I should get a drink. And, you know, check to see how Tom is. He’ll probably be gagging for it, me having left him for so long. The thought makes me feel powerful.

I make my way back to our booth but there’s no sign of him.

‘Where’s Tom?’ I ask Charlie.

He avoids eye contact. ‘Err... I... I don’t know.’

Right... Well that’s suspicious. Whatever though. I need to apply some more lipstick, anyway. Maybe buy a few more condoms while I’m there. You can’t trust dudes to be prepared these days. Luckily, I’m like a girl scout with that shit.

I skip the long line of the ladies and instead go in the nearer disabled loos. No one with disabilities ever comes here. The place is a death trap, steps almost everywhere you walk. I’ve no idea why they even bothered with it, but I suppose they have to. Would make more sense for them to have made it all wheelchair friendly instead.

I swing the door open, only for my eyes to be assaulted by the sight of a bare arse, pounding into some redhead who’s screaming like she’s being murdered. Wowzas.

‘Shit, sorry!’ I cry, about to turn around.

I put my hand up in front of me to protect my eyes. Only at that exact moment the guy turns his head, noticing he’s been caught with his pants down. Familiar piercing green eyes meet mine.

My mouth drops open. It’s Tom.

My Tom.

Fucking some random redhead in the disabled toilets. What the fuck? He’s supposed to be here to see me, not shag the first thing he claps his eyes on.

He has the audacity to smile. Actually smile. ‘Hey, Brooke. Wanna join in?’

I can’t move. I don’t think I’ve ever been this stunned before. Eventually, I turn around and walk numbly away, my legs as heavy as lead.

As the door slams shut behind me I hear him continue to pound into her, that bitch’s screams echoing around the toilet walls.

‘Brooke.’ I look up, but instead of Tom rushing to catch me it’s Nicholas, their heavily tattooed friend, leaning against the wall. ‘You okay?’

I can’t help but snort sarcastically. Yeah, best night of my life. Then I quickly remember myself. I don’t want it getting back to Tom that I’m upset.

‘Of course, I’m okay,’ I shrug, straightening myself up. ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’

He stands up straight, his midnight blue eyes piercing me into place. ‘He’s not good enough for you.’

My heart rate accelerates. Did he really just say that?

Then just like that he turns and walks away. What the fuck?

* * *

I pop in to see my nan in her care home the next morning. I like to try to see her at least twice a week. She’s got a chest infection right now so I’m scared she’s on her last legs. With her asthma, it’s always possible. It doesn’t help that the woman has smoked forty a day for the last fifty years.

‘Hey, Nan,’ I smile, attempting not to look worried as I take in her frail frame coughing with such ferociousness it looks like she could break. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Awful, my love,’ she finally croaks before giving me a brave smile. ‘I fear I’m on my last legs.’

I hate when she talks like this. Like she’s going to die any minute. It makes me feel sick to my stomach at the thought of losing her.

‘You’ll be fine, Nan,’ I say with an eye roll. ‘You’re on antibiotics. You’ll be right as rain in no time.’

She takes my hand, giving it what I’m sure she thinks is a strong squeeze.

‘I do worry about you,’ she says, fear in her eyes.

I frown. ‘You worry, about me? Why the hell would you worry about me? I’m not the one coughing up a lung.’

She sighs heavily. ‘Because I don’t want to leave this world until I know you have a man in your life to look after you.’

God, if she only knew the sad state of affairs when it came to the quality of men out there. Even ones you like, end up shagging randoms in the toilets.

‘This isn’t the nineteen-fifties, Nan. I don’t need a man to look after me.’

She smiles sadly as if I’m missing the whole point of life. You see, my nan was happily married to my grandad until he passed away eleven years ago. She misses him every day and assumes that everyone is after the same thing. Well, not me.

I’ve watched as my own mother went from disastrous relationship to disastrous relationship. No thank you, I don’t want that. Relationships make you stupid, vulnerable. I’d much rather keep the independence I’ve carved out for myself thank you very much.

‘You need a good man in your life,’ she insists, pity in her eyes.

I know what she’s getting at. She thinks that because I grew up without my dad, there’s something wrong with me. Some kind of hidden daddy issues. She’s always banged on that a girl should know who her father is.

I mean, have I wondered what he’s like? Of course, I have. But it’s not like I’m ever going to meet him, so what’s the point in torturing myself?

‘I keep telling you, I’m fine.’

She shakes her head. ‘Just don’t get to my age and have regrets, sweetheart. If you want to do something, just take the risk and do it.’

Easier said than done. Looking for a good guy in this day and age is like looking for a slut in a convent.

I have always wondered about my dad though. I mean, growing up not knowing anything about him was weird and unsettling, yes. And it has crossed my mind more than once that I could be related to a guy I get with for all I know, which creeps me out no end. But I haven’t needed a dad. I got my stability from my nan and grandad.

But she is right. What if she were to pass? Who would I have then? I definitely couldn’t rely on mum or my ugly half-sisters Anastasia and Drizzela (it’s actually Avery and Madison, but I prefer to call them after the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella). To put it mildly, they’re vile.

Mum could only ever give a shit about herself or the guy she was dating and the other two spent their time tormenting me. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and studying hard to get to Brighton Uni was my escape. I’ve never looked back.

But what if finding my dad opened a whole can of worms? I really don’t have time for drama in my life. Right now, I’m busy enough with my friends, social life and business. I work as a freelance graphic designer and I’ve just got a six-month contract in-house that I really can’t afford to fuck up.

Yet it does niggle at me. Oh, fuck it. I need to know who I am. Where I come from. And maybe I’ll be like him. God knows, I’m nothing like my mother with her blonde hair and green eyes. Yes, I’m going to do it. I’m going to find him.

I just hope he wants to be found.