Sexual attraction was blind to the faults of each individual, didn’t care how mismatched the two were. It was pure chemistry that couldn’t be denied. But hopefully it could be ignored.
She tried to put distance between them—sat up on the exposed frame of the truck, ostensibly to get a better view of the landscape. But the metal crossbars got too hard for her butt and she had no choice but to sit on the seat in the truck again.
And in the end she obeyed her body’s demand and took the seat next to his.
He might have told her to stay away but she found it impossible. They were in such close confines and she found herself in orbit circling closer and closer to his heat.
And all the while her mind searched to rationalise it. They were on the long drive through to Dar Es Saleem, on a truck with twelve other people. Nothing could happen, and so the closeness was safe.
He spoke almost as soon as she sat. ‘Tell me about this business of yours.’
She nodded. Good idea. They could talk personal, but not intimate. ‘It’s a rental business.’
‘Renting what—washing machines? Driers? DVDs?’
‘Computer accessories? What?’
‘Fashion accessories.’ She wasn’t surprised at his look and tried to explain it further. ‘What does the fairy godmother say in Cinderella?’
‘Be back by midnight?’
‘Bibbity Bobbity Bo. That’s what she says and, voilà, Cinderella is transformed. Well, my idea is Bibbity-Bobbity-Bling. I’m the godmother you come to when you need glitz and glam, or stylish and label but you can’t afford to buy it yourself.’ She started to laugh. ‘Do you know, I have so many trinkets, millions of high-heeled sparkly shoes and bags like you wouldn’t believe.’
Seb twisted in his seat and angled his head at her. ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, Ana, but you don’t strike me as a fashionista.’
‘I know,’ she sighed. ‘I’m a total wannabe. Or I was. Do you know I spent every cent of my student loan and ran up a hu-u-uge credit-card debt buying shoes and bags and stuff? But do you want to know the really stupid thing?’ She laughed again at her ridiculousness. ‘I never had the guts to wear it. It’s all pristine in bags and yet I still can’t bear to part with it.’
She shook her head. She’d wanted to be feminine and gorgeous but she’d been so stuck in her ‘black, melt into the shadows’ phase she hadn’t been able to break free of it and she’d been mad. It had been like a kind of addiction. She hadn’t comfort eaten, she’d comfort shopped.
‘It took so long to pay off the debt and I screwed my credit rating.’ She had cleared the debt—a couple of years of working two or three jobs—and she had no intention of getting into debt ever again. ‘And instead of having all these quirky, stylish pieces sitting gathering dust, I need to turn them around and make them work for me. So I’m going to add a bit to my stock and make them for hire. I’ve got the website planned and half built. I’m looking for premises but still deciding quite where.’ She stopped for breath, realised she’d been gabbling. ‘Do you think it’s stupid?’
‘No.’ He looked a little dazed. ‘I think it could work. It really could.’
She knew it could. Because she was sure there were women out there like her who wanted but couldn’t afford, and wasn’t it better to hire than buy something you weren’t going to be using daily—these were not things anyone really needed. But it was about being able to have some fun. She wanted the fun.
‘The shoes you were wearing in the crater—’
‘Yeah. They’re some.’
She laughed too. ‘I know it’s mad.’
‘What made you wear them yesterday?’
She shrugged. Not wanting to admit it had been because of him.
‘You should wear them more.’
She couldn’t stop her smile then. ‘I’ve got some with even higher heels.’
She nodded and told him of some of her other insane purchases. Loved his grin, loved his questions and his belief in the idea. They talked for hours, halfway through the night. Until everyone around them was asleep except poor Bundy driving in the cab in the front.
And then they didn’t talk any more. There was just that slow burning awareness as the truck drove on, the noise of the engine rough and loud in the wide, still night. Eventually she moved—forced herself to get away. Lay on the bagged tents that had been stacked in the aisle and stretched out—the most comfortable spot on the truck. The tarpaulin roof was still pulled back and she had the most incredible view of the stars, watching the lights that were moving—satellites or space junk or something. It was so dark she could barely make out the shadow of the other passengers. But of one thing she was certain. He was watching her.