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Kemi stood on the side of the busy London street and let loose a stream of words that would have made her mother forget that Kemi was a grown woman of 27 and reach for a wooden spoon. Her “potty mouth” was an occupational hazard; she was a City trader and she learnt new and inventive curses every day. Glancing at the many shopping bags piled at her feet, Kemi silently gave thanks for another perk of her job- her paycheck. It meant that not only could she spoil herself as much as she liked but, come Christmas, she could spoil all her nieces and nephews silly as well.
Bracing herself, she dashed out from underneath the awning and into the rain. Bollocks. Almost 20 minutes of waiting, but still no cabs. Darting back to her meagre shelter, she shook out her tight brown curls and shoved her hands into the pockets of her coat. She let the fingers of her right hand play with the hardened shapes they found there, leaned her head back against the shop window and closed her eyes…..
She hadn’t wanted to go on that holiday. Kemi got on fairly well with her colleagues but they were generally stereotypical traders- loud, sexist and far from relaxing. Her idea of a holiday was three weeks in Manhattan with some girlfriends- lush hotels, swanky bars, exclusive restaurants and endless shopping. But she’d had no choice- it was a mandatory “team building retreat” and her boss had been adamant. They’d gone to a small island off the coast of Mexico and she’d prepared to endure. Then, on day 2, she’d met Alex.
Having managed to evade a not-so-subtle invitation to “go for a private swim” Kemi had taken a jetski out on the water. Her escape was cut short only 5 miles out when the engine sputtered and died. Dipping into her ever ready arsenal of swear words, she’d double checked the fastening of her lifejacket and slid into the water. Just as she’d been about to start the long swim back , she’d heard the harsh sounds of an approaching jet ski. Treading water, she looked up at her- bloody hell – gorgeous rescuer and almost choked. Smiling at her, he’d said “I am very tempted to make a hilarious joke about women being bad drivers….”
Usually, that sort of crack would have sent her into a tirade but maybe it was the tone of his voice; teasing and not insulting, or the fact that she really didn’t fancy swimming all the way back to shore, or maybe (and more likely) it was the fact that he was hotter than her mother’s pepper soup…but whatever it was, she’d found herself smiling back.
“What’s stopping you?” she retorted.
He’d stretched out a tanned, muscled arm and helped her clamber on behind him. Just before he revved the engine, he’d answered “I couldn’t think of one” and sped off back to the beach with her laughter ringing in their ears. They’d spent the rest of the week together….exploring the island, swimming, dancing and, eventually, shagging like radioactive bunnies. Too soon, it was time for Kemi to go. They were both on company retreats, but Alex’s lasted 10 days to her one week. Standing on the dock, he’d pressed his card and a handful of seashells they’d picked up on one of their hikes into her hand. “This wasn’t a holiday shag for me, Kemi. Call me. Please”.
That was 6 months ago. She’d gotten back to London, let herself into her flat in Westminster, and collapsed on her bed when she’d realised….she couldn’t find his card. Stupidity and carelessness had never been part of her make-up, but somehow between Mexico and England, she’d lost his card. At first, she hadn’t panicked too much. She knew his first name at least- Alex- she knew where he worked – Haversham Finance. But when she’d had her assistant make enquiries, she’d discovered that there were two Alex’s working at Haversham…and both of them were married. Furious and more hurt than she’d cared to admit, she’d made use of the impenetrable emotional walls that had earned her the nickname Ice Queen Kemi on the trading floor and forgot him.
Or she’d tried to. She still carried the stupid shells in her pocket.
Opening her eyes, she sighed and darted back out into the rain to have one more look for a cab. Yes! There! Jumping up and down, she waved at the approaching taxi until the driver flashed his lights confirming he’d seen her. Relieved, she turned to gather up her shopping while the cab pulled up to the curb behind her.
The driver was busy talking on his hands free and didn’t come out to help her with her bags. Kemi was too glad to have hailed a cab at all to mind very much so she just shook her head and fumbled the door open herself. She tossed all her shopping in the back, then clambered in.
“—what I was trying to say mate. She flagged me down first. I was ‘ere waiting for ‘er, see?”
As she shut the cab door on the rain and Christmas carols blaring from the shops, Kemi sat back in the seat and realised three things in quick succession. One- the taxi driver wasn’t on the phone. Two- he was talking to a man, who was presently sat in the back of the taxi- her taxi! Three- she knew this man.
What the f-“ Alex! What the fuck are you doing in my taxi?!”
Of course. Of course, just when she thought luck had sent her a taxi on Oxford Street, on a rainy evening in December no less, it turns out luck was actually giving her an enormous fist up the arse. Having just struggled through stampeding hordes of Christmas shoppers then stood in the rain for 20 minutes, she was sure she looked like curdled milk. Which is just how every girl wants to look when they randomly run into the hero of their every wet dream/homicidal fantasy.
Said wet dream however didn’t say a word. Instead he stared at her as if she was one of the dragons guarding the City suddenly come to life. Kemi couldn’t help but notice that- motherfuck him! – even covered in half her hastily tossed shopping bags, he looked gorgeous. He wasn’t tanned anymore, but his dark hair looked just as soft, his green eyes were just as deliciously..well..green and the bastard was rocking a turtleneck in a way that simply unfair. Her fury kicked up another notch.
“Get.Your.Lying. Taxi Stealing. Married. Arse.Out.Of.My.Taxi!” she hissed.
Suddenly, he spoke “Married? Wait- what?!”
It was 6.30pm, two days before Christmas and Alex was in the third circle of hell- Selfridges. Usually, his assistant did his Christmas shopping. The recent redundancies at work however meant that Alex was now forced to share an assistant and the poor girl was so overworked, he’d felt too guilty to ask her. It was just a bit of shopping, he’d told himself. An hour, two max, and he’d be home. 5 hours later, he’d emerged from the glass doors of Selfridges with the look of a man who’d seen horrors beyond imagining. Never. Again.
Fuck going home, he was going to the nearest bar. As he’d waited for a cab, his thoughts had turned from whiskey to, as usual, Kemi. Kemi, who’d somehow managed to look painfully sexy treading water next to a wonky jet ski. Kemi with her potty mouth and laughing brown eyes. Kemi who’d been so confident, yet vulnerable and warm and so bloody sweet that he’d fallen for her in a week. Kemi who’d never called him….
At first, he’d thought maybe she’d lost his card. So after waiting a while, he’d found her work number and called her. Her assistant had taken a message and said “Ms Coker will call you back when she is available.” He’d waited, left more messages, and when 3 more weeks had gone by and Ms Coker had not called him back, he’d gotten the message alright: Ms Coker wasn’t interested.
He’d known, of course, that a girl that gorgeous and successful probably had a million guys on the go back in London. He’d known that asking her to call him was probably a long shot…he’d known all of that with his head..but his heart, and…well…other parts of his anatomy knew nothing of the kind.
So. When he’d climbed into the back of the first taxi he’d spied, and realised the woman the driver claimed to be waiting for was her, his Kemi, his brain simply stopped working. He knew she was speaking because her mouth- god, her lush little mouth!- was moving but all he could hear was a buzzing in his ears. She was here! And- bloody hell!- she looked even more stunning than he’d remembered. Her hair wasn’t in long braids anymore; it hung in shorter, tight curls that he wanted to see spread out over his pillow. She had a raindrop running down her cheek that he desperately wanted to chase with his tongue and –he breathed in deeply- she still smelled like gardenias and sunshine.
He was nowhere near done with just soaking her in, when he realised she was…hissing at him? He shook himself and commanded his brain to process the words she was saying and promptly went from happy to confused.
““Married? Wait- what?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Alex noticed the cabbie looked more than moderately interested in the soap opera taking place in his back seat, but before he could say anything, he suddenly had to duck to avoid being brained by a shopping bag.
“You lying- swipe- idiotic-swipe-how DARE- swipe- YOU LIE TO MY FACE!”
Moving quickly, Alex tugged the bag- whose contents were now strewn everywhere- out of her hand and grasped her wrists. Kemi’s eyes were flashing, her chest was heaving and Alex was suddenly very grateful that he had a shopping in his lap.
“Kemi. Calm down. I’m not married. I’m not- will you stop that before you hurt yourself-I’m not married!”
She was going to kill him. The second he’d spewed that bollocks about not being married- right to her face, the arsehole!- she’d decided to kill him. Now, covered in the Christmas decorations that had flown out of the bag she’d chosen as her weapon, she struggled to free her hands from his grip- motherfuck him!- and go for his eyes with her nails or….hang on.
His eyes. Unless she was very much mistaken, Alex looked confused not guilty. Confused and maybe …was he turned on?
Now she was confused. And okay, maybe a little turned on too, but she blamed that on the turtleneck. She was still going to kill him but she needed him to not look confused whilst she did it. It was messing up her rage.
“My assistant.” She spat the words at him. “I lost your card so I told her to find an Alex who worked at Haversham. She called around and found out that there were two Alex’s…”
“Both of whom are married!” Alex interrupted. A light seemed to dawn in his eyes and suddenly he was laughing, so hard that he lost his grip on her hands and fell back against the car door.
Now, Kemi was more than confused. And even more turned on- damn that turtleneck!
Alex managed to calm down enough to gasp, “Kemi. Did you even read my card? Before you lost it?”
Eyeing him warily, she said slowly “No…” She had a horrible feeling that he was about to drop some sort of bomb on her that would make her feel very stupid….
“Well. If you had, you’d have seen that my name is Adrian Alex Fanshawe. Alex is my middle name.” He was sitting up again and recaptured her hands, this time stroking them slowly with his thumbs “I prefer Alex, and that’s what my friends call me. But people at work call me Adrian because there are already two Alex’s…both of whom-“
“are married.” she finished on a horrified whisper.
Shit. She’d really fucked it up this time.
Alex was tugging something out of her hair. She winced as whatever it was snagged on a curl.
“Sorry. It’s just…this was stuck in your hair.” He held it up. It was a bit of sparkly mistletoe. It must have fallen out of her shopping bag whilst she was= oh God- whilst she attacked the innocent, still gorgeous, clearly not married Alex. Oh. God. Kemi was sure this was the worst day of her life.
Alex was sure this was the best day of his life. All this time….she’d thought he was married? He tried to summon some regret about the months they’d wasted, but he couldn’t…She was here. His Kemi. It was nothing short of a miracle. Looking down at the mistletoe in his hand, he mentally rephrased that. It was a Christmas miracle.
“Kemi…God… I’m so tempted to kiss you right now….”
Her eyes shot up to his, disbelieving. Then, she smiled a little and whispered, “What’s stopping you?”
Later, the cabbie would tell his mates at the pub how two “City types” had found each other in the back of his cab. “Righ’ posh, they were. Fightin’ like cats in a barrell at first, then they snogged all tha way to SW1 from Oxford Street. An’ they even lef’ me tha’ bit o’ mistletoe, y’know. Said I should ‘ang it up in my cab; they’d already got their Christmas miracle, they said, an’ might be it’d ‘elp someone else get theirs too”
To the next writer, I pass on Kemi and Alex’s lucky sprig of sparkly mistletoe. To you, dear readers, I wish you a glorious Christmas and a fabulous New Year- I hope you all have at least one miracle! xx