“Yes,” a female voice groaned. “Adam, oh my God.”

The giggle instantly died as the blood rushed in my ears. I felt a burn in the bottom of my throat as some devil, some masochistic thing inside of me, made me tiptoe silently around the bins.

All the hope I’d been feeling exploded and disintegrated around me.

As I watched Adam screw one of the female catering staff against a brick wall, I realized what an idiot I was. What a childish, naïve idiot.

And then the anger settled in. The frustration. The pain… that somehow I wasn’t good enough. Not good enough for Adam. Not good enough for my father.

My eyes narrowed. There was one person who thought I was good enough, so what was I holding out for? For flowers and sonnets and a man on bended knee? That wasn’t going to happen. This was reality. Sex was sex. There was nothing magical about it.


I wasn’t naturally an angry person, but the burn of jealousy fueled it and I turned silently back to the hotel. As soon as I was inside, the image of Adam moving against the catering girl kept flashing before my eyes. I felt sick. Chugging back more water, I made a decision. I needed to wipe that image out of my brain.

I found Clark talking to his brother in the function room and thankfully Mum wasn’t anywhere around because what I was going to ask she’d probably not be happy about.

“Els, what do you want to do with all these presents?” He asked, pointing to a table that had been set up at the back.

“Can I ask you and Mum a big favor?”

He smirked, guessing what that favor was. “You want us to take the presents back home for you?”

“My friends and I want to go onto a club, if that’s okay?”

Clark studied me for a moment and then finally sighed, “Go on before your Mum sees you. And be careful.”

I nodded and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. Leaving him to it, I pushed my way through the dance floor and found Liam and Allie dancing together. I pulled Liam off to the side with an apologetic smile thrown Allie’s way.

“What’s up?” he asked, giving my hip a squeeze.

I looked into his eyes, feeling my stomach flip as I said meaningfully, “Let’s go.”

His body tensed and his eyebrows drew together. “Just me and you?”


“Where do you want to go?”

I pressed close to him, making my intentions very clear. “Where do you want to take me?”

Liam’s breathing stuttered. He seemed to swallow hard. “I could get us a room.”

“Okay then.”

We left quickly, slipping from the party before Mum or Braden could see me. My nerves kicked in as we made our way through the hotel to the reception, and I fought hard not to throw up as Liam booked us a room.

Every inch of me was trembling as the lift took us up to the first floor and as soon as we were inside the room and Liam started kissing me he could feel me shaking against him.

“Are you sure about this?” he whispered against my mouth.

The image I was unsuccessfully trying to bleach from my brain flashed before me again. I wanted tingles and excited butterflies, I wanted flushed skin and passion. I wanted trust and safety, I wanted affection and laughter. I wanted loyalty and friendship. I wanted love.

Unfortunately, life had played a cruel joke on me and I’d fallen in love with the one person in the whole world I couldn’t have.

Just because I couldn’t have him, however, didn’t mean I shouldn’t live. None of my friends were virgins any more. What was it really but a nuisance? It used to be a gift. Or at least I liked to romanticize that it was a gift. I supposed what it really used to be was a mark of ownership. But this was the 21st century. No one owned me. And my virginity was something I could give to whoever I pleased.

“Yeah,” I whispered back, reaching up to unknot the halter tie on my dress. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

Liam thankfully took his time. He made me come before he put on a condom and pushed inside of me so I was as ready as I could be. Still, it hurt. After a while the pain diminished and it felt okay. Liam enjoyed himself. He tried to hold off until I came again but I didn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking over and over again as he moved inside me that I’d well and truly buggered everything up for myself.

I’d promised myself since I was fourteen years old that the first time I made love I’d be in love.

Instead I was lying in some hotel room while a boy I merely liked casually took the gift I offered, and I casually let him. I felt a heaviness settle on my stomach when Liam was finished.

I stayed awake listening to him snore beside me and cursed myself to hell for letting anger and jealousy get the better of me.

*** I lay there for a couple of hours but eventually decided I couldn’t stand to stay in the hotel room. At the back of four in the morning I snuck out of there and had reception call me a taxi.

The woman on reception took one look at my mad hair and revealing dress and knew exactly what I’d been up to. The smirk she gave me made me feel cheap, and I realized quickly that the only reason I felt cheap was because I thought I’d acted cheap.

I tried not to cry as the taxi took me home, and I definitely tried not to cry as I quietly let myself inside. I was just creeping toward the stair when a head popped out of the kitchen and gave me heart failure. I sucked in a breath, clutching a hand to my chest in fright.

Adam stood in the light from the kitchen doorway. He crooked a finger at me and as I approached him I saw that image again of him and caterer girl, and the anger returned.

I followed him into the kitchen and he closed the door behind me. I studied his face and saw his eyes were bloodshot. The smell of coffee filled the air and I noted cheese toasties sitting on a plate. He was obviously hungover and trying to diminish the affects. I was so busy noting these things that I didn’t notice his anger.

“Where the hell have you been?” he hissed at me.

I glowered at him, momentarily blaming him for the loss of my virginity. “Out.”


“Just out.”

He narrowed his eyes. “With who?”


Adam’s face instantly darkened and he took a step toward me, his eyes moving over my messy hair and then coming to rest on my mouth. They stuck there until I touched my lips, wondering what was so fascinating about them. “What were you doing?” he finally asked, his voice gruff.

And that was the point in the interrogation I lost my temper. My loss of temper transformed into blasé petulance. “I’m eighteen, Adam. I can have sex with my boyfriend.”

His body jerked, like I’d shot him. “Sex?” he choked out.

I shrugged as if my heart wasn’t hammering against my ribcage. “It was a present to myself.”

He swallowed, his eyes roaming over me again. “Are you telling me… you lost your virginity last night?”

I nodded slowly, hearing an edge in his words I was a little bit afraid of.

Adam’s eyes flared after my confirmation and I stood there squirming as he drank me in from head to foot. I flushed at his appraisal, not quite sure what was happening. And then he made it clearer by turning on his heel and throwing the kitchen door open. Without a care to those sleeping, Adam stormed out of the house, the front door slamming in his wake.

I let out a shaky breath, realizing what the edge was now.

Adam thought of himself like my big brother. No big brother wanted to hear that their little sister had “gotten herself some”. More than that, I wondered if he was as disappointed in me as I was in myself. He knew me. He knew I believed in stars and sunsets and “happily ever afters”. I’d compromised my own beliefs by having casual sex with a boy I barely knew.

The tears came then and I hurried to my room with blurry vision. I grabbed some fresh underwear and pajamas and took them into the bathroom with me. For half an hour I remained in the shower, crying the entire time.

At least, I told myself, I’d learned a huge lesson.

I’d learned there were some things in life you could never take back.

Chapter 4

Adam put down the diary and looked up at me, something like regret in his eyes. I didn’t want him to feel regret, I just wanted him to know that even if my first time hadn’t been with him, I’d always wanted it to be.

“Baby, I’m sorry,” he whispered.

I frowned and shook my head. “Don’t. That’s not what… I just wanted you to know that it’s always been you.”

“But your first time should have been special, Els. It should have been romantic.”

I shrugged. “In the grand scheme of things it’s not the worst thing that happened. Dad—”

“Douglas died a few days after your birthday,” Adam murmured, finishing my sentence.

“Yeah,” I whispered back, remembering how mixed up I’d been over my dad’s death. I’d grieved, but I couldn’t work out if I was mourning the idea of a dad or if I was mourning Douglas Carmichael. To make matters worse he left me a boatload of money and it took me a while to come to terms with how that made me feel. Not to mention, “I was mad at him and he died with me mad at him.”

Adam slid across the floor and put his arm around me, hugging me close. “Ellie, I thought you stopped feeling guilty about that. He was a shit dad. You had a right to be angry at him, no matter what happened.”

I nodded and snuggled closer to him, inhaling the scent of him and his aftershave. He smelled good. He always smelled good.

We sat in silence for a while until Adam said, “Just so you know, I barely remember what I did with the catering girl. And I had no idea I said that to you at your party—calling you beautiful and telling you I worried all the time about you. Fucking mixed signals. I was pretty drunk that night.”

“I know. But in the end you were right about Liam. He ended up cheating on me with Allie.”

Adam tensed. “That’s why you stopped talking to Allie? Why didn’t you tell me?”

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