Near, but yet, so
The Exhale Series
by Leesha McCoy at Smashwords.
© 2017 Leesha McCoy www.leeshamccoy.com
book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents and places
are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to any
persons, alive or dead and references to places and buildings are
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the bathroom I clean the make-up off my face and replay Nathan’s
kisses over and over again in my head. Damn,
It’s been such a long time since I was with someone and I can’t
ever remember being kissed like how he kissed me. He oozes
masculinity and the way he makes my body just want to surrender to
I’m not even into kissing that much but he has definitely changed
my opinion on that. I've never had a one night stand before but now I
understand why some girls can’t help themselves. It’s because of
men like Nathan Carson. I can’t deny that I could have easily
invited him in for much more than just a coffee. Why didn’t I?
fact remains though, that I’m mixing business with pleasure… Not
a good idea, Miah. Nathan obviously knows about my little crush, he
all but said so in the car, which makes me wonder if he was testing
me at the gym when he asked if we’d met before. What
a little shit. What
else does he know that he isn’t telling me about? The offer from
Karen to get information about Nathan doesn’t seem so crazy now. I
quickly send her a text.
my mind, get me the 411 on Nathan. xx*
get into bed and my phone beeps from Karens reply.
prob. Give me a few days. Will call tomorrow. xx*
probably a bad idea, I may as well have Googled him.
think about Nathan all morning while I’m getting ready to meet him
I want to date him but I’m so worried about things getting
complicated. I think it’s better not to start anything with him to
begin with, then I don’t have to worry about potentially getting
hurt. The only problem now is that he said he will back out of the
deal if I don’t date him, which hasn’t really left me with a
sigh, frustrated by the situation I find myself in as I tie my hair
into a ponytail. Isn’t he like, blackmailing me? I’m going to try
my best to get my point across. I've dressed in a pinstripe suit with
a purple blouse, full business attire so that he can clearly see that
I mean business, not
pleasure. I’m going to make him see sense, or at least try.
calls to make sure I’m okay after last night. She presses for
information but I dodge most of her questions and tell her I’ll
call her later. When I leave for the city I notice Nathan’s car is
still parked outside his house. I’m leaving early so I can call in
on Karen beforehand. I realise as I travel to work that I have a
semi-permanent smile on my face, even with my current dilemma and
that’s because Nathan kissed me. I can’t get it out of my bloody
Karen orders as soon as I enter her office.
to you, too, wench.”
on, I ain't got long, some people have to work for a living.”
know she’s joking but a part of me feels hurt. I take a seat
opposite her and tell her all about last night.
whatcha gonna do?”
don’t know, try and change his mind?”
she looks at me puzzled.
I don’t want to mix the two, I told you that.” Why does no one
see my point of view?
we go again, making excuses to not get into a relationship.”
That’s not true!”
it is, you always make excuses, you never take chances, what are you
scared of? Don’t you want to be happy?” she asks inquisitively,
leaning back in her swivel chair and folding her arms. I don't see
this side of Karen often, only when we’re talking about my
relationships… But now I’m thinking about it, –
course I do.” I frown, I really do
want to be happy.
why do you always run from it?”
Karen narrows her big blue eyes at me. “I don’t know,” I say
you were shagging loads of hot guys and you didn’t wanna commit to
one then I’d understand but you’re not and your parents are happy
so what is it, babe?”
stare blankly at her, I do
know why. It’s because of him, the one ex that broke me as a
person. He took so many things from me that I have worked so hard to
get back. My ultimate regret. I try to block the memory of him out
before it consumes me. It scares me that he’s capable of so many
horrible things... I don’t go there… I look at the time and
realise I need to go and meet Nathan.
need to go,” I say quickly, standing up and making my way to the
conversation is not over,” Karen warns.
quickly escorted to Nathan who's sitting with his back to me at a
table at the far left of the café. He’s in his trademark black
suit with his hair immaculately groomed and styled with hair
products. I smell the cocoa butter on him as soon as I’m a few
steps away. My stomach starts to clench with nerves, I love and hate
being close to him because he makes me feel like a little kid with a
stupid crush. I briefly wonder why I feel like this towards him but
shut it down immediately. I round the table to take my seat and he
stands to greet me.
quickly usher him back down. “You don’t have to do that,” I
mutter under my breath.
you okay?” Nathan asks, seeming concerned.
I’m fine.” I look at him and blush as I sit down, almost star
struck, there is no denying how much I'm attracted to him. If it
wasn’t for this business arrangement I wouldn’t think twice about
dating him, although that’s just an excuse again, isn’t it?
looks at me like he’s observing a wild animal about to escape its
cage. I take a deep breath and try to relax. I’m more than ruffled
by my recent conversation with Karen and the realisation that I like
to fuck up relationships. Nathan looks down at the paperwork in front
of him and opens his mouth to talk. I can tell he wants to question
my mood further but decides against it.
we do business, did you think about what we discussed last night?”
he asks tentatively.
we go again.
Considering my recent revelation I don’t think it’s a good idea
to be entering into any type of personal relationship right now, no
matter how casual it may be.
I still don’t think we should date while—”
dating, no arrangement.”
your point is?”
for God sake!” I say sharply, causing some of the other diners to
look our way. I instantly regret my outburst and sight heavily,
rubbing my head in my hands. I decide to try honesty to get me out of
this predicament. “Look, I’ve just found out that I like to fuck
up relationships. Do you really think you should try and get involved
with someone like me?” I lean back in my chair and let my
confession sink in.
smiles and leans back is his own chair, mimicking me. “Definitely.”
stare at him confused. “Are you crazy?”
He smirks and I feel my resolve diminishing - he’s sexy. I can’t
help but smile but then it turns into a full blown giggle. “What’s
so funny?” he asks.
persistence.” I shake my head.
are we dating now?” he asks again.
close my eyes briefly, oh what the hell. “Okay.” Don’t
say I didn’t warn you.
He gets up and comes around the table to kiss me, it’s quick but
passionate. It catches me off guard. Before he returns to his chair
he whispers in my ear. “I really like kissing you.”
surprises me, is that I really, really really
like kissing him, too. I wonder what else I’m gonna like.
at least I know the reason why I had to persuade you so hard to date
me. Luckily, I have a very wide range of skills,” he says as he
sits back down. I’m
sure you do.
I’d polish them if I was you, you might need them.”
smiles. “I’m sure I will. Should we sign?” he asks, referring
to the papers in front of him. “I like your amendment but I must
insist that any treatments I receive are performed by yourself. I
don’t think it’s appropriate to have another woman touch me
surprised when a stab of jealousy runs through me. I hardly know him.
glad you agree,” he mutters observantly.
I that easy to read?” I frown.
He hands me two copies of the contract and we both sign them. He
gives me a copy to keep and then puts the other away in a briefcase
by the side of his chair.
order breakfast, both choosing the salt beef hash with poached eggs.
While we wait, Nathan tells me about his business trip.
going to LA until next weekend. I have a gym opening there and a few
business meetings to attend. Nothing I can put off, unfortunately.
How about dinner next Saturday?”
Saturday? “Won't you be tired? Jet lagged?”
He really doesn't talk much. “Next Saturday is fine. I'm busy
myself this week and next as I’m thinking of setting up another
salon in Birmingham, so I’ll be going to look at premises while my
parents are in London. Should all be sorted by next weekend.”
huh? I have a few gyms there. Once your new salon is up and running,
we can set up an account with that one, too, if you want?”
good,” I reply just before our breakfast arrives.
surprised how easily the conversation flows between us, like we’ve
known each other for a while. I watch Nathan eat between mouthfuls of
my own food, I only ordered the same as him because he rated it so
highly. It is delicious. Every so often he licks his lips and for
some weird reason, it makes me smile.
are you smiling about?” he asks, intrigued.
look like you’re enjoying your food, that’s all.”
am, I love this place. I've been coming here since it opened. How
many salons do you plan on opening?”
dunno, I guess I’ll keep opening them until I have at least one in
every city, then I’ll decide from there.” I hadn’t really
thought of how many I’d open but I definitely want more. “Do you
just own the gyms? It’s just, I noticed Limited on your email
we are observant. No, I have a few entertainment and production
companies, I own some real estate, industrial premises, I’m kind of
into a lot of things. The gyms were the first businesses I owned and
then as I met business associates along the way, I got into other
things. Have you ever thought of taking your business overseas?”
hell, the man has his fingers in a lot of different pies. He's being
very open… I must remember to text Karen and tell her I don't want
her to snoop. I don't want to start this relationship like that.
I guess, maybe one day. I’m just getting started in my business,
I’m nowhere near as successful as you.”
if you ever want to branch out into other things, let me know.”
do you mean?”
know a lot of people and they know a lot of things, I can connect you
to the right people.”
offering to help me? “Oh, thanks,” I say, hiding my surprise,
badly. He hardly knows me so I have no idea why the hell he’s
offering to help me like that, it’s not gonna give him any extra
brownie points if that’s what he’s thinking. Money does not
impress me, I have my own.
finish our breakfast and the waitress clears our plates. He asks for
the bill and quickly after paying, it’s time for Nathan to leave.
We stand outside the café and wait for his car to arrive.
glad you made the right decision,” he says.
guess we’ll find out eventually if it was the right one.” I raise
an eyebrow at him and he shakes his head.
me have your phone so I can put my number in it.”
hand it to him. He starts tapping on the screen and then hands it
back to me before taking out his own phone. “Put your work and home
numbers in here,” he says, handing it to me.
you have my mobile?”
I’ve called you on it a few times since you left it with my
assistant manager, remember?”
yeah.” I blush, quickly adding my numbers to his contacts.
not seeing anyone else, are you?” he asks as I hand him back his
I shake my head to punctuate my answer.
car pulls up and the driver gets out to open his door. I feel a bit
sad and unexpectedly emotional as Nathan gets ready to leave. I don’t
understand my feelings and I struggle to keep them undetected from
Nathan who seems to be very good at reading me.
call and text you. I hope you reply,” he says, using his fingers to
lift my chin so I’m gazing up into his beautiful, green eyes.
holds my hand in his. “You can ask me stuff. We can get to know
each other while I’m gone.”
smiles widely. “Yeah, stuff, anything you want.” Then he kisses
me hard on the lips. When he pulls away I’ve forgotten the smart
ass remark I was going to make, only left with an intense burning
where his lips have been. A strange look briefly flickers across his
face before he releases my hand and I watch him walk over to his car.
you soon,” he says, and then he’s gone.
we’re just dating, it’s nothing serious.”
he going to stay in touch while he’s away?”
sigh into the phone as I relax on my sofa. “He said he was going
he must be as taken with you as you are with him.” I roll my eyes
but a smile spreads across my lips. I hope he is.
do you want to go to Birmingham, sweetheart?” she asks and I’m
relieved she’s changing the subject.
I’ll call the agents and rearrange the appointments for that day.
Are you and Dad free?”
father will have to rearrange a few appointments so we can go with
you, I’ll let him know you want to go Friday.”
you. I’ll call you tomorrow to let you know what time we have to
leave. I’ll get a car to drive us.”
I’ll sort out the car, it’s a few hours’ drive up to Birmingham
if I remember correctly so we need the right mode of transport.”
Mum.” I roll my eyes, my Mother always wants to organise things.
by the way, I have your spa package from the auction. I’ll send it
over to you if you'd like?”
I forgot about that. “No, Mum, I’ll just get it from you on
Friday. I don’t need it right now.”
speak to you later then, love you.”
morning and I’m getting ready to go and look at some premises in
Birmingham. My Mum and Dad will be here in half an hour. I say
goodbye to my housekeeper who arrived earlier today because she’s
going on holiday for two weeks. I don’t know how I’m going to
cope without her, I’ve become spoilt in that I’m so used to her
picking up half of my jobs in this house. I’m thinking to get
someone else in from the agency to cover her. I decide to make some
coffee for us before my parents arrive when my phone rings. It’s
Nathan and my stomach clenches from nerves.
you doing?” I ask with a huge grin on my face. He called, he
I just got in and thought I’d give you a call before I get some
are things going out there?” I ask, genuinely interested.
a lot of it's just boring stuff, ya’know, dotting the I’s and
crossing the T’s. Forget about me, how’s the search in Birmingham
coming along? He yawns and I feel a pang of sympathy for him. He must
work hard to be so successful.
actually, I’m just waiting for my parents to get here, we’re
going to look at a few premises today.” I start my coffee maker and
move into the living room away from the noise.
should let you go, then.”
it’s okay. They aren’t due for another half hour or so.” I
don’t want him to go.
why haven’t you asked me any stuff yet? I can hear the smile in his
voice and it makes me smile too. His voice is extra creamy, maybe
because he’s tired.
only been gone two days—”
didn’t want to bother you.”
not, I want you to ask me questions, how else are we supposed to get
to know each other?” He yawns again and I’m pretty sure I hear
sheets rustle as he gets into bed.
you want to go to sleep now? You sound tired.”
I’m good, I want you to ask me five questions. You better hurry,
your parents will be there soon.”
smile, he is persistent. I quickly think of what to ask. “Do you
have any brothers or sisters?”
only child, you?”
hurry,” he laughs and I giggle.
Miah, these questions are all very safe. Do you need some help in
choosing a more interesting type of question?” he asks huskily.
stomach flutters, God, he’s sexy. “Uhh, no, I, uh…” I panic
to think of an interesting question. “French Knickers or thongs?”
I cringe inwardly as my deep desire to do naughty things to Nathan
somehow has caused me to ask the most random question ever.
nice question.” I can hear the surprise in his voice. “It’s a
hard decision as each has their advantages. But I think if I had to
choose, it would be a thong. It can be easily moved to the side.
Don’t you agree?” he asks temptingly and my cheeks heat from his
insinuation. I suddenly find myself wondering what phone sex would be
like with him, or just sex in general. I inhale sharply.
sorry, yes I agree,” I answer, a little breathy.
decide on a safer question this time. “How many girlfriends have
that’s not many. For a guy that hot I would at expect at least ten.
There has to be a reason behind his lack of girlfriends. Prompted to
answer the question by Nathan, I count quickly, relationships? Well,
not many, four I think? “Four, I guess.”
Is all he says.
I don’t think you could really call most of them relationships,
they didn’t last long.”
your relationship issues.”
I answer and I thank God that Nathan isn’t put off by my problem.
question,” he asks with another yawn.
think hard about my last question, what do I really want to know
about him? I decide on the perfect thing to ask but then I hear
Nathan’s soft breathing and I know he’s fallen asleep. “Nathan?”
answer. I listen to him sleeping for a few seconds and it makes me
smile to think that I was the last thing he thought about. Poor
Nathan, he must be exhausted and jet lagged.
at the clock above my fireplace, I realise my parents will be here
any second. “Goodnight, Nathan,” I whisper, before I hang up and
return to the kitchen to pour myself a coffee.
agree,” says my Mum.
too,” Dad agrees.
spending the whole day in Birmingham, I’ve finally found the ideal
Street really is the ideal location for a beauty salon. Close to the
Bull Ring shopping centre, right next to the central transport
done my research, trust me, I know this place is perfect,” I say to
the Estate Agent. She smiles back at me and nods her head. I look
around the empty shell of the building, it’s gonna be a lot of hard
work, I’m starting from scratch again but it’s going to be so
worth it. I can see this place being just as successful as my London
look out the window and smile to myself as I see a CG&F across
the street. Coincidence or fate? Or maybe it’s a sign. I turn to my
Mum and Dad. “I’m crazy, aren’t I?”
just wait outside,” says the Agent before disappearing through the
big double doors.
really, May. If you want to stay successful you have to branch out.
Your Mother and me did the same, look at us now, it was worth it,”
my Dad says, walking over to me and giving me a tight hug.
if it doesn’t work out?” I ask, suddenly anxious about my
you sell and move on, Sweetheart. Nothing in life is guaranteed, you
just have to try your best and hope it works out. You have to take
chances in life, otherwise what’s the point?” My Mum says.
my Dad agrees, raising an eyebrow at me. I know my mum’s talking
more about Nathan than the building.
Dad holds me at arm’s length. “We will help you with the
legalities, like we did before. And if you decide you want to open
more branches, we will help you with them, too.”
Dad, Mum, I love you both so much.” I wave my mother over to my Dad
and me and we all hug. I really do have the most amazing, supportive
on, let’s go sign these papers, and you need to sign some money
away,” says Mum.
wince into my father’s shoulder, that’s gonna hurt.
quiet on the journey back to London. I’m thinking about all the
things that are going to change now. I need to look for an apartment
in Birmingham, hire decorators, builders, order equipment, recruit
beauticians, the list is endless, and most importantly of all, where
does this leave Nathan and me? I can stay in London while the salon
is being set up - the project manager can oversee things. But once I
start recruiting, I'll need to be in Birmingham full time.
know Nathan is out of the country at the moment, but what’s it
going to be like when we are both travelling with work? Will I even
have time for dating once I’m setting up the new place? I know what
Karen would say, that I’m making excuses to get out of a
relationship but surely it’s not going to work out now? Maybe I
should ask Nathan? I decide to text him and tell him that I’ve
bought another salon and see what he says.
I found the perfect place – I bought it. Hope you slept well. M.*
decide for ages whether to put an x on the end of the message and
finally I decide to put one, besides, I know he likes my kisses. It’s
nine in the morning in LA now so I’m disappointed a little when
there’s no reply.
you heard from Nathan?” Mum asks. She also reads me like a book.
turn away from the window and see my mother staring at me. “Yes,
thought you wasn’t gonna bother a get involved with him?” my Dad
wasn’t but then we decided to date and see what happens.” I shrug
My Dad purses his lips and nods. Accepting what I’ve said but not
really liking it – his usual style when it comes to me dating.
then, my phone rings, Nathan 2 flashes up on my screen.
sorry, I fell asleep, didn’t I?”
smile. “Yeah, it’s okay though, I knew you were tired.”
still owe me a question.”
on the way back from Birmingham with my parents.”
how did it go?”
you not get my text?” I ask.
main phone is dead, I’ve just hooked it up to charge, that’s why
I’m calling from this one. What did it say?”
I found somewhere, and I bought it.”
congratulations, I wish I was there so we could celebrate.”