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Near, but yet, so far.

The Exhale Series (Part 2)

Leesha McCoy



Published by Leesha McCoy at Smashwords.

Copyright © 2017 Leesha McCoy www.leeshamccoy.com

All rights reserved.

This 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 used fictitiously.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, E-mail the publisher at the following; LeeshaMcCoyAuthor@gmail.com

First edition

One


In the bathroom I clean the make-up off my face and replay Nathan’s kisses over and over again in my head. Damn, that man, those kisses. 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 him…. Wow. 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?

The 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.


*Changed my mind, get me the 411 on Nathan. xx*

I get into bed and my phone beeps from Karens reply.

*No prob. Give me a few days. Will call tomorrow. xx*

It’s probably a bad idea, I may as well have Googled him.


I think about Nathan all morning while I’m getting ready to meet him at Lantana. 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 choice.

I 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.

Mum 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 mind.

Spill,” Karen orders as soon as I enter her office.

Hello to you, too, wench.”

Come on, I ain't got long, some people have to work for a living.”

I know she’s joking but a part of me feels hurt. I take a seat opposite her and tell her all about last night.

So whatcha gonna do?”

I don’t know, try and change his mind?”

Why?” she looks at me puzzled.

Because I don’t want to mix the two, I told you that.” Why does no one see my point of view?

Here we go again, making excuses to not get into a relationship.”

Hey! That’s not true!”

Yes 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, – she’s right.

Of course I do.” I frown, I really do want to be happy.

Then why do you always run from it?”

I…” Karen narrows her big blue eyes at me. “I don’t know,” I say quietly.

If 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?”

I 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.

I need to go,” I say quickly, standing up and making my way to the door.

This conversation is not over,” Karen warns.

I don’t answer.


Walking into Lantana, I’m 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.

I quickly usher him back down. “You don’t have to do that,” I mutter under my breath.

Are you okay?” Nathan asks, seeming concerned.

Yes, 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?

Nathan 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.

Before we do business, did you think about what we discussed last night?” he asks tentatively.

Here 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.

Nathan, I still don’t think we should date while—”

No dating, no arrangement.”

Isn’t that blackmail?”

And your point is?”

It's blackmail.”

So?”

Nathan—”

Miah.”

Oh 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.

He smiles and leans back is his own chair, mimicking me. “Definitely.”

I stare at him confused. “Are you crazy?”

Definitely.” 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.

Your persistence.” I shake my head.

So are we dating now?” he asks again.

I close my eyes briefly, oh what the hell. “Okay.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Good.” 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.”

What surprises me, is that I really, really really like kissing him, too. I wonder what else I’m gonna like.

Well 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.

Good, I’d polish them if I was you, you might need them.”

He 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 intimately.”

I’m surprised when a stab of jealousy runs through me. I hardly know him.

I’m glad you agree,” he mutters observantly.

Am I that easy to read?” I frown.

Sometimes.” 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.


Two


We order breakfast, both choosing the salt beef hash with poached eggs. While we wait, Nathan tells me about his business trip.

I’m 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?”

Next Saturday? “Won't you be tired? Jet lagged?”

No.”

Okay.” 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.”

Birmingham, 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?”

Sounds good,” I reply just before our breakfast arrives.

I’m 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.

What are you smiling about?” he asks, intrigued.

You look like you’re enjoying your food, that’s all.”

I am, I love this place. I've been coming here since it opened. How many salons do you plan on opening?”

I 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 signature so…?”

Oh, 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?”

Bloody 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. Relationship? What-

Earth to Miah?”

Sorry, I guess, maybe one day. I’m just getting started in my business, I’m nowhere near as successful as you.”

Well, if you ever want to branch out into other things, let me know.”

What do you mean?”

I know a lot of people and they know a lot of things, I can connect you to the right people.”

He’s 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.

We 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.

I’m glad you made the right decision,” he says.

I guess we’ll find out eventually if it was the right one.” I raise an eyebrow at him and he shakes his head.

Let me have your phone so I can put my number in it.”

I 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.

Do you have my mobile?”

Yeah, I’ve called you on it a few times since you left it with my assistant manager, remember?”

Oh yeah.” I blush, quickly adding my numbers to his contacts.

You’re not seeing anyone else, are you?” he asks as I hand him back his phone.

No.” I shake my head to punctuate my answer.

Good.”

Nathan’s 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.

I’ll 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.

Of course.”

He holds my hand in his. “You can ask me stuff. We can get to know each other while I’m gone.”

Stuff?” I smirk.

He 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.

See you soon,” he says, and then he’s gone.


Mum, we’re just dating, it’s nothing serious.”

Is he going to stay in touch while he’s away?”

I sigh into the phone as I relax on my sofa. “He said he was going to.”

See, 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.

When do you want to go to Birmingham, sweetheart?” she asks and I’m relieved she’s changing the subject.

Friday? I’ll call the agents and rearrange the appointments for that day. Are you and Dad free?”

Your father will have to rearrange a few appointments so we can go with you, I’ll let him know you want to go Friday.”

Thank you. I’ll call you tomorrow to let you know what time we have to leave. I’ll get a car to drive us.”

No, 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.”

Yes, Mum.” I roll my eyes, my Mother always wants to organise things.

Oh, by the way, I have your spa package from the auction. I’ll send it over to you if you'd like?”

Shit, I forgot about that. “No, Mum, I’ll just get it from you on Friday. I don’t need it right now.”

Okay, speak to you later then, love you.”

Love you, too.”


Friday 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.

Hey.”

Hey.”

Silence.

What you doing?” I ask with a huge grin on my face. He called, he actually called.

Nothing, I just got in and thought I’d give you a call before I get some sleep.”

How are things going out there?” I ask, genuinely interested.

Good, 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.

Well, 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.

I should let you go, then.”

No, it’s okay. They aren’t due for another half hour or so.” I don’t want him to go.

So, 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.

You’ve only been gone two days—”

So?”

I didn’t want to bother you.”

You’re 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.

Do you want to go to sleep now? You sound tired.”

No, I’m good, I want you to ask me five questions. You better hurry, your parents will be there soon.”

I smile, he is persistent. I quickly think of what to ask. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Nope, only child, you?”

Same.”

Next?”

Umm…”

Hurry, hurry,” he laughs and I giggle.

Favourite food?”

Mexican. Miah, these questions are all very safe. Do you need some help in choosing a more interesting type of question?” he asks huskily.

My 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.

Ooh, 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.

Miah?”

Yes, sorry, yes I agree,” I answer, a little breathy.

Next.”

I decide on a safer question this time. “How many girlfriends have you had?”

As in, relationships?”

Yes.”

Two. You?”

Wow, 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.”

Explain.” Is all he says.

Well, I don’t think you could really call most of them relationships, they didn’t last long.”

Ah, your relationship issues.”

Yeah.” I answer and I thank God that Nathan isn’t put off by my problem.

Final question,” he asks with another yawn.

I 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?”

No 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.

Looking 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.


Three


It’s perfect!”

I agree,” says my Mum.

Me too,” Dad agrees.

After spending the whole day in Birmingham, I’ve finally found the ideal place.

New Street really is the ideal location for a beauty salon. Close to the Bull Ring shopping centre, right next to the central transport links…”

I’ve 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 branch.

I 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?”

I’ll just wait outside,” says the Agent before disappearing through the big double doors.

Not 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.

What if it doesn’t work out?” I ask, suddenly anxious about my impending purchase.

Then 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.

Exactly,” my Dad agrees, raising an eyebrow at me. I know my mum’s talking more about Nathan than the building.

My 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.”

Thanks, 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 parents.

Come on, let’s go sign these papers, and you need to sign some money away,” says Mum.

I wince into my father’s shoulder, that’s gonna hurt.


I’m 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.

I 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.


*Hey, I found the perfect place – I bought it. Hope you slept well. M.*


I 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.

Have you heard from Nathan?” Mum asks. She also reads me like a book.

I turn away from the window and see my mother staring at me. “Yes, this morning.”

I thought you wasn’t gonna bother a get involved with him?” my Dad asks.

I wasn’t but then we decided to date and see what happens.” I shrug my shoulders.

Hmh.” 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.

Just then, my phone rings, Nathan 2 flashes up on my screen.

Hello?”

I’m sorry, I fell asleep, didn’t I?”

I smile. “Yeah, it’s okay though, I knew you were tired.”

You still owe me a question.”

I’m on the way back from Birmingham with my parents.”

Oh, how did it go?”

Did you not get my text?” I ask.

You text me?”

Yes.”

My 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?”

That I found somewhere, and I bought it.”

Well congratulations, I wish I was there so we could celebrate.”


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