From The Top – Single and Nearly 40

Notes from me 😉…. this is the bit where I’ll give you the opportunity to catch up with Cat and her story as it unfolds. I’ll update with every new ridiculous chapter, so you can enjoy her antics from the get go!

Prologue – The Problem With Selfies

She was already in her PJ’s, hair scraped back in an untidy mess… Fuck! His photo was so naturally gorgeous. How was she ever going to compare or compete? There he was, so casually positioned on his couch, phone raised at the perfect angle to display his slender jawline, thick neck and damn those biceps must have taken hours of pumping in the gym. Surely, he was flexing them a little for the photo… Made her wonder if the rest of him was anywhere near as toned.

Unfortunately, his torso was hidden behind that white T-Shirt and slack charcoal shorts. But a girl can hope. In comparison, she hadn’t dyed her hair in weeks—if she attempted the same angle it‘d be all roots and shaggy mop. Her unmatching pyjama set was enough to make your average Catfisher swipe left. She was currently sporting unicorn bottoms and a top with cute looking foxes…. crap it!

The living room he was so perfectly positioned in was immaculate; grey modular sofa straight from an Ikea show room. Cat noted he had taken the effort to pour his beer into a glass, not just drink from the can. The meal-for-one was neatly discarded on a tray next to his rather thick set thighs. Her eyes lingered on partially revealed leg.

Now it was her turn to send a picture. Phone raised into position, click, quick check of the photo and realised she was right: these pyjamas simply won’t do. Bugger! Cat dashed upstairs for a quick change. Now, you cant look like too much effort had been made or the photo would appear staged, but she wanted to avoid looking like a stressed out soccer mum dressed in her kids’ nightwear. Black leggings and vest were the weapon of choice, but… should she whack on a bra? Maybe she should put on a bra and avoid any unwanted nipple action… or maybe a pert nipple was a good thing? Cat came to the conclusion that a bit of exposed cleavage was sexy but too much nipple too soon was maybe a little suggestive… she was aiming for hot, not slutty!

Back on the couch, dressed in her faked natural attire, she posed for a second shot. Should she pout? Was pouting a good thing? Cat wasn’t even sure she knew how to pout but gave it a go anyway. On reflection it would transpire that her endeavours to pout made her appear like an over indulged spoilt teenager trapped in a 40-year-old body. So maybe pouting was out….

Cat leaned back on her sofa, dipped her head and attempted a sultry look with seductive eyes. She flicked to her gallery and noticed that the head position needed for sultry also gave her an extra 27 chins… OK maybe not 27 but at least 3 and her vest being so high made her neck completely disappear. She pulled down the vest just enough to revel a little more boob and strained her neck hoping to avoid any more unnecessary chins. This time Cat took a number of shots, trying a sexy smile, a cheeky wink, looking directly at the camera, looking nonchalantly away, intense stare and angled her head in half a dozen different ways. God her neck hurt!

She checked her phone in dismay as her forehead presented a spam designed to be Tangoed. The supposed cheeky wink made her look desperately dirty and the sexy smile was more of a constipated strain, all impacted with a ridiculously stretched neck that reminded her of a ravenous ostrich scrapping for a snack…. Jeeze this was way more difficult than other girls made it look.

The determined armature pulled her top down a little more, hoping that the cleavage might distract from her appalling attempt at a natural looking selfie but the giant, once white, now slightly discoloured mum-bra hastily thrown on upstairs was peaking over the neckline of her vest. Right that’s it… the bra’s coming off and if there is a little nipplage, screw it! Cat reached behind her back and easily unclipped the offending item, discarding it on the floor. She pinched her cheeks, wet her lips, fluffed her hair and prepared for fabulous selfie action.

Legs crossed and free arm resting on the side of the sofa, Cat took a further 16 snaps. She was aiming for a soft smile and bright eyes. In real life, Cat was good at this sexy shit. She knew how to move and use her curvy figure; she knew how to flirt with her eyes and capture a guys attention along with his imagination. But trying to convey this on her poxy phone made her feel like a bloody novice. Cat laughed at her own stupidity and clicked the camera button one last time. Bang! Nailed it. That very last photo was perfect. It was honest and natural. It was her.

Pleased with the effort, Cat grabbed the image and hit ‘send’. She couldn’t have asked for a better picture and the entire episode had only taken a total of 62 photos in 26 minutes, with no real incident other than mild neck strain. She hoped he hadn’t grown bored waiting and move on to a new prospective date already—but he wasn’t currently online.

She watched as the photo slowly uploaded to WhatsApp with a triumphant grin on her face, however slightly concerned that he wouldn’t believe for one moment that the last half hour hadn’t been spent attempting to take a simple selfie. Maybe she should say something to excuse her sudden disappearance but hey, she had only just met the guy online which didn’t really warrant him an explanation of her absence. While she deliberated on whether an apology was the polite thing to do or not, her picture finally finished uploading.

He was instantly online again. Two blue ticks next to her message meant he had seen the photo and next to his photo was the status ‘typing’: he was replying … she waited, slightly nervous and a little excited….

Nick: Hot!!! loving the natural look, that’s just how I could imagine you waking up in the morning Cat flushed, so grateful that he wasn’t there to witness the ridiculous grin spreading across her cheeks and readied herself to reply—but he was typing again. Cat waited eagerly for the incoming message…

Nick: Cat, I love an honest photo especially when it comes with a cheeky peak of underwear…..

Underwear? What underwear? She’d taken her bra off and….. oh fuck no!!! Cat pulled up the photo just sent. Bollocks!! Schoolboy error. In her haste to send Nick the perfect pic, she had forgotten one of the many rules of online dating: when sending a selfie, always remember to check your background. There is so much detail in what’s going on behind the scene. Cat thought about the way she had noticed the beer in Nicks first shot and how neatly his cushions were positioned, both inciting that he wasn’t a lazy kind of guy, but one that bothered to take the time to pour his beer into a glass and tidy up after himself. The living room layout and colour scheme revealed he was a man of taste, with a scenic print centred on the feature wall. He obviously took care of himself and pride in his home. There was an actual plant on the window ledge; many bachelor pads are foliage free. Yes, it may have been of the cactus variety which may take very little effort to look after, but nonetheless he had to care for it in some capacity.

There are a million things your mind subconsciously picks up on when looking at a photo of a person. It’s more than aesthetics or how beautiful they appear in a posed shot. You absorb the decor, the colour, the tidiness of a room, as well as notice all the negative secrets a picture can display, like dirty washing piles, stacked up dishes in a sink, an unmade bed or even worse, bed-sheets without any covers on at all (this was the epitome of a lazy man). And all quantifiable reasons to turn down a future date and begin the process of removing yourself from conversation availability.

Cat stared at the image, shocked at her own stupidity. In the centre of the screen was a rather casually stunning version of herself, relaxed, bright-eyed and smiling. On the floor, to her absolute horror, was the oldest, ugliest, biggest, ex-white and discoloured mum bra she shamefully had in her possession. FUCK IT!!!

How the hell could she even reply? Her embarrassment must be oozing through the phone… Cat had no words. In fact, even a face palm emoji wasn’t going to save her now. She simply typed the following:


CHAPTER 1 – Coffee With a Married Man

The world of internet dating was a new discovery to Cat, nine years in a relationship meant she missed the selfie crazed social media vibe. But her oldest friend had met her second husband online and after a few glasses of Prosecco with the girls, Cat had an utterly fabulous new social profile.

The whole experience so far had been fairly disappointing. Her one attempt to date resulted in meeting a guy whose profile picture turned out to be 10 years younger, and those 10 years hadn’t been kind. One drink was enough before Cat made some lame excuse about how she may have contracted ‘Ebola on a recent African excursion’ and ran for the nearest fire escape. Hoping he would either be too scared to message her again or possibly write her off as being nuts. To add insult to the god-awful experience she dropped her new phone as she legged it for the door, cracking the screen in the bottom left hand corner… bloody brilliant, the worst date of her life had just cost her £50 in insurance excess and at some point, the inconvenience of being phoneless.

That was it, no more dating men till they had been meticulously social media stalked! But this week had been a strange one. Coffee with her workmate and now boss Anthony had taken an unexpected turn. Early last year he had split from his wife and Cat was his dutiful shoulder. Their friendship strengthened over lattes and conversations about shit relationships and the joys of being single.

It was the kind of connection that had an undertone of something unspoken, but others picked up on. The kind that brought out a testosterone fuelled fuck with her ex, while he reminded her just where her loyalties should be. So, coffee became more frequent, the work banter was good and Cat knew after meeting him for Latte she was in for a hot heated exchange at home.

Three months passed, and he was back with Beth, it would appear he easily forgot what an utter bitch she was during the break up. Normally the girls tolerated each other but seeing her friend so broken wasn’t easy.

Grey skies outside made for another bloody miserable day, and it had been raining hard as Tony arrived late for their coffee date. He’d obviously just finished a session at the gym, in the hotel where they worked and hadn’t bothered to shower. No matter, he was still looking hot, wet hair dripping on a blue hoodie, his big hazel eyes and confident swagger always made her smile. Tony had that casually effortless look that she was certain he secretly spent hours perfecting.

He lent in to kiss her hello, but awkwardly their heads turned in the same direction. The intended kiss on the cheek ended up being something a little more lingering, his lips brushed her mouth but instead of pulling away he hesitated, their eyes met. Cat retreated first and chuckled.

“It’s a bloody good job Beth never saw you do that, I know you’ve wanted to kiss me for years.”

Tony laughed.“You wish”. He sat back on the tall stool, running his finger through the shaggy wet hair “get the coffees in, it’s your shout.”

Cat stood to go to the counter catching his eye while she placed the order of overly expensive posh coffee. Tony was staring at her with a half-cocked smile, head slightly bent to one side, curious look on his face. She seen that look many times, the kind of look where men get hungry and their eyes can’t hide where their mind is at. But this was new for them; he’d never looked at her like that before. Come to think of it, he’d stopped really looking at her at all recently, favouring his phone or the random passing of people outside the window.

“Wet, soy, no sugar caramel, cinnamon cappuccino, god you’re a tart.” their fingers connected as she passed him the coffee.

“It’s better than that heart attack your drinking, no wonder you don’t bloody sleep.” He shook his head in fake disgust and smiled.

“I don’t sleep because I’m up all night on my own, with kids who never sleep, literally EVER.” Cat sighed deeply and over dramatically, “Coffee and sugar are the only way I make it through the day,” she stroked the takeaway cup longingly in jest, then with big watery eyes fluttered her lashes playfully.

“Thought you were up all-night because you were thinking of me.” Tony glanced at her as the corner of his mouth twitched, one of his perfect eyebrows raised.  They both chuckled but he held her gaze for an uncomfortably long moment.

Feeling the need to say anything to break the silence Cat quizzed “What’s the latest with the refurb? Don’t know why they gave you the project, you cant tear yourself away from the full length mirror long enough to complete anything”

‘Whatever, anyway shouldn’t you be heading back, surely there’s some envelopes to stamp.’ Coming from anyone else Cat may have been offended but he’d been telling her forever how wasted she was in their office.

Four long years ago Tony joined the team and very quickly moved through the ranks. On the outside, he was confident, arrogant and ridiculously ambitious. The sort of guy you see in a bar surrounded by beautiful people hanging on his every word, and with that perfect jawline, cheek bones worthy of a perfume ad, Tony was truly beautiful. She’d met men like him before, managed a few and dated a couple. His extroverted ‘nothing fazes me’ attitude didn’t intimidate her for a second. Probably the main reason they got on so well, she didn’t take any of his bullshit. “You are absolute right; I’d better run along as the franking won’t get done by itself”, they laughed.

The truth was Cat had a brilliant mind, with a resume of successes in project management, but since having her 2 children had stepped back from the rat race. Her position as office administrator at the Regal Hotel was tedious and boring, but the hours were flexible and her team amazing. She loved her boring job for the time it gave her with her crazy kids and for now she was happy just to have an easy life. At 2.30pm most days Cat partook in the mad dash school run and her evenings were filled with the wonderful stresses of being a mum. The challenges of homework and bedtimes was enough of adventure at this point in her life, sod having to deal with the pressure of unrealistic deadlines too!

Doing her best to navigate her way through single parenthood hadn’t been easy, not for her and especially not for the children.  It was all still new and the adjustment from unhappy family life to exhausted one-man band was tough. The upside was she didn’t have to put up with the shite that comes with a crap relationship anymore, every cloud and all that!

Staring out the window Tony quipped “It’s just a quickie today I’m afraid as I’m already late, got places to go and projects to ruin”.

Shaking her head Cat joked “nothing new there then, apparently its only ever a quickie where you’re concerned, anyways as your friend and devoted subordinate I feel it is my duty to suggest you better have a bloody shower as…. er…. you literally stink”. Cat looked at him with repulsion. Tony rolled his dark eyes and drank a big slug of the low sugar caffeine fix. “So you got plans this weekend? If not shall we do beers Friday” Tony shifted in his seat looking directly out of the window.

“Err not sure I can Cat”, he looked uncomfortable.

“Why, busy with better things to do? We haven’t had a beer in ages, to be honest I’ve have more luck nailing jelly to the ceiling than getting you out out”

“I’ve just got loads on hun, you know what it’s been like. All jokes aside, the hours I’ve been putting in are crazy. Then Beth’s on my case about the move in a few months”.

“All the more reason to come and have a drink, let that mop of hair down and be reckless for a few hours”.

Tony was slightly serious and couldn’t meet her gaze “look Cat, coffee’s fine, just not sure drinking is a good idea anymore”.

Cat was stumped, and felt a bit pissed at the comment, what had changed and what’s more to the point what was he implying? They’d spent countless hours partaking in the end of the week religious ritual of beer. But come to think of it, in the last few months Tony had been really difficult to pin down. Cat’s mind started doing the math and came to the obvious assumption her now single status was a problem for him. Did he honestly believe a few beers would equate to her shamelessly throwing herself at him? Self-assured arse! The coffee date had taken an unexpected and very uncomfortable turn.

Her mind flickered back to the kiss hello earlier, the way he’d been checking her out.  If she was completely honest with herself there had always been an attraction, the way he could rock a suit and still look hot in gym shorts. But until this moment it had been nothing more than a completely safe work flirt. Cat couldn’t make up her mind if she was more pissed off that maybe something was different or that he’d brought it up.  “Whatever! You’re being a dick, it’s just drinks, but if it’s too much for you to handle….” She rolled her eyes and left the sentence unfinished.

“I know what you’re like when you’ve had a drink and that was before you were single” The attempt to lighten the mood wasn’t working. In fact, it just aggravated her more.

“I’m perfectly capable of controlling myself thanks, it just bloody drinks”. She wondered if the statement made her sound slight desperate.

“Babe don’t get funny, you know what I mean, just don’t think it’s a good idea is all and anyways its the work Christmas Do in a few weeks, we can grab a drink then maybe?” But now he was looking at her, eyes narrowed and slightly regretful. “I’m sorry OK! Look I’ve got to go, got shit loads on. Catch up later”.

Cat mumbled a rather shitty “yeah by”’ and watched as he grabbed the takeaway cup and made for the door. Minutes later Cat left for the office a bit bemused by the turn in conversation and hoped she wouldn’t run in to Tony for the rest of her extended shift.

CHAPTER 2 – Cock Shots and Whipped Cream

Being single and over 37 doesn’t make you desperate. She had no intention of attempting to seduce her exceptionally hot friend; she just didn’t want things to change. And now they had. And now beers were off the cards and quite possibly coffee too. How could they meet again with the knowledge his opinion of her was so shallow? Well bollocks to Tony and in absolute defiance she wasn’t even going to do the bloody franking today… or tomorrow or maybe ever again… ha!

Reaching for her phone with the intention of an eBay bargain, Cat noticed her Dating App flashing, 37 new messages. Feeling like she could do with an ego boost she hit the thumbnail and scanned the app.

Profile – SebR01 – 33 (cute but too young)

Message – Hi

Profile – Vic_WKD – 41 (not so cute)

Message – Hi

Profile – Cocks&Shocks – 38 (oh here we go)

u look hot, do u wona skype (not a bloody chance, especially if you can’t even be bothered to spell entire words)

Profile – Trevor_TM – 38 (not bad)

Hope you don’t mind me saying hi, just read your profile and thought it might be nice to chat? (hmmm, better, but not outstanding)

This had Cat was wondering about the etiquette of messaging, was it polite to say ‘Hi, thanks for contacting me’ or would that just encourage more of the same non-inspirational messages. ‘Thanks for contacting me’ was a bloody lame response anyway and far to impersonal. When replying one must remember to be at least be a little witty.

Profile Continued  – Trevor_TM – 38, 6ft2 and he was a roofer. Great! Her roof had been leaking for ages, if they did have a date maybe she could get a quote, or maybe it was best not to use dating apps as Check a Trade? She read his Bio – Cheeky Chap, who’s good fun and genuine. Looking for a lovely lady for drinks or dinner and see what happens.

Cat: Hi Trevor, thanks for the message, how’s your evening?

 It was a half arsed naff reply, but she wasn’t in the mood for witty, thanks to Tony’s earlier comments. She was still playing the disastrous coffee encounter over in her head… Dick!

Profile – JoJo123 – 35

Hi @17.54

Hi @18:12

Hi, you look stunning, fancy a talk @18:36

The app Cat used came with a feature notifying you if prospect is currently online, now this can be as helpful as it is frustrating.

Online Now – @18:42

JoJo123: Hi, I see ur online now, your photo makes me really horny. I’m sitting here with my big hard cock in my hands. Do you want to see? (no I bloody don’t thanks)

Image received, Cat knew she shouldn’t look at the picture just sent to her phone but couldn’t resist. Her need for amusement was currently smothering the common-sense angel perched on her shoulder shouting … ‘Delete Delete!’ Hitting the image, she laughed loud, one not so very big winking willy was staring her in the face.

Cat: No thanks, I have better things to do than sit here looking at your tiny todger, luckily the zoom feature on my phone helped to confirm it is willy in your hands and not just a shrivelled pepperoni!

Profile – Insomnia77! – 37 (finally, a friendly face, they had been chatting for a few months and he was slowly becoming a regular feature in her otherwise dull evening entertainment)

Insomnia77!: How’s the fishing going, any more gimps?

Sat in her office chair Cat chuckled at the memory from last weeks photo of a guy in full on Gimp gear, followed by the comment ‘Can I Giz on your tits’.

Conversations with Insomnia77 were always amusing, he was open, honest, witty and obviously very intelligent. The profile images didn’t disappoint and completely reflected his cheeky personality. His pleasing appearance was brilliantly natural, rugged, stubbly, lean with solid shoulders. He absolutely wasn’t her usual type but there was a cuteness to his smile that would capture any lady’s attention. On reflection, it was his profile she found most attractive, an amusing read, full of anecdotes and references to a career as a spy. They flirted for a while online but the distances between them meant it was a match unlikely to ever happen. So they stayed in touch exchanging horror stories of the weird and wonderful world of online dating.

Cat: Unfortunately not, no gimps, just sorry looking cock shots, any more dates that bring their Nans along? If not, let me know and I’m sure I can grab a granny for the weekend 😏

Feeling the need for a second message Cat typed

Cat: Anyway why do some guys insist on sending you photos of their dicks before they’ve even asked you your name , I just don’t get it?

Insomnia77!: Don’t ask me [confused emoji] I think it’s only common curiosity to wait till at least message 5 before you send a picture of your cock lol!!!

Cat was teasing now,

Cat: How come I didn’t get one? 😪

The next message was an image, shit! Cat didn’t actually want a cock shot from Insomnia, she loved that their banter hadn’t resulted in seedy sexting. He was a welcome relief from the constant flood of uninvited naked body parts that clogged up her phone. Crap! and it was her fault, she had just opened the doorway for a developing friendship to turn its nasty head (literally) in to something more sordid. A very disappointed Cat reluctantly opened the message.

And there is was, a great big, plump, fat, feathered Cock, standing proud in a farmyard. It was enough to make her sigh and laugh with genuine relief. But the suggestion had her brain ticking and for a fleeting moment Cat couldn’t help but wonder what his cock would actually be like. Then just as quickly she pushed the idea out of her naughty little mind, knowing all too well that somethings are best saved for the bedroom.  

Cat: hahahaha… brilliant, what a perfect specimen you have

Insomnia77!: Why thanks, truth is not sure why blokes do it, but girls do too you know. You should see some of the armature porn picture I get sent 😖

Cat: er, no thanks!

Insomnia77!: One chick sent a full on whipped cream photo the other day

Cat: Fuck Off, really, what did you say?

Insomnia77!: What’s your address and I’ll call an Uber, ha!

Cat: Shut up, did you go?

Insomnia77!: Actually no, but I am meeting her next week…lol

Cat: Seriously you’re a slut and this is why so many of us good girls are single, we have to bloody compete with fecking whipped cream cam girls

Insomnia77!: I’ve been chatting to her for ages, but did make me wonder if this was one of those back up picture people store up on their phones just to temp shallow guys like me. Like how many people have a home photoshoot just to whip out a sexy shot when they need it?

Cat: Suppose you never truly know what’s real and what’s staged, sometimes it’s obvious like when a guy says he’s at the gym or something, then sends you a couple of pictures only each photo he’s wearing a different set of gym gear. You know in reality he’s probably at home watching Netflix in 3 day old pants… hahaha

Insomnia77!: I’d just send a pic of me in my 3 day old pants TBH!

Cat: God I’m not sure what’s worse, cock shots, staged photos or you in 3 day old pants! Cat quickly typed a second message.

Cat: When you meeting this err… lady?

Insomnia77!: Not sure yet, need to check out the rehearsal schedule when I get into town.

Cat: Don’t you ever get bored with all the travel

Insomnia77!: It was good to have the opportunity to get away, but yeah, one day I’ll find myself a nice girl like you. Until then I’ll settle for whipped cream, and hotel romps. Men get lonely on the road 😔

Cat: lol… shut up you love it!

Insomnia77!: Hahaha, yeah sometimes it’s great and I love the work, but sooner or later one hotel room just blurs into another.

Insomnia appeared to want a change of subject and Cat was left wondering if maybe there was some truth to his jokes of loneliness.

Insomnia77!: How’s the real world treating you?

Cat: Actually had a run in with my boss, well he’s my friend but also my boss, or was a friend should I say!

Insomnia77!: Shit what happened, did he finally get pissed off at you constantly using work time to hit on poor unsuspecting men?

Cat: Ha… I wish!, not really sure what happened. Been mates for years but since I’ve been single he’s acting really weird. Like he thinks I’m gonna hit on him or something. I just don’t get it?

Insomnia77!: Do you want to hit on him? 😜

Cat: Actually no, well I don’t think so. Just pissed off that he thinks so, God he’s full of himself

Insomnia77!: Lol… you like him …. Why are you messing about online if you got a hottie in real life to play with?

Cat: I never said he was Hot

Insomnia77!: Hahaha, bet he’s HOT, is he hot?

Cat: No, well yes, but he’s a mate and a dick, did I mentions he’s married, so not available!

Insomnia77!: Oh… Fuck, that’s got heartbreak written all over it. Prob best to avoid?

Cat: Tell me about it and think you’re right!

Insomnia77!: Oh well, back to playing Tinder snap it is… lol

Cat: Yep, catch ya later xx

Affairs were a sensitive topic for Insomnia, his marriage was destroyed by the ex-wife’s work fling, a romance that developed while he was touring. Insomnia had caught an early flight home with the hopes of surprising her, only to be confronted by a strange man’s car in his drive. He didn’t catch them in the act as such, but the cheating duo were scantily dressed and clearly recovering from a fuckfest when he walked in.

The messages were still flooding in as they always do when guys see you’re online, but for the most part it was only ‘Hi’ or ‘do you want to snapchat’ and the profiles were just as dull. Cat loved to read an original story from someone who put effort into their online fishing.

The perfect opener was a fun witty message, nothing crude or presumptuous, backed up by a decent intelligent profile, that was more likely to catch her attention than a reasonable photo and an effortless mundane ‘Hi’.

Cat continued with the swiping frenzy, left for “no way never”, Right “for has potential”  

Fed up with the repetitive tedium of boring messages and feeling a little brave or maybe just still pissed off, Cat made the bold decision to text a few interesting chaps first. Actual work was out of the window for the rest of her shift due to her manger being nothing short of an arse. Next time they go for coffee she is getting an extra-large moca-capa-chocolate-deluxe thingy with cream and caramel and bloody sprinkles as it’s his turn to pay.

Time to turn on the radio, her current mood couldn’t handle the heartbreak hits spewed out on so many stations, so Kisstory was the way forward. Google Search – Kiss – and Play, had Cat tapping the desk to Garage Girl and forgetting she was supposed to be doing things far less interesting.

CHAPTER 3 – Over thinking the Online Profiles

After ten minutes of scrolling painfully through disappointing profiles, Cat was losing the will to live. There were so many great looking guys with half-arsed bios. Repeatedly, she came across statements like “will fill in later”, “don’t know what to say” and “does anyone actually bother reading this bit?” Well, actually yes they do. And while you don’t have to be an accomplished author or stand-up comedian, it should be attempted with at least a little effort!

On occasion, the phenomenon that is being online turned Cat into a swipe-frenzied, fickle fecker. And she hated it. In the real world her attraction was to a person, whole and true. Online, however, the instinct was to judge a chap solely on how well he takes a selfie; how great he looks at this angle or that angle; how exotic their photography portfolio was, especially if said portfolio had a few topless shots of the ‘artist’… The online world sure was a shallow place. Swiping a man, solely based on his looks, made Cat feel completely superficial. It’s a world built and designed entirely on instant attraction. So, by that measure, by actually reading their profiles, Cat felt less like simply ogling men and more like she was attempting to get to know them.

Some stood out, though. The first profile she took any stock of was Leo’s.

Name: Leo

Age: 32 

A bit young but obviously hot and Cat had no intension of being ageist here, even if this ‘Leo’ fell slightly outside of her someone only 5 years either side of merule.

Location: London

Local was always good. Then again, London’s a big place. He’d have to have abs of solid titanium for her to endure an hour of public transport torture.

Job: Have one!

‘Have one?!’ Was this humour or a blatant lie? Why do people write this? In their heads they probably hope it reads as “yes, I have a job but it doesn’t define me,” or “my job is super mysterious—you’ll have to have dinner with me to find out more…” But if either was true, why bother writing anything at all? Why not just put “…am a pretentious bollock with muscles,” she thought. Still, at least he hadn’t answered with ‘Entrepreneur.’

Looking For: Dating and who knows 

“Who knows, this could turn into lifelong bliss,” Or perhaps, “who knows, I could introduce you to some special friends of mine; helicopter you away to a world of creepy luxury and lavish orgies with oligarchs and their mistresses. Have you seen Eyes Wide Shut?” Then again ‘…who knows’ might just mean ‘…anal.’

Personality: Class Clown 

Oh, he’s funny. Or he thinks he’s funny… ‘Have one’ popped back into her head. None of this boded well for his comedic skills. Of course, it could mean he’s a bumbling idiot with a tiny car.

Height: 5’11”

Not bad. She and all five feet, seven inches of her could wear heels with this one. 

Kids: 2 

Perfect. A man who understands the tribulations of juggling life with children. All they’d have to do is sync calendars, meticulously plan every free moment between them forever, and accept that for all their planning and syncing, logistical weekend nightmares would be inescapable—pretty much sapping the lifeblood of any chance spontaneity. 

Religion: non-religious 

Well, that’s good. Right? Definitely no danger of being lured into a Gatorade-drinking-spaceship cult; no handmaids’ tales with Leo, no sir. Surely, it was worse to join a cult than go on a blind date with, say, a serial killer. Gruesome death would be inevitable with a serial killer, of course. But an overzealous religious type with their higher sense of being, with their judgement, their straw hat and pitchfork—surely, having your skin re-purposed for fashion and your organs harvested for decoration around the skull-trophy cabinet would be more tolerable than tediously awkward conversation on an excruciating date with a person who already looks at you, comparably, like you’re Satan’s milk-maiden. In this case, Cat would be praying for her serial killer in shining armour to gallantly whisk her away to that spooky cabin in the woods…

Drinker: Occasional 

Something they had in common then; Cat drank ‘occasionally’ nearly every single day! 

Smoker: No 

Brilliant. She could avoid those naughty temptations. She hoped. 

Mini Bio: I like a natter over drinks about the world and a kick in the park with my kids. Kicking a football I mean, not the kids! Lol. I’m a bit of a prankster, I like a laugh. Not that big on ‘getting rich’. I believe success comes from somewhere deeper than that. So don’t expect to be picked up in a Lamborghini or anything. You’re welcome to sit on my handlebars though.  

Oh God, Cat thought, the only thing worse than a serial-killing Gatorade-poisoning zealot was a man locked in permanent dad-joke mode. Saying that he did seem like a fairly honest decent chap and had tried to make an effort, now what should she say????

“Hi Leo, nothing I like better that a good ride at the weekend” instantly sprang to mind and would be kind of funny but she would fall in to the category of cringy desperado, so maybe best not! Instead she typed…

Cat: Hi Leo, you seem like a busy man, but if you get some free time for occasional drinks and fancy kicking back with me, love to hear from you”

These first messages were tricky and there was a formula to follow if you want to be noticed, you had to say something more the “Hi”, had to reference the profile, be original and if possible a little bit witty.

The profile that followed left Cat wondering if this guy was slightly mad or ridiculously honest, she couldn’t help but laugh in absolute bemused horror.  

Name: Tom

Age: Not 27

Clearly much older

Location: His Mum’s house

Rally, who admits that?

Job: Not at the moment but I don’t scrounge off the benefits system, just my girlfriends.


Looking For: The super orgasm, non committal ladies and the occasional cuddle


Personality: Geek

Was twat-faced tosser not an option?

Height: Not a Hobbit

Bet he plays Warhammer and World of Warcraft

Kids: Terrify me more than anything!

Possibly because he still is one

Religion: Jedi Master

Actual proof he was in fact a geek

Drinker: All YOUR booze

No you bloody won’t!!

Smoker: All YOUR fags


Mini Bio: A goofy shitbag, you can expect oodles of fun as long as you avoid any attempt to discuss politics, the evils of social media or marriage. These conversations reduce me to quivering ball of anxious mess. Occasionally pretends to be a vegan for whatever reason. Will offer zero benefit to you in a relationship. 

That was a no, then. Next.

Name: Nick

Age: 39 

Perfect. Only a year apart. They’d understand each other’s pop culture references.

Location: Surrey

Even though Cat was at the arse end of London, it was also the bit that for all intent and purposes may as well be in Surrey it was so close. The location was good. 

Job: Sales Manager 

That could mean just about bloody anything. Though, the title did imply a man who was ambitious and confident; both great qualities if not in abundance.

Looking For: A Challenge 

This was the first time Cat had seen this as a profile answer. It made her chuckle.

Personality: Professional 

A dedicated man was a bonus but she hoped he wasn’t the kind of ‘personality’ to put work above everything else.

Height: 6’3”

God she loved a tall man. It wasn’t that she disliked shorter men, if the right one came along. Cat liked to think she’d give him half a chance at least. Having said that, being one hundred percent honest with herself, it was possible she was afflicted with a tiny touch of heightism. After all, there was nothing quite like being wrapped up in the perfectly sculpted arms of a big burly bloke. A complete submissive type she was not, but big guys set her feminine senses ablaze; the prospect of being with a man who could manoeuvre Cat with all her curves around the bedroom set her knickers alight.

 Kids: none

Is there ever a right answer to this? No kids makes the issue of logistics a little more agreeable but if you don’t have children at nearly 40, it raises other questions. Like, WTF not?! And what if he doesn’t want any? What if he doesn’t like kids? What if he doesn’t like her kids?! 

She kicked herself, again, for mentally sabotaging any potential future dating prospect before even engaging with this man. And besides, not having kids in this modern world is becoming way more common, she told herself. It’s even an environmental life choice for some!

Cat’s mind drifted a moment, and she found herself pondering the probability that this might, in fact, make him an extreme environmentalist—FFS, STOP OVER ANALYSING EVERY SODDING ANSWER AND SEND A BLOODY MESSAGE!

 Religion: Christian 

Hopefully not too Christian. There was only so much Gatorade Cat could drink before throwing up. 

Drinker: Absolutely

Excellent answer; worthy of another chuckle. It also made every previous answer better.

Smoker: Occasional

Brilliant. Someone she could share those naughty temptations with. Then again ‘occasionally’ normally means they smoke but no more than a ‘forgivable’ few a day. I should probably let the gentleman lead, she thought.

Mini Bio: I love nothing more than sitting by the river with good company and great conversation. Fully house trained from an early age, I can whip up a meal without using the microwave, iron my own shirts and I even know where the washing machine is. Bit of a gym bunny but not a slave to it. My diet includes plenty of ice cream unless it’s cold, then maybe we can switch to hot chocolate… with extra marshmallows???

It was a short bio and kinda fun. The profile pics certainly showed just how much he loved working out. There were several photos of him in gym gear, but not the standard, exceptionally off-putting bench press poses. More him in shorts with his bag casually thrown over his shoulder. There was one of him mountain climbing, one of him and his mates and finally, a stunning portrait: Nick suited and booted at a wedding (not his, she hoped). Most importantly he was smiling; mesmerising, warm and inviting. 

So, Cat started typing.

Cat: Hi Nick, super refreshing to see a guy with such a great smile! I think we would be highly compatible. you love the gym and I love watching hot guys IN the gym. It’s a perfect match ☺️ – Send.

Hopefully he would see her attempt at humour and not think it was too cringy. This first messaging bollocks was really tough. How do you write a great opener without it being cheesy and, well, shit?

Two messages was all she had the energy for, 20 minutes had been the perfect distraction and she hadn’t thought about Tony once! First contact initiated, Cat decided it was time to turn her attention to more pressing matters. Like online shopping.

CHAPTER 4 –    Vibrators, Google and Algorithms

As none of men she’d messaged were currently online, and Cat was still refusing to work, her attention switched to a little Amazon Prime time. Feeling proud of herself for having made a few bold first moves, Cat wanted to treat herself to something sexy and new—should any of those first moves come to fruition and lead to a second.

Typing the word ‘underwear’ into the search bar was all it took for the google analytics to kick in. There were various popups and ads: lots of images of lacy knickers, worn over impossibly perfect, tight buttocks… yet, one ad stood out above all the others.

‘***A D U L T T O Y S***’

How had a simple search for garments caused her computer to think she was in need of some battery powered pleasure? Or had her earlier excursion into online dating alerted the algorithms to the possibility that she could be a lonely lady in need of some self-loving.

She pictured a super trendy office, complete with bold, brightly coloured desk chairs, positioned by ridiculous looking desks that couldn’t possibly be practical in any way. The kind of place where each corner housed an expensive coffee machine—a place where uber geeks could opt to take lessons in baristery and sushi cooking during their extended lunch breaks… and of course, a long slide where a staircase really ought to be.

She imagined these man-children sat at their splat-shaped desks, solving complicated equations…

search for underwear + online dating = good time gal, needs orgasms

To their credit, and as much as she hated to admit it, on this occasion they might be right. Maybe, just out of curiosity, albeit prompted by her rebellious mood, Cat clicked on the ad.

A beautifully naughty feeling tickled her senses as she scanned the pages and pages of pleasure toys. Crikey, things had come a long way since her last secret perusal of the back room of an Ann Summers. The list was endless. Pink, green, smooth and real-feel imitations of an erect cock… one with a suction cup!

Cat wasn’t really sure how a suction cup was meant to assist in the art of self-pleasure; for one thing, what were you supposed to stick it to? She made a mental note to, at some point, look up ‘suction-cupped cock’ on YouTube.

Considering it was autumn and the nights were drawing in, perhaps she could do something to pass the time; something other than Netflix and reality TV. And let’s be honest, she thought, so far, the prospect of meeting someone new isn’t looking great—her phone wasn’t exactly beeping frantically with invitations from prospective hot dates…

Cat scrolled through pages of rabbits, dolphins, double-headed-purple-penetration things with animal shaped doodahs for clitoral stimulation. She wondered if there was a rhino. Bloody hell this one lit up like a Christmas tree—it’d be like having a disco in her pants! She chuckled at the thought.

The options were overwhelming. So, naturally, she turned to the customer reviews. Twenty minutes later Cat had a new insight into the modern trends of vibrators. Apparently, what you needed was a such’n’such made from something-or-other because it’s better for you and better for the environment. While this seemed perfectly logical to Cat, she was fairly certain that ladies had been sticking all kinds of obscure objects up themselves for centuries. Besides, if she wanted a product solely for its global impact she’d probably consider a piece or organic veg from the farmers’ market…

But then she’d never seen a cucumber light up and pulsate like a Black n Decker power-drill. Considering all the variables, giving it some careful thought, she really felt the need for something with buttons and batteries. It conjured the image of something … naughtier, somehow; more dangerous; more adventurous.

All the ‘research’ had Cat now desperately desiring one of these wondrous, empowering wands of pleasure, eventually settling on something a little less ‘party’ and a slightly more elegant and sophisticated. It had ten speeds; rotating head; pulse function… it was waterproof too! And the bonus feature: it didn’t even need batteries. You simply plug this slender beauty in. At both ends she sniggered to herself.

Decision made. She threw the “10-inch joy bundle” into her virtual basket. There was a momentary, fleeting pang of sadness on noticing her ex was still the default account holder on the payments page. But a quick reality check had Cat deleting his details, selecting her own and hitting CONFIRM. It was edging on 8pm when a rather cheerful Cat finally left the office, with a new, exciting delivery to look forward to now, and to top it off, had successfully managed to avoid Tony and any awkward conversations.

The day had ended on a pulsating high.

CHAPTER 5 – The Usual Chaotic Morning

It was the usual chaotic morning. The alarm rudely shrieked its annoying ringtone, waking Cat at 7am. She considered throwing the blasted thing out of the nearest bloody window; surely there was a better way to start the day than having to get out of bed. Still not quite used to the new features of her mobile left her fiddling with the ‘dismiss’ button. Was it a swipe or a push—or a smash with something heavy… It was too early for this shit. She grabbed her dressing gown, couldn’t be bothered with slippers and slouched downstairs in search of coffee and a shower.

The 7am alarm gave her a 20 minute head start; enough time to whack on the kettle and jump in the shower before the kids got up. One of the few bonuses of being a single parent was that there were fewer people to contend with in the morning. No rows about whose needs for the bathroom were more important, no drama over how much time a man needs in the toilet… She often wondered what took them so long or, indeed, how they got through so much damned paper. 

Stepping into the shower her thoughts were on the day ahead; school run, boring housework, even more boring house admin—the kind of stuff that makes your brain ache with tedium—bank transfers, bills, uploading the latest meter reading. She wished she’d spent her previous evening at work wasting time more productively and reducing today’s to-do list.

The shower was hot on her skin as she remembered yesterday’s conversation with Tony. Instantly, it made her blood boil, so decided not to think about work or him for the rest of the day, especially in the shower. Tony absolutely did not deserve her naked shower thoughts, even if he was hot and would probably look great dripping wet… all soapy and… and … and… enough! Absolutely no more naked Tony shower thinking. Cat mentally kicked herself for allowing her mind to wonder so irresponsibly.   

The alarms started ringing next door as a slightly more awake and fruity smelling Cat reached for a towel. In mere moments the chorus of “MUM!” would resonate through the house as the demands for breakfast began. Sure enough, two adorably sleepy children popped their heads through the door. She loved it when the kids were docile and cute.

Her youngest, Myke, held up his arms for a cuddle and Cat scooped him up instantly, bending to kiss her daughter, Liz, as she did.

“Right, you two, what we having for breakfast?”

“Chish and flips please mummy!” requested 4 year old Myke causing Cat to chuckle.

“Well, my little monkey, chish and flips is for dinner tonight so how about cereal or toast instead?”

“Chocolate cereal please! And then I can drink the milk and Myke’s milk too if he doesn’t finish it,” a cheeky grin spread across Liz’s face as she spoke.

“But, mum, she can’t have my chocolate cereal juice! It’s mine!” The whining had started already. 

“Okay, okay, everyone has their own milk juice and eats their own food,” Breakfast negotiations were exhausting, thought Cat as she sighed then marched the three of them downstairs to the kitchen.

The kettle was still hot and Cat realised she hadn’t finished making her coffee. Grabbing two bowls from the cupboard along with a mug, the technical process of preparing cereal began; a delicate procedure ensuring each kid has their favourite bowl with the precise cereal-to-milk ratio, respectively. She dished out their perfect breakfasts in the living room and went back to making her coffee in the kitchen.

It was only when pouring the milk into her coffee that she noticed the gut-wrenching curdle of lumpy white goop floating in her mug; the milk was off. In that same moment, Myke voiced his disapproval. The boy dropped his bowl with a clash and a howl: “Urgh, yeck mummy! This chocolate juice is yucky and bad!” The inevitable teary wailing followed.

Grabbing the nearest tea towel with an exasperated sigh, Cat returned to the living room. The scene was one of devastation; a Willy Wonker blood bath. The bowl had been swiped from the table, its contents all over her cream rug. What hadn’t hit the rug had spread across the laminate floors, coating the wooden surface in a stench of brown chocolate liquid.

Myke’s tears were still flowing as Liz looked on in amused shock. “Mum, he just threw it on the floor,” she said. “Glad I didn’t eat mine; it stinks!”

The morning routine was screwed. Cat knew that by the time she’d cleared the carnage, washed the rug, consoled Myke and finally gotten the kids ready, they were going to be late for school. Again. And she hated being late for anything.

Thus was the downside of single parenting: when life doesn’t go as planned there‘s no one to fall back on. You can’t divide the chores, ask for help or split tasks in an emergency. With two of you involved, one can manage the aftermath while the other manages the kids—but when you’re alone with two children you’re already grossly outnumbered. Cat had no choice but to be both cleanup crew and mummy, all without the vital dose of caffeine she was so desperately craving. Bollocks…

CHAPTER 6 – Finally, a Reply!

Home at last from her exasperating experience attempting to explain to a rather grumpy, scornful receptionist why she was failing drastically with her children’s morning time management. Finally Cat sat perched on her black leather Grandad chair, nursing a mug of piping hot coffee. With every sip she could feel the stress of the morning easing from her body. It was days like this that made her miss smoking. Coffee was great but nothing compared to blissfully puffing away your angst.

Smoking simply wasn’t the acceptable behaviour of a devoted parent these days, but on nights out with her bad mummy chums, after a few vinos it didn’t surprise her how many of the girls would sneak out for a cheeky cig. Sometimes they’d split a pack between them, giggling away like naughty teenagers. Oh, the rebellion!

Sinking back into the armchair and making herself comfortable, she reached for her phone with the intention of uploading the meter reading to her utility app when a notification popped up. It was the dating app. Someone had sent her a message!

Her curiosity sparked a glimmer of over-hopefulness that the message was from one of the Hemsworth brothers—or a non-famous equivalent at least. She logged in, tentatively.

Profile – Trevor_TM – 38. It was a reply to her rather boring message last night.

Not bad thanks! Sorry, had a very busy day at work. Fell asleep early. What you up to this weekend?

The message was making her sleepy.

She couldn’t really be bothered to reply but at least he wasn’t being presumptuous and crude. That had to count for something.

Cat: Well, hopefully, a good night’s rest means you have bags of energy for something fun this weekend!

She immediately regretted using the word ‘fun.’ In the realm of online dating, ‘fun’ was usually code for ‘fuck’. Reading back and decoding it, the message transliterated as: “hopefully, you’ll have bags of energy for lots of hot, steamy sex with me this weekend!” She sniggered, it wasn’t an intended innuendo. On the other hand, it might just spice up his reply.

There was also a message from Nick, one of the men she’d messaged last night and honestly thought would never hear back from.

Nick: Lol… your a cheeky one! That message made me chuckle 😄I’m sure we would be highly compatible. So tell me, apart from coffee, Netflix and occasionally stalking men at the gym, what else do you like? 🙂

Wow! Actual engagement with a stunning specimen who had taken time to read her profile; coffee and Netflix were at the top of her likes list. Just one problem: he’d committed the cardinal your-not-you’re sin. Regardless, he was pretty enough for Cat to forgive his grammatical error and, at any rate, his effort to reply or even read her profile had earned him some major brownie points. Willing to overlook the minor offence, she was excited and a little hopeful. Even so, she knew just how quickly a conversation can go from amusingly tantalising to boringly disappointing.

The beauty of online dating is you have time to think of a witty or meaningful response that can potentially make you sound moderately intelligent. It wasn’t always as easy in real life.

Cat: You’ll be pleased to know I’m not a full-time stalker. More an appreciative observer…😉

It occurred to her that she might possibly have come across as a dirty old man but prayed Nick had a similar sense of humour. Still, perhaps a little diffusion was needed and instantly followed up with a second message. 

Cat: What do I like? Hmmmm… Good company with interesting conversation, especially if it comes with ice cream!

She praised herself for acknowledging the ice cream reference in his profile. 

Now, most dating apps have a notification telling you whether or not a prospect is online. They will also inform you if someone has read a message, ignored or even deleted it. A deleted message is always a bit of an ego crusher; it’s an instant indication that they don’t find you attractive or your conversation very entertaining. Cat liked to think of the deleters as blokes who were only on the prowl for a hook up. Deep down she was self-aware enough to realise that its impossible to appeal to everyone’s taste but it was far easier to write them off this way. Otherwise she’d be sobbing into her ice cream in the absence of a man instead of enjoying it with one.

This was an unexpected deflation no one warned her about when entering into the realm: the constant dealing with rejection. Its fast-paced nature and the continual stream of messages meant that it simply wasn’t possible to read and reply to everyone. So it was conceivable that if a message is sent and unread, the recipient simply hadn’t had the time. However, a read-and-deleted message was a virtual slap in the face. Fortunately, she had only experienced this a few times. Nonetheless, it made her feel pretty crappy every time.

There was also the ‘ghosting’ phenomenon: a person you have either met or been talking to suddenly, and for no apparent reason, disappears, ceasing all contact. Now, this was frustrating and considerably bad etiquette in Cat’s eyes. Sadly, however, it was very common practice in the online arena.

Ghosting had been a hot topic with the girls one night recently. They’d come to conclusion that no contact was an utterly cowardly action, though it was undeniably easier than actually telling a person you weren’t interested.  There was also the possibility that if a person ghosted you they had simply found a new and more interesting toy to play with; probably with bigger boobs and a smaller brain. Cat particularly revelled in her friend Mel’s eloquent assessment: “Or maybe they’re just fucking dickheads.” So that was how Cat chose to view the ghosters from now on; a bunch of fucking dickheads. She vowed never to just vanish on someone without explanation (unless they deserved it, obviously), keeping herself out of the FuckingDickhead category.

Taking another slug of coffee and settling into the soft leather cushions, Cat busied herself with the tasks of the day. Utility app opened and ready for an update. Figures submitted, Cat then navigated her way to her banking app. God, this was a dull way to spend the morning but so much more tolerable than communicating with loveless telephone robots and consequently spending hours on hold. 

Her phone buzzed; a new messaged received from the dating app. She opened it, seeing Nick’s super cute profile picture pop up.

Nick: Glad to hear it!

A second message pinged. 

Nick: Good company and ice cream. Sounds like date then… lol

Well he was direct. Straight in with a light-hearted ‘date’ request and, thankfully, hadn’t written her off as a peeping pervert. What a relief!

Cat: Ahh… but which brand of ice cream…..?

Instant reply:

Nick: You can’t put a guy on the spot like that, it’s too big a question! Hmmmm (Thinking emoji)

Cat: Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food… everyone loves Phish Food, right? 😁

Cat chuckled. She did like Phish Food but simply couldn’t believe this completely random conversation being had, with an exceptionally hot guy about sodding ice-cream. She got typing again.

Cat: Phish Food is the way forward! You’re just lucky I never asked you to choose your favourite coffee shop. The wrong answer there could be a dealbreaker 😂

Nick: get that. If we can’t agree on coffee there’s no hope for us. Taking a girl to the wrong coffee shop can end in raw, bloody violence! 😂🤣😂🤣😂

Another ping.

Nick: Have you found yourself on many coffee dates?

A typical trait with online dating; a few friendly messages before putting the feelers out for previous dating experience.

Cat: Not yet. Not sure I’d be up for a coffee date though. By the time you’re on the 2nd/3rd cup you’re both caffeine-buzzed and jabbering nonsense!

Nick: So no different to a pub date then???? 😆I’ll have to agree with you on that, coffee dates are hell

Cat: You could be right, at least in a bar you can blame the alcohol for the nonsense speak.

Nick: So what’s your preferred dating venue? I’m taking notes in case you let me take you out 😉

Nick did like his emojis. Sometimes, Cat thought, people seem to forget the use of a full-stop, opting instead for smiley faces to end sentences as if they’re some sort of new-wave punctuation. She really hoped he wasn’t a 12 year old in disguise…

Cat: I’d have to go with a standard drink at a bar ideally by the river, but tbh if the company is any good, the bar could be anywhere.

Nick: It’s settled then. A bar somewhere soon for booze and ice cream. Or better yet, ice cream cocktails!!!😉

Cat: Haha… sounds like a plan. If they have coffee-flavoured ice cream cocktails we’re winning 🙂

Cat felt the need to reciprocate with a little emoji action.

Nick: Perfect… It’s a date! Right, that’s my coffee break finished. Hopefully catch you later?? 😘


Errr feck it… what bloody emoji do you use to end a first chat?! She wasn’t ready for the over-familiarity of a kissing one yet but had used the smiley face already; using the same one might illustrate a distinct lack of creativity. Bloody emojis! The decision was slightly infuriating. Stupid things… finally she settled on a cute looking blushing emoji

And with that, Nick’s online icon switched to ‘offline’ and he was gone.

Cat stared at her phone, slightly light-headed and amused by the exchange. Had she just agreed to a date with a guy she’d known for all of three minutes?! Scrolling through the messages, she reread the thread several times and confirmed that yes, apparently so. Well, that was unexpected. Ideally, she’d thought it best to spend a few weeks chatting and getting to know the person a little before agreeing to a date. Although, admittedly, this method hadn’t proved particularly successful so far. Normally, by the time she was ready to actually meet someone from the realm, they were already bored and moved on.

So she made the bold decision whilst sitting there, sipping the last few dregs from her mug, that if he did message back later with an official date request, she‘d be brave and go for it. And why the hell not! After all, was that not the point of online dating—to indeed go on actual dates and not just end up with a bunch online pen pals in the Friend Zone? 

The phone pinged in her hand, breaking her contemplative silence and giving her a small jolt of eager anticipation.

Trevor_TM – 38

Nothing exciting planned yet but I’m sure if you fancied meeting up we could think of something fun to do… 😜

Ugh, the dirty-winking-tongue-out emoji. Cat’s least favourite of them all. 

She considered rethinking her no ghosting rule…

CHAPTER 7 – Impossible Innuendos

For the most part, the rest of the day had gone seamlessly. The only real issues arose with Cat’s attempts to bribe the children with the tablet while dinner was being prepared. Being four years apart they couldn’t agree on a YouTube channel; Myke had wanted some mind-numbing toy unwrapping video while Liz pleaded for her favourite blue-haired gaming vlogger. There were a few tears but eventually the compromise was a Pokemon game review. Maybe she was getting old but Cat didn’t understand the attraction of watching other people play games you could be playing yourself but if it gave her twenty minutes of vital kitchen time, who was she to argue. After a story, the kids were tucked up in bed and Cat was left with the next few hours to kill before finally climbing under her own duvet for the night.

At a baby group, years ago, Cat overheard a lady explaining her single parent life as a ‘prison sentence’: once the kids are asleep, you’re essentially trapped. Now, finding herself in singleparentdom, Cat understood how frustrating and sometimes lonely these few hours in the evening could be. ‘Prison sentence’ was perhaps a little extreme but it was certainly deferentially restricting. There was only so much reality TV and boxset watching you can do before craving human interaction. And the thought made her desperately miss having someone to discuss the trails of the day with.

There must be millions of lonely singletons out there with time to kill and no one to murder it with. Cat was pondering the notion that maybe this was why social media and online dating were such a lifeline for the singles; the need for company and companionship from the comfort of your lonely prison sofa. Cat reached for her phone. The evening had been so busy with normality she’d almost forgotten about her earlier chat with Nick. Logging in, resulted in instant disappointment to see that he hadn’t messaged her even though he was, in fact, online. Fuck it! Oh well, she grieved internallyHe must have met another one of those big-boob-small-brain girls. But before the spiteful mind-rant could continue, a text popped up.

Nick: Hey! See you’ve just logged in! Have you figured out the ‘somewhere’ I can take you for coffee cocktails? 🤔

OK, so it was clear he hadn’t sent her a follow up message and had obviously just been messaging someone else. Probably many someones but accepting that that was pretty much the point of online dating and Cat tried to let it go.

Cat: Lol , have you just been sitting there all day waiting for me to login? 😉”

Nick: Yep. Been here all evening window shopping while I waited 😋“Tbh I logged in a few minutes ago. On my way home now. Was a late one 🤨” 

Cat: Not driving I hope! Aren’t there laws against texting and driving? 

It was typical mummy comment to make but too late now. Hopefully it didn’t sound belittling. She really should think a little more before typing.

Nick: Lol, call it ‘speed dating’ 🚔😂 unfortunately, I’m one of those sad suited sardines stuck on a packed train 🤬 but I have a seat at least. Such a rarity! I’ll be home in half an hour with a meal for one and an early night. Rock ‘n’ roll!

Cat: What, no company? Oh well. At least you’ll have your Pot Noodle! 😆

Nick: Pah… Pot Noodles are for amateurs. I’m a Super Noodles kinda guy. If you ever let me cook for you, you’re in for a treat! 😇 🍜”

Cat: Great, I can’t wait! There’s nothing I like more than a man who knows his way around the kettle 😊🤣😂

She felt a few laughing emojis were justified at this point; she was genuinely chuckling, spite free.

Nick: I know my way around lots of things… but I’m exceptionally talented with my kettle 😝

It seemed they were on to mild innuendos now. Cat hoped he wasn’t going to descend into crude and vulgar anytime soon. It was such a frequent occurrence: friendly banter at first, followed by innuendos, thrusting rapidly into cock-shots. He was on a train though so chances were she was safe for now. Unless of course he was one of those guys with a bank of amateur self-porn on his phone. 

She couldn’t understand men who were so overly keen to send uninvited pictures of their dicks — and apparently it wasn’t just men eager to ping flesh shots to anyone with a smartphone. A conversation with Insomina77! had been really informative about what it’s like being on the male side of the pool. She’d discovered that there were tons of fake accounts and ‘Cam Girls’ looking to lure men in, only to exploit them for money or simply up their Instagram followers. Not to mention the ones only too keen to spice up a chat thread with a boob shot to someone they hadn’t even learnt the surname of yet. It posed the question as to whether this was what the nerds at Apple had intended from the very beginning.

The anonymity of a dating app appeared to completely diminish the inhibitions of many. Cat was certain that most of the people on here would never be so brazen in real life. It’s not like you would meet someone at a bar and, after a smile and a brief “hello, what’s your name?” whip out your cock or lady bits then carry on as normal. Unfortunately, this train of thought led to thinking about cocks. Nick’s cock. At least she wasn’t thinking about Tony’s cock. For fuck’s sake, stop thinking about cocks! She kicked her brain for wandering into filth again and attempted to type a respectable reply.

Cat: A talented man in the kitchen is a redeeming quality, especially if you’re hungry…😏

Then read the sentence back. Oh shit! She hadn’t meant it to sound so euphemistic; honestly the message only meant it was great when a guy could cook a fabulous meal! Had she just opened the door for their conversation to take an unintentional turn for the worst?!

Nick: Oh reeellly… do you get hungry often 🤔😉

Bollocks. The conversation appeared to be heading in a direction she’d been hoping to avoid and, somehow, for all intents and purposes, it was her own fault. A second message came through almost immediately:

Nick: Well I should hope so. I have a cupboard full of Super Noodles I’m willing to slave over just for you! FYI, I’m a dab hand at the microwave too! 🤩😄😂😅

Thank Christ for that. Against all the odds, Nick had steered the conversation away from any potentially disastrous cuisine-related innuendo madness. Cat typed hastily, desperate to keep the flow of dialogue manoeuvring on a steady course.

Cat: So when you’re not working late and eating alone, what do you find yourself doing?

It was a lame duck of a questions but, on the spot as she was, she deemed it necessary.

Nick: Just your usual type of bloke really. Gym, boxsets, drinks, cinema, maybe the theatre every now and then. Prefer a nice bar to a club tho… think my clubbing days are behind me!

It was obvious from his profile just how much he liked the gym; he had a body worthy of a Lynx commercial. The hotel where Cat worked was equipped with an open gym and she knew just how hard some of the instructors trained to keep their bodies in immaculate shape. Whilst there was a great respect and admiration for people who put in that much time and energy to look after themselves, she also knew that gym bunnies had a tendency do nothing but babble on about bloody diet and exercise. She had no desire to get caught up in discussions about the health benefits of superfoods and supersets. Her body shape was a happy size-sixteen and with her curves came a love of food. All food. Especially if it had additional yummy, delicious extra calories.

Cat: God, I can’t remember the last time I was in a club. But I do like to dance given the opportunity

Nick: Ah, so you can dance! 👏💃🕺 I do love a lady who can strut her stuff on the dance floor. Just don’t show me up while I’m throwing my shapes, lol

She was surprisingly enticed by thrilling thoughts of gyrating with him. Imagining a rustic, dimly lit bar somewhere with candles on vintage, dark, wooden tables, a smooth Latino vibe in the background, the pair of them gently swaying to the music; moving closer, his hands finding her hips and pulling her in — jeez, her mind was all over the place tonight! Maybe she should just ask if he was free at the weekend while the kids were at their Dad’s. Or maybe she’d take the coward’s approach instead and say:

Cat: Great! We can have a dance off!

Coward! Instantly wishing she hadn’t played it so safe, cringing at her own pathetic attempt at humour. GOD! She was normally quite good at this flirty, tactical banter but for some reason, Cat’s usual quick wit had deserted her. She sounded like a prat. Perhaps her flustering was definitive proof of a physical attraction to Nick’s profile pic and the sheer joy that, so far, he hadn’t turned out to be a complete arse. 

Nick: Oh, it’s on! But be warned, I play to win. I’m taking you down lady! 😎 Right, I’m getting off soon. Thanks for keeping me entertained on my usually boring journey home. I’ll msg you in a bit…😚

Nick’s icon flashed to ‘offline’ and he was gone again. Cat stared at the text, slightly perplexed. For the second time today he’d left her confused with messaging etiquette. How do you respond to “I’ll message you later”? Were you expected to reply with an ‘OK’ or just wait for him to get back to you? Was it rude to not say a yeah great talking to you kind of thing? She couldn’t decide but hoped the glass of red wine about to be poured might hold the answer.

CHAPTER 8 – Serial Killers and Phone Hackers

There was something eternally satisfying about a glass of full bodied red wine. There was a bonus to vino too, she didn’t have to wait an hour for it to be chilled enough to enjoy like whites and beers. Bottle in hand and seated at the breakfast bar, she poured a rather too-large-for-a-school-night glass and switched on the radio. It was a typical chart show but the DJs were entertaining, the music easy to listen to.

Her phone buzzed ‘image received’. It was Insomina77!, AKA ‘Jay’ on other media networks. The image was of a mouth-watering steak with golden coated vegetables, drizzled in something that looked like it might be gravy. Cat immediately had food envy.

They often swapped photos of meals: Jay sharing the delights of life on the road, Cat replying with pictures of the chicken nuggets her kids preferred. Her finger hastily typed away:

Cat: OMG looks amazing, who’s the lucky lady you’re spoiling tonight? 😋

Insomnia77!: Lol… what makes you think I’m with lady, I could be with a man, or with the crew or on my own!!!

Cat: WHATEVER, you’d never take one of the boys out for a meal like that, haha… who is she, spill??

Insomnia77!: Very true, some girl I met online last night, switched my profile to nearby’s and she popped up. She’s up at the bar now!

Cat: Sat at the bar, stalking girls and sending me food porn… lol, tart!

Insomnia77!: Yep! 😊 

Insomnia77!: She’s off grabbing a bottle of bubbles, said she was going to the ladies but looks like she hit the bar on the way back for something sparkly.

Cat: So you’ve literally just messaged me to brag about food and your most recent pick up… You’re such a dick… 😂

Insomnia77!: I am indeed but I’m a gorgeous talented dick, who’s been very bored and needed to get out of the bloody hotel room… shit she’s coming back, don’t want her to think I’m on the phone to my GF…haha Catch ya soon x

Cat: X

Insomina77! often amused Cat with his stories of adventures as a musician, originally believing his tales of travel and hotel-room life to be merely bullshit stories to pick up women. But once they exchanged numbers, and Cat knew his real name, the shameless Google stalking commenced. His Facebook profile was limited but she was delighted his tales of wonder turned out to be true; he was in fact, according to his LinkedIn account, a very talented and fairly high profile musician. Guitar seemed his weapon of choice, though it would appear he was multi-skilled and could handle a various number of instruments.

Jay was good fun with a passion for life. The problem was, essentially, the constant travelling made for complicated relationships with little chance of longevity. So he settled for living in the moment, enjoying the casual company of casual ladies when the opportunities arose. She enjoyed his updates, hearing about the good fucks and date-deserters; he had a knack for unintentionally screwing things up. He also had a knack for agreeing to go out with women who were completely batshit from the offset. Jay was a constant source of amusement and she loved his ‘honest frank’ attitude.

Cat slipped into her ‘comfies’ then busied herself with the mindless task of scrolling through her friends’ Facebook statuses. Everyone’s life looked so glossy. An old photo popped up in the newsfeed; a reminder of ‘3 years ago today’: a big smiley happy family photo of her old life when the kids were younger and things with their dad hadn’t been so completely awful.  There was an update from a happy looking couple, with raised glasses: the lady had a posed, shocked look on her face while the guy playfully stuck out his long, enormous tongue. Cat hated herself for noting the impressive girth of his mighty mouthpiece as the picture was from Beth, Tony’s wife. Unsurprisingly, Cat couldn’t be bothered to read the message and promptly remembered why she hated Facebook.

She killed the better part of an hour at the breakfast bar, flicking through her phone, when ‘message received’ popped up from her dating app. Immediately, she logged in, hoping it was Nick, remembering she hadn’t messaged him back.

Nick: It’s been a long day so finally putting my feet up with dinner and a cold beer

The following message was a photo. Cat was fairly confident it wasn’t going to be scantily clad body shot, so with excited curiosity, hastily opened it: a perfect, manly-manicured hand was holding a stemmed pint glass, filled with what Cat assumed was beer. The accompanying message read:

Nick: What you up to??? 🤔

Cat wanted to reciprocate with an appropriate shot of her glass of claret, recognising however, that it was hugely oversized and filled to the brim. She took a massive, rapid gulp. Then another. Then another and another until she could rest assured that the glass would pass as a responsible-enough-for-mid-week drink. She snapped a picture, carefully hiding her own unpolished, un-manicured hands.

Nick: A fish bowl wine glass, I like your work 👏 are you sure you can’t just fit the entire bottle in there???

Cat: Probably, but it’s too early in the week to be polishing off a bottle of wine

Nick: I think you should give it a go… 🙌  perhaps a nice… Chianti 😨

The reference wasn’t lost on Cat. She giggled, wondering if he was testing her drinking skills or just checking in with her inner geek. Her inner geek took the phone.

Cat: ooh… Chianti would go down really well with the liver and fava beans I’m cooking tonight!

Nick: 😂 

Nick: I feel a little better about drinking alone tonight, knowing that my good friend the serial killer is just as bored and desperate for alcohol as I am… Cheers! 🍻

And with that, Nick sent another image: a rather stunning close-up of his face, half hidden behind the beer glass. Cat admired the clarity of his sharp, bright eyes, his full lips. God he was a perfect specimen. The large gulps earlier had gone to her head. Her alcohol-sapped mind started to wander. Her tongue was wet and desperate to know how his lips tasted. She wanted to ask him. The thought made her chuckle, cheekily. Maybe I should slow down on the wine, she told herself and ignoring herself at the same time.

Cat: Ha, Don’t encourage me… I’ll be thinking you’re trying to get me drunk already? 

Nick: Is that such a bad thing? 😈

Cat: What, me being drunk or you goading me into a mid-week piss-up?

Nick: I reckon you’ll be floored after your one large glass. I hope so anyway. I love a cheap date lol. Besides, tonight I only want you tipsy enough to give me your phone number so we can get away from this app, God I hate this thing! 😬

As easily as that, Nick had taken the plunge and made a request to exchange actual numbers. Needless to say, Cat was hesitant. There was a kind of security using the app. For one thing, any unsolicited photos could be reported, contacts could be blocked if you no longer wished to engage in conversation—or if they turned out to be Hannibal Lecter for real. Once you exchange numbers though, it’s not as clear-cut. 

Fortunately, Cat had learnt the basics in online security from Lee: as soon as someone has your number you become a potential target for something bad. Like identity theft, money theft. Hell, even phone theft. They can use your phone to scour your personal information, raid your Paypal, or just wipe the whole damn thing. An over zealous admirer might take it upon themselves to find out where you live or work. Unless your profiles are hidden or locked, it’s far too easy for Russian hackers to find out everything they want to know about your life and utterly destroy it. Extremely sensible and tech-savvy Cat felt she had locked her security down. And it must’ve been working; she hadn’t had any stalker problems at all.

And experience told her that frequently the dynamics of conversation changes the moment you move away from the apps. Cat was enjoying the banter. Would that vanish with face to face engagement? It was a dilemma, a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment. Assessing her minimal risk level, and motivated by the chance to meet a seemingly amusing and extremely hot man, Cat decided maybe it was time to ease herself into dangerous territory and brave the exchange. Next time he hinted at an in real life meeting she just might say yes.

Cat: What? you hate the app or online dating in general?

Nick: Both, it’s never as easy to chat on this thing and my phone’s constantly buzzing from all the crazies perving at my profile.

Cat: Oh is it now? bet they’re lining up 🤣

Nick: There are hundreds, believe me. Most of them look like they can handle more wine than you! Sounds wayyy too expensive. You seem the safer option… 😉😂

Cat: Lol… and by safer you mean cheaper. Your flattery is faultless, sir.

Nick: Exactly… 😂 

Nick: Honestly I nearly stopped using this thing the other day. Then you messaged me. Your pictures were bloody cute and you seem like the first not-crazy lady I’d spoken to in weeks. The rest are basically just time-wasters…

Cat read his message and noticed he was still typing; this gave her an opportunity to consider what he’d said. There was a plethora of truth in it, people frequently use online dating to manage boredom. In all honesty, Cat was as guilty as the next messager for chatting to someone for weeks and never moving past first base.

Nick: So what do you say, fancy giving me your number and heading over to WhatsApp?

Spurred on by the wine or the prospect of real-life interaction with a nicker-droppingly gorgeous man, Cat pinged him her digits.

Nick: Wow! you must be feeling brave. Or drunk. Either way I’m impressed. See you on the flip side 😘

Cat never had a chance to reply. Nick’s icon flashed to ‘offline’. Suddenly paranoid she’d be heading toward inevitable doom, she clung onto the slither of hope that this one might turn out to be something a bit special.

CHAPTER 9 – How Not To Take A Selfie

It wasn’t long before the beeping on her phone alerted Cat to a new incoming message, not recognising the number, she was delighted in her assumption that the text had indeed come from Nick.

The message was a simple “Hi” and quickly followed up with another image.

She was already in her PJ’s, hair scraped back in an untidy mess… Fuck! His photo was so naturally gorgeous. How was she ever going to compare or compete? There he was, so casually positioned on his couch, phone raised at the perfect angle to display his slender jawline, thick neck and damn those biceps must have taken hours of pumping in the gym. Surely, he was flexing them a little for the photo… Made her wonder if the rest of him was anywhere near as toned.

Unfortunately, his torso was hidden behind that white T-Shirt and slack charcoal shorts. But a girl can hope. In comparison, she hadn’t dyed her hair in weeks—if she attempted the same angle it‘d be all roots and shaggy mop. Her unmatching pyjama set was enough to make your average Catfisher swipe left. She was currently sporting unicorn bottoms and a top with cute looking foxes…. crap it!

The living room he was so perfectly positioned in was immaculate; grey modular sofa straight from an Ikea show room. Cat noted he had taken the effort to pour his beer into a glass, not just drink from the can. The meal-for-one was neatly discarded on a tray next to his rather thick set thighs. Her eyes lingered on partially revealed leg.

Now it was her turn to send a picture. Phone raised into position, click, quick check of the photo and realised she was right: these pyjamas simply won’t do. Bugger! Cat dashed upstairs for a quick change. Now, you cant look like too much effort had been made or the photo would appear staged, but she wanted to avoid looking like a stressed out soccer mum dressed in her kids’ nightwear. Black leggings and vest were the weapon of choice, but… should she whack on a bra? Maybe she should put on a bra and avoid any unwanted nipple action… or maybe a pert nipple was a good thing? Cat came to the conclusion that a bit of exposed cleavage was sexy but too much nipple too soon was maybe a little suggestive… she was aiming for hot, not slutty!

Back on the couch, dressed in her faked natural attire, she posed for a second shot. Should she pout? Was pouting a good thing? Cat wasn’t even sure she knew how to pout but gave it a go anyway. On reflection it would transpire that her endeavours to pout made her appear like an over indulged spoilt teenager trapped in a 40-year-old body. So maybe pouting was out….

Cat leaned back on her sofa, dipped her head and attempted a sultry look with seductive eyes. She flicked to her gallery and noticed that the head position needed for sultry also gave her an extra 27 chins… OK maybe not 27 but at least 3 and her vest being so high made her neck completely disappear. She pulled down the vest just enough to revel a little more boob and strained her neck hoping to avoid any more unnecessary chins. This time Cat took a number of shots, trying a sexy smile, a cheeky wink, looking directly at the camera, looking nonchalantly away, intense stare and angled her head in half a dozen different ways. Feck her neck hurt!

She checked her phone in dismay as her forehead presented a spam designed to be Tangoed. The supposed cheeky wink made her look desperately dirty and the sexy smile was more of a constipated strain, all impacted with a ridiculously stretched neck that reminded her of a ravenous ostrich scrapping for a snack…. Jeeze this was way more difficult than other girls made it look.

The determined armature pulled her top down a little more, hoping that the cleavage might distract from her appalling attempt at a natural looking selfie but the giant, once white, now slightly discoloured mum-bra hastily thrown on upstairs was peaking over the neckline of her vest. Right that’s it… the bra’s coming off and if there is a little nipplage, screw it! Cat reached behind her back and easily unclipped the offending item, discarding it on the floor. She pinched her cheeks, wet her lips, fluffed her hair and prepared for fabulous selfie action.

Legs crossed and free arm resting on the side of the sofa, Cat took a further 16 snaps. She was aiming for a soft smile and bright eyes. In real life, Cat was good at this sexy shit. She knew how to move and use her curvy figure; she knew how to flirt with her eyes and capture a guys attention along with his imagination. But trying to convey this on her poxy phone made her feel like a bloody novice. Cat laughed at her own stupidity and clicked the camera button one last time. Bang! Nailed it. That very last photo was perfect. It was honest and natural. It was her.

Pleased with the effort, Cat grabbed the image and hit ‘send’. She couldn’t have asked for a better picture and the entire episode had only taken a total of 62 photos in 26 minutes, with no real incident other than mild neck strain. She hoped he hadn’t grown bored waiting and move on to a new prospective date already—but he wasn’t currently online.

She watched as the photo slowly uploaded to WhatsApp with a triumphant grin on her face, however slightly concerned that he wouldn’t believe for one moment that the last half hour hadn’t been spent attempting to take a simple selfie. Maybe she should say something to excuse her sudden disappearance but hey, she had only just met the guy online which didn’t really warrant him an explanation of her absence. While she deliberated on whether an apology was the polite thing to do or not, her picture finally finished uploading.

He was instantly online again. Two blue ticks next to her message meant he had seen the photo and next to his photo was the status ‘typing’: he was replying … she waited, slightly nervous and a little excited….

Nick: Hot!!! loving the natural look, that’s just how I could imagine you waking up in the morning Cat flushed, so grateful that he wasn’t there to witness the ridiculous grin spreading across her cheeks and readied herself to reply—but he was typing again. Cat waited eagerly for the incoming message…

Nick: Cat, I love an honest photo especially when it comes with a cheeky peak of underwear…..

Underwear? What underwear? She’d taken her bra off and….. oh fuck no!!! Cat pulled up the photo just sent. Bollocks!! Schoolboy error. In her haste to send Nick the perfect pic, she had forgotten one of the many rules of online dating: when sending a selfie, always remember to check your background. There is so much detail in what’s going on behind the scene. Cat thought about the way she had noticed the beer in Nicks first shot and how neatly his cushions were positioned, both inciting that he wasn’t a lazy kind of guy, but one that bothered to take the time to pour his beer into a glass and tidy up after himself. The living room layout and colour scheme revealed he was a man of taste, with a scenic print centred on the feature wall. He obviously took care of himself and pride in his home. There was an actual plant on the window ledge; many bachelor pads are foliage free. Yes, it may have been of the cactus variety which may take very little effort to look after, but nonetheless he had to care for it in some capacity.

There are a million things your mind subconsciously picks up on when looking at a photo of a person. It’s more than aesthetics or how beautiful they appear in a posed shot. You absorb the decor, the colour, the tidiness of a room, as well as notice all the negative secrets a picture can display, like dirty washing piles, stacked up dishes in a sink, an unmade bed or even worse, bed-sheets without any covers on at all (this was the epitome of a lazy man). And all quantifiable reasons to turn down a future date and begin the process of removing yourself from conversation availability.

Cat stared at the image, shocked at her own stupidity. In the centre of the screen was a rather casually stunning version of herself, relaxed, bright-eyed and smiling. On the floor, to her absolute horror, was the oldest, ugliest, biggest, ex-white and discoloured mum bra she shamefully had in her possession. FUCK IT!!!

How the hell could she even reply? Her embarrassment must be oozing through the phone… Cat had no words. In fact, even a face palm emoji wasn’t going to save her now. She simply typed the following:


man holding white teacup in front of gray laptop

Chapter 10 – More Than A Work Flirt

It was one of those fresh, crisp autumn mornings and the day perfectly mirrored Cat’s positive outlook. She assumed it must have had something to do with the effortless school run and the possibility of another amusing exchange with Nick—if he ever messaged her again. Fortunately, her futile attempts at selfies hadn’t completely destroyed the banter, instead appearing to strengthen it. His sense of humour and light-hearted reaction to the hideously ugly mum bra was winning him extra brownie points. The night had ended in a stream of laughing emojis and promises to catch up later today. Even the unavoidable prospect of having to share office space with Tony ‘Dick’ hadn’t cramped her hopeful disposition.

She was greeted at the Hotel reception by a giggling Christina, fluttering her long fake lashes at Vince. Everyone flutters their eyelashes at Vince, fake or otherwise. They couldn’t help themselves. He was a sub 30 beast of a man with an innocent charm and contagious laugh. There was a warmth to Vince that drew you in; ladies either wanted to screw him or mother him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t particularly bright, though it made him adorably naïve—probably why Cat leaned more towards the mothering.

The admin office was tucked behind the main reception desk. Vince, having noticed Cat from his perch behind the desk, gallantly threw open the office door. Cat appreciated the gentlemanly gesture, particularly as the door itself swung directly into a surprised Tony, knocking the cup of hot coffee from his hand and drowning his bright white shirt in scolding brown liquid. Tony’s fury halted her emerging chuckle. She didn’t envy Vince right now.

“For fuck’s sake Vin!” he said at angry-dad volume. “What’s the bloody emergency?!”

“Sorry, boss. Was just opening the door for Cat, didn’t know you were in there,” he said, noticing Tony glaring at Cat now.

“Yes, I was in there listening to you two gossiping for the last half hour. Haven’t you got any clients?” It was more of an accusation than a question, especially now that Cat had been pinned for Christina’s insolence. His eyes narrowed while he shook coffee from his fingers.

Vinny was looking desperately remorseful. “I’m really sorry… I’ll grab the mop. Hope your shirt’s alright!”

Tony raised his eyes and stared at Vince. “Hope my bloody shirt’s alright? It’s a shirt. I’m sure it’ll get over it, unlike me who will have to spend the rest of the morning nursing burns and stinking like a Starbucks stock room!”

Vince, still holding the door, caught a supportive wink from Cat, now sidling her way past Tony.

“Let’s be honest, there are worst things you could smell of,” Vince said, knowingly throwing fuel on the fire. 

In an attempt to defuse the situation—and her about-to-explode boss— Cat chimed in “And anyway, you’ve got a spare shirt hanging out back.”

With that she gently clamped onto Tony’s elbow and led him back through the door into the small room. The closing door did nothing to stifle the echoing giggles from Christina, nor Cat’s mental images of poor Vin rushing around, frantically searching for a mop-bucket.

“Great. Just bloody great. Look at me!” he growled, gesturing towards the offensive stain, causing Cat to focus on his broad shoulders and solid chest. She felt an uncontrollable grin slipping from the corner of her mouth.

“I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss,” she said, putting those mothering skills to use. “You always have a change of clothes lying around. This place is practically your walk-in wardrobe.”

Cat opened the storage cupboard at the back of the office, knowing full well Tony kept his possessions there. She could hear a rustle of clothes behind her and knew he was slipping out of his jacket; the buttons rattled as it carelessly hit the desk. She lingered in the cupboard’s dim light, hearing the rub of silk as he slid off his tie, huffing at the sheer inconvenience of it all. Locating a pale blue cotton Hugo Boss shirt, Cat grabbed the hanger and turned to hand it to him. Tony was fiddling with his top button, oblivious to the eyes watching his fingers as they tugged in frustration. Wanting desperately to offer a helping hand Cat resisted the urge, amused by his futile attempts. Thinking better of it, she lay the shirt on the desk.

Straining his neck and glaring directly at the ceiling light, Tony finally popped open the button. Undoing the remainder of them was comparably effortless. Cat stood transfixed, watching as, inch by inch, Tony’s bare chest exposed itself. She became acutely aware that his eyes were no longer on the light above—they were now on her. Bollocks!! Feeling the heat rise in her cheeks and unavoidably blushing, she cursed her hungry eyes for not looking away in time. 

A beeping phone hidden in her bag offered welcome relief, granting the perfect excuse to busy herself and ignore Tony’s ingratiating face. She played with her phone, glad for the distraction.

It was a picture message from Jay. A photo of the fanciest looking eggs-on-toast Cat had ever seen, garnished with a generous portion of parsley.  

Jay: Dinner and Breakfast lol!!!

She laughed, knowing Insommnia77! was likely alluding to the fact that he’d gotten lucky last night—and the lucky lady had stayed long enough to deserve eggs. The distraction gave Cat the moments needed to compose herself.

“Oooooooh… New fella, eh?” Tony nosed, his shirt still undone and hanging temptingly from his shoulders. Why haven’t you changed, already???

“What makes you think it’s a man?” rebutted Cat. “Could be my mum. Or the girls.”

He raised his perfect eyebrows. “No one laughs like that when it’s their Mum. The way you’re grinning it’s definitely a fella.” 

Was she grinning? Possibly—with sheer relief at being distracted from the increasingly awkward tension in the room. Luckily the blushing had ceased, but she still couldn’t bring herself to look him in the eye—or any other of his body parts for that matter. Would you just get changed already!!

Tony moved towards her and perched next to the monitor, ankles crossed and arms folded. Jesus Christ his pecks bulged. The hairs on his arms only boosted his natural, manly magnetism. As the shirt hung from his partially naked frame, Cat was close enough to smell that familiar Armani aftershave she so adored. She forced her eyes to stay glued to the phone. Why was he sitting so bloody close? Why did he have to smell so damn good? And why was it getting so hot in here…

She tugged at the shirt lying on the desk. Tony was sitting on the sleeve, forcing him to shift position and stand up.

“Hadn’t you better get changed and stop being so bloody nosy?” Cat was clearly agitated. “Surely, you have better things to do than wind me up for the rest of the morning.”

“What?!” He’d spit out his coffee if he had any left. “It’s not my fault Vince threw the bloody door at me!”

“You’re such a princess.”

“It was really bloody hot, actually!” he whined, slightly more than she’d expected him to. “Seriously, I’m fucking wounded and it’s all your fault.”

“Err… what?” she shot back. “How’s it my fault?! Explain.”

“That boy goes all soft when he sees you. His attempts to win your approval almost cost me third-degree burns!” Now he was being dramatic.

”For fuck’s sake, there’s…” Tony’s naked chest caught her off guard throwing her off sentence, when she finally looked up again continued. “there’s nothing there…”

“I’m not making it up,” he said, sliding the rest of the shirt completely off his shoulders and freeing the cuffs. He was now completely naked from the midriff up and as hard as Cat tried she couldn’t help but take in every perfect inch. This was far too intimate; he was far too close. Surely, Tony could hear the crescendo of drums building in her chest. His torso was sun-bed tanned and Cat’s eyes scanned his naked flesh from rippling ab to rock solid peck to those heavyset deltoids and… Oh feck it… there actually was a mild red blemish on his right shoulder; maybe he was, in truth, ever so slightly wounded. She felt a pang of guilt over her assumption that his ranting was nothing more than petty attention seeking. With difficulty, Cat collected herself. 

“Looks like you’re gonna need a skin graft. Hang on…” she joked, shaking her head and standing up to grab a cooling pack from the first-aid box. Unfortunately, the box was next to Tony’s gym bag, stuffed in the back of the storage cupboard, with a semi-naked Tony stood between her and it. 

Her intentions were genuinely innocent. But now she stood facing her topless boss, close enough to touch if he didn’t move out of the way. He looked mildly surprised by her advance; he’d clearly been teasing her with his half open shirt but wasn’t expecting to find himself in such a compromising position. It was too close. She could feel his breath on her face, neck. Their eyes momentarily locked, Cat’s breath stuck, burning in her chest. Why was he not moving? Why was she not moving. WHY THE FUCK WAS NOBODY MOVING?!

Fortunately, a flustered Vince fell through the door with a mop and bucket, focused on the job at hand and clearing up the earlier spillage.

Tony blinked his dark eyes, still locked on hers. He didn’t jump at Vince’s sudden intrusion. He remained where he stood, motionless, stalling her escape. Cat broke from their mutual gaze first. Putting her hand out to balance as she manoeuvred herself past Tony’s naked frame, her hand planted itself on his skin. The hurried action caught Cat off guard, though Tony grabbed her resting hand in an attempt to steady her. And he didn’t let go, not until she was fully past him and reaching for the doors behind. He released her hand allowing her to open the doors in search of the first-aid box.

Looking up from the floor and nearly finished with his janitorial duties, Vince noticed topless Tony. “Mate, if you can’t find a shirt I got a spare in the Instructors Office.” He was still trying to make amends for coffee-gate.

“Nah, you’re alright,” Tony said, still fixated on Cat. “Just getting one now.”

Cat found the pack and passed it to Tony. His exposed torso didn’t bother Vince. Working around the gym meant you quickly became accustomed to a certain level of nudity. Besides, it wasn’t the first time Cat had found herself in the cramped office with a scantily clad instructor. They were always rushing around from class to PT session, using her office to change into fresher clothes in the interim. Sometimes she wondered if they all considered her office an extension of their changing room. This time, however, was the first time she’d borne witness to her bare-chested boss. 

Tony was seated at the opposite desk, ice-pack resting on his increasingly less impressive burns. 

Vince noticed the pack. “Shit, you alright?”

“Yeah Vin, don’t worry,” Tony replied, feeling less sorry for himself. “Cat’s just making a fuss is all.”

BLOODY men, now it was her making a fuss. Only moments before, Tony was bitching about third degree burns. His testosterone-heavy alpha male gene had obviously kicked in, defending his need to attend to the mild—but still apparently existing—burn. Whatever!! She switched on her computer, desperate to find something to think about that had nothing to do with the last few minutes.

Tony reached for the clean shirt, carelessly tossing away the cooling pack and finally getting dressed. Cat pretended not to notice his every movement. He didn’t bat an eyelid at her. Instead, he snatched up a bottle of disinfectant and some blue roll from the side, then assisted Vince in cleaning up the last of the coffee from the door. Tony wedged the door open for the floor to dry and Vince disappeared, returning with a bright yellow warning sign.

With the floor gleaming, and any evidence of the earlier crime now covered up, Tony turned to Cat. His face was tight and his eyes troubled. He attempted a smile but it was awkward and uncomfortable. He left the office to catch an update from Christina. Cat could hear them discussing today’s duties at the reception desk. 

She felt numb.

CHAPTER 11 – Married Men and Mermaids 

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK WAS THAT?? The question tumbled round her head. So much was wrong with the last five minutes. Her mind was jumbled. She tried desperately to untangle the mess, mentally listing all the issues she had with it, in an attempt to make sense of the feeling that something fairly significant had just transpired between her and her friend-slash-boss-slash-married-man-slash absolute dick!

a) He was her friend: crossing the line between friendship and anything sexual was usually always complicated. Naturally, this lead to a question: can you ever really be friends with someone from the opposite sex? Doesn’t it all just get convoluted at some point? Until earlier she truly believed that intersex friendships were absolutely possible. Now she wasn’t so sure.

b) They worked together: interoffice relationships are usually a disaster as you rarely have any escape from the other person. They become suffocating, conversation becomes limited and the relationship evolves into nothing but work.

c) He was her boss: Cat was certain that that made it practically illegal, according to the company policy work book. Thou shalt not shag boss under penalty of death and your P45 being issued immediately. OK, maybe she was being a touch dramatic now; probably grafted by her recent, frantic binge of the latest GOT season.

d) He was a dick: he was a complete, self-assured bastard who clearly thought Cat had ulterior motives towards him. He didn’t deserve her time or attention. Like, ever! e) And most importantly… HE WAS FUCKING MARRIED! This was, by far, her biggest issue. She had morals and a girl code and believed to her very core that if a guy wore a ring, back the FUCK off! She grabbed her mental highlighter and circled the last point several times in luminous pink.

No matter how many points and rationalisations there were as to why she shouldn’t have anything to do with Tony though, there was one factor she just couldn’t get around; one, simple factor that made all the other very valid points really kinda blurry:

a) Chemistry That bugger blew holes in any reasoning and complicated the shit out of her now apparent situation.

Maybe she had been in denial or slightly naive to the growing closeness between them. But it was staring her in the face now. There was only one thing to do: sell her house, run away, leave the country and pledge her allegiance to the Night’s Watch. Because there was no way she was EVER going against her integrity. He was married—equals: OUT OF BOUNDS. End of. Even if Beth was a Lannister-worthy epic bitch. Still, no. Logged in and set up, Cat waited for the ridiculously slow internet connection to display her Outlook messages. With the office door wedged open she could hear the conversation coming from the front desk. Christina’s Slovakian tones had obviously moved on from the day’s objectives. She had a talent for taking conversations from important issues to complete nonsense in a heartbeat.

“I vatched this amaaazing documentary last night, Blue Planet,”Christina regaled.

“Love that shit! It’s well relaxing but some of them fish look proper evil—you know them weird ones that live right at the bottom? Look like aliens…” Vince was obviously client free and bored. Cat was surprised Tony hadn’t sent him back to the gym for a deep clean already.

“I tink I vould love to be a fish, just svimming all day, no clients making stress at me…” Christina wistfully romanced, in as close to english as she could manage. “Tony if you vere a fish, vhat fish vould you be and vhy?”

Cat was inwardly grinning, she knew this was the type of mind-numbing chit-chat that drove Tony mental. She wished she could see his face right now.

“Actually Chrissy, I’ve never thought about being a fish, thanks,” he said , sounding as unwilling to participate in Christina’s fishy fantasies as Cat suspected he would. “Nor would I! I imagine it’d be bloody cold and you’d spend your whole life trying not to get eaten by bigger fish…”

Christina, not perturbed by Tony’s curt response, addressed the question to a more accommodating Vince. “Vhat about you Vince, vhat fish vould you be?” Vince put some serious thought into his answer. “Errr… hmmmm… crocodile.”

A rather enthusiastic Christina agreed: “You vould be a great crocodile.”

“Uhh… hello?” Tony chimed in, suddenly ready to shoot the poor idiot down again. “I hate to put a dampener on your fantasies, Vince, but a crocodile isn’t a fish.”

Christina ignored Tony’s cutting interruption, and carried on. “Tony, I Tink if you ver a fish you vould be a killer vhale. You’d be a gooood vhale, very strong. Eating all the little fishes.”

Cat openly laughed and couldn’t wait for Tony’s reply in the full knowledge that this entire conversation would be grating against his over inflated ego. Of course, his reply was dry and sarcastic:

“Thanks. It’s great to know you think I’d make a good whale, Christina, but…” he paused, probably trying to control his escalating frustration, “a whale—isn’t—a fish.” His voice had risen an octave higher.

Vince and Christina were enjoying the discussion too much to let their grumpy manager shit all over it. In fact, his grumpiness only made it more entertaining. Christina called through to Cat who was on the verge of giggling hysterically. “Vhat fish vould you be, Cat?”

Without hesitation Cat replied. “A dolphin, sweetie.” She had every intention of fuelling Tony’s fiery temperament.

“Ooohh, good vone! I looove dolphins,” Christina declared, her Eastern-European accent sounding thicker than ever. Tony’s response was quick:

“Did you just say a dolphin?! Caaat, seriously… a bloody dolphin?! You’re all idiots. A DOLPHIN—IS NOT—A FISH… sweetie.”

Vince weighed in.“What fish would you be, Chrissy?” There was a pause. Everyone waited in silence for her reply…

“Hmmm… a mermaid.”

“Fuck me! Are you… are you actually joking?” Tony stammered in defiant indignation. “Chrissy, a crocodile is a semiaqutic reptile and—and not a fish. Whales and dolphins are mammals so, again—not a fish.” He took a breath before continuing, apparently trying not to lose his mind over the ocean of nonsense he was currently drowning in. “And I’m fairly certain that a sodding mermaid is also not a bloody fish! Not to mention the inescapable fact that mermaids aren’t even real. Not real and therefore not fish. And if they were, they’d probably, technically, be a mammals! Although, seeing as they can apparently also live on land, according to every bloody film ever made about mermaids, they’d probably reside in the amphibian category!”—he was caught in an argument with himself, now,—“On the other hand… if mermaids had gills and could breath under water, possibly laying eggs rather than giving birth to whole merbabies, then… maybe they would be fucking fish. Christ, why am I encouraging a conversation about the genetic makeup of a mythical bloody being and … and, and… now I’m confused as to whether a mermaid is a fucking fish or not!!”

He was beaten. Beaten by his own ‘superior’ intellect, more than anything. “I … I can’t do this, you lot are driving me bonkers. I’m done. Chrissy if you want to be a mermaid, be a mermaid. You’d probably make a very lovely one. Vince, go and sort out the Instructors Office, it’s a bloody mess. For fuck’s sake… fucking mermaids…”

He stormed in to Cat’s office, semi-slamming the door behind him. As he scrunched the bridge of his nose between is fingers, taking a deep breath in and letting it out with an elongated woooooph, Cat tried to compose herself and wipe the giggly-grin off her face. It disappeared completely when it dawned on her that Tony was in her office again. And the door was closed.

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Immediately the jovial atmosphere created by Chrissy’s amusing inquisition was shattered by the clunk of the door as it swung shut, cutting off Cat’s blood flow in the process and sapping all the oxygen out of the room. Tony backed up against the wall, obviously flustered with the morning’s antics until he noticed Cat watching him. She had truly believed that the compromising flirtation before Vince’s intrusion had passed, hoped it was something to be laughed off and forgotten. Tony’s expression suggested something entirely different.

For the second time today she was struggling to breath. The already small office seemed to be shrinking around her. Her mind raced. Had she suddenly developed claustrophobia for no apparent reason? Only there was a reason. A perfectly good, and equally bad reason: it had just burst into the office, angry and frustrated.

Her desperation not to giggle at his scarlet flushed cheeks was almost unbearable. She wanted laughter’s sweet relief, wanted to brush the last twenty minutes away under a blanket of chuckles and forget all about the ever-growing tension in the room. Tony glared at her but she didn’t sense anger. It was something else; something she couldn’t put her finger on.

Someone needed to say something, anything. Before she had the chance to think up a decent tension breaker, Tony was already coming her way, manoeuvring around the desk. Was it frustration, pure testosterone or something else driving his advances? Fuck, what was he doing?! Cat’s heart waspalpitating now which didn’t help her newfound claustrophobia. For a fleeting moment she considered that it could be the menopause making a sudden strike and almost prayed that it was; she couldn’t bare the thought of these hot flushes and explosive hormones having anything to do with this arrogant, undeserving, married prick.

And now he stood towering over her, inches away, fixed and predatory. She was frozen, caught in the gaze of those dark, sultry, shamefully wanting eyes. The heat rose in her cheeks, uncontrollably. Her lip stung; she hadn’t realised that she’d been biting it hard, transfixed and waiting for Tony’s next move. She could no longer deny the desire, the ache growing between her thighs. And still he stared her down, motionless. Please, God, let this be menopause!

Her eyes swept across his body, the thought of his beautiful torso corrupting her senses; his earlier, playful grin now replaced with something more hungry. She prayed he wouldn’t get any closer. Yet, with each passing second his power over her grew until she found herself praying that he would get closer, that he’d take hold of her, sweeping her desk clear of discarded stationary, giving her room to perch so she could wrap her legs around him as they embraced. She prayed for something deeply passionate and immoral. She craved it.

Her moral compass spun rapidly but despite the overwhelming temptation, she couldn’t allow it. It felt like an eternity since the bloody door had closed.

Like his grin, Tony’s surprise at her unintentional advances only minutes ago was substituted for a masculine determination. His gaze oozed of suggestion but he was clearly conflicted himself. He wouldn’t really go through with it, would he? Here? In their office? Now? Where had this sudden change come from? Earlier they were playing, yes; flirting, absolutely; teasing, for sure. But nothing could ever happen between them. That would be so wrong. So gloriously wrong. So wrong it was making her wet trying not to think about it. Shit, she wanted him to kiss her. Her inner turmoil and undeniable longing was making her dizzy and she was still no closer to knowing what the fuck was actually happening. Should she slap him? Would that only stoke his coals? Should she kiss him? Just a little kiss, just enough to quench her thirsty curiosity—and then slap him?

Fucking move!

Her eyes continued scanning his body, scrolling over his chest, neck, chin and beckoning lips before finally resting on those lashing, brooding, hypnotic eyes. And still he didn’t budge. What had come over him in the eighteen seconds that had passed since the door had closed? Cat had expected an angry Tony, reeling from his braindead chit chat with Vin and Chrissy. She was prepared for a self-assured, piss-taking Tony, wanting to reinforce his superior intellect regarding dolphins and mermaids. She had hoped for him, her friend, to simply laugh off the morning’s mind-numbing antics and somehow rationalise his behaviour over the last few months.

Instead, she found herself suddenly confronted with a man her loins longed for; a confident, solid, towering statue of a man whose intentions were as perplexing as they were thrilling. There was no hope of Vince saving her this time, no hope at all. Tony had sent him to clean up his room like a berated child. No heroic, stupid Vince. No one to hear her scream. By God, she wanted to scream. Her shallow breaths matched the motionless man’s as the pair stood awaiting some kind of divine intervention.

She encouraged words to come but they’d lodged themselves in her throat. The slightest quiver of her lips as she tried seemed enough to break the spell though. He moved towards her with slow assertion. He looked starved, ready to devour his feast, his intentions finally clear; the tip of his tongue glossing his lips in preparation for the ensuing malevolence.

In that moment, Cat knew that if his lips brushed hers she wouldn’t stop him. In that instant she wanted nothing more than to glisten them with her own soft tongue. His mouth was close enough to taste his breath. His hand moved to steady himself on the desk as he brought himself even closer. She couldn’t endure another tentatively excruciating second of waiting and leaned in towards him, closing her eyes in desperate anticipation. And…


Cat’s lids fluttered open. Tony was no longer looking at her. Instead, his mouth hovered, mere inches away. Lips tight, face screwed up in angst. His head shook in defiance, eyes shut tight. When he opened them again, they’d shifted from Cat to the desk beside her where they remained fixed for a while. Tony thumped the desk with an almost terrifying crash. He was obviously flustered. A second later he had something clutched in his hand.

“M-my… my shirt,” he stammered. “I… left it on your desk.” 

Cat’s eyes focused on the hand. Scrunched in a ball was the soiled, coffee-drenched rag that was once his nice, clean shirt. 

“I just… came to get my shirt,” he said with sheepish defeat. With that, he turned his back, face buried in his palm and walked away.

What the fuck? What the actual fuck?! She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream and slap him—slap him for real this time, not because he wasn’t behaving himself but because he was. She wanted him with every ounce of her aching flesh now. With knickers on fire and loins throbbing, she wanted him desperately. After everything Cat had told herself, all her rationalising, even the weird willingness for menopause, she wanted to be kissed. The reality of the situation hit her: it wasn’t her that had the strength and sense to pull away. It was him. She had been left wanting and deeply confused.

Tony sat down at his desk, hidden from view behind the monitor. She was grateful for it; glad he couldn’t see the tears now stinging her eyes. His hammering away at the keyboard like nothing had happened was whirling her emotions into a frenzy. The frantic, angry tapping was too much to bare, confined as they both were in that suffocating room. She needed a distraction, something to drone out the noise of the last minute now playing on loop in her brain. Reaching for her phone, lost in thought and in dire need of support, she messaged Jay,

Cat: Shit Day. Totally shit day…

Nothing. No blue ticks. Only a solitary grey one. Not even the message could seem to escape the room. Fuck it. Her next attempt was to Nick. Perhaps Nick could distract her. The rules of dating didn’t concern her right now. She didn’t care that the last message in their thread had been hers. She simply needed something or someone to occupy her headspace.

Cat: So now you’ve seen my uber sexy underwear when we going out?

This time the message had connected; two grey ticks. But they remained grey. As Cat’s desperate search for distraction grew, awareness of the room’s intensity grew with it, the silence so loud it was screaming at her. She couldn’t think straight, consumed as she was with frustrated humiliation. Her fingers continued fiddling with the phone when Tony broke through the deafening quiet.

“Catherine,” he began, as if he was about to offer her the sincerest of apologies which would certainly have eased her plight. “Haven’t you got anything better to do than fuck about with your phone?”

Ouch! His words stung like an open wound doused in vinegar and tabasco sauce. ‘Catherine’? He had never called her that before, never been so rudely formal. Was he really choosing to scold her right now? In their four years of friendship he had never scolded her for anything. Never had his words been so White Walker ice cold. He even used that tone he saves for people he considered inferior. It was just too much; the proverbial straw had broken this very sad and completely gutted camel, legs akimbo, praying for death. She couldn’t dam the silent tears and had to escape. She was wounded, dumbstruck and utterly annihilated. She hated him. And she hated herself even more.

She sprang from her seat, sniffling, making a beeline for the door. Tony looked at her briefly as she went, clearly seeing her red face and puffy eyes. A knowing flush of realisation washed over him accompanied by instant regret for his thoughtlessness. With a pained and remorseful look, he finally offered that apology as she hurtled to the exit, though it was truly pathetic and feeble.

“Cat, hun… look, I’m really… I’m sorry.” But it was too late. She was gone.

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Cat burst from her office, fighting back the tears already glossing her eyes, ready to cry. In the same moment she careened into Chrissy swigging back a big gulp from her coffee cup which inevitably flew away from her, splashing its contents all over the reception desk. Chrissy stood from her chair to face off to the crazed hooligan, expecting to see Tony. Her anger faded immediately when she realised it wasn’t him. One look at her dishevelled colleague told her everything she needed to know. Solidarity took over and without saying a word, she reached inside her handbag, pulled out her cigarettes and handed them to Cat who accepted them with apologetic grace. Still no words were uttered between them. Chrissy gave Cat’s arm a comforting little squeeze and scowled through the wall at tony before gesturing her away. Cat offered a puffy eyed and tight-lipped, trembly smile before practically running for the back dock, tears already streaming. As she punched through the door, she faintly heard Chrissy voice on a radio inside. All manager carried a walkie talkie to allow for easy communication throughout the hotel.  

Dis is staff announcement. Vinny please to come back to reception. That’s Vinnie please to come back to reception. Coffee everywhere again. Thank you.” 

Under normal circumstances the visual image of poor Vinny being tuned into communal janitor would have amused Cat, but not today. As soon as she met the outside air, she lit the first cigarette. Fortunately, the docking bay was vacant; no one around to spoil her self-indulgent, pitiful loathing. The pained girl needed to decompress, to register the events of the morning. Mostly, she just needed to cry. These were tears of frustration, tears of sheer hurt and not just for what had happened minutes earlier. These were tears pent up from a year of tragic emptiness; tears for every lonely moment, for the reality of her single life trials and failings, for the struggles of the hard days and the long nights of solitude; tears cried by women the world over for something they so desperately wanted but couldn’t and, apparently, shouldn’t have. They were tears for the promise of something fulfilling, something good, however wrong the situations; however empty the promise of hope.

She felt simply wretched. She despised herself for being so pathetically overwhelmed with emotion, for being so weak. Her self-loathing and regret—almost willing to break her own integrity and crossing the line with Tony—devoured her insides. How dare she not be stronger, not resist temptation and pull away from that arsehole. And for what? For his solid, sculpted shoulders? His artistically chiseled jaw? She hated herself. She hated him. She was furious at him, at every man who had ever made her feel so broken, so hollow. In fact, FUCK THEM ALL,  every goddam one of them. Fuck every man that had ever lived. She’d been letting her emotions pull her into the depths of the dramatic again.

She exhaled a feeble cloud of smoke that she’d had trouble sucking in in the first place. She took a deep breath of fresh air and unleashed the full force of her remorse, soaking her sleeve as she sobbed into her elbow. She’d even started making that noise she makes when she cries uncontrollably, which she probably wouldn’t have if she’d noticed one of the cooks stepping through the loading dock doors with two bags of rubbish, stopping in his tracks when he saw her and reversing back out of view where it was safe. 

Minutes passed before, the storm finally started to calm. The bottled up tears had bubbled out all over her and the concrete. She felt almost drained of them and now that sweet, post-cry euphoria began filling the void they’d left behind.

Poor Cat stubbed her depleted fag-butt out on the wall and flicked it at the nearby drain. She eased herself down onto the edge of the dock, sniffling. She hated the tears but the magnitude of today’s events had officially made her ‘ugly cry’. Oh how she wished to be a pretty crier like the heartbreakingly beautiful women in movies, instead of some grotesque swamp monster with a lucid nose in desperate need of Kleenex. A quick rummage through her pockets confirmed the distinct lack of tissues. Her sleeves would have to do. She didn’t care.

Why was life so damned complicated? Did it really need to be this hard? Ironically, in times like this she would normally turn to Tony for unsympathetic advice. Cat could always rely on him to say something amusingly unhelpful along the lines of ‘Cat, go grab a big fat pint of man-the-fuck-up juice and sort yourself out’. While his words were usually harsh, his hugs were warm and comforting. She knew, deep down, he did have a soul and he did care, however shite he was at expressing it. So it was made all the worse that this time he was the trigger of this biblical flood of tears and not the one to wipe them away.

She sparked another cigarette, this time taking in a full, glorious drag. As she exhaled, still whimpering, she considered the prospect of spending the rest of her life alone. Maybe it was time to accept her entire existence was going to be one long quest to somehow find the strength to be alone, to die alone, to manage the magnitude of raising two wonderful but exhausting children alone. She quivered a teary tremor in the realisation that somehow, for the kids, she was going to have to find the strength to master single life.

She probably should have cried years ago. Trying to be strong all the time just didn’t allow for it, according to the Rule Book For Modern Women which, if it had existed, Cat thought, would probably have been written by a man. She felt pride for making it as far as she could, but sadness for not being able to hug herself better. It’s okay, Cat… It’s okay… You’re allowed to cry in front of me… I won’t judge…

So she allowed them to trickle, just a little more. Just enough to satisfy the aftershocks, still rumbling around her gut. Her racing, jumbled thoughts were steadying, clearing. These were tears just for her now. 

Cat took another long, hard, minty pull. She knew she would regret it later but that was later’s problem. Right now her desire for clarity and the rush of nicotine outweighed her common sense and fear of cancer…. Hell, she’d made some seriously bad decisions today, so what difference was one more?

She looked at Chrissy’s lighter. It was a black zippo with the words ‘zero fucks’ on the front. It reminded her of Chrissy’s first week at the hotel when she’d announced she didn’t like hearing people saying ‘zero fucks’ all the time because she liked foxes and couldn’t understand why people were still so adamant about ridding the countryside of them. After much mutual amusement from the rest of the team, it was eventually broken down and explained to her. Vinnie had the lighter made and they’d been pretty much best buds since. Cat chuckled through her puffy eyes and remembered the kindness she’d just been shown. She figured she might need to go and ask if Chrissy had a shirt she could borrow too. And she definitely wouldn’t be changing in the office.

Nearing the end of this second cigarette, ‘later’ reared its ugly head. Rational thought was slapping her in the face. The decision was hers to smoke or not to smoke; the decision to burst into tears in public; the decision to get hot under the collar with Tony. She could tell herself that each decision wasn’t really a decision at all but an uncontrollable impulse she couldn’t fight, a succession of events that all started when Vinnie spilt that fucking coffee. She could tell herself that, but that was the easy way out. Maybe it was time to take control of her decisions, to actually be smarter about things, to be better at being strong; to know what true strength really was. It was time to take her life back. Sure, life can be complicated and cruel and paint you into corners you actively try to avoid. You can’t control the shit life throws at you, only the decisions you make on how to deal with its constant trials. But the path you choose should be yours and yours alone. Right now, Cat accepted that her emotions were winning and a smoke fuelled epiphany wasn’t going to suddenly make her the pillar of strength she needed. It was a start though.

Past experiences flashed before her, reminding her that all this self-pity wouldn’t last. It didn’t come naturally to Cat. It was time to collect her thoughts, be awfully British and pull herself together. But what would really help right now would be a bloody good distraction. She wanted something positive to help focus her energies.

The universe must have been listening and finally taken pity on this ridiculous, drenched swamp monster. As if answering her prayers, her phone pinged. She snatched at the device in her pocket, fumbling the cigarette and lighter in the process. Finally, she retrieved it and opened the message:

Nick: About bloody time! I thought you’d never ask 👍

Cat: You mean my exotic underwear hasn’t frightened you off?

Nick: TBH I didn’t know ‘exotic’ came in prison grey! Personally, I’m more into avocado green.

She giggled. It felt good to giggle. Well, it was more of wobbly snort than a giggle but it was just what she needed. Thank you, Universe! Maybe a night with this attractive man was exactly what the universe wanted for her. A reward for her struggle. Of course it could be a test to see if she’d actually learnt anything but, again, that would be later’s problem.

Cat: That actually made me smile 😊 

Nick: I like the idea of that, you smiling. Think I’d like it even more in the real world. So when you free?

Cat: How about this weekend?

Nick: Perfect. Shall we say Saturday night? Somewhere local? I always like to stay local on a first date. you know, for safety. For all I know, you could be a creepy weirdo who only wants to get in my knickers! I might need a quick escape!

Cat rolled her eyes and chuckled again. It was probably prudent to think about safety but she didn’t feel threatened enough by this silly, charming boy. All she really wanted was something positive and fun and Nick seemed the perfect outlet to tap into for that. She’d processed enough, cried enough. And enough was simply enough. So she took a deep breath, fed on his positivity and attempted some amusement of her own.

Cat: Great. 8pm?  and bring your dancing shoes 😉 

Nick: Ballet or tap? 

Cat: Surprise me

Nick: OK I’ll bring one of each. And don’t forget your prison grey underwear. Or beige! Nothing sexier than beige 😂

Maybe she should have given more thought before answering but, so caught up in her need to forget about Tony, to be anywhere and with anyone that could push him out of her head entirely, she had taken the leap and couldn’t wait. Nick was the desperately desired distraction she so craved. With one more cheeky impulse, she typed a final reply:

Cat: Who says I’ll be wearing any underwear at all?

And with that, Cat had sealed the deal: she was going on an actual date. Oh fuckity-fuck. 

Chapter 14Jason Statham, Tom Hardy or Danny Dyer

Owing to a disastrous hair mishap, Lizzie had made everyone late for the school run. “I thought it was that mousse stuff you use, Mummy,” she panicked, Gillette can in hand and covered in shaving foam. Cat skipped over the eye-rolling and child berating and moved straight to changing Lizzie’s top, giving her a quick rinse and performing the fastest, tidiest hair plait in history. Thirty seconds later they were out the door. She told herself it might be time to teach her daughter about hair products at some point in the not too distant future; chiefly that they weren’t cheap.

Leanne was waiting at the school gate, ready for her and Cat’s regular Wednesday aqua-class, followed naturally by the obligatory coffee, cake and weekly catch up. Now that the kids were dropped off, they could get on with more important, infinitely less stressful stuff.

Their sports bags shoved in the boot on top of two scooters and a buggy, Cat hopped in the passenger side of Lee’s Subaru. Lee loved her fast cars and when the kids’ seats were empty, her foot got noticeably heavier. The girls had missed the last few gossip sessions due to work commitments, so it wasn’t long before Lee started demanding updates.

 “Well? Don’t hold back,” she initiated as the school and all parental responsibility disappeared behind them, the rest of the world whizzing by in a streaky blur. “What’s happening with Tony?”

“He’s a dick is what’s happening. Been acting weird all week and I can’t even be bothered to think about him right now.” This was true. Cat was sick of running yesterday’s events through her mind on repeat. She’d eventually forced herself to start thinking about other things. One of those things was made apparent as a naughty grin twitched itself into life on her face. “Besides, I’ve got something way more interesting to show you when we get out.”

“What?!” demanded Lee, focused fully on Cat and not the oncoming traffic. “What you been up to? Let me see!”

“Not a bloody chance hun. Keep your eyes on the road for chrissake! If I show you this you’ll crash and kill us both and I have important things to do this week.”

Lee’s eyes widened with intrigue and over-exaggerated praise. “Good Girl! Tell me everything. I want all the details, especially the naughty ones.”

The pair were still laughing as the car pulled in to the parking bay. Although all Regal employees had free use of the hotel gym, Cat preferred to avoid the place on her days off and, after recent events, was reminded that her £25 monthly fee was money well spent.

The changing rooms were way too busy for the conversation they were both dying to share so it turned instead to more practical matters like birthday party arrangements and MOT’s. A quick change, then into the pool for forty-five minutes of leg crunches to a classic eighties soundtrack. Class finished and after getting a few lengths out of the way, Cat was finally starting to relax. For some reason, splashing about like a tit to golden oldies had made her feel better. She bobbed in the pool watching Lee, very impressed and slightly envious. Her friend was elegant in the water, gliding effortlessly with a front crawl. Cat could swim but nowhere near as gracefully.

“You gotta teach me how to do that,” she said as Lee finished another length and joined her at the pool wall.

“It’s simple, babes. It’s all in the arm action: you need a firm wrist and even strokes,” Lee smouldered at Cat in jest as she demonstrated. Cat attempted to mimic her bent arm with minimal splash hopelessly.

“We’ll have to work on your aerodynamics, you look like a drowning mutt. One that needs to be put out of its misery.”


“It’s gotta be smooth, hun. Sexy. You have to glide.” Lee drifted in the water. “Come on, a few more lengths.”

“Nah, you’re alright. Think I’m done,” scoffed Cat as she clumsily dragged herself out of the pool. Then watched in admiration as her beautifully curvy friend did the same thing in the style of Ursula Andress. “Steam room?”

It was a no brainer; the steam room was an excellent idea and fortunately for them, it was currently empty. Lee closed the door behind them and pressed the ‘on’ button. Alone in the wet heat they could finally get back to the conversation they’d been waiting for.

“So come on then,” said Lee, getting comfy. “What’s going on? Tony out the window already?”

“Yep. Actually, I wish I’d literally pushed him out the window,” Cat said, rolling her eyes and quickly changing the subject. “So here’s the jest: it turns out that some men on dating sites have nothing better to do than send me pictures of their dicks.”

Lee laughed.

“One bloke sent me a pic of himself completely naked in chains with his dick in a vice the other week! I’ll show you when we get out. He asked me if I liked the picture.”

“Brilliant.” As far as Lee was concerned this had been worth the wait. “What did you say?”

“I told him no not really but with better lighting and a different angle he could improve the artistic integrity of the piece. I sent the message, took a screenshot and blocked him. To be honest though, his ‘piece’ was freakishly huge. You’d have to see it to believe it.”

“Well, I look forward to believing it later then,” chuckled Lee, eagerly.

“That’s not the bloody worst of it!” Cat continued. “There was this one guy I was chatting to a few weeks back; seemed really nice. Then I get a voice note on the app. Hot Irish accent. So I’m thinking maybe I’ll meet him. Honestly, Lee, I thought he was really sweet at first but as the chats went on he starts leaving me messages asking me how wet I was getting! Then, out of nowhere, he asked if I’d like to meet and what I thought about strap ons, practically in the same sentence. Fucking STRAP ONS!”

Lee lost control and started laughing so hard she nearly weed herself. It was infectious too. Cat could hardly talk through her own giggling, struggling to finish the sentence in her best Queen’s English.

“Obviously, I politely declined his offer and explained that I prefer to wait till the third date to hammer a gentleman in his arsehole.”

 Lee was already wiping tears from her eyes watching Cat’s scrunched up face in dismay.

Leaving the steam room, still chuckling, the girls headed over to the showers. The changing room was full again, breaking the conversation and forcing them to mute their girly giggles. They showered and changed, nattering away about the angst of post-swim hair, especially when the only tool available was a crappy hairdryer with about as much power as a Chinese hand fan. It was time for coffee.

Up in the cafe, Lee ordered some fruity tea and Cat, a very well deserved caramel Latte with a slice of walnut cake. She was a sucker for the icing. Once seated, neither could resist a sneaky peek at Cat’s phone. Just as Cat was expanding the pic for Lee to get a more detailed look at the vice and it’s enormous occupant, Cat was gifted a message. With an unexpected little flutter of excitement, she opened it and read.

Nick: We still on for saturday?

Cat: Yep! Looking forward to it. BTW I can polish off more than a glass without toppling over. So I might not be as cheap as you think. It was a reference to their previous dialogue about vino and cheap dates, as well as a sly attempt to salvage a little dignity after her throwaway comment about not wearing underwear.

Nick: As long as it’s house wine. I’m not investing in the good stuff till I know for sure you’re not actually a catfish.

Cat: That’s fine with me. We’re sitting near the fire escape till I know for sure you’re not actually a serial killer!

Nick was quick to respond with a Mike Tyson laughing GIF.

Nick: Look, whatever happens it’ll be fun. Haven’t looked forward to meeting someone this much in ages. Normally it feels like you’re just going through the motions, ya know?

The comment made her visibly smile and she was completely unaware of the slight blush starting to spread across her cheeks. Lee clocked it immediately.

“Who was that and what you looking so pleased with yourself for?”

Lee grinned in anticipation of the next rendition of Cat’s text relations.

“Well…” Cat paused for effect, eyebrows raised with an uncontrollable smirk on her face. “I’ve got a date lined up with an extremely hot guy I’ve known for all of five minutes.” She grimaced, waiting for Lee’s inevitable outburst.

“What?! We’ve been here over an hour and you’re only telling me this now?!” She was almost appalled but simultaneously thrilled. “Who is he and how the hell did this happen? Is he really that hot? Show me his bloody profile, pronto!”

Far too pleased with herself, Cat opened the app and scrolled though the multitude of highly boring, minimal-effort messages before she found Nick’s profile. Passing the phone to Lee, she couldn’t help feeling slightly giddy at the sight of his picture and noted how ridiculous it was that a person who so far had only existed in the cyberverse could give her butterflies.

“O-M-G. Seriously, oh my god, he is hot!” Lee nodded, approvingly. “So this is the guy you’re having a dirty date with at the weekend. I’m surprised you came to the bloody gym and aren’t banging on his door instead.”

“Well, hopefully I’ll be banging something of his soon.” It was a cheap comment said solely to amuse her friend but was enough to accidentally trigger her imagination. Lee scrolled through a few more of his photos but Cat kept quiet about the ones he’d sent her directly. Those were for her eyes only. They ran through his profile: six foot three, ‘looking for a challenge’, in management and apparently attracted to grey granny undies. Again the girls burst out laughing, causing heads to turn on the surrounding tables.

“Oy, share the joke!” It was Mel, fellow single-mum and absolute MILF. She was with Emma—happily married to the love of her life, for like-ever—and surprisingly, Chrissy from the Regal. The hotel was a regular hotspot for several mums from the playground; being so close to school and offering convenient hours made it a popular choice for them to have an excuse to hang out or, in some cases, simply escape their husbands.

Chrissy caught her eye and gave her a warm smile, then sat down without uttering a word about yesterday’s drama. Cat was grateful; she was definitely growing on her. It was a group of misfits but that’s sometimes how it works with friends. Sometimes the people who end up closest to you may not have been the ones you’d have picked for your team in PE or even quiz night. Rather it was more an evaluation of logistics; acquaintances that frequently end up in your company and somehow find common ground with you over time. This appeared to be the case with Chrissy. Anyone with enough integrity to not use your misgivings to take centre stage in a conversation was absolutely a person worthy of consideration for any team. Cat decided that next time they were on shift together it was time to buy her a coffee. It was the least she could do.

“Budge up,” Mel said, moving her chair in next to Cat’s while Emma wrestled the largest gym bag on the planet off her shoulder and onto the floor near the table. “Just finished body pump and I’m bloody shattered.”

“What the hell you got in their, girl? A dead body?” Lee shot at Emma.

“It’s all the products I need after the gym, just to look vaguely human again,” Emma said. She was from the posh end of the borough. “The hairdryers here are utterly atrocious so I bring mine from home. My make-up bag alone is the size of a small suitcase.”

“So, what’s so funny?” Mel enquired again, more interested in gossip than posh luggage.

Before Cat could say anything Lee blurted out: “Cat’s got a dirty date with a hotty she met online!”

“Shut the front door!” said Emma.

“Ohmigod, who?!” Mel said immediately after. “Show us his profile!”

Lee grabbed Cat’s phone, still open on Nick’s page and tossed it to Emma who quickly zoomed in on the profile pic. She gawked a moment then displayed it to the rest of the table. Cat laughed but was secretly apprehensive about sharing her new boy toy with the rest of the playground.

“Fucking hell, babes! I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for farting,” she teased breathlessly. Mel had an eloquent way with words. “Hell, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for sharting!”

There was a collective ‘ewww’ with more giggles from the rest of the table. Chrissy didn’t really know what to make of it but was enjoying the silliness.

“So what’s happening with your boys, Mel?” Cat asked, eager to redirect.

 “I dunno, really. It’s all got a bit complicated. Ash is nice an’ all that, he’s good company an’ stuff but my twenty-seven year old FWB is somethin’ else,” she said to chuckles from the girls. “When he leaves my house in the afternoon I’m still twitching like a naughty teenager on the bloody school run, especially if he’s wearing his uniform. Even more so when he gets out the handcuffs!”

Mel’s saucy little buddy was a policeman and Cat couldn’t resist the temptation to ask: “How’s his truncheon?” Naturally this caused more chuckles and silliness.

“Vhat iz FWB?” Chrissy asked, innocently.

“Friend with benefits, hun,” Lee explained. “It’s an acronym.”

“Friend viz benefits?” puzzled Chrissy. “Vhat iz thiz?”

“A friend you can sleep with without any complications like dating and marriage getting in the way and ruining it,” said Lee.

“Hmm… okay,” Chrissy said, not wholly convinced by the prospect but willing to accept it. “And… vhat iz ‘sharting’?”

 The rest of them burst into laughter again, each taking turns to try and answer her question as delicately as possible in a room full of people eating and drinking. Mel, being the most brazen of them was, of course, the one to finally elucidate her.

“If zomeone shartz in my bed I vill kick them out of my houze!” insisted Chrissy. “Even if they are hot poleezman on benefitz.”

They laughed again, partly and Chrissy’s language breakdown. Mel got back to the matter at hand.

“Seriously, I struggle to walk some days. We’re fucking ruined. Look at the message he sent me a few days ago!” She whipped out her iPhone, tapped its screen a few times with her immaculately manicured nails and read aloud: “Think you fucked me into next week! Feel like I’ve been in a fight!”

Hysteria erupted at the table. “What I’ve done with that guy… I’m not lying. Sold my old four-poster bed last week and when they came to collect it I realised it still had cable ties on the posts!” She was laughing so hard now she could hardly speak. “Fifty Shades has nothing on me!”

Tears streamed from Cat’s eyes. Her cheeks hurt.

“I take it you like it rough,” Lee probed. “Fuck yeah! Jason Statham all the way! Especially when he’s getting in fights and all bruised up and shit.”

“Oh, I have to agree with you on that one,” Emma chipped in.

 “Jason Statham’s hot but I’m all about Tom Hardy,” Cat added.

“What about a bit o’ Danny Dyer,” Lee threw in. All the girls agreed that Danny Dyer had at some point shamelessly occupied their alone-time thoughts. Apart from Chrissy who didn’t have a clue what a Danny Dyer was. Apparently, having not been fed on British comedy as a child and refusing to watch EastEnders as she couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying—nor could she bear how ‘underhappy’ they all looked—meant that she’d completely missed out on the wonderment of Mr Dyer.

“I’d do all of ‘em. Fucking hell, don’t know what’s wrong with me; I just love a thug.” Mel admitted as she sat back in her chair, fanning herself with the menu. “Shit, I think I need to go home for a shag and a fag. I can’t take much more of this hard-man fantasising.”

The group’s laughs were getting louder, as was the conversation. Heads were turning and it was obvious the table next to them were highly amused by the banter while some others weren’t very amused at all.

“I met Tom Hardy once,” Cat boasted proudly.

“No, really?” gasped Emma. “That’s so exciting I’d have died on the spot.”

“Yeah, I was standing in line at the Theatre and Lizzie disappeared from view for a second. I turned to look for her, bumping her Hello Kitty bag into the guy in front. Couldn’t believe it when he turned round: fucking Tom Hardy!”

Mel was quick and blurted out far too loudly: “So let me get the straight, you bumped Tom Hardy with a little pussy?” That was it. They were cry-laughing madly. Cat couldn’t breathe. The lady at the counter had obviously been eavesdropping and called over.

“You ladies are cracking me up, wish I could join ya!” The session ended with a split decision: Cat and Lee were on team Hardy while Emma and Mel were Statham all the way. Dyer had the vote of confidence from the lady behind the counter and Chrissy agreed to give her the Danny vote in exchange for a free coffee top up. The girls agreed that this was a perfectly acceptable bribe and declared a draw.

“Right, ladies, get your phones out. What dates we free for drinks?” Cat had her organising head back on. It looked like the rest of the month was out but the start of November suited everyone. “I’ll send you all a Facebook Event later. Open invite so tag anyone you fancy bringing along. It’s been far too long since we had a night on the tiles.”

With that they said their goodbyes with air kisses and lots of hugs. An all round, upbeat, totally fabulous start to the day had been had by all. Today was already looking better. It was just the medicine needed, a pickme-up from the people she loved most. And of course, she still had her so called ‘dirty date’ to look forward to.

Chapter 15 – Pre-Date Prep

The extensive four-hour ritual began, the one where you attempt to get ready amid the chaos of cooking dinner and plucking eyebrows.

“Mummy, what you doing?” It was her youngest, Myke.

“Mummy is trying to take off her eyebrows so they look straight and not like caterpillars anymore,” said Myke’s big sister, Liz.

“Thanks darling, glad to know my eyebrows look like insects to you.” Cat rolled her eyes as she attempted to pluck a rather unnerving grey hair.

“Mummy why do you have bugs on your face?” Myke demanded immediately. “I don’t like bugs! Hurry up and take them off!”

Liz answered for her: “When you get older you have caterpillars for eyebrows and when you get really reeeeally old you grow spiders out your nose like Grandad.”

“But I don’t want spiders in my nose!” Her youngest looked terrified at the thought, which only encouraged her daughter to laugh.

“Then, when you go to bed at night you get earwigs,” continued Liz.

“Mummy I don’t want wigs in my ears!” His bottom lip started to quiver. Liz looked at Myke, a grin spreading across her face. She carried on teasing her bother.

“…and if you get sick you get tummy bugs.”

It was a comment too far. The terror of it made his eye glisten, matching Cat’s own watery eyes, though hers came from the sting of hair removal.

“Sweetheart,” she sighed. “I don’t have bugs on my face, you won’t get them in your tummy, Grandad doesn’t have spiders in his nose and you don’t get earwigs at bedtime. Your sister is just playing. Liz, stop messing with your brother.” She bent over and kissed Mykes head, wiping his eyes. Ruffling Liz’s hair, she pleaded “Now, can the pair of you go and play for five minutes please so I can finish getting ready?”

With that, a chuckling Liz picked up her traumatised brother and disappeared out the bathroom. Finally, some peace.

Cat was excited. This was only the second date she had agreed to from the online world but this time it had promise. Things had been getting steamy and the prospect of meeting Nick in the flesh was making her feel a little dizzy. Or was that the nausea… Maybe once the kids had been picked up, Cat might have a pre-drink drink to ease the nerves before venturing out out. However, turning up and meeting an incredibly hot guy, already tipsy, might not be the best idea.

Cat washed the aftermath of her hair removal ritual down the drain. Now, it wasn’t that she was expecting things to get heated later but just in case they did—and they very well might—judging by the way the conversation had been going, she thought she should be prepared. You know, just in case…

The chaos-kids kissed and collected, it was now time for the arduous task of picking a fecking outfit… ugh! What do you wear on a first date? Underwear was easy: a sweet, white, lacy number; not too slutty but sexy and cute. Her bra pushed her boobs up just enough to make them appear pert—no extra padding needed. Cat felt herself rather blessed in the breast department, even after two children.

The clothes dilemma was the real challenge. Trousers or skirt? And if skirt, tights or stocking? Shit. Stocking felt like she was inviting sex, and she wasn’t yet sure if things were headed in that direction. The idea did excite her though; getting up close and personal with Nick had sparked a lingering quiver in her loins. The thought of being back between the sheets with a guy made Cats cheeks flush. It had been so long since she’d been with anyone and a shit load longer with anyone new. The excitement turned to nerves; her stomach flipped. What if she’d forgotten how to move in the expert way she used to? What if she was no good at this shit anymore? What if he was no good? What if the whole thing turned out to be a super short, awkward mess and, and, and…

Maybe she was gonna need that drink after all. And anyway, it was a first date. So, while she could entertain the idea of a naughty exchange, sex on a first date was obviously never a good thing.

The phone beeped: incoming message.

Nick: See you in an hour, I’ll be waiting at the bar.

Double crap! She had an hour to finish getting ready and dash into town. Better get a bloody move on!

With no time to lose Cat slipped into her lacy lingerie, noticing to her absolute horror she had forgotten a pre date prep essential …. Cat was spouting a bikini beard! It was the kind of look that could only be pulled off by a 70’ porn star however, in modern society unsightly lady hair was simply not acceptable. ‘Fuck It’ She was running out of time. With only one unavoidable option, Cat was going to have to succumb to the dreaded emergency shave.

As we all know shaving a Bekini line is never a good idea and should only ever be attempted in moments of utter desperation. This was forgivably one of those so called ‘moments’. Cat new she would invariably face the aftermath of scratchy pimples but it was a discomfort she was going to have to endure. Cat grabbed what was left of the shaving moose Liz had mistakenly used for hair products.  With lightening speed Cat began the arduous task of attending to her lady garden. Her mind had been a little pre occupied the last few days and now she kicking herself for not booking in a pre-date ‘Just in Case’ waxing and this was all Tony’s fault.

And in that instant Cat realised that for the first time in days she had successfully managed to go a few hours without thinking about Tony. See, this date was exactly what the distraction police had ordered.


Sat on the bus, she felt sick. Actually physically sick. Hopefully, Nick wouldn’t suggest going for food as Cat wasn’t sure her stomach could hold anything down right now. She hated the idea of food on a first date, it was always so awkward. What do you eat? Where do you eat? As a girl who loved her food she didn’t want her overenthusiastic eating to put him off. And really, what do you eat?! Italian had disaster written all over it. She wished she hadn’t chosen a loose-fitted, silk white vest, as a tomato sauce incident was inevitable and she’d be stuck with the offending stain on her top for the rest of the evening.

Curry would leave them both with delightful curry-breath. And besides, she liked it hot. She didn’t want to imagine sharing a first kiss with Nick if it came with vindaloo burps. Anything with noodles was out, obviously. Whilst a self-proclaimed “dab hand” with chopsticks, they had a tendency to flee her fingers and shoot a trail of sticky mess across her chin. Mexican had a magical way of repeating on her in very unladylike manners. Certainly, stuffing her face with a spicy Burrito would lead to embarrassment by the time the bill came. It was decided then: no food. Unless, of course, the date was a complete disaster, in which case she could grab a kebab on the way home. Sorted.

Now, only 10 minutes away from actually meeting Nick, she was bubbling like an overwhelming cocktail of adrenaline and panic. She sat back in her seat, breathing deeply, gazing out of the window. Her mind raced. She examined her emotions and the conclusion was good. The exhilaration and anticipation of meeting this guy made her feel… alive.

And she liked it.

Chapter 16 – First Date

Cat hopped off the bus and steadied herself on landing. Luckily for her feet, the agreed meeting spot was only a short walk from the stop. Perhaps the exceptionally high-heeled boots were also not such a wise decision. But then they did go well with the short checked black and white skirt… No, they were a must.

She marched, anxiously, toward the bar. Outside, two men sharing banter and cigarettes gave her pause to consider asking to steal one. Dam, she could use a smoke right now. Her trepidation must have caught their attention as the taller of the two offered a friendly smile.

“Evening, Miss,” greeted a short but sturdy looking man dressed in the standard black uniform so synonymous with pub security. Shit. Shit. Shit. Breathe… was all she could think but managed to fumble out a ‘thanks’ in gratitude as he pushed open a heavy set door. Cat studied herself attempting to fake the illusions of confident and awkwardly sauntered inside. 

The place was bustling while the atmosphere buzzed with the hum of chatter. The bar itself was a modern take on a Victorian drinking lodge, kept in keeping with the old building’s original design. The tall ceiling boasted exposed timber and ancient brickwork, while low hanging brass pendants brightened the large room, finished with a cluster of dark wood lumber benches and large flickering pillar candles their central feature. Positioned conveniently at the back were booths for people with more private arrangements.

A saloon-style bar rammed with eager people waiting to be served swarmed to her left. It was busy tonight. Cat stared at the crowd, hoping to catch a glance of Nick before he saw her. And there he was, sat at the corner of the bar; tapping at his phone. 

She froze. He was more handsome in real life than his photos gave him credit for. Fuck, what the hell was she doing?

Breathe… breathe… breathe… and compose. Cat readied herself to beat her way through the crowd when he glanced from his phone toward the entrance. It was only a matter of time before he noticed her standing there, motionless; gaping at him. Suddenly, she felt ridiculous. Like when the hot boy at school catches you gazing at him from behind your upside-down text book… and then it happened. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. He’s seen me. Oh fuck. 

Somehow, his eyes brightened, watching her standing stupidly still. Glued to the spot. A statue of purest ice. He smiled; a big, welcoming, George Clooney grin, followed by a mouthing of the word ‘hi’. She had to do something. She forced her boots to start walking. Dodging bodies and tables, wading through to the bar, her eyes never left his. His enchanting lips inspired a little confidence in her as he stood off his stool to greet her. Locked in each other’s gaze she never even noticed the barman, or his tray, until it was too late. 

It was the briefest of collisions but enough of one to propel the tray and all its empty glasses away from the waiter’s hands. The loud clash of breaking glass caused an uproar of jeers from the crowd and all heads turned—to her sheer fucking horror—toward the source of this audible calamity. And she was right at the epicentre. Ground Zero.

FUCK IT she thought, scrambling for words. “… God… so… sorry….” the almost muted whisper to the waiter was likely too quiet to be received but it was all the oxygen she could spare at this point. Cat bent to help him. More claps and giggles from the thirsty crowd, though it wasn’t long at all before they got bored and carried on amongst themselves. Helping salvage broken glass, she heard the waiter attempting some assurance. 

“Thanks love, don’t worry about it. Happens all the time.” His words were kind but did little to lessen her embarrassment or cool her scarlet face. “Honestly, I’ve got this,” he winked, knowingly. Cat muttered another apology and removed herself from the crime scene. When she finally dared to look again at Nick, he was chuckling. 

At last, she made it to the bar counter; clearly more flustered now than she had been before waiter-gate. Nick simply looked at her with those cool eyes, that warming grin, and uttered, “You okay?”

“Shit,” she said, before realising that her first word to him would be shit. “I like to make an entrance.” 

“Oh, it was legendary,” he smiled. Definitely one way to break the ice.”

“The ice, the glass, my dignity…” she shrugged, smiling nervously, with sheepish glances at Nick; afraid to look at him any longer than that. Her humiliation seemed to tickle him. His laugh was endearing and warm and completely infectious. Cat couldn’t help but join him in this awkwardly tender moment. It felt good to laugh—it steadied her nerves and eased her nausea.

“Bet you need a drink about now,” he said through his subsiding chuckle.

“More than you know.” Cat began undoing her jacket. Nick, still standing, helped her out of the Mac, hanging it beside his at the side of the bar. It was a very gentlemanly gesture and, apparently, one she appreciated. She felt his eyes on her; he had taken advantage of a fleeting opportunity to check her out. Pretending not to notice his approving expression as the corners of his mouth twitched ever so slightly, she actually felt some relief.

“It’s quite busy in here, eh,” a gallant change of subject. “It took ages to get served the first time so I ordered a bottle of Prosecco. Hope that’s okay.” He handed her an empty glass. She accepted, graciously. His grin re-emerged. “Just don’t break it.”

“Oh Great, is that how it is?” Cat rolled her eyes in fake annoyance. “I’m going to be taunted with broken glass jibes all night, now!”

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he chuckled. “That really was an exceptional entrance.” 

“Well, I’m glad I managed to amuse you so much,” she retorted as Nick poured cold bubbles into her flute. Hastily, Cat took an indulgent sip. She needed it; especially now. 

“I like this place. I’ve been here a few times, actually,” he changed the subject again. Cat wondered for a moment if this was where he brought all his conquests. As if knowingly offering some comfort, he continued: “work lunches mostly.”

This town was local for both of them so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he’d come here before. Cat had too, in fact; several times with the girls.

“They do the best burgers on the planet, here. The onion ring tower is fantastic!” Great, she thought. She sounded like a ‘burger bird’ and wished she could have been more sophisticated. ‘Yes, they have a splendid rustic menu; the Sole is simply divine!’ Too late. 

“The loaded chips are bloody amazing,” he chimed in. “Even better than a Pot Noodle!” Remembering their first online exchange about super-noodles, she welcomed the reference. “Do you fancy grabbing a bite? We can if you’re hungry.”

“Thanks, I’m good. Had a little something before I left,” she lied. She sensed some disappointment. Was he hungry? “Well, maybe some loaded chips later?”

“Great so that means you’re staying and not running out on me like that other guy?”

“I didn’t say that,” it was her turn to tease. “I’m still sitting near the fire escape just in case. To be honest, I’m surprised you’re still here after that carnage.

“Honestly, it was perfect. I’m not going anywhere.” No chuckles this time. Just that grin. “Not until we’ve finished this bottle anyway,” he joked. He had an agreeable sense of humour and, despite the rocky start, seemed to like her. This might actually be going well. “You look great by the way.” 

It was a simple compliment but as he said it, Cat gazed into those piercing eyes and her cheeks flushed again.

“Thank you! Not too shabby yourself.” Cat was playing it down; he was seriously attractive. His eyes were a sharp, crystal blue; his lips full and pink. God, how many times had she imagined what it would be like to kiss them. Now he was so close she could almost taste them. She wanted desperately to taste them… FFS, stop thinking about kissing him! Her thoughts were only making her blush more and yet, she was utterly helpless to stop them.

“That’s the second time tonight and we’ve only been here five minutes,” Nick’s face gleaned with sweet amusement. 


“You’re blushing. It’s kinda hot.” He was NOT helping. Yet again, she felt completely ridiculous. “Do you blush a lot?”

“Actually, no. Never!” She giggled, sipping from her glass of liquid confidence.

“I’m pleased to see I have that effect of you then.” He said. Shit. She felt she had to say something to regain a little composure.

“Must still be recovering from the carnage earlier… and the bubbles.”

“Well, if the bubbles are to blame maybe you should have some more.” He lifted the bottle to pour her another drink but instead of just pouring into the glass as it sat in her hand, he steadied the rim of her flute with his gentle fingers. There was the slightest brush of skin.

It’s amazing how sometimes a simple touch from another person can attack your nerve endings, sending sparks of electricity shooting through your body. If Cat was previously unsure of how tonight was going to play out, she was starting to get an idea. Their eyes met again as he finished topping her up. The earlier banter had dropped away; an un-awkward silence emerging between them as each tried to read the other’s intentions. Had the rooms temperature suddenly risen to that of volcanic larva.

“Do you want to sit down?” he asked, breaking the silence and gesturing toward the bar stool.   

“There’s only one stool.”

“Shall we try and grab a table, then?”

They scoured the room for an option. Nick nodded toward a cosy booth where a coupled were preparing to leave.

He grabbed their coats and as Cat passed, heading for the table, his hand momentarily rested on the small of her back. Again with the miniature lightning bolts! Her mind wandered to their innuendo heavy messages; she was thrilled the chemistry they’d felt online was ever so prominent now. Something was awakening inside her, making her dizzy again… Or maybe it really was the bubbles.

Cat slid onto the bench in the tiny booth expecting Nick to take the opposing seat. Instead, he slid in beside her, close enough for their legs to brush every time either of them moved. Was it actually get and hotter in here…? Conversation flowed easily, naturally. Two hours of chat about nothing in particular. She was delighted to discover that his quick wit wasn’t just text trickery. Nick was fascinating to listen to. Well-travelled, passionate about his work, voted the correct side of Brexit and more importantly they even agreed on Netflix boxsets.

The conversation wasn’t one sided either, he seemed genuinely interested in her life and opinions. The occasional bush of leg action became more frequent filling her with a little confidence that things were indeed going well; and as the drinks flowed Cat found his charming company completely intoxicating. Her mind was wandering to places best left for at least date three with agreeably less of an audience.

“So, it’s my round,” Nick announced. “Another bottle?”

“Jeez, are you trying to get me drunk?” Cat was well on her way.

Nick chuckled again. “Maybe I am…” he said as he slid out from table, scrunching his face in mock contemplation as he continued: “not brazen harlot drunk but the kind of drunk that will help you make bad decisions.”

“I don’t need any help making bad decisions, thanks,” a quick flashback to waiter-gate gave her internal shivers. “Although, maybe one last cocktail for the road?”

“Same as before?” He asked. She was nodding before he’d finished the question. “Back in a minute. I’ll get some shots in too.”

“Great. Wait… what?” her senses were slowing down. Did he say ‘shots’? “Are we doing shots?”

“Just the one,” he said, innocently enough. Cat gave it at least a second’s thought.

“OK,” she began with finality, “one shot, one cocktail and then its home time before I accidentally get shit-faced and kill another waiter.” 

Nick chuckled as he left for the bar. It was 10.30 already. Seizing the opportunity, the slightly tipsy Cat whipped out her phone. Half a dozen missed WhatsApp messages:

The Girls

21:04 Mel: Oi Cat hozit going 😛

Lee: Did you get Catfished again or is he as hot in real life?

Mel: Well let us know if you need saving, I’ll call you and say someone died or something

Lee: Bit drastic Mel, how about I call you and just say baby sitter had to leave

Emma: Ladies don’t think she’s answering that means either its going well or she met a serial killer 😬

Lee: I’m going with 💦

Chrissy: Why is Cat meeting a serial killer?

Several GIFs followed, varying from sex to axe murders. In fact, they appeared to be having a Giffy argument. She skimmed through the rest of the thread that included a brief explanation from Emma that Cats wasn’t in fact meeting a murdered; and immediately hit the GIF search button.

She found one of a burning flame and sent it to the girls with a note,

Cat: all good. bit pissed tho. Will tell all TMRW

Another message from Insomnia pinged through:

Jay: Sooooooo Lady, is it going well and have you got laid yet?

Cat: Will you fuck off with the being laid shit, no I haven’t….well not yet anyway 🤔

Jay: (almost instantly) – Well what you doing messaging me, get cracking. Bout bloody time you got some. You must be seriously horny right now, no?? 😝

Cat: He’s at the bar getting drinks, and again Fuck Off lol. Honestly J, I’m a bit pissed and he’s seriously hot and you know how nervous I’ve been.

Jay: I know babe—only J gets away with calling her ‘babe’—Jokes aside, just have some fun, you really deserve it. Don’t overthink it. But (big brother hat on) if it doesn’t feel right then just go home.

Cat: I’m more worried that it DOES feel right because I’m pissed and my inhibitions are slowly flying out the window. 

Jay: Then don’t overthink it. You’re a single hot lady with a single hot guy so just enjoy… besides, it’s about time I got some juicy sex stories from you seeing as you’ve heard all of mine.

Cat: that’s not by choice hun. you just like bragging and need your ego stroking

Jay: Well you could be stroking someone else’s “ego” in a bit 😅 At least it’s taken your mind off Tony 😡

Cat: again will you FUCK OFF 😚

She looked up from her phone to see Nick heading her way with a tray of drinks.

Cat: OH shit, he’s coming back with a fecking tray full or booze. Its gonna get messy. Catch ya TMRW x

“Only been gone 5 minutes and your back online!” He shook his head in faux disgust.

“Yep!” Cat laughed out loud, noting that she’d done that a lot tonight; it was obviously due to Nick’s great company and humour. That and the constant stream of booze. “You were taking too long! A girl doesn’t like to be kept waiting, you know.”

“I’ll remember that. The lady has a diva-streak. Better give her highness a drink!”

Giggles again. The shots were probably another very bad decision. But what the hell! Bring it on!

“So, what have you brought me?” She asked, semi-regally. 

“That hideously sweet cocktail you ordered earlier, two tequilas and two sambucas. No idea what your favoured shot is so take your pick.”

“Why, thank you. How very considerate of you,” she said, still trying to sound regal. “‘Let’s do one shot now before cocktails and save the other for after.”

“Sounds good to me,” he approved. And with that, Cat picked up her tequila as Nick passed her the salt and lemon. “If we’re gonna do this, we’re doing it properly.”

Cat took the salt shaker. She tipped her head and gazed at him; her smile wiped from her lips as she opened her mouth and delicately, suggestively, licked the back of her hand. She sprinkled the salt, playfully locking Nick in her seductive gaze. She knocked back the shot. As the liquid burned its way down her throat, she bit into her lemon wedge and ended the routine by licking her lips and smiling, sweetly.

Nick chuckled again. “Impressive. Expertly done. Do you wanna do mine too?” He was referring to the tequila but Cat took his hand instead. Brought on by the adrenaline fix that came with tequila, or perhaps it was the exchange with Insomnia just now, Cat lifted Nicks hand to her mouth and pushed out her tongue. Slowly, firmly and without hesitation her tongue pressed the back of his hand and she licked a patch for salt. Cats eyes never left his, making her completely aware of the changing expression on his face. His long dark lashes fluttered slightly; his smile faded, becoming something hungrier.

 “Fuuuck…” was all he could think of to say as Cat took her tongue away, tapped salt onto his hand and steered it towards his own tongue, still holding his fingers softly as he licked; still locked in each other’s eyes. As if taking a plunge, he knocked back the drink, bit into the lemon and grimaced. “Cat, I have a confession to make.”

The second those words left his beautifully shaped mouth, her heart sank. This is where he tells her he’s married, or was once a women or even worse: he has a macro penis… Her breath lodged in her throat…

“I’m actually a smoker. Not a big one but—” he paused, probably replaying what had just happened in his head. “…after that I think I need a cigarette.”

Cat’s relief must have been very apparent: a heavy sigh followed by nervous chuckles that escaped her uncontrollably. “Thank fuck for that!” She bursted. “I’m not a smoker either but I would bloody love one right now.”

Relief washed over him. “Well how about we nip outside then?” 

Cat nodded in agreement as the pair slid off the bench and headed outside. Jackets left at the table to ensure that the scurrying waiters didn’t think they’d abandoned their drinks.

Chapter 17 – The Shape of Things to Cum

Outside, Nick whipped out a pack of smokes from his back pocket and offered her one along with his lighter. Cat, gratefully, pushed the cigarette between her lips, lit the end and inhaled. Every cigarette tasted like nostalgia; years gone by of naughty indulgence. Hardly a word between them was spoken as they smoked, yet, were standing close enough to be touching. Fuck, she wanted to touch him. Deep down, she knew this man’s intensions were equal. Fortunately, it was quiet outside, only a few scattered bodies; anyone left was involved in their phone or each other. It wasn’t exactly private but Cat no longer cared. The way Nick’s eyes had been devouring her for the past few minutes made her internal body twitch with lustful desire.

She moved in closer, pushing her curves against his solid frame and whispered, “I think you should kiss me now.”

That was all the invitation Nick needed before his arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her in. He flicked the remainder of his cigarette carelessly over the decking, freeing his hand to toy with her hair. And then, the moment she’d been desperate for… their lips met. Deliciously light and delicate to start, then firmer. He pulled away, gazing, questioning, but the brief pause lasted moments before his mouth was back with hers; harder, more determined. With his head angled perfectly to one side, Nick forced his tongue into her open mouth. Fuck, he tasted good; a pleasing combination of Tabaco, laced with Tequila and finished with a dash of something naughty. The pace was slow and smooth while their tongues played, allowing Cat to rediscover the intoxicating bliss of a warm wet mouth.    

The already passionate kiss was heating up and, embarrassingly causing their teeth clashed. With a giggle she pulled away but Nick had other ideas. His hand gripped the back of her neck, tugging her hungrily in for more. His craving only excited Cat, as she because increasing aware of her firming nipples as they brushed the inside of her bra. It had been far too long since anyone had kissed her this way, with absolute certainty and passion. Her entire body was on fire with the yearning for something deeper.

Nick’s lips left hers as he pulled lightly at her flowing hair, guiding her head back and exposing her neck. Next began a journey of teasing kisses across her throat, slowly building as he nibbled and sucked her flesh. Fuck, this felt incredible. But it was turning in to the kind of kiss meant for the bedroom, not a pub garden. Nick must have sensed the building heat between them; his hand left her waist and took hold of her palm. To one side of the decking was the staff entrance. It was a small alley leading to the back of the bar. He turned, her hand still in his, to take her somewhere darker, away from the probability of prying eyes. Cat knew this was about to become one of those bad decisions. And though it was a first date, her body hadn’t felt this much explosive passion in years. By god, she wanted more.

No one noticed as the pair moved a few feet into the dark, amongst the beer crates and discarded boxes. With the grace of a ravenous Viking, crates tumbled to the floor as Cat found herself pinned against the wall. Their eyes met briefly before their lips did. Cat was aching to feast on him again. She wasn’t disappointed as Nick parted her lips once more as she welcomed his eager, exploring tongue. His solid torso wedged her against the filthy wall. She felt his excitement growing as his cock hardened under those skinny jeans. She wanted to touch it, to stroke it, but was that too much? Too forward?

His hands grabbed at hers, raising them over her head and pinning them to the brickwork. Fuck. If this didn’t slow down she was going to end up screwing him right there in that back alley; on their first date… Whether it was the alcohol or the expert use of his mouth, all Cat knew in that moment was that she wanted this man. Fuck, she needed him. Her eyes rolled and an unexpected gasp escaped her lips. Shocked at hearing the release of tension, she was losing the battle of common sense and logic. This beast of a man had her wet with wanting.

He released one of his has hands, lightly brushing her cheek before stroking his fingers across her body, finding her breast. His firm hand squeezed and caressed her chest before slipping it inside her vest and underneath her white lace bra. She didn’t stop him; she kissed him harder. Nick teased her pert nipples now, tickling them with his thumb. Again, his mouth left hers to make that longingly familiar journey across her neck… only, this time it didn’t stop. He looked at her briefly, waiting for approval. Cat instantly nodded. Now both hands were on her body as he simultaneously lifted her top with one hand and single-handedly unclipped her bra with the other. This man was a pro and she loved it. Cat leaned back against the cold stone, her breast exposed and her eyes closed. The thrill of knowing they could be caught at any moment intensified every sensation. 

He kissed her hard nipples as his hand cupped her breasts; massaging them, stimulating them… he started sucking. The sensation made her body twitch and, again, she moaned. His hand was back on her face, now; thumb, lightly stroking her mouth. Cat accepted his offering, sucking his finger but wishing it was something else… Moments passed before their tongues were entwined, tangled in a frenzy of warm, wet lust. But now she needed to feel him and as his hands fondled her breasts, hers reached for his very firm erection.

The cock beneath his jeans was stiff and ripe under the pressure of Cat’s hand, rubbing across the denim. It was enough to throw Nick off pace for a moment, caught up in his own pleasure. Her fingers reaching the leather strap belt, kicking his senses back into action. His hand slipped, slowly, under her skirt. Fuck… she wished she‘d chosen the bloody stockings. Instead, Nick had to battle his way through tights and lace panties to get to her warm, soaked pussy. She was still fumbling with his belt when his expert fingers found her tingling clit. He played, relieving enough pressure to make her lose concentration. He was as skilled with his hands as he was his mouth. How was she ever going to figure out his fucking belt buckle, one-handed, with this kind of distraction?

It was no use. She gave up the frustrated fumbling, completely caught up in the movements of his master touch. His finger left her clit in search of her opening. She could feel her own dampness as his fingers glided between her thighs. There was no disguising what this guy was doing to her body… And then…

His fingers were inside; pumping, circling, pleasing. He reached for her hand, pulling it towards his now open trousers—so caught up in lustful desire was she, she’d failed to noticed he’d rather considerately undone his belt. Seriously, how did he… when…? She marvelled at Nick’s wizardry. Her hand slid eagerly between his legs… and, gasping deeply, she finally felt his thick cock, the tip wet with precum. He was clearly equally enjoying the heated exchange.

With his head rested on her shoulder, his warm breath tickling her bare chest, Cat’s thumb circled the tip on his dribbling dick. Carefully, she reached in lower, taking a firm grip steadily building up a rhythm. His breath was fast, panting as the shaft of his cock twitched in her palm. He was going to cum soon, and so was she. Unable to contain the whimpering escaping her lips, Nick was quick to react, filling her mouth with a forceful tongue. 

She couldn’t breathe, panting with confusion; her desire to please and play denied by the distraction of Nick’s fingers. He pulled her in hard. She felt dizzy, everything around her blurred. Breathless and trembling she closed her eyes while her helpless body succumbed to losing all control. In that moment, there was nothing else. all she could hear, taste and feel was Nick. She moaned shaking, her senses exploding into utter euphoria. His fingers deep inside her now, she could resist no longer—her whole body erupted in pure primal bliss. A sigh of exhilaration and relief escaped her as every muscle tensed during those final moments of climax.

Her fingers still lightly clutched Nick’s hammerhead hard-on and now he was the one panting, completely turned on by her excitement… It was her turn to satisfy him. Cat wanted to—needed to—know his pleasure was equal to hers. His throbbing penis pulsed in her palm as she stroked. His lips were on hers, his breath hot in her mouth as he ex-hailed; her hand gained momentum and he whimpered in her ear. Air caught in his throat while his body stiffened with every stroke, uncontrollably gripping her so tightly that she feared she might pass out at any moment. 

Finally, Nick’s pulsating cock exploded in her hand. Cat slowed her pace as the last few drops of cum released. Slowly his suffocating grip loosened as they fell into each other. Kissing gently as their heads came to rest in harmony. Cupped her face as he kissed her Nick tried to whispered. 

“Fuuuuck , Cat…” was all he could manage.

The pair gazed at each other again, as the realisation of their situation came back in to focus; as much as she wanted to stay there and indulge in her first orgasm for an exceptionally long time, the back ally of this local bar was not the place to be caught exposed. In an awkward exchange of giggles and disbelief, they composed themselves.

Nick took out two cigarettes and, without offering—he knew she’d want a smoke after that—handed one to a slightly dazed, still panting, red-faced Cat. Perching on an empty crate, he sighed deeply. “Now I could definitely use that other shot…”

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