A desire for love. A desire for life. Amelia Graham thought she had it all figured out: get her own flat, graduate from university and get a job in an art gallery. Romance was not part of her plan. But when she comes face to face with Evan Wood, her secret crush, she suddenly finds her plans being completely rewritten. Evan is different from anyone Amelia has ever known. He's enchanting. He's impulsive. He's dangerous. Being with him makes Amelia see just how much she yearns for affection. When these newfound feelings start to awaken unpleasant past memories, Amelia soon realises the consequence of falling in love with Evan Wood. Living with a secret isn't easy, and Amelia soon figures this out when she discovers that she isn't the only one with a secret. But what will she do when she realises that being with Evan is more detrimental than being without him?
I was sitting at the back of the bus with my earphones in, gazing out of the window; watching the green scenery whizz by while I bobbed my head to the music. Looking at the time on my watch, I let out a big sigh; resting my head back against the seat. The bus pulled up at the next stop and when I glanced towards the front, my heart stopped. It was him. He was back. I kept my eyes on him while he sauntered along the aisle and sat two seats across from me.
He was gorgeous as ever. Where had he been hiding the last few weeks? Usually I’d see him on the bus on route to college. I turned away, but I caught myself stealing another glance at him. His ruffled brown hair blew gently in the wind and his black leather jacket fitted perfectly on his slim frame. He feels the breeze from the window above. He stands up and closes the window. He slouched in his seat and rested his head against the glass. I couldn’t help myself – I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
It had been a while since I last saw him take the number eight bus. In the summer, he always took this bus in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. He got up from his seat and stood in the aisle, waiting for the bus to stop. His head snapped in my direction and I turned away quickly. The butterflies in my stomach moved wildly and my hands trembled for being embarrassed. The bus stopped and the door squeaked that I finally chanced another glance at him. I caught a glimpse of his striking green eyes, and my heart pounded hard inside my chest. My fingertips tingled when I thought about how it’d feel touching his body. I could feel my legs starting to get restless at the thought. I felt the flush in my cheeks.
Nothing had changed. He still had a hold over me and I didn’t even know his name. I shook my head, as if to snap the image of his face from my mind and that’s when I realised I missed my stop. I glanced out of the window, leaped up from my seat. I pushed the stop button, and scurried for the door.
“Bloody hell, Mills. What time do you call this?” Ben snapped as I approached her at the bus station.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I missed my stop.”
“We come here practically every weekend. How could you miss your stop?” She slipped her arm under mine as we headed along the crowded street.
"Bernice, stop pulling me.” I said. “You’re going to pull my arm out of its socket." I struggle to get my arm out of her grip, but failed.
“Hey, you know how much I hate that name,” she pouted while she continued to pull me along. Her long brown, wavy hair got caught between our arms and she swiped it across to release it. I felt puny standing next to all five foot nine inches of her; arching my neck to look up at her.
I rolled my eyes at her. “Ben, I’m sorry. I got a little distracted, okay. But you will never guess who I saw.”
Her hazel eyes lit up. “Is it someone famous?”
“Yeah, because this town screams dream destination, doesn’t it? I’m talking about the bus guy.”
Ben gasped. “He’s back.” I nodded. “Well, what happened?”
“Why do you think I’m late,” I said.
“Look, we’re not talking about the guy you’ve been pining over for months now. Forget about him. If he hasn’t noticed you by now, he’s not worth it. Besides, today your life is going to change.”
“I wonder where I’ve heard that before,” I said in a flat tone.
“I promise it won’t be like last time. This guy is just your type.”
I rolled my eyes back at the thought of her setting me up again. Three years ago, she took me on a blind date and it ended in a disaster. A black coffee stain on my brand new white dress I had bought for the occasion, followed by him knocking everything off of the table; trying to clean my dress dry. After her nagging on at me, I finally agreed to go on another blind date because my ears started to hurt.
I pulled my arm out of her grip and stopped. “I really don’t want to do this. It’s great you have a boyfriend now but I really don’t need you to set me up with his friend. I’m fine.”
“Amelia Graham, this is our final year at college and you’re not spending it with your head in the clouds thinking about this bus guy who doesn’t even know you exist.”
“Ouch,” I said, crossing my hand over my heart.
“I’m just saying it’s time for you to live a little. You’re always stuck in your studio painting your ideal world. Well, it’s time to live it.” Ben grabbed my arm again and we proceeded down the street.
“I have a lot of work to do in preparation for my exhibition,” I whined. “I still have no idea what I’m going to do for my masterpiece.”
“Sounds like you need inspiration,” Ben said, “maybe of the male persuasion.”
I shot her a sideways glance. “Fine, I’ll have you play matchmaker for today. When it doesn’t work out – which it won’t – I’ll have the pleasure of rubbing it in your face.”
Ben smiled. “That’s my girl.”
A few minutes later, we were standing outside the Costa coffee shop. I arched an eyebrow at Ben using the window as her personal looking glass. After brushing her hair and applying lip balm, she pivoted on her heel to face me. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes bright with excitement. “At least try to smile, will you,” Ben pleaded. “You’re going to love him. I promise.” I returned the smile which faded as soon as she turned her back to me. I followed Ben into the shop.
As we stood near the entrance, I glanced around the room and froze. Sitting at the far end of the room was the bus guy. I could feel the blood pumping through my veins. The noise in the room grew faint and everything was in slow motion.
There he was slouching like he did on the bus. The customers started to dissolve from my vision; it was just me and him. Slowly, the sounds began to get louder and before I knew it everything was back to normal. “What is he doing here?” I muttered under my breath.
“Who are you talking about?” Ben asked.
As I opened my mouth to speak, she interrupted me by waving at someone across the room.
“There they are,” Ben said as she headed off, a skip in her step.
I made haste behind her. When I realised which table she was heading for, I slowed my pace. Walk past, walk past, I thought as she approached his table. She didn’t. She walked right into the arms of the bus guy’s companion. To make matters worse, they started a lip locking contest. Both of my eyebrows rose, feeling disturbed.
I dropped my gaze as I advanced towards the table. Ben, finally remembering my existence, spun around and introduced me to her kissing buddy, Rich. She then introduced me to the bus guy. Evan Wood. His name sounded perfect. We locked eyes for a brief moment.
"Hey," he said in a dull tone.
“Hi, err Ben, can I talk to you for a moment.” I grabbed her arm, pulling her away from the table a few metres.
“Do you like him? I knew you would, he is so totally your type.” Ben started before I could get a word in.
“Ben, that’s the bus guy. What am I supposed to say to him?” I freaked.
“You mean, him, he’s the bus guy you’ve been pining over.” Ben’s eyes widened, pointing over to him. I grabbed her finger before he noticed.
“But that’s the bus guy,” she said, shock still evident in her voice.
“Stop it; you’re supposed to be helping me. How do I look? What do I even say to him, Ben?” Panic started to overtake my voice.
Ben’s eyebrows knitted together. She put both hands on my shoulders and stared me in the eye. I quickly glanced at the table to see that they weren’t paying any attention to us.
“Firstly, calm down. Next, just talk to him and go with the flow.” Ben advised. I went to take a step to the table but Ben stopped me.
“What?” I asked. She quickly tucked my hair behind my ears and then licked her thumb, and carefully patted down a loose hair. I squat her hand away. “Ew, Stop it.”
“All done,” She smiled, flipping her hair over her shoulder and took a seat back at the table. I’m not exactly great with talking to guys, not experienced at all.
I gulped as I sat in the empty chair beside him.
“You look familiar,” he spoke. His voice echoed in my head, his low husky voice.
“Oh, I see you on my bus.” I admitted. The words slipped out of my mouth and now he knows I watch him on the bus. I feel like a stalker.
“Ah, the girl at the back.” he responded. I nodded.
“I’m going to get myself a drink, would you like one?” I offered to Evan. He only shook his head. I picked up my bag, heading towards the counter and ordered my drink. While I waited for my drink to be poured, I glanced back at Evan. I could feel the nerves getting the better of me. I paid for my drink and headed back to the table.
“What did you get?” Evan inspected my drink.
“Chocolate tea,” I replied, pulling the cup into my hands.
“Chocolate tea? Isn’t that hot chocolate?” Evan wondered. He looked inside my cup to see marshmallows floating around. He nodded approving.
“I call it chocolate tea,” I responded. We both fell silent again.
The next ten minutes passed without significance. And the conversation with my mystery bus guy dropped before it even started. Ben had spent most of the time ogling her new fella. I took a sip of my lukewarm chocolate tea and found my eyes flickering over the top of my cup to see Evan Wood. He was sitting in his chair playing with a set of sugar sachets, not paying attention to anyone or anything.
He glared at me, frustration behind his tired eyes. “Quit with the staring.”
Taken aback by the harshness in his voice, I turned away and lowered my head. Had I been gazing too long? I peeked over at Ben who was once again making out with Rob – no, Rich. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as I tried to tear my eyes away from them. I found my gaze drifting back to Evan. He was observing me.
“Quit staring,” I mocked, feeling slightly embarrassed. A smirk appeared on his lips.
I shifted in my seat again, moving my focus as I continued to drink my chocolate tea. I could feel his gaze boring into me and unable to resist, I glimpsed back at his face. He was still observing me. Amusement seemed to have replaced the frustrated look he was wearing moments ago.
“What?” I said, now starting to get annoyed. Evan was making it hard to start a conversation with him. I shook my head, reaching for my bag on the floor. I addressed Ben.
“I’m going to go now, Ben,” I informed her.
Ben pulled her gaze away from Rich to me. I could see her giving me the puppy eyes, but it wasn’t going to work. I raised my eyebrows at her.
“I have plans this evening,” I lied and got to my feet. She jumped up from the table, pulling me into a bear hug.
“We both know that’s a lie. I thought you liked him?” Ben whispered into my ear. I peered over her shoulder at Evan, who was still gazing at me. If he was attempting to provoke me, it was working. How could he look so good and be so ... ugh!
“He’s not what I thought he was; he’s an arrogant pig.” I replied to her. I felt her arms tighten around me before she let me go.
Pulling away from Ben, I slung my bag over my shoulder.
“I’ll call you later,” Ben said. “We’ll meet up tomorrow.”
"I think I’m going to head off too,” Evan said. “I’m getting tired of watching you two make out.” Rich leaned over the table and punched him on the arm playfully.
“It was nice meeting you,” I said shaking Rich’s hand. I gawped at Evan as he stood up. I glanced back at Ben; smiled, and turned around ready to leave when Evan grabbed my arm. My face flushed red. He let out a breath and his minty scent swept over my face.
“I’ll walk you to the bus stop,” he offered. I didn’t get the chance to protest as he pulled me away from the others. I stared after Ben who returned to her seat with her full attention once again on Rich.
“There is no need,” I said, trying to brush him off.
“We are going the same way after all,” he let go of my arm.
Did he remember seeing me on the bus? Has he seen me more than once? Had he noticed my existence after all? All these questions swam through my mind as we walked side by side in silence. We arrived at the bus stop and there was no one there. I expected to see a tumbleweed pass by. We stood about two feet apart, neither one of us saying anything.
Evan took up the activity of kicking the rubbish bin next to him which annoyed the hell out of me.
“This friggin' bus better hurry up,” he cursed.
“That poor bin,” I found myself saying.
His personality did not mix well with his looks. I sneak a glance at him and found he was gazing at me once again. He took a few steps towards me.
"You like to stare, don't you?" he said, breaking the silence.
“And so do you,” I responded.
He leaned his body closer to me. His cologne smelled great. My hands started to tremble and I tried to convince myself that it was because of the cold December air.
Trying not to notice, his features were entering my personal space. I turned my head slightly as his lips touched my cheek. His fingers grasped my chin, pulling my attention to him. Shocked, I slapped his hand away and stepped back. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I barked. He gawked and started laughing. My hand came up and immediately slapped him across the face. The burning feeling on my skin after the impact ached. His cheek started to swell up and a slight hand print was now visible.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had one of those,” he mocked as he lifted his hand to his cheek.
He was playing with me. He didn’t try to kiss me out of lust; he did it to get a reaction out of me. Fuming, I stomped away from him. I was not going to let him get the best of me.
The bus finally arrived. I made my way to the back far away from him as I could possibly be. He took the hint and sat a few seats across from me. My heart sank. A part of me had hoped he would come and sit next to me.
What am I thinking? I don’t want him sitting next to me. I corrected my thoughts.
After a moment, he glanced over his shoulder and our eyes met. I licked my bottom lip slowly. I don’t know what came over me but it happened. I regretted ... for all of two seconds. His eyes lit up as he stared intently at me. Suppressing a smile, I looked away.
When he got off at his stop a few minutes later, he stood on the pavement mouthing something to me. I knew exactly what he said ‘see you around,’ then the bus drove off. I shook my head in dismay, already feeling my cheeks burn up. Gazing out the back window, I watched while he walked off into the distance. I turned back and smiled, inspecting my tingling hand.