Take a Chance (Excerpt)

Squaring my shoulders, I push open the door to Café Olé and step inside. A blanket of coffee-scented air drapes itself around me. I inhale. In this instant, my relief at being out of the cold trumps my nerve. I take advantage of the fact, heading straight for Calum’s table.

He glances up as I approach, and for the first time in four years, his eyes meet mine. Christ. Recognition judders through me. I remember those eyes, even after all this time. I’d looked into them so often, noticed how their smoky grey lightened with amusement when he laughed, observed them grow stormy with temper. Those same eyes had slid away, flat and cold, as we passed one another in the school corridors. Now, when he lifts his gaze to mine, his expression is unfamiliar, wary.

“I…” Calum clears his throat, offering a ghost of his old smile. “Adrian told me you’d be standing in for him, but I didn’t think you’d come.”

“And I didn’t think you’d have the nerve to.” I raise an eyebrow. The advantage of height, coupled with Calum’s obvious discomfort, makes me bold.

Calum winces and stares into his barely touched coffee. This isn’t the guy who graduated from Oakfield in a blaze of glory. At eighteen, he was the golden boy, star pupil and hero of the school swim team, never without a gorgeous girl hanging off his arm. Four years on, he’s every bit the success, tipped to rival Tom Daley. Where is that easy confidence now?

Calum clears his throat again. “Can I buy you a coffee?”

“Thanks, but I’ll get my own.” As if I’d accept anything from Calum Sharp. It would turn to acid in my gut.

I weave my way through the crowded coffee shop to the counter, where I wait in line behind a group of students before securing myself a large espresso. I’ll need something to get me through this ordeal. Without acknowledging Calum, I set down my cup and pull out the chair opposite. I retrieve the dictaphone from my jacket pocket, placing it on the scratched wooden surface between us. I just want to get this over with.

“So—” I find that, if I address the tape recorder rather than the young man across from me, I can keep my tone professional “—when did you first discover you could dive?”

“It… I suppose it was…” Calum falters, grinding to a halt.

I can’t help it. I look up, and our eyes lock, connected by an invisible thread of memory, sharp as razor wire—afternoon sunlight refracting off turquoise water; the air humid and thick with chlorine; a single careless act that spun my world upside-down…

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