Sal was in shock. She was sitting next to Kate, staring into space, as Kate rambled on incessantly. But she didn't care. At least she wasn't required to put on an act and join in casual conversation. And what's more, no one else in the party would join them since everyone obviously did their best to avoid Kate at all costs. Sal had to get her head together before she faced Nick again.
What had just happened? She'd completely lost it, and with the worst person ever to have lost it with, Nick. He already thought she was desperate after he'd caught her eyeing him up earlier; what on earth must he think of her now? God, she was so sad and pathetic! But now that she felt so absolutely dreadful, all she wanted was some nice guy to hold her really tightly and tell her that everything was going to be alright, which was never going to happen because she couldn't find herself a nice guy, which was why she'd ended up kissing one of her best friends and ruining the friendship into the bargain! This could only happen to Sal. Her life was the biggest mess imaginable!
Oh God, Nick was approaching, and Sal still had no idea what she was going to say to him! She busied herself with rearranging the cocktail decorations on the cocktail she'd picked up and pretended that she didn't know he was heading towards her. Kate had moved onto a summary of some of the most famous beaches in the world, four of which she'd visited.
Nick hovered in front of Sal and Kate nervously, beer in hand, waiting for Sal to acknowledge his presence. Unfortunately, Sal didn't do that, forcing him to speak first to test the water. He had a bad feeling though; she wasn't acting anything like the usual cheerful self that he was used to which always made him feel at ease. When Sal wasn't herself and Nick had to step up to rescue the situation, he invariably felt so very incompetent.
"Err, Sal," he began, but Kate continued speaking and Sal hadn't appeared to have heard. God, that Kate woman talked a lot. "Sal," he said louder. At last, this got Kate to stop, and she glanced up at him, but the person who he wanted to look at him was clearly avoiding eye contact.
"Ah, the fiancé. Shall I leave you two alone?" Kate grinned.
Sal would sincerely have loved the ground to swallow her up at that moment.
"No," Sal said, her head shooting up, "don't be silly, you haven't finished telling me about that beach in Thailand yet."
Actually, Nick would have quite liked Kate to leave them alone. Damn. Now he felt even more awkward. For a moment, he wondered what his next move should be; he couldn't just hover over them both. Eventually, he took a hesitant seat next to Sal. This, however, put her in the middle, and since she appeared to be engrossed in what Kate was saying, she didn't turn once to look at him. Surely though she was just avoiding his presence rather than enjoying Kate's rambling.
Nick made a brief pretence at being interested in what Kate was saying, before his eyes tentatively flicked to Sal. She had caught her bottom lip between her teeth, as if concentrating on something… turning something over in her mind. Whatever she was thinking, the action was incredibly sexy to Nick. He imagined kissing her lips better, running his tongue over them. He hadn't had time to do that when they'd kissed; it had all happened so fast. But now he could think of a million different things he would have liked to add to the kiss, just to experience her reaction… and to know what it would feel like himself.
Sal could sense Nick's eyes boring into her. Oh God, he was thinking about the kiss, how she'd reacted. He was wondering if she'd been pretending or if she'd really enjoyed it. Pretending! Pretending! He had to believe that; their friendship depended on it. There was no way she would let herself slip like that again. She was getting her life into order. Who needed a man anyway? Time to stop obsessing, it was making her act nuts! She was better than that, and she wanted Nick of all people to know this.
Cherry. God, how come everything about Sal was so bloody sexy? When he'd kissed her, he'd experienced a vague taste of cherry. It must have been some lip gloss or something, but he wouldn't have put it past her to have intentionally put it on to tease a guy just in case she'd met one and kissed him. Sal was always prepared for that kind of thing.
What was she going to say to him? What was she going to say? She could feel him next to her and every muscle in her body seemed to have tensed and frozen. More to the point, what was he going to say to her? Please God, don't let him tease her about it! And please, please, don't let her give herself away by blushing!
Nick was working himself up into an overly randy state, which wasn't going to prepare him for a serious conversation with Sal. Thank God Sal's glossy, mahogany hair fell across her cheek, prompting him to tear his eyes away from her lips and focus on that instead. She caught her hair between her fingers and thumb, sweeping it back behind one ear and playing absentmindedly with the ends that stopped along her jaw line. He noticed her eyelashes flitting up and down as her eyes moved, presumably over Kate's face. She must have been thinking about something; her eyes always darted over people's faces like that when she was thinking. Watching her face like that, immediately took Nick back to the kiss again though. He'd felt that hair run through his fingers, those eye lashes tickle his face, and those delicate fingers… his heartbeat began to quicken at just the thought of it… her fingertips sending his nerve endings into shivers of pleasure. His eyes shot to the floor; he was getting carried away again.
Why did she feel so awkward with him now? It had never been awkward with Nick. And now of all times, when they were forced to spend time together. They couldn't very well avoid each other, especially since they were supposed to be engaged! She felt like screaming!
Unfortunately, staring at the sand did nothing to stop Nick's now overly stimulated mind from re-living those minutes with Sal by the sea. It was when she'd moved her hands to his neck that things had really heated up, for him anyway. But then, he was pretty sure part of the reason for that was because he'd thought it was the point at which she'd begun to enjoy the kiss too, to give into it. God, he wanted her to give into him again, right now!
What if he told people in Agios what she'd done? How could she ever face anyone again? And Jen, she'd kill Sal! No, but then Nick would be getting himself into trouble. Anyway, nothing really had happened, not really. Okay, so she had got a bit carried away at the end, but it had started off innocently, hadn't it?
His gaze had returned to her again. He'd tried to stop it, but his eyes were just drawn to her, and since her attention was elsewhere, he figured he'd indulge himself. He was fascinated with connecting in his mind, the Sal he'd known for nearly a year and who he'd fantasised about, with the Sal who he had shared one incredible kiss with. He didn't want any of the sensations he'd felt to fade. It had all happened so quickly and unexpectedly though, that his mind had struggled to appreciate every second. It was more of an explosion of feeling, over all way too soon.
Oh Lord! Sal's heart jolted suddenly as a thought hit her. Maybe it hadn't been so innocent on her part. When was the last time she'd ever experienced a kiss like that? But she'd not known it was going to be like that…although…oh God, the fantasy she'd had on the bike. No, she was just over evaluating the situation; she wasn't attracted to Nick, not really. Was she?
Sal's mind was like a tightly coiled spring, just about ready to snap. She turned her head to Nick, as if in slow motion, to look for evidence that she was wrong. But it was a mistake: he was looking right at her. Their eyes locked.
Why was he looking at her like that? Lord, he must know what she was thinking, just from the look on her face.
Oh hell, she was reading him like a book, he could tell from her expression. It was as though she could suddenly see all the secret thoughts he'd ever had about her from the very first time they'd met.
"Why did you two choose to come to Matala tonight?"
The question came as a surprise to both of them, finding its way into the fog of their brains.
"What?" They both said in unison, turning suddenly to Kate when they realised that the question had been directed at them.
"I just wondered why you two had decided to come all the way from Agios tonight," Kate clarified.
Nick struggled to disperse the fog in his head. Damn, he couldn't think. Why had they come? All that sprang to mind was that they had come there to kiss; he couldn't say that!
"We're on a quest," Sal came up with suddenly. How she had managed to come out with anything considering her state of mind was a mystery to her.
"Hey," came a shout from behind them.
The three of them turned to see that the group had seated themselves in a circle on the sand with a variety of bottles of drink in the middle.
"Did I hear someone say something about a quest? Come over here and tell us about it or Bob is going to be battered by his own ukulele!" a middle aged man called to them.
Kate leant to speak quietly to Sal and Nick. "Did you come with him?"
Both Nick and Sal frowned. Nick shook his head.
"Oh. We all wondered. No one knows who he is. He's nice though," Kate concluded, jumping off her seat and heading for the group.
Sal panicked suddenly and jumped up after Kate. She wasn't ready to be alone with Nick yet.
As Nick followed Kate and Sal to the group, and watched them sit in the circle, he wondered what to do about Sal. She was clearly angry with him and just the thought of her not wanting to be a part of his life anymore was unthinkable. He had to make things right, to put his own needs and pride aside, like Sandra had suggested. He hovered for a few seconds with uncertainty, but then he did what his instincts wanted him to do. He went to Sal, sat on the sand behind her, put his arms loosely around her middle and kissed her lightly on the cheek. She looked back at him, her heart thudding with confusion and fear. Sandra was subtly distracting the group's attention away from them.
"I'm sorry Sal. Are you okay?" Nick whispered to her.
Sal nodded, filled with a sudden overwhelming relief, which made her emotional enough to have to turn away and bite her lip.
Nick tightened his arms around her a little more. It reminded her of the sunset they had shared together after the picnic on the way there.
"You mean a lot to me Sal. I think so much of you," he whispered into her hair.
And at that moment she believed it, maybe because he'd meant it so much.