Chapter 1: Derbyshire to Devonshire
The taxi clattered to a halt. Finally, I've arrived at my destination that is Westward Ho! in Devon. This has been one long-haul journey from Derbyshire — fragmented over the last three days. Spontaneity is in the making. A wheelie suitcase, two train journeys, two nights at the Barnstaple Travelodge with no further itinerary and my home country is my proverbial oyster!
Wow! I love Devon so much. I haven't been here since I was 15 — now I'm at the ripe age of 25 — and it is such a breath of fresh sea-air, in stark juxtaposition to Derbyshire. I hand the taxi driver lady over a few notes shaded in orange with the young and monochromic Queen Elizabeth The Second's face on them. I thank Belinda for the taxi ride.
Lugging my wheelie suitcase away from the parked taxi, I take a minute to enjoy the rarity of the British beach beauty behind me. Skegness cannot possibly hold a candle to the likes of Devon's idyllic landscapes. Flanking me opposite is the vast eau-de-Nil expanse of Westward Ho!'s sea. The fluffy pink hues of mauve and pink clouds of the night's sunset sky reflect back into the peaceful waters. Not even the roaring engines of three — maybe four — motorbikes hurtling down the bend of the promenade separating me from the coast can detract from the serene ambiance of this seaside town.
The expectant flicker of sensor street lighting arouses correspondingly to the crepuscular nuances. The postcard-perfect scene overshadows any remnants of charcoal plumes from the exhaust pipes of the motorbikes — which now resemble bouncing dots into the horizon's yonder.
Looking down to my phone, it reads 9: 22 pm. Timely. It was a last minute arrangement I made with Blaze around lunch time today. I have to admit that I am feeling extremely anxious meeting a stranger in these circumstances. I only chatted with him via email and had a quick telephone conversation with him earlier on today. I pray to God that I will be safe in his presence. At least Belinda is on standby, eyeing me intently as I turn away from the car, ensuring that I make it safely into the holiday cottage before us.
Craning her neck out of the open passenger side window, she chirps, "Stay safe. Please call me on my personal mobile if anything seems dodgy, Sadie dear. You've got to be careful especially with being on your own. I should know as my daughter is similar in age to you. I will wait in the car and see you in." She scrawls her number on a scrap of paper, posts it through the open car window to me, making sure I save it in my phone. Bless her, I've known her all of 25 minutes and she is looking out for me as she would her own daughter. Her endearing West Country accent resounds in my brain with the characteristic rhotic 'r' sounds indigenous to this region.
Upon very first pulling up in front of the peach mansion adorned with beige stonework, we were in awe of the architecture and optimistic that it was a legit place to stay. Musing out loud amongst ourselves, I did note to Belinda that Blaze sounded young and had mentioned on the phone that he would most likely have a late night drive back home to London tonight.
Walking several meters across the capacious drive to the veranda and then the porch, I reach out to the doorbell which pricks luminescence in harmony with the 'ding dong'. The door flashes open... Oh my goodness! I know that face [my brain riffles through a catalogue of familiar faces and stops on the most compatible one]... It cannot possibly be!
I first notice the wavy dark brown quiff at the apex of a very slender man, well over six foot tall, whom stands before me. His mystical eyes resembling green sea glass, showcased even more so against his swarthy skin, lift up into a 'smeyele'.
"Hello there and good evening. You must be Sadie? Nice to meet you." A simple greeting, but yet full of eloquence; dripping in tonal velvet richness and with the golden accent that is Received Pronunciation.
Trying to stifle my agasp mouth, I stumble on my words: "H-Hi. It cannot be...Good evening.." Inwardly, I struggle; torn between fixedly gazing at Blaze or averting eye contact altogether. My eyes shift from him, to the ground, behind me out to sea and finally settle on Belinda in her parked taxi at the forefront of the scene. She gives me a solemn smile and mimes, "Are you okay?" The lights are on, but I'm not home, so fail to respond to her. She is in my vicinity but she feels miles away from me.
Blaze grins. "Ha ha. I don't know if you are happy to see me or not.. Please do not be alarmed and welcome."
"I just cannot believe my eyes.. Blaze Harper — the famous magician! ...Huh...?" trailing off, I flail my hands in bewildered surprise.
"This is my second home. I'm usually based in London. I'm wanting to rent this out as a holiday home and you are my first ever guest... That is if you still would like to be, of course."
"Yes, sorry. It is nice to meet you," I grin and complement his proffered handshake.
Turning to Belinda, I grin inanely at her, wink, stick out my thumb and shout, "Everything is okay. Thank you for everything." She thumbs me back, warmly waves and pulls out of the drive and off she travels to pick up her next client, I guess.
"Oh no! I feel so rude. I could have introduced Belinda to you. She's a nice taxi driver as well." The face-in-palm emoji aptly springs to mind.
"I think you were very startled to see me...I am the rude one. I should have welcomed Belinda in for a drink too, or at least said hello and helped you out with your luggage. I didn't hear the taxi pull up so the apologies are all on me.. Please do come in, Sadie — take my hand?" Ushering me in, our hands embrace the other's.
Leading me down a long corridor, I absorb the beauty of this country house. It is vast, spacious and stylish. Pound signs replace my pupils as I revere the splendour and the decor of the place. It is the perfect dichotomy of modern and old-school bucolic in design. Blaze helps me into a barstool adjacent to the kitchen island. The wooden furnishings of the kitchen are pistachio green coating the oak beneath.
Leaning into close proximity, he pleads, "Please forgive me for not fetching you from Barnstaple. I've been inundated with work and like to guard my privacy," jerking his head towards the large kitchen shutter window, he continues, "and was cautious to be seen with it not being pitch black out there."
"No worries. I can only ever imagine what it must be like to not have your privacy respected."
"Well, I like to think of myself as a gentleman and Barnstaple is only a short drive away, but I won't let it happen again."
Digressing from the subject, he asks, "Now, what would you like to drink? Tea? I assume it is too late for a coffee? Juice? Water?"
"Actually I would really like a coffee, please. One sugar and milk, please."
"Coming right up."
We chat over coffee. I ask him about his profession as a magician and what it is like getting recognised all of the time. I ask him his age. He is 29. He really is beautiful and sexy. He is magnetic and commands the stage even though there is only me in the room. He shows me a card trick. His slender, long, deft fingers unravelling all things mysterious cause burning desire in my groin. I clamp my thighs together and bite my lower lip to restrain my arousal.
"Oh no! I'm so sorry. I've been holding you up when you are due to go back to London tonight!" I shriek in panic. Blaze pats my back reassuringly, "Please Sadie. Do not worry. It is nice talking to you. It is my choice in deciding to drive such a ridiculously long journey at this time of night."
"Just how long will it take you to head back to London?"
"At least four hours, assuming there are no holdups."
I furrow my brows and exclaim, "Ooooh. That is inconvenient for you. How tough."
I am sorry to inconvenience you in asking this; this was not what I'd planned, but would it be okay if I get some sleep here tonight? Then head to London first thing tomorrow morning? Only, it is such a daunting journey... I will gladly leave for London tonight if you aren't comfortable with me staying here though."
I chortle out loud. I think this caffeine from the coffee is lowering my inhibitions. "That is too funny. You own this place and you are asking me if you can stay!? I think you are in your rights to treat this property as if it were your own.."
We laugh together and the light-hearted atmosphere is a blissful circuit of electricity.
"Sadie, you won't even know I'm here. It is a six bedroom holiday home. Please let me show you around, darling," taking my hand, Blaze escorts me all around his sizeable holiday home. Halting him on the landing, I mutter, "Here is tonight's board up front," I press him to take the cash-in-hand. Pushing it back and shaking his head, he says in a seductive undertone, "Shhh. Put it away."
"But we only just met and this is business at the end of the day."
"Please, Sadie. I don't want it. You have spent plenty on travel already by the sounds of it and it's not as if you have brought family or friends along with you. Just forget it."
"Well, thank you very much. But it is cheeky to not at least give you something. After all I was planning on staying here for a couple of weeks as I explained in the email earlier."
"Honestly, just forget about the money altogether. Can't a man do a good gesture nowadays? Why not enjoy a free holiday while you can!?"