Ben and Alana were looking at her expectantly; relief on their faces, Adam behind them had a smug look, a challenge in his eyes.
Laura took a deep breath, her friends didn't deserve her wrath, and it seemed apparent that they had no idea who Adam was, other than a charmer who'd won them over so quickly. She had no desire to involve her friends in this battle, so she smiled sweetly.
"Don't worry Ben, I don't need help, it's all in hand. Honest! Now excuse me but I really have to shower, Michaela's calling for me in an hour."
With that she left them alone and focused on getting herself ready.
It was a warm evening, perfect for an outdoor show, and as it was the weekend before the big festival, there was a full showcase at the Pilot pub. Several local bands were lined up in a 'warm up' gig. Dan was sandwiched between a three piece cover band and a new metal band. Laura was relieved he wasn't last on, she was tired and wanted to speak to him, but wasn't looking at hanging around until two am.
Michaela was dancing beside her, partly because of the music, but mainly because Paul had appeared and was holding her hand. The place was full; the local community really came into its own in the summer. She'd been there long enough that she was almost seen as a regular and she was inundated with 'hellos' and questions about the surf forecast.
Dan appeared on stage a little after ten. As usual he had rearranged his set to incorporate the crowd he was playing to. By eleven the whole place was bouncing. Laura was really glad to spot Ben and Alana across the garden. She owed them an explanation...and an apology. She'd stropped like a child when she'd seen Adam talking to them, and hadn't elaborated on her behaviour since. She didn't think they were even aware who he was. Dicing through the throng of people, she was just about to reach them when she felt eyes on her. Looking towards the pub she saw the man in question lounging against the wall as though he didn't have a care in the world. Suddenly the need to tell him to get the hell out of her life overwhelmed her. But as she made to change direction and head for him in a blaze of anger, Ben spied her and waved.
After awkward hugs Ben half smiled, "sorry if I offended you by getting help in for the week. I wasn't suggesting you couldn't cope. It was more to assuage my own guilt for landing it all on you."
Laura had never felt so bad, here was Ben really struggling at his worst being incapacitated, and she'd added to his confusion and frustration by being childish. Taking a deep breath she tried to smile, "I'm the one who should apologise. I was angry and I took it out on you guys. Adam is..."
Ben stopped her with a raised hand, "he told us he's the prodigal son. If we'd known I'd never have entertained him."
Laura nodded, "I should've explained that this morning."
Ben smiled, "he was really gutted that he'd upset you. He seems like such a nice bloke."
Laura felt the nausea rise. Here it was happening again. Was no one immune to his charm? Adam had some sort of ability to cast a spell over everyone he met. Oblivious to her internal torment, Ben carried on, "so he's at a loose end for two weeks, we've been inundated with bookings for lessons...and he's a great surfer. We can't cope without his offer Laura...but if it's too much for you I'll tell him no..."
She could hear the distress in her friend's voice and knew this was important to him. Things weren't just about her, were they?
Taking a very deep breath she gave a half smile, "just don't expect me to be nice to him!"
"Why break the habit hey?" And in an instant the hostility, anger and her own frustration came flooding back at the sound out that annoying drawl coming from behind.
Spinning around she glared at him, "first my family, now my friends...anyone would swear you've got such a shit life you have to infiltrate and steal mine!"
The arrogant laugh that greeted that comment caused her to almost self combust. But seeing Ben's stressed expression she merely offered a pasted on smile, "I'm going to see Dan. Catch you TWO later!" She stressed the 'two' in the futile hope that he'd piss off out of her life as quickly as he'd appeared in it.
Adam watched her go and hated that she'd wiped the confident smile right off his face. He'd really expected to wear her down by now, but instead she was...dare he admit it? Winning! Not that this was a game, not to him. But he already knew enough about Laura to know that she got off on childish games. Slugging at his beer he grinned at Ben.
"She always this feisty?"
Ben chuckled, "hmmm. I'd say this is particularly advanced even for her... she is definitely no mug."
Despite the fact that the behaviour was directed at him, he was pleased to know she could look after herself.
She cut a striking image as she manoeuvred through the crowd. But he suddenly felt extreme anger when he saw her fall into the arms of the man who'd just left the stage.
They walked hand in hand across the sand. Laura enjoying the feel of his long fingers wrapped around hers. She was headstrong and independent that was no lie, but it was so relaxing to have someone take control, even if it was only for a few minutes. Dan had been so non committal on their previous two 'encounters', they could hardly be called dates, that it was a welcome change when he took her hand and led her away from the pub.
The beach was deserted, and suddenly Laura felt a little heat flush her face and neck. Maybe tonight she'd feel some reciprocation from him.
"Where do you stay when you come to town?" She asked as they slowed to sit on the wall that separated the beach from the road.
He sat and pulled her against his thighs, "it depends. Tonight I'm staying up at Porth Ely; it's half way between here and tomorrow's gig."
Laura groaned, "And an hour from here!"
Smiling he cupped her cheek, drawing her face around to look at him. "But...I don't have to leave for an hour!"
She tried to hide the disappointment at this with a quippy, "So we get to snog like horny teenagers instead?"
Her bluntness was rewarded by his eyes widening with desire, "well I definitely qualify on one of those qualities...and it's been years since I was eighteen."
Now THAT was more like it! Was her last thought as his lips covered hers. And Dan Martin proved to be just the distraction she needed. All the tension of the last few days dissolved in that almost familiar kiss. Dan's lips were both expert and very persuasive. For Laura it was just what the doctor ordered, and she responded hungrily.
His hands wrapped around her pulling her body into the cocoon of his parted thighs, and she was rewarded by the sensation of his rather impressive erection against her stomach. When she wriggled against him he groaned and they both seemed to up a notch in the intensity of their desire.
In the end it was voices crossing the path behind them that dragged them from their reverie. Laura pulled her lips clear, dropping her head so that the top of it rested against his chest. Then she slowly disentangled their limbs.
It was for the best, she refused to lower herself to being a cheap screw on the beach, and that was what they were moments away from. She deserved more.
"Will you be here for the festival?" Dan asked as he straightened his clothes.
Laura's heart swelled at that. It was the first time he had made any attempt at an arrangement between them and the following weekend...the festival was a great opportunity for them to see each other. "I will of course. Maybe we'll get the chance to be alone together."
He grinned, "sounds great...I have a room at the Red Lion both nights!"
Laura's heart boomed at the thought of any unadulterated time together, as they made their separate ways home.
Adam didn't process why he felt so annoyed, he just knew he was. Being snubbed by Laura wasn't a real threat, he had confidence that he could work out their differences, but seeing her slope off with one of the entertainers, some cheap cover singer who seemed to think he was an artiste extraordinaire, really riled him. He took his beer and sulked in the corner of the garden, hating that he was being so childish, but he'd come to feel protective of her.
Reaching into his pocket he grabbed his phone, then groaned to see more missed calls from Kristi. Making a quick call to his right hand man, he felt relieved once he'd put him on the case. Then he thought about his girlfriend, if you could call her that. Since his mother's revelations about his paternity nothing else had mattered, and as he thought back to the blonde model he'd been loosely dating for a month, he felt nothing but irritation. He'd had as much interest in her as the other women he'd dated, when he'd returned to the States the previous week to deal with business that couldn't wait, he'd not bothered to contact her. But she deserved an answer. So he connected a call to her.
Twenty minutes later, with a burning ear, he headed in the direction of his hotel, safe in the knowledge that he had pissed off yet another woman! The old Mars/Venus adage came to mind, and it couldn't be more true, he'd never understood one of them yet. Three months ago he'd have excepted his mother, but not anymore. Nope, they were all one mad bunch of unpredictables, and he was no closer to working them out than when he was five, and he was thirty three at the next count.
Sliding the phone into his pocket, he drained his beer and stepped out onto the dark deserted street, he was staying at a hotel a few hundred yards away, by far the best accommodation in this small village. As he strolled down the street, kicking at the loose gravel on the floor, hoping that would ease some of his tension; he almost bumped into someone who was rushing up from the beach. Taking a step back he looked down to see a rather ruffled Laura trying to brush sand from her bare feet, her hair was tangled and her face flushed. But her contented expression faded as she caught sight with the man she'd collided with.
He was EVERYWHERE! With a huff of exasperation, Laura slipped on her flip flops, then stomped off in the direction of the cafe.