The loud beeping noise of her phone woke Emma up. It just would not stop.
‘Emma, for the love of God, will you please just turn that fucking thing off. It’s been going for over half an hour.’
She looked over at Veronica and then grabbed the phone to see who was trying to reach her. As she looked at the clock, she realised it was after eleven. This was a great way to start the vacation. They had slept half the day away.
On her phone, she had five new messages, all from Can. The last one was an address for what she assumed was a restaurant. She was supposed to meet him there at noon. That was precisely thirty-nine minutes from now.
‘Veronica, it’s after eleven. We need to get up.’
She heard a growling from her cousin.
‘I can’t, Emma. I had way too much to drink yesterday, I need to recuperate. Can’t we just spend most of today in bed, and do your day tomorrow?’ I’m begging you; I need more sleep.’
That would work better for her. She would give anything to be able to just put the pillow over her head and go back to sleep. But a deal was a deal.
‘Do you mind if I go out by myself for a little bit? I find myself so awake I don’t think I can go back to sleep.’
Veronica just waved her on without even taking her head out from under her pillow.
‘You go enjoy yourself. I’ll be more like myself when you come back.’
Emma hurried into the bathroom, pulled up the location on her phone, and realised it would take her twenty-five minutes to get there. So, with eleven minutes to go, there was no time for a shower. She pulled up her hair in a messy bun, pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt while brushing her teeth at the same time. Then grabbed her sunglasses, bag, and headed out.
She texted Can when she was sitting down in the taxi telling him it would be twenty-five minutes until she got there, and then leaned back and promptly went back to sleep.
Can was waiting outside and saw the taxi pull up, it had to be her. This little seaside café didn’t get many visitors, especially by taxi. No one really knew of this place if you didn’t live close by. It was one of the few places he could go and be left alone. The old people that frequented the café didn’t care about him. And certainly didn’t take any pictures of him and posted them on the internet, creating mayhem with fans trying to catch a glimpse of him, or take a selfie.
Here, he was nobody. And he liked it.
He waited for a few seconds, but when there was no one getting out, he walked closer and opened the door. The sight that greeted him should have surprised him, but for some reason, it didn’t.
Emma was half lying down, fast asleep. Her hair was a mess, her glasses askew, and she didn’t seem to be wearing an ounce of makeup. Her shorts and t-shirt were wrinkly, she looked like she just rolled out of bed. He stepped up to the driver’s window, paid him, and then went back and gently put his hand on her cheek.
There was at least some slight movement.
He unbuckled her and then took her arm.
‘Emma, time to wake up.’
She opened her eyes, and he could see the confusion in the one eye that was showing.
‘You’re here. Remember? Lunch? You fell asleep in the cab on the way over.’
He helped her out and could barely contain a smile, as she took off her sunglasses and rubbed her eyes like a five-year-old: knuckles and all.
‘God. I need coffee.’
‘I can tell. Did I wake you up earlier?’
‘No, I’ve been up for hours getting ready for our lunch date.’
He could do nothing else but burst out laughing at the dry tone. That is exactly what most women would have done if they had a lunch date with him. She clearly didn’t care enough. And he loved it.
‘Come on. Let’s get you a coffee and lunch, so you wake up.’
‘I need breakfast, not lunch. I’ve technically only been up for all of fourteen minutes this morning. Way too early for real food.’
‘Your wish is my command.’
The omelette and two cappuccinos did the trick, she was starting to feel more like herself. She had, however, not been an amusing breakfast companion. She hadn’t said much.
‘So, I’m back to the land of the living, are you ready for some interesting breakfast conversation?’
Can just smiled.
‘You were busy with your food. It’s refreshing to see a woman eat like she hasn’t seen food in a year.’
Emma felt the laugh bubbling up.
‘I’m sorry. I was starving. I show up, half asleep, messy, then sit in silence for twenty minutes while shovelling down my food and slugging away at my coffee. I’m not being particularly good company.’
‘I’m not complaining.’
She took another sip of her coffee.
‘So, you’re an actor?’
‘Are you any good?’
He smiled as he answered.
‘I think so. I enjoy it, and I haven’t been out of work since I started ten years ago. So, I’m doing something right.’
‘Why Turkey? Veronica mentioned you are half American. Aren’t there bigger opportunities over there in terms of acting?’
‘I suppose. But I’ve always spent more time here with my dad than in the states with my mom. I started modelling when I was younger, and then from nowhere, I got an offer to do a tv series here. I decided to take it, and then stuff just spiralled. And I’ve been doing that now, for ten years.’
He looked out onto the ocean and continued.
‘It works for me. I like having two separate lives. Turkish tv series is a long-term commitment. There’s usually anywhere from fifty to seventy episodes. They are all about two hours long. So, it’s like doing seventy movies in a year. It’s fast-paced and all-consuming. And easy. I can do the work I love, but only reach a high level of fame in some countries. In many places, I can go and be just like everyone else. I like that.’
‘So, like most people, you like to have your cake and eat it, and you’ve managed to find a way to do that?’
‘Exactly. What about you?’
‘I have a coffee shop.’
‘How long have you had it?’
‘You don’t look old enough to have had a coffee shop for five years.’
She raised her eyebrows.
‘Is that a roundabout way of asking how old I am?’
His eyes dancing with laughter told her, that was precisely what that was.
‘I’m twenty-seven. How old are you?’
‘Thirty-three. What made you open a coffee house at the age of twenty-two? That’s a lot of responsibility for a young woman.’
‘I didn’t do it alone.’
‘So, who’s your partner? Veronica?’
She watched him choke on the sip of coffee he had just taken and swallowed her own laugh.
‘You’re not married? You’re not wearing a ring?’
‘Would it matter if I were? This is just a friendly breakfast/lunch between two friends, right?’
She saw him swallowing hard and thinking very carefully about words that were going to come out of his mouth next.
He was really interested in her. She hadn’t quite realised that.
She met Brad when she was nineteen. She had never really done the dating game before him. Or since, if she was being honest. She lacked experience when it came to figuring out the type of games people played when they were interested in another person.
She’d never had to play it.
She had taken one look at Brad and decided on the spot that he was the one for her. She hadn’t even given it a second thought. The innocent certainty that comes with youth she supposed. I love you, you love me, let’s build a life together. No games, no misunderstandings.
He still hadn’t quite figured out what to say to her, so she decided to put him out of his misery.
‘I was married. I’m not anymore. My husband passed away two years ago.’
Emma knew he was an actor, but she wondered how good he really was. He seemed to be having a really hard time keeping a poker face with her. She could see he was really struggling with feeling both relieved and upset for her.
‘I’m sorry. That must have been difficult.’
‘So, you must have met him when you were fairly young?’
‘That explains a lot.’
That threw her a bit.
He gave her a thoughtful look.
‘You don’t seem to have any pretence or artificialness about you, that a lot of other women at your age would have developed. You don’t try and please or put on a show. You show up, and you’re completely yourself. And comfortable with it, from what I can see. That sort of confidence probably comes from having found love and acceptance early on. You haven’t been disillusioned or tarred by the games people play in the name of love. It’s beautiful, actually.’
Can meant every single word he just said. He was relieved that she wasn’t taken, he had developed an attachment to her very quickly. Something about her just called out to him. He was sad for her, of course, he was. But the absolute gut-wrenching disappointment when he heard the word, husband would stay with him for quite some time. She was special. He wanted her for himself. It was a feeling he had never experienced before. He would play no games with this one.
He saw a slight blush on her cheeks after his words and thought seriously, how fucking cute could a woman be? She was like a Christmas present come early.
‘Are you done?’
She looked down her plate and back up at him.
‘Do you want to go for a swim?’
‘Now? I didn’t bring any bathing stuff.’
‘You don’t need it, just go in your shorts and t-shirt. It’s getting warm. We’ll dry in no time.’
‘I should really get back soon.’
Can looked at his watch.
‘It’s only been fifty-five minutes. I still have an hour and five.’
‘Are you going to swim in your clothes?’
‘Would you prefer me to strip down to my boxers?’
‘No. I didn’t mean that at all…I was just asking.’
He laughed as he got up and held out his hand.
‘Come on. Let’s get in the water.’
As she took his hand and started moving, she murmured.
‘I suppose it can’t hurt. I didn’t even have time for a shower today. I guess a dip in the ocean is the next best thing.’
He held her hand tightly and gently squeezed it.
‘That’s the spirit.’
The water was warm and cool at the same time. He watched as Emma pulled at her messy hair and let the blond locks cascade down her back, he felt his mouth go dry just watching her. But what sealed the deal in his mind was her exuberant, joyful laugh as she ran into the water and dived under. At that moment Can knew he had to have her, come hell or high water, Emma was for him.
He dove in and went after her. She was laying in the shallows floating on her back, enjoying the sunshine on her face. He swam up closer to her and just stood there, drinking in the sight of her. She opened her eyes and gave him that beautiful smile of hers.
‘This is wonderful. I haven’t been in the ocean in ages.’
He bent down, submerging his body in the water, then gently placed his hands on her hips, guiding her closer to him. Her legs went around his body, and he felt the electricity between them as their bodies touched. He could tell that she knew his mood had shifted, and the atmosphere grew tense.
She was nervous.
He kept looking into her eyes as he pushed the wet locks behind her ears, and then slowly started closing the gap between their faces.
‘What are you doing?’
He should have anticipated her ruining the moment, he thought to himself amusingly.
‘I’m about to kiss you.’
‘That’s what I thought. I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.’
‘What’s your objection?’
‘I don’t know. I’m having some difficulty thinking when I’m this close to you.’
He hoped she would never lose that inherent honesty.
‘Well, how about you stop thinking and just go with your feelings on this one?’
He moved closer again and was only a few millimetres from her lips before she interrupted again.
‘I’m out of practice.’
This time he refused to move back and give her space. So, he stayed where he was and just murmured.
‘I’ll take my chances.’
And the second his lips touched hers, it felt like coming home. He didn’t know where he ended, and she began. It was like all the world simply disappeared, leaving only the two of them. Nothing else existed. He could feel himself getting more and more aroused, and all of a sudden, she pulled away from him.
It left him feeling empty and disoriented, and judging by the look of her, she felt the same.
Emma was taken aback. She felt like her body was on fire. What had started as an innocent kiss had turned into something quite different, very quickly. They were on a public beach, in view of everyone at the restaurant and they’d been going at it like teenagers. She felt mortified by her loss of control.
‘I think it's time to get out of the water.’
Can just pressed her closer to him, murmuring.
‘Give me a minute or two.’
And she felt why he needed it. He was breathing heavily, looking at her like he wanted to devour her. Emma could hand on heart say, that she had never been on the receiving end of a smouldering look like that. It made her feel embarrassed and powerful at the same time.
‘I can’t believe we did that, in broad daylight for everyone to see.’
She felt Can’s chuckle.
‘Me either. We have some pretty powerful chemistry.’
Emma thought on that for a second.
‘The funny thing is you’re not really my type at all.’
‘In what way?’
‘I usually go for pretty boys. You know cute, unthreateningly attractive. The type grandmothers love.’
‘Are you saying I’m not pretty?’
She couldn’t help the laugh that escaped, maybe that had been a bit insulting.
‘I don’t mean to say you’re not attractive. You are, just in a more rugged, alarmingly overwhelming way. Your size doesn’t help either; your more than a full head taller than me. I barely reach your chin, and you have quite a bit of muscles. I’ve never really gone for that either.’
His eyes turned serious.
‘Spend the rest of the day with me.’
‘What? I can’t do that. The only reason I managed to sneak out today, was because Veronica was so hungover, she didn’t want to get out of bed. I managed to persuade her I was so well-rested. I couldn’t possibly sleep for another minute, so I would be heading out to do some sightseeing without her.’
‘Where will you be tonight?’
‘I don’t know yet. I think we’re just going to have dinner at the hotel.’
‘Where are you staying?’
Emma didn’t know if she wanted him to know where she was staying. She felt confused and not a little uncomfortable at the pace this was moving.
‘You don’t want me to know where you live?’
That felt petty, and he looked almost hurt.
‘I have no problem telling you where we are staying. Pera Palace.’
He gave her a look that told her he knew she was not a hundred percent comfortable with saying it. She didn’t even know why she felt like that.
‘So, if you and Veronica are eating there, you text me what time and I’ll just coincidentally decide to eat there with a friend of mine as well. I recognize you to from last night. And ask if we can join you.’
Emma did want to see him. She didn’t want to want to see him. But she did.
‘OK. That works.’
He gave her another squeeze and then said.
‘Let’s get out of here, we’ll take a walk on the beach and get dry.’
What followed was one of the best afternoons Emma had had in years. Can was funny, witty attentive, and didn’t let go of her hand for the duration of their time together. He hugged her and frequently pulled her into his side for a kiss on the cheek. It was really an eye-opener how much she’d missed just having someone to hold her. Time seemed to move so quickly when she was around him. All of a sudden, it was four o’clock.
‘I have to get back. Veronica is going to start wondering where I am soon.’
He looked like he wanted to say something but decided against it.
‘Then let’s get you a cab and get you back. I’ll see you in a few hours again.’
They walked back up to the restaurant, asked them to call a cab, and within minutes it was time to say goodbye.
Emma was terrible at these things.
‘Well, I guess I’ll see you later then.’
She actually stuck out her hand to him. And when he saw it, he just shook his head laughing, pulled her into his strong arms, and kissed her senseless. When he pulled back, he couldn’t contain the fire in his eyes, but there was also laughter lurking.
‘Did you just try to shake my hand goodbye?’
She felt mortified.
‘No. I was going to pick something off your sweater for you, but the wind took care of it.’
There was no freaking wind. She didn’t even know how to lie properly.
‘Well, I got to go.’
And with that, she quickly jumped into a cab and started making the journey back to the hotel.
She felt giddy at the thought of seeing him again tonight. Really, it was odd. But she couldn’t wait.
She walked into the hotel on cloud nine. She made a reservation for them at seven-thirty in the restaurant, then texted Can the time and started walking back up to the room. Veronica hadn’t even made it out of bed. She could probably have stayed with Can for another hour without issue.
‘Emma, is that you? What time is it?’
‘It’s four-thirty. I’ve made a reservation for us downstairs, dinners in about three hours. Did you eat anything today, or have you just been lying in bed?’
Veronica stretched out.
‘I’ve been in bed all day. It’s been wonderful. What did you get up too?’
‘Oh, I just did some sightseeing.’
‘Did you see anything particular?’
‘Not really just walked around and got lost in the crowds. Getting a feel for the place.’
She did not want to discuss this anymore.
‘Anyway, I’m going to jump into a shower. You should start getting up now.’
Can hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Emma since he’d left her three hours ago. Obsession might be the more apt word for what he was starting to feel. He was bringing Osman tonight. He was one of his closest friends, spoke excellent English, and he thought Veronica might go for him.
It had dawned on him that if Emma didn’t want to tell her cousin, she was meeting him. The best thing to do was to find something or someone to occupy Veronica on this trip. And he thought Osman might be just the right thing. He may not be a celebrity, but in his own field of finance, he was viewed as a bit of a star.
Unfortunately, the man was a horrible actor. Something he had shown Can ten years ago when they met and Osman for a short period had been debating between a career in the financial sector or acting.
The man couldn’t act to save his life. So, he could not tell him what the actual plan was tonight. He had to keep his friend in the dark, or he would blow the entire thing.
The man in question was also taking a hell of a long time getting ready.
‘Come on, man, are you done soon?’
Osman casually strolled out of the bathroom.
‘What’s the hurry? I know you said you wanted to eat at seven-thirty, but you do know, they will hold the table for you, for as long as you want. Stop stressing, you’re going to give yourself a heart attack.’
‘I just don’t want to be late. It’s rude to make a reservation and then not be on time.’
‘Since when have you cared?’
‘Since today. I started to care today. So, hurry the fuck up. How long can one man stand and fiddle with his hair? Were going to dinner, not walking in a modelling contest.’
‘Jesus. I don’t know what has crawled up your ass. But you are behaving really strangely today.’
Osman just looked at him, shook his head, and said.
‘I’m ready. Let’s just go.’
They walked in at seven forty-five. And even though Can was trying to play it cool and be normal, he knew he was failing miserably. They were greeted by the host, who immediately started to whisk them off to their table.
Can had completely forgotten that the few times he had been here to eat, they put him in a private VIP room that was on the second floor. And you accessed it by going straight up from where you were greeted at the front. There was no way he would be able to accidentally run into Emma and Veronica if that happened. So instead, he told them he wanted to walk around the dining room, to get a feel for the place before he sat down to eat.
Both Osman and the woman who was escorting them looked at him like he had lost his marbles. And he understood that. But what the hell could he do?
That was one perk of being a celebrity. No matter how idiotic your actions were, most people would just accept it. Write it off as an eccentricity you had being an artistic soul.
He started to scan the restaurant and, after a few seconds, spotted Emma sitting with Veronica furthest down to the right in the large dining room.
‘I think I see some friends. Well, go and sit with them instead. Come on, Osman.’
‘But Mr. Can we have prepared a wonderful table for you upstairs. Really, a lot of thought and effort has gone into it.’
God. He couldn’t win today.
‘Of course, I’m sorry for my rudeness. Could you please just add two more chairs upstairs then? So my friends can join us instead of us going to them?’
‘Not a problem. I’ll see to it straight away.’
Osman grabbed hold of his arm.
‘Man, are you OK? You seem a little off. What friends are you talking about?’
‘Oh, just two English girls that I met yesterday. It’s quite a coincidence.’
Now, who was the bad actor? Osman was not buying it for a second.
‘I see. Yes, quite a coincidence. Well, should we go and ask them to join us?’
They walked over, and he could see that Veronica had seen him. She started waving like crazy, but it wasn’t until Emma turned around that he felt himself calming down.
She was absolute perfection.
She was wearing a tight-fitting black dress that flowed out from her hips down to her knees. The blonde hair was wavy and down. And red lipstick. It was a striking combination.
He kept his eyes on Emma. And murmured a small.
That fucking smile was enough to bring a man to his knees.
‘What a coincidence that you guys are here. Osman meet Veronica and Emma. I met them yesterday at a nightclub in town.’
Emma shook Osman’s hand and said hello, while Veronica barely spared him a glance. She was busy talking to him.
‘It’s really nice to see you again. I can’t believe we are running into you two days in a row.’
‘I know. Amazing coincidence in such a large city. We actually have a table upstairs; would you ladies like to join us?’
‘We would love too. Wouldn’t we, Emma?’
Veronica was already up from her chair before Emma even had a chance to respond. She grabbed hold of Can’s arm, and he had no choice but to escort her up, while Emma walked with Osman. He could tell from his friends’ look that he thought Veronica was the reason they were here tonight. And Osman was not disappointed being matched with Emma.
He could feel the bubbles of jealousy stirring as he watched Osman put Emma’s hand on his arm.
The restaurant had done a great job with the table. It was a square one, so there hadn’t been any problem adding two chairs. He guided Veronica to her seat and then watched as Osman sat Emma down in the chair next to Veronica. Seating himself next to her. That only left him the chair between Osman and Veronica, and that was unacceptable.
He stood there just staring, trying to come up with something to say to fix the situation. Possibly a bit too long because Osman looked at him and said.
‘Is there a problem Can? Why aren’t you sitting down?’
How to begin to explain it.
’Well, I was just thinking. Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to sit man-woman, man-woman, instead of two women and two men?
They all looked at him like he was crazy. Except he could tell, Emma was enjoying watching him struggle to get next to her.
‘Man, no one cares. It’s fine. It’s not a large table. We will all be able to speak just fine. Just sit down.’
‘I just meant- ’
‘Jesus fuck man. You are behaving completely ridiculous today. Timekeeping, checking the atmosphere, and now seating arrangements? When have you ever cared? Sit down, so we can order our drinks and food.’
Can sat down.
‘I was just trying to think of everyone’s comfort. That’s all.’
‘I think we will all be more comfortable if you stopped behaving like a fucking alien has taken over your body. Just sit down and relax, grab a whiskey and chill the fuck out.’
Osman turned back and looked at the girls.
‘Excuse the language, ladies. Everyone has a breaking point, and my friend here is towing a fine line today when it comes to mine.’
If Emma let out the laugh, he saw she was holding in, while watching him. He would grab her out of her chair and kiss her senseless in front of everyone, consequences be damned. He was making an ass of himself for her, and she was absolutely loving it.