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Authors: Nichi Hodgson

Bound to You

BOOK: Bound to You
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

BOUND TO YOU
Nichi Hodgson

www.hodder.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

Copyright © Nichi Hodgson 2012

The right of Nichi Hodgson to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 1 444 76328 7

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

www.hodder.co.uk

CHAPTER 1

The door slammed behind me. I stepped up on to the pavement, my white dress shining like a lost cloud caught out after dark. In the cool night air, the clarity of mind that had eluded me all day suddenly reappeared. Where could you get a taxi from round here at 3 a.m. on a Monday morning?

I walked up the road towards the train station. My zebra-print heels were as inflexible as pokers and after the long walk across London, felt as though they were branding the tops of my toes. My phone battery was practically dead and I hoped to God there was a taxi rank at the top of this hill. For the first time that day, somebody answered my prayers.

As the car pulled away from Sebastian’s road, the screen on my exhausted phone flashed up. ‘I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. I hope at some point we can talk.’ I thought of him lying there in the bed, his cobalt-blue eyes glazed over. He was paralysed, unable to do or say anything that might in any way compensate for showing me what the world looked like when you didn’t have a heart. He hadn’t even bothered to come after me. That’s how little he cared, how inexorable all this was to him.

And then I remembered. In my haste to escape that awful conversation I had left my make-up bag in his bathroom. I couldn’t manage without make-up any more, the way I’d begun to feel. I had to get it back. ‘Send it to my office. Do it immediately.’

‘Of course,’ came the reply.

As the car wound its way down to south London, a series of tableaux played out through my mind. Sebastian smiling at me on the corner of Oxford Street, his dimples radiating out of the geometric perfection of his face. Sebastian clutching me to him in an unyielding embrace. Sebastian, naked, his muscular beauty slapping my senses to attention. Sebastian calling me Nichi
mou
. Sebastian pinning me down and pulling me by the hair until my head spun. Sebastian giving me the headiest orgasm of my life.

But Sebastian was an emotional leper. If only I could put a bell round his neck to warn womenkind away from him. If only I could undo the ties that bound me to him.

CHAPTER 2


Ela
, Nichi
mou
!’

That’s effectively Greek for, ‘Honey I’m home’, and meant that Christos was back. His footfalls echoed up the staircase to our flat, the flat we had recently moved into together in an unfashionable part of west London. Then there was a light thud and I heard him pause as he reached the door. It sounded as though he was carrying something cumbersome.

‘Do you want a hand?’ I called to him from our large room, which doubled up as living quarters and boudoir.

‘Wait a minute . . . wait!’ I could hear the grin in his voice. ‘Don’t come out!’

I smiled to myself. Usually, ‘don’t come out’ meant that Christos had a present for me. Ever since we first got together at university he had regularly brought me gifts. It could be anything from a picture of a miniature sausage dog (I have a minor obsession with sausage dogs) ripped out of the newspaper, to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary in two volumes, to a pair of shoes I had been lusting after but couldn’t afford on my media intern’s budget. One of the first things he ever gave me was a white lace skirt with a fuchsia underlay. I remember being unsure about it. It seemed almost too stylish and I was unconvinced that it would suit me, much less that it was my size, but it fitted perfectly. ‘Is this man for real?’ I remember thinking, before kissing him in admiration. ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,’ he had intoned theatrically. He loved to play up to the idea of the ancient hero.

The truth of the matter was that Christos was pretty mythical. We met in the kitchen of our final-year university accommodation when we were just twenty years old. He was such a cliché of handsome Mediterranean man that I remember trying to mentally resist him as a matter of principle. He wore blue jeans, and a tight white T-shirt that highlighted his biceps and bronzed skin to ambrosial perfection. He was the model you would actually have lusted over had he featured on one of those tacky ‘Love from Greece’ postcards. I was so captivated by his chiselled face, dimpled chin and his dark pooling eyes that I let him stand there, hand held out in greeting, for what felt like hours, before I managed to shake it. ‘I’m Christos,’ he offered, in his inimitable accent, and beamed at me.

If I’d doubted that love at first sight was possible, partnering up with him at the Latin dance class a week later persuaded me otherwise. My skin sung when he brushed against me, and by the time he had carried me over a puddle on a midnight walk a week or two afterwards, I had no doubt whatsoever that this was the man I always wanted to love.

Now the door flung open. Christos heaved a bright white table with folding legs and two plastic chairs into the room. We’d been eating dinner on our laps for the past fortnight, in what was effectively a glorified studio apartment, complete with a mattress you could fold away and a humming fridge.

‘Where did you get those from?’

‘Heh!’ He puffed himself up, stood legs apart, hands on hips, and pulled an imperious face. ‘Us Greeks have ways!’ he boasted, then paused for a second. ‘Ikea.’

I hated moving house, loathed decorating and DIY, but Christos made home-making a pleasure. Since we’d moved in, he had done his utmost to transform the appallingly decorated chintzy room into a vaguely acceptable twenty-first-century living space. Now we had rugs and a brightly coloured polka-dot duvet, and an electric-blue painting of a souk at midnight, which we had acquired on a trip we had made to Morocco just before my finals.

I went over to kiss him. He wrapped his arms about me and squeezed me until I squealed in satisfaction. Then he took the table and chairs and arranged them by the bay window.

‘There!’ He elongated the e, as I did. He loved to mimic my Yorkshire accent.

‘Are you hungry then? Shall we have the left-over
melitzanes
for dinner?’ I asked, trying out one of the new chairs.

‘Yes. But first I must clean that table. And find some mats,’ Christos said, and disappeared off to fetch a cloth. Like many Mediterraneans, he was exceptionally house-proud. Unlike many Mediterranean men, he was also prepared to do the cleaning himself. He attributed this in part to his no-nonsense mother making him chip in with the household chores as a child, but also to his abortive time spent in the Greek army, ‘where we mainly polished our guns, and sat around under fig trees, eating.’ The truth of the matter was that Christos had been a unit commander and was skilled in close mortal combat. Only his physical strength gave him away as having been a fighter. Otherwise, he was as gentle as he was genial. But his soldierly skills came in handy when you wanted him to win you a soft toy from the rifle range at the fairground. Or take your weight as you wrapped your legs around him and had sex against a wall.

‘So I heard from the university,’ he called from the kitchen. ‘Looks like I can start my PhD in the autumn.’

‘Bravo, Christos
mou
!’ I called back.

While my studying was over, Christos’s had hardly begun; he now needed an engineering PhD to ensure he could compete at the highest level in his chosen profession. As much as part of me would have liked to begin a PhD myself, in something as arcane as Petrarchan love poetry or gender studies, my career trajectory in the media simply depended on me being able to make decent coffee and begging editors to give me a break. But I was looking forward to supporting him as he had me. I would never have got a First without Christos’s endless encouragement in that final year of my degree; not without his humour, not without his cooking a delicious dinner for me during an essay break. But mostly, not without being able to have passionate sex with him every night, sex which always ended in simultaneous orgasm and
S’agapo
s (I love yous). Afterwards we would fall asleep wrapped up like a couple of gratified cats and I would marvel at my ridiculous luck in having met him.

Christos came back into the room carrying a cloth in one hand, plates and cutlery in the other. He was grimacing. ‘Yeah, I’m so bored with studying but diamond rings don’t come cheap now, do they?’

I shook my head and started to laugh. Christos had been teasing me about marriage and children ever since I’d told him at university that I thought they were a means of patriarchal control. I’d relaxed my radical feminist rules a little since then but I was still pretty sure that marriage and a family weren’t really for me. Truth was that I’d never met a more respectful, equality-minded man, but he still loved to rile me by pretending that he was a domineering male who planned to keep me captive, unable to work or read or socialise with the outside world, ‘where your only duty is to serve me! Me, your
Kyrios
(master).’ He would teasingly push me to the bed and make what he called gorilla fists before grunting in my face. And then I would usually grab a fistful of black curls at the nape of his neck and pull him into a long, deep kiss to stop him monkeying around.

‘No diamonds today, thank you!’

‘Oh Nichi, when are you going to accept your destiny as my wife and mother to my children?’

‘When someone gives me a proper, paying journalism job, perhaps.’

I was happy about Christos’s PhD news but it also reminded me how anxious I was about my own professional situation.

‘Look it’s going to happen, Nichi
mou
. You’re just starting out. Patience, my eager Egg. Now, would the Golden Egg like salad and some rice with those
melitzanes
?’ He hovered a serving spoon above my plate the way his grandmother used to do.

‘Egg’ was another of Christos’s affectionate nicknames for me, meant to quell my anxiety about having a round face, a face I had once starved into a brace of angles when I was anorexic as a teenager. Food was central to Greek culture, and the mealtimes I had once dreaded had become a happy daily ritual with Christos. He had shown infinite patience and sensitivity when we first met and at times I still struggled to eat without fear.


Ne, efharisto
.’ I nodded. He fondled my cheek.

I tried to use Greek with Christos whenever I could. I had wanted to learn it from the moment we met. I loved language, how the words at our disposal shaped not just what we said, but how we thought about the world in the first place. How could I not want to learn Greek, when it promised to mesh me even more tightly with this incredible man? Outside of the flat we mainly spoke it on the tube so we could gossip about people. Or I would use it to talk dirty at him in otherwise inappropriate locations: on the phone during lunchtimes at work, in the Persian carpet room of the Victoria and Albert museum. Standing in the checkout queue in Sainsburys.

BOOK: Bound to You
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