“Still haven’t found that special someone yet, eh?”
A wide but stiff-looking smile crossed James Noble’s lips. His disheveled hair flopped over his forehead, and he pushed it back, sending the rest of his hair into a spiky disarray.
“Nope!” James said cheerfully. “Not yet.”
“Which soulmark do you have?” the interviewer asked.
“Oh, but that would be telling,” he answered cryptically.
“Not even a hint of anything directing you to your lucky lady?”
“Could be my lucky gentleman,” James corrected sharply.
The interviewer’s eyebrows raised slightly. “Is that confirmation that you are indeed homosexual?”
James groaned and rolled his eyes.
“I am completely and one-hundred percent devoted to my soulmate,” he said firmly, closing the discussion. “No matter the gender they happen to be.”
“I told you he was fit!”
Rose glanced over her shoulder, where her mate Shareen was leaning up against the door frame.
“Yeah, I suppose he is,” Rose said with a shrug, despite the singer being exactly her type. She turned back to her computer and closed out of the interview clip she’d been watching.
“And lucky for us—” Rose heard the sound of paper flapping, and when she turned back to her friend, she saw Shareen was holding two long, thin pieces of shiny paper. “—We are gonna go see him live next Saturday.”
“What?” Rose asked.
“Won tickets off a radio show,” Shareen said. “Two free tickets to James Noble’s London show. You and me, babe, front and center.”
“You’re not talking yourself out of this,” Shareen said. “You need a pick-me-up. Ever since your shop burned down, you’ve been burying yourself in homework and job hunting.”
“I need to get my grades up for this one scholarship, and if I don’t find a job, I’ll have to leave school,” Rose said flatly. “You know that.”
Shareen held up her hands at the defensive note in Rose’s voice.
“I know, babe. My point was, you’ve been running yourself ragged. A night out will do you good. And it’s free. Come on, Rosie, please?”
Rose sighed. It would definitely be nice to get out of the flat. But…
“I barely know this guy,” Rose said. “I hardly know any of his songs. Surely you’ve got another mate who’d appreciate the ticket more.”
“Nah, I wanna go with you,” Shareen said. “Saturday night. You and me getting sloshed at a James Noble concert. It’ll be fun.”
And so that’s how Rose found herself dressed in clothes a half a size too tight and with a face full of makeup queuing in a line to an outdoor arena. The warm late-spring breeze carried with it the smell of alcohol and human sweat as Rose and Shareen pushed their way to the front of the quickly-filling arena.
She sipped at her cheap beer and people-watched as she waited for the show to start. Finally, just as the sun began to set, the crowd screamed, and Rose turned to see James Noble walking onto the stage.
God, he was fit. His pinstriped trousers clung to his shapely bum, and his oxford stretched across his chest then down around his narrow hips, where it was only half tucked into his trousers. His hair looked deliciously rumpled, as though some lucky soul had just finished snogging the breath out of him. A twinge twisted through Rose’s stomach, and she couldn’t help but fantasize that she had kissed him and made him look so sexy.
Dream on, she scoffed.
“Hello London!” he shouted, a boyish grin crossing his face. He let out a giggle as the crowd screamed back, and without any other introduction, music started up and he began skipping around the stage and singing.
The music wasn’t half bad, from what Rose could make out. The acoustics weren’t the greatest in the stadium, and the roar of the crowd made her ears ring, but she thought he had a very pleasant, soothing voice.
He was about four songs in when it happened. His eyes scanned across the area where she and Shareen were dancing, and for just a second—less than a second, actually—their eyes met, and the world exploded into color.
Her vision swam with the onslaught of color. Everything was so bright. He was so bright.
He had the most beautiful brown eyes. Those eyes had swept right over her, not really seeing her, and Rose watched as his eyes widened and he frantically scanned his eyes over the crowd. His voice choked off mid-lyric and he nearly tripped over his feet as his head whipped from side to side.
Me! It’s me! she wanted to scream, but her throat felt swollen and she felt half nauseous.
“Wonder what’s wrong with him,” Shareen said in her ear as the crowd dissolved into hushed whispers.
“Please,” he croaked into his microphone. “Where are you?”
A red-haired woman and a brown-haired bloke walked out from backstage, as did a medic.
“No, I’m fine,” he said when they began guiding him off the stage. “Get off of me. I need to find them. Where are they? My soulmate…”
Upon those words, there were several shrieks from the crowd, and then the arena was thrown into chaos. Rose was shoved to the side, away from Shareen, as people, men and women alike, rushed the stage to claim him as their soulmate.
Rose wanted to snarl at them all that he was hers, but she still was having trouble processing everything that had happened in the last two minutes. She’d found her soulmate. Finally. After twenty-one years of seeing the world in shades of gray, she’d found him. Her life would be forever changed, and in more ways than she ever imagined.
She was soulmated to James Noble. Millionaire international celebrity. London’s heartthrob. Hell, the world’s heartthrob. She’d always expected her soulmate to be a normal person, like her.
Oh, God. What would he think when he saw her? Just a chav off the estate. No job. No money. Still living with her mum. Absolutely nothing that would interest a bloke like him.
Tears burned her eyes as she stumbled out of the path of the people still storming the stage. Security and police officers were pouring in to try to pacify the mob. Rose tripped over someone’s feet, and she went sprawling to the ground.
Her heart lodged in her throat as people still stampeded around her, and she instinctively curled her arms around her head. Someone eventually helped her up, and helped her stagger out of the main crowd.
It would be impossible to find Shareen. Rose took her phone from her pocket and sent her friend a text, telling her she was safe but going home, then she began to walk out of the stadium. Colors weakened the farther she walked, until finally her world was grayscale once more.
“No! No, please!”
She heard James’s cry from the speakers, and the panic in his voice made a sob lodge in her throat.
“Don’t go! Please don’t go! Please!”
Her soulmate was in pain, and she was just walking away from him. Tears fell down Rose’s cheeks as she took off at a sprint towards a taxi she saw across the street. She hopped into the back, gave the driver her address, and rode away from the stadium. Away from James.
Over the next couple of weeks, Rose looked up as much as she could about her soulmate. She listened to all of his music on repeat, and she watched all of his YouTube videos. She hadn’t realized he’d started out as a YouTuber, doing covers of popular songs before he eventually shared some of his original work.
The longer she watched him, the more she fell in love with him. She fell in love with his cheeky smiles and the way his voice got all squeaky when he got excited, and how he could ramble on and on about a million different tangents, but somehow tie it back to the original thought.
As she stalked James online, her mum continued urging her to come forward.
“No one should have their soulmate withheld from them,” she said. “You never know how long you’ll have with your soulmate. You want to make the most of it.”
“Mum, I live on a council estate,” Rose said for the hundredth time. “He’s gonna be so embarrassed to have someone like me for a soulmate.”
“Rose Marion Tyler, don’t you say that,” Jackie said fiercely. “Anyone would be lucky to have you as their soulmate.”
But Rose ignored her mum, unable to find the nerve to find James and introduce herself. She wouldn’t even know how to go about it. And she was still trying to wrap her head around the fact that her soulmate was famous. That she would be sharing him with all of his fans. That he made more money than she could even comprehend. That he traveled so much, she would barely see him.
We could work it out, she mused weakly. I could go on tour with him, if he wanted. We’re soulmates, after all. We’re made for each other.
Her resolve was weakened further when, two weeks after that concert, a new video was uploaded to James’s YouTube account.
It had hit the media almost immediately that James had found his soulmate. He had refused to give comment, and he’d cancelled the rest of his UK tour. He’d practically disappeared from the public eye, and his press team only every said that they all wished nothing but happiness for James, and that he would find his soulmate again soon.
But here he was, with a live update. He looked a wreck. His hair was limp and greasy, and no amount of makeup could cover up the dark bags under his eyes.
Rose bit her lip as guilt consumed her. It was her fault her soulmate was so miserable.
“Hello,” James murmured to the camera. “It’s me. First off, sorry to those who held tickets for my show in Cardiff and Glasgow. Second off… I want to tell my soulmate, whoever you are and wherever you may be, please come back. Please find me. I haven’t even properly met you and I miss you so much.”
James sniffed hard and blinked rapidly a few times. The heartbreak on his face was obvious, and Rose hated herself even more.
“And to everyone else, please just stop. Stop trying to lie about being my soulmate. It hurts. It hurts to get my hopes up every day, only to have them crash back down again. If you’re true fans of mine, please just leave me be. Thank you.”
He moved to turn the camera off, but he paused.
“I don’t care who you are,” he said softly. “I will love every piece of you, but I can’t do that if I don’t know who you are. You’re my best friend. Well. You will be. When we finally meet again.”
He finally turned the video off, and Rose immediately grabbed her phone and called James’s agency. She groaned when she was sent straight to voicemail. It was the middle of the night; she would have to wait until the next morning to try to get into contact with her soulmate.
She was too excited to sleep. She kept picturing all of the ways her meeting with her soulmate would go. She imagined her world exploding into color once more, and she could commit the exact shade of brown of his eyes to memory.
But what if he was angry she’d kept herself from him? Would he resent her for that? Would he think she was stupid for having those stupid fears?
She hoped not.
She was eventually able to fall asleep, and she dreamed of a brown-haired bloke with a boyish grin all night.
The next morning, Rose dressed in her best jeans and her favorite top, and she applied her makeup with a light hand. She fussed with her hair until it hung in loose waves around her face, then she gathered her courage along with her keys and wallet and headed out to find her soulmate.
She’d tracked down the address of James’s agency, and figured that would be the best place to start. She was unprepared for the mass of people outside the front door, held back by at least a dozen police officers.
She managed to push her way to the front of the crowd, and got the attention of a security guard.
“I’m James Noble’s soulmate,” she said.
He scoffed and rolled his eyes.
“You and everyone else here,” he said, and he made to walk away from her.
Rose reached out and grabbed his arm. “I’m serious! You have to let me see him! He’s got the colorblindness soulmark. He saw colors when he saw me. But they went away when we got too far apart. Please, if you just let me get close enough, the soulmark will reactivate.”
The security guard was looking at her now with a funny expression. He called two of his colleagues closer, and had them brace the crowd as he dragged Rose through the barricade.
She breathed a sigh of relief that the officer seemed to believe her.
“If you’re messing about—”
“I’m not,” she insisted.
“But if you are, you will be forcibly removed from this building and a restraining order will be filed, and you will be placed on a permanent ban from all of his future concerts.”
“I’m telling the truth,” she said.
The officer led Rose though the building, and to the lifts. He escorted her to the top floor, and down the hall to a huge office.
Rose couldn’t stop the disappointment that swelled through her when only a woman was in the room, and her vision stayed gray.
“We’ve got another potential,” the officer said.
“Oh?” The woman’s lips pursed, and Rose wanted to shout at them both that she really was James’s soulmate. But she supposed she should be happy that James had such wonderful staff that cared about him enough to screen people claiming to be his soulmate.
“Yep.” The officer looked around. “Where’s James.”
“Out for coffee,” she said. “So we’ll just sit tight until he gets back.”
Rose was guided into a seat in front of the desk, and she tried not to squirm under their accusing eyes.
After what seemed like hours but couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes, Rose’s vision lightened. The grays bled into pastel shades of blues the office was decorated in, before they became bolder, a more vibrant blue. So much blue. She barely had names for the different shades of it all. Sure, she’d learned them in school. Cerulean blue, baby blue, sapphire blue, navy blue… But never before had she actually seen it with her own eyes. Surely there were more shades of blue than she ever imagined.
But after she got over the shock of colors, she realized what these colors meant.
“He’s here,” she whispered to herself, standing. There was a pull deep inside her, and she stumbled for the door. James was close. She would finally get to meet him, and tell him how sorry she was for running away from him.
But the officer grabbed her around the bicep and tugged her to a stop.
“Jack, I think she’s telling the truth,” the woman whispered, just as someone shouted, “Donna!”
Rose’s heart throbbed in her throat. James.
“Donna! They’re here! Donna! They’re here!!”
The door to the office burst open, and James flew into the room, wild-haired and bright-eyed. He stopped when he saw Donna wasn’t alone in the office, and his eyes immediately landed on Rose.
“H-hello,” he said shakily.
“Hi,” she whispered, lifting the hand on the arm Jack wasn’t still holding to wave at him.
James saw how Jack was restraining her, and he frowned.
“I hope to God you’re not manhandling my soulmate, Jack,” he said, glaring at the officer.
“Oh, geez. I’m so sorry.”
Jack dropped his hold on Rose, and she tentatively walked up to James with her hand outstretched. He reached out his hand, too, and though Rose had heard the stories, nothing prepared her for the utter warmth that enveloped her when her fingers brushed against James’s. His gasp let her know he felt it too. Her vision shimmered for a moment before steadying once more, and she knew that if she walked away from James now—which she had no intention of doing—that the colors would stay firmly in place.
A slow smile spread across his face, and before she knew it, she was being picked up by her soulmate. He laughed in her ear as he spun her around the room, and she couldn’t help but giggle as she clung to his shoulders.
“Oh, it’s you! It’s really you!” He set her on her feet and brought his hands to cup her cheeks as he looked into her eyes.
Rose looked back into his, memorizing the shade and texture of them, and the way his one eyelid sat a little heavily above his eye. Her gaze swept across the freckles that dusted across his nose and cheeks, and to his mouth, and that full bottom lip that was still stretched in a grin.
He was beautiful.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, bringing her hands to cover his. “I’m so sorry I ran from the concert. I just got scared.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he said, stroking his thumbs across her cheeks. “You’re here, now. But please, you’re killing me… what’s your name?”
“Rose,” she answered, leaning into his touch. “Rose Tyler.”
“Rose Tyler,” he repeated reverently, and Rose loved the way his tongue seemed to cradle the syllables of her name. “Rose. My Rose.”
“My James,” she countered with a cheeky wink.
He let out a high-pitched giggle that Rose knew would become one of her favorite sounds, and he moved to tug her into another crushing embrace.
“I’m so happy you’re here,” he whispered, and Rose shivered when she felt his lips press to the top of her head.
“Not to ruin this happy little meeting, but you were supposed to go for coffee.”
Rose jumped when she remembered she and James weren’t alone. She made to step away from him, and put a respectable distance between them, but James kept his arm wrapped around her waist.
Donna had her arms crossed at her chest, but the smile on her face gave her away.
“Well, I got a little distracted when the lift suddenly changed colors,” James teased. “Your latte is unfortunately in a puddle down the hall.” He squeezed his arm around Rose. “I think we should go get her a replacement, don’t you think? We can get out of here. Have a coffee? You and me? Eh?”
Rose couldn’t help but smile at the shy, nervous look on his face.
“Yeah, I’d like that,” she said, and his face melted into a grin of relief.
“Right!” James turned back around to Jack and Donna and said, “Rose and I will be back. With your coffees. Eventually. Not sure when. Bye!”
James then untangled his arm from around her waist and grabbed her hand.
“Allons-y!” he said with a giggle, and he tugged her into a jog towards the lift.