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What Katie Did

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Thursday’s were the best day to work. Quiet enough throughout the day that stock could be replenished well enough ready for the weekend rush, but still with a steady stream of customers to ensure the day passed quickly.

Yes, Katie loved her Thursday shifts. But ultimately, she wasn’t fussy, she enjoyed all her shifts. In fact, it was a wonder to her boss how a young woman could be so content with her life, just working in a little shop, selling bread and milk. But Katie never complained, not when it was manic and busy, or when business was so slow, she found herself cleaning shelving units to pass the time.

“Here, Kate,” Her manager approached her where she stood at the front of the shop, reorganising the display on the end of the aisle. A chocolate promotion which a colleague had set up on the nightshift and had done a pretty shabby job of it. He passed her a box of King Size Dairy Milk, “Are these what you were looking for?”

“Perfect, thanks, Daz,” She grasped the box from his hands and turned back to her display. She stood back for a second, then pulled her box cutter out on its retracting cord and tore her way into cardboard.

The shop was nothing special. A small convenience store owned by one of those bigger supermarket chains. Katie had been working there almost three years, just part time. Enough hours to pay the bills, but not so much that she didn’t get any time with her family. But she loved it. She loved the variety of customers. The commuters first thing in the morning, just going about their day. She liked to wonder where they were all headed and what they did for a living. Then the regulars, the old dears who liked to stop and talk. She loved to listen to them and hear their stories. She’d often remind some of her younger store colleagues that many elderly people live alone and that might be the only conversation they have all day. A little kindness never hurt anyone.

Her constantly upbeat attitude to her work, of course made her popular with her customers and co-workers alike. Many of the regulars knew her by name and asked after her on the rare occasion she was not working her usual shift.

“Looks good, you’re a diamond,” Daz stood behind her, admiring her work.

“You always say that,” Katie shoved his shoulder gently, and laughed, “You should save the compliments for when you’re really desperate.”

“Funny, Kate,” He turned to stride to the back of the shop before stopping short, “I don’t need to ask if you’ll be alright on your own for half an hour? I’ve got some stock taking to do out back.”

“I’ll ring if I need you,” Katie nodded. She flattened the now empty box and held it out to him, “Can you stick this out back? I’m going to get on the till.”

She gave the shop a once over, checking down each of the small aisles before setting herself up behind the till. She straightened her navy uniform, and then busied herself tidying the counter top. The sound of the electric sliding door opening caught her attention, and the sound of the rain hammering down outside filled the shop.

The customer stopped just far enough away from the door, so it shut behind them, and yanked the hood of their rain coat down. Katie recognised them immediately. She’d have probably recognised them from their height and build alone had she been paying more attention. It was the stores local celebrity.

Tom Hiddleston, Katie knew only lived a stone’s throw from the shop. He’d been a fairly regular customer since before she even started working there. Of course, owing to the shops affluent location in North West London, he wasn’t the only famous face that frequented the store. But he was by far the nicest.

Katie watched for a second as the man got his bearings, and then as always, he turned and shot her one of his famous smiles, “Good Morning!”

“Is it? It looks atrocious out there,” Katie quipped, and he laughed, nodding.

“You got me there,” He told her, “You’re right, it’s ghastly, you’re much better off in here.”

“Did you leave your little doggy at home today?” Katie remembered Tom’s lovely Cocker Spaniel that he normally tied to the post outside and asked her to keep an eye on whilst he did his shopping. She peered out, but he wasn’t there today.

“Yes, he hates the rain, won’t set a paw outside.”

“Well I can’t say I blame him,” Tom chuckled again, in a low ‘eheheh’. Then, as per normal, he nodded politely, and headed down the aisle in front of him. Katie smiled to herself, he really was quite lovely.

She wasn’t a fan, not that she didn’t like his work, she just had very little time to indulge in her own hobbies. But she didn’t live under a rock either. Everyone knew of Tom Hiddleston’s reputation as one of the few remaining ‘true gentlemen’. Although Katie knew nothing more about him other than he liked his milk semi-skimmed and his bread Warburtons Granary, he’d never been anything other than polite, and friendly, and she didn’t doubt the media’s portrayal of the actor.

“Have you been busy?” Tom’s voice interrupted Katie from where she’d started unpackaging cigarettes and restocking behind the counter.

“Oh no,” She shook her head, “Not busy today, never is on a Thursday.”

“That’s alright then, well actually, I’m sure you prefer it a little busy.”

“I do, it keeps things interesting,” Katie picked up the bottle of wine he’d placed on the counter and scanned it, “Eight Pounds ninety please, special occasion?”

“Excuse me?” Then he realised she was talking about the wine, “Oh, no, no…well I suppose…my Mum’s coming over for dinner this evening.”

“Oh, that’s lovely!”

“Yeah, we don’t get much time together, so I said I’d cook for her.”

“Making anything nice?”

“A tentative Lamb Tagine.”

“Oh, very adventurous!”

“For me, yes, normally I’m a Bolognaise or Roast Dinner kind of person. Keep it simple.”

“Oh, come on, a roast dinner isn’t simple, all the timing and stuff.”

“Do you enjoy cooking?”

“I prefer eating, but yes, I don’t mind cooking.”

Just then, the door slid open again, and another customer came in the shop. Katie waved, “Morning!”

“Well, I shouldn’t keep you, have a nice day, Katie,” He grinned, “I hope you don’t get caught in the rain on your way home.”

“Thanks, I hope your Tagine is a success, you’ll have to let me know.”

Then he was gone. That was a standard conversation between Katie and most of her regular customers. Exchanging general niceties and wishing people a nice day. But that was the first time Tom had used her name. She wondered for a moment if she’d ever told him at any time, or if he’d heard one of her colleagues speaking to her. But she was mostly in the small shop alone, her boss normally dealing with stock or other managerial tasks out back in the office. It was only when she glanced down and her name tag caught her eye, it struck her. He’d purposely looked for her name, so he could address her formally.

The thought made Katie’s tummy flutter a little. Alright, so she had a little bit of a crush on her customer. Along with the rest of the female population.

But that’s all it was, a silly crush. Who could blame her? He was obviously gorgeous, even in his puffy North Face Rain coat, and tatty jeans, you’d have to be blind not to appreciate his sharp jaw, and cerulean eyes. But he was also a charming, kind man who seemed to have every woman he met swooning at ‘hello’.

Katie had been fine with having a crush, up until this point. It was harmless.

But now she knew how her name sounded upon his lips.

 

*

Tom almost slammed the bottle of wine on his kitchen counter, giving Bobby cause to yip loudly at the noise. Shucking off his rain coat and slinging it over one of the stools at his breakfast bar, Tom cursed himself under his breath.

“Fucking idiot!”

He’d used her name. She was going to think he was one of those creeps that leered over counters to check their servers name badge, so they could repeatedly address them by their name. He’d heard from friends who had worked in shops that this was just about the most annoying thing any customer could do.

The truth was, Tom didn’t need to lean over the counter to check her name badge. He’d clocked it about a year ago. That was when he first really noticed the pretty woman at his local store.

Of course, he’d seen her before, they’d exchanged ‘hello’s’ and ‘have a nice days’ for probably two years prior. It had been not long after he came out of a pretty rough break up. Well no, the break up had not been tough, but the media attention it garnered had been unpleasant. He’d been stressed, massively. His PR had been on his back about the damage the attention could cause to his career. He was dealing with a minor heartache and a massive headache. He’d been having a particularly bad morning, and he was craving a strong cup of tea, when he realised he’d run out of milk. He’d stormed down to the shop just footsteps from his front door, and the first thing he heard was a cheery ‘Morning!”

Katie had been up on one of those round stools designed for shelve stacking. She had a huge trolley of stock beside her and was a little breathless. Clearly up to her eyeballs in work, but rather than continue with her stacking, she hoped down and grinned at him.

“You look like you could do with something a bit stronger than milk today.” He’d laughed at that, because he realised he must have looked incredibly miserable and pissed off. But rather than shy away like most people, she continued to chat away cheerily, “Jack Daniels is on special, a litre for twenty-three quid. I might buy two!”

He’d watched, bemused as the bubbly girl almost bounded behind the counter and waited for him to approach with his milk, and a pack of milk chocolate hobnobs because he needed a sweet binge. She picked up the biscuits and waved them at him, “These will work too! You know they’re on buy one get one free, you should grab another packet.”

“If I buy them, I’ll eat them,” At the time he was meant to be losing a bit of weight for an up coming role.

“Nonsense look at you, you look like you could do with a decent lasagne.” It was the first time in weeks he’d truly laughed, and he walked home with a smile on his face. The next time he’d seen her he’d been sure to check her name badge and ever since then he’d made a point of talking to her each time he visited.

She was pretty. He couldn’t ignore it. He couldn’t really vouch for her body, because her frumpy shop issued uniform did its best to conceal most of her assets. But it couldn’t completely hide her generous bust. The navy t-shirt she wore stretched across her chest but lay baggy everywhere else. She was tall, for a woman he thought. In her flat black shoes, she came to just about his chin.

But her face was what really caught his attention. Fair skin and dark chestnut hair, which was always tied up in a pony tail for work. But it swung around behind her as she bounced around the shop. Her eyes were hazel, and she sometimes wore glasses, which he liked, and she had a lovely mouth. Lips pink but not too thick, and she was always, without fail, smiling.

That was what drew him in. Her smile. He knew it was genuine because it reached her eyes. But it wasn’t just for him, it was for every single person who entered her shop. She had a cheery smile and greeting for everyone who crossed her path, and that was just a breath of fresh air.

It was silly, he knew it. She was just a woman who worked in a shop. He knew absolutely nothing of her, other than her first name. But he’d found himself thinking of her sometimes.

Normally it was when he was getting a little stressed or over worked. He’d think of her smile, or her voice and feel calmed by it. He hated to admit when he’d felt lonely and insecure, he’d thought of her pretty lips and how they might feel against his.

He’d all but decided the only thing he could do was bite the bullet and ask her too dinner. But that was easier said than done. Whilst she was working, how on earth could he just walk in and ask her out? As friendly and chatty as she was, it was clear she loved her job and in that respect was very professional. He doubted she’d entertain the idea of having any sort of personal conversation whilst she was working.

Tom knew he was acting like a teenager with a crush. He’d even found himself making excuses to go to the shop and see her. She must have thought he really liked milk, because right now there were four pints in his fridge, and he probably had five or six loaves of bread in his freezer.  

But he couldn’t even find it in himself to feel bad about his behaviour. He was human after all. He might have had hundreds of thousands of women fawning over him, but he still had insecurities and fears of rejection. How could he just ask someone out when he knew literally nothing about her? In his sensible head, that was just asking for trouble.

Chapter Text

Closing her laptop, Katie hummed contently. An email confirming twelve new subscribers to her Snapchat this week. That was almost an extra two hundred pound a month income. Yes, business was good, and it meant Christmas would be easier this year. She might even be able to get the twins the bikes they’d been wanting.

To celebrate she’d decided to post a couple of bonus snaps for her users. Unfortunately, she realised she was now running late for the school run. Katie hastily tore the lacy bralette she was currently wearing over her head and found some more practical underwear.

Once suitably covered in thick leggings, a knitted dress, boots, coat and scarf to protect from the harsh November chill, Katie called Pink and attached the happy Labradors lead. “We’re going to get the twins, Pinky,” She told the dog, ruffling her ears with a gloved hand. She slung her bag over her shoulder, and they left the flat.

The children attended a state primary school which was just a five-minute walk from home. It wasn’t the best school in the area, but it wasn’t bad. Given the area of London in which they lived, there wasn’t really such thing as a bad school. But the best part was, that five minutes the other side was the south entrance to Hampstead Heath, and Willow Road Playground. This meant Katie quite often coincided collecting the children, with Pink’s walk and managed to tire the kids out in the playground. By the time they got home, they’d often eat dinner, read their school books, bath and go to bed without argument.

The twins bounded from their class into Katie’s arms, and they began their walk north to the park. They both talked over each other excitedly, as they told their Mum about the Christmas play which they’d already started rehearsing.

When they reached the park, Katie let the twins through the metal gate into the playground. She remained outside the fence with Pink, finding a bench nearby in a position where she could keep an eye on the kids, but also with enough space to throw the ball for her Labrador.

*

Tom hadn’t been paying that much attention to the path in front of him. He had his earbuds in, and his scarf pulled up around his face, and tatty baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes. It was only when he felt Bobby tug on his lead a bit harder than normal, that he looked up and called his dog to heel.

“Bobby enough,” he said firmly, tugging back on the lead. But as usual the young dog ignored him. He saw why when he looked up properly. Bobby wanted to make friends with the Chocolate Lab playing fetch with its owner on a nearby bench. The dog trotted over when it noticed Bobby, and Tom slowed to allow them to sniff one another.

“Hello,” A surprised greeting came from the dog’s owner and Tom frowned for a moment, assuming it was likely a fan, or someone who at least recognised him. But then the woman on the bench stood up and he realised who it was. Katie, his Katie from the shop. He tugged his earbuds out, so they came to dangle loosely round his neck.

“Oh, Hey!” He knew he sounded just as surprised to see her.

“Let me guess, you didn’t recognise me in my civilian clothes?” she grinned, and he approached her slowly.

“Sorry, no, how are you?”

“I’m good, haven’t see you in the shop for a few days.”

“I’ve been away for work, I got back last night,” Tom explained his absence, then turned his attention to the dogs, and bent down to ruffle the labs ears “Who’s this?”

“This is Pink,” Katie told him, and he raised a questioning eyebrow, as he stood up back to her level, “Don’t ask, the kids named her.”

“You have kids?” The words fell from Tom’s mouth. He’d not contemplated the fact that she may well have a family. He knew she wasn’t married, because she didn’t wear a ring. He double checked her hand with a quick glance regardless, but she was wearing gloves. No, he’d never seen a ring on her hand. He was sure of it.

“Yeah, two,” She pointed behind them to the park, where he could make out a couple of children up the top of the climbing frame. Whilst her head was turned, he took the chance to check out her ‘civilian clothes’ as she’d put it. Thick black leggings and a thick black double-breasted coat which flared out from the waist and came down to her mid-thigh. She wore chunky black ankle boots which laced up, and then on her head she had a burgundy knitted beret. Her hair was loose underneath, but tucked into her scarf, with whispy bits flying around her face in the breeze. If he’d thought her pretty before, that had attraction had increased drastically. Then she turned back to him.

“How old are they?”

“Seven.”

“Both of them?”

“They’re twins,” He felt a bit stupid, of course they were twins if they were the same age. ‘Good going, Cambridge boy’ he silently chastised himself.

“Where did you go?”

“Hmm?” Oh, dear lord, he really was making a pig’s ear out of this whole thing. He was suddenly feeling very aware of how stupid he was sounding, and probably how awful he looked. She looked lovely. He on the other hand, wore old joggers which he was sure had a few holes in, along with an even older hoody, layered with his dog walking coat, complete with muddy paw prints. Then to finish the look, he’d lazily pulled on a pair of his old running trainers.

“For work? Anywhere exciting?”

“Oh, yeah, New York, just for a couple of meetings. Managed to meet some friends for dinner too, so that was nice.”

“I love New York, it’s no London though.”

“No, it’s not,” Tom agreed, then he cleared his throat, considering making his excuses and dragging Bobby home. But Katie didn’t seem to notice his awkwardness, instead she was just her usual cheery self and she seemed happy to chat. This was the chance he’d been looking for, an opportunity to find out a little more about her, “What are their names?”

“Zach and Lucy,” Katie responded straight away, “Do you come here a lot? We’re here after school nearly every day, but we’ve not seen you out before.”

“I do, but normally much earlier in the day, although it’s less busy this time of year.”

“Of course,” Katie nodded, apparently understanding what he was getting at. He normally walked Bobby before the morning school run, when there were less people around. Less chance of getting recognised.

“Mum, mum, mum!” Suddenly Katie’s attention was drawn from him as the two children, a spitting image of their Mother, both with her dark hair, and fair skin ran to the metal railing, “Can we have pizza tonight?” They both pleaded in unison.

“Not a chance,” Katie told them firmly.

“Mum!” Again, their voices echoed each other.

“No pizza tonight, you’ll eat enough rubbish with your Dad this weekend. I’m making Stir Fry,” Katie’s tone brooked no argument, “Now you’ve got five more minutes and then we’re going home, go and play!”

Tom couldn’t help but chuckle as the two young children grumbled, but didn’t argue any further, and ran back towards the apparatus.

“They’re great,” He told her, “They look just like you.”

“Thank god!” Katie responded, then she shook her head, “Sorry, that was awful of me.”

“I take it he’s not in the picture?”

“He’s in their picture, when he wants to be. Not in mine,” She clarified.

“It’s horrible when that happens.”

“I think there is just always something or someone more interesting to do,” Katie shrugged, “I know it’s not uncommon, not easy for them though.”

“Or you, I should imagine.”

“I get more of them to myself, so I’m not complaining,” She grinned, seemingly unbothered by the line of conversation. Tom wondered how she was so happy, it was admirable that she appeared to make light out of every situation, “You know, I’m keeping you from your walk.”

“I don’t mind, really-” Tom stopped and took a shaky breath, “Actually, Katie, I’m kind of glad I bumped into you out of work.”

“Oh?”

“Well yeah…I…erm, sorry, this is going to sound really weird.”

“I’m all about weird,” Katie smirked, and Tom managed to smile at how bright her eyes were. She had almost an innocence in them, as she waited for him to speak again.

“Well…I’d been wanting for a while now, to erm…to ask you for dinner?”

There was a beat of silence, the smirk still playing on Katie’s pretty lips, but her eyes did widen in surprise. If Tom wasn’t mistaken, they sparkled in excitement, “Really? Me?”

“Yes, you,” She’d not even accepted his invitation, but Tom already felt the weight lifted. Months of repressing the urge to ask her in fear of rejection, and now he was sure that even if she said no, he’d be happy that he’d just plucked up the courage to ask her.

“As a date?”

“Well, that’s my intention, but if that makes you uncomfortable-”

She cut Tom of quickly, a wide smile now on her lips, “No, no, I’d love to go on a date with you…Tom.”

“Oh god, I really made a mess of this, didn’t I? I didn’t even properly introduce myself. Just assumed you knew who I was…I mean you know I go into your shop, but…yeah…fuck it,” Tom stumbled over his own words, feeling like a complete tit. There he was, addressing her by her name, that he’d learnt from her name badge, and taking for granted that she knew his name, without even telling her. Granted she did, but that wasn’t the point at all.

“Tom, it’s alright, I said, yes, didn’t I?” Katie was laughing.

“You did.”

“So…”

“So yeah, erm, great!”

“Would you like my number?” Katie looked like she was trying to keep a straight face, and Tom was suddenly glad of the scarf he was wearing, because he could feel the heat creeping up his neck. He was really messing this up.

“Oh, that would help wouldn’t it,” Tom fished his phone from his coat pocket, he unlocked the screen and handed it to Katie to put her number in, “Are there evenings which work better for you? Any food you don’t like?”

“I’m easy, the twins go to their Dad’s every other weekend, but my Mum’s only down the road if I need a babysitter. I’m allergic to Shellfish. But otherwise I’ll basically eat anything you put in front of me.”

“That’s great, so erm... I’m actually free tomorrow evening. Is that too soon? Sorry, I probably sound really-”

“Tomorrow night is good for me,” Katie said quickly, she realised Tom’s nerves were getting the better of him. She was flattered, having a man getting all flustered over asking her out. She was surprised, definitely; but also delighted. She’d have never guessed lovely Tom had been wanting to ask her out. She’d have never considered making the move herself, not because she was scared of rejection, but it just seemed incredibly unprofessional to start making moves on your customers, especially the famous ones.

“That…that’s great, Katie. I’ll try and book something up, and I’ll text you to let you know what time I’ll be there to pick you up,” Tom felt himself relaxing again. She’d said yes, she wasn’t changing her mind. She wanted him to take her out.

“You don’t have to pick me up, I can just meet you somewhere, I don’t mind-”

“If I’m taking you on a date, I intend to do it properly. So, I’ll be picking you up from your front door, and dropping you back there safely at the end of the evening,” Tom insisted. Katie didn’t argue further, instead she just smiled, and nodded.

“Alright, I’m looking forward to it.”

“Me too,” The pair stood in silence for a moment, before Tom remembered himself, “I’m sorry, I’ll let you get on, it’s starting to get dark, and you’ll want to get the kids home for tea. See you tomorrow.”

“Alright, bye, Tom.” Katie said, with a little wave.

“Bye Katie,” As Tom gave Bobby’s lead a little tug and started walking away he heard Katie calling the twins, telling them it was time to go home. He couldn’t stop smiling. Had he known she would be so open to his advances, he’d have asked her out a long time ago. His heart raced. Now he just had to work out where he would take her.

*

“Mummy, who was that man you were talking to?” Lucy peered up at her Mum as they walked home from the park. The sun was low, and it was even colder now. Katie kept her children close to her as they walked under the streetlights.

“Oh, it was just someone Mummy knows from work.”

“He had a really cute doggy,” Zach added.

“He’s called Bobby,” Katie remembered, from one of the occasions Tom had asked her to keep an eye on his dog, from her place behind the counter.

“I think Pink liked Bobby,” Lucy said, in her usual matter of fact way.

“Was the man your friend, Mummy?” Zach asked, “Because I think Pink would like to play with Bobby more. She must get lonely not having any friends.”

“She has you and Lucy!”

“But we’re not dogs!” Zach argued.

“Well, that’s true. I’ll ask Bobby’s Daddy next time I see him,” Katie immediately wondered why she’d said it. Both Zach and Lucy would hold her to that, and she knew it. Tom had asked her for one dinner, and suddenly she was considering Dog walking dates with the kids.

But she couldn’t help it. She was excited. It had been a long time since she’d been on a date, even longer since a man had wanted to properly wine and dine her. She had a feeling that’s exactly what Tom planned to do.

One thing Katie knew for sure, is that she fully intended to enjoy whatever Tom had in store for her. No matter where it went or what Tom’s intentions were, it’s not every day your ‘silly crush’ turns out to be not all that silly.

Chapter Text

“So, where did you meet this chap exactly?” Katie had been cagey when she asked her Mum if she would sit with the twins the next evening. She wasn’t sure if she should tell her Mum exactly who she was seeing. She wasn’t sure her Mum would even know who Tom Hiddleston was.

Even so, her Mum could be a gossip, and the last thing she wanted was for her Mum to go mouthing off to her friends that her daughter was dating a celebrity. She’d see how it went first, and cross that bridge at a later date.

“He’s just someone who comes into the shop sometimes,” Katie leant over the mirror in her bedroom, applying mascara carefully, “Please don’t let the kids stay up too late, they can’t watch telly later than eight thirty, or I’ll never get them up for school.”

“I know, I know.”

“You say that, but every time you let them walk all over you.”

“What’s his name?”

“Tom.”

“Is he good looking?”

“Yes.”

“Does he know what you do?”

“He knows I work in a shop, and he knows I have two children and a dog. I don’t know him that well,” Katie rolled her eyes and stepped back to check her appearance, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She knew where this was going.

“You haven’t told him about Sadie then?”

“I hardly know him, Mum, and it’s not the sort of thing you bring up on a first date,” Katie huffed, “Can we just get through dinner first?” Katie didn’t have to look at her Mum to sense the disapproving glare, “I’m not hiding it from him, bloody hell, Mum.”

“Fine, fine!” She held her hands up and shook her head, “I’ll say no more!”

“Please don’t, now do I look okay?”

“You know you look beautiful, you’ll knock his socks off.”

“Maybe,” Katie shrugged, and hummed to herself thoughtfully. She’d not gone over the top, Tom had told her too be ready for seven o’clock, and there was no strict dress code. She was glad he’d told her that, because she’d been a little worried he might take her to some top London restaurant. She wasn’t sure how comfortable she’d be with that. But then part of her wouldn’t be surprised if he simply took her to Pizza Express, or another similar and perfectly good chain restaurant. She didn’t know much about Tom, but he did seem quite down to earth. It was one of the things she liked about him.

Katie gave herself a quick squirt of her favourite perfume then headed into the living room, where the twins were sprawled out on the sofa watching television.

“Right, I need you two to be good for your Nan, do as she tells you. No TV after eight thirty,” Just then the buzzer went, “Right, that’s him.”

“You look so pretty, Mummy,” Lucy squeaked as Katie picked up the entry phone off the wall.

“Hi, come in, ground floor, last door on the left, I’ll be a second,” She took a shaky breath, feeling nervous for the first time since Tom had asked her out. What if they had nothing to talk about? After all they had very different lives. Hers was dull in comparison. Katie shook her head, to shake off her nerves and went over to give Zach and Lucy a kiss goodbye. Then she pecked her Mum on the cheek. “Right, Mum keep them in here, and please do NOT come and try and say hello. Just…yeah… don’t embarrass me.”

“Have fun, Kate,” Her Mum instructed firmly. Katie nodded and headed for the door, just as there was a knock. She picked her bag up off the coat hook and flung open the front door.

“Hi!” She burst out, a little too enthusiastically.

Tom stood the other side of the door, looking a little surprised at her outburst. But he didn’t seem at all perturbed by it, as his shoulders seemed to relax, and his lips curved into a smile as his eyes drank her in, “Hello.”

“Will I need a coat? I wasn’t sure, I didn’t think we’d be outside much, but now you’re wearing one, maybe I should…erm,” Katie frowned and stopped talking when she saw Tom looking past her, and grinning. It was when he lifted his hand and gave a little wave, she spun around. Two little faces peered around the edge of the living room door, “I told you two to stay with Nanny, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“You’re the man from the park!” Zach piped up.

“With Bobby!” Lucy added.

“That’s right,” Tom responded, with a soft chuckle in his voice.

“Where is he, didn’t you bring him with you?” Zach was trying to push around his sister to see into the hallway behind Tom.

“Ah, no, it’s way past his bedtime. He’s at home asleep,” Tom explained with a chuckle.

“Right, we should go…” Katie tried to get out the house, taking a step into the doorway.

“Mummy said we could all go to the park so Pink and Bobby can play!” Lucy exclaimed, excitedly.  Katie wanted the ground to swallow her up in that instant, and she couldn’t meet Tom’s eye, as she turned back to her children.

“I didn’t make any promises. Now get back in there both of you,” She pointed at the lounge, “Mum! Can you control them please, I’m going!” With that Katie ushered Tom further back into the hall and slammed the door shut behind her, finally looking at him, “I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Tom was chuckling away.

“I didn’t…I mean…they have a bee in their bonnets about Pink being lonely because she doesn’t have any doggy friends, and-”

“Katie, stop,” Tom said quickly, “From the mouths of babes. It’s…well I think it’s quite funny.”

“Well I’m glad you’re getting a laugh at my expense,” Katie finally smirked, and they started walking down the hall.

*

Tom took in Katie’s appearance, able to see her figure properly for the first time. He was not disappointed, although he felt sure very little about Katie could disappoint him. She wore black trousers, long floaty ones which synched in at the waist and she had it teamed up with a plum coloured, long sleeved blouse which was tucked in. The ensemble showed off her lovely shape, a perfect hourglass. She looked soft and he admired the feminine curve of her belly, and how her brown hair, which he could now see reached her shoulders, had a natural wave. It bounced as she moved.

“You look lovely, by the way,” He said shyly, when they stepped outside, “I should have started with that really.”

“Oh, thank you,” Katie turned and looked up at him, “You look great too…oh, is this us?”

A taxi waited just on the pavement outside the purpose-built block of flats in which Katie and her little family lived.

“It is,” Tom told her, stepping forward to open the car door and allowing her to climb in first. He got in after her and they buckled in. The car moved off without instruction, Tom had already told the driver of their destination for the evening. The pair fell silent as the cab began its journey down the road. Tom wrung his hands together in a nervous gesture and stared straight ahead. Then he felt Katie’s hand touch his gently, and his head shot round so his eyes could meet hers.

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going then?” she withdrew her hand now she’d got his attention.

“Oh well, it’s a pub actually,” Tom revealed, “A nice one, in Hemel Hampstead. The Bricklayers arms. It’s about an hour away, is that okay?”

“That sounds lovely.”

“I thought a pub is normally a safe bet, varied menu, something for everyone.”

“I think a more comfortable atmosphere too, especially this time of year, all cosy, with crackling log fires,” Katie mused out loud.

“Oh, you’ll love this place,” Tom told her, feeling more confident with his choice of restaurant. He’d not opted for a place in London, because it was difficult to take a woman out to dinner without being recognised. The pub was discreet, he’d been before, although never on a date. He’d called the owners and they’d been very accommodating in promising a table tucked away in a little alcove, away from the view of prying eyes.

They fell into a comfortable conversation as they travelled. Mostly idle talk, of how mild the weather had been for November, and Tom told her a little bit about his time in New York. She had listened avidly and asked questions, all the right ones, not too invasive, and nothing about his job.

It felt like almost no time had passed at all when the cab pulled up outside a pretty pub, lit up on the outside. It was remote, idyllic and looked postcard worthy. Tom climbed out the cab and held out a hand for Katie. He thanked the driver and then escorted Katie into the pub, where they were swiftly met by a waiter and taken to a table, which was, as promised tucked away around the corner from the bar. A little fireplace crackled, and the place was already decked out in tasteful Christmas decorations. Garlands lined the low oak beams, and red candles on the table.

“Oh, this is lovely, Tom!” Katie praised him on his choice, “It’s very romantic.”

“Well, that’s sort of what I was going for,” Tom didn’t meet her eye.

“Are you nervous?”

“I haven’t been on a date for a very long time.”

“Me neither.”

“And you’re really pretty.”

“My heads getting bigger by the second, don’t be nervous, Tom. If it helps, you’ve done really well so far, meeting me at my door, driving me out to a beautiful country pub, I’ve not been romanced like this… well probably never.”

“Never?” Tom’s eyes widened, “Not even… surely…?”

“Nope,” Katie shook her head

“Well that’s a dying shame. But I’m honoured to be your first.”

Katie laughed at that, a proper belly laugh, and just like that Tom finally relaxed into the evening, realising for the first time, Katie wouldn’t be there if she didn’t want to be. She was enjoying his company, and she was suitably impressed by his efforts. It was going well.

Tom ordered them a bottle of wine, pleased that Katie had told him she preferred red. After much deliberation they both decided on soup to start, having the age-old discussion about it being the ‘safe’ choice, but it was also winter and there was nothing nicer than a bowl of homemade soup.

“So, have you always lived in London?” Tom asked, when their soup bowls were cleared, and wine glasses refreshed. He’d finally relaxed enough to start finding out a little more about the beautiful woman he’d taken to dinner.

“Yup,” Katie nodded, “My flat, where I live now, was my Nanna’s place. Me and Mum moved in with her when I was about twelve, when Mum and Dad divorced. When Mum remarried she moved out, but I stayed and when Nanna died she left the flat to me.”

“That was lovely of her…I’m sorry though,” Katie held her hand up and shook her head.

“No, no… she had a really incredible life. It may have ended sooner than she wanted, but she’d really lived it, you know? She used to travel the world when she was younger. She was one of them people…she didn’t have any regrets. She made me promise not to mourn her death, but to celebrate her life, so please don’t be sorry.”

“She sounds like an amazing woman.”

“Mum says I have her spirit.”

“Do you see your Dad? You said your parents divorced when you were twelve. That’s how old I was when mine divorced also,” Tom knew it wasn’t the happiest line of conversation, but it was a common ground.

“Sometimes. He lives in Scotland with his new wife, and family 2.0,” Katie gave a little eye roll, “Yeah, he occasionally remembers me, and his grandkids exist, and pops down to say hello.”

“It’s rough when that happens, I sort of understand. I’m quite close with my Dad now. But when him and Mum broke up, I was mad. I was away at school and it was tough. We didn’t talk properly for a long time. It’s only now that I’m older, I understand what happened,” Tom explained, “Where in Scotland does your Dad live. My Dad’s Scottish.”

“Glasgow, my Dad’s Scottish too, Glaswegian through and through.”

“So, we’re both half Scottish,” Katie laughed again, at Tom’s very convincing Scottish accent.

“Oh god, you’re good at that. Mum used to laugh at me so much when I was little, because I used to try and copy the way my Dad spoke. I’m pretty sure my speech was drastically delayed because of it!”

“No brothers or sisters then?” Tom asked, gathering from what she’d told him, she was an only child.

“Only if you include my Dad’s little brats. You?”

“Two sisters,” Tom nodded, “Sarah, my big sister, lives in India with her husband, she’s a Journalist. Emma is younger than me, she’s in London with her partner and their two girls.”

“Are you close?”

“Really close. More now that we’re older, when we were younger we just used to annoy each other. They used to give me hell, being the only boy, I was teased incessantly.”

*

The waiter came over with our main courses. Tom had opted for the lamb, whilst Katie chose the chicken, although she regretted it a little when she saw Tom’s. He topped up their glasses again.

“So, how long had you been wanting to ask me out, because I’ve got to tell you. If you’d so much as dropped a hint, I was completely oblivious,” Katie asked, picking up her glass and taking a sip.

“You really want to know?” Katie nodded, “Well, I first noticed you, I mean properly noticed you about a year ago. Every time I see you in the shop I leave in a good mood. You know you’ve got a really positive air about you, that just rubs off on people. You have the prettiest laugh, and sometimes I hear you when I’m getting my milk or whatever, and I just wanted to hear it more. I wanted to see if I could make you laugh like that.”

Katie’s eyes sparkled, and she smiled at Tom, “That wasn’t the answer I was expecting. That’s very sweet of you, Tom.”

“I think if I hadn’t seen you yesterday in the park, I’d have never got the courage. I was hesitant to ask you out because I didn’t know anything at all about you…I have to be a little bit careful.”

“I understand,” Katie nodded, but didn’t say anymore. She didn’t want to get into Tom’s career, or his celebrity status. That was a conversation to be had at another time. If he wanted to see her again.

“Can I ask about the twins Dad?” Tom sounded a little wary with this question, but Katie didn’t mind. Of course, he wanted to know what the deal was there. She had nothing to hide.

“Well, there’s not much to tell. I found out I was pregnant a week before I graduated. I went to an Arts University. Matt did Fine Art. He was the classic tortured artist, of course in my naivety I was drawn to this dark and mysterious guy. He’s a bit of a loser, hops from job to job, woman to woman, still dreaming that he’ll be the next Damien Hirst,” Katie shrugged, “I think I realised the second I found out I was pregnant, that I’d never be able to rely on him.”

“That must have been really hard?”

“I had a lot of support from my family,” Katie explained, her voice light.

“What did you study at Uni?”

“Textiles, I wanted to be a Costume Designer, once upon a time. For theatre… I wasn’t bad either, I got a first, I even had a job lined up at Glyndebourne Opera House,” Tom almost wasn’t surprised by this revelation. He’d known there was something more to Katie, than just being a single Mum and a shop girl.

“Why didn’t you pursue it?”

“Because the second I had Zach and Lucy, the only dream I had was to be the best Mother I could be. It didn’t seem important anymore. I don’t regret it. I know that must be quite difficult for someone like you to understand,” Tom shook his head slowly.

“No, I think I do. You’ve clearly thrived, you are doing an incredible job.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you want pudding?”

“Do you have to ask?”

After a scrummy dessert of Sticky Toffee Pudding for Tom, and a Winter Berry Crumble for Katie, they finished off the bottle of wine, and when they stepped outside the cab was already waiting. Katie had not seen Tom make any calls, as his attention had been on her the entire evening, so she knew he must have pre-arranged their pick up.

Katie decided, at some point throughout the evening that she really liked Tom. Possibly more so because of how nervous he’d been about the date. About taking her out and making a good impression. He was so sweet, and down to earth. He’d been so open, happy to talk about his family and his interests outside of work. She had thought he might be a little guarded until he knew her better. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Once they’d got passed the serious stuff, families and of course, the conversation about the twins Dad, the topics had become lighter. Katie learnt that Tom had a great sense of humour, clean and clever. They’d both laughed so much, and Tom seemed to delight in the fact that he was the reason she was smiling

As he had promised, when the taxi pulled up outside her building, Tom escorted her from the car and right to her front door.

“I had such a lovely evening, Tom. Thank you,” Katie told him sincerely. He practically beamed with pride.

“Me too, I’m so glad you agreed to come out with me. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in ages,” Tom agreed.

“Oh, me too!” Katie bit her lip, wondering if she should ask if he would see her again. They’d had a great time, but she couldn’t expect it. Maybe he’d just wanted company for the evening. There was a chance he didn’t want anything more at the moment.

“Well, erm…I guess I should say goodnight, so you can relieve your Mum of her babysitting duties,” Tom shifted from foot to foot, obviously not knowing how to end the evening. A streak of nervousness was returning.

“Yes, well…goodnight!” Katie said, brightly, desperately trying to hide the disappointment tugging at her insides. Then to her surprise, Tom stepped closer, lay a hand on her elbow, and brushed his lips over her cheek.

In a moment of boldness, and doubting she would get another chance, as Tom went to pull away, she reached up and wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and pulled his face back to hers. It wasn’t a full-on kiss. She gently caressed his lips with her own and he didn’t pull away, he returned the kiss with the same level of affection.

When they pulled apart, Katie smiled sheepishly, and Tom arched a playful eyebrow, “Well that was a nice surprise.”

“Well, I figured I would take what I could while I have it. Just in case you get home and decide you never want to see me again,” Her tone was light and joking, but Tom could see through it.

“Oh Katie, I can guarantee I most definitely want to see you again,” Tom grinned, and Katie nodded eagerly.

“Well, Goodnight Tom.”

“Night, Katie, I promise I’ll call you.”

Chapter Text

Katie didn’t hate her ex, per se. But right now, she was pretty, damn close.

It wasn’t the first time he’d let his children down. Hell, she’d lost count of the number of times Matt had called her in the week running up to his weekend asking to swap, or simply not turning up on the Friday evening to collect them. But this was the first time he’d done it, and she’d actually made some plans of her own.

Pissed off didn’t even begin to cover how she was feeling right now.

Things with Tom had been going well. Really well actually.

The day after their first date she hadn’t expected him to call, although she had a good feeling that he would eventually. She’d realised quite early on into their evening that he was quite keen. To a point where he was visibly holding back and trying not to come on too strong. But she was delighted when a modest, but still beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived for her, along with a card.

Thank you for a lovely evening – Tom.

True to Tom’s word he did call her. But he waited until after the weekend.

Since their dinner and then receiving the beautiful bouquet, Katie had been floating around with a little bubble of excitement in her tummy. She couldn’t wait to see Tom again. Granted it was early days and she wasn’t sure what would come of it, but she was certainly enjoying Tom’s approach.

She’d often in the past, found herself in relationships with people who either played it a little too cool, or simply weren’t into her as much as she them. Tom wasn’t coming on too strong, but he was making his intentions known. He was making it obvious that he liked her and that felt nice. It felt good for once, to know exactly where she stood.

He waited until after the weekend to call her. They arranged to go out on a weeknight again, as Tom’s weekends could be busy with different events that he was committed to attend. Although he told her he was due some real time off in the run up to Christmas.

Their second date was a comedy night down a local pub. This time Katie insisted on meeting him there and he was a little relieved. He didn’t want to have that conversation with her yet. But arriving together would give the media a field day if he was photographed. He didn’t want to put that on her now, not so soon. But he knew he would have to have that conversation at some point.

They had another wonderful evening. This time wine was replaced by beer and once the acts had finished, they tucked themselves into a quiet corner and spent more time getting to know one another. Although they’d arrived separately, they left together and once again Tom walked her to her door. But this time he was the one who made the move to kiss her. No preamble, he cupped her cheek in one hand and had pressed his mouth to hers.

The second kiss was a little more heated than the first. Katie had responded by wrapping her arms around his neck and pushing herself into his body. When the kiss came to an end Tom had smirked and said, “Just in case you get inside and decide you never want to see me again.”

After the second date, Tom didn’t waste his time approaching her about a third. In fact, the next morning he strolled into the shop, and found Katie stocking up the biscuits, and asked her if she would join him for afternoon tea the following week. He drove her out to a Country Retreat near Windsor and they enjoyed an afternoon of tea, cake, and laughter.

Katie wasn’t tiring of him, and he certainly wasn’t tiring of her. If anything, the opposite. The more time they spent together the more eager both of them seemed to see each other again. But Katie realised that Tom had been putting all the effort into arranging their dates, so when he dropped her off home after their third date, she decided to ask him to accompany her on a forth.

“I was wondering,” Katie started, as Tom pulled into one of the visitors parking bays outside her building, “If you might be free at the weekend?”

“I’m free from lunchtime on Saturday,” Tom nodded, “Did you want to do something? We could go out somewhere?”

“Well the twins are at their Dad’s, I wondered if you’d like to come to mine, I could cook for you?” Tom noticed the hint of a blush in her cheeks. This certainly signified a step forward in their relationship. Going from dates in public places, to just the two of them, together in Katie’s home. Tom wasn’t about to turn her down.

“You know, that sounds great.”

“Really? Well, let’s say Saturday, at about 7ish?”

“Well, if the twins are away, why don’t we meet earlier? There’s a Christmas Market in St Alban’s, we could drive out there for the afternoon, then go back to yours and you can cook us dinner? Or I could help? Then we’ll watch a film.”

“Oh, I’ve heard about that market, yeah that sounds great!”

“So, I could pick you up about midday?”

“Absolutely!”

“See you Saturday then, Katie.”

“Aren’t you walking me up?” Katie had flashed him one of her irresistible, playful smiles.

“Of course, how else am I going to get my goodbye kiss?”

*

Katie managed to eventually get hold of the twins Dad, roughly two hours after he should have collected them for the weekend. His excuse? He forgot it was his weekend, he was at an Art Festival in Gothenburg. Katie was livid. Zach and Lucy were inconsolable.

Eventually, she’d calmed them both down, with promises of a lovely weekend with her, and that they’d see their Daddy the next week (she hoped). She’d made hot chocolates and settled them into bed with a story.

Katie took a few calming breaths before deciding it was best to call Tom straight away to tell him know they’d have to cancel their plans.

“Katie, hello, Darling,” It was noisy wherever Tom was, and she remembered him telling her he was attending some Charity Gala.

“Sorry, Tom, I completely forgot you were out, I’ll text you…”

“No, no,” The background noise faded, and Tom had clearly stepped out somewhere quieter, “Is everything okay, love?”

“No, everything’s to shit, I’m afraid I’m going to have to cancel on you for tomorrow, Tom.”

“Oh…”

“Matt didn’t turn up today. He…forgot, apparently. He’s in bloody Gothenburg, although I’m not sure I even believe him right now.”

“Oh, Darling. I understand.”

“It’s so bloody unfair!”

“I know.”

“Zach and Lucy are so upset. They don’t understand, so I’ve promised to do something with them tomorrow. I don’t know what, I just…sorry, you don’t want to hear all this. Can we rearrange? I’d ask my Mum, but I don’t feel I can leave the twins this weekend.”

“Hey, Katie, love, please don’t worry about me, you don’t need to explain yourself. I know Zach and Lucy come first.”

“Thanks, Tom.”

“You know…I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this, so say no if you don’t want to. But…that Christmas Market has a Grotto and Reindeer. I’d be more than happy to take all of you?”

The breath caught in Katie’s throat. Bless him, “Oh, Tom, you don’t have to do that!”

“I know I don’t have to. I’m offering. I’d still like to see you, and if you’re alright with it, I’d like to help you give Zach and Lucy a fun weekend. I know we’ve only been on a few dates. I promise to behave myself-”

“I don’t doubt it,” Katie giggled.

“So, is that a yes?”

“It’s a hell yes!”

*

To be honest, Tom had been a little tipsy when he’d suggested a family day out with Katie and her children.

Not that he regretted asking in the slightest. Just had he been sober, his sensible head would have stopped him and told him he was taking liberties and moving things along too quickly. They’d been on three dates, he knew it was too soon to be properly introduced to her children.

But when Katie had said she had to cancel, the thought of waiting any longer to see her again just seemed unbearable. He understood why she needed to cancel and he wasn’t about to make her feel bad about it. But he had some choice words for her unreliable ex.

But to his complete incomprehension, she’d been delighted by his suggestion, and didn’t seem concerned about him meeting her children in the slightest.

But now he just had to remember that really, this wasn’t a date.

The last few weeks had been incredible, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. They’d been having so much fun. She was keen too, she didn’t hide her affection. They’d kissed a few times now, but he still vividly remembered how she’d instigated it that first time. The way her fingers had grasped his neck and she’d pulled him into her. How her lips felt against his, so soft and gentle. Afterwards he’d still been able to taste a hint of the cocoa butter lip balm which he’d seen her apply in the car.

On their second date, she’d reached for his hand as he’d walked her home. After their third date, he was quite sure had her Mum not been indoors babysitting the children, she’d have had him come in. He’d not been counting on it, and he certainly didn’t want to rush the physical side of their relationship. But Katie made it perfectly clear that she liked him, just as much as he liked her.

He wasn’t worried about impressing her children. Tom knew he was great with kids. His two nieces adored him and being a Marvel veteran, he’d spent a decent amount of time at children’s hospitals, and similar.

He was concerned however, about how he should act with her in front of them. He’d promised to behave himself, but without knowing exactly what they were at this moment, it was difficult to gauge exactly what was allowed. Would she allow him to hold her hand? That seemed like such a small, insignificant thing, but he craved it completely. He craved her affection.

He knew it was too early to call her his girlfriend. He could only assume they were exclusive, they’d not discussed that side of things. But he was quite certain he was the only man she was seeing.

He knew they needed to talk about it soon though. Although three dates was still considered early days in most cases, he was running out of ideas of where he could take her which would not garner any media attention. He needed to prepare her for that, but up until now his celebrity status had been avoided. Which he wasn’t complaining about in the slightest, it reinforced to him that she was simply interested in him, Tom. Not Tom the Actor. Nevertheless, he knew he would need to discuss it with her soon.

He needed to speak to Luke first and foremost. His publicist and long-time friend had no idea that he was dating someone. In fact, Tom had only confided in his Mother. The simple reason for this is because historically, the second Tom mentioned a woman to Luke, panic would flare in the man’s eyes and he was there preparing for the media onslaught. He was not prepared to put Katie through that. Certainly not before he was sure where things were going. He knew where he wanted them to go, but he needed to know she wanted the same. She had more to consider – her children.

Which is why, when he got into his car late the next morning, on his way to pick up Katie and her twins, he dialled Luke on his hand free.

“Tom.”

“Luke, my friend.”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re about to ruin my weekend?”

“Why would you think that?” Tom momentarily felt affronted by his friend’s assumption to his reason for calling.

“You’re calling me at eleven thirty on a Saturday morning, you’re supposed to be having downtime now until the new year, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you for at least a week, so I’m guessing something is up?” Luke listed off his reasoning, and Tom let out an audible sigh, “So what’s wrong?”

“Well, nothing’s wrong, exactly.”

“Okay, so what situation are you currently in, which could go tits up?”

“For fucks sake, Luke!” Tom almost laughed, “Am I that transparent?”

“You’re that predictable.”

“What are you doing?”

“What?”

“Today, are you and Nick busy?”

“We’re staying with his parents for the weekend.”

“That’s nice.”

“Spit it out, Tom.”

“Okay, well I just wanted to give you a heads up, I’m going to a Christmas Market with a friend today, and her two kids.”

“A friend?”

“Yeah, I just thought…well I doubt there will be a huge media presence in St Alban’s, but should any photos crop up, I didn’t want you to panic.”

“Which means, I should panic.”

“No, no, you just know how people jump to conclusions. I just wanted you to know the story first. In case someone recognises me, takes a photo, you know the drill.”

“How do you know this friend?”

“She’s just erm…someone I’ve been out with a few times. We’ve known each other a while, she ah…works in that shop on the corner, near me,” Tom waited.

“For Christ’s sake, Tom!”

“Oh, stop being so melodramatic, Luke. I don’t have to tell you every time I take a woman for dinner. Which is all it’s been by the way, a few dinners.”

“And suddenly it’s a family outing?”

“Well, I sort of didn’t think that part through properly.”

“I’m guessing nothing I say is going to make you change your plans?”

“No. I actually like this woman, Luke. She’s…normal.”

“I’m not sure there’s such thing as normal, Tom. Can I at least ask her name?”

“Katie.”

“Katie…”

“Smith.”

“Katie Smith?” Tom could almost see Luke rolling his eyes.

“That’s her name, yes,” Tom knew this would annoy Luke. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d gotten Nick to use his contacts in the police to run a background check, but there was probably several thousand Katie Smith’s living in London.

“The name she’s given you, or the name you’re giving me?”

“Have I ever lied to you, Luke? It’s the name on her driving licence.”

“Okay, okay, I believe you,” Luke released a long breath, which Tom could clearly hear, throughout his hands-free system, “And you’re sure she’s genuine.”

“Certain.”

“How old are her children?”

“Seven, twins, a boy and a girl.”

“Where’s the Dad?”

“I don’t know exactly where, but he’s involved, he sees them alternate weekends.”

“Alright, we’ll talk more on Monday. Thanks for the heads up. Enjoy your afternoon.”

“You too, thanks Luke.”

“It’s no problem, Tom. Just please be careful.”

“When am I not?”

“I’m not going to answer that.”

Chapter Text

“Zach, you do not need to bring Spiderman, Lucy hurry up!” Katie huffed at the effort which was getting two seven-year olds to leave the house. “Pink, you be a good girl, we’ll be back later!” She ruffled the Lab between the ears.

“I want to bring a toy,” Zach whinged, standing by the front door, one shoe on and a collection of action figures tucked under one arm.

“You don’t need to, and you’ll probably lose it, and then there will be tears. Lucy come on!” Katie dropped to the floor to help her son with his second shoe, whilst plucking the toys from his grasp and throwing them atop the shoe rack in the hall.

“I was lining up my Squishy’s ready to show Tom!” Lacy appeared from the hall. At least she was ready, in her pretty lilac winter coat and fur trimmed boots.

“I’m not sure Tom will want to see your Squishy’s,” Katie shook her head.

“Are we going by train?”

“No, Tom is driving,” Katie moved to stand and picked her sons navy duffle coat off the peg and handed it to him. She slung her bag over her shoulder, just as her text tone went to signify Tom was waiting outside, “Now, you two need to promise to behave today, it’s very nice of Tom to offer to take us all out. Zach that means no kicking the back of the car seats, Tom has a very nice car.”

Finally, she was hurrying the children down the hall and out to the little designated parking area, where Tom was standing by his car, back doors already open ready for the children.

“Wow! It’s a Jaguar!” Zach bounced on the spot for a second, then moved full pelt towards Tom, “You have the coolest car.”

“Thank you, it’s quite nice isn’t it?” Tom chuckled, allowing the little firecracker to clamber in the back seat.

“Oh, you have booster seats!” Katie was a little surprised, she’d not even thought about car safety, not having a car of her own. Her Mum had seats in her car, she should have borrowed them.

“I’ve got two nieces, I had these at home,” Tom explained, grinning at her, as she walked the slightly more withdrawn Lucy to the other side and started buckling her in. Tom shut the back-passenger door his side and walked back round to the driver’s side where Katie was just closing the door by her daughter, “Hi.”

“Hello,” Katie smirked, and enveloped him in a warm hug, “Thank you so much for this, although you might regret offering by the end of today.”

“I’m sure I won’t,” Tom shook his head, as she let go of him, “I do need to tell you something before we get in the car though.”

“Oh, that sounds ominous,” But Katie’s smile didn’t fade at her words, her tone was light and joking.

“Well, I know we’ve not really had this discussion, but I’ve had to tell Luke…that’s my publicist, about this afternoon. Just in case I get photographed or anything. It’s more for your protection than mine,” Tom explained, and held his breath, waiting for her reaction.

“Shit, I’d not even thought about it… is it going to cause a problem? We can always stay in…” Katie trailed off, a flicker of worry in her eyes.

“No, no, I’m okay with this, if you are.”

“Yes, I’m okay with it, as long as Zach and Lucy are safe.”

“Well, for the time being I’ve told Luke I’m just spending an afternoon with a friend and her children. If they were to end up in a photo they are young, their faces would be blurred…yours might not be.”

“Okay.”

“Are you sure you’re alright? I’m so sorry to spring this on you. It’s unlikely I’ll be bothered anyway. I just should have thought of it before…but you sort of make me forget that part of my life.”

“Is that a good thing?”

“Yes, it feels good.”

 

“Tom, Mummy said there was going to be Reindeers,” Lucy piped up from the back seat.

“That’s right, and Father Christmas will be there,” Katie smiled to herself, watching Tom glance in his rear-view mirror towards her daughter. He was great with children, she could tell. Just by the way he was smoothly handling the bombardment of questions.

“Will I be able to stroke them?”

“Well I’m not sure about that. We’ll have to wait and see,” Tom explained, “I’m not sure if you’ll be allowed.”

“I’m going to ask Father Christmas for a bike,” Zach announced loudly.

“Me too!” Lucy squeaked.

“Mummy says it’s…im…im…” Zach faltered, unsure of the word his Mum had used.

“Impractical. We live in a flat. We have nowhere to keep them,” Lucy added, “Although, I’d love you to both have bikes.”

“We could keep them at Nanna’s,” Zach suggested.

“Or Daddy’s house, he had a garden,” Lucy suggested.

“I wouldn’t call it a garden,” Katie mumbled under her breath. “I think you should both just wait and see what he brings you.”

“We’re doing a play at school, Tom!” Zach announced loudly.

“Wow is it a nativity?” Tom was so enthusiastic.

“Nope, it’s a Christmas story about a Robin!” Zach answered, then proudly added, “I’m the narrator!”

“Well that’s a really important part!” Tom glanced at Katie and grinned.

“I’m the Robin,” Lucy’s voice was quiet, Katie knew her daughter was really nervous about her part in the play. It was the main part, but the teacher had given it to her, because there was no speaking.

“Oh, so I’m sharing a car with the star of the show?” Tom made a big show of being starstruck.

“Mummy, can we practise later, for Tom?” Zach asked, putting on a sweet voice.

“We’ll see, it depends what time we get home. You might have to go straight to bed after dinner.”

“But it’s Saturday,” Zach whined.

“We’ll see,” Katie shook her head and chuckled.

“Mummy’s made a Trifle!” Zach told Tom, “She makes the best Trifle.”

“I love Trifle,” Tom smirked, and shot another side glance at Katie.

“I’m doing a Roast,” Katie explained, “It shouldn’t take too long, I’ve prepped all the veg, and I’m doing a ham, so that’s quite quick.”

“That sounds lovely.”

 

Soon enough they arrived at the market. It was held in a big field just outside St Alban’s, across several marquis. One for Christmas crafts, one just for food goods, which the twins loved, because there were lots of tasters. Then one in the middle, were you could buy mulled wine, and cider, sit, eat and enjoy the festivities. There were carol singers, and that was also where the grotto was situated.

It was lovely inside the marquis. Lights strung up around the edges and Christmas songs played from hidden speakers. For the first time that year, despite it being the first week in December, Katie began to get in the Christmas spirit.

“I might get some of these Chutney’s for Mum and Graham, they love this sort of thing,” She explained to Tom. They’d spent a good few minutes, sampling all the different homemade goods.

“I’m thinking the same,” Tom agreed, “My mum loves local produce, she’s always at some farmers market or another.”

“The honey was good too, I’ve not done a hamper before, but I’m thinking it’s a good idea,” Katie mused, selecting several jars.

“I’m doing one, I’ll get some of that fruit cake also,” Tom grinned, “And some cider for Dad.”

“Muuuummm, can we see the Reindeer’s yet?” Zach whined. The market wasn’t quite as interesting for the kids as it was for Tom and Katie. However, Lucy was less vocal about it, as usual she just clung to her Mum’s side.

“In a minute poppet, I’m just getting a few bits here, have you tried the honey?” Katie quickly showed Lucy and Zach where they could get some tasters on the stall and grinned over at Tom, “Diversion tactic, food always works.”

Once they’d chosen their jams and chutneys, they all made their way over to the Reindeer. Lucy was delighted that she got to stroke them, and have her photo taken with them. Afterwards they headed to the grotto, and both of the children got to meet Father Christmas. This, Tom insisted on paying for, despite Katie’s insistence that it wasn’t his responsibility to pay for the children. “My treat,” He’d told her firmly, as he handed the money to the ‘Elf’ greeting them at the entrance of the Grotto.

Afterwards, they enjoyed hot chocolates, and Katie had a mulled wine, before having another browse around the craft stalls, where Tom insisted upon buying Katie a pair of inexpensive, Christmas earrings. They were a little silly, with bells and tinsel on, but pretty, nonetheless.

“If you like them, let me get them for you,” Tom had laughed slightly at Katie, as she admired the handmade costume jewellery.

“I’ll only wear them once!”

“That doesn’t matter if you like them. Besides last year I saw you wearing sparkly antlers at work…”

“But I feel bad that you keep paying for stuff.”

“I wanted to take you out today, so I want to treat you. I’m getting the earrings,” Without further argument, Tom had beckoned the lady behind the stall and told her which ones he’d like to buy.

The afternoon flew by, and by the time Katie and Tom loaded the twins back into the car, along with their purchases, it was just getting dark outside and both of the children could barely keep their eyes open.

 

*

 

It was the first time Tom had been inside Katie’s ground floor flat. Until now, he’d only seen as far as the hallway from the front door, when he picked her up that first time. Now he followed her into the Living Room.

The children pulled their shoes off in the hall and he followed suite. He watched Katie fondly, as she helped her children with their coats, hanging them up and telling them to put their shoes away neatly.

“Take your coat off, make yourself at home,” Katie instructed him, then disappeared through a doorway, and several seconds later Pink appeared, sniffing around him in greeting. Katie came back out, just as he was hanging up his coat, “Come through, sorry I just had to sort her out, she stays in the kitchen when I’m out.”

As Tom walked through the flat he was taken by surprise by its sheet size. He hadn’t expected the it to be so spacious, the Living Room was larger than his own. It also screamed family home. It was neutrally decorated with a big corner sofa. Crates of toys lined the far wall, and some colouring books were out on the coffee table. It was spotlessly clean, but there was that organised chaos that you expected from a busy family dwelling.

“Sorry about the mess, I did try and tidy up,” Katie explained, straightening a throw on the back of the sofa.

“This isn’t a mess,” Tom told her, “You have a lovely home,” But he wasn’t really looking at the room anymore. It was the first time he’d seen Katie that day without being bundled up in her thick winter coat, and scarf. She wasn’t dressy, and she was clearly wearing her comfortable wardrobe. But Tom thought she looked lovely. She wore black skinny jeans, and had bare feet, he noted her toenails were painted a very festive shade of red. On her top half she had on a plain, dark green, long sleeved top, it fitted snuggly and combined with the close-fitting jeans showed off her shape very well.

“I’ll get the food on, you can come through here if you like, the kids will occupy themselves for a bit. I’ll get you a drink,” Tom nodded, following her into the kitchen, unable to stop his eyes fixating on the sway of her hips. She turned around more suddenly than Tom was expecting, and he knew he’d been caught. She arched an eyebrow at him, a smirk playing on her lips.

“Sorry, I was staring, I shouldn’t have-”

“You’re apologising for checking me out?”

“Well, yes…at least for being to obvious about it. Not for actually…you’re gorgeous, Katie.”

“Charmer,” Katie peered past him, into the living room, then met his eyes once again, “Come here,” She held her arms open. Tom didn’t hesitate, he walked straight into her embrace, and ducked his head to brush his lips over hers, “I’ve been wanting to do that all day.”

“Hmm, me too,” Tom hummed his response against her mouth.

“Thank you for a wonderful afternoon. Zach and Lucy really enjoyed themselves…so did I.”

“I’m glad. I had a great time too. Your children are a credit to you.”

“They’re my world,” Katie told him, finally letting go of him and turning her attention back to cooking dinner. Tom perched himself on a stool at the breakfast bar and gazed around the room. Drawings and certificates adorned the fronts of the cupboards. Tom smiled, he could tell this was a very much loved and lived in home. It felt comfortable.

“Can I help you with anything?”

“You can sit there and look pretty.”

“Seriously,” Tom laughed, “Shall I make us some drinks, where do you keep the glasses?”

“You’re a guest, I’ll make the drinks,” Katie insisted, opening a cupboard. She fetched out two glasses and two plastic beakers. “I’ve got water, squash, diet Pepsi, Lemonade, and some…questionable apple juice.”

“Just water would be good, thank you,” Tom laughed, as Katie screwed up her nose and poured said Apple Juice down the sink. Water in hand, Tom watched Katie happily, as she put everything on to cook, and then set dining places at the breakfast bar.

“I’d set up the table, but it’s currently occupied with Christmas Cards,” Katie explained.

Tom was enjoying the domesticity. He realised he could be quite happy and comfortable with this lifestyle. He fully believed that men and women should play an equal part in any relationship, and he abhorred men who thought a woman’s place was in the kitchen. But he had to admit, seeing Katie potter around, checking on the roast potatoes, and mixing batter for her Yorkshire puddings, made him feel quite warm and fuzzy inside.

Katie dished up the food and called the twins into the kitchen. It felt oddly natural, and extremely nice to all sit together and eat a proper home cooked meal. It reminded him of his childhood. Before his Mum and Dad separated, all sitting together for Sunday Lunch, laughing around the table.

He wondered if this is where he’d been going wrong in the past with relationships. Dating women in the industry had never worked for him. Clashing schedules, fleeting dates, hotel hook ups. It could be exciting to start with, but it was always short lived. He always knew at the start it was destined to fail, despite how much he liked the woman in question. Even his last proper girlfriend had only lasted a matter of months. He’d liked her, a lot. Despite her own celebrity status, she was down to earth, and fun. But it didn’t last because although she was not willing to alter her own schedule, she expected him to alter his.

The normalcy of Katie’s little family was a breath of fresh air. He knew this is what he’d been craving, missing. Did it matter that Katie already had children of her own? Not to him. Did it matter to him if she didn’t want any more in the future? He didn’t know how she felt about that, and it was too early to have that conversation, but at thirty-seven years old Tom had come to terms with the fact that it might never happen for him.

“Tom, are you Mummy’s boyfriend?” The suddenness of the question, coming from quiet little Lucy’s mouth, had Tom choking on the water he was drinking.

“I…erm…” Tom looked to Katie, helplessly.

“Tom is my friend, Lucy,” Katie told her.

“But, I heard you telling Nana that you kissed after you went for dinner, Mrs Green says grown-ups kiss when they love each other,” To his credit, Tom laughed, and Katie never one to get embarrassed chuckled also.

“Mrs Green is sort of right, people kiss when they love each other. But friends can kiss as well,” Katie explained, trying not to outrightly laugh at her child’s innocence on the subject, “And you shouldn’t be listening in on mine and Nana’s conversations.”

“Kissing is gross,” Zach announced.

“But Mummy, you used to kiss Bella,” Tom looked to Lucy, eyebrow raised at Katie’s daughters, accusatory tone, “She was your girlfriend!”

“Well yes, but…” Katie glanced up to see Tom’s somewhat surprised expression, “Listen, if you’ve finished eating can the two of you go and get in your pyjama’s. It’s your bedtime, and if you’re quick I’ll come and read you a bedtime story.”

This seemed to work, and Tom watched as both children obediently hopped down from the table and took their plates and left them by the sink. He looked at Katie who made eye contact across the table. He couldn’t work out the expression on her face. Not embarrassment, perhaps a little bit of sheepishness.

“So, you’re erm…” Tom started, not exactly sure how, or if he should be asking.

“I’m sorry, that’s not exactly how I planned on telling you. Not that its some big secret, it’s just…it sort of seems like the kind of thing you don’t bring up on a first date.”

“No, absolutely,” Tom agreed.

“I would have told you though. I mean, I know you well enough to know you’re not going to have an issue with my sexuality…at least in general.”

“Katie, I’m not bothered at all by it. Surprised, yes. But who you’ve been with in the past is irrelevant, male or female.”

“I’m not ashamed of it.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Truthfully, Tom was extremely surprised by the revelation that Katie…swung both ways. So, to speak. He’d never dated anyone who did, but in todays society he knew it was becoming more and more common. He was informed and open minded enough to know her sexuality did not change the person he’d come to know.

Tom hopped down from his stool and walked around the breakfast bar, so he could get closer to her. She didn’t move from her seat as his hands came to rest on her hips. He dipped his head and brushed his lips over the patch if skin just below Katie’s ear.

“Tom,” Katie almost whimpered. She turned her head and met her mouth to his. They kissed for a moment.

“I’m crazy about you Katie,” He murmured against her lips. Katie hummed in response and pressed her mouth back to his.

“I’d have never have guessed,” Katie nipped his bottom lip and let out a breathy giggle.

“How long until the kids go to bed?”

Chapter Text

Katie loved her children, but sometimes hated the pitfalls of being a parent.

How it really put a dampener on her sex life for starters. Or there lack of one.

She was desperately horny. But it wasn’t like she wasn’t capable of getting herself off, in fact there really was no problem there at all. Katie loved sex, was more than comfortable with her sexuality, and knew how to keep herself well and truly satisfied. But it was not the same as having a partner to enjoy it with.

Having Tom around was like dangling a carrot (although from the grasp she got on Saturday night, what he had tucked away in those worn, tight black jeans was substantially larger than your average carrot!).

Up until Saturday night, she’d been enjoying Tom’s company so much that she’d not even got to thinking about the sexual side of their relationship. There hadn’t been the opportunity, and she’d never been the type of woman to jump into bed with someone on the first date. But then, once the washing up was done and the children were asleep, a few sweet kisses turned into a session of quite heavy petting.

Tom had been the one to pull back. Not to stop things exactly, but to check she was sure. It was then she realised there was no way she could sleep with Tom, whilst her children were in the next room. Certainly not when he was unable to stay, and she didn’t want their first time to be a quick fuck, followed by a hasty exit.

Katie put some distance between them and admitted they’d both got a bit carried away. To give Tom his due, he fully understood, and agreed that when they slept together, he wanted to be able to wake up next to her the following morning.

Even so, what had transpired between them up until that point had been good. Incredible even. She’d not been with a man in so long and had forgotten how nice it felt to be held in a masculine embrace. There had definitely been some groping. She’d encouraged Tom’s hands on her body, and he’d not wasted anytime getting a hand under her top and dragging the fabric of her bra down to release a breast from its cup. He’d kneaded her in his palm and plucked at her nipple as they kissed.

Now it had happened, and now she’d had a taste of things to come, she couldn’t think of anything else.

“Lucy and Zach liked Tom then?” Katie glanced up at her Mum from where she folded laundry from the tumble dryer into the basket.

“They did,” She nodded

“Don’t you think it’s a bit soon to go introducing them?”

“Well, we’re just friends at the moment,” Just friends who make out like randy teenagers when the kids go to bed, “It was a lovely day, obviously the kids don’t know any different.”

“Does he know?”

“Hmm?” Katie hummed, acting innocent by her Mum’s question.

“Have you told him yet?”

“No, not yet. I will though. I just feel things are still really casual. I want to get to know him a bit better first before I trust him with that part of my life. It’s very personal, I want to be certain he’ll understand,” Katie sighed loudly, wanting this line of questioning to stop.

“Well there’s not a lot to understand Katie. It’s quite simple.”

“But it’s timing, Mum!” Katie raised her voice, “I tell him too soon, he runs scared, too late and I’ve betrayed him. I just want to date for a bit longer. When I feel things are getting serious, I promise I’ll tell him. Right now, it’s not hurting anyone, or affecting him. He doesn’t need to know.”

“Alright.”

“I’m just enjoying this, Mum. Please can I just have some happiness. It’s been so long since I’ve met someone whose company I’ve enjoyed as much as Tom’s. He’s really lovely, I like him,” Katie stopped when she noticed her Mum smiling.

“You do seem happier,” Her Mum agreed, “You’re always smiling, I don’t remember a time when you’ve not been smiling. But you just seem…I know now. Contented?”

“You’d like him Mum. He’s just such a nice man.”

 

*

 

“When do you go to your Mum’s?”

“Christmas Eve,” Tom and Katie had decided to meet midweek. Wednesday, Katie’s only weekday off work, whilst the children were at school. They were taking the dogs for a long walk on Hampstead Heath. It was bitterly cold, and both of them were bundled up in their winter clothes. The weather meant that the Heath was practically deserted, and Tom revelled in the fact that he could hold Katie’s hand in public, with very little threat of being papped, “I know it’s silly, but I’ll miss you. I’ll probably call you every day, do you mind?”

“Not at all,” Katie grinned at him, “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”

“I’ll be home New Year’s Day, are you working?”

“No, I worked all last year, so I’ve got Christmas and New Year off.”

“Lucky, are the twins with you?”

“Christmas day they are, they spent last Christmas with their Dad. We’re going to Mum and Graham’s. They’ll go to their Dad’s New Years Eve,” Katie explained.

“Are you going out?”

“No, I don’t normally do a lot New Years Eve. Just have an early night I expect. Or I’ll spend it with Mum,” Katie smiled and shrugged, “What about you?”

“Same, Mum’s not said much, but the last few years I’ve been across the other side of the world, on shoots. It will be nice just to spend some quality time with my family,” Tom smiled fondly, and Katie could tell he was excited about his time away.

“What are your plans…in the New Year?” Tom could see Katie was hesitant to ask, maybe she didn’t want to sound like she was planning too far into the future. But she also wanted to prepare herself for where their relationship could lead.

“I’m in London for the foreseeable future. I’m doing a film early next year, a Shakespeare adaptation and it will all be shot here, then in the summer I’m doing an open-air theatre tour. That’s basically as far as I’ve got,” He looked to Katie, who looked back encouragingly, “I also hope I’ll be seeing a lot more of you.”

“I hope so too,” Katie laughed at this.

“I may not see you again before I leave,” Tom had already told Katie that he had two parties to attend at the weekend. Then a busy week running up to Christmas Eve. He’d been hoping he would be able to at least make one evening available for her, although it was now looking unlikely.

“That’s okay,” Katie nodded, “I don’t expect you to cancel plans you’ve made before we even met. I’ve got my work Christmas Party on Friday anyway, then as long as the kids go to their Dad’s this weekend I’m going to have a nice cosy evening on Saturday. I’ll stick on Love Actually, drink a bottle of red wine, and probably order a pizza.”

“That sounds perfect, I’d much rather do that with you, than attend this do.”

“No, you wouldn’t, you get to see all your friends and get drunk. Don’t tell me you aren’t looking forward to it.”

“I am, but I just can’t get enough of you Katie. I can think of so many things I’d much prefer to do with you… or to you…” Tom trailed off and shot her an apprehensive look.

“Tease.”

“Fine one to talk, you were getting pretty handsy on Saturday night. Not that I’m complaining by the way,” Tom chuckled.

“So, when are we going to have sex?”

Tom wished he could say he was taken aback by her bluntness. But the more he got to know her the more he realised that sweet, lovely Katie usually did say what was on her mind. More often that not it was sweet compliments, words of praise or gratitude. She was funny too, often telling him stories of things which had tickled her or sending him random texts about something she’d seen at work. He learnt she was a people watcher, the actions of other humans fascinated her. The way she looked at the world was so refreshing. There were so many bad things going on, but she plucked out all the things we should be grateful for and celebrated them.

Up until Saturday night, he’d been careful to keep his sexual desires on the back burner. He was all for taking it slow and getting to know someone better first. But it didn’t mean he didn’t want to, and Katie’s enthusiasm on Saturday evening had set something off. Now her direct question had further fuelled that simmering flame in the pit of his belly. Suddenly his jeans felt a little too tight, and the denim was rubbing uncomfortably. He was grateful the coat he wore fell low enough to cover that part of him. It still didn’t make walking with a semi any easier.

“Ehehe,” Tom chuckled, “Eager, are we?”

“Don’t tell me you’re not?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe. Well I guess… it will probably do us good to have a breather over Christmas. Don’t you think? I don’t want to squeeze you into an already manic week, like an afterthought. I want to be able to take my time with you, without worrying about having to be somewhere, or being up early in the morning,” Katie was nodding, a little smile playing on her lips, “So perhaps in the new year, you could spend an evening at mine? See if you could get your Mum to have the kids overnight? Probably more reliable than their Dad,” He hoped that wasn’t too bold of him to say.

“Yeah, you’re right,” She nodded, “As much as I wish we had more time now. I don’t want to be pressured either. Thank you for being so…fucking nice about it. Many men wouldn’t be as patient.”

“Most men don’t appreciate something truly special when it smacks them in the face.”

*

Katie truly loved the run up to Christmas. Especially the week before, when everyone was in high spirits, looking forward to time off work with their families, and the over-indulgence of food and alcohol.

But most of all, she loved cosying up with a good Christmas film, whilst she wrapped presents, eating mince pies, and enjoying a bottle of wine.

The twins Dad had managed to keep his word. He turned up at five o’clock on the dot Friday evening to collect his children. Katie had then enjoyed her work Christmas Meal at a local Thai Restaurant, and some drinks at a local pub afterwards.

Saturday morning was spent doing some last-minute Christmas shopping with her Mum and intermittent texting with Tom. They’d been sharing their accounts of their respective evenings and sending soppy messages to one another. Her Mum made more than one comment regarding the stupid smile on her daughters’ face.

Back home, Katie had worked through some correspondence from her subscribers, and updated her page. She spent a bit of time making up for her lack of online activity the previous weekend.

Once she wrapped up with work, she decided it was time for some self-indulgence. A nice bubble bath and spending some quality time pampering herself. Then she ordered a pizza and sat painting her nails a festive red glitter.

Katie settled on her living room floor. She wore her comfiest Christmas Pyjamas with little Reindeer’s all over them, a thick, fluffy dressing gown and red fluffy bed socks. The pizza was out on the coffee table, the wine was open, and her Love Actually DVD played on the television.

She was having the best time. Contentedly enjoying the movie whilst she wrapped the twins presents. The bikes which they had been told were ‘impractical’ were hidden at her mums. But she still had done stockings, and a couple of smaller gifts. Lego and a lifelike looking toy dinosaur for Zach, some Num-noms (whatever they were?) and a do it home Science Kit for Lucy. Which is why she was a little disgruntled when her entry phone buzzer went.

It was just getting to that good bit of the movie, where Colin Firth jumps on the plane to Portugal to confess his love to the beautiful Aurelia. She reluctantly put the film on pause and scrambled up to answer the door.

“Hello?”

“It’s Tom,” His voice sounded a little breathless, although it was about three degrees outside, so they might have been why.

She frowned to herself, what the hell was he doing here? She pressed the entry button, “Come in.”

By the time she’d wrapped her dressing gown securely around herself, and opened her front door, Tom was just reaching her flat.

“Hey,” he grinned at her.

“Erm…hi,” Katie couldn’t help but beam at him, and his slightly windswept appearance. He wore a suit, which was navy and double breasted, with a dark red tie, and slim fit trousers. He wasn’t wearing a coat and he must have been freezing, “What are you doing here? I thought you had a party.”

“I was at the party,” Tom nodded, “But, I wasn’t enjoying myself. Not that it wasn’t a good party. I just kept thinking about you…and how I didn’t think I could go a fortnight without seeing you. So, I left early.”

“Oh.”

“Are you going to invite me in?” Tom smirked at her bemused face.

“Of course,” Katie stepped back from the door, and without warning Tom strode forward and swept her up in his arms. She wasn’t a petite girl, and a bit too sturdy for him to take her full weight. But he had no difficulty lifting her enough to slam her against the hallway wall and smash his lips against hers. He waved one hand out to the side to slam the front door behind him.

“Tom!” Katie squeaked, as he let go of her long enough to gasp for air, “Are you drunk?”

“I only had two drinks,” Katie arched an eyebrow, and kissed him again. He tasted good, sort of like biscuits and caramel, probably from the rich dessert he’d recently eaten at whatever fancy party he’d been at. There was no trace of alcohol on his breath. She smiled and mumbled against his lips, “You missed me that much?”

“I’m going to throw something really corny out there and tell you I miss you every time I say goodbye.”

“That is really corny.”

“I know.”

“But I miss you too,” He still had Katie pressed against the wall, and she’d at some point wrapped one arm around his back, whilst the fingers of her other hand combed through the lengthy curls at the back of his head.

“I didn’t interrupt anything did I? You weren’t too busy?”

“Only a steamy threesome with Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.”

Tom’s brow furrowed, before he realised what she was talking about and laughed, “Love Actually?”

“Hmm, my favourite film of all time, ever.”

“Well I’m sorry to gate crash your hot date, but you and I have some quite pressing matters to attend to.”

“How long have you got?” Katie was hesitant, following their conversation earlier in the week. As much as she’d missed Tom, she still didn’t want their first time together to be rushed. Despite the thrumming between her legs, and the fast beat in her chest, which were both urging her to drag him into her bedroom, and rip that very expensive looking suit from his body.

“All night, Darling,” Tom’s words were all the reassurance she needed, as her fingers fisted in his curls and she pulled his face back to hers and caught his mouth in another scorching kiss.

Chapter Text

Tom found himself very quickly dragged along the hall to the second door and into a room, which he could only assume was Katie’s bedroom. He didn’t get much chance to really take in his surroundings. Between pausing for more kisses and simultaneously being quickly divested of his jacket and tie.

He was vaguely aware of his legs hitting something, and falling backwards, and then Katie was on top of him, astride his waist looking a little triumphant that she’d managed to overpower him with such ease. Just seeing her like that caused an impatient groan to escape his lips. If he thought she was gorgeous before, the prospect of her being such an assertive lover drove him wild.

She’d somehow also found time to shuck off the hideous pink fluffy dressing gown she’d been wearing when she’d answered her door to him and he was greeted with the sight of the cute set of Christmas Pyjamas she wore underneath. She wasn’t wearing a bra, that was obvious as he could clearly see the shape and movement of her breasts free under her t-shirt and her nipples straining against the cotton.

He gripped her hips when she ground into him, whilst leaning forward to capture his mouth once again. As she undulated against him again, he practically growled throwing her off, and onto her back next to him. He rolled so he was fully on the bed, and Katie started fighting with the buttons of his shirt. He waited until she’d undone enough buttons then fought it over his head. His wrists getting briefly trapped in the cuffs. Katie tugged the fine fabric from his hands and they laughed as she fell back on to the bed when she finally managed to release him.  He unbuckled his own belt very quickly and removed his own trousers, shoes and socks, leaving him just in his black boxer shorts, and Katie decidedly over-dressed.

Katie knelt up in front of him, giving him a playfully seductive smile, as she very slowly and deliberately lifted her top over her head, freeing her breasts and bearing herself to him.

“Fuck,” The word escaped Tom’s lips in a breathy whimper. He’d known she was gifted in that department. It wasn’t the reason he’d originally been attracted to her, but they were certainly a bonus. He prided himself on being a gentleman, there were so few left in this day and age, and he never leered. But he was also a man, a boob man, and right now he was struggling to draw his eyes away from Katie’s perfect assets.

“I take it you like what you see?”

“Yes,” Tom’s voice was a breathy croak, as he managed to bring his gaze back up to her beautiful face, “I feel so lucky.”

“It’s nothing to do with luck Tom. We’ve both earnt this,” She slunk back down next to him, kissing him soundly, whilst letting one hand trail down his chest, settling low on his belly.

Tom didn’t waste any time getting his hands on her. Primarily those breasts. He kneaded them in his hands, rolled and plucked at her nipples until they formed stiff, pink peaks. He learnt very quickly that this was one of her weaknesses and his attentions turned her to putty in his hands. He managed to take back a little control over the situation. His mouth left hers and worked along her jaw and down her neck, nipping her pulse point and drawing a gasp from her.

Her hands found his shoulders and gripped tightly. He let his exploration of her body move south. Katie automatically rolled onto her back, when his hand found her waist, and then smoothed over her soft tummy. She sighed when he slipped his fingers under the waistband of her cotton pyjama bottoms.

Tom kissed her again, reassuringly when he touched between her legs, parting her folds with his fingers. He was pleased to find her gorgeously wet, and from what he could make out, very bare. Shaved wasn’t necessarily a preference for him. He liked whatever made a woman most comfortable, but right now everything he was discovering about Katie, and her body was driving him crazy. He ran a finger experimentally along her slit. But when he reached the top, he felt it. Something hard, and distinctly metal. He hadn’t expected it, and by no means a prude, the sheer surprise caused him to rip his hand out from her pyjamas and stutter a slur of apologies at her.

Tom realised within seconds, that Katie was no longer clinging to him in wanton passion, but her face buried against his chest and she was shaking, her breath puffing against his bare skin. She was laughing, hysterically.

“Katie?”

“Oh god…” She trailed off, looking up at him, still trying to stifle her giggles, “I’m so sorry, Tom. I should have warned you. I didn’t even think!”

“You erm…is it a piercing?” Tom raised an eyebrow. He was nearing forty, and far from a shrinking violet. He’d heard of genital piercings, for both men and women. The idea had never appealed to him, and he’d never seen one on anyone else. But he was of a curious nature and wasn’t repulsed by the idea.

“It’s a vertical, clitoral hood piercing” Katie managed to explain, once she’d got control of herself, “And I’d have mentioned it, but this was all very sudden.”

“Okay,” Tom nodded, suddenly realising they were no longer touching. She’d moved back giving him a little space. He needed to remedy that, he didn’t want Katie thinking he was put off by it. He most definitely was not, the fact that he was still painfully hard was total evidence to this point. He reached out to Katie and with a hand on her hip pulled her back to his body, “Can I see?”

“Erm…yeah?” Katie sounded bemused, and he felt a bit stupid. That was what it had been leading up to. Now he was asking politely to see her most intimate area. Tom realised he needed to relax a little. Otherwise he was in serious danger of turning what had started out as a hot as fuck evening, into a medical examination.

*

Katie knew Tom was a bit flabbergasted. She couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty, she knew perfectly well that Tom was not the sort of man who would have much experience with the more…unusual body modifications. Although, in her experience most men…and women liked it.

Tom grappled with himself, and she knew he was trying to get the mood back. So, without further ado she rolled back, lifted her hips and shimmied off her pyjama bottoms exposing herself to him completely.

She grabbed his forearm and dragged him back to her body, meeting his mouth in a brief, but passionate kiss, “Here…” She said, tearing her mouth away and drawing his attention downwards. As seductively as possible she trailed her hand downwards, between her breasts, over her tummy to her centre, and used her own fingers to part her folds.

Tom’s eyes followed her movement in rapt fascination, and she didn’t miss his small intake of breath when she flicked a finger over the little metal ball sitting over her clitoris. She ran her fingers over it, “It’s a bar…” She started to explain, “It starts here,” her finger touched the tiny stud adorned with a little white crystal just about a centimetre above her slit, “It goes through, and comes out here,” She touched on the tiny ball again which was just under her clitoral hood. When her finger touched on it, her body twitched at the sensation… it never got old.

Tom nodded, his eyes fixed on what her fingers were doing.

“Are you freaked out? Be honest.”

Tom immediately shook his head, looking back to her face, eyes locking with hers, “Not at all, surprised yes, freaked out, no…it’s…kind of…hot, actually.”

“Yeah?” Katie was smirking now.

“Yeah!” Tom was a little more enthusiastic this time.

“Well then…as you were,” Katie encouraged, playfully.

Katie was relieved when Tom didn’t waste any time, he was over her in an instant. His lips smashed against hers in a bruising kiss. He worked his way down her body, his mouth paying extra attention to her breasts, nipping at her flesh and swirling his tongue over her nipples. His attentions were sending currents straight to her core.

Katie spread her legs to accommodate him, as Tom slunk down her body. She had to prop herself up on her elbows, keen to watch him, as he explored her thoroughly. He glanced up at her, and shot her a beautiful smile, as he gripped her under one knee and slung her leg over his shoulder. The movement caused her elbows to buckle and she landed on her back with a huff and a giggle. But that was very quickly broken by a moan from her own lips, when wetness encompassed her womanhood. Tom parted her folds with his thumbs and ran his tongue right up her centre, flicking over that little metal ball, nestled against that little bundle of nerves, “Oh god…”

“It’s Tom,” He mumbled against her, only pausing his ministration for a fraction of a second to make the smartarse comment. She just about managed a choked laugh which sounded more like a disgruntled sob.

She had to give Tom his due. She hadn’t expected him to dive straight in there with the oral. Not after his initial hesitation upon discovering her piercing. No, not hesitation…surprise. She was expecting him to do a bit more with his fingers first and maybe be a little apprehensive about touching it. But right now, he seemed to be taking a great amount of pleasure flicking the stud each time his tongue circled her clit and using it to his advantage. He caught on very quickly.

With one leg braced over his shoulder, he brought his other arm up and rested it over her stomach to hold her in place whilst his tongue continued its assault. The fingers on his free hand dipped down to her entrance, and Katie whimpered, and she felt her muscles contract hard when his fingertips circled the edges, only dipping in momentarily, and withdrawing at her bodies reaction. Oh, he knew exactly what he was doing.

Katie was close. She threw her head back and screwed her eyes shut. Her hips fought against Tom’s light restraint, bucking against his face whilst he continuously flicked over her clit with his tongue and his fingers dipped teasingly into her once again.

“Do that again and I’m done for,” She just about managed to gasp out. But he didn’t tease again, instead this time he thrust two fingers in to her, and pressed them as deep as possible, expertly finding that rough little spot. And she was reeling. Her jaw went slack and her back arched upwards, her breath coming out in short gasps a she rode out her release.

Tom only let go of her her when her body relaxed, and he crawled back up, making a show of wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.

“Wow…” Katie trailed off, reaching out for him. She caught his arm and tugged him on top of her, so she could kiss him thoroughly. His lips were swollen, and his chin and beard wet and smelling beautifully like her. She nuzzled against the course, damp hairs, humming contentedly.

“I’ve got to admit,” Tom started, kissing her again before continuing, “You’re quite the surprise, Katie Smith. I had you marked as being such a good girl.”

“I am a good girl,” She pouted, her eyes sparkling, “Even good girls like having their pussy licked from time to time.” His eyes widened, and he laughed at her filthy mouth. She kissed him again, relishing the taste of herself still on his tongue, “You taste so good.”

“Dirty girl,” Tom teased against her lips.

“Hmm, you don’t know the half of it, Hiddleston.”

*

Tom quickly found himself on his back and was once again shocked at the strength Katie possessed to move him at her will. She was dragging his boxers down his legs, finally freeing his aching cock from its confines, and discarding the offending article on the floor.

She crawled back up his lean frame, dragging her breasts over his stomach and chest, but avoiding touching him there completely. Tom exhaled slowly, arms pressed to his sides and fists clenched, when Katie dipped to his neck, and grazed her teeth to his pulse point where she sucked hard. Tom grunted in response, bucking his hips up, desperate for some kind of friction.

Katie giggled against his flesh, and moved her attentions south, licking and nibbling along to his collarbone. Her fingers followed a different path, starting on his opposite shoulder, she traced the defined muscle of his bicep, to his inner elbow, then down his forearm, and when she reached his hand she took her time. Still working her mouth over his chest to his sternum, her fingers followed the dips between his knuckles, she forced his hand open and when her mouth reached his stomach, she laced her fingers with his.

Tom was mesmerised. He was sure he’d never been touched like this before by a woman. With such mindfulness. It was this peculiar feeling of being so turned on he might combust, whilst being so relaxed the bed might well swallow him up. When Katie’s hand finally wrapped around his length, and he felt the wetness of her tongue lap gently at his tip, he allowed his eyes to flutter closed, and give into the sensations she was creating entirely.

She licked, sucked and kissed. Palmed his balls and alternated her mouth with firm strokes of her hand. He didn’t realise how close he was, and the feeling that he was about to come hit him suddenly. He opened his mouth to say something, but Katie released him before he had the chance and pulled back entirely. Almost like she’d been more aware of the intensity of his pleasure than he was. Never had he been so caught up that he’d nearly blown his load without warning. Not even as a horny teenager.

“Alright?” He was only vaguely aware of the question, and when he opened his eyes, Katie’s pretty, hazel ones were staring into them, “You were frowning?”

“No…no…I…I…” He was speechless, possibly for the first time in his entire life, Tom was completely lost for words. She kissed him gently, then sat up completely. He watched her, almost in a dream like state as she leant forward and opened the drawer of the unit next to her bed and rustled about, before withdrawing a familiar square, foil, packet.

“I’ll let you do the honours, I’m rubbish at putting these things on,” That was when Tom came too completely. Of course, he’d not even come. He’d sort of forgotten that part. He’d been so satisfied by her treatment of him that the fact he’d not actually climaxed was lost on him. Although his cock, still rock hard and resting against his lower stomach, was obviously, painfully aware of the fact.

Tom shuffled back, and sat up a little against the headboard, and took the packet from Katie. He made fast work of ripping it open and rolling the condom on, doing the standard check that it was on right, no damages, and enough give at the end.

“How would you like me, darling?” Tom had finally found his voice.

“From behind, and don’t be gentle.”

“Alright,” Tom nodded, as he climbed to his knees, and Katie was positioning herself on all fours in the centre of the bed. He couldn’t help but chuckle when she leant her top half down, and wiggled her bum in the air at him, “But I warn you, I won’t last long like this.”

“Neither will I.”

“I thought you wanted this to last?”

“You said we had all night. Sooner we get this round over with, the sooner you can have some recovery time and we can go again,” Katie looked over her shoulder, eyes bright and clearly excited about the prospect of ‘going’ all night.

“Fuck Katie, you really are a horny little bitch, aren’t you?” Tom baulked for a second, not quite believing the vile words that had just left his own mouth. But it was quickly forgotten when the next sentence left Katie’s lips.

“Just hurry up and fuck me.”

Wordlessly, Tom knelt up behind her, one palm spread on her lower back, he dipped his fingers between her legs. She was even wetter than before, practically dripping, so when he removed his fingers and lined himself up, he slid in with little resistance. He stilled when buried to the hilt, taking a moment to enjoy her heat and the way her channel clenched involuntarily around his shaft.

Katie ground back impatiently against him and groaned at the contact. So, he didn’t want to waste another second. Both hands sought purchase on her hips and he drew back and without pause slammed back into her, setting his thrusts at an alarmingly fast pace.

Katie’s hands fisted into the sheets and her face buried into the mattress, muffling her screams and Tom realised within seconds she was coming. Her inner muscles contracted tightly around him, he had to grip a little harder to beat the resistance his thrusts were being met with. She wasn’t joking when she said she wouldn’t last long this way, but neither was he, and her climax tipped him very quickly over the edge. With one last thrust, he buried himself as deep as possible, and let his orgasm wash over him.

Chapter Text

Tom was still asleep when Katie woke up. Far from any romantic embrace, both were sprawled across the bed, sheets somehow tangled at their feet and completely naked. She’d realised it was the morning chill which had caused her to wake. That and the desperate need to use the toilet, and drink about a pint of water to relieve her incredibly dry mouth.

She’d gotten up, and arranged the duvet carefully over Tom, so as not to wake him. Although he looked completely out for the count, she didn’t want him to feel the chill she had. Then she went and dealt with the other issues which had woken her.

Katie proceeded to grab a quick shower in the bathroom down the hall. Just to freshen up, and then put the kettle on. By the time she returned to the bedroom, with two steaming cups of coffee, Tom was sort of propped up on one arm, looking at her bleary eyed.

“I was about to come and find you,” He told her with a sleepy smile. She couldn’t help but grin at his dishevelled appearance. His curls unrulier than ever, where sticking in all directions. At some point last night, he’d removed his glasses, and he was squinting at her a bit now. She also didn’t miss the scattering of pink marks from his neck to his collarbone and felt quite smug to be the cause. She hoped he wouldn’t mind. He’d certainly enjoyed receiving them.

“No, don’t get up. I just made us some coffee,” She walked round the bed and set a cup down next to him, “It’s only just gone nine.”

Tom nodded vaguely, and she felt him watching her as she made her way back to what was apparently her side of the bed. She set down her coffee, and unfastened the belt of her dressing gown, letting it drop to the ground, revealing she was completely naked underneath. His eyes roamed her body unashamedly, as she crawled back into bed and tucked herself under the covers, wasting no time in pressing herself up against him. When she leant up to kiss him, he eagerly returned the gesture.

“Mmm Katie. Last night was incredible, you’re incredible.”

“Don’t give me all the credit, Tom. It takes two people to achieve what we did last night.”

“You make it sound like we should shake hands and congratulate ourselves on our successful enterprise.”

Katie hummed, and nuzzled in closer.

“You really surprised me last night, Katie,” Tom had woken up a little more now, and Katie could feel his hands wander her body, down her back, and to her bum, “I had no idea you were so…wild.”

“I like sex,” Katie answered simply, “Being enthusiastic about it is not a chore for me. I wouldn’t consider myself especially kinky, just…confident.”

“Well there are certainly no complaints over here,” Tom chuckled, then without a beat, “Did it hurt?”

Daisy frowned, and it took a moment to grasp what he was asking about, “Oh, erm…that…well yes. It fucking hurt.”

“May I ask why? Although it’s very…pretty. I do struggle to comprehend how anyone could do that to themselves.”

“Well I didn’t do it, a nice lady called Melissa did,” Katie snarked.

“You know what I mean.”

“I know,” Katie shuffled up a little, and sat so she could reach for her coffee, “It’s hard to explain, I don’t know if you’d understand.”

“Try me.”

“Okay…well… it’s sort of the feeling you get when you put on a really sexy set of underwear. No one can see it under your clothes, but you know. You’re carrying on with life, doing your day to day, but somehow you feel better about yourself, sexier, more confident, like you can conquer anything. You somehow walk with your shoulders back and your head held a little higher. It’s like that…all the time,” Katie explained, looking at Tom over the rim of her cup, “I’m not sure there’s a male equivalent for that. But I suppose it makes me feel powerful.”

“No, no, I sort of understand that.”

“I read a lot into it before I got it done, it was something I’d thought about for a while. Yes, having it done was probably the most agonising pain I’ve ever felt in my whole entire live. But it was over in a second, and it healed quickly. I’ve never regretted it, and the obvious benefits of it, it feels fucking incredible.”

Tom chuckled at this statement, but his line of questioning wasn’t done, “Are you aware of it at other times?”

“Sometimes,” Katie nodded, “When I squirm in a chair, car journeys or any sort of transport which can jolt you around a bit…oh rollercoasters are a whole new experience. But everyone is different, some aren’t as sensitive to it as I am. It’s not like I’m getting off every time I get in a car. But yes, it feels nice…you’re really fascinated by this aren’t you?” Katie laughed at the rapt expression on Tom’s face.

“I am,” Tom admitted, turning a little sheepish, “I’ve never seen one before, or known anyone to have one…well not to my knowledge.”

“Never?”

“No.”

“Not even in porn? Lots of porn stars have it done!”

Tom laughed at that and Katie frowned when he shook his head, “I don’t watch porn Katie, I don’t think I’ve seen anything that constitutes as porn since I was in my late teens.”

“What?” Katie was incredulous, “I feel for once in my life, a bit out of touch. In my frame of reference, all men look at some form of pornography, even if its just some dirty pictures, you must have a really good imagination!”

“I do,” Tom nodded and laughed, “Is it that hard to believe? You know I’m a feminist, I rally for women to have the same opportunities as men. They should never have to degrade themselves in order to make their way in life.”

“I see,” Katie nodded, setting down her coffee, and snuggling back into his side. She nuzzled her face to his chest and hummed. It was an attempt to hide her expression from him. Tom’s intentions were pure. But the subject was an area of life which he was clearly quite uneducated about. He believed a woman exposing herself in any way to the benefit of men, was a last resort, a way to make ends meet. He didn’t consider that these days most women, and men in the industry were there by choice. Because they enjoyed it. But she knew she couldn’t tell him that, her knowledge would raise too many questions and she was not ready for that conversation yet.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve gone a bit quiet.”

“You’re just such a…good man, Tom. So wonderful.”

 

*

 

“That was just what I needed, I was famished,” Tom declared, as he finished his last bite of the bacon sandwich Katie had prepared for him. She’d offered him the use of her shower, which he’d gladly accepted. When he entered the kitchen, in his boxers and shirt from the night before, He’d been delighted to find her pottering about, preparing a late breakfast in little more than a big baggy knitted jumper, leaving her legs bare.

When he’d first woken up, it had taken him a few minutes to get his baring’s. He was exhausted and ached in places he didn’t know existed. Katie was certainly a firecracker in the bedroom. He wasn’t sure what time they’d finally succumbed to sleep, but they’d made love three times, before calling it a night. She was insatiable.

But now, she was his sweet little Katie again, preparing him breakfast and looking completely at home as she put her griddle in soak, and shot him a grin over her shoulder.

“I thought you’d probably require some sustenance. We both used a hell of a lot of energy last night,” Tom rolled his eyes, and chuckled, “When do you need to leave?”

“Well, I’ve got dinner with Luke and Chris tonight, sort of a Christmas thing before I head to Mum’s. We do it every year…but I’ve still got to pack, and I know I’ll be home late from Luke’s, so I suppose I really should go home before I go there,” Tom explained, then he let out a resigned sigh, “I wish I didn’t have to go.”

“Me too,” Katie walked around the breakfast bar and he relished the feel of her arms wrapping around him and giving him a gentle, affectionate squeeze.

Tom picked up his second cup of coffee of the morning, and gazed around the kitchen, his eyes landing on the empty dog bed in the corner. It was only then he realised the absence of the happy chocolate Labrador “Where’s Pink?”

“Oh, at Mum’s. I was wrapping presents last night and she goes nuts for wrapping paper. Like seriously loses her shit. So, Mum said she’d keep her out of the way.”

Tom chuckled in understanding, remembering what Bobby was like on his first Christmas. The pair fell into a comfortable silence, whilst Katie cleared away the few breakfast things, then leant against the counter to drink her own coffee.

“Perhaps, when I get back we can…erm…well maybe I could introduce you to Luke. We’ve avoided talking about it, and I don’t want to ruin the time we have left together before I leave. But I also want you to be my girlfriend, I don’t want to be scared to take you out. So, I need you to be prepared for what that means.”

“I thought I was already your girlfriend?”

“Oh? Well I just thought…we’ve not spoken about it, and I wasn’t sure how you felt about that part of my life.”

“I don’t know, Tom. I won’t be sure how I feel about it until I’m sharing it with you. But what I do know is that I like you, and I want to be with you. I’ll deal with whatever accompanies that. It’s not like I don’t have my own baggage.”

“Zach and Lucy aren’t baggage.”

“Not for me, but most men would consider another mans children such. I’m so lucky you don’t, I appreciate that. But to me, you are just Tom, not a celebrity. More than that, acting is your job, and your career, obviously I’m proud of that. You’ve succeeded in being what you want to be. But to me, that’s not what defines you as a person,” Tom swivelled on the breakfast stall, and Katie placed her hands on his knees, pushing his legs apart so she could stand between this. She leant up and brushed her lips over his in a chaste kiss. His eyes fluttered closed and he exhaled a contented hum, “You are wonderful, and kind, and passionate. You’re funny and sweet. Caring, clever, the best company. You’re a wonderful friend, and the most recent revelation, an incredible lover.” Katie beamed at him.

Tom laughed heartily at her last assessment of him. He raised his hands and cupped her face in his palms, and leant in to kiss her soundly, when he pulled back, he looked her in the eye and said, “You’re perfect, Katie. I’m going to miss you so much.”

“I’m going to miss you too,” Katie returned his kiss, “But…I do understand why I will need to meet your publicist eventually. It’s for your sake, as well as mine, and I need to consider the twins. I don’t want them subjected to anything. I don’t want to hide either. I know the only way we’ll be able to do ‘normal’ couple stuff is by doing things your way.”

“So, we can arrange something in the new year?”

“As long as I don’t have to wait to ‘officially’ be your girlfriend until then.”

“No way,” Tom shook his head, “You’ve said it now, you can’t take it back.”

“Good, I don’t want to.”

“So, that’s it, we’re officially official?”

“It would seem so.”

“You know,” Tom glanced over his shoulder at the clock on the cooker, “I don’t have to leave for another couple of hours at least. Maybe we should…celebrate?”

“You know, Mr Hiddleston. I do like the way you think!”

Chapter Text

Christmas was wonderful. Katie did have a truly lovely time with her little family.

But she also couldn’t help but feel slightly relieved on the morning of New Years Eve, when the twins Dad pulled up outside to pick the children up to spend the rest of the school holidays with him.

Yes, it had been lovely. But exhausting.

On Christmas Eve the children had a little party at their friend’s house. She’d spent the afternoon which she’d have rather have spent preparing for the next day, having to listen to other Mum’s gossip and moan. That wasn’t Katie’s scene, not that she despised the other school Mum’s, but she hated the negativity which seemed to monopolise the conversations. By nature, Katie was not a negative person.

Christmas Day had been mayhem. Enjoyable mayhem, but mayhem nonetheless. Zach and Lucy had loved their presents, both insisting on taking their bikes out for a ride. Fortunately, they were having dinner at Katie’s Mum’s, so she allowed them to ride there, as the paths were quiet. But the house was chaos, what with Pink going loopy over the wrapping paper, and a host of new toys taking over the living area, Katie was pleased to close the door on it all when they’d headed to her Mum’s.

The period between Christmas and New Year had been a mix of quiet and busy. Katie had kept regular contact with Tom, talking on the phone most days, and when they didn’t they were always texting. Despite the fact that they’d only really spent little more than twice a week in each other’s company before he went to his Mum’s, eight days felt like a lifetime.

It was the sensitive stage in an early relationship, where you want to be with that other person all the time. But you still have responsibilities which you had before the relationship and it’s too early to make drastic changes to your life.

So, Katie filled her days. She worked most mornings, except the Bank Holidays which her manager had insisted she take off this year, due to her hard work. She deserved a break with her family. They had a pre-planned trip to see a Panto. Katie managed to catch up with a couple of old friends from her University days. Her Dad also made an impromptu visit from Glasgow. The twins, of course, were ecstatic to have their Grandad turn up on the doorstep.

As always Katie made the best of it all. Texting Tom to tell him about her Dad and the ‘guilt presents’ for Zach and Lucy, and a bottle of the most rank, slutty perfume for her. It had definitely been picked up from behind the counter at his local Savers for about eight ninety-nine.

So, yes, Christmas had been lovely. But she wasn’t sad to have a little break from the twins, even if only to get the house in some form of order again, before the new term started.

She’d waved them off and taken Pink for a walk around Primrose Hill. Then just as she walked through her front door, her phone started ringing. Her stomach turned immediately, expecting it to be Matt with some excuse about having to bring the kids back. But to her delight it was Tom.

“Hello, baby!” she answered the phone cheerily.

“Oh, Baby? That’s a new one isn’t it?” Tom laughed at Katie’s term of endearment to him, that was such a very non-Katie thing to say.

“It felt like a baby kind of moment, you have no idea how relieved I was when I saw it was you calling?”

“Yeah? Who were you expecting?”

“Well, Matt picked the kids up like an hour ago, and I just had this awful feeling he was going to find some excuse to bring them back.”

“Would he do that?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“I actually called you for a reason,” Tom made a swift change of topic.

“Oh yeah? Not just because you couldn’t last another day without hearing my voice,” Katie teased.

“Well there’s that too,” Katie smiled to herself, he was always so sweet, “I assume your plans for tonight haven’t changed drastically since we last spoke?”

“Nope, I’m probably going to head over to Mum’s around six, just chill out there. No big parties for us, probably won’t even stay up to see the New Year in.”

“Okay, well, I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this, but I wondered if you’d like to come here and spend the evening with me and my family?”

“Er-”

“I know it’s really soon, but… well I’ve missed you so much, and Mum’s decided to throw a little thing last minute, after Sarah turning up to surprise us. It was Mum’s suggestion really. There’s plenty of room-”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes, I’ll come and spend New Years Eve with you,” Katie clarified, “But only if it’s okay with your family. I don’t want to gate crash the small amount of time you and your family get together.”

“Not at all, you’re more than welcome.”

“Okay…well I need to check Mum can have Pink tonight. What shall I do? I’ve no idea where I’m even going?”

“Can you get the train? You’ll need to go from Liverpool street, I’ll text you the details. It’s about two hours I think. I can meet you at the station.” Tom explained.

“Alright. I’ll call my Mum now,” Katie’s heart raced. She knew she probably would have seen Tom as soon as he got home the next day anyway, but the idea of seeing him even a day earlier sent ripples of excitement through her, “I also hope you realise the second I tell my Mum I’m meeting your family, she is going to get the hump, and demand to know when she can meet you!”

“I’ll happily meet your Mum, whenever you want me to. If she’s anything like her daughter, I know she will adore me.”

Katie scoffed “She’ll think you’re too good for me.”

“Stop it now,” Tom admonished her hint of self-deprecation, “I can’t wait to see you.”

“Me neither.”

As soon as she hung up, Katie was on the phone to her Mum. Although she wished she’d allowed herself a little bit of time to gear herself up for that conversation. Over the phone, her Mum was calm, although she did question the whole ‘meeting the family’ and whether it was too soon. But she wasn’t one to sway her daughter’s decisions. It was when Katie dropped Pink off that her Mum really laid into her.

“So, it’s quite serious then? You and Tom?” Her Mum stood half in front of the door, signalling that Katie was not going to rush out without having ‘that’ conversation.

“It’s getting that way, yes,” But Katie was non-committal.

“Why won’t you talk to me about this? Is it because of Bella?” Katie rolled her eyes. Her Mum and her ex-girlfriend had not seen eye to eye. It wasn’t just a case of clashing personalities, but Tanja believed the woman dating her daughter to be an unstable influence in her grandchildren’s lives. They already had a flaky father, and she gave Katie a hard time about it.

“No, it’s not because of Bella. You’d like Tom. He’s wonderful.”

“I take it you’ve still not told him?”

“No,” Katie sighed, resignedly. She knew she had no decent argument now, “Everyone I’ve ever been out with has already known. I don’t know how I can just…blurt it out.”

“If you’re not careful Kate, you’ll pass the point where you can tell him without it being like you’ve kept it from him.”

“I know.”

“Don’t ruin your time because of it, but I like how happy this man makes you. So please, when you get back. Tell him.”

“I was actually thinking…well… I might give it up.”

“What? Close down the channel?”

“Yeah. I mean… I’ve been doing it a while, I’m not getting any younger,” Katie shrugged, truthfully, she’d not considered closing down the Channel until faced with the thought of Tom’s reaction to her ‘other’ job.

“But you love it?”

“I know, but-”

“You love Tom more?”

“I don’t love him. I mean…It’s too early for that. But I like him too much to jeopardize what we have. Tom’s job…well… he’s in the public eye. So, if things get serious I’ll need to quit anyway, won’t I?”

“He’s famous?” She’d only told Tanja he was an actor, no specific details.

“Relatively.”

“Oh Kate, you do know how to get yourself into these pickles. Listen, ultimately, it’s your decision to make,” Katie nodded at her Mums words, “If he likes you as much as you like him, well, he would accept you no matter what you do for a living. He would listen to your reasons and support you. You say he’s a good man, there’s no reason for him to throw things away over this.”

“You’re right, Mum. I’ll talk to him when we get home.”

 

*

 

Tom stood outside the little Train station, a few feet away from the barrier. He was bundled up in his thick winter coat, and scarf, but still wrapped his arms around himself, and bounced on the spot in attempt to keep himself warm.

Katie had text him when she changed trains at Ipswich and he knew she’d been about half an hour away. He’d bounced out of his chair, and excitedly told his Mum he was going to pick her up. But in his eagerness, he’d arrived almost quarter of an hour early and was now waiting for her in the freezing cold.

The suggestion to invite Katie to spend New Years Eve with the family had been his Mum’s idea that was the truth. What he’d omitted to tell Katie is that the suggestion was made, because Diana Hiddleston was sick to the back teeth of her Son spending the entire holiday moping about, or with his head in his phone texting his new girlfriend.

“I’m at my wits end Thomas. The only time you’ve smiled this entire week is when you’ve come off the phone to her!” His Mum had told him, a stern look on her face.

“That’s not true. I spent an entire day playing with the girls. I was smiling then!” Tom knew he was being petulant. But he had made the effort with his two nieces.

“Well I won’t have you ruining the party tonight! Your sister is home, we don’t know when we will see her again.”

“I know. I promise I’ll cheer up. I just…really miss her.”

“Hmm,” Diana Hiddleston hummed, and watched her son thoughtfully as he’d continued pouring himself some cereal and filling the kettle, “You really like this woman, don’t you?”

“I thought I’d been making that quite obvious,” Tom joked. He knew he had it bad, and so did everyone else in the household. His younger sister, Emma, had even started ripping into him about being ‘in love’ and fake swooning every time Tom mentioned Katie. And that was quite often. He’d waxed lyrical about her since the day he’d arrived at his Mother’s house. But only now did Diana seem to clock onto the fact that this wasn’t just some fleeting infatuation.

The last time she’d seen her son this head over heels for a girl was almost ten years ago. That particular relationship had been Tom’s most long term to date. Over two years and that only ended because his career was taking off. He was kind and fair and utterly heartbroken. He knew he was too young to settle down and he had to make a choice. He knew if he didn’t choose his career he’d end up resenting the woman he loved. She understood, she was an actress also. By nature, those in the acting profession had the tendency to be a touch selfish. It was a tough industry to break into and you didn’t get to where Tom had by being sentimental. You had to be out for yourself.

Since then he’d really avoided getting serious with woman. He’d still dated, of course. He was far too nice to risk breaking someone’s heart. So, he’d avoided it, sometimes purposely choosing women based upon their looks alone. They’d all been perfectly nice people, but no qualities in which he might potentially fall in love with. He’d known then he’d make a rubbish boyfriend. He’d spoken to his Mum about it on countless occasions. Of course, from the outside that did make him look like a bit of a player, with brief romances lasting no longer than about three or four months. But none of those women had a bad word to say about Tom.

Diana knew that Tom had been ready to settle down for a couple of years now. Tom had thought perhaps the last girl he’d brought home was ‘the one’ but a mother’s intuition told her she wasn’t. She was too young, not ready to settle down in the slightest, and Tom didn’t like her as much as he thought he did. She was nice enough, but Diana knew what Tom liked most about her was how the girl in question had dragged Tom into her life and made him the centre of her world. Her very big world.

But in the end Tom had worked it out for himself. He was not the centre of her world and he never would be. He’d been okay about it, possibly even a little relieved.

But this new woman, by the way Tom spoke, sounded perfect for her son. Grounded, normal (whatever that was) and her world was very small. Tom wouldn’t get lost in it. That’s what he needed, someone, not somewhere he could call home.

“You should invite her this evening,” Diana’s suggestion sounded more like a decisive order.

“Excuse me?”

“Katie. Call her and ask her to come here. I’d like to meet her, god only knows the next time the whole family will be together. The next time Sarah might be here could very well be for your wedding at this rate.”

“She doesn’t drive.”

“She can get the train.”

“It’s a bit…I’m not sure she will want to. It’s a bit soon isn’t it?” But Tom was torn. The suggestion of Katie spending New Years Eve with him. Being able to kiss her at Midnight and see in the New Year together. He couldn’t think of anything he wanted more. He was so sure she’d say no, but he had to at least ask. So, he’d called her.

The train eventually pulled into the station. Tom waited as patiently as he could as the group of passengers just disembarking the train filtered through the barrier. For a minute he couldn’t see her. Then a bulky businessman in a heavy coat, and briefcase in hand stepped out the way, and he saw her behind, putting her ticket into the gate.

She looked up as soon as the gate opened and saw him immediately. Somehow, it had only been a week, but he’d forgotten just how beautiful she was. She wore that lovely thick winter coat he liked, with the scarf and knitted beret. He could just about see the hem of a green dress, paired with thick black tights and a pair of brown Chelsea boots. She had a weekend bag slung over her shoulder and clutched a potted Poinsettia in her arms. When they locked eyes, her strides widened, and she made short work of closing the gap between them. Until she stopped dead in front of him.

“Hi!”

“Hello.” Tom grinned at her. Then watched as she dropped her bag to the icy ground and carefully set the plant next to it. Before standing and nearly knocking him off his feet as she threw her arms around him and smashed her mouth to his. His hands instinctively moved to her face and he held her in place, as her lips parted against his and he took advantage, plundering her mouth with his tongue, hers moving against it messily.

When they eventually parted, they were both breathless and Katie started giggling, still holding onto Tom tightly.

“That was a lovely hello,” Tom said, once he’d caught his breath.

“I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too. So much.”

They kissed again, more briefly this time, then Katie said, “Shall we?”

“We shall,” Tom let go of her and picked up her bag and the plant, “What’s this for?” He asked as she took it from him but let him carry her bag for her.

“It’s for your Mum, I was always taught to never meet a new partner’s Mother empty handed. I’m dating her baby boy. I’ve got to make a good impression.” Katie stated, and held up the plant proudly, “Poinsettia!”

“Okay,” Tom was laughing, “Not sure where to start with that, but I guess I should point out I’m nearly forty, not her baby boy anymore-”

“You’re nearly thirty-eight, and you’ll always be her baby boy. No matter how old you get.”

“Right…and well…as I was going to say. You don’t have to give her anything. Just be yourself and she’ll love you as much as I do, or…I mean…I’m not…fuck,” Tom stumbled over his words, mentally chastising himself, “The erm…car’s this way.”

Katie grinned and took his hand, “It’s fine, Tom. I know what you mean. Don’t worry,” They started walking, “And when am I not myself?”

They reached Tom’s car and he opened the door for her, then he threw her bag on the bag seat, and she held the Poinsettia on her lap.

“I’m afraid it’s a bit more travelling. Mum’s is about twenty minutes away.”

“That’s fine. Means I get you to myself for a bit. So, who’s going to be there exactly? Give me an idea of what I’m in for,” He could feel her eyes on him, as he drove. He knew she was smiling, just by the melody in her voice.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be a bit mad. Mum’s there, and her partner David. Emma and her husband Jack, the girls are with her in-laws for the night. Like I told you on the phone, Sarah turned up out of the blue the day before yesterday, Yakov couldn’t make it sadly. My Aunt Chrissie, and her husband Michael, and I think Mum’s invited her neighbour Beryl, they’re really good friends…and the dogs.”

“Mustn’t forget the dogs.”

“Are you really alright with all this? I know it’s really soon to be meeting the family, and there are so many of them-”

“If I wasn’t alright with it, I wouldn’t have said I’ll come. Stop worrying. As adorable as it is when you get all flustered and nervous, I don’t want you to be like that because of me. I’m actually really looking forward to meeting them all, you speak so fondly of them.”

Her words immediately put him at ease and Tom reached over the console to take her hand and squeeze it gently.

Chapter Text

Katie marvelled at the exterior of Diana Hiddleston’s home. Tom had parked the car on a big gravel drive next to two other cars and helped her out. She’d spent very little time in the countryside. She was a city girl so the huge country home in front of her was like something out of a fairy tale. All white washed with sash windows, and still decorated in tasteful Christmas lights. It was magical.

She couldn’t help but stare as Tom lead her to the front door and unlocked it.

“Come in, Katie,” He ushered her inside and closed the door behind them, shutting the cold outside, and the warmth of the house wrapped comfortably around her. They were stood in a big lobby, with doors going off left, right, and straight ahead, and a staircase folding around the wall. Tom removed his boots, so Katie set down the plant on the solid oak sideboard to her left and followed suit, lining hers up next to his, joining a row of shoes by the wall. She’d just unbuttoned her coat, when Tom turned from hanging up his own, he helped her remove hers the rest of the way and hung it on the coat hook, “Ready?”

“Yep!” Katie nodded, and stepped closer to brush her lips over his again. Just then the sound of paws on solid wood floor came towards them, and Katie glanced to her side to see Bobby approaching them, tail wagging like mad. He yipped at his Dad, and Katie dropped to her knees, “Hello, Bobby. How lovely to see you,” She ruffled his ears.

“Tom is that you?” A voice sounded from somewhere in the house, and Katie pushed herself back into a standing position, much to Bobby’s disappointment.

 “Yes, Mum, we’ll be in, in a sec,” Tom shouted back, and stole another quick kiss from Katie, before allowing her to pick the plant back up from the side, then taking her free hand and leading her through the door to their left. Bobby in tow. They walked through a large dining room, which lead through to an even bigger open plan kitchen, which appeared to be where Tom’s entire family were currently collected, “Mum?” Tom tugged Katie behind him, apparently ignoring everyone else, and she followed, smiling and offering a little wave to the other houseguests, and various members of the Hiddleston family. They stopped in front of a short, white haired woman, with a kind face, and Tom’s eyes, “Mum, this is Katie, my girlfriend. Katie, this is my Mum, Diana.”

“Hello, dear,” Diana set down the glass of wine she’d been holding, and leant up to peck Katie on the cheek, “It’s wonderful to put a face to a name, Tom’s spoken of nothing but you all week.”

“It’s great to meet you to, Diana. Thank you so much for inviting me into your home. This is for you, it’s not much, but I thought it was pretty,” Katie held out the Poinsettia and Diana took it from her, positively beaming, and looking up to her son.

“Oh, you didn’t have to, but this really is beautiful Katie. Thank you,” She admired the plant, “Tom, be a good boy, and put this on the dining table for me, and perhaps take Katie’s bag to your room. I’ll introduce her to everyone.”

“Well I think-”

“I’ll be fine, Tom,” Katie assured him, with a gentle pat to his arm, “I’ll see you in a minute.”

Tom reluctantly took the potted plant from his Mum, and left Katie in the kitchen with his family.

“Right, first things first, refreshments, can I get you a drink, Katie?” Katie immediately liked Diana. She wasn’t sure if it was the fact that she could see the same kind expression which graced Tom’s features or how her easy-going attitude to meeting her sons girlfriend, reminded her very much of her own Mother.

“That would be lovely, thank you.”

“Can I tempt you with a prosecco?” Diana gestured to an open bottle of fizz on the worktop.

“Oh, please,” Katie nodded.

“Are you going to introduce us then, Mum? Or just keep her all to yourself?” Came a woman’s voice, and Katie turned to see a beautiful, blonde woman, a similar age to herself, who just had to be one of Tom’s sisters, “Hi, Katie. I’m Emma, I’ve heard absolutely everything about you!”

“Hi Emma,” Katie greeted her with a laugh, and accepted her opened armed gesture, and stepped into a light embrace, “It’s so nice to meet you, Tom talks about his family all the time.”

“Hi, Katie, isn’t it?” Another woman, again blonde, but slightly older, joined the small group, just as Diana placed a glass of prosecco into Katie’s hand, “I’m Sarah. Tom’s big sister.”

“Hi, Sarah,” Katie repeated the same gesture as she had with Emma, “I understand you live in India? Tom was so excited when he told me you’d made a surprise visit.”

“That’s right. My husband Yakov is working all over New Year, and insisted I visit home so I’m not on my own. Also, this is the first time I’ve managed to get home in about six months,” Sarah explained, “But I’ve heard all about you in my Skype chats with Tommy.”

 “I’m so sorry, you’re probably sick of hearing my name!” Katie laughed, Sarah was the third Hiddleston woman to comment on Tom’s incessant chatter about her.

“Not at all,” Diana cut in, “You make him happy, I couldn’t possibly be annoyed about that!”

“He makes me happy too,” Katie assured her.

“Let me introduce you to everyone,” Emma cut in, hooking an arm through Katie’s, and leading her away from Diana.

By the time Tom returned to the kitchen, his sisters between them, had introduced Katie to everyone in the kitchen, and Emma had just topped up her glass. They were deep in conversation when Tom cut in.

“Sorry that took me so long darling, I had to take a call from Luke,” Tom explained, tucking himself next to her and wrapping an arm around her waist. “I didn’t mean to abandon you.”

“It’s okay, Emma and Sarah have been keeping me well entertained. They were just telling me about Nunu,” Katie smirked up at him.

“Oh, you didn’t…” Tom threw daggers at the two women in front of him, who despite it only being just gone five o’clock in the afternoon, were already a tad tipsy. They snickered like little children.

“I’d love to meet him, or is Nunu a her?”

“Nunu is a him,” Tom grumbled, “And I have no idea where he is.”

“He’s on the shelf in your bedroom,” Diana piped up, helpfully, “Used to take that ratty Elephant everywhere he did. Disgusting thing. He screamed blue murder every time I tried to wash it. It wasn’t until he went off to boarding school, that he finally stopped sleeping with it.”

“Oh, Tom,” Katie giggled, “That’s adorable.”

“It’s embarrassing,” Tom whined, and shot angry glances at the three women in his life, “And I can’t believe you told Katie that. Of all the things you could have said, you started with that. Cheers.”

“Don’t worry,” Katie, turned in his arms, and tiptoed to peck him on the lips, “I still think you’re sexy.”

Tom hummed against her lips with uncertainty and pulled away, “I’m getting a drink.”

He sauntered across the kitchen and pulled open the fridge and Katie watched him out the corner of her eye as he took out a bottle of beer but continued to poke around for a few moments.

“Tom, what do you think you’re doing!” Suddenly Diana was hurrying across the kitchen, she slammed the fridge door shut, almost trapping her son’s arm in the process.

“Hey!” Tom mumbled through a mouthful of food.

“They’re my profiteroles!” Diana scolded.

“I’m hungry!”

“Well I’ve done food, and if you keep eating pudding there will be none for anyone else. Now pack it in!” Diana ushered her son back towards Katie and his two sniggering sisters.

“Did you just get told off?” Katie teased.

“I’m hungry,” Tom defended himself again, reaching across her for the bottle opener off the side.

“Tom, could you tell me where I can go to freshen up?” Katie asked suddenly, setting her glass on the counter, “I want to get changed and give the twins a call to check they’re alright.”

“I’ll show you, Lovely,” Tom nodded, and threaded his fingers with hers to lead her back through the house, in the wake of his giggling sisters. Katie couldn’t help but laugh with them, at Tom’s eagerness. He had it bad. But she didn’t care, because she had it bad too.

*

Tom lead Katie up the stairs and into his bedroom. Well not his bedroom, but the bedroom he used when he stayed at his Mum’s house. It was decorated a little bit more masculine than the other rooms and stored a lot of his childhood possessions. Awards, certificates, photos, and of course Nunu the Elephant, who sat on a shelve all floppy and looking very sorry from himself.

He watched as Katie beelined the shelf and took the toy in both hands, picking it up and admiring it fondly, “Your family are lovely. I love Emma and Sarah, they’re funny.”

“I’m glad you like them.”

“They’re so very beautiful as well, Emma has the most stunning eyes.”

“I suppose she does,” Tom’s eyed Katie with a little bit of uncertainty. He was so used to having her to himself, sharing her felt a bit strange. On one hand, he was happy Katie was getting on well with his family. Why wouldn’t she though? She was a chatty, open, person. He knew she was popular with her colleagues at work, and when he’d taken her out she’d always strike up conversation with complete strangers.

He couldn’t have been away for more than twenty minutes on the phone to Luke. But returning to the kitchen and almost being ganged up on by his sisters and Katie. Okay, maybe ‘Ganged up on’ was a bit strong. But twenty minutes had clearly been enough time for Katie to build that report with his sisters. Who was he trying to kid? He was jealous, and he felt stupid for it. Jealous that Katie’s attention was on someone other than him.

Katie placed the toy back on the shelf, “I didn’t realise she lived so close.”

“Hmm?”

“Emma. She lives just up the road, you never said. We were saying it would be nice to go for coffee sometime, just me and her-”

“What?”

“Coffee, me and Emma,” Katie walked to the bed in the centre of the room, where Tom had left her weekend bag. He watched her unzip it and start rifling through it, “She’s just so lovely, I don’t have that many female friends.”

Katie’s eyes were bright when she turned back to him, and without warning lifted her dress over her head. Tom wasn’t sure why he felt so odd about Katie liking his sister so much? That was what he wanted, wasn’t it? For his family to like her. Then it struck him. Just as her balled up dress struck him right in the face. Katie smirked, and he grappled the dress together and started folding it neatly.

“Right you, what’s up?”

“Nothing I just…” He she stood in front of him, wearing nothing but her black woolly rights and a pretty red bra. She looked so beautiful, “Do you like her?”

“Who?”

“Emma.”

“Well of course I like her. She’s great.”

“No, I mean…do you… like her, like you like me?”

“What?” Katie’s expression changed and for the first time, Tom saw her looking something other than happy. She looked a bit annoyed in fact.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked, that was stupid, of course-”

“Tom. Just because I’m bisexual, it doesn’t mean I want to fuck every woman I see!”

“I know that.”

“Well, why are you even asking? I thought you were okay with it?”

“I am. Honestly.”

“Except you think I fancy your sister, and prefer her to you?”

“I’m just not used to sharing you. You’ve known her five minutes and you’re arranging coffee dates and you think she’s beautiful, and that she has beautiful eyes…” Tom trailed off, realising how stupid he sounded. He really was a prize idiot.

“Sharing me? Tom, you wanted me to meet your family. And actually, I said both your sisters are beautiful, which they are. Stunning, in fact. Do you know who else I think is stunning?” Her voice was stern now, and for the second time in less than half an hour, Tom knew he was being told off. But this time by his girlfriend. Who he’d clearly offended. “You, you big idiot.”

“Oh.”

“Tell me,” Katie’s voice softened, “Would you have reacted the same if you had brothers?”

“I…don’t know. Maybe?”

“For someone so smart, you can be a bit stupid sometimes,” Katie stepped up closer to him, and tucked her hands under his arms, which hung loosely at his sides. She wrapped her arms around his back, and pushed herself against him, “Now, kiss me, you daft man!”

Tom didn’t waste any time. So relieved that his girlfriend wasn’t the type to stay cross, she knew he felt stupid and that his concerns were completely invalid. He was just thankful she’d not picked up her bag and stormed out on him. How on earth had he managed to find someone so perfect? In a very precarious motion, he dipped and grasped her beneath the knees and hauled her up to his waist. So sudden was the action, that she had to grab onto him tightly, so she didn’t fall when he strode towards the bed, and unceremoniously threw her down on it. He crawled over her and dropped down, to press his mouth to hers.

“You’re right, I’m an idiot,” Tom mumbled breathlessly against her lips.

“My idiot,” Katie giggled.

“I want you so much right now,” He dropped his hips down to hers, so he could grind his clothed erection against her centre, and they both moaned in unison. She grasped tightly to his shoulders.

“We can be quick. I can be quiet.”

“Don’t tempt me, Beautiful. Mum will know, and I’m getting fed up with being told off and teased today.”

“You mean, you made me travel all the way here, and we can’t have sex,” Katie pouted.

“Not at five o’clock in the afternoon, with a house full of people downstairs. No,” Tom kissed her again, “As much as I was to rip these ugly tights off right now and fuck you into next week.”

“So, you’re instead going to leave me wet and wanting all evening?”

“That’s the plan, yes.”

“Tease.”

Tom nodded, and trailed a few more kisses along her jawline, before sliding off her and onto the floor to his knees, between her spread legs which dangled off the edge of the bed. He leant over her and peeled down her tights and knickers enough to expose her, and buried his face between her legs, inhaling deeply.

“Fuck, Tom!” Katie hissed, when he teased her slit with his tongue, just touching her clit enough to make her hips buck, “Don’t stop, please, please, don’t stop.”

But he did stop. With a final gentle kiss to her now swollen clit, he pulled away, “Sorry darling. I couldn’t resist. I promise I’ll make it up to you later.”

“You’d better,” Katie grumbled frustratedly.

“I’m going to leave you to get changed and head back down, you alright?”

“Of course,” She sat herself up on the bed and tugged her knickers back up. Tom leant down and pecked her on the lips again. Lingering long enough for her to taste herself and groan against his mouth.

“No touching, darling. I know how your dirty little mind works.”

Tom closed the door softly behind him and willed his erection away as he headed back downstairs to his family. Fortunately, by the time he entered the kitchen it wasn’t as noticeable.

“No prizes for guessing what you’ve been up to,” Sarah rolled his eyes and Emma laughed at her sister’s insinuation. He wondered how he was that obvious.

“Leave your brother alone,” Diana warned. Tom’s mood shifted, and he suddenly felt a lot more relaxed. Knowing his beautiful girlfriend was upstairs and wanting him, had a lot to do with that. But also, because now she was there, he finally felt like he could have a good time. He wasn’t missing her anymore. He picked up his beer and turned to his Mum.

“What do you think?” He asked, but he was grinning, he already knew the answer.

“Oh, Tom. She’s such a lovely girl,” His Mum opened her arms and gave him a tight hug, “I adore her!”

“She’s wonderful,” Sarah added.

“It’s like she was actually designed for you, it’s quite scary” Emma nodded, “She’s perfect.”

“Really?” Tom could feel his heart thumbing in his chest.

“Really, Sweetheart,” Diana nodded, “I’m so very happy for you. You deserve this.”

Chapter Text

Rolling over in the ridiculously soft and cosy bed, Katie’s eyes blinked open slowly. The first thing she saw was Tom’s cerulean eyes staring sleepily back at her. He lay on his tummy, head to his side, nestled in the plump pillow.

“Morning, Beautiful.”

“Good morning,” Katie brought a hand up to stifle a yawn.

“Head?” Tom asked, with a smirk.

“A bit fuzzy, but okay, yours?”

“I’ve already been down for water and paracetamol. Pounding.”

“Sign of getting old that is. Hangovers get worse.”

“Shut up,” Tom reached out, and Katie found herself dragged across the massive bed towards him. She snuggled into his naked body, revelling in the feeling of their skin touching. She wrapped a hand round his back and trailed it upwards, so she could play with the lengthy curls at the nape of his neck. He moved his head to kiss her, and she automatically sealed her lips and turned her face away, “Hey?”

“Breath! My mouth feels like a toilet brush.”

“I don’t care,” Katie squirmed as he forcefully moved her, so he could access her lips and pushed his mouth to hers, and after few seconds of persistence, she relaxed into it, and kissed him back. They both groaned when Tom rolled her fully onto her back and forced her legs apart so his could settle between them, his hardening cock pressing against her centre.

She wanted him so bad, despite it only being a matter of hours since she’d had him last.

Her initial frustration of Tom leaving her thoroughly turned on and aching the night before had dissipated, once she got downstairs, had a fresh drink and the merriment of the evening took over.

Diana had managed to throw together a very last minute, but incredibly delicious buffet, with fresh bread, meats, cheeses and homemade profiteroles, fortunately Tom hadn’t made a huge dent in them. Drinks flowed. Katie happily stuck with Tom, going between perching on his knee or snuggling to his side whilst she got to know his family a little better. They welcomed her with open arms, treating her like a fully-fledged member of the Hiddleston family.

There was music, dancing and most definitely some singing. Katie remembered thinking it was a good job that Diana’s home was so remote and that her only neighbours were also in attendance, because everyone got quite lairy. Even Bobby retired quite early on to the doggy bed in the drawing room, away from the party which was going on between the Dining Room, Kitchen and Orangery at the back of the house.

At midnight everyone had counted down and when Big Ben chimed on the television, Tom had pulled Katie into his arms, whispered the words “Happy New Year, Darling,” and kissed her soundly.

When they’d eventually fallen drunkenly into bed at around two o’clock in the morning, it had been a messy coupling. Items of clothing were ripped from bodies and thrown around the room. From what Katie remembered there had been little foreplay, but lots of laughing. Tom had thrown her legs over his shoulders as he’d pounded into her. She’d slipped a hand between them to touch herself, bringing herself closer, and she’d found her climax just seconds before Tom. It was good, as far as drunken sex goes. But to be quite honest, Katie had never been fond of sex under the influence.

This morning she was feeling the effects of last night. A burning ache in her pelvis, and the sticky evidence left between her thighs. But that didn’t stop the heat blooming in her core, when Tom’s erection pressed against her slit, nudging that little metal bar and reverberating shocks down her thighs and up to her nipples. She groaned a little louder than she intended and brought up a leg to hook around Tom’s backside, and bucked her hips into his, giving him her silent permission.

“Katie,” Tom almost groaned her name against her lips, and reared back, “Condom?” and then, he lifted his head, eyes widening, “Shit, Katie, we didn’t use one last night.”

“It’s alright, I’m on the Depo.”

“Okay…” Tom trailed off unsurely.

“There are condom’s in my bag.”

“No,” Tom shook his head, “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Katie nodded, as Tom positioned himself properly and slid home. Katie’s breath caught in her throat, and her arms tightened around Tom’s back when he started gently rocking into her, she uttered his name, “Tom.”

“Yes, love?”

“Oh…God…” Katie didn’t answer, instead she moved her hips to meet his slow thrusts, “Oh.”

“You feel so good like this, so warm…wet…” Tom murmured, dipping his head to kiss her again. His lips lingered on hers, and the shared a slow, languid kiss, tongues delving into each others mouths. Katie yelped when Tom’s teeth nipped her lower lip and he pulled back smirking playfully.

Then there was a banging on the bedroom door.

They both stopped their movements. Tom remained still deeply seated inside her. Katie’s eyes were wide.

“Ignore it. Whoever it is will go away,” Tom whispered, and started his thrusts again.

“What if they heard us?”

“This is an old house. The walls are thick.”

Katie whimpered when Tom gave an extra hard thrust, and he kissed her again. Tom was just rearing up to reposition himself, and grip her under the knees, when there was another pounding at the door.

“Tom!” It was Emma.

This time Katie pushed him off, and he collapsed resignedly on the bed beside her.

“What?” He called back, annoyance clear in his voice

“Can you come to the door?”

“No.” But Katie shoved his shoulder.

“Go on,” She mouthed at him.

Tom scrambled off the bed, snatched his discarded boxers from the floor and tugging them up his long legs, whilst Katie tugged the covers up to her neck, and snuggled back down in bed. Tom cracked open the door and glared at his sister.

“What?”

*

Emma held his phone in her hand. She looked worse for wear herself. Hair still mused up from bed, and in a set of Minnie Mouse Pyjamas.

“Luke’s been on the phone to Mum. He’s been trying to call you for hours apparently. You’ve got like thirty missed calls. He says its urgent,” Emma explained, and Tom took the phone from her hand.

“It’s fucking New Year’s Day,” Tom grumbled at her.

“Don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger,” She shrugged, “The sooner you call him back, the sooner you and Katie can carry on fucking like rabbits,” Tom’s mouth opened and closed a couple of time, unable to formulate a response, “Don’t try and tell me you’re not, you two are loud as hell. Last night was disturbing as fuck.”

“Go away, Em,” And with that Tom shut the door in his sister’s face. Turning around he found a giggling Katie, still cocooned in the duvet. He frowned, “This better be good.”

Tom looked at his phone as he sat back down on the edge of the bed. He felt the mattress dip behind him then Katie’s arms circling his waist, and her lips pressing to his shoulder. She left trails of hot kisses across to the other one, “Call him back,” She murmured into his skin.

Emma had over-exaggerated, but not by a lot. There were twelve missed calls, and five texts. All from Luke.

07:10 Are you up?

07:17 Tom, when you get this please call me.

07:33 I know it’s new years day, and you’re probably hanging. But this is quite important.

07:42 For fucks sake Tom!

07:56 I’m calling Diana.

Tom wasn’t overly perturbed by Luke’s panicked texts. Despite his constant professionalism he could also be a bit of a drama queen. He always jumped to the worst-case scenario. It was probably a schedule clash that he’d picked up on and hadn’t been able to sleep all night worrying about it. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d got a early morning wake up from a frantic Luke. The issue was, Luke worked for Tom, and he knew Tom hated letting people down. If that happened due to a mistake on his part, he really beat himself up about it. He took a lot of pride in his job, and Tom was special. Tom was the reason Prosper was so successful. Tom was his friend.

He tipped his head back and allowed Katie to suckle gentle as the sensitive skin there, “Mmm okay.”

He pressed call, and the phone didn’t even complete one ring.

“I swear to god, Tom. You wait until I see you!”

“Good Morning, Luke. Happy New Year,” Tom responded dryly.

“Is it?”

“Look just tell me what this is about, because honestly, it had better be important. It’s New Year Day, I’ve got a pounding headache, and a beautiful woman in my bed waiting for me to pay her some attention.”

“Thanks for giving me the heads up that Katie was joining your family for New Year.”

“It was a bit last minute,” Tom sighed, “Wait…how did you-”

“Check your emails and give me a call.”

“Right,” Tom hung up, his stomach turning. He shrugged Katie off. She’d still been wrapped around him, idly stroking his stomach with her fingertips, and laying sweet kisses on his upper back. He released a big puff of air from his mouth and stood from the bed. When he turned Katie was kneeling on her haunches, still gloriously naked, but chewing her bottom lip in worry.

Tom glanced back down at his phone and saw a new email flash up. He opened it and there were four different links. This could not be good. Clicking on the top one, it immediately took him to the Daily Mail website, and there, at the top of the page was a photo. Not a bad photo, quite a nice one if he could overlook the fact that it was taken yesterday, outside Woodbridge Market Train Station. Katie was wrapped around him, and he was holding her face, their lips locked.

You couldn’t see her face. That was something at least. But it was clearly him. His own very recognisable tall, lithe form, and curly ginger hair. He scrolled down the article. It was vague. They had nothing to go on. No name, no real identification other than dark hair, and direct quote ‘voluptuous’ figure. That made him a little cross, because although it was a complimentary way of saying it, it was as good as calling her fat. Especially when it was followed by a comparison to his past girlfriends, in particular the slim, desirable stature of Taylor. Katie was curvy yes. In all the right places. She had a beautiful body, wide hips, narrow waist, and breasts that were almost too big for him to handle. No, she was not slim, her tummy was soft and rolled when she sat down. Her bum wobbled a bit, and her thighs cushioned his own narrow hips when he made love to her. He felt like their evaluation of her was an insult dressed up as a compliment.

The rest of the article was harmless. It was a confirmation to the public that he was no longer single. ‘England’s most eligible Bachelor is off the Market’. There was no denying that Katie was more than just a friend, the way they held on to each other desperately, mouths almost melting together. Also, because of the location, it was easy to suggest it was a visit to his family.

But the big question within the article – ‘Who is she?’

“Is everything okay, Tom? You look really cross?” Katie asked softly. When he looked up, she’d wrapped the duvet around her body again. He held his phone out to her, and she took it hesitantly. He watched her as she settled back and read the article in silence. There was no huge reaction. She scrolled down the page, then scrolled up again and he knew she was analysing the photo. Then she looked back up at him, holding the phone out, “Well that’s okay isn’t it? I mean…it could have been worse.”

“I…” Tom stopped. How was she so calm all the time. So positive. They’d just been publicly outed, at a time which was really special. A very private and intimate moment. He felt like his memory of that would now always be overshadowed, because now the whole world had seen it, and it wasn’t just theirs anymore.

“I know it’s not…nice. It is an intrusion. But they don’t know who I am. You can’t even see my face. I’m safe. I’m not going to be pestered by the press on my doorstep.”

“Not yet anyway. It’s a matter of time now. They’ll be hounding me, waiting for me to step out with you again, so they can get a photo. When they do…I’m worried about how they’ll treat you. I don’t want you or the children hurt. I want to show you off to the world Katie. Don’t think I don’t. I’m not one of those celebrities who moans about the hardship of being famous. I am so grateful for my fans and the opportunities that have been handed to me. But having a private life takes a lot of work. We’re never going to have that, the second they get that photo…” Tom trailed off.

“We will cross that bridge when it comes to it. I can assure you I’m not going anywhere. I also know you’ll do everything in your power to look after me and keep me and the twins safe,” Tom nodded in agreement. Of course, he would. Even if it meant hiring security or arranging a car to do the school run, so the children could travel safely. Whatever it took, he’d do it for Katie. She was quickly becoming his everything, and nothing was going to jeopardize their budding relationship, “I’m not a secret, Tom. This was going to happen eventually.”

“You’re right.”

“Come back to bed,” Tom did as he was told and clambered back into bed, and allowing Katie to snuggle back into his side. The moment was over, that was obvious.

“I’ve got to call Luke.”

“Okay.”

“Before I do, I need to ask you…when we get back to London, would you stay with me for a couple of days?” Tom peered down at Katie. She’d averted her gaze from him, and bit her lip in hesitation, “The kids aren’t back until the fifth, are they?”

“No,” She shook her head, “But I do have work.”

“Only for a couple of mornings, and the shop is closer to my place than it is yours.”

“I don’t know, Tom.”

“Okay, there’s no pressure,” Tom tried to hide his disappointment, but he knew he wasn’t doing a great job.

“I’d need to stop at mine and pack a few things. I’ll also have to see Mum, and bring Pink. Would that be alright?”

“You know it is, Bobby would love the company!”

“Alright,” Tom relished the feeling of Katie planting soft kisses on his shoulder, “I’ll stay.”

Chapter Text

Katie had managed to convince Tom to drop her at her Mum’s house, under the guise that she’d not spent New Year’s Eve with her and wouldn’t see her for the rest of the week. They’d arranged that Tom would pick her and Pink up from her flat in the evening.

It wasn’t a complete lie. She did want to spend a little time with her Mum. But she also had a lot to sort out. She’d just spent almost two days offline. She’d shared some Snaps before she left, letting her subscribers know she’d be ‘out of town’ for a couple of days. But to add another five onto that would cause complaints. She had a spotless record, and over a thousand five-star reviews, but one negative comment could ruin her.

“I thought you were quitting?” Tanja questioned her daughter when Katie explained the situation.

“I am! But I have to give my subscribers a months’ notice. I put a block on new subscribers yesterday morning, but I have to provide my service until the end of January. Else, I have to refund everyone.”

“Okay, have you told Tom?”

“No, and I’m not going to. It’s one month, then it won’t matter. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. Once the channel is closed, it’s over and done with,” Katie didn’t look at her Mum, she was too busy raiding her make-up bag, and plastering on more than she normally would, she always did before recording a video. She didn’t have her own stuff with her.

“Will you miss it?”

“I don’t know. I mean… you know I love it. But… the more time I spend with Tom, the less I want to do it.”

“When do I get to meet him?”

“Soon, I promise,” Katie rifled frantically through the little pouch, pulling out various lipsticks, “Mum, do you still have that purple lipstick?”

“It’s in the drawer,” Tanya pointed to her vanity, “How long will you be?”

“As long as it takes?” Katie shrugged, still avoiding her mothers gaze. She busied herself with her phone, finding a way to prop it up, using a cup as a makeshift stand and checking the camera angle.

“I’ll leave you to it then,” But her Mum lingered in the doorway.

“Thanks, Mum… you know I’d never normally ask, but…”

“I know,” Tanja stepped out the room, and closed the door to the guest room behind her. Katie exhaled a long shaky breath. This was a less than ideal situation, but it wasn’t for much longer.

Katie knew she was fortunate to have such a carefree, non-judgemental Mother. Tanja was a free-spirited women and Katie hadn’t been nervous when she’d opened up to her about her little extra money maker. Because two and a half years ago that’s all it had been. A little bit of fun, and a few extra pennies in the bank. Katie would survive without the extra income, but it was nice to have the occasional treat.

But it could only last for so long. She’d known one day she would need to stop. Whether that was because of the kids getting older, and more knowing, or because she was getting a bit past it. Or because she met someone who was worth more to her than getting her rocks off to faceless strangers over the internet for a couple of hundred quid.

 

*

 

“Do you need any help?” Tom sat on the edge of Katie’s bed, whilst she folded clothes and put them in a slightly bigger bag, so she’d have enough to last a few days, “Have you sorted Pink’s food.”

“Yep it’s all in the bag by the door,” Katie nodded.

“Alright…oh pack something nice, I’ve said we’ll have dinner with my friend Joe on Thursday evening,” Katie nodded, and he watched her tug a few more items out of her cupboard.

“Actually, you could do something,” Tom noticed a playful smirk appear on Katie’s lips, “Pick out something you’d like me to wear for you… second drawer down,” Katie pointed to the bedside table, “…and if you’re a really good boy, I’ll let you pick a toy to bring as well. Third drawer.”

“A toy?” Tom arched his brow, and ever curious by nature he bypassed the second drawer and went straight for the third. He’d learnt very quickly that Katie was quite kinky in the bedroom. Not in a scary way, nothing weird really. But she was confident, and she liked to try stuff, he’d learnt on their first night together that if he wanted to try something, it was very unlikely Katie would shoot him down. But until now, he’d not been able to identify any kinks of hers, overall, she just seemed to really enjoy sex. Which was wonderful.

The drawer wasn’t spilling over with mountains of terrifying sexual devices. In fact, Tom thought it was quite tame. But of course, what would he know? If he’d ever had a girlfriend who’d owned a toy it certainly hadn’t been for any activities which involved him. He supposed most of his sexual experiences had been quite vanilla and Katie wasn’t weird by any stretch.

The drawer was neat and tidy. A vibrator, a big purple thing with the rabbit attachment you see in Ann Summers lay to the right of the drawer, a little tub sat to its left with what Tom knew were bullets, five or six different ones. Something still in its packaging. A pack of baby wipes, a couple of packs of batteries. Condoms, lubricant. He picked up a clear pouch with something metal inside, it was a delicate looking chain, and it jangled when he examined it.

“Nipple clamps,” Came Katie’s voice behind him.

“You’ve used these with other partners?” He wasn’t sure if he meant the clamps or everything.

“Those yes, some of the other stuff. But you’re the first person I’ve been with in almost a year. So, as you can imagine this guy has been good company,” Katie walked around the bed and picked up the vibrator. Tom swallowed and felt himself stiffening at the image of Katie, spread eagle on her bed, pleasuring herself with that thing. What he wouldn’t give to see that.

Although he knew he wouldn’t have to give anything. He just had to ask.

“Can you erm…bring that?” Tom nodded at it.

“Really?”

“Yes…I’d love to…watch,” Katie’s eyes lit up, and she grinned at him.

“It would be my pleasure…pardon the pun,” and she stuffed the toy in her bag.

“What on earth is this?” Tom put the nipple clamps back and picked up something else. He’d not really noticed it at first. Probably because it didn’t really look like a sex toy. In fact, it looked a little bit like an oxygen mask…but it was bright pink. He picked it up and Katie giggled.

“Oh…that,” She laughed, “It’s a…” She laughed again, her cheeks going a bit red, it was quite an endearing sight, “It’s a Pussy Pump.”

“A…what now?” Tom wasn’t sure he really wanted to know, “What on earth does it do?” He was a little horrified to be honest. It sounded like some kind of medical torture device.

“Okay, so…” Katie took it from his hands and held the mask looking pit, “This bit goes over the labia and clit, a little bit of lube helps it seal better. The pump…” She waved the little ballooned bit at the other end, “When squeezed creates a seal. It encourages increased blood flow, which makes everything a lot more sensitive down there, and it makes it look…well…it all gets a bit more of a swollen appearance, which some partners find… quite appealing.”

Tom wasn’t sure whether to be completely horrified or intrigued. He sort of understood the appearance thing, although it wasn’t something he over analysed. It was certainly, as Katie described, quite appealing to see a woman pink and swollen with arousal.

“And you like that?”

“Not particularly,” Tom frowned when Katie put the device back in the drawer, “Well, when I first heard of it my expression was similar to yours right now. A sort of horrified curiosity,” Tom chuckled, “But my curiosity won out and I had to try it. I’ve used it a couple of times but to be honest, there’s such a thing as over-stimulation.”

“I see,” Tom nodded, in understanding, “And do you have a favourite?” he gestured the drawer.

Katie grinned and nodded, she dropped to her knees and plucked out one of the bullets. She handed it to Tom. It was black, and mostly plastic, with three silver bumps on the tip. He pressed the little button on the side and it buzzed to life, emitting a pulsating rhythm, “Put it on the tip of your nose,” Tom let out a surprised laugh at her request, and looked suitably confused, “Don’t worry, it’s clean. The tip of your nose is the closest in sensitivity to a woman’s clit.”

Hesitantly, Tom did as he was told, holding the buzzing toy to the tip of his nose. Almost immediately his nose wrinkled at the intense tingling sensation, and he yanked it away within seconds, just in time to bring a hand up and stifle a violent sneeze.

“Well, Fuck.”

“It’s called the Erotic Rocket,” Katie giggled, “And if I use this whilst you fuck me, I’ll go off like a rocket…usually more than once.”

“Noted,” Tom laughed, casually throwing it into her bag, “Can we go yet? Because you’re in real danger of me bending you over and taking you right now.”

*

Tom had a lovely home.

It occurred to Katie as odd that this was the first time she was seeing it. Tom had always come to hers, and she’d managed to see his Mum’s home before his. It was quite different to how she’d imagined his home would be.

It was masculine, but not massively so. More that it lacked a feminine touch. It was minimalist in places and cluttered in others. Big framed movie posters were dotted sparsely around the white walls. His kitchen was small, and the worktops were crowded, but it was surprisingly homely. Katie wasn’t sure why this was a surprise to her. She’d thought it might be quite cold and unlived in.

“How long have you lived here?” Katie asked, with interest as Tom gave her a little tour and settled her in.

“Goodness, coming up six years now.”

Bobby had a bed in the dining room, and Katie set up Pink’s bed nearby. The two dogs gave each other a good sniff and padded around the downstairs of the house together, as Bobby seemed to give the Lab his own tour.

It all felt incredibly domestic. Katie showered and changed into her Pyjamas, whilst Tom chucked a pizza in the oven which he’d picked up earlier in the afternoon. They curled up on the sofa, the pizza on the coffee table in front of them and drank some Cawsdon Press Sparkling Elderflower from wine glasses, instead of alcohol, as neither of them could face a drink for a second night in a row.

It felt nice to be alone together, save for the dogs who were lazing on the floor near them. Katie thought she could get used to this. Tom had let her select a film on Netflix, and they cuddled in relative silence. Then at about half past ten, the film finished, and Katie stifled a yawn. The exhaustion from the activities of the past forty-eight hours hitting her full on. Of course, Tom then yawned.

Katie had hoped, after the mornings interruption that they might be able to make up for it that evening. But she was so tired, and as much as she wanted to spend half the night with Tom pounding her into the mattress, she wasn’t sure she had the energy. Not to mention she had to be in work at nine o’clock.

“I normally sleep on the right, if that’s okay?” Tom told her as he followed her into his bedroom. He’d locked up and made sure the dogs were settled and all the lights were off downstairs. Katie grinned and dove under the covers on the left side.

“Oh…my…god. You have the most comfortable bed ever! I thought the one at your Mum’s was good. This is something else.”

“It’s my pride and joy,” Tom agreed, clambering under the covers next to her and reaching out to tug her into his body. He held her close as he kissed her gently, “You have no idea how happy I am too finally have you to myself, in my bed.”

“Tom…I’m really tired.”

“Me too,” But his hands continued to wonder, under the back of her pyjama top, and round her sides to cup her breasts as best he could. Her breath caught in her throat when his thumb caught her nipple, “So, I was thinking…as we are probably both a bit too tired to do much. Perhaps you and your…friend, could give me a little show.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Hmm, if you’d be okay with that?”

“Silly question.”

Chapter Text

The candlelit restaurant seemed to make Katie’s eyes shine brighter, whilst she chatted away animatedly with Kathryn, the wife of his friend Joe. He was desperately trying to pay attention to the conversation. Kathryn was six months pregnant, consequently with twins and Katie was sharing her own experiences.

Joe was listening avidly as well, a deep-set frown on his forehead as he took in the topic of conversation. But Tom just couldn’t focus.

Every time he glanced at her his mind drifted back to the night before. The image burned into his memory forever, of her splayed out on his bed, naked, whimpering his name whilst she fucked herself with the purple vibrator. He’d knelt at her feet, jerking himself, revelling in the feeling that was just so very wrong, that it felt so fucking right. That was his Katie in a nutshell.

She was so contradictory in her nature. Right now, she was his sweet little Katie, being her wonderful, happy go lucky self. Wowing his oldest friends with her charming character. Kathryn had looked over at him once or twice, grinning her approval of his new girlfriend. Of course, she approved, Katie was impossible not to like.

Joe on the other hand had remained strangely quiet, but Tom didn’t take it as a bad sign. Having been friends since school, he’d been one of the few who’d literally met every single woman Tom had ever dated. He was bound to be a little more guarded than others. He had a frame of reference and he knew Tom’s dating history.

“So, you had a natural birth?” Kathryn’s eyes widened in surprise, “I was told I had to have a c-section.”

“Well yes,” Katie nodded, “So was I. I was booked in for thirty-six weeks, but I went into natural labour at thirty-five. It progressed well, and the doctors didn’t want to interfere.”

“Did you have pain relief?” Kathryn asked, clearly astounded. Tom tuned in at this point, learning a very new piece of information about his girlfriend. She’d never spoken about the birth of her children to him. Then again, he’d never asked.

“Just gas and air,” Katie shrugged and took a sip of her wine, “I was lucky, it’s not like that for everyone.”

“Was it hard?” It was Joe speaking now, “When they were babies?”

“I didn’t know any different, and neither will you,” Katie smiled kindly, “I had support from my family. I’d say it’s harder now they’re older.”

“Are they very similar? Do you have a photo?” Katie reached for her bag and pulled her phone out, when Kathryn asked, always happy to talk about her kids. She pulled up a recent photo from Christmas and held it out, “Goodness, they’re just like you!”

“In looks yes. But in personality they are polar opposites of each other. Lucy is very shy, she’s quite like her Dad really. She doesn’t like to be centre of attention and she’s extremely sensitive. Whereas, Zach…well he’s just like me, loud, chatty and boisterous,” Katie explained, Tom slipped his hand under the table and threaded his fingers with her. She turned and leant in to give him a brief kiss.

“You two are adorable,” Kathryn shook her head, “I’ve got to say Katie, you aren’t what I was expecting.”

“No, you’re quite different,” Tom couldn’t make out Joe’s tone. But his friend was still drinking in his girlfriend, seemingly deep in thought. He was suddenly worried that his best friend, of all the people might not like her. Then he noticed his friend’s eyes drop south and linger on Katie’s chest. She’d worn a very simple and flattering burgundy wrap dress, with tights. It had long sleeves, and was a modest length, but it did expose a fair amount of her ample cleavage. Could Tom really be mad that his friend had noticed his girlfriend’s breasts? They were quite difficult to miss, and they were splendid.

“Well, I’ve heard most of the ex’s were blondes,” Katie joked, shooting Tom a teasing glance. He rolled his eyes.

“Honestly Kate…is that alright for me to call you Kate?” Katie nodded, Tom knew most people called her Kate, she’d even told his sisters and Mum to call her such, “You’re a breath of fresh air. You two are so suited. I really hope we can all spend some more time together; this evening has been so pleasant. Plus, I’d like to get out a few more times before these two arrive,” Kathryn nodded down to her swollen belly.

“Oh, it really has been a great evening, and Joe, Tom has told me so much about you, it’s been great to finally put a face to a name,” Katie grinned, and Joe nodded politely. Tom frowned. “And Kathryn, if you need any advice or even when they come along just someone to talk to, or you know…rant down the phone to. I’m here.”

“I’m certain I’ll have to take you up on that,” Kathryn chuckled, gratefully. Tom tried to ignore Joe’s curious expression, as he called for the bill and they got ready to leave the restaurant. He was happy at least, that Katie was getting along well with Kathryn. They had a common ground and he wanted her to get along with his friends.

Bill paid, the small group left the restaurant, Tom resting a protective hand on Katie’s lower back as he let her step outside first.

It was sudden, and unexpected. Mainly because it hadn’t happened to him in such a very long time, except in a professional capacity, that it caught him completely off guard when he was accosted by the bright flash of a close-range camera. It took him several seconds to react and realise what was going on.

Arm wrapping tightly round Katie’s waist he pulled her into his body, “Don’t talk to them,” He instructed her quietly. He smiled and nodded as politely as he could at the small group of photographers, “Evening, Gentlemen,” There was only four in total that he could count. He wondered how on earth word had got out that he was dining at the small North London restaurant.

“Tom, Katie,” It was Joe, he’d hailed a cab, and ushered his wife in, Katie ducked in next, and Tom last.

“Are you alright?” Tom asked as soon as the cab door shut, and it moved away from the pavement.

“I’m fine, just a bit surprised,” Katie nodded, then she looked at Kathryn and Joe, “Are you both okay?”

“It’s not the first time,” Joe nodded, “And it’s been worse than that, hasn’t it, Tom?” Tom nodded vaguely, already on his phone, dialling Luke.

“Tom,” Luke answered.

“We’ve just had a little situation outside Pablo’s. A few paps were waiting when we left.”

“We?”

“Myself, Katie, Joe and Kathryn.”

“Right, damage?”

“Nothing bad, I didn’t speak to them, but they got some photos. They may have heard her name.”

“Okay, I’ll look into it. I won’t be able to stop anything, but might be able to appease them with some basic info, alright?”

“Cheers, Luke.”

“Any idea how they knew where you were?”

“Not a clue. We got the cab there, maybe the driver, or someone at the restaurant, another diner perhaps?”

“Okay,” Luke sighed, “Is Katie alright?”

“Yep,” Tom squeezed her hand in his, when he answered.

“Call me if you need me,” with that Luke hung up.

*

 

‘WHO IS KATIE SMITH?’

Katie sat looking at the newest Daily Mail headline on their website. She had no idea how they’d gotten her full name, and that thought made her a little sick.

The article its self was harmless. A montage of photos from the previous evening of her and Tom walking from the restaurant and getting into the taxi. You could see her face this time. Somehow she was smiling in the photos, even though she didn’t remember smiling at the time. She’d been far too surprised for any coherent reaction.

They had no idea who she was. The piece which couldn’t have been longer than two hundred words, mostly went on about the photo taken a few days before. Confirming it was likely the same woman, and that Tom looked ‘loved up’. She smirked at that. It was quite an accurate description of their current romantic state.

The lines an ‘An inside source tells us that her name is Katie Smith and she and Tom have been dating for a couple of months’ was the part which worried her. Which inside source? As far as she knew, the only people with knowledge of their relationship were Tom’s family and then Joe and Kathryn. They were with them the whole night.

Still they had little to go on and she wasn’t worried about connections being made to her Snapchat Channel as her name was not connected to the account in any way. Also, her name was common, she wouldn’t be that easy to narrow down. Plus, she’d known this would happen eventually.  Tom was a high-profile celebrity, they may have avoided discussing at length how this would affect her. But she wasn’t stupid. They weren’t just casually dating anymore, she’d met his family and closest friend. She had to accept that if she wanted to be with Tom, then her life was about to change massively.

She’d not seen the article until she’d finished work and got back to Tom’s house. He’d been pacing the downstairs rooms of his home, stressing down the phone to Luke. His laptop was open on the dining table, with the piece in question filling the screen.

“Who’s the inside source?” She asked, hearing Tom hang up the phone.

“I have no idea.”

“Does Luke?”

“No.”

“I’ve not told anyone about us. I mean… I don’t have many friends, I’ve not mentioned anything at work. My mum…well she wouldn’t say anything. I don’t think she actually knows who you are…” Katie trailed off and bit her lip.

“I’ll be honest. This is my fault Katie. I’ve been talking off the ears of anyone who’ll listen about you. I should have been more careful. I knew better…I trust people far too easily and clearly someone has mouthed off to the papers,” Tom sighed, and brought his hands up to his face, rubbing his palms into his eyes. Katie turned to face him, grasping his wrists and pulling his hands away.

“Tom. Nothing had changed from yesterday. They know my name, they know what I look like. We aren’t hiding, are we?”

“No.”

“Stop worrying, Sweetheart.”

“I just wanted this nice, normal feeling to last a bit longer. It’s been so lovely not having my love life dissected by the media for once,” Katie wrapped her arms around him, and rested her head on his shoulder. The reason behind his upset was clearer to her now. He craved a normal relationship, he’d found that in her. Possibly for the first time in a long time, Tom hadn’t felt like he had to be careful, and hold back his affection.

“Tom, this nice normal feeling will last. That’s got nothing to do with them, it’s to do with us,” Katie assured him, “And I for one am not going to let it ruin this week for us. I have to go home tomorrow evening and I refuse to have you mope around worrying about us being seen together.”

“You want to go out?”

“I’d like to at least take the dogs for a walk, without you constantly looking over your shoulder.”

“Okay,” Tom nodded, “I’m so sorry about all of this Katie. You didn’t sign up for this.”

“Tom!” She admonished him instantly, “Have I once moaned about this, or blamed you for it? It’s a new development, so it’s news. They’ll lose interest, won’t they?”

“Eventually.”

“Well then, come on, let’s go get the dogs ready, and we’ll grab a coffee whilst we’re out.”

 

*

Katie had been amazing about everything. So chilled, and positive.

She wasn’t naive, Tom knew that. It was clear she knew the implications their relationship would eventually have on her own life. But she was adamant to still enjoy the early stages of their relationship.  

He’d never really got past that stage before, not since he’d been famous anyway. He’d always become too bothered by the attention from the press. He felt an enormous amount of pressure and responsibility to stay in the tabloids good books and not give them any material which would shine a negative light on him. He was a professional after all, and his behaviour in public could have a huge impact on his career.

Katie was having none of it. Quite rightly, she insisted they were doing nothing wrong, by being together. Meals with friends and dog walking were innocent activities. But his concerns now were more geared towards protecting her and her children. He was terrified that if the press were to get details of where she lived, then hound her to find information, that she would run scared. He told her as such.

“Tom, there are probably a thousand Katie Smith’s in London. If I think someone’s following me, I’ll just call the police. Nothing is going to make me run away from you,” She’d assured him.

So, they managed to enjoy another afternoon and evening together. A long walk with the dogs, then Tom cooked dinner for them. Afterwards they’d walked to the local cinema and caught a film, before coming home to his house and spending half the night making love. As had become routine for the past couple of blissful days, Katie moped off to work the next morning, almost half asleep, but looking extremely satisfied. Half of Tom always wanted to grab her and yank her back into bed and tell her to forget her job. But he knew he couldn’t do that.

It was not long after Katie had left for work on their last day together that his phone rang from his bedside table and he sleepily reached for it, assuming it would be Luke with the latest, but he was surprised to see Joe’s name flashing up on the screen.

“Hey, Buddy,” Tom yawned down the phone.

“Tommy, you alright man?”

“Yeah, good thanks. Cheers for the other night man, sorting the cab and all that. It was a bit of a shock.”

“It was, is Katie alright?”

“She’s fine, she’s handled it incredibly well, did you see the article?”

“I did mate,” Tom noted the hint in uncertainty in Joe’s tone. He knew he had to just ask.

“You did like her? Didn’t you? I thought it went really well, other than the camera thing at the end, it was a great evening. Kathryn is looking great by the way…” Tom trailed off, realising he was rambling.

“It was a great evening, Tom. Katie seems lovely, perfect for you actually, but-” Joe coughed awkwardly.

“What is it?”

“Listen, mate… shit, I don’t even know how to say this…”

“Spit it out,” Tom could feel himself getting a bit annoyed.

“I probably should have come over, it would be better to do this face to face, is she with you now? Katie that is?”

“No, she’s working, and you need to start talking now Joe, because I’m losing my patience a bit.”

“I’m not quite sure how to put this but…I recognise her, Tom…” Joe trailed off, as if he expected Tom to know where he was coming from.

“Oh right,” Tom was clueless, that was obvious, “Well she’s worked in the corner shop from me for like three years, you’ve probably been in there loads.”

“Not the corner shop, Tom.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Listen, I know you’ll think less of me for this. I honestly wouldn’t even be telling you this if I didn’t love you like a brother, and god knows I want you to be happy, Tom. I know she makes you happy, but…I think…I mean, I’m certain…that I’ve seen her in a porno.”

Tom just stopped. Literally froze, his brain not being able to process what his friend of almost thirty years had just said. Was he joking? It didn’t seem like Joe's sense of humour. If he was being serious then he had a fucking nerve. He was sorely mistaken. Tom felt the anger building up, ready to blow.

He wasn’t sure if he should just hang up or fight to defend his girlfriend’s dignity. He chose the latter.

“Excuse me?” The words were choked and fuelled by rage.

“You didn’t know?” Joe's voice was resigned, full of sympathy, which angered Tom even more.

“Know what Joe? You’re fucking delusional! How fucking dare you call me and spew such vile bullshit at me?”

“I’m not making this up Tom. I’m sorry I have to break this to you mate-”

“You are not my mate. The only reason I've not hung up on you yet is because I need to know why you’d do this to me? What the hell have I done to deserve this?” Tom was shouting now.

“I’m trying to help you, Tom. Not hurt you. I know that’s inevitable but...please. This is your career, if I recognise her, others will.”

“I’m hanging up!”

“Tom don't. Just listen to me. Her name is Sadie Rae. Alright?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Look my wife is six months pregnant with twins. I’m not getting much action right now, so don’t judge me for it. Katie's porn name is Sadie Rae.”

That was when Tom ended the call and set his phone on the side, taking great effort not to launch it across the room. He felt scorned. Was she that bad? Did his friend hate his new girlfriend so much that he’d make up shit to get him to end with her? This was so unlike Joe. Of all his friends, Joe was the one Tom thought he knew the most. Apparently not.

It took a hot shower and a walk around the block with both the dogs for Tom to calm down and send off a text to Joe.

10:16: I'm not sure what your issue is with Katie? But I think perhaps it’s best we part ways. Clearly you aren’t the friend I thought you were.

He didn’t get a reply to that.

Chapter Text

Something had been off with Tom when Katie had arrived home from work. But whatever it was he refused to talk about and it seemed to be forgotten very quickly when she’d started packing her things from the past few days and Tom was doing his utmost to slow down the process.

“You could just leave those here,” He said, taking the pyjamas that she’d stuffed in her bag, out again, “For when you next stay.”

“I have to wash them.”

“I can do that.”

“But I like these, I want them at home,” Katie had snatched them back.

“You don’t have to do this now.”

“The twins will be home in a couple of hours, I should really be getting back.”

“I wanted to take you for a late lunch.”

“Tom-”

“I’m going to miss you I’ve loved having you here.”

“I’ve loved being here,” Katie allowed him to pull her with him onto the bed, her little pile of clothes being shoved to the floor in the process. They kissed a little bit, and hands wandered. Once again, Tom managed to quickly reduce her to a complete quivering mess in a matter of minutes. She was really going to miss sharing his bed. She panted as his fingers worked expertly between her legs, her navy work trousers bunched at her knees with a pair of basic white cotton knickers. Her movement was restricted, and all she could do was arch her hips, crying out as he carried her through the waves of her climax.

He sucked his fingers clean, giving her a smug, self-satisfied grin, “Something to keep you wanting, Darling.”

“I’m always wanting, Tom.”

“You’re an insatiable little thing, aren’t you?”

“You love it.”

“I do…” He trailed off, and Katie didn’t miss the pink rising to his cheeks. He fell back on the bed and closed his eyes. He looked a little sad. Katie shucked off her trousers the rest of the way and sat up to find her jeans. When she turned back around Tom was watching her, his gaze adoring.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Katie scolded him playfully, “You’ll make me never want to leave.”

“That’s the plan,” Tom reached for her again, going for her wrist to try and pull her back down next to him. Katie relented and fell back on the bed and shuffled around until she was comfortably arranged in his arms, their faces level so they could look into the other’s eyes.

Something was bothering him. She could tell. There was something in the forefront of his mind, causing him some internal upset. She’d asked once, but he’d shrugged it off. But now, gazing into his eyes, Katie could see he was tormented. She pushed forward to give him a sweet kiss, then tried asking again.

“What’s wrong, Lovely?”

“Nothing,” But his eyes flicked away from hers, and she sighed, knowing he was lying. She stroked his stray curls out of his face and tried again.

“Please tell me, I know somethings upsetting you.”

“It’s not…” Tom trailed off, and rolled onto his back, so he wasn’t looking at her, “I’m just still a bit worked up over the article. I know you’re okay, I think I just…you’re going home and I’m not going to be with you to keep you safe.”

“I’ll be fine, Tom. I must go home, I’ve got the kids. I’m a big girl, you don’t need to worry about me. I’m well trained at taking care of myself. But if I’m worried or I need you, of course I’ll call you,” Katie kissed him again.

“I think perhaps we should see Luke soon? I know we talked about it before. But I really think I’d feel better if you had some media briefing. If a plan was put in place, so should anything bad happen, like, god forbid they find out your address or start hounding you at work.”

“If it would make you feel better,” Katie agreed, but she knew that wasn’t all of it. Tom seemed angry. Something else had happened that morning whilst she was at work, she knew it, “Are you sure there’s nothing else?”

“When will I see you again?”

Katie was sure he was trying to distract her from pushing him, and if she didn’t want to talk she couldn’t make him, so instead she smiled, “Whenever you like, lovely.”

“What about the kids?”

“Well they’ll be with me outside of school hours. But I could probably get my Mum to babysit one evening? They go to bed around half seven on a school night, you could always come to mine? It’ll be another fortnight until they next go to their Dads.”

“What if I arrange a meal with Luke one evening next week? Maybe Tuesday if your Mum can babysit, as you won’t be working the next morning?”

“That’ll work,” Katie nodded, “You also need to meet my Mum, because she’s getting a bit miffed that I’ve met your family and some of your friends, and she’s yet to be introduced. Maybe when the kids go to Matt’s I’ll suggest we go to hers for an evening?”

“That sounds lovely. I can’t wait to meet her.”

“This feels nice…making plans I mean. Doesn’t it?”

“It does. It’s exciting.”

 

*

 

He hated himself.

He hated the fact that he was a worrier and an over thinker.

Joe had gotten to him.

He didn’t doubt Katie. Not really, but the more he turned over Joe’s words in his head, the more he knew his friend wouldn’t just make something like that up. Tom tried to work out all possible scenarios. The only thing making any sense was that Joe was mistaken. He had been trying to be a good friend and save Tom the heartache. But he was obviously mistaken.

He and Katie had only been apart just less than twenty-four hours, and he already missed having her in his home. He could still smell her perfume on his bedding and her shampoo in the bathroom. She’d accidently forgotten her scarf and it hung over the back of a dining chair, making it feel like she was still there.

He might have been a lovesick idiot at the moment, but he still had some semblance of professionalism. In terms of his career he knew, even though his friend’s words were utterly ridiculous, it would be remiss for him not to discuss those concerns with Luke. There was nothing to worry about, because he knew Katie wasn’t hiding anything.

He still felt like he was going behind her back though.

“Hi, Luke.”

“You sound perfectly miserable.”

“Katie went home yesterday.”

“Doesn’t she live fifteen minutes away?”

“Yeah, she does, it was just nice having her to myself for a few days.”

“Going well then?”

“Incredibly.”

“So, is this a social call or…?”

“Well, actually I wondered if you could do something for me? It’s going to sound a bit odd…”

“Here we go...”

“Please can you do a bit of…digging. Joe said something a bit odd about Katie, and I don’t believe it for a second, but it would be stupid not to take heed and check it out.”

“Could you be just a little bit more vague, Tom. Because you haven’t worried me enough with this girl as it is. Secret dates, clandestine meetings with the family-”

“We weren’t doing anything in secret, Luke. I was just enjoying having a normal relationship. I still am. It’s just...well...Joe thinks he’s seen her in porn...”

At that Luke laughed. Outright belly laughed down the phone. Yes, Tom knew it was just as mad as it sounded.

“Is he serious?” Luke was still chuckling away.

“Yes,” Tom realised how utterly stupid he must be sounding.  

“This is...bloody hell, Tom. I know I have you a bit of grief about not knowing anything about her. But you'd know if the woman you are dating is a porn star. That is an absurd accusation for Joe to make.”

“I know.”

“You know… but you are still calling and asking me to spy on your girlfriend. Who by the way I still haven’t met?”

“You will meet her. I know it’s stupid and I feel horrid even doing this behind her back. I’d just ask her, but I don’t want her to think I don’t trust her.”

“This is so much better,” Luke’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

“I just don’t know why Joe would do this. He’s...well he was my best mate. You know that, you know how long we've known one another...”

“Has she given you any reason to think that she is...might have...some sort of secret life? You’d know, wouldn’t you? Does she look like a porn star?”

“No! Well not how I’d imagine one to look...she’s got...I mean she’s certainly...busty. But she can’t help that. And she likes sex, but that’s not a bad thing is it? She’s a little bit...kinky...shit I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, Luke,” Tom growled, frustrated at himself. He was so angry that he couldn’t just let this lie. Of course, Katie didn’t do porn.

“You trust your girlfriend, rightly so. But you also don’t want to disbelieve your friend. Bros before hoes and all that.”

“Bad taste, Luke.”

“Are you sure about this, Tom? I can just forget we’ve had this conversation.”

“I know you won’t come up with anything.”

“And you’ll forever have it hanging over your head that there was a moment when you didn’t trust her.”

“But, I don’t want to believe Joe is capable of being such an awful person.”

“Email me her details. Full name, date of birth, place of birth, any specific details which might be important.”

“Thanks Luke...oh...Sadie Rae.”

“Excuse me?”

“Joe said she went by Sadie Rae.”

“Sounds hot.”

“Fuck off, Luke.”

 

Tom thought he’d feel better after speaking to Luke, but if anything, he felt worse. Mainly because Luke had confirmed how ridiculous the whole thing sounded, and now Tom was beating himself up for doubting his girlfriend.

He’d know, wouldn’t he? It’s the type of thing you’d mention at some point. ‘Oh, by the way, I do porn.’

He couldn’t believe he was even considering there was something to what Joe had told him. But he also couldn’t fathom any reason for Joe to make something like that up. Joe hadn’t wanted him to think less of him.

For what? Watching porn? Tom had his own beliefs, but he was hardly surprised. At boarding school, Joe had been the one with the stash of Lad’s Mags stuffed under his mattress. He’d had the biggest crush on Lucy Pinder when they were teens, and then there was that porn star, Teresa someone? He’d assumed Joe had grown out of those particular fantasies since he’d married Kathryn, who in no way resembled either of those women.

But now it was a waiting game. Waiting for Luke to call him and tell him what he already knew. Katie was just Katie. His wonderful, beautiful, perfectly normal girlfriend. And he was the worst boyfriend in the world for thinking any less of her.

He’d made a mistake and he spent the next twenty-four hours picking up and putting down his phone, contemplating telling Luke to forget it. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t sure why? What was stopping him?

Tom could only be grateful that he didn’t have to see Katie for a couple of days. Not that he didn’t want to see her, because he did. More than anything. He was missing her something chronic. But She’d known something was up before she left. She’d even asked him what was bothering him, and he’d lied. That had been is opportunity. She’d asked what was wrong, he should have just told her what Joe had said. She’d have laughed, told him it was ridiculous, and he’d have accepted that. Because she’d have been right.

He’d made up his mind. He was going to call Luke and tell him not to bother. Then he was going to call Katie and tell her what Joe had said. Then he was going to call Joe and find out what his problem was.

Then his phone rang, and Luke’s name flashed up on his caller ID.

Chapter Text

“Hi, Luke… I was about to call you, about yesterday, you were right mate, I wasn’t thinking straight. It’s madness-”

“Tom, stop,” The sternness in Luke’s tone shot Tom down instantly. He’d been pacing his kitchen, Bobby watching him from the doorway, tilting his head from side to side. Tom stopped and gripped the edge of the worktop.

“Is it bad?” He wasn’t sure how he was remaining so calm. Had he been in denial? Maybe. Had there been something, buried deep down, which had made him think Luke might find something Tom would have preferred not to know.

Luke sighed, “It’s not good.”

“Hang on,” Tom was stalling. He walked through his house, pounded softly up the stairs and into his office, and settled himself in his desk chair. He opened his laptop, because he knew he’d have to. So far, he was a lot calmer than he had any right to be. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? “Okay?”

“Did you have any idea about her modelling career?”

“She’s never mentioned a modelling career.”

“It was a long time ago. We’re talking ten…twelve years maybe. She did some shoots for FHM and Maxim…she did a page three when she was eighteen.”

“Okay…” It wasn’t great. Tom wasn’t happy, but it also could be worse, it wasn’t what Joe had made out. She probably should have told him yes. It was a problem. Mainly because the media would find out and they would lay into her and him. But it was a long time ago and obviously well in her past. She was a single Mum with twins, working in a corner shop, living a very normal life, “I’m sorry, Luke. I’m just causing you such an inconvenience. She’s honestly a lovely girl…woman. She’s a wonderful woman. You’ll see when you meet her, whatever she’s done in the past-”

“Tom, stop.”

It was an order, in an abrupt, scolding tone which Tom was certain he’d never heard from Luke before. So, he did stop, abruptly.

“There’s more, I think I should come over.”

“More?” Tom felt the bile rise in his throat.

“Yes, but I think I need to explain in person.”

“No way, you can’t say that and then leave me hanging. Tell me what…more…there could possibly be?”

“Seriously, Tom. I’m getting in a taxi now and I’m on my way over. Are you seeing her today?”

“No…no I’m not, the twins are back to school today. Luke, please just tell me.”

“I can’t, Tom.”

“Luke, you’ll bloody well tell me now, because I’m about to lose my fucking shit,” the anger bubbled up quickly, and Luke fell momentarily silent on the other end of the line. Likely giving Tom a few seconds to have a breather and calm down.

Tom listened then, to Luke’s long, relenting sigh at the other end of the line, “What do you know of Cam Girls?”

“What now?”

“Cam girls…they are women, well it’s not exclusive to women, you get Cam Boys too, that…film themselves…doing various things, for online viewers.”

“Various things?” Tom wasn’t stupid. He didn’t need to ask, but he felt the desperate need for clarification.

“Things of a sexual nature.”

“I see,” His voice was stiff, and suddenly lacking any sort of emotion.

“Sadie Rae…is a Cam Girl, she has a profile on a site called, SeeSnaps, it essentially works via Snapchat. People can pay to subscribe to her channel, and they get a password to have access via the Snapchat App.”

“And you think it’s Katie?”

“I’m not sure…Sadie Rae’s profile is currently blocked to new subscribers. But it doesn’t stop people taking screen shots, and there are fan pages dedicated to her on Tumblr. I’ve not met Katie, I’ve only seen the photos taken in the press. There are some…similarities.”

Tom was trying to stay calm, trying not to think the worst. “What sort of similarities?”

“Dark hair, curvy build. I’m not sure, Tom. I’m afraid I would need you to tell me. Then we go from there. I can read you her SeeSnaps profile?”

Tom hesitated. If he ignored this, maybe it wouldn’t be happening. But it was happening, “Go on.”

“Right, hang on, I’ll need to put you on speaker so I can get it back up on my phone,” There was some fumbling, and Tom waited, anxiously, “Right, here we go…Hi, I’m Sadie Rae, I’m twenty-nine and I’m from North London. I’ve been nude modelling for a long time now, but my favourite place to do it, is here on my SnapChat Channel. You can expect 10-20 Snaps a day with me, so you really get your money’s worth, and sometimes I even bring out my favourite toys to play. If you want to see more, hit subscribe!”

“That…doesn’t sound like Katie. I mean…age, and location sure. But when the hell is she getting time to do that many posts?”

“Well, I wondered that, but from what I’ve come to understand is that a snap can be anything from a quick flash in the mirror, to a full on video.”

“I see.”

“Tom, don’t…jump to the worst conclusions until I’m there, alright mate. Just wait, when I get there we’ll take a look through these Tumblr pages together.”

But Tom could tell Luke was trying to be optimistic. He’d seen the picture, he may not have met Katie before, but the pictures in the press had been clear enough. If there was no chance, why would he have even told him?

“Alright mate.”

 

*

 

I had been less than forty-eight hours and Katie was already missing the comfort of Tom’s home. The sweet domesticity which they’d fallen into over the course of just five days made her tummy flutter with hopefulness.

Katie had, had relationships of course. Some had even been quite long term, for example the twins dad, although she’d been young, had lasted almost three years. Okay, it had not been that serious and they’d broken up and got back together so many times in that three years. But they’d also had happy times. Then after the twins arrived, she’d still managed to date. She’d had a couple of relationships. Bella, her last girlfriend, she was with for just shy of two years. That was quite serious.

But she hadn’t loved Bella. They’d never considered moving in together or making things serious. It was that realisation which had ultimately ended their relationship. It had taken that long to figure out there just wasn’t that chemistry. They wanted different things, they had different priorities. Neither of them had been willing to change direction. They didn’t have a future.

Bella had been a party girl. She was a mad career woman, with a hectic Monday to Friday city job. She’d worked in management in an accounting firm. She was great at her job, and loved it, but she worked to live. So as soon as she left the office on a Friday, she partied the whole weekend through. She was fun and exciting to be with. But, in hindsight Katie could now see why her Mum hadn’t liked her. She was selfish, and not willing to work Katie’s life into hers.

It was different with Tom. He too had a busy career, and although he was enjoying some downtime at the moment, he’d spoken to Katie of his mad lifestyle. His schedule could be full and hectic and it took him all over the world. And although he hadn’t spoken much about what would happen when work got busy again, she knew he was making the most of the time he had now. He wanted to cram in as much time with her as humanly possible. Tom never wanted to waste a single minute. He wasn’t a person who liked to let moments pass him by.

He accommodated her. Made her feel like her life was just as important as his. Which it was, in a completely different way. But she was his equal in every single way. In two short months, he’d made her part of his life in the most comfortable way. Everything felt so natural, and easy. But it was also so very passionate. Yes, Katie loved sex, but she was certain she’d never wanted someone as much as she constantly wanted Tom. She’d never felt the level of intimacy they shared, with anyone else. When they made love, which is what it was, it was never just fucking with Tom, she felt so close to him. So cherished.

That’s what she missed now. The comfort of his presence and how precious he made her feel all the time. The feeling was addicting. But whilst she wasn’t with him, she found herself floating around on cloud nine.

“So, when am I going to meet this man who’s stolen my daughter’s heart?” Tanja asked her daughter, over coffee. Katie had just finished work and had an hour to kill before picking up the kids from school, so her Mum had swung by for a catch up. She’d noticed the difference in Katie immediately.

“Steady on, Mum.”

“Well, he has. Look at you, you’re practically glowing. And I know that’s it’s not just down to your suddenly busy sex life.”

“Mother!” Katie’s hand flew to her chest, and she feigned mortification, before laughing.

“I’m right though,” Tanja tusked, and shook her head, smiling at her daughter, “He’s different, isn’t he?”

“It’s too soon to say.”

“You say that, but is it? Jeremy and I fell in love very quick, if you recall. We moved in together after just four months, engaged by six, married by just over a year. Your Nanna and Grandad too-”

“Married after eight weeks, I know,” Katie had only happy memories of her Grandparents when they were both alive. Her Grandad had died when she was very young, he and her Nanna had been besotted with one another and had enjoyed over forty years of marriage.

“Time is irrelevant, if it’s it, then it’s it. Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope, it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that stands when all else has fallen.”

“Since when did you get religious. Stop quoting the bible at me, you mad woman,” Katie dismissed Tanja’s direct quote with a wave of her hand.

“Do you love him, Katie? I know it’s too early to say it to him, but you can tell me?”

“I-” but Katie didn’t get chance to contemplate or answer her Mum’s question, because her phone was vibrating across her dining table. Katie furrowed her brow and snatched up the phone. It was a mobile number, but not one her mobile phone recognised.

“Who is it?”

“Dunno,” Katie shrugged, momentarily considering hanging up. She wasn’t one for answering calls from unknown numbers. But something told her she needed to answer this. Call it gut instinct. She tapped the green button on the screen and put the device to her ear, “Hello?”

“Hi, Katie? Katie Smith?”

“Er, yeah…listen if this some PPI or Insur-”

“My names Luke Windsor, from Prosper PR,” The man cut her off quickly, and she immediately knew who it was. Tom spoke of him enough.

“Oh, Hi Luke. Is…everything okay? Tom said you’d want to talk to me at some point,” But she hadn’t known Tom would hand the man her number to arrange himself. Some warning might have been nice.

“Precisely, I do need to meet with you. As a matter of urgency, actually. I wondered if you could free up some time this afternoon?”

“It is this afternoon, I’m about to pick the kids up from school.”

“Is there any way you could get someone else to do it?”

“Well, I could…ask my Mum. Is everything alright? Is Tom okay?”

“I’d much rather see you in person. I can be with you in fifteen or so minutes.”

“I…ah…” Katie’s stomach turned. Something had happened, was Tom breaking up with her? Was he getting his PR manager to do it for her to ensure she signed everything she needed to, so she didn’t go making any money off their short-lived relationship. She bit her lip and shot Tanja a helpless look. Her Mum nodded, and stood up collecting her handbag, “Alright, um…yes that’s okay. You can come over now. I’ll give you my address.”

“No need. I’ve got it.”

“Right.”

“See you in about twenty minutes, Katie.”

The line cut off, and Katie set the phone back on the table, carefully.

“What was that about?” Tanja asked.

“It was Tom’s PR manager. He needs to speak to me. He wouldn’t tell me why.”

“Is that normal?”

“I have no idea.”

“Well, I’ll get the twins and take them back to mine. Give me a call when you’re done and I’ll bring them back round to you.”

“Thanks, Mum. I appreciate it.”

 

*

“Hey, man,” Tom greeted Luke at his front door.

“You look like shit.”

“Thanks for that.”

“Sorry bud, but I had to tell you. You asked me, so…” Luke trailed off, closing the front door behind him, “Office?”

“Yeah.”

Luke followed Tom up the stairs and into the third bedroom, which Tom used as his office. The laptop was still open, and Luke gestured for Tom to sit in the plush desk chair. He leant over his shoulder and opened a web browser.

“Are you sure about this?” Luke asked, as he loaded up the Tumblr Dashboard, and hesitated.

“I don’t have a choice do I? I need to know. You need me to know.”

Luke nodded slowly and Tom watched as his friend, still leaning over his shoulder typed ‘Sadie Rae’ into the search bar. When he hit the enter key, a myriad of search results came up. Pages, picture posts and videos. But Tom knew. He knew before Luke even clicked on the first page. The top picture post was an obscene full frontal image of a woman, head tipped back and her face slightly obscured. Her chest was bared, and she had one hand between her legs, hiding her most intimate area, but teasing with her actions. He’d seen Katie’s body enough times, he’d recognise it anywhere because it was the most perfect body he’d ever known. It was her.

But he didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. When Luke clicked on what looked be a fan appreciation page, it was like his throat had closed up.

“I’ll let you scroll through. See what you think. Take your time, do you want me to go out for a bit?” But Tom didn’t answer. He just moved his hand to the touchpad, and slowly scrolled down the page. He didn’t even know what he was looking for now. Maybe something to tell him he’d made a mistake? Anything to stop what was unravelling.

Then he saw a post. It was a video that had been taken from Snapchat, Evident from the dark band across the middle reading ‘Orgasm for breakfast?’. He hit play and he didn’t know why. He didn’t want to see, that was the last thing he wanted. Then his Katie’s face filled the screen and she spoke to the camera, his speakers were on but not top volume, but her voice filled the air. As soon as she started talking, Tom stopped the video, unable to go through with watching anymore. He didn’t need to, he’d seen enough. But he still couldn’t speak.

“Tom?” Luke’s voice was hesitant, and his palms came to rest on the desk so he could lean forward to try and work out his client and friends expression, “Oh man, you…come on, let’s get you into the bathroom, now.”

Tom could barely nod, as he allowed Luke to drag him from the chair. Then, once he was standing his legs kicked into motion, as he lurched down the hall, and into his bathroom, just in time to land on his knees in front of the toilet and grip onto the bowl as the contents of his stomach emptied violently.

When he had nothing left, he continued to cling onto the ceramic toilet rim, retching into the bowl ever few minutes. Between those episodes, he rested his face on the cool seat, not caring one bit about how unhygienic that was. He hadn’t noticed Luke leave the room, until he saw his friend kneel beside him, holding a glass of water and a wet flannel.

“Come on, Tom. Clean yourself up and come downstairs.”

“I can’t,” Tom’s voice was horse, and his throat burned from the acidic bile.

“I know, but you have to. We have to do this now, Tom. You know that. The sooner we deal with this. The better,” It was tactless, but Tom didn’t have the energy to get angry, or argue, or even get upset. He just fell back from the toilet onto his haunches and nodded in resignation.

Chapter Text

It took a long time. Talking.

Tom knew Luke was being patient with him, and he knew his reaction to the discovery had been more extreme than the man had expected of him. Anger yes, humiliation of course. But not the constant feeling of intense nausea each time he closed his eyes and saw those images. Pictures that would be forever burnt into the back of his eyelids.

His girlfriend. His beautiful, lovely, darling Katie. It had all been one sick, awful lie. One he’d fallen for, hook, line and sinker.

“I’m going to get on the phone to Michael, get the NDA’s written up. I’ll meet with her, explain the process,” Tom could only nod mutely, “You’ll need to get onto your network, get her number blocked.”

Tom’s head shot up and he glared at Luke, “That’s it? That’s all you can do?”

“I can’t stop the media finding out. They might not, but it didn’t take me very long to dig this up. So, we should be prepared for that. I should prepare her for that, although, I suspect that was her intention all along.”

“Excuse me?”

“Recognition, five minutes of fame. I don’t think people like that really care how they get it. Do you?”

“I’m not sure, Luke,” Tom croaked, that sickly feeling rising again. He swallowed it back down and took several deep breaths to centre himself, “She… she’s very disinterested in that side of my life. She only cares about the twins being safe. I don’t think she…I don’t know. I don’t know her at all, clearly.”

“I think we just need to be ready for what could come next. I would advise against any contact with her.”

“Do you think I’m stupid,” suddenly he was angry, really angry. His voice came out in almost a snarl, “I don’t trust myself around that disgusting…dirty…tramp. She’s a liar, a…a whore…a…”

That’s when the tears came. Hot rivers of them streamed down his cheeks, and he fell back on the sofa, bringing his knees to his chest, hiding his face between them, as his shoulders shook with violent sobs.

“Tom…” Luke moved from the end of the short edge of the corner sofa they shared and sat himself closer to his friend. He hesitantly reached out and rested a hand on his shoulder, giving it a firm rub.

“I…I…” But there weren’t words. Tom didn’t want to say how he felt now, because it was all too much. Too ridiculous. He didn’t want to let himself feel hurt and heartbreak, when all he should be feeling is humiliation and anger. Hate…he should hate her.

 

*

 

“Hi, come through, please,” Katie drew open her front door, and smiled at the man standing on the other side. The man who was younger than she expected, and had a serious look on his face. A look tinged with exhaustion. The look of a man who’d worked through the night.

“Thank you,” Luke nodded, stepping inside the flat, and allowed Katie to close the door behind him, then he followed her into the large living space. She watched him carefully, her usual little smile gracing her lips as he took in her home. The seriousness from seconds before was momentarily replaced with an expression of surprise.

“Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, something cold?”

“No, I won’t. This shouldn’t really take long.”

“Right…well sit down,” Katie gestured to her sofa, but Luke walked to the table and dragged out a chair. He sat down and set a leather folder which had been tucked under his arm, in front of him. Katie loitered for a second, a little taken aback by Luke’s presence in her home. Then wordlessly she pulled out a chair and sat down at the corner adjoining him.

“I’m sure you’ve guessed that I’m here for a reason.”

“I thought as much. Tom did say you would want to meet me soon. We’ve not been putting it off honestly,” Katie joked in a friendly manner. But Luke didn’t smile, he simply lifted his eyes to meet hers briefly, eyebrow raised, then he turned his focus back to the folder, pulling out a couple of pieces of paper.

“You’ve not been entirely honest with Tom,” And without drawing it out any further, he slid two printouts across the table. Katie recognised them, although it had been years since she’d lain eyes on them. One was taken when she was eighteen, it was when she’d been photographed for the Sun Newspaper’s Page Three, back when it was still running. It had only been once, and it was her first paid modelling job. She’d only just started university. The second image wasn’t taken much long after. A Centre page spread for FHM. It seemed like a lifetime ago. In a way it was, she’d not done a topless shoot since she was nineteen years old.

“Where did you find these?” Her voice was quiet, when she picked up the second image, brows furrowing in confusion, “These…well…they’re almost twelve years old.”

“It’s easy when you know where to look, Katie.”

“I wasn’t hiding…I…didn’t even think. It was just…” She was lost for words. She wasn’t lying. She’d not thought. It was that simple.  It was something she’d done a few times when she was a student. It funded her life whilst she studied. It wasn’t her proudest moment. Nor was she ashamed of it, “Does Tom…is he…I’m so sorry.”

The way in which she exhaled her apology, so heartfelt, made Luke look up at her. He once more quirked an eyebrow in which Katie thought looked like mild disbelief. Was hers not the reaction he was expecting? Although Katie could not have prepared herself for his next words.

“Tell me, Katie, who is Sadie Rae?”

It felt like a punch in the gut. How…on earth did he know about that? Sadie was… private. Her subscriptions were closed, and even if you could subscribe there was a hefty fee and you had to know where to go to find her. And even then, there was nothing personal on that profile which linked her to Katie. She rarely even showed her face and when she did it was filtered. Fuck.

Well, what was the point of trying to hide? Katie may have not been upfront, but she was not a liar. She could answer a question truthfully, “Sadie is…a character in which I play.”

“That’s how you’d describe it?” Another sheet of paper slid over the table, a blown-up screen shot of her SeeSnaps profile. As she already knew, a brief bio, with no personal information other than age and vague location. Then about eight photos, none of which showed her face, just a close up of her breasts and some lingerie shots. It really wasn’t that bad. Although her bio told the true story as to what a subscriber could expect from her channel.

“Yes, it is,” Katie nodded slowly, “She’s…private. She’s mine. I don’t… she’s harmless, Luke. How did you find her?”

“It was a bit harder, I admit.”

“Does Tom know?”

“He does.”

“Oh,” Katie felt the tell-tale burning of tears brimming her eyes, she shook her head slowly, “Oh no.”

“Your contact with Tom Hiddleston will cease from this point onwards. Your phone number will be blocked,” Luke started, in a stern tone, which brooked no argument, “Any attempt to reach him will be met with legal action.”

Katie didn’t respond.

“I’ve arranged you an appointment with our solicitors. Tomorrow at 9:30am, I’ll email you the details. You will attend and sign NDA’s. This will prevent you from speaking to the media about your relationship with Mr. Hiddleston or garnering any recognition from this episode.”

“What do you mean?” Katie’s voice felt strained and she felt a hot tear trickle down her cheek.

“I mean, you won’t be getting your fifteen minutes of fame.”

“I didn’t, I don’t…” Katie trailed off, shaking her head, a few more tears falling. Luke sat back in his chair and studied her across the table. She didn’t like the way he was trying to read her. But she knew she deserved nothing better, “You won’t have any trouble from me.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“Is Tom… is he…please tell him I’m sorry.”

“I’m afraid, Miss Smith, that your apologies mean very little.”

Katie simply nodded, looking down at the table. She sniffled and furiously wiped her tears away with the back of her hand.

“Can you…will you be able to stop the papers finding out?” The thought struck her suddenly. If Luke found out so easily then it was only a matter of time until someone else did. The media had already shown an interest in her, wanting to know who she was. They had her name.

“I can’t do anything to stop them finding out. But disassociating you with Tom might limit the damage to his reputation,” Another kick in the ribs. Tom’s reputation. What about her life? Yes, she’d asked for this by not being honest, but no one would care who she was if Tom wasn’t famous.

“My children… I need them to be safe. I can’t have them affected by this.”

Luke gave her a hard look, she knew he was biting his tongue. Holding back some harsh comment about how she ‘should have thought about that earlier’. Instead he clucked his tongue and sighed, “It’s in Mr. Hiddleston’s interest that if this does make the tabloids, I look after both of you.”

Katie nodded again, although not sure what he meant by that. She didn’t feel reassured in the slightest and to be honest she just wanted Luke Windsor to leave her home now. She couldn’t bare company any longer. Her head was pounding, and her chest hurt from holding in everything she was feeling. What had she done?  

“Listen, Katie…I wish I’d met you sooner. I came here expecting a completely different encounter. I’ll be honest, you seem like a nice girl. I can see what he saw in you,” Luke stopped and took a breather, as if he was considering if he should really be saying this to her. She didn’t deserve the compliment right now, “But you lied. I’m not sure why. All I can think is, if you liked Tom, as much as he liked you, you didn’t want to risk that. But that wasn’t the best way to start a relationship. On a lie.”

“I know.”

“I’ll be off. I’ll email you the details of the meeting with the solicitor.”

“Thank you.”

“Yes, well,” Was all Luke said, whilst he gathered back the papers and stuffed them into his folder. Katie walked him to the front door, and he opened it to let himself out. They didn’t exchange goodbyes. Luke simply gave her a curt nod and turned to leave. Katie clicked the door shut behind him, and slowly walked back into her living room.

She stopped in the centre of the room, unsure of what to do with herself. What the fuck had she done? It hit her then, like a cement truck emptying on her head. Katie slowly sunk to her knees and grief overtook her. Sobs wrecked through her body, and tears cascaded down her cheeks.

She’d lost him.

Chapter Text

It took three days for the story to hit the papers. 

It took the internet by storm, thousands of angry fangirls took to social media to slate not only Katie, but their precious Tom. Famous for being the perfect gent and proud feminist, dating an ex-glamour model.

They’d not yet found out about Sadie Rae, and Luke had told Tom that was less likely. Without the screen name it would be almost impossible. Like Katie had said, there was nothing connecting her to that account.

They had, however managed to dig up more photos. Some from Front Magazine which were a little more risqué than others that Luke had found. Of course, this was just what Tom had been told. He’d not left the house, gone online, or even left his bed, except to use the bathroom, since Luke had left his house that day.

According to Luke, the story had even made front page on most of the Red Tops, and Luke was under pressure to release a statement. At present all related articles stated that there was ‘No comment from Tom’s people’. But there would have to be a comment soon, because it was having a negative effect.

Tom’s silence was making him look guilty. Assumptions were that he’d known all along. That maybe he wasn’t as squeaky clean as his reputation made him out to be. But Tom didn’t care. He didn’t care about anything at the moment. Except maybe sleep.

But Luke was getting to the end of his tether. He knew Tom was upset, and humiliated but he was also an adult. He was currently behaving like a teenager who’d had his heart stomped all over. He wouldn’t entertain any of Luke’s suggestions. He point blank refused to let Luke release a statement to the press. He also refused to shower or eat.

Eventually, Luke did the only thing he could. He called Diana.

His Mother’s approach was gentler than Luke’s. Not that Luke had done anything wrong, only what he was paying him to do. Take care of his career. But Diana was there to take care of her son. She arrived early on the fourth morning and Luke escorted her through the sizable group of photographers who had gathered outside his Hampstead home. Small though she was, formidable when it came to protecting her children. She shooed the group away from her, as she went into her sons home.

Inside she turned to Luke, “Have you heard from her?”

“No,” Luke shook his head, “I don’t think we’ll have trouble from her at all.”

“That’s not what I was asking. Have you heard how she’s handling the press? There have been a lot of photographs. She’s been getting a hard time.”

“No less than she deserves.”

“Do her children deserve it?” Luke exhaled and shook his head, he knew he would have to deal with it, “Where is he?”

“In his bed. He’s not left it.”

“Bobby?”

“Ever loyal.”

“Right, I’ll go and run him a bath, perhaps you could get some food in?”

That was that. Diana hadn’t pushed her son to talk, but she’d made sure he got out of bed long enough for her to change the sheets and for him to wash. For the first time in days he put on actual clothes and managed to pick at the meal Diana prepared for him. Later that evening Luke came to see how he was getting on.

“You need to say something, Tom. I know it’s hard, I know you’re embarrassed-”

Tom cut Luke off, “Embarrassed? Is that what you think I’m feeling right now?”

“Well, in part-”

“In part? Embarrassed doesn’t even come close. I’m sickened, humiliated, cheated. I’m… I’ve lost my girlfriend Luke!” Tom snapped across his dining table, pushing his plate away. Diana swept it up quickly and took it to the kitchen, leaving the men alone.

“I’m fully aware of that Tom, but it’s not like the two of you were that serious. It was a few weeks, and she took you for a ride,” Tom stood up from the table, his chair scraping back loudly on the hardwood floor. He wasn’t able to listen to much more of Luke’s dressing down.

“Fuck you.”

“Now, Tom…listen, I didn’t mean-”

“Just do what you need to do, Luke. I’ll do whatever you think is best,” Tom relented, exasperated and tired of arguing.

“Okay,” Luke nodded, relaxing slightly, he eyed Diana with some guilt as she came back in and set a mug of tea in front of each man, “Will you sit back down, so we can talk about this then?”

“I’m sorry,” Tom mumbled, taking his chair again. He knew he was getting angry at all the wrong people. It wasn’t Luke’s fault that he didn’t understand. He was trying to help. Diana left them again.

“I think…we should select a publication. Just one…entirely your choice. I think you should invite the interview. We’ll limit questions, ensure there are things they cannot ask. But it’s important right now, for you to show your face, be honest, and let your fans know you’re alright.”

“But I’m not alright, Luke.”

“They don’t need to know that. I know you love your fans. They are so loyal to you, but at the moment many of them feel alienated. We need to act now, Tom. You might not feel up to it, and I know you don’t like discussing your private life, and in every other instance I would agree that you have the best approach. But this is different. If you don’t put your side out there, everyone is assuming the worst.”

“Right,” Tom bobbed his head in slow understanding, “You choose, just let me know. I can’t even think about it. Just not this week…please.”

“Alright. Thank you.”

“Whatever,” Tom stood up from the table again and headed for the door, just in time to come face to face with his Mum who was up to her neck in housework.

“Where do you think you’re going?” She asked, blocking his path.

“Back to bed.”

“I don’t think so. You’re up now, you have better things to be doing than lazing around in there. That dog needs a walk for starters,” He’d not noticed Bobby’s lead in her hand until she was shoving it into his grasp, “Go on, the fresh air will do you good.”

“I don’t think so, Mum,” Tom simply shook his head, placing his hands on her shoulders so he could move her aside and make his way past her. Without further comment he slung Bobby’s lead over the banister and headed upstairs.

“I don’t know what to do,” Luke said to Diana. His shoulders slumped with exasperation.

“Leave him to me. It’ll take time, Luke. He may not want to admit it, but he’s heartbroken,” Diana sighed, “You didn’t see them, together did you?”

Luke shook his head, “No.”

“Just be patient with him. That’s all I’m asking.”

 

*

 

“What did Darren say?” Tanja tilted her head and eyed her daughter with concern. Katie collapsed on the sofa and tucked her legs beneath her, whilst snagging a cushion and cuddling it to her chest.

“He said… if it was up to him, he’d say to take the time I need, and when I’m ready my job will be waiting for me. But it’s not up to him,” Katie swiped away the tears which trickled down her cheeks. She was so fed up of crying.

“Oh, Katie,” Tanja sat down next to her daughter and pulled her into her arms.

“Head office…” Katie sniffed, and hiccoughed, “They insist my employment is terminated with immediate effect. Daz said journalists have been sniffing around all week. I get it…I understand. They said because of my perfect record they will still give me a reference and will pay my months’ notice in full.”

“You’ll be okay, Katie. You can’t work right now as it is.”

“I need to get more stuff from the flat. I may have to give Jeremy a list.”

It had been a week since Luke had visited her, and four days since she’d left her flat to do the school run and walked head first into a crowd of flashing cameras. She’d not been out since, and for the first time in three years she’d called in sick to work.

Katie had gone straight to her Mum’s from the school run and hadn’t left the North London Townhouse since. Her Mum and Stepdad had been doing runs to the flat to collect essentials for her and the twins, and of course Pink. But the paparazzi persisted, and she’d even had a call from the school, telling her there were some photographers hanging around and asking her to come in for a meeting.

That meeting had resulted in the school telling Katie they had no choice but to report concerns to social services for the twin’s safety. Not to mention a couple of emotional outbursts from both Lucy and Zach whilst at school. They were being affected and Katie for the first time, felt like she was completely failing her children.

So, the children were at home, having work emailed and Katie was expecting a social worker at some point in the late afternoon. Honestly, she was scared. Tanja kept insisting that Social Services were not bad people and they were there to support. They never wanted to take children away from their homes. Once they saw that even though they were unable to return to the flat, they were being cared for in a safe and stable environment, there would be nothing to worry about. But Katie wasn’t so sure.

Now she’d lost her job. A job which she loved. Even if she could go home, how on earth would she manage to support her family? Without the job at the shop, she would no longer receive working support benefits. Her extra income from her Snapchat Channel would cease in a couple of weeks. Her savings would quickly dwindle, and who on earth would employ her now her name had been tarnished by the press?

Katie hadn’t slept in almost a week. She was struggling to keep food down. Every second of the day she felt on the brink of tears and she was doing her utmost not to lose it in front of the twins. Tanja had tried to talk to her, ask her how she was feeling, not just about the situation, but about Tom. But it was not a conversation Katie was willing to entertain.

After Luke had left her flat, Tanja had found her daughter a little while later when she’d returned with the children. Still on the floor, knees curled to her chest. Crying. She’d ushered the children to their bedrooms, and Katie had, between sniffles and hiccoughs explained everything. She’d not told her Mum how utterly devastated she really was over losing Tom, but she didn’t need to. It was a Mother’s prerogative to know when her daughter was nursing a broken heart.

Katie toyed absently with her phone. Scrolling up and down the contacts. She’d wanted to call him so many times. But Luke’s warning echoed in her head ‘Any attempt to reach Tom would be met with legal action’. Besides he’d told her, her number would be blocked. She still couldn’t bring herself to delete it from her phonebook though. Instead she just kept looking at his name and willing herself not to cry any more.

“It’s not going to help anything you just lounging there,” her Mum said sternly, padding the cushions around her daughter, hinting that she was making the place look a mess.

“Maybe I’ll go for a nap?” Katie said, mostly to herself.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort. I’m going food shopping in a bit, you’ll come with me.”

“I can’t.”

“I doubt you’ll get any photographers hanging around Sainsbury’s.”

“It’s not worth the risk,” Katie set her phone down on the side, but no sooner had it left her hand, it started to ring. Ready to ignore it, Katie only glanced at the caller ID briefly. She’d had too many anonymous phone calls this week. But she paused when she saw the name flashing up on the screen – Emma H. “I need to take this.”

Swiping the phone off the side, Katie almost ran to the guest room she was using as her own, and answered the phone, as she closed the door behind her and rested her weight against it, “Emma?”

“Hi, Katie, how are you?” the voice on the end of the phone was soft, laced with concern. Katie wasn’t sure how, or even if she should respond.

“I erm…well…I’ve been better.”

“Sweetheart-”

“I’m not sure you should be calling me?” It was a question, seeking reassurance that this wasn’t going to come down on her if Luke found out.

“Why didn’t you tell him?”

“Because I knew he’d hate me,” Emma was the first person who’d asked outright. Luke hadn’t. He’d assumed why, and he’d not been far off the mark, “I should have told him.”

“Yes.”

“I’m so sorry, Emma. For lying to Tom, and to you and your family.”

“You didn’t lie, it was an omission, Kate. You should have told him, but I understand why you didn’t.”

“You must think I’m awful.”

“I don’t.”

“You should.”

“Yes, well.”

“How is he? Luke refused to tell me anything.”

“A mess, Kate. He’s broken. He’s cross, hurt, humiliated…he misses you.”

“Really?” Katie didn’t believe that for a second, “He told you that did he?”

“He won’t admit it, but it’s obvious. He was crazy about you, Kate. You know that don’t you?”

“I know. I know he was. I’m crazy about him. I miss him, Emma. I can’t even begin to tell you. I feel like…I know I’ve been stupid, and I know I’ve ruined it all, but I just want…” Katie paused, what did she want?

“If you could talk to him what would you say?”

“I can’t talk to him, Emma.”

“But if you could?”

Katie wasn’t sure when she’d started crying, but suddenly she was aware of the wetness staining her cheeks. Her voice shook, “I would apologise for not being open, if he’d let me. I’d tell him that…that he means everything to me, and that I never lied about the way I felt about him, how I still feel.”

“Did you sleep with anyone else whilst you were with him?” That question caught Katie off guard. Why on earth would Emma ask that? Of course she’d not slept with anyone else.

“What? No!” Katie panicked, “Why? does he think I did?”

“I don’t know… I guess, with Joe describing you as a porn star, it may have crossed his mind,” Emma explained.

“I’m not a porn star,” Katie was quick to defend herself, “I’m a Cam Girl, there’s a massive difference.”

“I know.”

“Does Tom?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really want to think about that,” Katie let out a strangled giggle, between sniffles.

“Fair point. No Emma. I never cheated on Tom. Professionally or personally.”

“I know what Luke said, about not speaking to him. But I don’t think either of you are going to get closure unless you talk to one another. For you to apologise and explain yourself. Tom needs to hear it from you.”

“Luke said if I make any attempt to contact Tom, I’ll be met with legal action.”

“Bollocks,” Emma dismissed Luke’s threat, “I’m with Tom later, me and Mum are taking shifts to make sure he eats and stuff. Give me a call around one, I’ll be with him then. I’ll pass you over, and make sure he doesn’t hang up.”

“I don’t know, Em.”

“It’s worth a shot, Kate. And if it doesn’t work, or if Luke finds out, I’ll take the blame. All of it. I’ll tell him I steamrollered you into it. Which isn’t a lie. I am going to steamroller you into this.”

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea. Have you seen the papers, internet, Sky fucking News? I’m having my name dragged through the mud as it is. I don’t need a restraining order added to my long list of misgivings,” Katie tried to argue, but as unmoveable as her words sounded, she knew her heart wasn’t in it. She wanted to talk to Tom. She knew she was going to give in.

“That won’t happen. I won’t let it, and as angry as he is, neither will Tom. He does care, he might be cross, but he wouldn’t want harm to come to you or your children.”

“It’s too late for that,” Katie mumbled.

“Just call me, between one and quarter past. Not on the dot or it’ll make it look planned.”

“If I don’t?”

“It’s up to you, Katie, Love,” God, she reminded her so much of her brother, so kind. So patient and understanding, but forthright and decisive at the same time. Emma fought for what she believed in. She believed in Tom and Katie.

“Alright.”

Chapter Text

His sister was banging around downstairs. Something about reorganising the kitchen cupboards.

It was ridiculous, these shifts Emma and his Mother had worked out. One of them would turn up at around eleven in the morning. They would proceed to cook him lunch, take Bobby out, if they couldn’t convince him to do it. They hadn’t yet. Then they would just talk at him. Doing all they could to stop him returning to his bed, or the sofa.

They were treating him like a child.

“Emma, could you be a bit louder and more annoying. I don’t think you’ve hit my last nerve quite yet,” Tom grumbled, standing in the kitchen doorway, rubbing his eyes.

“These cupboards are a disgrace; how do you find anything?”

“They’re fine,” Emma humphed and didn’t look at him.

“I’ve plated up some lasagne, it’s keeping warm in the oven.”

“I’ll have it later.”

“You won’t.”

It was seriously grating on him, someone constantly being there. Not just letting him be. That morning Tom had tried. He’d sat at his dining table with a coffee, whilst Emma prattled on about some film he’d not heard of. But he’d heard of the Director and he liked him. He knew for a fact, his sister had no interest in seeing this movie, but she knew he would. It was just another attempt to motivate him. He’d ended up cutting her off mid-sentence and announcing he was going for a shower.

Now he just watched her as she crawled around on the kitchen floor emptying out his cupboards.

Her phone started ringing. It was on the counter, face down. His sister bounced up, a little too enthusiastically, and grabbed the phone. Only looking at the screen for a second she answered and put it to her ear.

“Hiya,” Tom paid little attention to his sister when she answered the phone in her usual chirpy way, instead he took up his usual seat at the kitchen table and picked the paper up. “Yes, he’s here,” His head shot up, she stepped closer and held the phone out to him, “It’s for you.”

Tom set the paper back down and hesitantly took the phone from her, asking “Who is it?” Emma didn’t answer, just waving her hand, telling him to hurry up and talk to the person on the other end, “Hello?”

“Hi, Tom,” Tom’s eyes widened, and he stared at Emma incredulously, his hand holding the phone to his ear shaking. The voice on the other end was timid and it lacked the sing song cadence he was used to. But he knew it was Katie.

He took the phone from his ear, and Emma flew forward, hand gripping around his wrist so tightly it almost hurt and hissed at him “Don’t you dare hang up.”

Tom shook his head, eyes narrowed, “I’m not talking to her,” He growled, “Did you set this up?”

Emma didn’t answer, and her grip didn’t loosen. Only when Tom relaxed a little and realised he wasn’t winning this argument did she let go.

He put the phone back to his ear, “What do you want?”

“I…”

“Spit it out then!”

“I wanted to say sorry.”

Tom felt an incredulous laugh coming, and he choked on it when it left his mouth, “Sorry?”

“I should’ve told you. I should have said something right away. I’m so, so sorry, I didn’t know how, I didn’t-”

“You lying to me is the least of my fucking concern, Katie. You…you sicken me.”

“I’m…sorry.”

“Stop saying fucking sorry,” Tom’s voice raised, and he all but roared the words down the line. Katie fell silent, and he wondered for a second if she’d hung up. But after a few seconds of silence she spoke again.

“Please, Tom. Let me try and explain,” Tom huffed, but didn’t stop her, “The modelling, it…it was so long ago. I didn’t even think. I was so young, and it wasn’t for long. I can’t remember the last time I even thought about it. If I’d known how easy it would have been to find, of course I’d have said something. I’m not ashamed of it.”

“Is that it?”

“Of course not…Sadie Rae, I knew you wouldn’t understand. I closed my page after New Year.”

“You weren’t going to tell me, were you?”

“No.”

“Do you have no self-worth? No dignity? Were you struggling that much that you had to stoop to such a low level?”

“No, it’s not like-”

“It’s filthy… disgusting. The fact that I even went anywhere near you makes me feel physically sick.”

“Tom, it’s not-”

“Fuck, do I need to get tested? You could be riddled.”

“No!” Tom heard the pain in her voice, the sobs that were wrecking through her. But he was beyond angry now.

“You’re nothing but a dirty, lying, manipulative, easy, whore!” He didn’t look at Emma. He couldn’t.

“I…I’m not…” Katie lost her words, she was wheezing on the other end of the line. He could hear her gasping for breath, choking on her tears.

“I hope to god your children never find out what a filthy slut their mother is.”

“Tom, enough!” It was Emma, and now she was snatching the phone out of his hand, and putting it to her ear, “Katie, Kate…” But she’d hung up.

Tom stood from his seat at the table, without acknowledging his sister. But he felt her eyes on him, as he stormed to his kitchen door, and flung it open. He didn’t pick up his coat, keys, or phone. Nor did he care, when he slammed the door loudly behind him, and for the first time in a week, left his home, via the back gate to still avoid any lurking photographers.

 

*

 

An anxiety attack. That’s what the doctor in A&E had said, when Tanja rushed her daughter in, having found her on the bedroom floor, gasping for breath and clutching at her chest.

So severe the episode was, that it resulted in mild sedation and a round of oxygen to get her breathing under control. It also left her feeling extremely embarrassed, and ashamed that a stupid anxiety attack had used up so much of the NHS’ time. Although the doctor kept assuring her that her Mum had done the right thing, and that extreme panic attacks can be very dangerous.

She was kept in overnight and discharged the next morning, with a prescription for anti-anxiety medication which she was advised to take any time she started to feel worked up. Although Katie was sure it was just a one-off episode. She also had a follow up appointment in a week’s time.

But worse than all of that, her trip to hospital meant she’d missed the social workers visit. Jeremy had been alone with the twins when the woman had turned up. He of course had been honest and explained the situation. But it didn’t bode well that their Mother couldn’t even look after her children due to her own declining mental health.

Katie didn’t know what would happen next. The social worker had rearranged for Monday morning, and that came around slower than she thought possible. She was trying, she really was. Every morning she woke up and went through the motions. But the second she attempted to put on a brave face, she broke down.

She couldn’t sleep, she couldn’t eat. She knew she’d lost weight because her jeans wouldn’t stay up, and she was fastening her bras on the tightest catch. She felt helpless. She was failing. She couldn’t even pull it together for her children. Every time she tried, Tom’s words echoed in her head. Dirty, Filthy, Whore…her children would be ashamed of her if they ever found out.

For the first time in Katie’s adult life, she felt ashamed.

“Hello Katie, I’m Amanda,” Amanda, the Social Worker, was tall and extremely thin. Her face was long and pointed, but she had kind eyes. Jeremy had answered the door and showed her through to the Living Room, where Katie, Tanja and the Twins were all waiting for her arrival. Katie stood and took Amanda’s outstretched slender hand in a shake, “How are you feeling today?”

“I’m…okay,” Katie nodded, deciding to keep it simple. She refused to talk about the situation in front of Zach and Lucy. Of course, they’d already met Amanda when she’d turned up in Katie’s absence on Friday, and immediately recognised her. She greeted both of them enthusiastically and observed them for a few moments.

“Do you think we might be able to talk alone?” Amanda asked, once Tanja had made her a cup of tea, and she was settled next to Katie on the sofa.

“Come on you two,” Jeremy stood up, encouraging the twins to follow him, “I fancy building something with the Lego. Would you like to help me?”

Zach and Lucy cheered at the suggestion and ran past their Step-Grandad and hurtled up the stairs like a heard of Wilder beast. Jeremy softly closed the door behind him, so it was just Katie, Tanja and Amanda.

“You have beautiful children, Katie,” Amanda told her, her voice encouraging.

“Thank you.”

“You’re doing a brilliant job with them, it’s not easy being a single Mum,” Amanda spoke with understanding.

“Well, I have a lot of support. Mum and Jeremy are wonderful, I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Katie explained, trying to reinforce the idea that she wasn’t on her own. She had help and the children were perfectly safe.

“It’s not been easy these last couple of weeks, has it? I’ve been through the media reports, I’ve had to,” Amanda explained, sharing her knowledge of what was going on in Katie’s life, “I’m not going to go into the details with you. I imagine it’s all very upsetting for you. It’s not surprising you’ve been unwell.”

“It was just an anxiety attack. It won’t happen again.”

“I don’t think we can count on that, Katie.”

“I can. I can promise you. I’m fine, I’ll be okay. I won’t let the twins suffer,” But Katie couldn’t stem the panic which was already rising in her voice.

“I don’t doubt your ability as a parent, Katie. You have clearly been doing an amazing job with them. But unfortunately, they are already suffering. They are unable to attend school, that is a serious concern. The school have also reported how upset Zach and Lucy have both been.”

“It’s getting better. It’s not permanent, it’s only until the media attention dies down,” Katie tried to explain, “But they are perfectly safe here.”

“I don’t doubt their safety here, in you and your families care,” Amanda started, “But we do have concerns for their safety outside the confines of these walls. They need to attend school, Katie. They need that stability. They need not to see their Mum getting poorly because she’s eating herself up with guilt.”

“I don’t-” Katie cut herself off, with a deep gasp of air. She couldn’t continue. Katie clutched her chest tightly, and Tanja quickly hurried out the room, returning moments later with a glass of water and some tablets. Katie waved her hand, attempting to decline the anti-anxiety medication. But another gasp for air, and the pain of her chest tightening Katie quickly took the tablets and washed them down with a few gulps of water.

Amanda waited patiently, sipping her tea, whilst Tanja rubbed her daughters back, and Katie rested her face in her palms waiting for the medication to kick in. It was quick. Moments later she was able to suck in a shaky breath and nod.

“We have been in touch with Matthew,” Amanda started up again, “I understand he currently has joint custody and the twins stay with their Dad alternate weekends?”

Katie held back the scoff she wanted to let out, but instead just nodded.

“We feel, as a temporary measure, just until the media attention dies down completely, that Zach and Lucy live with him. We’ve arranged placements in his closest Junior School.”

Katie started shaking her head, tears trickling down her cheeks with no control, “Please don’t take my children away from me.”

“I’m sorry, Amanda, but I have to intervene. I really think this is a bit extreme. We are providing a safe and stable environment. Jeremy is a retired Maths Professor. He’s been doing very well continuing their education at home, based upon the work the school has been emailing,” Tanja started to explain, “Like you say, this is temporary.”

“But we are concerned about the effect of being taken away from that social environment,” Amanda kept her tone soft, and there was an undertone of reassurance, “I also think it would do you good, Katie. You need time to heal. You’re beating yourself up, you have so much to deal with, without the added worry of doing right by your children. Just look at this like an extended holiday with their Dad.”

“And you think taking my children away is going to help me heal?” Katie snapped.

“We aren’t taking them away, Katie.”

“You might as well be. And Matt…well…if you’re worried about them not having a stable environment here, it’ll be ten times worse with him.”

“Listen, I know you and the children’s father don’t quite see eye to eye-”

“It’s not that. As a person he’s fine. I don’t doubt he loves them. But…he’s not exactly reliable. He doesn’t work, he scrounges off his parents and whichever girlfriend he’s with at the time. He’s a loser, and the only reason I didn’t fight for full custody is because I grew up with a Dad who didn’t want me.”

“Katie. We’ve taken all that into consideration. But we feel this is the best course of action. We’ll start with one month. You can still see them, Matthew has said you can visit them as often as you like.”

“How very accommodating of him,” Katie’s words were dripping with sarcasm.

“He will pick them up tomorrow morning, it gives you today to explain to them what is happening and spend a little bit of time together,” Amanda tilted her head, and reached out to touch Katie’s hand, but she pulled it out of her reach sharply.

“Am I supposed to be grateful?” Katie hissed at the woman.

“Katie, I’m here for you as much as I am your children. I think you don’t realise how much you need this-”

But Katie cut her off, “What I need is for people like you to stop interfering!”

“Katie,” Tanja spoke softly, “I think Amanda might be right. You know…Zach and Lucy will think it’s one big holiday, you get a break. When they come back, it’ll be like a fresh start.”

“I…I don’t have a choice, do I?”  Katie sighed, scrubbing her tears away. She realised then, the more she fought it, the worse she would make it for herself and her children.

Chapter Text

He should have fought harder against Luke’s interview idea.

In hindsight, Tom had just wanted Luke off his back and he wished now he’d just told him to release a statement. But no, Luke managed his media representation. He was the professional in this area and Tom had told him to do what he thought was best, because he’d never steered him wrong in the past.

Luke had waited a week as promised and arranged a private interview in the comfort of Tom’s home with a publication with whom, historically, he had a good relationship with and trusted. He’d done everything to make Tom as comfortable as possible.

Jessica Newton from The Daily Review had interviewed Tom three times previously. She was kind, and gentle in her approach, he’d told Luke before that she was the only journalist he’d ever met who could get their desired answers without him realising he was even being asked a question. But also, she didn’t twist words, her pieces were thoughtful and true to the actual interview.

It was only after the fact that Tom realised this probably wasn’t the best thing. His heartbreak was about to be bared to the world and that wasn’t what he needed. He’d found himself tearing up when Jessica had started talking about the New Year’s Eve photographs of him and Katie.

“I admit, when I saw them I felt a bit guilty, like I was invading on a very private moment, whilst innocently scrolling my Twitter feed,” Jessica had said, “Did you know you were being photographed?”

“Of course not,” Tom had shaken his head, “Can’t you tell? It was a very private moment. Yeah…”

Then.

“I know the past couple of weeks must have been very difficult, you’ve received a lot of criticism regarding your relationship with Miss. Smith. Did it ever occur to you that dating someone with that sort of background would garner such negative attention?”

“Why would it have occurred to me? She was a seemingly nice girl who worked down my local corner shop.”

“Are you saying you didn’t know about her early career as a glamour model?”

“I did not.”

“Would it have made a difference to you, had you known? Would you have still pursued a relationship with Miss. Smith?”

“I… I don’t…” Tom had taken a long shaky breath and glanced over at Luke, shaking his head.

“Sorry Jess, Tom can’t answer that one,” Luke had cut in.

But the moment he realised he was done was when the inevitable was asked.

“I’m sure you are aware Miss. Smith has been at the receiving end of some pretty nasty backlash, not just from the media, but also your Fan Base, have you spoken to her about this at all?”

“I’ve not.”

“Are you still in touch with her?”

“I’m not.”

“Is that a mutual decision?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Tom couldn’t hide the ire in his voice. He knew she was struggling because he was being less than co-operative. Luke shot him a look of warning.

“I apologise, I wasn’t clear,” Jess tried to smile, and sipped her tea, before trying again, “Your relationship seemed to come somewhat out of the blue. You were single, and then suddenly you’re introducing Katie to your family. Then as quickly as it started, it’s over. I suppose the real question is…was it real?”

Tom wanted to answer straight away. Of course it was real. It certainly felt real to him. Then he realised, it can’t have been real. A relationship based on a lie could never be real, “I don’t know,” He shrugged helplessly, “It felt real, but really…” He paused for another deep breath, “We dated for nine weeks in total. They were nine of the best weeks of my life. They were real for me.”

With that, Tom had stood from the table, and held out his hand for Jessica to shake, “I’m sorry, that’s enough for me. I’m not happy to continue today.”

“I completely understand. Thank you for your time today, Tom.”

By the time Luke had seen her out, Tom had retreated to his bedroom. He grabbed a wad of tissues from his dresser and blew his nose hard. He was so bunged up, owing to the effort it was taking him not to get upset, and down to the nasty cold he was doing his best to fight off.

“Here,” Luke appeared in his doorway, a mug of steaming Beecham’s Max in his hand. Tom took it from him, “You did great, Tom.”

“You need to call her and stop it going to print.”

“I can’t do that, Tom.”

“I sound like an idiot.”

“You don’t. You’ve cleared your name. Your fans will feel for you. Now you can take a few more weeks, then you’ve got the Gala in New York just after your Birthday, you can get over this cold, and show your face looking happy and refreshed.”

“I feel like shit.”

“Well, you did spend the best part of five hours wondering the Heath in nothing more than a jeans and t-shirt in sub-zero temperatures,” Luke shook his head, “Did you call Emma yet?”

“I don’t want anything to do with her.”

“She’s your sister, Tom.”

“My sister who is not only siding with my lying whore of an ex-girlfriend but has made it perfectly clear that she thinks I’m the worst person in the world.”

“I’m not saying I approve of her actions-” But Luke was quickly cut off by his phone going off in his pocket. He took it out and looked at the screen. Already on edge, Tom couldn’t help but watch the man’s reaction. His shoulders tensed, and his thumb hovered over the call button. Then his eyes shot up to Tom’s as he answered the call and put the phone to his ear, “Luke Windsor, Prosper,” Tom frowned, and his friend gave him a hard stare, “Hello, Miss Smith. What can I do for you?”

 

*

 

When Luke had asked her to meet him, and given her a Marylebone address, Katie assumed she was attending the Prosper PR Head Office. But now, after a short but stressful underground journey, she stood in front of a single panel door, with blacked out glass, which was squeezed between a Dry Cleaners and a Youth Hostel.

There was a simple black sign that read ‘The Space – 10 Daventry Street’ and a keypad of numbers just below. She once again checked the address in Luke’s text. Suite 12. So, she dialled twelve on the keypad, hoping beyond hope that she’d got the right place.

The speaker crackled and beeped, then it clicked and a muffled voice came through, “Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Katie Smith to see Luke Windsor,” She spoke into the speaker, cupping her hand around it to block out the noisy traffic behind her.

“Hi Katie, come up,” Was that Luke? The line was too crackly to tell. She was expecting a receptionist. Katie hesitantly pushed the door in front of her and it opened, revealing a steep, narrow staircase straight ahead. Over-head lights lit up at the movement over the opening door. Katie let the door shut on its own behind her, took a deep breath and began her ascent.

What she was trying to achieve by contacting Luke, she still wasn’t sure. The truth was, the day the children had left for their Dad’s, Jeremy had come home from the paper shop and called the police. There were a small group of photographers camped out on the street. Her Step-Father had, had enough. It was his home, and he did not want to be forced to stay prisoner inside it. He was also deeply concerned for Katie.

Unfortunately, the police said they paparazzi were not on anyone’s properly, so could not be moved unless they were disturbing the peace. Jeremy tried to argue that their presence was causing his family distress, but there wasn’t much the police could do other than speak to the photographers and ask them politely to stick to the opposite pavement.

Then the story hit the papers that Katie’s children had been taken away from her. Although the facts surrounding the story were far from the actual circumstances, it put her in a very poor light. The article kept referring to ‘A source close to Katie’ and when Katie called the school, it was confirmed there was a lot of gossip going around in the playground at school drop off and pick up. She could only guess it was one of the other Mums.

Cue another anxiety attack.

Truthfully, Katie was petrified. When she was able to calm herself enough with her prescribed medication and some mindful breathing, she could rationalise. She knew this wouldn’t last forever, the media would lose interest eventually. Another big story would come long, and she would slowly get her life back on track.

But for now, those moments of rationalisation were few and far between. She was scared that she’d never be able to leave the house without being hounded. That she’d never be able to return to her flat, her Nana’s home. She was terrified that her children wouldn’t ever be allowed to come back to her. Or worse, that they wouldn’t want to. What if her actions had affected them that much?

She lived in fear of the press finding out about Sadie. Even though her channel was officially offline now, she knew there were a couple of Tumblr posts. If this was the trouble a couple of topless shoots she’d done in her teens had caused, then she knew Sadie would destroy her.

Luke was her last resort. He maybe should have been her first. He had said it was in Tom’s best interests that he handled how the press were representing her as well. But after the way Tom had spoken to her she hadn’t wanted to contact Luke. She’d not heeded his warning and she was very lucky he’d not taken legal action, he must know by now?

But Tom’s reaction had been punishment enough. He’d torn her to shreds over the phone. He’d verbally beaten her down to a point where she’d never felt so broken and humiliated. Never had anyone been so cruel in their assessment of her, and the fact that it was Tom, who had been her, lovely Tom, made it worse. The reality was, his words had made her lose all self-worth. She was a shell of the person she was before she met him.

When Katie reached the top of the staircase, she was met with an artificially lit corridor which split off left and right. It smelt of cleaning products and there was a sign on the wall in front of her, pointing left for suites one to six, and right for suites seven to twelve. It became very clear that this building had nothing to do with Prosper, but rather was some hired space for meeting rooms.  

Katie’s heart was racing, and she swallowed deep breaths as she took a right and walked down the hall, stopping at number twelve. She’d taken her maximum dose for today. She had to do this without any more medication.

She raised her hand to knock, but the door swung open before she got a chance. She stood there, struck dumb, one fist raised, staring at Luke who looked equally surprised. “Ah, there you are, you took a while, I wasn’t sure how you’d get lost-”

“Sorry, I was a bit slow,” Katie mumbled. It was one side effect of the tablets, her reaction times were a bit slower, she was generally more lethargic.

“Right, well, erm…” He frowned at her, apparently taking in her appearance properly, “Come in, I should have told you, but I felt…well… after consideration, I felt it vital that Tom joined us-”

But Katie stopped listening at that point, as when she stepped inside the room, her eyes landed on him immediately. It was a small room, with a round table in the middle. That was really the only detail Katie was aware of, because Tom was now staring right at her, from his seat at said table.

She stood frozen, just staring. She was trying to take him in. He looked tired, maybe a little older than she remembered, but that might have just been the dark bags beneath his eyes. His hair was tad longer, as was his beard. He wore that same black Pea coat, with the buttons undone. He’d not changed much.

“Katie?” Luke’s voice made her physically jump, and she was strongly aware of an acidic feeling rising up her throat, “Are you alright? Did you hear what I said?”

She hadn’t. She’d not been listening at all. But she nodded anyway.

“Well, can you sit down then please?” Luke asked, sounding a little impatient. What had she missed?

“I…I’m sorry. It’s my…I can’t…” Katie’s words bubbled out in a quiet mumble, and Luke suddenly understood. She’d told him over the phone about the anxiety attacks, the medication. He pulled out a chair and she sat down, still not taking her eyes off Tom. He was looking at her differently now. The crease in the bridge of his nose was deep as he stared at her intensely. His usual fidgety hand coming up to nudge his glasses up his nose and scratch his neck. Should she speak to him? She should, she knew she had to be the one to do it, “Hello, Tom.”

He didn’t speak. Just nodded.

“So, let’s begin, shall we?” Luke started, taking a seat.

He started by explaining to Katie that his solicitor had done some further research and as the police had told Jeremy, there was legally nothing she could do to get the photographers to leave her alone, all the while they weren’t on the actual property. However, he did assure her that their interest would die off.

In the meantime, he would arrange for her to stay in a hotel, close to the twins and keep an eye on the media presence around her home. He had also spoken to paper which published the story regarding her children being removed from her care. His solicitor had read the article and confirmed it was classed as Defamation of Character and not based on true facts. With these threats in mind, the paper had agreed to retract the story and issue an apology.

Not that it made any difference to Katie, it was out there now. No apology could change the fact that the country thought her to be a terrible mother who chose getting her tits out and gallivanting around the city with celebrities over the care of her children.

Tom didn’t speak once throughout. To be honest Luke did most of the talking. Katie did wonder why exactly Tom had turned up. To hurt them both even more? She’d notice him sniffle and stifle coughs a few times, was he ill? He was clearly uncomfortable being in the same room as her. He wasn’t holding his usual relaxed stance in his seat. He sat forward with his hands on the table, as if he might push up to leave any minute. Katie caught his eye several times, mostly when Luke mentioned Zach and Lucy. There was something there. Concern, maybe? Regret?

“Now, as I said, I feel…given Emma’s somewhat foolish move the other day, it’s important for the two of you to talk properly. I think it’s very clear you’re both struggling with different aspects of this situation,” Had he said that? Was that the part where she’d zoned out? “Katie, you need to consider this is more than you deserve. Tom doesn’t have to be here. He is willing to listen to you properly. He will refrain from slinging anymore verbal abuse at you. I think we can all agree that you realise your mistakes and you’re already being punished quite enough. But Emma was right, Tom needs answers and you need the opportunity to properly explain yourself. Otherwise neither of you will move on.”

“Thank you,” Katie wasn’t sure which of the men she was addressing with her gratitude. She wasn’t even sure if she was grateful. She certainly wasn’t prepared. Although, Tom hadn’t been prepared when she’d phoned him via Emma. She probably deserved this.

“Right, I’m going to go outside and check some emails. I’ll be just down the hall if you need me…” Luke stood from his chair, and headed for the door, “Try not to kill each other. You two have already given me a big enough PR headache.” His tone was a bit lighter as he tried to put some poorly placed humour on the situation. Neither of them smiled.

Chapter Text

She looked different.

Had she lost weight? It was hard to tell with her heavy winter coat in the way. But her face certainly looked drawn. She was pale too, and although Katie was rarely one for wearing much makeup, the lack of lip balm drew attention to the greyish tint of her lips. She looked unwell.

She wasn’t smiling. Tom wasn’t sure he’d ever seen Katie without at least a small smile playing on her lips. When she’d spoken, her voice was quiet, and her words a little slurred. Luke had told him about the anxiety, the medication. He had little sympathy for her. Well he hadn’t until he’d seen her. Now he didn’t know how to feel.

Now she was looking at him again, through the thick lenses of the glasses which he’d only ever seen her wear in the shop, or first thing in the morning. His stomach lurched at the memory. He averted his eyes from hers and noticed for the first time a tear in the shoulder seam of her coat. He frowned.

“You’ve ah…you’ve got a rip in your coat, did you realise?” he was probably pointing out the obvious, but it was a way of avoiding what they really needed to talk about.

“Oh…” Katie strained her neck to look and lifted a hand to finger the tear, “I wondered, I thought maybe…I got grabbed when I was changing at St. Pancras.”

“Grabbed?”

“Some girl…I don’t know,” Katie shrugged, and Tom felt his heart clench at how small she looked, “It’s fine, a lot of people are cross with me. I get it.” But it wasn’t fine, and Tom knew that. He’d be talking to Luke. It was one thing for him to be angry with her, but for strangers to grab her in the street, “You have some questions for me?”

She was so passive, but she didn’t avoid eye contact. Behind her lenses he could just make out the red rim around her eyes and see that her pupils were bit dilated. Either from the medication or the artificial lighting.

“I do,” Tom nodded slowly. It was awkward. He was angry at himself for feeling any sort of concern for the woman in front of him. Then he remembered exactly why he hated her so much and the normal stomach churning returned. “When…when did you decide you weren’t going to tell me.”

Katie bit her lip, and took a moment to answer, “At your Mum’s. Before that, I honestly was…I’d talked to my Mum about it. I’d been holding off as I didn’t know how serious we were. I didn’t know when the right time to bring it up would be. Then your family were so wonderful. They made me so welcome and I realised there absolutely no way I could jeopardize what we had. I’d already closed the channel to subscriptions. I thought once it was done with, it wouldn’t matter.”

“Your family knows?”

“My Mum’s always known, most of my friends know. It’s not really a secret.”

“And they approve?”

Katie shrugged, “They don’t disapprove.”

“But…you’re…” Tom shook his head, unable to figure out how any parent, no matter how old their child could be okay with what Katie did, then the words flew out, “You’re a Porn Star, Katie…it’s…it’s so seedy!”

“I’m not a Porn Star!” Katie’s voice rose, and it was the most she’d reacted to anything since she arrived in the office, “Stop calling me that, do you have any idea how offensive that is?”

“You can dress it up however you like-”

But Katie cut him off, “I’ve never once, been filmed, or filmed myself, or taken photos of myself, engaging in any form of sexual acts with another person, male or female.”

“But-,”

“I’m a Cam Girl. I take nude photos, I film myself playing with my tits, occasionally something a bit more risqué. I do that in the comfort of my own home, when no one else is there. People pay a monthly subscription to enjoy the privilege of what I have to offer them.”

“It’s still pornography. It’s still sexual images, taken and filmed with the purpose of giving another person sexual excitement, that is the definition of pornography.”

Katie blinked at him, and slouched back in her chair, like maybe he’d pointed something out that she’d never considered. Then she sighed, as if resigning herself to having to agree with him, and simply nodded.

“Why?” Tom asked, realising quickly she wasn’t going to try and defend herself any further.  

“Why?”

“Why would you do that? Did you need the money?”

“No, I didn’t. The money is nice, obviously,” Katie sighed, “I know it’s difficult for someone like you to understand, but I wanted to do it. It was a choice.”

“Do you…enjoy it?”

“Of course. Tom, you know I like my body. I like to touch myself, I like to be watched. I’ve got an exhibitionist kink, Tom. I found an outlet for it,” Tom felt his eyes widen, he knew they must be like saucers. He didn’t consider himself inexperienced, but what Katie was telling him was a completely alien idea to him, “Just for your information, very few, if any, Cam Girls or Boys…yes, men do it too…hardly any of them do it because they have to.”

“But it’s so…degrading,” Tom shook his head, unable to get his head around what she was telling him.

“How is it?”

“Well, you are selling your body, in a manner of speaking.”

“I don’t feel degraded. Well I didn’t until now,” She looked him dead on, and he knew she was referring to the way he’d spoken to her, “I felt liberated. Powerful.”

At those words, something clicked in his head. He understood. He didn’t approve, he wasn’t sure if there was a man out there who’d be okay with their girlfriend getting their kit off and masturbating for another man’s pleasure. That part still turned his stomach. But when he thought of his confident, bubbly Katie, he knew she was a powerful woman. She used her feminism, and her confidence in her own body to an advantage. That was liberating.

“Joe recognised you,” Tom admitted, “I don’t know if Luke told you that,” Katie shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself. There was a chill in the room. “Do you get recognised often?”

“Never.”

“Really?” Tom found that difficult to believe.

“I don’t think people are really looking at my face, Tom,” That shut him up quickly, and his stomach turned for the millionth time at the thought of God knows how many men, having watched Katie do such intimate things. Things only he should have been privileged to.

“No…” Tom brought a hand to his mouth, and coughed, “No, I suppose not.”

“I know my apologies mean nothing to you, I know you don’t want me to keep saying sorry…but I am,” Katie leant forward at the table, “I never wanted to hurt you. Everything just spiralled. One minute we’re walking the dogs and having dinner, then I’m meeting your family. I just missed the appropriate time to tell you, without it being like I’d purposely kept it from you. I didn’t plan to hide any part of myself from you.”

“It was fast. Too fast,” Tom nodded mostly to himself. He’d thought that a lot over the past couple of the weeks. Everything had happened so fast. But he’d been unable to stop himself.

“Don’t…don’t get me wrong, Tom,” Katie’s voice was soft now, less shaky and the slur had gone almost completely. He flicked his eyes back to connect with hers, “I enjoyed every second we had together. I’d not change any of it for the world. I did mean every word I said to you. I know I wasn’t honest about my past and of course I regret that. But my feelings for you…they’re real…I never lied…” She trailed off again and Tom didn’t miss the tear trickle down her cheek. He hated it. He hated how that one tear broke his heart.

Tom broke eye contact and coughed again, “Sorry,” He managed between coughs, and he pulled a wodge of tissues from his jeans pocket and wiped his nose.

“You’re unwell?”

“I’ve had a cold.”

“You shouldn’t have had to come out today, you should be at home resting up,” Katie told him. It was like she was unable to help herself. After everything that had happened between them, that same sweet caring tone broke through.

“Yes, well,” Tom mumbled. He pushed the tissues back in his pocket, “Have you spoken to the children, how are they?”

“They’re okay. They like their new school,” Katie’s voice shook again.

“Are you having any problems with their Dad?”

“Oh no,” Katie shook her head, then let out a quiet, rueful, chuckle, “He’s being surprisingly nice about the whole thing.”

“Well…that’s something.”

“I need them back,” Her voice cracked with her words, and Tom’s eyes burned with unspilled tears. He hated her. He really did, but he never would wish for her to lose her children. She didn’t deserve that, she was a phenomenal Mother.

“I know. It won’t be long Katie.”

She looked up at him when he said her name. She nodded, her eyes watery, “Thank you for doing all this. I know it’s probably the last place you want to be.”

Tom gave a short nod, “I’ll get Luke to call you a car to take you home.”

“Oh, there’s no need, I’ve got my Oyster Card.”

“It’s not safe for you to take public transport, Luke will call you a car,” Tom told her, but that was all the explanation he’d give. He didn’t want her to think he was doing it because he cared about her, but that it was in his best interest to ensure she was safe.

“Oh…Thank you.”

With that Tom nodded, and pushed himself from his chair, the legs scraping on the hard-carpeted floor. He straightened his jacket and made for the door, not quite looking at Katie. But her voice stopped him in his tracks.

“Tom.”

“Yes?” He turned reluctantly, to see Katie getting to her feet and tucking her chair in. When she stood it was clear how much weight she’d lost in such a short time. The coat she wore used to synch nicely at her waist and flare out. He’d always liked it on her. Now it hung loosely from her hips.

“Thank you for giving me a chance to speak to you…I know…I know you must hate me. I don’t like myself very much at the moment, so…” She trailed off and his chest tightened at her words, and the look of complete defeat on her face.

“Katie…it’s…it is what it is. It’s too late now. But…for the record…I don’t think I could ever hate you,” It was a mistake for him to say it. Because saying it was admitting it to himself. He didn’t hate her, he would never be able to hate her. Because he loved her.

 

*

It felt like a huge weight had been lifted.

Her problems were not solved, not by a long shot. She didn’t have the twins back, and she knew she probably wouldn’t for a long time. But Katie at least felt like less of a horrible human being. Because Tom didn’t hate her.

It was funny how that one simple fact had dulled the constricting ache in her chest which had been plaguing her for weeks and even worse since that terrible phone call. Now, there was just a sadness. Katie was sad because what they had was over, and she knew nothing she could do would change that fact. He might not hate her, but he’d not forgiven her. He’d allowed her to explain herself, and allowed himself to better understand her actions, but he never said she was off the hook.

After he’d admitted that he couldn’t hate her, Tom had quickly shifted. Perhaps realising his admission was not a wise one. He hurriedly opened the door and called for Luke. From there Luke called her a car and explained to her that the car would drop her off, then return at six o’clock and take her to a hotel which he’d arranged whilst she and Tom had been talking.

When leaving, she’d only given Tom a small wave and thanked him again. He’d nodded shortly and said goodbye, then Luke had escorted her downstairs and to a waiting unmarked black car.

Arriving back at Tanja’s, having instructed the driver to drop her on the street behind that ran parallel as there was an alleyway which lead to a back entrance which she could cut through, she asked if he would be the same man collected her later on. When he nodded, she asked he collect her from the same place. It was one less worry for her, being able to leave the house unnoticed by the waiting photographers.

She only told Tanja and Jeremy the important parts of the meeting, the bits they needed to know about. The article was being retracted, and Luke was putting her up in a hotel. Katie suggested that they might want to go away for a few days, when the paparazzi realised there was no one there, they would soon back off. Jeremy admitted then, that he’d actually booked a weekend in the Cotswolds, a cottage for him and Tanja, and Katie had been welcome. Because he wanted to get them all out of London. He was sick of his family being pestered, and constantly looking over his shoulder.

But Katie wasn’t about to go gallivanting off into the Countryside, when she needed to be near the twins.

That’s how, by just gone seven o’clock that evening, Katie found herself, shutting the door behind her to a decently sized and more pleasant that she expected hotel room in Slough. Well, it was more of an apartment than a hotel room. One of those apartments designed for extended business trips. It was clean, and minimalist, with a small, open plan kitchen, dining and living area. Off this there was a good-sized double bedroom and en-suite bathroom. It was self-catering, she wouldn’t be pestered, except for housekeepers who came on a Tuesday and Thursday morning according to the welcome leaflet on the little dining table.

But the most important thing about her makeshift home, was that it was just a fifteen-minute walk from the twins Dad’s home. She would call him in the morning and make plans to spend some time with Zach and Lucy because she was missing them something terrible.

Katie had packed a carrier bag with enough snacks to see her through the evening, but she knew at some point in the next twenty-four hours she’d have to brave the shops. She’d also packed a handful of books, but she had a good feeling it wouldn’t be nearly enough. As she looked around the sparse apartment she wondered, now that she was without a job, without her children and without a boyfriend, what on earth she would do with herself for two weeks? She’d be cooped up inside what she was certain would soon start to resemble a prison cell, as opposed to the ‘Luxury Apartment Hotel’ it was advertised to be.

It took all of ten minutes to unpack her suitcase and stuff her belongings into various drawers and cupboards. She was pleased to discover for what it lacked in character the apartment did have quite a nice bathtub. It was a little larger than the standard facilities you found in hotels and it had jets in the sides. So, Katie had then decided she was probably well overdue a nice long soak.

It was after the nice long soak, using the Apartments complimentary bubble bath and combined shampoo and conditioner, which would turn her hair into straw, that Katie heard her phone ringing. She’d been stepping out of the bath, and hurriedly the wrapped the towel around herself and headed for the bedroom where she’d left her phone charging on the dresser.

But she stopped dead when she saw the name flashing on the screen. Tom.

Realising if she didn’t pick the phone up, it would cut off to voicemail, she swiped it off the side and answered the call.

“Hello?”

“Katie, Hi,” His voice was a little echoey and there was some noise in the background. Was he driving?

“Tom, what-”

“I just want to let you know that I’ve had your number unblocked.”

“Oh…”

“Did you get to the hotel okay?”

“Yes, I did, thank you.”

“Good…good,” He sounded better than earlier. Chirpier, although he still sounded a bit nasal, owing the cold he was recovering from.

“Erm…is everything okay, Tom?”

“Yep,” He answered quickly, “I’ve got some of your things. A Scarf, a few clothes, shampoo…”

“Oh, don’t worry about any of that,” Katie waved her hand in the air, dismissively.

“No, I’d like to return them to you. Can I come and see you?”

“Now?”

“Yes.”

“Tom, I don’t think-”

“Before you say it’s not a good idea, let me talk,” Katie remained quiet, silently giving her permission, “Earlier on, you answered a lot of questions, and you apologised. You were very sincere. But there were things I should have said, things I wasn’t prepared for. I need to see you and say those things.”

“Tom, Lovely, the point of me being here is to avoid the press. That’s not going to work if you’re seen in Slough…” Katie trailed off. She didn’t want to turn him away. But having him there was a bad idea, for a multitude of reasons. The potential media attraction was just one of those reasons. Secondly, she knew it would be setting both of them up for more heartache. Thirdly…what on earth did he have to say to her now that he hadn’t made abundantly clear to her on the phone a week ago.

“No one is going to see me. It’s dark, I’ll park in the car park around the back. Text me the building entry code.”

He was insistent, Katie sighed loudly, loud enough for him to hear her on the other end of the line, “How do you know where I’m staying?”

“I saw the booking confirmation on Luke’s phone.”

“Tom…I don’t…just chuck the stuff out, it’s not important. I don’t think you’ve got anything to say to me that you haven’t already said,” Katie sat on the edge of the sofa in the open plan living area and held her towel tightly around herself.

Tom was silent on the other end of the time for a moment, she could almost hear his thoughts, then he said, “Just let me come and see you, Katie.”

Chapter Text

Tom let himself into the building with the entry code Katie had text over to him.

The truth was, he’d already been half the way there when he’d called her. He wasn’t sure what had even possessed him to do it.

After the meeting, Luke had driven him home. He’d invited him in for a drink and Luke was keen to hear about his and Katie’s conversation. They’d both appeared physically more relaxed when he’d returned to the room. Tom felt it, he felt like some massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He could breathe a little easier.

It was when Luke left his phone unattended and an email with a booking confirmation popped up on his screen for a Hotel in Slough, his brain fixated on it. He’d not really cared about where Katie was going before. Until he knew, and then the thought of her, alone in some strange box for two weeks began to plague him.

Luke had picked up the scarf which still sat untouched over the back of the dining room chair and offered to post it to her. But Tom quickly declined.

“There are a few more bit upstairs, I can sort it,” He assured his friend and publicist.

Luke left a short while later and Tom couldn’t push her out of his mind. How very poorly she looked. How thin, and pale. How sad and lost. He’d done that to her. With his words.

His cruel words over the phone had stripped her of her identity. Happy go lucky, confident Katie was gone. He’d torn from her all the things about herself which she loved. Yes, he was angry with her, not just for lying to him, but for being so stupid as to think no one would find out about her ‘Secret Life’. How at no point she’d thought what she considered harmless could have such a detrimental effect on his career? But he was not a cruel person and he’d let his anger get the better of him. Rather than take a deep breath and try to better understand her, he’d jumped to the worst conclusions about what she did, and he was horrid to her. He was nasty and spiteful, and by doing so he’d probably damaged her more with his words, than she had him, with her actions.

He knew seeing her again might be a big mistake. But he needed to. He still felt like there was unfinished business there. He had to apologise to her, because he was scared that if he didn’t she would never fully recover from his verbal abuse. He also needed to return her sentiment. It had been real, every second of it. She assured him she’d never lied, or lead him on, and he believed her. He needed her to know he’d felt the same. It had been fast, but he didn’t regret a second if it.  

He tapped lightly on the door to the apartment. It was only now he was starting to feel nervous. He’d gone over and over in his head exactly what he’d say to her. He wouldn’t hang around. He’d say what he needed to say, then leave on good terms. It had to be like that.

Katie greeted him at the door quickly, he guessed she’d been anxiously waiting for him, from the slightly wide-eyed expression on her face, “Come in…um…make yourself comfortable.”

“Thanks,” Tom nodded, but didn’t take off his coat, or his shoes. He approached the grey fabric sofas and selected the left one, then perched right on the edge of the seat.

“I’d offer you a drink, but I don’t really have anything. Water?” Katie shrugged helplessly from the little kitchenette, and Tom watched her curiously as she got two glasses from a cupboard and filled them at a tap, not giving him chance to accept.

“Waters fine,” Tom nodded, when she set it on the coffee table in front of him, then sat on the adjacent sofa. He took a second to study her. She looked better than this morning, wearing some black leggings and a long baggy cream knit jumper. She wasn’t wearing make-up, but there was more colour in her cheeks, a slight pink blush, and her hair was down and fluffy like she’d just blow dried it, “I’m sorry, I know you probably wanted to spend the evening getting settled.”

“It’s fine, there’s not much to settle into. I was probably just going to have an early night,” She was distant and matter of fact. Earlier in the day she’d been sure to make eye contact when talking, but now she was doing the opposite. Only glancing up when she spoke, but the rest of the time she looked at her hands, which clutched her own glass of water.

“Your things,” Tom gestured to a carrier bag with the bits she’d left at his house, set next to him on the floor.

“Cheers, you didn’t have to.”

“It didn’t feel right throwing it out.”

“I wouldn’t have blamed you.”

“Katie, look at me,” her head snapped up then, “I…I’m sorry, I owe you an apology as well. Earlier, you apologised for your actions, for lying. You answered a lot of questions, and I still can’t admit to fully understanding. But…God I was awful to you. I need you to know that…I allowed my anger, and my preconceived ideas of the…industry you’re part of, to cloud what I already know about you.”

“You don’t need to apologise to me, Tom. I’ve caused you so much trouble through my own idiocy. So much pain, and I don’t blame you for being angry.”

“But I was cruel, I called you names which you didn’t deserve.”

“I’ve never been ashamed of what I do. I’ve never considered…the types of people who might be watching me,” Tom saw Katie swallow, as if willing herself not to throw up, and her eyes glistened, “I’ve never felt dirty,” Her head dropped, and she looked back into her hands, and mumbled, “Now I do.”

“You aren’t.”

“You said it, Tom. You can apologise, but I know you. I know you don’t say things unless you mean them. You’re so very careful with your words. I know that about you. It’s…it’s one of the things I love about you,” She looked up again, and caught his eyes only briefly when the last few words crossed her lips. In that second, he was sure he stopped breathing for a second. He knew she meant it.

“I…” He started but struggled to catch his breath entirely. He took a moment, a few deep breaths, “I didn’t know, I didn’t understand.”

“I’ve only slept with five people,” Her statement was out of the blue, and Tom wasn’t quite sure what to say. After a pause she added, “Including you.”

 “I…ah…” It was awkward. He wasn’t sure why she’d brought it up.

“You called me a whore. That’s what hurt the most,” Ah, there it was. He had, absolutely, accused her of being a whore, “I need you to know…to believe me when I say, I might be filthy, and disgusting, and you may consider my behaviour to be whorish. But I’ve never slept with someone I’m not in a relationship with, and I don’t just jump into bed with anyone…so don’t go rushing down the clinic, I’m clean as a fucking whistle.”

“I shouldn’t have said that,” Tom leant forward on his elbows and looked at her, hoping she could see the sincerity in his apology, “I’m so sorry, Katie.”

“It…it doesn’t matter,” That’s when the tears came. Almost from nowhere, and suddenly it happened. Her eyes filled and tears fell in rivets down her cheeks, “I’ve been so stupid, and we can both apologise, me for my dishonestly, and you…for getting angry with me. Quite rightly so… but it doesn’t change anything does it? We can’t go back, it’s over.”

It was a struggle for Tom to hold himself back from diving across the coffee table and taking her in his arms. She looked at him, completely helpless, and heartbroken. He wasn’t even aware of his own tears until he felt the wetness on his cheeks.

“Please don’t cry, Katie,” The words left his lips in a weak croak. He couldn’t bare it, he barely recognised the woman in front of him.

“I wish…” Katie hiccoughed, and wiped her nose on the back of her hand, “I wish I could say something that would make it okay or would make you take me back. But I know you won’t and you can’t. I just… I’ve ruined so much for you, I wish I’d listened to you. I wish we’d talked earlier about that part of your life. I just didn’t even think…you’re just Tom,” Katie was shaking her head, and covering her face with her hands. She was panicking, working herself up. This time he didn’t stop himself, he was up, round the table and sitting down next to her in flash. But he didn’t move to touch her.

“Katie, stop please,” His hand hovered over her shoulder.

“You’re just Tom,” Katie repeated, quieter and calmer this time, “My Tom.”

“Katie…” His voice shook, “If there was a way we could work through this, if I could…I would.”

“It hurts.”

“I know.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to move on...I’ve never been in love before, I don’t know what to do.”

His breath caught in his throat, and his tears were falling as freely as her now. He retracted his hand and set it back in his own lap. He wanted to tell her not to say it, to take it back. But he couldn’t, he didn’t have the heart. How could he dismiss her admission, when he felt the same? Granted, he had been in love before. Which is how he knew he loved her. It was different, certainly, but even after such a short time he couldn’t imagine not having her in his life. Never waking up next to her again. None of that had broken through in the recent weeks, he’d not allowed it to. He’d been too angry, too scorned by her actions. He’d doubted how real any of her affections were. But he couldn’t doubt them now.

“Katie-” but she stopped him.

“I’m sorry, I know it’s stupid. We were only dating for two months, bloody hell,” She shook her head and pressed her palms into her eyes, like she was trying to force the tears to stop, “Oh god, I’m so, so stupid.”

“Katie,” Tom’s voice was hoarse, “I love you too.”

 

*

 

She wasn’t sure if she’d heard him right. She knew she was panicking, her mouth was spiralling off, and she wasn’t sure of half of what she’d said. But she certainly hadn’t meant to let that admission slip out. Regardless of how true it was.

Her hands dropped to her lap, and she took a few shaky breaths, trying to calm herself. Adamant not to resort to medication. She needed to do this on her own, “Excuse me?” She asked without looking up from her hands.

“I love you too,” His words were clearer and more certain this time. So slowly, she looked up, and turned slightly in her seat, so her knee brushed his as she made eye contact. She was surprised to see the turmoil there. The tears. He was as distraught as her, “That’s why this hurts so much.”

“You love me?” He’d already said it twice, but Katie needed to be sure.

“I think I loved you before I knew you.”

“Oh,” It was a breathless sound, and although her heartrate had slowed substantially, she could still feel it pounding almost painfully against her ribs. Then Tom’s hand slid over to hers, and he took one, entwining their fingers together, and that small gesture felt like everything. It felt like a piece of her that had been missing for weeks, was suddenly put back into place, by one simple touch.

“We can’t go back to how we were, Katie,” He could have said this bluntly, and left her with nothing, but his words were gentle and cautious, and he looked into her eyes as he spoke, “I’ve worked so hard for my career, and by ignoring what’s happened I’d be sacrificing it. I’m not ready to do that. Also…for your sake, I cannot drag you any further into my life. You need your children back, and I won’t be responsible for that not happening. I know they are your world, and I know you are a wonderful Mum. You don’t deserve what you’ve been put through.”

“It would die down eventually…wouldn’t it?” Katie asked quietly.

“Even if it did, Katie. I can’t take you back,” She could see his bottom lip quiver slightly, and another tear trickled down his cheek and disappeared into his slightly unkempt beard, “I love you, Katie. But I’ll never be able to trust you again.”

Words failed her, and she simply nodded, as another sob escaped her. She’d known that. At no point in the last few weeks had she been under the illusion that everything would blow over and she’d be able to work her way back into his good graces. It just wasn’t that simple. Every relationship Tom had in his life, be it romantic, platonic or professional, relied on trust. It had to. He’d trusted her implicitly and she’d blown it.

“This isn’t easy for me, Katie,” She could hear the strain in his voice, this was hurting him as much as it was her. She wondered if it would have been less painful if they’d never spoken. He’d still hate her, it’s easier to get over someone when you hate them right? Easier for him maybe, not for her, “I don’t want to say goodbye. That’s been the worst part of these few weeks. Knowing I’d never see you again, I was so angry, so hurt and so...disgusted by everything I knew, but I still loved you. Feelings like this don’t just go away.”

“I wish you could tell me they would,” She murmured the words, “What am I supposed to do? What are you going to do?”

“Go to work. Keep busy. Spend time with my family…Emma’s not very happy with me right now, I need to make it up to her. I think it’ll get easier,” Tom nodded as he spoke, as if he was trying to convince himself.

“I don’t have a job, I got fired from the shop,” Tom’s eyes widened a bit when she spoke, she realised she’d not mentioned that part to him and Luke earlier today. Really she’d not given it much thought since everything with the kids, “I think I’m going to have to sell Nana’s flat.”

“Oh, Katie, I’m s-”

“Please don’t say you’re sorry,” She cut him off sharply, “It’s nothing I don’t deserve. It wasn’t Darren’s choice, it was head office. Photographers were swarming the shop, it was bad for business. Daz feels horrible, he and his wife sent me flowers…”

“You’ll get through this Katie. You’re so strong. Remember our first date?”

She didn’t want to. She didn’t want to cloud a perfect memory with the gloom she was feeling now. But she nodded.

“Well…I remember you telling me about your Nana, and how you refused to mourn her because she would have hated people crying over her. And then you told me about the twins and how you essentially gave up your entire future to be the best Mum to them. How you never expected help from their Dad, but just allowed him to step in when he wanted to, but you took the brunt and you never moaned once. You completely embraced it. I remember thinking then what an incredible woman you are. A formidable force who won’t be reckoned with, no matter what life throws at you. You’re still that woman Katie.”

“I don’t feel like it at the moment.”

“But you will,” Tom squeezed her hand, and spoke in earnest, “You’ll go home in a couple of weeks, Zach and Lucy with you. You’ll look for a new job or do something completely different. You’ve got an amazing Mum and Step Dad who sound like an incredible support to you. You’ll focus one hundred percent on coming through the other side of this. When you do…you’ll look back and this bit won’t be what you remember. I don’t want to think back on what we had and be sad, angry or hurt about it, and neither should you. I want to remember the best bits.”

Even now, through his own heartache he was bolstering her. This man was amazing. She’d known that already. That was the problem. She’d been so adamant not to lose him, to hang onto him, that she’d ruined it. And to think, he’d always been the one needing reassurance that she wasn’t about to run out on him. She’d always found his little insecurities adorable, she’d loved him for how vocal he’d been about his affections for her.

“I’m going to miss you so much,” Katie admitted, her tears finally stopping, she just sniffed, and used her free hand to wipe her damp cheeks.

“I’m going to miss you too, lovely girl. You have no idea.”

“I do.”

“I should go, I don’t think I should stay any longer. Will you be alright, I hate leaving you upset.”

“No, I think I’ll be okay,” Katie nodded, as with one final squeeze he let go of her hand, “Thank you for coming round. For…being so nice.”

“Thank you for letting me. I’m glad we did this. I think…I think it was important for both of us.”

“Yeah…” Tom stood up and Katie followed suit, and they both walked a few steps to the door, Tom slightly in front of her. Then he stopped dead, almost causing her to walk straight into his back, and he turned.

“Would a hug be okay?” There was a trace of a smile on his lips.

“A hug would be alright, I think.”

Without another word, Tom’s arms opened and pulled her body into his, holding her close. Katie held onto him tightly, burying her face into his shoulder, and inhaling his familiar and comforting scent. She counted the seconds, never wanting them to end. 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…He pulled back, and Katie felt the reluctance. It had probably been longer than he intended, but once she was there in his arms, it had felt so right. Like home. She knew he felt the same. His next action surprised her though, as he ducked back in, and his lips brushed her cheek, ever so lightly.

“Goodbye, Katie.”

“Bye, Tom.”

But he still didn’t move. They both just stood there, staring at each other. It wasn’t awkward, Katie couldn’t really describe the feeling. It was like something else was meant to happen, anticipation. Like they were both waiting for something and weren’t really sure what it was.

Then, she was only aware of Tom’s lips on hers. Their mouths moved together, and their arms held onto each other for dear life. She wasn’t even sure who started it, she didn’t remember moving, but in the same breath she didn’t remember Tom initiating it either. It was just happening. It wasn’t a brutal, bruising kiss. It was gentle, loving and affectionate. It was a kiss goodbye.

Chapter Text

Just like the kiss had started, it ended, not really by either of them. A mutual ending in which they both pulled away at the same time. Their eyes caught, only for a millisecond, as if avoid the others gaze, scared of what would happen if they didn’t.

Katie hadn’t noticed the way Tom was holding her until she felt the slight tug at her hand. His right hand grasped hers gently, their fingers threaded together. His left cupped her head, stroking her hair lovingly. Tom looked completely away from her, he glanced around the room. Then wordlessly he encouraged her to move, hand in hand, he lead her across the living area to the bedroom.

She watched him, curiously, as he stopped just inside the door to turn on the light. He played with the dimmer switch until it wasn’t so glaringly bright, but they could still see each other. Then he walked her closer to the bed, stopping just next to it, and then he kissed her again. He kissed her. He was definitely the one initiating it this time.

What are you doing? Why are you allowing this? Katie was screaming inside her own head. This had to be a bad idea, didn’t it?

But god his mouth on hers, his tongue like silk teasing at her lower lip, begging entry. She couldn’t help herself. Her hands finally gathered their senses and realised they had to be somewhere. That somewhere started innocently enough on Tom's waist. Then that wasn’t enough. His insistent attentions on her mouth caused her hands to slip down and suddenly it wasn’t so innocent. She grasped his backside and pulled his hips to hers. She wasn’t as tall as him, not by a long shot but she wasn’t short either. They had always been a good fit. A perfect fit. Tom pulled back, and a low groan escaped his lips.

“Let me say goodbye properly, Katie,” he murmured, his lips touching hers, “Let me remember you like this. As mine.”

“I’m sure this is a terrible idea.”

“I think... it’ll be a better idea than you think.”

Katie didn’t speak again right away. She allowed Tom to kiss her again, let him lick gently at her lower lip, begging entry once more, which of course she allowed. She couldn’t refuse. It was only when Tom drew his lips away from hers and moved his attentions along her jaw and to that spot just below her ear, that she pushed further, her breath hitching a little as she did, “Would you please explain how?”

“I don’t know,” He mumbled the words into her skin.

Katie couldn’t find it in herself to argue. There was a niggle, her brain was trying to remind her that this didn’t change anything. Having sex now, wouldn’t change their situation. This was goodbye. Then her heart agreed with Tom completely. She wanted to remember him like this, as hers. Intimacy had come so naturally to them, she’d always felt so at ease with Tom. When they made love, she felt so close to him. He had to feel the same.

Tom wasn’t doing this to be cruel. He wasn’t just trying to get his end away one last time. He felt just as she did. He was right – this was probably a better idea than it appeared. In fact, it could be the best idea.

“I need you to say yes, Katie,” she’d been so lost in thought, she’d not realised Tom had stopped his ministrations. He was still holding her close, but now his eyes were imploring hers, waiting for her permission.

She nodded slowly, “Yes, Okay.”

Tom didn’t waste another second. Quickly he was shucking his coat, which he’d never removed when he entered the apartment, and dropping it to the floor next to them, and kicking his shoes off into a pile with the coat. Then he gripped her hips, pulling her in for another kiss. She needed to get a hold of her senses, allowing him to pull her about, and move her to his whim.

It was just Tom. She had to remind herself. Just her Tom, who she loved.

With that thought, she got her wits together, gathering the soft knit fabric of Tom’s navy top in her hands, and lifting it up, her knuckles brushing his warm skin as she did. He pulled back enough to allow her to drag it over his head, and toss it into the quickly growing pile of clothes, then she swiftly divested herself of her own baggy jumper.

Beneath she’d foregone wearing a bra, opting for comfort over support, but Tom clearly hadn’t realised. His eyes widened at her bared flesh and he was on her again almost animalistic, pushing her more roughly backwards until she fell back, landing with a gentle bounce and he crawled over her. Together they moved up the divan to get comfortable, hands not leaving the other, and lips hungry.

Katie’s leggings were the next to go, along with her knickers, and Tom’s jeans and boxers followed quickly after. Then there was nothing between them. They pressed together, and Katie wrapped her leg over Tom’s hip, and pressed her centre against him, drawing a moan from them both.

For a little while they simply held each other. Katie traced her fingers over his skin, starting on his shoulder, then down his arm to his hand, where she laced their fingers for a little while, and leant in to kiss his face. Several butterfly kisses to his cheeks, jaw and neck. Then she let go of his hand and danced her fingertips up his spine, to the back of his neck, and there she tangled them into his hair, and pulled his head forward so she could press her mouth to his.

Tom’s left hand as sought purchase on her backside, but now trailed back down over her thigh, he gripped firmly and swiftly rolled her away and onto her back.

“Five?” He whispered the word into the skin just below her ear?

“Huh?”

“Five lovers?”

“Including you,” Katie confirmed.

“I’m so sorry for what I said to you,” He pecked at her neck, catching the delicate flesh between his lips and sucking lightly.

“Please don’t talk about it anymore,” Katie almost pleaded, arching her hips up when Tom’s free hand cupped a breast and his thumb and forefinger plucked at her nipple. She spread her legs, inviting Tom between them, there would be little preamble. This wasn’t about play, neither of them were interested in drawing out the inevitable. It wasn’t even about the climax. This was about the total intimacy of being joined together.

Tom watched her intensely, as he braced himself on one arm over her, and gripping his shaft he ran it between her folds. She didn’t miss how his breath caught in his throat when he felt how wet she was for him. He’d told her once that it was the biggest turn on, that he’d never had a woman get so wet, so quickly. The way her body craved him, drove him mad.

“Don’t cry,” Katie hadn’t realised she was, but it was only at Tom’s gentle request, that she became aware of the returning wetness on her cheeks, “I can stop?”

“No,” Katie shook her head and brought a hand to bat away her tears, “Sorry, I’m just sad.”

“I know, me too,” His voice waivered and in the dim light Katie could make out the slight wobble to his bottom lip, and the shine in his own eyes.  

Tom lined himself up, the tip of his cock just breaching her entrance, and Katie’s hips shook.

“I love you, Tom.”

“I love you too, Katie,” He told her, as he slid home.

 

*

 

It was so early that the sun wasn’t even up yet.

Tom quietly padded around the little apartment. He used the shower, trying to be as quiet as possible. Katie was still asleep, and he didn’t want to wake her until the last possible minute. He knew she’d not been sleeping. She’d looked so peaceful all snuggled up in the thick tog duvet.

He got dressed, and fetched himself some water. Then he checked his phone. Surprisingly there were no messages. It had just gone five thirty in the morning. He knew in order to make it home unnoticed he would need to leave soon, also Bobby would need his breakfast and a walk, he’d already left him longer than he should have. At least he only had the run of the kitchen and dining room. He shouldn’t have caused too much damage.

He hadn’t planned to stay. He’d not planned any of the previous night. But he’d followed his instincts and he knew now it had been the right thing to do.

No, it didn’t make leaving her any easier. Yes, he was still deeply in love with her. But he knew now, he might be able to move on from this, and so would she. They understood each other, they believed each other. Most importantly she didn’t hate him, and although he would never quite be able to get over her lying to him, he didn’t hate her either.

Last night had been special. They’d made love. The first time it was over quickly, almost embarrassingly so. He thought maybe once he’d come down from his climax, they would say goodbye and he would leave. But that hadn’t felt right, and he’d been unable to stop himself pulling Katie into his arms, and holding her close. The proximity had led to more kissing, and another round of love making, the second time she gone down on him. She’d taken her time, practically worshiping his body. He knew she was committing him to memory, as he was her.

Eventually, both sated, he’d held her close, wrapping her in his arms.

He’d planned to hold her for a little while, then part ways. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep. Although upon waking he had no regrets. He felt rested and his conscience felt lighter. His heart ached, but he knew that feeling would last a while.

Now, he knew it was the right time to leave. But not without saying goodbye. He wouldn’t do that, he couldn’t.

So he settled back on the bed, atop the covers and admired her for a moment more. She lay on her side, facing him, since he’d left the warmth of the bed, she’d managed to migrate into the centre. One hand fisted into his abandoned pillow. The sheets which had been pulled up to her chin, had pulled down a bit, exposing her bare shoulder and collarbone. Reaching out he allowed himself to stroke his fingertips along the exposed flesh. She looked small now, curled into herself beneath the covers.

He'd realised last night, when revelling in her body just how much weight she’d lost. He’d made a point of telling her, he wanted her healthy. He’d missed the feeling of digging his fingers into the softness of her hips. It had only been a few short weeks, but she’d dropped enough body fat in that time for him to be able to feel her hipbones when he’d held onto her. Her cheekbones looked a bit sharper, and although still beautiful, he preferred her face that bit rounder.

Katie stirred at his touch, and she rolled onto her back. As she moved the sheets tugged down even more, revealing the top swell of her breasts, and Tom’s eyes followed her movement. Her eyes blinked open and met his, her lips curved into a smile, just before she raised a hand to stifle a yawn.

“Good Morning,” He said, voice soft, and he moved his hand up to cup her cheek.

“Morning, what time is it?”

“Almost six.”

“Early riser.”

“I think I’ve just slept too much these past weeks.”

“I don’t think I’ve slept that well since I left your house.”

“It was wonderful, thank you for last night.”

“Me? I don’t feel like I did anything,” Katie raised an eyebrow, and Tom smirked.

“You allowed me to stay. You allowed me to make love to you.”

“It was perfect,” Katie hummed, and reached one arm out towards him, beckoning him closer. Unable to deny her he allowed her to pull him in, and he brushed he lips gently over hers.

“I have to go, Katie,” He mumbled against her mouth, regretfully.

“I know,” There was no fight in her response. Just acceptance.

“Promise me, you’ll take care of yourself. Get healthy, eat some proper meals, and keep busy,” Tom asked, as he sat up again.

“Only if you promise me the same.”

“Of course,” Tom nodded, sincerely. Then Katie pulled herself into a sitting position, the sheets dropping to her waist and exposing her naked chest. Tom appraised her shamelessly, taking full advantage of his last opportunity to do so, and Katie giggled at how obvious he was. It was a lovely sound, hearing her laugh again.

“I’m going to miss you,” She told him, her eyes shone with tears but her beautiful smile graced her lips.

“I’ll miss you too.”

“Kiss me again?”

Tom couldn’t deny her, not when it was his last chance. He pulled her into his lap, letting her straddle his thighs. He held her, one hand on her hip, the other cupped the back of her head, fingers threaded into her mussed up, bed hair. She held his face in both hands, as they shared what would be their final kiss.

It was sweet, and gentle, but full and passionate.

When it ended, Katie clambered off of him, and only then did she climb back under the sheets and wrap them around herself to cover her modestly, “Would you like me to see you out?”

“No, you stay here, go back to sleep if you can, Darling.”

“Okay,” She nodded.

Tom silently put on his shoes, still discarded next to the bed from the previous night, then picked up his coat, and stood from the bed. He took a few steps towards the bedroom door, before he turned around and looked to Katie one last time. She was snuggled back under the covers, pulling them to her chin and watching him. Her eyes wide and sad.

He forced himself to smile, knowing she would return the gesture. He didn’t want to remember her sad. He wanted to remember her smile.

“Bye, Katie…take care.”

“Goodbye, Tom. Drive safe.”