24 Hours: An intense, suspenseful psychological thriller

24 Hours: An intense, suspenseful psychological thriller by Claire Seeber Read Free Book Online

Book: 24 Hours: An intense, suspenseful psychological thriller by Claire Seeber Read Free Book Online
Authors: Claire Seeber
agreed. Nervous wreck, he no doubt thought. He scooped up the fork and went through to Robin, returning with a new one that he handed me.
    ‘Thanks. Please, have some cake,’ I said, without thinking. ‘I can’t eat it all anyway.’
    I nodded slowly, already regretting my haste. ‘Yes, please – if you’d like.’
    ‘I would like,’ he sat down. ‘Thanks.’
    At least this time the table was bigger so our knees weren’t jammed so intimately against each other. As soon as he sat, my mind went blank.
    ‘Do you come here often?’ I said, and then felt daft.
    He grinned. ‘Not really – but I’m planning to.’
    ‘Sorry,’ I said, embarrassed. ‘I was being … silly.’
    ‘I like silly,’ he said. ‘Silly’s good, in my book.’
    Cursing my thin skin, I tried not to blush.
    ‘Mal Cooper,’ he offered his hand.
    ‘Laurie Smith,’ I took it, looked at him properly. He looked … healthy, somehow. Totally different to Sid, who was pale, interesting and constantly dishevelled. This man was scrubbed and fresh, slightly tanned – and strangely familiar somehow.
    ‘So, you live nearby?’
    ‘Yes, with my daughter.’ I felt odd saying that. ‘But not with her dad.’ Oh God. ‘I mean, we used to. Live together.’ Shut up now, Laurie . I spent my days counselling people in situations like mine, yet when it came to my own life, I could barely speak. ‘Have you got kids?’ I blundered on. I looked at his finger. No wedding ring. But … was there a slight indent on his left hand? A narrow stripe of paler skin where it should have been?
    He was still talking.
    I shook myself. ‘Sorry.’
    ‘I was saying, yes. One boy.’
    ‘How old?’
    ‘Just seven.’
    ‘Nice age. Polly’s six.’
    ‘What school does she go to?’
    ‘St Bede’s.’
    ‘Oh, we’re hoping to get Leonard in there. We’ve left it a bit late though. We’re having to schlep right across town at the moment.’
    We . I popped the most extravagantly-iced piece of cake in my mouth and began to gather my things.
    ‘Well, I must get going actually.’ I was falsely bright. ‘Please, finish the cake.’
    ‘When I say we, I mean my ex and I.’
    Did I relax visibly? I sat back for a moment. There was no rush, I supposed. ‘I see. So what brought you here?’
    ‘Work, really. That and the need for a change.’
    ‘What do you do?’
    ‘I’m in IT.’
    ‘Oh right.’ Dull. But safe. ‘I’m not very …’ I searched for a polite way of saying it, ‘good with computers—’
    ‘Interested in them, you mean.’ He smiled. ‘Why would you be? Pretty boring things really.’
    ‘You said it.’ I smiled back. ‘Not me.’
    ‘Doesn’t mean we’re all boring though. The IT crowd.’
    ‘Oh, very good.’
    ‘I try my best. And I do love that show.’
    ‘Yeah, it’s good. So where do you work?’
    ‘In the city. I’d rather work in the countryside, I think. I must be getting old. The city’s so … I don’t know. Full on, sometimes.’
    ‘Yes, I know what you mean. So, whereabouts? No, let me guess. Canary Wharf?’
    ‘Bank actually. Near the actual Bank of England.’
    ‘That sounds very posh.’
    ‘It’s not.’ His hand hovered over the last piece of cake. ‘Not posh at all. Just lots of suits.’
    ‘And money. Have it,’ I pushed the plate towards him.
    ‘Fake money. If you insist,’ he grinned, and polished it off before I could. His phone beeped. ‘Sorry,’ he checked it quickly. ‘Got to collect Leonard. My day.’
    ‘No worries.’ I wrinkled my nose. ‘Something I’m getting used to, this single parent-dom.’
    ‘It’s hard, isn’t it? Takes some getting used to indeed.’ He stood now, buttoning his jacket. ‘It was very nice to meet you properly, er …’ he looked abashed. ‘Oh God, sorry.’
    ‘It’s okay. It’s Laurie.’
    ‘Of course,’ he clapped a dramatic hand to his head. ‘I’m rubbish with names.’
    ‘It’s fine, really.’
    As he turned to go, I spoke in a

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