This is a short bitter-sweet romance set in 1980 and is the perfect place to start your journey through the Six Degrees of Separation Series.
You can read below part of Sally's meeting with the love of her life, but to finish it you will need to sign up to the Readers' Club. You'll then receive a monthly newsletter plus the full version of Lost Love plus other free reading.
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The workshop was not somewhere Sally O’Brien liked to go. She’d heard bad things about the place and worse things about Mr Halcyon, the man who owned it. But her dad needed her to run an errand there, and she could never say no to her father.
Sally pushed open the wooden door with its creaking hinges, peeling pale blue paint and corroded lock. The smell of sump oil and something vaguely metallic but unrecognisable seeped into her nostrils. She hesitated. Holding her breath, she peered into the darkness, bottomless after the bright sunshine outside. Dare she step inside?
‘Excuse me?’ she called. ‘Is anyone there?’
A metallic sound of something being dropped rang out.
Heart racing, Sally stepped inside, and the shadows swallowed her as the door swung shut. All the half-told tales of people never seen again after a visit to the Halcyon workshop seemed scarily real.
‘Hello?’ she called again.
The rolling sound of dolly wheels moving over concrete broke the silence, and then he appeared. A tall, lean silhouette moving easily towards her.
‘Aye. I’m here.’ The Scottish accent was slight but clear. ‘What can I do for you, lass?’
‘I’ve brought something for Mr Halcyon.’
‘You’ve had a wasted journey. He’s nae here.’
‘Oh!’ Unsure what to do next, Sally clutched her dad’s parcel to her chest.
Her eyes had grown used to the gloom, and she could see the man had the top half of his overalls hanging loose. He wore no vest. She gulped, anxious about what her mother would say if she learned her daughter had been alone with a half-naked man.
Immediately, she thought, that was stupid. He’s no more undressed than he would have been on a beach or at the swimming pool. In fact, he’s more covered. Satisfied with her own argument, Sally let her inspection drop to his long legs clothed in heavy-duty material, but then her conscience reminded her she wasn’t on the beach. She was alone in the dark and dangerous Halcyon workshop with a scary stranger.
‘I should go.’ She didn’t move—she was stuck, gawking at the man, unable to stop herself. Her eyes travelled once more to his chest, taking in his muscles; sheened with sweat and marked with smudges of grease. She didn’t think she had seen anything so beautiful in her whole life. Hot with embarrassment, knowing she shouldn’t be having such a thought, Sally forced herself to focus on his head instead. What a handsome face. She could see him clearly now. Strong bone structure. More grease marks, and a storm of dark curls tumbling over his brow. But most of all, it was his eyes—so kind. Deep blue, intelligent, and watchful as he waited patiently for her to say something.
‘I... I’ve brought something for Mr Halcyon. Arthur Halcyon,’ she added, in case the Scotsman thought she meant the boss’s horrible little squirt of a son, Charles. ‘Can I leave it?’ She held out the parcel.
‘I suppose.’ The man moved closer, wiping his hands on the legs of his overalls. He seemed to tower over her, and his lean body looked powerful. Sally ignored the fluttering sensation in her chest and her wish to reach out and touch his skin but shyly inhaled the smell of male perspiration. Different. Not like her dad’s sweat when he’d been doing heavy work at the shop. Not unpleasant ... strangely thrilling. She mustn’t think like that. Good girls just didn’t.
‘Here.’ She pushed the parcel at him.
‘What is it?’ he asked, inspecting it with mild curiosity.
‘I don’t know—something my dad’s done for Mr Halcyon. My father is Connell O’Brien,’ she said, as if he ought to know who Connell O’Brien was.
‘Right.’ He shrugged. ‘I’ll leave it in the office.’ He half turned towards the back of the workshop.
‘Thank you.’ Sally edged away, making for the exit but still wanting a last look at the beautiful man.
He paused, their eyes met as he returned her inspection. Then tilting his head in question, he said, ‘See you around?’
‘Maybe,’ she said, turning to go on her way, a sudden rush of heat flooding through her on a wave of excitement and a crazy desire to laugh.
The door scraped on the concrete floor as she pulled it inward, and her already frazzled nerves leapt as she came face to face with Charles Halcyon.
His wide mouth twitched into a half smile. The sun shining onto his ginger hair gleamed flashes of red, making him look like one of hell’s demons. Which was exactly how her mother described him.
‘Hello, hello .... If it ain’t little Sally O’Brien. You come to see me?’ he asked hopefully, eyes dropping to take in the cotton top she was wearing, or perhaps more likely, speculating what was underneath it.
‘No,’ she said, ignoring her feeling of violation. ‘I was delivering something from my dad, for your father.’
‘Pity.’ He sighed heavily and, leaning against the door frame, blocked her exit. ‘You wanna go for a drink, Sal?’
‘No thanks. I’ve got to go home. My mum will expect me back.’
‘No, she won’t.’ He leered. ‘I just saw her catching a bus into town.’
Sally stammered, ‘D-did I say, Mum? I meant my dad. I’ve got to go to his shop first.’
Chas didn’t give way. A movement behind Sally increased her terror. She was trapped between the mechanic and the workshop owner’s son. The alley behind Chas was empty—no passers-by to call for help.
Shivering despite the heat of the day, Sally jumped as the mechanic’s hand squeezed her shoulder.
‘The lass does nae want to stay,’ he said, his voice soft but firm reverberated through her.
Chas shifted his soulless grey eyes to the space above Sally’s head.
‘Butt out, thistle-arse,’ he snarled. ‘You’re only the hired help around here.’
‘Aye, maybe so, but I can see the lass wants to leave. Be a gentleman and let her pass.’
From the expression on Chas’s face, Sally knew the two men were glaring at each other, and here she was, like a bone between two dogs. What should she do?
Although she couldn’t see her protector, she sensed his power, the controlled strength in his hand still resting on her shoulder and the warmth of his breath shifting the curls on the top of her head. Something inside her was melting; she wanted to lean against the Scotsman’s chest, let him place a protective arm around her ... but that wouldn’t do ... she must think ... think straight. What could she do to get out of this situation? She knew the Scotsman was taller than Chas, and in a fight could probably handle himself just as well. If not better. Skinny, not very tall Charles (call me Chas) Halcyon was not a good specimen of manhood. Even she knew that. But he might have a knife. She knew he carried one sometimes, and she also knew that Arthur, Mr Halcyon senior, would tolerate no one hurting his beloved son and heir. Her Scottish hero would be the loser whichever way this went.
‘Please, Chas.’ Reluctantly, she touched his shirt, resting her palm on his chest, feeling queasy at contact with the thin body hot beneath the damp fabric. She swallowed and tried to make her expression friendly, but not too inviting. She’d seen how Chas looked at her and didn’t want to give him any reason to hope.
Chas turned his focus on her. For a moment, something almost like softness shone in his grey eyes. ‘Only wanted to buy you a drink,’ he said, sounding like a sulky teenager instead of a man in his late twenties.
‘I know,’ she said softly. ‘But I really can’t stay, Chas. I’m sorry.’
‘Another time, then?’
‘Hmm, yes ... maybe. But now, I have other errands to run. You want to walk me out to the end of the alley?’
‘Yeah. All right.’ Chas’s face brightened, and he stepped back, flicking a triumphant look at the Scot.
She stepped out into the alley, not daring to look back.
A few days later, while walking back from the market with her mum’s shopping, Sally heard the loud roar of a powerful motorbike. In the next moment, it rounded the corner and thundered onto the pavement, coming to a sudden stop right in front of her. The engine throbbed. The air smelled of petrol. The leather-clad rider straddling the bike lowered his feet to the ground and lifted his helmet visor. It was the Scot.
to be continued...
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