Couldn't resist Mark's charms, eh? Well, he had been pretty persistent, and he seemed pleased when you said yes. Maybe he's got hidden depths...

News of Nita and Jay’s engagement doesn’t surprise anyone. They’ve been together so long everyone had almost given up on them ever taking the plunge. But you and Alice receive the news with knowing smiles, and toast to the inevitability of marriage.

You know Charlie will be at their impromptu engagement party on Saturday night. You hope it’s all okay. You haven’t seen him since those drunken texts in Chapter One. As you wait for Alice to return from the bar with your drinks, you see him arrive. It takes him a second to spot you, but as soon as he does he crosses the room to you and you greet each other like the good friends you should become.

Surrounded by their friends, Nita and Jay tell the story of him asking her dad for permission, grudgingly given as soon as Jay had given reassurances that yes, she could continue to work, and yes, they definitely wanted children, and no, they had no plans to emigrate. To much laughter they ran through their families’ reactions to the news. Although his family is from the wrong part of India, her mother was pleased because ‘well, at least he isn’t white’. Their siblings, on both sides, were relieved at this proof that Jay wasn’t gay and that Nita had found a man who wasn’t put off by her workaholism.

They’re planning a spring wedding. ‘As soon as possible,’ says Jay.

‘God knows you’ve waited long enough to get around to it,’ says Charlie, ‘I’m glad you’re not going to be one of these couples that are engaged for ever before you finally get married.’

You all toast to their long wait – and their long future together – for the umpteenth time that evening.

It’s nice to see Charlie but your heart doesn’t exactly skip a beat.

  Joan’s cappuccino moustaches wiggles amusingly as she says, conspiratorially, ‘You know everyone’s talking about you don’t you?’

You do the decent thing and gesture at her frothy ‘tache. ‘Why?’ you ask.

‘Thanks’ she says, wiping her mouth. ‘Well, you were on the back of his scooter.’

‘So what? He lives near me, big deal.’

‘If you say so. And this drink you’ve arranged, just the two of you?’

‘He owes me, that’s all. It’s purely platonic.’

‘Okay Sarah. I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t.’

You roll your eyes, pretending to be cross. The fact is, you don’t really care if people gossip about you at work. First of all, there’s nothing to gossip about. Secondly, if there was a rumour going around that there was something going on between you and Mark, so what? He’s hot. It only reflects well on you.

If you really liked him, in a serious, heartfelt way, it might bother you to be gossiped about. The only effect Joan’s rumour-reporting has on you is to remind you that Mark is only to be pursued for fun and flirtation. Nothing serious, and nothing to be ashamed of.

 You arrive at his desk at 5.01pm exactly, completely unashamed.

‘Ready for that drink?’

‘I am indeed,’ he says. ‘Let’s go.’

‘Where are you taking me then?’ you ask, enjoying the silent looks exchanged by the rest of the Finance team.

‘I thought we could go to the Rockwell Bar. Sound okay?’

‘Sounds great. I couldn’t afford to drink there at the moment... I can barely afford to eat since I’m having to spend so much on dental work.’

‘All right already!’

You laugh, and let him off the hook. ‘I know, I know, you’re really sorry.’

He knows you’re not that mad or you wouldn’t be there, let’s face it. The cost of the dental work does rankle a little. You almost wondered if he would offer to pay for it. But you’ve made so many comments about the cost he’s probably afraid to, in case you take him up and he can’t afford it. Anyway, it’s called an accident for a reason. He might have been somewhat at fault, but he didn’t exactly crash on purpose.

What’s more, cocktails are a much more fun form of compensation. After the first caiprinha you compare bruises. Mark’s black eyes are now a lurid yellow-y green, and the graze on your elbow is properly scabbed over.

‘You didn’t come off to badly, did you really?’ he says, examining it closely.

‘That’s not the half of it!’ you exclaim. ‘I’m black and blue underneath my clothes.’

‘Oh really?’ he asks, looking you up and down. ‘In places you can’t show me?’

You nod.

He grins. ‘Not in a public place anyway.’

‘Tch! Not anywhere, Mark. Don’t be inappropriate.’

From your smile, and the way your gaze rests on his lips before sweeping across his broad chest, Mark can probably tell you quite like him being inappropriate.

After 4 – or was it 5? You’ve lost count somewhere along the way – caiprinhas you decide it’s probably time to make a move. The chilli prawns and vegetable tempura were great, but not really substantial enough to soak up all that rum.

 On leaving the Trafalgar you look for a cab together. Mark is convinced the Mall is a better place to pick one up than Trafalgar Square. You disagree, but keep your opinion to yourself – the walk to the Mall will take you down a little snicket that’s just perfect for snogging in.

Great minds think alike. As you head down the alley, Mark stops, and takes both your hands in his.

‘Am I forgiven yet?’ he says, pleadingly.

‘Hmmm... I’m still not sure,’ you bite your lip and look as if you’re really giving it some thought. ‘I don’t know if you’ve made it up to me yet, you know.’

He pulls you towards him and looks you in the eye, as he says, ‘I wonder how I can make it up to you.’

And then he kisses you. At last you get to find out if Mark is as good a snog as he is a flirt. In fact he’s better, sexy and predatory, and it all gets really heated, really fast, the two of you pressed against the wall, tongues probing and hands fumbling at buttons.

‘Woah,’ you say, stepping back for a deep breath.

‘I know. God you’re sexy Sarah.’

You smile, drunkenly. ‘Hey, thanks.’

‘Let’s find that cab.’

You don’t have to wait for long and are in the back of a black cab speeding up Charing Cross Road within minutes. There’s no discussion about where you’re going, and you take it as read he will come to your place. Sitting side by side in the cab, you don’t kiss, or speak, but just snuggle in a little closer to him. His hand slips gradually down, from your shoulder to your breast, first over your shirt, and then, with some careful manoeuvring, inside your bra. Your right hand creeps slowly up his thigh, to brush against his rock hard erection. By the time you get to your place you’re weak at the knees with anticipation.

It isn’t till you’re rolling around naked in your bedroom that you realise you’re missing something crucial. Condoms. You turn the bathroom upside looking for some, but to no avail. You knock on Alice’s bedroom door and ask her – unembarrassed – if she has any, but she’s out. She tells you with a smile she used her last one this afternoon with Jamie the builder. You tut, more at the fact you have no condoms than that she’s still fooling around with that married man.

‘Any luck?’ asks Mark eagerly, as you re-enter the bedroom. He’s reclining against the pillows, stark naked, his manhood standing to attention, undaunted.

You shake your head with genuine regret. ‘And my corner shop shuts at 10, so that’s no good.’

‘Shame,’ says Mark. ‘Come here, let’s see if we can work something out.’

Removing your dressing gown he sketches out the solutions he has in mind. Well, there’s just one. And it’s not really a solution, as such. He thinks you should do it anyway. He promises to withdraw. And ‘worse case scenario’, he’ll pop to the chemist first thing and get you the morning after pill.

Ten minutes ago you were so hot for him you would have jumped at this suggestion. But you’ve had time to cool down a little.

‘Come on babe,’ he says, ‘I promise to be really careful....’

 

Well? Do you...

Have sex – go to Chapter Six V to face the consequences.

Stop there – go to Chapter Six VI to face the consequences.