FEATURE: Kristina Adams

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Kristina Adams is the twenty-something author of What Happens in New York and its sequel, What Happens in London. She also writes poetry and nonfiction, and is currently working on her debut nonfiction book, Productivity for Writers. When she’s not writing, she escapes reality by baking, sewing, or reading.

Excerpt from What Happens in New York: Fame. Fashion. Friendship (What Happens In . . ., Book 1)

‘I really need to pee,’ said Hollie as they sat in their seats waiting for the play to begin.

Fayth frowned. ‘Again? You went before we came out.’

‘I have a small bladder,’ said Hollie, grabbing her bag. Being on edge all day had irritated her IBS, meaning she’d needed to pee even more than usual. ‘I’ll be back in a minute.’ She shuffled past the rest of the row, through the people flocking towards the theatre, and into the toilets. A couple of people stood in front of her. She shifted from foot to foot, her bladder ready to burst. The tannoy warned her there were only a couple of minutes to go before the performance, but she had to empty her bladder beforehand, or she’d spend the whole play thinking about how much she needed a piss.

She reached the front of the queue and dived towards a cubicle as soon as the door was open. The tannoy gave her a one minute warning as she washed her hands. Grabbing her things, she ran back to the balcony, but she was too late. The doors were closed.

She pleaded with the usher to let her in, but he folded his arms and shook his head. No one in once the doors were closed. That was the rule.

‘Shit.’ Hollie stomped away, taking her phone from her pocket and texting Fayth: They won’t let me in -.- x

Fayth replied a moment later: Why not?!

Hollie continued down the stairs towards the bar as they texted. Her fingers kept missing the letters she wanted, so she had to keep deleting messages and retyping them.

Missed the door by

ten seconds x

 

Want me to come join

you?

 

No! I’m not having you

suffering too! x

 

If you’re sure. See you at

the interval x

 

There was no way she was having Fayth waste her money too. She’d join her at the interval and watch the second and third acts with her. It was better than nothing.

Hollie returned her phone to her pocket and entered the bar area. With the exception of a few staff members, it was deserted. ‘Can I get a lemonade please?’ she asked the bartender. He had a blue Mohican that very few people could carry off as well as he did.

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Miss the start?’

‘Yeah,’ she grumbled, leaning on the bar.

‘There’s always one,’ said the bartender.

‘And after the day I’ve had, it would be me.’

‘Why? What happened?’ he asked as he grabbed a glass from underneath the bar and began to fill it from the tap.

‘Airline lost my suitcase,’ she replied.

‘In that case, have a lollipop. On me.’ He reached behind him and handed her a purple lollipop. 

She took it. ‘Thanks. Am I really that pathetic?’

‘Maybe I’m just feeling nice,’ he said. Hollie handed him the money for the lemonade, then sat down at a table for two nearby. Warm from running down the stairs, she removed her leather jacket and the Jack Wills hoody she wore underneath it and hung them on the back of her chair. Desperate to do something to kill the time and without her sketchbook, she took out her phone and opened Angry Birds Star Wars. She wasn’t sure if she could kill the whole time playing it, but it was a start. Pulling a bird Luke Skywalker back, she aimed it at a stormtrooper. She released it, overestimating the trajectory. Her hand flicked out, caught her drink, and knocked lemonade all over the table.

‘Shit!’

She jumped up, snatching her phone out of the way as she stood up the empty glass. Stepping back, she slammed into someone behind her. ‘Sorry!’

She turned around. She’d not just walked into anyone. She’d walked into a super hot guy wearing a leather biker jacket and with startling blue eyes. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but she couldn’t work out what it was.

And she’d introduced herself to him by smacking into him with her arse. Genius.

He chuckled, revealing a handsome smile framed by a five o’clock shadow. ‘It’s fine,’ he said. He held out his hand, and a tea towel landed in it seconds later. Hollie looked up and saw the bartender she’d been speaking to earlier. He shook his head. She stuck her tongue out at him in return.

The hot guy she’d just bumped into put the tea towel on the table and started mopping up the lemonade.

Attractive, well-dressed, and cleaning up after her. What planet had this guy come from?

‘You don’t need to do that,’ she said.

‘Not sure I trust you to do it yourself if you manage to knock your drink over playing on your phone.’ His gravelly voice had a slight Texan twang in the same way that Hollie’s had a Birmingham one – it was noticeable, but only in certain words. And, if he was anything like her, when he was angry.

She took the tea towel from him and placed it on the table. Dragging it towards her, she wiped a pool of lemonade on to her feet. It missed the inside of her boots by less than an inch, landing in a puddle on and around her feet.

‘See?’ he said, shaking his head. He took the tea towel back and continued to clean up after her.

Hollie sighed. ‘Want a drink? It’s the least I can do, since you’re cleaning up my mess.’

‘Can I trust you to carry them to the table?’

‘Nope,’ said the bartender, appearing beside them. He placed a lemonade and a ginger beer on to the table next to them.

‘When the bartender knows your order, that’s when you know you visit somewhere too often,’ he said, returning the soaked tea towel to the bartender.

‘It’s not my fault you like to annoy your best friend before the show. I’ve told you before to get a hobby,’ said the bartender.

‘I’ve got plenty of hobbies,’ he replied, ‘I was just dropping off a book for Liam to read between rehearsals.’

Who was Liam? They couldn’t be talking about Liam York, could they?

‘Liam reads?’ said the bartender.

‘More than you,’ he said, flashing the bartender a cheeky smile. A very attractive cheeky smile.

Hollie held out some money to the bartender, but he put his hand up. ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re both doing my job for me.’ He walked away, retrieved a mop from behind the bar, and started cleaning up the puddle of lemonade.

Hollie moved her stuff from the sticky table and relocated her jackets to a new chair before sitting down. ‘Thanks for your help,’ she said.

‘No problem,’ he said, sitting opposite her. ‘I’m Astin, by the way.’

‘Hollie.’

‘Did you miss the start?’

‘How’d you guess?’

He shook his head again, a look of mock pity on his face. ‘You know, there’s nothing worse than a girl sitting alone in a bar.’

Had he just hit on her? Perhaps the night wouldn’t be such a loss after all.

‘You mean there’s nothing worse than cheesy pickup lines?’ she replied, looking up at him through her long, fluttery eyelashes.

‘Sarcastic and English. Interesting.’

Definitely not a loss.

‘I should warn you: I don’t speak like Giles from Buffy.’ 

‘That’s OK –  I’m more of a Kate Beckinsale kind of man.’ He leaned back in the chair, placing one foot over his knee. 

She met his eye for a second as she spoke: ‘So you like your women in catsuits?’

He smirked. ‘I wouldn’t say no.’

She leaned towards him, resting her head on her fist. ‘I’ll have to keep that in mind for when my suitcase arrives.’

‘Where’s your suitcase now?’

Hollie shrugged. ‘Somewhere across the Atlantic, probably.’

‘Airline lost it?’

‘Yep. My one-of-kind designs lost at sea.’ She sighed, suddenly reminded of her improvised outfit. She crossed her arms over her chest self-consciously.

‘You’re a fashion designer?’ He leaned forwards and placed his clasped hands on the table.

‘I am,’ she replied, folding her arms more tightly. Of all the times for a hot guy to hit on her.

‘Have I heard of you?’

Hollie scoffed. ‘No. I’m not famous or anything.’

‘Did you make what you’re wearing?’

‘Only my jacket. The rest is stolen from my friend and her sister,’ she said, sipping her lemonade.

‘Are they fashion designers too?’

‘No. My friend’s not so into fashion. I had to improvise,’ said Hollie. ‘Your jacket’s Ted Baker, right?’

He smiled. ‘How’d you know?’

‘I recognise the style. I didn’t think you had that in the States.’

‘It’s not as big as it is in the UK. I bought it when I was filming over there a few months ago.’ He liked Ted Baker and English accents. What else from the UK did he like? Five foot three and a half fashion designers, maybe?

She reached over to touch his sleeve, tracing the seam with her finger. He shifted; she caught his arm. Blushing, she removed her hand. ‘Sorry,’ she mumbled.

He laughed. ‘Nothing to apologise for.’ He reached over and picked up her leather jacket from the back of her chair. ‘You made this?’ he said, his hand brushing against her arm. Her skin tingled.

‘Damn, you are good,’ he said, holding the jacket up. ‘I’ve seen designer clothes half the quality of this.’

‘That’s because it’s the same sweatshop crap with a label sewn in.’ She put her hand to her mouth. What the fuck had she just said?

Astin laughed. She relaxed a little. He’d found her outburst funny. That was a good sign, right?

She reached for her jacket, her hand catching his as she took it from him. Her skin tingled again. What was that all about?

‘Half the time you’re just paying for the name,’ he said.

That’s when she realised where she recognised him from. ‘Should you be looking the gift horse in the mouth like that?’ She put her jacket back on, fastening it all the way up.

His cocky expression faltered. ‘You’ve seen the photos.’

She nodded.

‘I quit modelling a long time ago; it’s not for me.’

No wonder it had been so hard for her to place him. It had been years since the Calvin Klein adverts featuring him, singer/actor/socialite/model/businesswoman Tate Gardener, and DJ Jack Cuoco, had been everywhere. She had vague recollections of accidents on Times Square because of said photos.

‘So what do you do instead?’ she asked.

‘Stunt work.’

Hollie lifted her head. She hadn’t expected that one. ‘What kind of stunts?’

‘Combat, climbing, jumps, that sort of thing.’

Her eyes widened. He performed fight scenes. And scaled walls. Then jumped from them. Would he need to be more fit to do that than modelling? Stunt work like that could only be good for someone’s physique.

‘What?’

‘Nothing.’ She blushed, remembering those traffic-stopping photos of him. Not a great time to be picturing someone in their underwear. ‘So you’re a black belt, then?’

‘Yeah.’

‘You’ll have to teach me some moves,’ she said.

‘I can’t promise they’ll be martial arts.’ He smirked.

Her heart skipped. ‘He’s got other moves, has he?’ She tucked her hair behind her ear.

‘You’ll have to wait and see.’

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