There is one particular scene from A Girl Called Malice that I was particularly sad to see go, and it involved a secondary character who I really enjoyed writing. While he did at least get to stay in the story and keep a couple of his scenes, my favourite scene with him never made it past the cutting room floor. Seeing as a whole year has now passed since its release, I thought I would share the scene here with you today.
Please bear in mind this is a scene that never made it past the second round of edits, so is relatively unpolished, and was subsequently rehashed to become the version you'll find in the final, published, version.
So, are you ready?
Then allow me to re-introduce Craig...
Chapter thirteen: Hangover
(taken from an early draft of A Girl Called Malice)
All too soon, the morning after the night before arrived and it struck with a vicious punch. True to their word, the guys hadn't let me pay for anything. And there was definitely champagne involved. I tried to open my eyes but the jackhammers drilling inside my brain morphed into a choir of pneumatic tools so I clamped my eyelids shut again. Feeble and weak, my whimper got stuck in my parched throat.
Welcome to my first legal hangover.
At some point during the early hours, I vaguely recalled stumbling out of the club and into the pre-dawn chill. I didn't remember tripping and splitting my head open though. Nor did I remember getting flattened by a bus but my body definitely hurt enough for both events so I didn't think it right to rule them out. My mouth had a vile fluffy feel to it, as if I'd eaten the balls of cotton wall I generally used to remove my makeup.
The stale taste of booze and cigarettes confirmed that I hadn't brushed my teeth before falling into bed. Whose bed was it though? It certainly wasn't mine; that much I could tell without opening my eyes: the pillow was too hard and the linen didn't smell of summer blossom fabric conditioner. The harder I pushed to remember, the worse the pounding intensity in my head so I called a temporary ceasefire.
Without warning, the mattress creaked and dipped immediately behind me and then a hand grasped my hip, hot and heavy against my skin. I jerked fiercely unleashing a wave of nausea with the force of a tsunami. Movement really wasn't good and I groaned mournfully, barely clinging onto the contents of my stomach. Cold sweat broke out on my forehead and my heart rate tripled. I didn't dare let out the breath I was holding for fear it would open the floodgates yet the thumb stroking the curve of my waist was strangely soothing.
I should probably just be grateful I was safe and warm in a bed as opposed to slumped in a bush or shop doorway somewhere. No way could I go back to sleep though. Not until I knew where I was, and more importantly, to whom the gentle fingers belonged. By process of elimination, it had to be either Craig, Matt, Warren, Ian, or Danny since they were the ones I left with. At least I didn't think I'd left the club with them and then hooked up with somebody else afterwards; that would be bad even for me.
I risked opening one eye and peered through the narrow slit to look for clues. The room was blessedly dark so I opened both eyes then waited for the battering to subside and for my eyes to adjust. Light filtered around the edges of the thick curtains, enough for me to make out wallpapered walls that had seen better days. It looked too formal and high quality to be a regular guy's bedroom—and I'd seen a few bedrooms—plus the room didn't have a homely vibe about it at all.
Admittedly neither did mine but I hoped my situation was the exception rather than the norm. Too smart to be a bedsit, it had the feel of a hotel room. Finally, something made sense. We all worked in the same hotel and since none of the guys knew where I lived, going back to the hotel was the obvious choice. The decor looked too shabby for it to be a room in use but it could easily be one of the staff rooms.
Danny and Warren both lived at home with their parents which ruled them out and Ian shared a flat with his best mate. That narrowed it down to either Matt or Craig. Which one though? My gaze settled on a dark wooden dressing table pushed into the corner with a stool perched beneath it. Draped over the stool was a waistcoat; the same sort of waistcoat all bar staff and waitresses had to wear as part of their uniform. I had one just like it and there wasn't an apron or paper hat in sight.
I peeked over my shoulder to confirm my suspicions and sure enough, I found Craig fast asleep right behind me. Something else to be grateful for, considering some of the creeps and cling-ons I'd ended up with in the past. Craig was a mate, nothing more. Last night alone proved I wasn't looking for a boyfriend, and he hadn't shown any signs of jealousy so I had nothing to worry about. Better still, my car was parked in the car park where I'd left it ready for my discreet getaway.
Ever so carefully, I lifted Craig's hand off my hip and placed it on the mattress. I grabbed the edge of the quilt and tucked it behind me to prevent a draft from waking him as I slipped out. Cold air whipped around me in a frenzy until my skin goosed and made my nipples hard as bullets. Butt naked, a shiver started in my legs and rapidly worked its way up to my teeth.
What the hell?
I clamped my lips together to muffle the insane chattering sound and scanned the floor for my clothes. Another shiny foil wrapper lay on top of a heap next to the bed implying the party had continued once we'd got back. Shame I couldn't remember any of it. Maybe. Beneath the wrapper and intermingled with Craig's shirt and trousers, I finally spotted the hem of my skirt poking out and moved gingerly towards it, hoping to avoid another drumroll in my head.
Blinding lights flashed behind my eyes and the room pitched and swayed. The slightest movement proved too much and standing still was a challenge. Ignoring the fact that I was a death's door, I had to be miles over the drink-drive limit. I'd be a fool to get behind the wheel of a car when I couldn't get dressed without falling over. Even if I walked I'd never make it all the way home, especially in heels, and crawling was simply out of the question. There was nothing else for it, I'd just have to wait it out and deal with the repercussions later. Ideally much later...like never later.
My brain chose to drip feed the major highlights of the day before, the ones I'd spent the night running from without success. It hadn't been a bad dream; I had nowhere to call home anymore. Out of options, I peeled back the quilt then climbed back into the warm nest. The mattress creaked again but this time when Craig's hand reached for me, I gladly accepted it and let him pull me against the firm contours of his body. Hot enough to double as a radiator, his body heat soon saw off the last of the chill.
Snuggled up tight against him, I gave in to the drowsiness and let sleep come. When I next opened my eyes, it wasn't nearly as painful. No jackhammers, no overwhelming urge to puke, just a ravenous thirst and a gurgling tummy. Exploring the rest of my senses, I realised Craig no longer lay curled behind me. I sent my hand out to investigate but found nothing so I rolled over and discovered the bed was empty.
Artificial light shone beneath a doorway and the sound of running water came from behind the wall along with the faint scent of bodywash. I couldn't be bothered to move so I just lay there, waiting. Two or three minutes later, the shower cut off and a damp Craig emerged from a door in a cloud of steam. He came to a stop next to the bed and glanced in my direction.
"Sorry, did I wake you?" he asked, upon seeing my eyes open.
"No-no, I was awake." I sat up and pulled the duvet with me, dragging it up to my chin. The snarky voice in my head laughed at my delayed attempt at modesty. It had a point so I released my vice-like grip and crossed my arms loosely over my abdomen. "Turn the light on if you like."
Craig leaned forward and reached for a switch on the wall. "Are you sure?" he asked, hesitating.
"Yeah." I squinted, waiting for the glare of the full lights. "Go on, go for it."
"OK." He flicked the switch for the lamp instead with its much softer glow then sat on the edge of the bed. "How's your head?" he asked, sounding far too perky as he studied me.
"Um...better than it was earlier."
"I bet." Craig let out a low chuckle that sent stray drops of water running down the nape of his neck. The drops trickled across his collar bone then gathered pace as they ran down his chest and past his navel before getting snagged by the towel wrapped around his waist. "There's some Alka Seltzer in the bathroom, d'you want me to fix you some?"
"Oh yeah, that'd be great."
He nodded and got off the bed but returned seconds later. "That was a pretty wild night last night," he said, handing over a fizzing, hissing, glass of water. "I'm amazed you're awake, let alone able to form a sentence."
"You're telling me," I said, faking a laugh. "To be honest, I can't even remember half of it." And the half that I could remember, I would much rather forget.
"I can't say I'm surprised. I think I'd still be in a coma."
Not sure what else to say, I faked another laugh and raised the glass to my mouth. The bubbles tickled my nose as I downed the foul tasting water in one go. Craig pressed his index finger against the corner of my mouth to catch an escaping drip. Apprehension coiled in my stomach ready to strike. We were getting into awkward territory and a change of subject was in order.
"What time is it anyway?" I asked, making a show of looking around. "It looks like it's getting dark out."
"It is," he said, removing his hand as I'd hoped. "It's half-five, and I'm due behind the bar at six but stay as long as you need."
"Half five?" My shriek combined with my sudden jerk threatened to set off the pneumatic tools again. "How can it be half five already?" I said more calmly. "What happened to the rest of the day?"
"Well we didn't get in 'til nearly five and even then we didn't go straight to bed. Well, not to go to sleep, I mean." A grin played over his lips and a hot flush filled my cheeks. "It was probably gone six when you crashed."
"Crashed? That doesn't sound so good."
"Nah, it was brilliant," Craig said, laughing at the memory. "One minute you were awake and the next you were out cold. The fire alarm could have gone off beside your ear and I reckon you'd have slept through it."
"Oh. Well I was pretty tired." At least one of us could find it funny. "Didn't you say you have to get ready for work?"
"Shit. Yeah, good point." He stood and let the towel fall to the floor, clearly having no modesty issues in front of me. "There's not much in the way of food I'm afraid, I usually get my meals in the staff room," he said, shoving his legs first into his boxers and then into his black trousers.
At the mention of food, hunger replaced the twisting knot in my gut, eliciting a growl to echo the sentiment.
Craig grinned. "I'm sure the kitchen would rustle something up for you and send it up. Do you want me to ask?"
"No, it's fine, I'd best get going." I'd figure out the 'where' part later but after the last night's performance, sleeping in my car was preferable than staying in the hotel.
"You sure?" he asked, sliding his arms into his shirt
"OK. Well there's some biscuits on the shelf there," he said, dipping his head towards a bookcase. "Just help yourself."
"Thanks, Craig." I shuffled to the edge of the bed then swung my legs out. The draft was a stark reminder that I didn't have a stitch of clothing on and I hesitated, torn between dragging the sheet with me or bolting for the bathroom.
Craig paused mid-button and surveyed me using the reflection in the mirror. "Please tell me you haven't gone all shy?" Amusement danced in his eyes. "Not after last night's performance."
The guy had seen me strip tease in front of an audience, shagged me in public, brought me home, stripped me himself and apparently screwed me again yet here I was playing Little Miss Bashful. Ridiculous. A flicker of my old attitude sparked within me and gave me the strength to fling the sheet aside and stand tall. "What do you think?" I asked, pouting back at both of him as I struck a sexy pose.
His eyes widened and he had to cough to clear his throat. "You're looking pretty good to me." He fumbled the next button into the wrong buttonhole. "Too good."
I answered with a giggle and pointed a finger at his shirt. "So I see."
"Huh?" He looked down to inspect his shirt and groaned. While he fixed the buttons into their correct holes, I risked a couple of steps towards my clothes. The world stayed on its axis and the thumping inside my head was bearable so I squatted down and snatched the scant pieces of fabric in my arms then tossed them onto the bed.
What was left of them.
Minus my knickers, I had no choice but to go commando which in a short skirt was nothing short of crazy. My clothing crisis got worse when I lifted my top over my head. It reeked of alcohol, cigarettes and stale perfume. The stench reached into my throat and made a grab for my stomach. I wretched and swayed, yanking the top off my head before drooping over the bed, palms planted onto the mattress as I fought to stay upright.
"Hey are you all right?" Craig raced around the bed with his arms out, poised to catch me if I fell.
"Yeah, it's just...this." I poked a toe at the fabric. Even from an arm's length away it had the power to amplify my headache and crank it up to super-strength.
"Fucking hell, that stinks." He picked up my top then launched it at the door. "Do you want to borrow a shirt of mine?"
"Yeah, I better had." I couldn't go walking around in nothing but a bra, skirt, and high heels. "If you're sure."
He nodded once and crossed to his wardrobe then rummaged through the hangers until he came across a pale pink shirt. "How about this one?" he said, holding the shirt out to me.
"Cheers," I said, stuffing my arms into the sleeves and pulling the oversize shirt on.
"No worries." Craig watched me fasten the middle buttons, leaving the rest open so I could tie the tails in a knot across my midriff. "It looks far better on you than it ever did on me anyway."
"More flattery, huh?" I said, flirting out of habit rather than consciously trying.
"Of course." Craig grinned then checked his watch. "Right, I'd better go. Are you sure you don't want anything sent up?"
"No honestly. I'm just gonna call a taxi and head...off." I'd almost said home.
"OK." Craig turned and walked away but then he pulled up short of the door. "And you're certain you'll be gone by the time I finish?"
"Why have you got a hot date?" I'd said it as a joke but the grin on his face told me all I needed to know. "Eww! Please tell me you're at least going to change the sheets first?"
He tipped his head back and laughed. "You're such a girl. Oh, that reminds me. Your money is in the bedside cabinet." He pointed to the drawer on his side of the bed. "I didn't want to leave all that cash lying around, you know, just in case. Your keys are in there too."
"Excellent, thanks. I'll er... You um..." I swallowed back the bile that made a bid for escape. "Have a good night, yeah?"
"You too." He reached for the door handle and twisted it, flooding the room with bright light from the corridor as he opened the door. "See ya."
"Bye, Craig," I called as he pulled the door shut between us. The moment the latch clicked into place, I sighed and dropped the tough girl routine.