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River of Love

The Riverside Club. Exclusive, expensive, understated chic and low lights, drinks that cost a week's salary. So why am I here? I'm here because of a memory, an anniversary memory if you like. My friend Carol nudges me with her elbow, her hands occupied with two glasses. "I know you said this place was expensive, but I almost passed out when they said how much. Two vodka and tonics - eight pounds fifty! Eight pounds fifty, I could buy a bottle for that in Asda!" I take a deep gulp of the cold liquid. "I know, but I'm paying, aren't I? You know why I wanted to come here tonight, stupid really, but I wanted to remember. It was like a dream..." We sit down at a table in a corner overlooking the river as it flows by slowly, the lights from the club windows glinting on the moving water. Carol leans forward, the lights glinting on her red hair. "Tell me what it was really like, I know the basics, of course, but did he just pick you up?" I grin, remembering. "He didn't need to! I saw him, I knew who he was and my knees went, I goggled at him with my mouth open like a goldfish and when he smiled across at me and winked, I couldn't have spoken if you'd paid me." She nods slowly. "I know what you mean,I'd have been the same, but how did you get together? He just walked over and sat down, did he?" I stare out at the water.

"No. He looked at me and I looked at him for ages, or it seemed like that, then he just raised his eyebrows, inclined his head as if to say come over here, I was shaking, but I went over and asked him for his autograph. He smiled and signed my diary and when he saw my name on the inside, he looked up and said it was a pretty name for a pretty girl, and would I like a drink? Two hours later we were in bed, and it was fantastic, but when I woke up the next morning and realised how cheap I'd been, I got dressed and left before he woke up and regretted it like I'd done." Carol eyes me with a sly grin. "You don't regret it, you didn't when you told me later anyway. You rang me at half past ten at night and I screamed when you told me. And if you didn't have good memories, why did you insist on coming back here tonight? Just so you could remember." I gaze at her, and then break into a broad grin. "All right.First thing that morning, I regretted it because I felt like a tart. Plus I couldn't stand the thought of someone like him waking up and seeing me first thing without so much as a makeup bag for repairs to my war paint, and a comb to do something sensible with my hair."

Carol laughs at me. "You could've used his! And his toothbrush...you could have pinched both and sold them for a fortune. A hundred quid for Richie Sambora's used toothbrush! You could've stolen his sweaty T-shirt..I'd have had that myself." I giggle "I couldn't! No, I was worried to death about what he'd think of me when he woke up sober and saw what he'd been with, so I legged it before he opened those gorgeous brown eyes. Yes, yes, all right. I don't regret it, I tell you, anything you've read or heard about his reputation as a lover can be doubled or tripled, believe me! And no, I'm not going into details, not here. Perhaps later..." We have a few more drinks, and I stand at the bar, slightly light-headed, remembering my brief brush with stardom, and smiling to myself as the barman pours two more drinks. Only when a masculine voice beside me speaks does my daydream break. "I'll get those. Are you with someone?" I turn and look up and my mouth drops open. Just like it did a year ago and my powers of speech depart. Richie smiles at me, winks again. "I said, are you with someone? I don't want to muscle in if you're on a date." I shake my head, try three times before my voice comes out audibly. "What are you doing here?"

Richie grins "Buying you a drink...or two if you're alone. Are you real thirsty or do you have a friend with you?" I push his money away and pick up the two glasses. "I'm with a friend and I'd rather buy my own, thank you. Nice talking to you..." I sit down beside a totally incoherent Carol. "He's here...what did you say to him? He's here...I mean, Richie's right over there again...oh my God, he's coming over!" I feel my hands shake and clasp them tightly in my lap. His aftershave wafts gently past my nose. "Is it OK if I join you, ladies? I feel a little like a prize exhibit over there by myself. Hi, I'm Richie...and your name is?" Carol, having gone from fire-engine red to deathly white, mumbles "I'm Carol. Oh God, I'm such a huge fan of yours, I've got all your albums and singles..." He winks "Thank you so much. I'm glad you like them. You changed your hair, Lissy. It's pretty. And I think you lost a little weight also...you look terrific." I try to calm the fluttering butterflies in my stomach. "Thanks. I wanted a change of image, a complete change." Richie's eyes are intent on my face. "It worked, but I thought you looked great before. Why did you run out on me? I was really hurt. You didn't leave me a note of your number or your address, all I knew was your name and England's a big place to trace a girl called Lissy Walker."

Carol splutters "Her name's not Walker, it's Turner! You'd never have found her...d'you mean you really looked?" Richie smiles that lazy smile at her and I watch her blush again. "Sure I did, I looked until I ran out of time. Now why would you give me a fake name as well as run away? Was I so bad to be around? If so...I'd kind of like to make it up to you. Did you ladies eat dinner yet?" I nod, trying to avoid his eyes. "Yes, thanks, we're just having drinks." Carol is almost beside herself, shaking in her seat, she stares at Richie as if she wants to eat him. "I can't believe you're just sitting here talking to us! God, this is so fabulous! I love your last album...well, I love all your albums...I wish I'd got something you could sign..." Richie glances at her. "Go get something then...I'll be happy to sign it. Don't you have a tape or CD in your car you could go and get?" She sighs "We didn't come by car, we came by taxi because of having a drink and it'll take ages to go home and come back." Richie's knee presses against mine under the table. "That's cool, I'm not going anywhere. I'll stay and keep Lissy company." It seems almost rudely obvious to me that he's trying to get rid of Carol in the nicest possible way but she doesn't see it. "Oh, it'd take hours...no, you can sign this page in my filofax, that'll be great...oh wonderful, thanks. Thanks..." She gazes at the scrawling, looped signature with a blissful expression.

Richie reaches into his pocket and holds out a twenty pound note. "Hey Carol, we're a little thirsty here, go get us some more drinks, will you, baby? Whatever you're having, vodka and tonic for Lissy here and a tequila for me. There's no need to rush..take your time...I have some stuff to discuss with your friend here..." Carol goes red, finally getting the hint, takes the money and scurries off to the bar, casting backward glances at us. Richie leans nearer and takes both my hands. "I couldn't believe it when I woke up alone...did I do something wrong? Did I hurt you? Because I sure didn't mean to, and I'd like the opportunity to put it right, if you know what I'm saying. And why lie about your name also? I'm not some dangerous escaped criminal..." I stare at the strong, brown fingers covering mine. "I know that but I felt so cheap...you barely even had to raise your eyebrows and I was in your bed and I didn't want you to regret it when you woke up and saw me." He smiles warmly, nodding slowly as if he understands now. "I see...you thought I'd regret it. Maybe you thought

I was too drunk to know what I was doing...did it occur to you that I liked you? I didn't consider you cheap, I was proud you chose to be with me and I had me a great time being with you. And I mean it...I was hurt when I woke up and you'd gone. I had nothing to tell me it wasn't a dream apart from a trace of your perfume on the pillow....and of course, the real reason I came here tonight."

I stare at him in confusion. "I'm sorry, I don't understand. I thought you'd been on a promotion or a concert or something and that's why you were here." Richie glances up and sees Carol heading back over with a tray of drinks. He stands up abruptly. "Come on...let's go out on the patio and look at the river for a while. I have some private things to say to you, Lissy. Carol? Yeah, we'll be back in a moment or two..." I feel many eyes burning me curiously as he escorts me out and up to the railing. I lean on it, looking at the black glistening water rushing by below me. Richie's voice is soft and caressing, raising shivers down my spine. "I was on a promo, and right now I should be halfway across the Atlantic on a plane going home. David went by himself, I said I had some stuff to do here first...like finding you. Tell me the truth now, what is your name?" I feel myself go as red as I did when he commented on it a year ago. "Lissy Turner. You know what Lissy is short for..." His fingers touch my cheek gently, sliding from my temple to my lips. "Yeah....Amaryllis. Such a beautiful name, I never heard of anyone called that before." I go even redder. "I'm not surprised, it's awful. Greek rubbish, why couldn't I have been called Ann or Mary or something plain like me? Why give me a Greek name with a ridiculous meaning when it would suit a willowy blonde with green eyes much better." Richie's fingers go under my chin, forcing me to look him in the eye.

"You're not plain, and Ann or Mary wouldn't suit you half so well as Lissy does. I like Amaryllis myself, but I won't bug you by using it. If it's Greek, what does it mean?" Involuntarily, I look at the river. "It's even more stupid when you know that, Richie." He laughs softly "I doubt it, I mean, Richie is short for Richard...which means something about strong and brave and comes from a word meaning bear-like, so I'm told. Strong I can go with, brave...well, I don't think so, and I don't think I look too much like Yogi myself. My Dad named me Richard after a garage...a used car sales lot. You can beat that for dumb? Try me...what does your name mean?" I smile then, smile into those warm brown eyes. "All right, if you must know...it comes from the Greek meaning a refreshing stream. See...I told you it was stupid." My body goes into overdrive as he pulls me hard against him, his strong arms round my waist. "It's not stupid. You really want to know what I think of your name and what it means? It's sexy...it's sexy as hell, just like you with your soft skin and your lips apart. You make me want to kiss you." He does so, very gently but the tense way I was holding my body relaxes against him and he murmurs against my mouth "That's better....now you're feeling how I remember you feeling. And another thing, if you're a refreshing stream, Lissy Turner, do I get to go for a swim? You remember I wrote a song about a river once....does that give you any ideas?" Instantly, the fiery memory of what went on between us that night twelve months ago sends every cell in my body wild and I tremble in his arms.

"But I'm being easy again...cheap. You're here and then you'll be gone tomorrow. I don't like being a one-night-stand, Richie and I'll never be anything else. And what about Carol?" He laughs again,teases my throat with another kiss. "In the old days I'd have said sure,bring her along, I can satisfy you both. Now I'm a little more...controlled, and I'd prefer to have you all to myself with no-one to interrupt us. We can make nice for an hour or so if you like, so long as you let her know she'll be going

home by herself. I have twelve months' worth of questions and thoughts about you to get through tonight, as well as a bunch of other things we'll be busy with...and no, I won't be here today and gone tomorrow. I have nothing pressing for a week, and if you'll promise to stay until I wake up in the morning, then I think we should really get to know each other, don't you? I came here tonight specifically looking for you, on the slender hope that fate would be on my side for once. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw you standing at the bar. Do you come in here a lot?" I giggle "No, never. Not since last year...it's far too high class and expensive for me. Why did you come? You didn't really stay here in the hope you'd find me. I don't believe that for a minute." He escorts me back to the table where Carol sits, watching us, her mouth slightly open in total shock at Richie kissing me and having his arm round me. "I came to return something you left behind. Maybe you didn't miss it, but it was all I had to remind me. I haven't taken it off since last year."

Sitting down, it takes me a moment of looking at him to realise he's unfastening a chain from round his own neck. He holds out one hand, and on it is curled a silver rope chain with a tiny guitar pendant. Richie smiles. "Go on..it's yours, you left it by my right boot on the floor. Personally, I don't recall either of us unfastening jewellery but you must have done because you left this behind. A little guitar, and I've worn it all year. It's as cute as you are, I love it...but it's yours." I shake my head and fold his fingers over the chain. "Keep it. Use it as a reminder, I'd never wear it again anyway." Richie grins "Because it has my sweat on it? Jesus, I do shower, you know! OK, I'll keep it because I like it, and thank you, but I won't need a reminder of you if you're gonna be staying with me, will I?" Carol gapes, open-mouthed again, and blurts out "Staying with you? God, Lissy, you're..." I blush, and Richie takes my hand "I hope so. She hasn't said yes yet, but I'm working on it, you know? So Carol...have you been a fan of our music for long?" She talks in a stammering voice, her eyes locked on his face and I can see her hands shaking still. Richie seems at ease, happily holding my hand and stroking my fingers, his thumb sliding between my thumb and forefinger and rubbing it in a manner that can only be described as suggestive. I gulp down the vodka and tonic in two swallows, but when I move, he holds on to me. "You're not running out on me again, are you? Lissy, remember...think of what your name means. Think of what I said outside...you're not cheap and I want you to be with me. Please?"

Who could resist him? What woman in her right mind could possibly reject the hopeful, sexy smile, the eyes with that fire burning behind them and the memory of what we shared a year ago. He smiles again, "Please Lissy...give me tonight and I swear if you stay this time, whatever made you leave last year won't happen again. Please say you'll stay with me tonight...and afterwards." I sit down again suddenly, my legs having given way. "What about Carol? I don't think she should go home by herself in a taxi..." Richie's smile sends Carol into a fit of the shakes again as he turns it onto her full-blast. "I think you and me can maybe escort Carol back to her place in a cab, then turn it right around and go someplace else together. My hotel is pretty cool, but the room's kinda empty and lonely....is that OK with you?" I stare at Carol. She stares back at me and begins to giggle rather nervously. "Yes, Richie, that's fine. Are we having another drink?" He laughs, but his eyes are speaking volumes to me. "Sure...one more, then we take you home and you leave this little lady to my tender mercies, Carol. I have a real strong need to...take a swim later tonight." Carol looks confused. "A swim? In the hotel pool? Oh, you don't mean the river, do you? It'd be a bit cold and dark to swim in the river, Richie." His voice drops to a husky murmur. "Not the river I have in mind....believe me."

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