To the Moon and Back - By Jill Mansell

Chapter 1

‘What would you do without me?’

Fresh from the shower, Ellie took in the alluring view from the bedroom doorway. Seriously, could anything beat the sight of a drop-dead gorgeous twenty-eight-year-old male wearing nothing but white boxers whilst clutching a steam iron in one hand and a black skirt in the other?

And to think he’s mine, all mine. She had the marriage certificate to prove it.

‘OK, don’t answer that. I know what you’d do.’ Jamie bent down and unplugged the iron at the wall. ‘Go out wearing a crumpled skirt.’

‘Possibly.’ She fastened the lime-green bath towel securely around her chest. ‘But I don’t have to, do I? Because I have you.’ Reaching across the ironing board, she planted a kiss on the mouth she never tired of kissing.

‘So you’re grateful, then?’ He gave the edge of the towel a playful tug.

‘I am. Very grateful. Thank you, thank you to the moon and back.’

‘Because if you feel like repaying the favor, I can probably think of a way you could do that.’

Regretfully Ellie tapped her watch. ‘But we don’t have time. Look at my hair. I need to get dressed and do my face… wah, no, stop it, get away from me!’ She snatched the skirt and danced out of reach before Jamie could ravish her. Tonight they were going out separately. Along with a crowd of friends from work, she was heading off to a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show where dressing up was mandatory. Hence the black skirt, bought in a charity shop last year and cannibalized with garden shears to give it a zig-zaggy hemline for a Halloween party. It had been lying at the back of the wardrobe ever since but would be just the thing for a Rocky Horror outing, teamed with mad hair, over-the-top eyeliner, and fishnets.

‘Right then, which shirt should I wear?’ Jamie indicated the ones he’d ironed while she’d been in the shower. ‘Blue? Or white?’ He was off to a school reunion in Guildford.

Ellie said, ‘How about the pink one?’ and saw his mouth do that turning-down-at-the-corners thing it did when he felt awkward.

‘I don’t know. Not tonight.’

‘Why not?’

‘Just… because. I’d rather wear the blue tonight.’

She took the fuchsia-pink shirt out of the wardrobe and gave it an enticing waggle. ‘But this is beautiful! Look at that color. Why wouldn’t you want to wear it?’

‘Because I don’t want to turn up and have everyone saying they didn’t know I was gay.’

‘Oh, come on! Just because it’s pink?’

Jamie pulled a don’t-make-me-say-it face. ‘It’s a very gay pink.’

OK, maybe it was, but he could carry it off. ‘I bought it for you for Christmas! You could have taken it back to the shop and exchanged it.’ Ellie shook her head in disbelief. ‘But you said you loved it!’

‘I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Besides,’ Jamie ventured,‘I kind of like it to look at. Just not to, you know, wear.’

‘The color would really suit you.’

‘I’ll wear it soon, I promise.’ He slid the blue shirt off the hanger and shrugged it on.

Men, honestly, what was with them? ‘Right, that’s it, wait until next Christmas. No presents, that’ll teach you to turn your nose up at my choice of shirt. Next year you’ll get nothing at all.’

Jamie broke into a grin. ‘Does that mean I don’t have to buy you anything either?’

‘You just wait. You’ll be sorry. No, get off me!’ Shrieking with laughter, Ellie found herself backed into a corner of the living room. ‘I told you, we don’t have time!’

Jamie snaked his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. ‘Sometimes,’ he murmured persuasively in her ear, ‘you just have to get your priorities right and make time.’

DDDDDRRRINNNGGGGGGGG went the doorbell and Jamie clutched his heart, staggering backward as if he’d been shot. ‘No, no, not fair…’

‘Oh, what a shame. Just as I was about to change my mind too.’ Skipping past him, Ellie went to the window and peered down to the pavement below.

Todd waved up at her. She waved back.

‘And to think he used to be my friend.’ Jamie flung open the window and yelled, ‘You’re early.’

‘I know.’ Todd spread his arms wide, evidently pleased with himself. ‘That’s because you told me not to be late.’

Jamie rolled his eyes. ‘The first time in twenty years he’s been early for anything.’ Raising his voice he called down, ‘Look, we’re kind of busy just now. How about doing us a big favor and just going for a ten-minute jog around the