You're the One That I Don't Want - By Alexandra Potter


Thanks to my wonderful agent, Stephanie Cabot. A big thank-you to Sara Kinsella and Isobel Akenhead, and everyone at Hodder for all their support and enthusiasm. Thanks as always to my mum and dad and sister, Kelly, who have been amazing as ever. I really couldn’t do this novel-writing business without you!

Thanks also to my great bunch of friends on both sides of the Atlantic: Beatrice, Sara, Dana, Pete, Melissa, Rachel, Matt, Tricia, Georgie, Kate and Bev, for cheering me on from the sidelines, making me smile, giving me inspiration and never telling me to shut up when I start talking about plots, characters and deadlines . . .

And finally a special mention for Barney, who sits beside me as I write. Never has there been a finer muse. Here’s to the next one, kiddo.



Venice, Italy, 1999

The summer heat creates a shimmering haze, through which Venice appears like a Canaletto brought to life. The dome of St Mark’s Cathedral rises above the pastel-coloured buildings, with their peeling paint and time-weary elegance. Vaporetti buzz. Tourists throng. Among the crowds, children run in the square, scattering pigeons; men in sharp suits and designer shades sit smoking cigarettes; a guide with his umbrella talks history to a group of German tourists.

And two teenagers. They’re weaving a lazy path across the cobbles, her arm wrapped round his denim hips, his arm slung loosely over her bare freckled shoulder. She’s eating an ice cream and laughing at some joke he’s making as he puffs on his cigarette, waving his arms around and making silly faces.

That’s me and Nathaniel. We just rolled out of bed an hour ago and are spending Sunday in Venice like we always spend our Sundays in Venice: drinking espresso, eating ice cream and getting lost in the cat’s cradle of alleyways that crisscross the maze of canals. I’ve been here the whole summer and I still get lost. Leaving the square, we turn a corner, and another, and another, until now we stumble across a market selling brightly coloured Murano glass and Venetian masks.

‘Hey, what about this one?’

I turn to see Nathaniel holding a mask up to his face. It’s got huge pink feathers and is covered in gold sequins. He does an absurd exaggerated bow.

‘It suits you,’ I giggle.

‘You making fun of me?’ He pulls it from his face and frowns.

‘You? Never!’ I laugh in mock indignation, as he tickles my nose with the feather.

‘I thought I’d get it for my mom.’ He puts it back and picks up another. This time it’s a grotesque one with a long, hooked nose and beady eyes. ‘Or what about this?’

‘No, the first one. Definitely.’ I shudder.


‘Sure.’ I try to mimic his American accent, but my Manchester burr makes me sound ridiculous and he laughs at my rubbish attempt.

‘What would I do without you?’ He grins. ‘Though I think we’re gonna need to work on that American accent of yours.’

‘It’s better than your English one!’ I protest.

‘Awright, luv, let’s ’ave a butcher’s,’ he replies in a jumble of Cockney and Lancashire, and I crack up laughing as he grabs hold of me and silences me with a kiss. ‘Bad?’ He pretends to look hurt.

‘Terrible,’ I say with mock-seriousness as he turns to pay for the mask.

Left standing in a patch of sunlight, I smile happily to myself. For a moment I watch him, puffing on his cigarette, trying to barter with the stallholder. Then, glancing away, I let my gaze drift absently over the market. I don’t want to buy anything – I’ve already got all my souvenirs – but there’s no harm in looking . . .

My eyes fall upon a stall. Tucked away in a shady corner, it’s not really a stall, more a fold-up table, but it’s the old man sitting behind it who attracts my attention. Wearing a battered fedora and with thick black-framed spectacles balanced on the end of his nose, he’s peering at something under a small spotlight. Curious, I slip away from Nathaniel and wander over to see what he’s doing.

‘Buon pomeriggio bello come sei oggi.’ He looks up at me.

I smile shyly. I’m useless at languages. Even after nearly three months in Venice studying Renaissance art, my Italian still only stretches to ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘Leonardo da Vinci’.


‘Yes.’ I nod, meeting his eyes.

They flash mischievously. ‘What is a beautiful girl like you doing here alone u€ng here

‘Oh, I’m not.’ I shake my head and gesture to Nate, who’s having his mask wrapped. Putting it under