So here's my new story. Hopefully a bit different to anything else... Enjoy!


Chapter 1.

Lauren had reached a turning point in her life just over a year ago. After her eighteenth birthday, when she'd got so drunk she could barely remember the night, she'd tried to straighten her ways. She wanted things to be different now. She'd had one slip since then and it had only strengthened her resolve to sort herself out. The night of her birthday had scared her more than any other time she'd been drunk and in moments of weakness, when she nearly fell back off the wagon, it was the very few memories she had from that night that she remembered to try and stay strong.

She was now registered at college on an art course and she loved it. She got a thrill every morning as she left the square and caught the tube into London. She enjoyed sitting on the trains and people watching as she made her way across the city. Quite often she'd find herself opening her sketchpad and making rough drawings of people she saw. It was a useful way of her practising her skills, refining them for her course.

College was so much better than going to school had been as she could come and go as she wanted and she loved it. Even better though was the fact she was apparently quite good and she'd already started checking out other art classes at the college she could take next year.

It was nice to get away from everyone she knew for a few hours each day. To not be Lauren Branning, former wild child with alcoholic tendencies and just be Lauren Branning, nineteen year old art student with many possibilities for the future. She'd transferred to the college at the beginning of the school year after dropping out of school just after New Year and because of the work she'd done while she'd been at school she had enough credit to get herself admitted to the course. She was hoping that next year she'd be able to take more classes. For this term she was doing only a couple of courses but she found herself at college every day, spending time in the studios while she worked on various projects she had on the go. This was what she was doing today and as she stepped off the tube and began to walk out of the station she could feel the bubble of excitement growing within her; it was the same feeling she got every time she walked towards the college.

Lauren smiled as she stepped off the escalator and took the last few steps out of the station. She got distracted briefly as she moved out into the damp British weather and pulled her leather jacket round her a little tighter. She collided with someone and threw an apology over her shoulder as she continued on her way. She jumped when a hand grabbed her shoulder and she looked behind her startled.

"You dropped this..." The guy told her, holding out her sketchpad towards her.

"Oh god... thanks so much. I didn't even realise I'd dropped it." She smiled at this stranger but he just stared at her. She took the sketchpad but realised he wasn't letting go. "I actually need it back." She said softly and watched as his face flushed and he released it quickly. "Thanks again." She said and turned back towards her destination.

"Do you want to go for a coffee... or are you in a rush?" he called out to her, attracting her attention.

Lauren paused and thought about what he'd said. "That'd be good." She agreed. "It'd be nice to warm up a little." She turned to him again and smiled at him. This time he smiled back and he took her breath away. She tried to memorise every detail of his face, knowing she'd want to get it down on paper later.

They headed into a nearby coffee shop and he ordered them both a coffee. Lauren found a table near the back of the shop and she sat, watching him as he waited for their drinks. He really was good looking, actually that was an understatement. Would it sound wrong if she said he was beautiful? She wondered if he knew just how good looking he was and was arrogant about it. She hoped not or it would be a very quick coffee. Minutes later he joined her at the table and placed the large coffee in front of her. He sat down and she found herself staring at him again. He probably thought she was a stalker or something.

"So, you draw then?" He asked her gently, trying to start a conversation.

"Yeah. I go to college down the road."

"Don't you have a class to get to?"

"No. I'm just going there today to work on some projects."

"Can I see?" He asked, nodding towards her sketchpad.

"Umm." She wasn't sure. She was very protective of her work and she wasn't sure she wanted someone telling her they were no good. He seemed nice but showing people just wasn't something she'd been able to get her head around yet. She always felt mildly uncomfortable, even when her teachers reassured her that her work was good.

He sensed her hesitation and decided to give her an out. "Sorry. You don't have to show me if you don't want to."

"No, it's fine. Sorry... it's just not something I'm comfortable with." She explained as she looked down at her coffee. "I haven't been doing art very long, it's a bit new for me when people see my work. Only my teacher's have really seen it so far. When I draw, it's like putting a bit of myself down onto the paper."

"I'm sure they're good." He said. Lauren shrugged. Taking a deep breath she picked up the pad and held it out towards him. "Are you sure?" he asked as he took it from her. She nodded and bit her lip as he opened the cover. He was silent for several minutes as he slowly flicked through the pages. He looked up at her face, "These are really good."

She took a sip of her coffee, pleased with his words, "They're just sketches, nothing serious. I've done better."

"Do you just do pencil drawings?" he asked passing her the sketchpad back once he'd finished looking at them. He seemed really interested in what he was asking her.

Lauren thought about how nice he seemed, her initial concerns had been wrong apparently. She feels her cheeks heating slightly and she smiles slightly as she answers him, "I paint as well. Using charcoal or chalk are my favourite mediums though. I like the contrast of black and white against each other."

"If these are just sketches, I'd love to see your actual work." He said and she blushed deeper. "Sorry, I just realised I don't even know your name." He said. He put his hand out towards her, "My name's Joey." He said with a smile.

"Lauren." She said, taking his hand and shaking it. The heat of his hand caused the intensity of the warmth in her face to increase. "Weren't you supposed to be going somewhere before you saved my life by bringing me back my pad?"

"I was just going home from a friend's. A messy night last night." He explained with an impish smile.

She was surprised by the pool of disappointment that formed as she absorbed his words about his friend. It wasn't like she had any reason to be jealous, was there? This friend could be just what he said, a friend. Or it could be a girl... who's more than a friend said that naughty little devil that made her doubt herself. She turned her focus back to him after mentally shaking herself. "So you live near here?"

"Not far." He said, a soft smile on his face as he studied her.

"It takes me ages to get here from home." She smiled softly though, "Gives me time to watch people though and I sometimes sketch them."

"So will I become one of your sketches?" he asked her cheekily, a smirk on his face which grew when her face flushed again.

"Possibly." She admitted softly, unable to meet his eyes.

"I look forward to seeing it then." He stated, taking her breath away with his words.

"I might let you." She said before she finished the rest of her coffee. "I really need to get going." She told him softly.

He gulped down the remainder of his coffee and walked with her out of the shop. Lauren blamed the coffee for the warm fuzzy feelings she felt. It didn't have anything to do with his hand on her back as he moved with her back onto the street. "It was nice meeting you, Lauren." He said.

"You too, Joey." She said.

"Can I see you again?" he asked her and for the first time she saw a slight vulnerability in his demeanour.

"That would be nice." She responded, smiling at him. She put her hand in her pocket and pulled out her mobile. "Give me your number and we can sort something out." She suggested. He handed her his phone and she quickly programmed her number into it. She felt a slight tingle in her hand as they exchanged mobiles again and their skin connected.

Lauren walked away from him with some pretty intense feelings whirling through her body but she tried to bury them. She wasn't going to hear from him again. She wasn't that lucky. Her confidence in her abilities with guys was a bit of a sore spot for Lauren. She just didn't seem to have any luck when it came to the opposite sex. The only time she got together with someone had been when she was drunk and most of them had been scumbags. On top of that they'd been bad decisions as well. Her only real relationship experience had been with Peter Beale and that had ended a long time ago. Even he'd hurt her and hadn't treated her as well as she thought he should. So the prospect of meeting someone new was both scary and exciting.

She walked into the art room and immediately felt at peace. This was where she went to relax and unwind. This was her haven.


A/N: So what did you think? Did you like it? Let me know... I might be persuaded to post another chapter tonight.