Excerpt for The Retreat (A Clean and Sweet Romance Novella) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Retreat

A Clean and Sweet Romance Novella

By Veda Whitfield

Copyright 2017 – Veda Whitfield

Smashwords Edition

This is a book of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents are all products of the author’s imagination or are used factiously.

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Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine


She is a calm, health conscious yoga instructor. He is a wild, party loving, drunken, billionaire celebrity. Their lives are perfectly mismatched… or not?

Tamara Hope, health food specialist and yoga instructor, is all about living a balanced and healthy life and has recently opened her very own health retreat, where she meets Thomas.

Thomas Winter is a party-loving billionaire, who lives his life to the extreme – boozing, sex, and socializing. He can think of nothing worse than going on a retreat, but his agent promises him it will do his media image good.

Tamara and Thomas are like oil and water. He’s everything that she hates in a person, and he’s constantly teasing her about her lifestyle. She cannot wait for the week to be over. And yet… there’s something about him that makes her want to change him. But can someone like Thomas be changed? Does he even want to change? Should he be changed?

Chapter One

“Okay, everyone, you’re almost done. Now, take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. And again, a deep breath in and a deep breath out. One more time. And relax. Well done, class, you did great today. It’s always difficult coming to yoga on a Monday, but it’s a great way to start the week. Have a lovely day, and I’ll see you tomorrow,” Tamara said as she looked lovingly at her class. It had been a packed one that morning, which was always a pleasant surprise. She remembered when she first started teaching yoga. There had been three people in the class. Now, there were twenty-five.

“Hi Tamara. Thanks so much for class today.”

“It’s an absolute pleasure. Well done on being so dedicated. You’ve been here almost every day since you started,” Tamara said to Chantal. Chantal had been so nervous on her first day and had gone to the very back of the class to try to hide from everyone. But now, she was right up in front and joining almost daily.

“I didn’t think I’d love it this much. Also, when I first joined, I was so worried that everyone was going to be watching me. I thought I was going to make the biggest fool of myself.”

Tamara laughed. That was the biggest reason people didn’t want to join yoga. They were just so afraid. “And now, you realize that nobody cares about anyone else but themselves. Everyone is concentrating so hard on their own postures that they don’t even see the person next to them. Well, you’re doing great Chantal. I’ve noticed a big difference in you already.”

“Really? That’s good to hear. I feel different.” Chantal beamed. “Well, anyway, I just wanted to say thank you. Have a great day, Tamara.”

“You too Chantal. Oh, and before I forget, here’s a pamphlet for the retreat I’m starting. If you want to come, then just pop me an email or let me know when you come in again. We only have space for a few, but we’d love it if you could join.”

Chantal took the pamphlet and grinned. “Oh cool. I remember you saying that you wanted to do this. I’m glad you’re going ahead with it. Just put my name down. I’ll bring the money in tomorrow to pay. I definitely want to come.”

Tamara wanted to reach over and hug her. She was trying to act nonchalant about the whole thing, because she didn’t want anyone to know how nervous she was. What if she put the whole thing together and nobody came? Knowing that Chantal was coming was a huge weight off her shoulders. “That’s great news, Chantal. I’ll definitely put your name down.”

“Think there’s space for another two? I have two friends that would love something like this. The only reason they don’t come to yoga is because of their funny working hours. But I’m certain they could get time off for the retreat.”

“That sounds wonderful. Just let me know as soon as you can,” Tamara said. She didn’t want Chantal to know that she was the only one that had said yes, so far.

“Great. Thanks, Chantal.”

Tamara walked off, beaming to herself. She had one person, or possibly three, already secured for the retreat now. As long as she had a minimum of six, she’d be happy. Of course, if she managed to get more, she’d be over the moon, but she’d told herself that six would be good. The retreat was starting in a few weeks, so she needed to start advertising for it. The only reason she had taken so long to spread the word was because she was nervous. She walked out and went to the little café across the road, where she always went after her morning class. Her second class began in two hours, which gave her the perfect amount of time to get some breakfast and a well-needed cup of coffee. When she wasn’t doing yoga, she held health courses at the café, so all the workers knew her well. The moment she sat down, Wendy, whom she saw so often she now considered her a friend, came up to her with a cappuccino.

“One cappuccino with almond milk. Your breakfast is on its way,” Wendy said. Wendy knew exactly what she was going to order, because she had the same thing every single day. When she’d first started going to the café, she had experimented with a bunch of different options, but she had finally settled on her favorite – two poached eggs, half an avocado, spinach, bacon, and baby tomatoes. She was all about a big healthy breakfast to start the day, and she had plenty of time to let her stomach settle before her next yoga class.

“Thanks so much, Wendy.”

“How did today’s class go? I wanted to come, but then John called in sick, so I had to do his shift,” Wendy said and sat down beside her. The café was quiet, and the boss had no problem with the staff members sitting with Tamara as long as they got up when someone walked in. Tamara was almost a staff member herself, anyway.

“Full class today. We were even a bit squashed.”

“On a Monday? Wow, people are dedicated.”

“Or maybe my class is just that good?”

“I think you’re right there!”

Tamara laughed. “No, I’m just kidding. I doubt it has anything to do with me. Probably because summer is around the corner. Everyone is desperate for those summer bodies, now.”

“Don’t put yourself down. You’re an amazing teacher. You’re the only reason I got into yoga in the first place, anyway. Seriously.Any cute guys in the class today?”

Tamara chuckled. The two of them were single, and while Tamara had no interest in finding a man at the moment, Wendy could talk of nothing else.

“Yeah, a few actually. I’m getting more and more guys coming to the class now, which is pretty cool.”

“Right, that’s decided then – I’m coming to tomorrow’s class. Although, they’re probably just coming to ogle at you. I’m going to have to up my game tomorrow. I got these really short shorts, which I think will do just fine for this occasion. Do me a favor and try not to look so great tomorrow. Maybe don’t wash your hair. Or wear some old clothes.”

“Oh, please, Wendy. You’re gorgeous, and you know it. Anyway, you have all the guys falling at your feet, not me.”

“Yeah, but that’s because you’re not interested. I, on the other hand, am very interested. Very interested indeed.”

Just then, another waitress walked over and placed the food in front of Tamara. It looked amazing. “Thank you. This looks so good.”


“Do you need me at all?” Wendy asked. She was obviously not at all interested in going to do her work. Luckily, the place was quiet, and the other waitress told her that she had it covered.

Wendy gleaned at Tamara, “Phew. I would so rather sit here with you.”

“I’m glad too. Hey… I just remembered… didn’t you have a date last night?”

Wendy groaned. “Don’t remind me.”

“Oh dear, that bad?” Tamara asked, while tucking into her eggs. They’d been done just right and oozed out onto her plate. Wendy pulled her nose up as she always did when Tamara ate her eggs. Wendy couldn’t eat eggs that were even slightly runny.

“Yeah… the date was a disaster. I probably should’ve known, though. There were so many signs. But I thought I’d give him a try.”

“You thought you’d give him a try, because he was so good looking. You chose to ignore everything else.”

“Yeah, you got me. But man, he really was good looking. And I am referring to him in the past tense, because the more I got to know him, the worse looking he became. He practically spoke about himself all night, which I don’t really mind all that much. I mean, I know people do that when they’re nervous. But he didn’t even have anything interesting to say. It was so incredibly boring. Mostly, it was about his gym routine. Seriously? Why would I be interested in his gym routine? Oh, and he told me that he gets girls so easily. Yeah, he actually told me that. Oh, and then… get this… he ordered for me!”

“What? No way! He actually ordered for you?” Tamara giggled. It was one of the reasons she enjoyed coming to the café so much. Wendy always had the best stories to tell. Tamara’s life was so boring in comparison. “What did he order?”

“Well, he chose steak and fries for himself, and then he said, ‘and the lady will have the same but with a salad’ – I’m seriously not kidding here. I mean, I should write all this down and write a novel one day.”

“You know, that’s not a bad idea. You have so many stories. I’d totally read your book.”

“I might just do that. So… I’m coming tomorrow to scout out some of those yoga boys. Surely, guys that go to yoga can’t be so into themselves. I think you should tell the class how well I’m doing too. It might make the boys notice me.”

Tamara giggled. “I can do that.”

“So, how about you, then?” Wendy asked, and Tamara groaned. She knew where this was going.

“What about me?” she asked, pleading innocence.

“Oh, come on, don’t play that game with me. Anyone you’re interested in at the moment?”

“Well, considering I saw you two days ago – well, no. Nothing has changed. I’m not sure when I would’ve found the time to meet someone between then and now. Also… you know I’m not interested.”

“How can you not be interested in finding a man?”

“Because I’m perfectly happy being alone.”

“Uh… you do realize you’re twenty-nine?”

“Yes, what has that got to do with anything?” Tamara asked casually.

“Does it not freak you out that you’re turning thirty this year and you haven’t found a man?”

Tamara laughed, “No. Why would it freak me out? I don’t need a man to make me happy. I have far too much going on in my life at the moment, anyway. I’ll figure that out in a few years.”

“A few years!” Wendy said. She didn’t even bother to hide the look of horror on her face.

“Yeah… a few years. Let’s say two, at most, then. By then, I’ll be more than ready to look for love.”

Wendy rolled her eyes. “Seriously? You are not right in the head. You know that?”

“I’m okay with that.”

“Come on… why don’t we go on a double date?”

“What? With who?”

“I don’t know. I’m sure we can find someone. Maybe two guys from the class tomorrow. Come on, it will be so much fun.”

“I think you and I have a very different version of fun.”

“Tell me about it. Anyway… I’ll twist your arm one of these days. Maybe I need to get you drunk, first. Yes! Now that’s a good idea.”

“You really don’t know me very well, do you? You know I don’t drink.”

“I’ve seen you drink!”

“Yeah, I mean, I’m not against it. I’ll have the odd glass of wine. But to be honest, I haven’t had a drink in ages. I can’t remember the last time I had one. I’m just too busy.”

Wendy whistled. “We really need to change that. But… I’m not going to push it. I know what you’re like. You’re already getting all uptight and defensive on me. But don’t underestimate your good friend, Wendy, here. I will make a plan.”

“I don’t doubt you’ll try. But never underestimate your good friend, Tamara. I’ll be onto you.”

Wendy laughed, “Anyway, enough about boys. Tell me about your retreat. Have you decided to go for it? I so wish I wasn’t working that week. You know I’d be there in a heartbeat if I could be!”

“I know. But yeah… I’m doing it. I started handing out pamphlets today. I already had one girl say yes, and she wants to bring two people with her. So, hopefully, that’s a good sign. Like I said, as long as I get at least six people, I’m happy.”

“Oh, I’m so sure you will. Do you have some pamphlets with you?”

“Yeah, do you want one?”

“Give me a whole bunch. I’ll give them out to customers today.”

“Really? Ah, that would be amazing. Thanks, Wendy.” Tamara reached into her bag and handed Wendy a stack. Just then, a group of people walked in and she groaned.

“Damn, I have to go. But I’ll see you tomorrow. Remember… be nice to me in class.”

Tamara giggled. “I will.”

Wendy went to attend to the new people, while Tamara ordered a cup of tea and sat for a little while longer. She overheard Wendy telling people about the retreat, and she couldn’t help but smile. Wendy was a good friend. When she walked out, Wendy gave her a big thumbs-up. She went back to her studio to get ready for the next class and thought about what they had spoken about. Wendy was always going on at her about finding a man. She just couldn’t understand why Tamara wasn’t interested. She wasn’t the only one. A few people had asked her the same thing, including her parents. But Tamara had no interest in finding a man, especially since she was doing so well with her business. It had taken a big leap of faith to start her own yoga company, and with the health sessions she held at the café and the retreat, she could finally say she felt secure in what she was doing. It had been hard work, and she’d slaved away for the past few years to get comfortable in what she was doing. A man would only get in the way. Anyway, she’d been hurt a few times by men, and she wasn’t prepared to go through any of that again. It just wasn’t worth it. She’d already wasted a few years of her life on men who didn’t deserve it. All she wanted to do now was concentrate on her work, build up her company, and focus on herself. She’d make room for a man another time. It didn’t have to be now.

Chapter Two

“Are you acting, or are you just partying?”

Thomas Winter was sitting with his father over lunch – a weekly routine that his father had instilled when he moved out of the house. Thomas knew never to break the arrangement. His father had been quite adamant as to the importance of them still seeing each other. Thomas didn’t complain. If it wasn’t for his father, he wouldn’t be in the position that he was in. He wasn’t sure that anyone would’ve even looked at him or considered him as an actor had he not been famous in his own right. The son to a wealthy billionaire came with many perks.

Thomas sighed, “Of course, I’m acting. Partying is just part of it; that’s all. It comes with the territory.”

“It does? But surely, you have to concentrate on actually finding work too? I know you’ve been in a film, but that was ages ago.”

Thomas knew that his father was right, but he didn’t want to admit it, especially not to himself. “That’s not how it works in the industry. I’m just starting out, anyway. And my film got a very good review. I mean, for a first-time actor, I’m not all that bad, don’t you think?” Thomas threw a charming smile at his father and a wink for extra measure.

“Your charismatic smile is not going to work on me, my boy. Remember, I know you better than all your fans. I know everything about you.”

“But come on, I was pretty good, wasn’t I?”

Thomas smiled again at his father, who couldn’t help but laugh, “Goodness, you’re lucky I love you. I always knew that your smile was going to get you in trouble, one day. But now, in all seriousness, what is actually happening with work? Anything lined up?”

“I have a meeting with Geraldine after this, actually. She said she has a few things to speak to me about, so I’m assuming it’s about work. Hopefully, she has some good ones for me. She’s good at what she does, and I trust her.”

“Good. I like her too. I tell you what – I’m surprised at your choice in career. I didn’t think this is what you’d choose. It’s not a bad thing, of course, but it’s still a surprise.”

“Yeah well, I mean… I thought about following in your footsteps, but let’s face it – I’m not as good as you are when it comes to business. I always knew I’d do terribly in that, and I didn’t want to fail. I hate failing. But I do like being in the limelight. So, I figured it was worth the shot.”

The decision to become an actor had actually been a surprise to him too. The whole thing had started when he was having beers with some of his friends. They were all settled down with jobs, and some of them even had families or, at least, serious relationships. Except Thomas. They kept joking around with him and telling him that he suited the lifestyle of p rich and the famous more than anyone they had ever met. The problem was, while he was certainly very rich, thanks to his father, he was not at all famous. And so, they convinced him to phone an agent. And that was when he met Geraldine – the woman who changed his life. She told him that he had the looks to go very far in the career. So, she sent him to some acting classes, got him a few small roles, and then finally landed him in a big blockbuster movie. He wasn’t the main character, but he had a big enough role for people to sit back and notice him. And once he’d had a taste of that, he knew it was all he wanted from life. It wasn’t even that he enjoyed the acting process so much. It was more a case of enjoying the limelight. Thomas Winter loved it when the whole world was talking about him. Suddenly, he saw his face appear in magazines and newspapers, and he was getting invited to events and parties and clubs that he hadn’t even known about before. It was hard not to get caught up in it all. He didn’t want to admit to his father that he barely thought about work. He figured he’d leave it up to Geraldine to sort out that part for him. The rest of the time, he was going to make sure that the public didn’t forget who he was. And what better way than by partying up a storm and staying in the headlines.

“Well, Thomas,” his father was saying, “I’m just glad that you’re doing something with your life. Your mother always warned me about giving you that money early, but I told her that I had faith that you would still want to make something of yourself. I wouldn’t have thought it was acting that you would choose, but I don’t really care what it is as long as you are happy. Now, you are happy, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean? Of course, I’m happy. I’m just slightly hung over today, that’s all. But you’re used to seeing me like this, by now, I’m sure. A good meal will sort me out. You know it always does. I’ll be back to my old self in no time.” Thomas hated it when his father got serious on him. Ever since his mother died a few years ago, he’d become a lot more interested in what Thomas was doing with his life. Before, he just let him do whatever he wanted to do. Now, it was as if he wanted to make sure that he was a good father, constantly checking in. He’d complained about it to someone once, and they’d reminded him that he was lucky to have a father that cared so much. Thomas had been taken aback by the comment, even though he knew it was true. He was lucky. But nevertheless, he wished he could just live his life without the constant check-ins.

“You sure? I only ask because I care. All this going out – is it not a little extreme? From the sounds of things, all you do is go out and party. And there’s just one girl after another. You’re thirty years old now. I know that’s not old, but shouldn’t you be thinking of settling down? Or at least finding a girlfriend? You’re just hopping from one girl to the next. It doesn’t make you look good, Thomas.”

“Don’t you mean it doesn’t make you look good, Dad?” Thomas couldn’t help but say it, then instantly regretted it.

“This has nothing to do with me, Thomas. I don’t care what you do, but I didn’t bring you up like that. I’m glad you’re having fun, and I know things are different now from how they were when I was growing up. But your mom and I met when we were young and stayed together all those years. Having that one person to count on is very special, and I don’t want you to miss out on that. I cannot push you to do things differently. I know it’s your life and that you have to do what you want to do. But you’re a good guy, and you deserve a wonderful woman, not someone who is just after your money and your fame. That’s not what I want for you, and it’s not what your mother would’ve wanted for you.”

“Yeah, but Dad, you are lucky. Not everyone finds that person. I certainly haven’t. If I had, then I probably would have a girlfriend or a wife by now. But the only way that I’m going to find that person is by going out and meeting as many girls as possible. One day, I’ll meet the right one.” Thomas was quite impressed with his speech. It wasn’t true at all, but it certainly sounded quite good out loud. And he knew it was what his dad wanted to be true. But Thomas had no interest in settling down. He was having far too much fun meeting and partying with girls. And they all seemed perfectly happy with hooking up with him without wanting anything serious in return. It was just the sort of set-up he wanted in his life. He got the chance to be free, while still having fun with girls – it was the best of both worlds.

“I guess you’re right,” his father was saying, and Thomas gave himself a mental pat on the back, “but just make sure you’re meeting the right sort of women at least. So far, the women I’ve seen you with have been the complete opposite of a girl you’d settle down with. Just be careful, Thomas. That’s all I’m asking. I’m only looking out for you.”

“Don’t worry, Dad. I will be. I’m just having some fun. But I have my head screwed on properly. I promise you.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” his father said with complete belief in Thomas. For a second, Thomas actually felt bad for duping his father. But he shrugged it off.

“So, should we order?”

“Let’s order.”

Thomas somehow managed to avoid telling his father that he had a party planned for that night. He was already hung over from a party the night before, and he knew his father wouldn’t take kindly to the fact that he was going out again. Perhaps, his father didn’t want to know, or maybe he really assumed that Thomas would never go out two nights in a row, but the fact never got mentioned. They had a good lunch and a good chat, and when Thomas walked off, his father handed him a wad of cash. It wasn’t necessary. Thomas had more money than he knew what to do with. Not only had he gotten a huge amount of money from his father when he had turned twenty-one, but he was now earning money through his own work. And yet, every time he met with his father, he’d be given ‘pocket money’ or sorts. It was a lot. More than anyone should have just lying in their wallet. And even though Thomas didn’t need it, he never said no to it, because nobody could have too much money, and he knew that he’d use it at the party that evening. Everyone wanted to hang out with the good-looking guy with a pocket full of cash. He knew how that seemed, but he didn’t mind. Being the rich guy in a group of people hadn’t lost its appeal. He didn’t even have to try to make friends anymore - they just came flocking right to him.

After lunch, he spent the day sleeping and then enjoyed an hour-long gym session, followed by a swim. After that, he picked up a take away meal and then got ready for the night ahead. He liked to arrive around ten o clock. He always found it was the best time to start the party; especially one that he knew was going to end up going on until the early hours of the following morning. A note on his fridge reminded him that he had a breakfast meeting with Geraldine the next morning, and he groaned. Thankfully, she’d made it quite late – almost a brunch – but he was sure he’d be arriving with dark glasses and begging for caffeine. He hoped that he wouldn’t forget and set an extra alarm on his phone, as well as another reminder, just in case. Geraldine hated it when he was late, and he needed to stay in her good books.

A cab pulled around at ten. He knew there was going to be lots of drinking involved, so he had decided not to take his car. He’d lost a friend once to drinking and driving, and it was now his number one rule whenever he went out. The party was being held at a restaurant down the road. The restaurant was owned by two comedians, who transformed the place into a party area once a month. The only way to attend was by invitation. So, when Thomas had received one, he knew that nothing was going to keep him away. The place was already full when he arrived.

“Thomas Winter,” he said to the man with the clipboard. The big burly man stood with a face that looked neither happy nor sad as he checked for his name, even though it was obvious who he was. But he supposed the man had been told to do his job, and he was doing it correctly.

“Mr. Winter. Ah, here we are. Welcome, have a great time,” the expressionless man said and opened the door.

“Thank you,” he said as he stepped inside. The music was pumping. The restaurant now stood like one giant dance floor. The only thing that remained the same was the bar area, which was now even more stocked with drinks than before. He headed straight there.

“Thomas, you made it,” Trevor said. Trevor was one half of the comedian act. Trent was the other, who Thomas could see across the room locking lips with some beautiful blonde.

“Hey Trevor. I see Trent is having a good time.”

Trevor snorted. “Oh yeah. He’s had his eye on her for a long time. He invited her specifically in the hopes that the two of them would get together. It’s not the first time he’s invited her, but she always ends up with someone else. Tonight, however, he put on all the charm. And by charm, I mean he showered her with drinks and gifts. Seems to have worked. She’s all over him. Now, what can I get you?”

“Surprise me,” Thomas said. It was a game he loved to play with people. It was always interesting to see what sort of drink they came up with, and he’d noticed that people loved being in control.

Thomas could see the twinkle in Trevor’s eyes. “Oh yeah? Surprise you? Okay then… are you sure you want to be surprised? Do you trust me?”

“I’m sure. I don’t really trust you, but that’s half the fun of it.”

Trevor laughed and turned around to survey his drinks. Thomas turned to look at the crowd, instead of watching him. It was a good crowd. He recognized quite a few people. Most were comedians, but there were a few actors and a few good models. It was obvious that they had chosen only the most beautiful women to attend, and Thomas smiled as he locked eyes with one, in particular, across the room.

“That’s Jenna,” Trevor said, “She’s one of the latest models. Very up and coming and extremely popular. She’s got the face for it, don’t you think? Oh and here’s your drink.”

Thomas turned around and laughed as Trevor handed him a large bulbous glass of something green. He took a sip and his eyes widened. “Whoa, what is this?”

“Do you like it?”

Thomas took another sip. “It’s actually pretty good. A little on the strong side, but nothing I can’t handle.” He laughed. “What is it?”

Trevor burst out laughing. “I have no idea. I would never be able to recreate it. It’s a bit of this and a bit of that. I honestly just threw a whole bunch of things together. But you’re right about the strong bit. Good luck standing after that. Oh, here comes Jenna.”

Thomas turned and saw Jenna walking their way. She greeted Trevor and then smiled at Thomas. “Hi, I’m Jenna.”

“Hi Jenna, lovely to meet you. I’m Thomas.”

“Oh yeah, I know that. Wow, what are you drinking? That has to be the greenest drink I’ve ever seen in my life. A Shrek drink.”

“Or the Incredible Hulk drink?”

“Nah, I like Shrek. Can I taste it?”

“You sure can. But good luck…”

Thomas handed her the drink and watched as she took a big sip. He thought that she was going to spit it out or grimace, but instead, she just smiled at him as she handed it back. “Oh wow, this is different. I like it. Trevor, can I have one?”

“Coming right up,” Trevor said and winked at Thomas.

Trevor managed to come up with something close to the same drink, and Thomas sat with Jenna for the next hour, talking and drinking. It didn’t take long for the two of them to get drunk. She dragged him onto the dance floor and leaned in to kiss him. Thomas couldn’t believe how easy it was for him to get girls, now that he was in the movie world. It had always been relatively easy for him, because from the time he was twenty-one, he was a millionaire. Now that he was a billionaire, as well as a movie star, they just fell into his arms without doing anything. He thought Jenna was pretty when he’d seen her across the room, but now he was drunk, he thought that she was beautiful.

“Come on,” she said and took his hand. She led him into some back room that Thomas didn’t even know existed. The room was dark, but Thomas could just about make out piles of tables and chairs. It must’ve been the storeroom where all the restaurant furniture was kept. Thomas wondered briefly how she knew about the room, but he didn’t have time to ask her. She had pushed him against one of the tables and had taken his hand and shoved it up in between her skirt. Soon, her skirt was down and so were his trousers, and he was pushing into her. They could still hear the music outside, and even though the room was dark, there was still a good chance of someone walking in. They hadn’t even bothered to lock the room. Thomas had slept with a lot of girls over the years, but doing it in a darkened room against a stack of tables was new for him. Afterwards, they giggled as they made their way back into the main room and looked around to see if anyone had noticed them. Nobody had.

“Another drink?” Jenna said, and Thomas grinned. Of course, he wanted another drink. And after that, he wanted to go into that dark room again. This was gearing up to be a party he was never going to forget.

Chapter Three

By the end of the day, Tamara felt more excited than ever about the retreat. She’d only started telling people that day, but she already had her quota of six. She was sure that she could reach ten people by the end of the week if she tried. She couldn’t believe it. The idea had come to her about a year ago, but at that time, she knew that she wasn’t yet ready to take on something so big. But the idea had stayed with her and had nagged at her slowly but surely. It was Wendy who had urged her to take the plunge.

“So, what if it doesn’t work out? Then you try again. And if it still doesn’t work out, well then, at least, you can say that you tried. You’ve got an amazing business. But I don’t see why this wouldn’t work. I think it’s a great idea,” Wendy had said.

“You sure? Would you go?”

“Of course, I’ll go.”

“Might just end up being you and me then,” Tamara had said.

“So what? How much fun would that be?”

And so, Tamara had put the plans into action. She’d found an amazing place to have the retreat and had booked it, despite not knowing whether anyone would show. When she gave Wendy the dates, she was disappointed to find that it was the one week that Wendy couldn’t make it. But she’d made the booking, and she knew that there was no turning back. The retreat was going to be for a full week, and she was offering yoga, health, and relaxation techniques throughout. She even organized a few people to come give talks on some of the days, as well as an amazing chef, who was going to teach people how to cook in a healthier way. Mostly, though, she wanted the week to be about getting away from the chaos of normal life. She wanted to teach people how important it was to relax and breathe and stretch. And she wanted them to walk away, having learned a few things about themselves and their bodies. Tamara was very good at planning, and she had made her way through her to-do list every day without fail. There was nothing much left to do now, other than make sure that she actually got customers. The rest was all planned.

After dinner, she got out her laptop to see if anybody had emailed her, and she was surprised to find that she had nine emails waiting for her. Eight were confirmations and one was a query. That meant she now had fourteen attendees! She couldn’t believe it. She picked up the phone and called Wendy.

“FOURTEEN!” she yelled into the phone.

“What? Fourteen what?”

“Fourteen people have said yes to the retreat.”

“Seriously? That was quick! You see, Tamara. I told you that people would be interested. I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks, Wendy. I had to phone and let you know! If it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I would’ve taken the plunge. Thanks for believing in me. Now, I just need to get through this first one.”

“Once you’ve done one, the others will be easy. You’re a natural at this sort of thing. People feel good around you.”

“Thanks, Wendy.”

Tamara smiled and put down the phone. But the moment she did, her phone rang and she jumped in surprise. She supposed it was Wendy calling to remind her that she’d be at the class in the morning. But it wasn’t Wendy.

“Hello, I’m looking for Tamara Hope.” The voice on the other end of the phone was female, and Tamara had never heard it before.

“Uh, hello, yes, this is Tamara speaking.”

“Oh hi, Tamara. This is Geraldine Fisher. I’m an agent for the entertainment industry, working mostly with new celebrities. I came across your pamphlet today. Are you the right person to speak to about the retreat?”

Tamara was taken aback. She had no idea how her pamphlet had made it to an agent or why this agent was calling her, but she took a deep breath and tried to act as professional as possible. “Yes, absolutely, how can I help you?”

“I’d like to send one of my clients to you. Do you still have space?”

“We’re almost at full capacity, but I do still have a few spots available.”

“Wonderful! That’s great news. Please, can you put down Thomas Winter as one of the attendees? If you can, send me an invoice tomorrow. I’ll make sure it gets paid. I am very good with my promises – so I can assure you that payment will be made quickly and efficiently.”

Tamara wasn’t sure if she had heard correctly. Did Geraldine really just say that Thomas Winter was going to be coming to her retreat? “Thomas Winter – oh wow. For sure!”

“You know him then?” Geraldine asked.

“Doesn’t everyone? He’s quite the looker.”

Geraldine laughed. “He is. And I’ll let you in on a little secret – he’s even better looking up close. Don’t tell him that, though. I almost pretend as if he’s not that good looking at all, and it drives him insane. He’s got a big enough head as it is. I think this retreat is just what he needs, to be honest.”

“Well, we’re happy to have him. And yeah, this retreat should sort him out. We’re all about looking inwards, rather than outwards. The world has enough of that going on.”

“Thanks, Tamara. I’m going to let him know right now. I’ll be honest. He hasn’t given me the go ahead just yet. But I really want him to go onto this retreat, so I’m going to twist his arm. Please, can you email me all the details, so he knows where to go? If I don’t have all the details, that boy will have no clue. I’ll have to phone him on the day to remind him. He has his head in the clouds, but I’m used to it. I’ve had years of experience working with celebrities, and most of them are all the same. He’s a good boy, but he just needs a bit of calming down.”

“No problem at all. I’ll have the invoice and the details sent to you first thing in the morning.”

Tamara took down the details and then put down the phone. Even though she didn’t want to, she couldn’t help but let out a squeal too. Her very first retreat and she had a celebrity on board. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing, but it was exciting, nonetheless. She phoned Wendy.

“You sure you can’t get time off for the retreat?”

“I wish I could. But sadly, not this time. Why? Are you nervous? Because you’ll be fine, Tamara. You don’t need me there at all. You’ve got this.”

Tamara giggled. “Well… it’s just that I got a call from an agent in the movie industry. Turns out, I have a celebrity on board.”

“What? Who?”

“Oh, nobody special, just Thomas Winter.”

“No way! Thomas Winter is going to be at your retreat? You’re joking!”

“I’m not!”

“I’m so unbelievably jealous, right now. Hey, didn’t you tell me the other day that you find him annoying?”

“I do. I mean, I don’t know him. But from what I’ve seen, he’s only interested in going out and partying. He looks drunk in almost every photo I’ve seen of him.”

“So, why are you so happy?”

“Uh… because he’s sort of beautiful,” Tamara admitted.

Wendy burst out laughing. “Finally! You’re admitting to liking someone.”

“I don’t like him. Not at all. In fact, I have a feeling he’s going to drive me up the wall. But I can’t deny that he’s quite easy on the eye.”

“That’s putting it mildly. Wow – this is amazing. This is going to be great for you. Once people know that Thomas Winter was at your retreat, they’ll be begging to go on the next one. I can’t believe that a guy like Thomas Winter is going to a health retreat. I cannot imagine him doing something like that. I wonder if it’s some publicity thing.”

“Could be. It sounds like the agent is making him do it. Maybe she thinks he’s getting a bad reputation. I wouldn’t blame her for that. He really does seem to have gone a little crazy in the last few months. He’s in every magazine I open.”

“Tamara, I’m so jealous. You better get me his number!”

“You deserve someone better than him, Wendy. But I will take a few sneaky pictures and send them to you.”

“You better!”

They spoke for a little longer, mostly about how insane it was that a celebrity was going to be at her retreat, and by the time Tamara put down the phone, she felt excited but nervous. Wendy kept going on and on about how nervous she would be that it made Tamara start to wonder if, perhaps, she should be just as nervous too. She went for a shower and then climbed into bed. No, don’t be silly, she told herself. Even though he’s a celebrity, he’s still a person. But she couldn’t help it – she really was nervous.

Chapter Four

The next morning, Thomas woke up to the sound of his alarm buzzing loudly in his ear. At first, he thought that he was still at the party and the sound was just part of some song. But when it didn’t stop, he opened his eyes and saw that he was home. He couldn’t even remember getting home. He looked around and was grateful to see that he was alone. But the mere movement of looking around caused a shooting pain through his skull. The memory of the green drink came to mind, and it took all his might not to run to the bathroom to throw up. Why was his alarm going off? And then he remembered – he had to meet Geraldine for a late breakfast. The thought of food made him feel as green as the drink that he had, and the thought of socializing was even worse. He still had an hour, so he walked gingerly into the shower and tried desperately to wash away the smell of alcohol that was permeating through his pores. Then, he took two headache tablets and sat still as he waited for them to work. He felt slightly better when he got to the restaurant and hoped she wouldn’t notice. But, this was Geraldine – of course, she would notice.

“Another big night?” she said as he walked over to kiss her hello. She crinkled her nose. “Did you even bother to shower?”

“I did shower!” he said defensively. What was she on about? Not only had he showered, but he’d covered himself with deodorant. He smelled fine.

“Well, then you must’ve had a hell of a lot to drink. Because no amount of shower could get rid of that. Wow, Thomas… you really don’t look so good.”

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I went out last night, and it ended up being quite the party. But you should be glad that I’m getting out there and socializing. Isn’t that what I’m meant to do?”

Geraldine sighed. She ordered two cups of coffee and then looked at him. “What you’re meant to do is work hard and stay out of trouble. It’s good to go out and meet people, and yeah, it’s good to be in the headlines every now and again. But not if the headlines are only about you going out and getting drunk. I shudder to think what we’re going to see next. You’re taking this whole thing too far, Thomas. And you are not a well-established actor yet. This is actually going to be bad for you. People are going to start seeing you as just a party boy.”

“Oh, come on, Geraldine. Surely, you don’t believe that. I’m more than that.”

“I know you are. That’s why I’m your agent – because I honestly believe that you are talented. You’re more than just a pretty face. I only work with clients that I truly believe in. But the world is just going to see what you’re portraying. And all you’re portraying is that you’re a rich kid, who likes to go out and flaunt it. You’re going to end up a washed-out actor before you even get the chance to make something of yourself.”

Thomas couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His head was pounding, and it wasn’t just from being hung over. Geraldine was always very straight with him, but he hadn’t expected this. “Uh… I’m sorry. I guess I just got carried away. I mean… I keep getting invited to parties. What am I supposed to do?”

“You’re supposed to go and have a good time. But you’re not supposed to get so drunk and do stupid things and hook up with every girl you come across.”

“I don’t do that.”

“Were you with a girl last night?”

Thoughts of Jenna and the darkened room came flooding to the forefront of his mind. He sighed and nodded.

“Listen, Thomas… I know what we can do to fix this.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. First, I actually have some jobs lined up for you that I want you to go try out for. I’ve managed to get you in, but I can’t have you going like this.”

“What do you mean? What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to get away for a while. Spend a week away from it all.”

Thomas rubbed his head. He was far too hung over to be thinking clearly, and he had no idea what Geraldine was going on about. “You want me to go away for a week? And do what?”

“I found the perfect place for you. It’s a retreat. They focus on health and wellbeing. They do yoga classes, cooking lessons, meditation – that sort of thing. I think it’s just the sort of thing you need. A week is probably not enough, but I think it will do you good. You need to take yourself away from your life at the moment and gain a bit more perspective about what is important and what isn’t. The retreat starts next week. After that, we can talk about work.”

“Geraldine… you want me to go on a health retreat? Have you seen me? That’s not exactly my sort of thing, you know.”

“Exactly. That’s why I think it will do you good. It’s only for a week, anyway. Just look at it as a holiday.”

“Do I have any choice in this?” Thomas asked, although he already knew the answer to his question.

Geraldine smiled at him and took his hand. She squeezed it. “I’ve already booked you in. Just do this for me, Thomas. Just one week. I promise.”

Thomas sighed. It was the last thing he wanted to do. But he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to argue with her, and he knew that he would lose, anyway. He needed to go to those auditions, and he had a feeling that Geraldine would only give them to him if he went to this stupid retreat first. He’d just play along. It was only a week. Like she said, he’d just view it as a holiday. “Okay, fine. I’ll go!”

Chapter Five

“Good morning, beautiful!”

Tamara laughed. “Hey Wendy. Wow, you’re phoning me early.”

“Yeah, I just wanted to wish you good luck for the retreat. Have you left yet?”

“I’m just about to. I want to get there early to set up before everyone arrives.”

“How’re you feeling?”

“So nervous, but also very excited. I can’t believe I’m finally doing this. Aw, I wish you were coming.”

“Trust me – so do I. I asked again, but they said they need me this week. The place has been booked for some conference two days in a row, so I’ll be on my feet a lot.”

“You just want to meet Thomas Winter,” Tamara teased.

“I still cannot believe you are going to meet him.”

“Me too. I just hope he’s a nice guy.”

“He seems like fun. But I still don’t see him sitting still long enough through o meditation class or a yoga class.”

“Same here. Who knows? Maybe he won’t even come.”

“Well, you better let me know. Anyway, I have to go. Call me when you’re back and good luck, Tamara! You’ve got this.”

“Thanks, Wendy. Have a good week.”

Tamara put down the phone and smiled. Wendy was a good friend. She might have joked that Wendy only wanted to come to the retreat because of Thomas Winter, but she knew that wasn’t true. Wendy would’ve come no matter what. With a deep breath, Tamara grabbed her bags and headed out. The retreat was only an hour’s drive away. She’d been there before and had been blown away that a place like that could exist so close to the hustle of city life. Once inside, it felt as if you were in the middle of nowhere. It was the perfect place to hold a retreat, and she knew that its close proximity was one of the most appealing parts to it. Nobody wanted to drive far anymore.

“Tamara, welcome. Are you excited? We have the place all set up for you,” Ronald said as she walked into the reception area. Ronald owned the place, and he’d been incredibly helpful throughout the planning process.

“I’m ready and good to go. As it turned out, it wasn’t nearly as difficult to get people to come on board. We sold out within a few days, and I already have people asking me about the next one. So, hopefully, this goes well, and it can become a regular thing.”

“Oh wonderful! That’s great news. Well, you know where everything is, so you’re welcome to walk around and settle in. Here is the key to your room.”

“Thanks, Ronald. The guests should be arriving in about two hours. Can you just show them to their room and ask them to join me in the dining room at twelve? I’ll be there to welcome them, and we can start the retreat from there over lunch.”

“Of course. That sounds great.”

Tamara went to drop off her bags in the room that had been dedicated to her. The room was beautiful, far better than her room back home, and she smiled when she saw the bouquet of flowers that had been placed for her next to her bed. A small envelope lay beside it with her name. Inside, there was a card with the words, ‘In silence lies truth. Welcome to your very first retreat. We’re happy to have you, Tamara.’ It was incredibly touching. Afterwards, she took a walk around to make sure that everything was in its place, went to say hello to all the staff, and then settled into the dining room to await her guests. She could feel her heart pounding as she saw the clock move closer to twelve. By now, most of the guests should be there, and soon, they would be joining her. She sat there trying to keep calm. Finally, she heard footsteps.

“Hey Tamara!”

Tamara smiled as Chantal walked in, followed by three women. They were all beaming at her. “Chantal, you made it. So good to see you.”

“Good to be here. These are my three friends I was telling you about – Tanya, Greta, and Pauline. This is Tamara, my yoga instructor.”

“Great to meet you all. Sit down. We’ll be having lunch in about half an hour. We’re just going to wait for everyone to arrive.”

Bit by bit, people started to arrive until everyone was there, except for Thomas. Tamara wasn’t sure what she should do, but when she saw the time, she decided to start the retreat without him. She knew he wasn’t going to come. Poor Wendy was going to be so disappointed. Tamara stood up and welcomed the group.

“We’re going to start by enjoying a delicious meal together. After that, I want you to spend some time relaxing on the grounds. There are some beautiful places to walk and a gorgeous lake to visit. When the lunch is finished, I’ll hand out the order of events, so you know exactly what is happening each day and where you have to be. For the rest of the time, feel free to relax and do whatever you want to do. Remember, this week is all about you, and I want you to walk away from this time feeling refreshed and happy. If there is anything that you don’t want to do or any questions that you have about anything, please come talk to me at any time. Now, let’s enjoy this delicious meal together.”

Everyone burst into applause, and the moment they did, about four people came out of the kitchen, as if on cue, with trays of food. Tamara had eaten at the retreat when she’d first visited the place, and she’d been blown away by the food. Everything was fresh and organic, and despite having no sugar or gluten, it was incredible. Murmurs around the table confirmed that everyone agreed with her.

“Do we get to learn how to make meals like this?” a lady from across the table asked. Tamara dug into her memory and remembered her being introduced as Angie.

“Absolutely, Angie,” she said and hoped that she had gotten the name right. Angie beamed at her, so she supposed she had been right. “One of the biggest things I want everyone to take away from this retreat is that it’s possible to eat healthy food that still tastes amazing.”

“Yeah, that’s one of the biggest reasons that I came, to be honest. I like food like this, but I have no idea how to make it. I always end up cheating, just because it’s easy,” Angie said and everyone around the table agreed with her.

“Sorry I’m late. Oh wow, it smells amazing in here.”

Everyone looked up and gasped. Of course, Tamara knew who it was, without even having to look up. She could see by the reactions on everyone’s faces that it was going to be Thomas Winter. When she did look up, she tried not to gasp. Geraldine had been right. Thomas was even better looking up close.

“Ah, you must be Thomas Winter,” she said and stood up to greet him.

He shook her hand and smiled. That was a smile that probably got him everything he wanted in life. It infuriated her immediately. She didn’t like people who got what they wanted simply by the way they looked. “Yes, and I’m sorry I’m late. I’ll be honest; I overslept. And then it was a mad rush to get here.”

“That’s no problem at all. I’m glad you could join us. My name is Tamara. Please sit down and join us. Everybody, this is Thomas, although I’m sure you all know him already. He’ll be joining us on this retreat. Thomas, please help yourself.”

“Don’t mind if I do. Hi everyone,” he said and smiled at everyone at the table. Nobody said a word. Their mouths were practically hanging open. Tamara wished for a second that she hadn’t agreed to him coming to the retreat. It was good for business in a way, but she was sure he was going to be a big distraction. Who could concentrate when a celebrity was sitting next to them? She hoped that, by the end of the retreat, everyone would realize that he was just a person.

Thomas didn’t seem to have any idea of the effect that he just had on everyone. Either that or he was used to it. He grinned up at Tamara after taking a few mouthfuls. “This is actually pretty good. I’m not usually a fan of food like this.”

“Well, that’s good to hear. We were just saying how important it is to keep healthy. Almost all problems are caused by not eating properly, and it’s not nearly as difficult as people make it out to be.”

Thomas laughed. “Well, this is delicious. But I’m not sure that I could live without alcohol and pizza. I mean… they do sort of go hand in hand, don’t you think.”

“There’s better things in life than alcohol and pizza.”

“There is? Like what? Oh, you mean sex,” he said nonchalantly, and the other people at the table gasped. Tamara could not believe what she was hearing. Had Thomas really come to her health retreat to talk about pizza, alcohol, and sex? What was wrong with him? Again, he didn’t seem to notice that what he had done was wrong.

Tamara took a deep breath and smiled. “You’ll see, by the end of this retreat, you’ll be a different person.”

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