Stella

It was a rather cold morning at the end of July. Stella just came back from doing the grocery shopping and already heard the phone ringing inside the house when she stood at the front door. She cursed softly and ran through the living room to pick it up.

“Hello?”
“Stella Dewitt?”
“Yes that’s me.”
“Oh! Hello Stella, my name is Johan Åberg from EMI Sweden. I am calling to congratulate you with winning our song contest!”

Stella’s first response was a frown, then she laughed. This had to be a joke.

“Excuse me, what song contest?”
“EMI’s song contest in which you participated three months ago… let me see…” she heard shovelling of papers.
“The Lighthouse. That’s what it’s called.” The man said. Stella’s heart skipped a beat. The person who pulled this on her sure knew her well.
“Ehm…” she stammered.
“I am speaking to the right person? Stella Dewitt, in… Port Mac… Macquarie? In Australia, right?”
“Yeah yeah, that’s me.” Stella became a little impatient.
“And that song you named, that’s mine, I think. But I never participated in any contest, certainly not in Sweden.” Of all places, she thought. The man on the other side of the line was silent. Stella heard some conversation through the static cracking of the overseas phone line.
“Stella, are you still there? Sorry, I was checking something. Well, we have your song here, and it has won a prize. My colleague just informed me that the song was sent in by someone else, but your name is on the application form. And that’s also how we got your number.”
“Oh… who sent it in then?”
“Mmm. I’m afraid we’re not allowed to mention that. But more importantly! If you didn’t know about the competition, you also don’t know what you have won, right?” Johan Åberg said in typical ‘Swenglish’.
“I have no idea.”
“Aaaah! Well, this, I can tell you everything about. You have won a recording session with a couple of Sweden’s most respected artists. This will take place next week in Halmstad, for approximately a week. The goal is to make an EP with songs, chosen by you, in the way you want to record them.”

When her heartbeat had gotten back to normal, a sad smile shone over Stella’s face.
“That… it sounds wonderful, but I’m afraid it’s impossible.” She said softly.
“Oh really? Are you busy next week?” Johan sounded worried. Stella laughed now.
“Look, I can’t just fly in from Port Macquarie to have a recording session in Halmstad. I have a life. I can’t just pack my things and go.” Stella glanced at the clock. Time was catching up with her and she couldn’t deal with this nonsense for too long.
“It says here that ‘everything has been taken care of’.” Johan sounded as if he was reading it.
“There is a ticket waiting for you at Sydney Airport next Friday, the 18th of July. Your flight will leave at 16:55 hours, and you will arrive in Gothenburg around nine the next morning. Someone will be waiting for you there.” Johan Åberg kept talking as if this was completely normal. Stella had kind of stopped thinking. She only listened to what he was saying, without really understanding the information.

“Oh and the last comment here, says that ‘this was all discussed with Marian’.” Johan read from his paper again.

Marian, Stella’s roommate, came home late in the evening, after a long day at the school where she was teaching. They sat down with a cup of tea and talked about their day. A little later, Stella brought it up.
“Oh, guess what happened today, I got a phone call from Sweden.” She said matter-of-factly. Marian stopped steering her tea and looked up, face all tensed. She tried to hide her excitement.
“Oh really? Who was it then?”
“A man who said I’m flying to Sweden next week.” She pulled a face and Marian laughed loudly.
“The man is right. You are going to Sweden next week.” She said, face shining. Stella’s mouth hung open.
“So it’s true?” she said when she found her voice back. Marian only nodded and sipped her tea.
“But…. How… I can’t afford this…”
“No, you can’t. Your friends took care of everything.” Marian said calmly. Stella sat up and looked at her. It began to dawn on her what was going on, but she didn’t quite get it yet.

The strange phone calls were not over yet. The following day, late in the evening, Stella was a bit annoyed that Marian needed the computer all evening long. She was reading a book when the phone rang. She startled, not expecting any phone call that late in the evening, especially because she thought Marian was using the Internet.

Stella finally picked up after eleven rings.
“Hello?”
“Hey Stella! This is Aylin!”
“What! Hey!” This surprise was even bigger than that strange Swede yesterday. Stella sank into a chair and laughed.
“How are you?” Aylin asked. Her voice was far away but clear, and she sounded a little hesitating.
“Ehm, fine, and you?”
“Good, good! Oh it’s so great to hear your voice! Strange, but cool!” Aylin chuckled.
“Yes, hehe…” Stella didn’t have a clue what to say next.
“I’m calling from Halmstad.” Aylin stated. Stella didn’t get the chance to reply because she went on right away.
“I’m sitting in a tiny hotel room with the worst view ever. This room isn’t worth half its price, same as the food. But well, the towels are quite soft and the sea is only five minutes away, so we’re not really complaining…” she took a deep breath.
“I didn’t know you were planning to go to Sweden?” Stella said.
“I didn’t really plan it, it was a last minute thing. And I think you’ve already found out why?” Aylin said with a giggle. Now for the first time since they were on the phone, Stella hard some background noise. There were other people in the room too.
“Has it got something to do with strange Swedish guys calling me and a ticket at Sydney Airport?”
“Mmmm…. Yes! I’ll pick you up in Gothenburg next week.”
“Oh my, you’re crazy! I have no clue what this is all about!”
“Are you sitting?”
“Yes.”
“Did Johan Åberg tell you about the studio-session you won with your song?”
“Mhm.” Stella mumbled. Her stomach was acting funny and she couldn’t sit still in her chair.
“Did he also say in which studio and with whom?” Aylin asked. Stella had stopped breathing and waited.
“Clarence and Christoffer, among others. And Per.”

One week later

Stella’s belly tingled and twisted when the plane landed on a sunny Gothenburg Airport on a sunny Saturday morning. Everything around her went fast, everybody was in a hurry. As if she was walking on air, that’s how Stella felt when she left the plane and set foot on Swedish ground… the Airport floor, that is. Her suitcase seemed to arrive too fast. She was looking at the signs, listening to the people around her and almost let the suitcase pass her.

With her suitcase rolling behind her, a small bag on her back and a vest over her arm, Stella walked into the arrivals hall. Within seconds, she found two brown eyes looking at her. Her friend Aylin smiled widely and walked up to her.
“Hey!” Aylin said.
“Hey!” said Stella. Then both giggled. Aylin opened her arms and Stella gladly accepted the hug. When she looked up again, she saw the brown eyes were a little watery.
“Welcome to Sweden.” Aylin said softly.
“Thanks! This feels so weird…”
“I know. Being in the same country…” Stella laughed at this comment. Typical… but true! It was indeed weird to finally be there.

“So, what’s next?” Stella asked when she followed Aylin through the arrivals hall.
“Well… we have quite a day ahead. We’re going to the bus station outside now, to take the bus to the train station. There we’ll take a train, I think around half past one, then we’ll arrive in Halmstad around two…”

They’d reached the buss terminal, where a buss to the city was about to leave. A thousand thoughts flew through Stella’s head. The biggest question was; how the hell did all this happen?!

Aylin was very well prepared. Her bag was stuffed with candy, sandwiches and drinks and she had already bought their train tickets. They talked about Stella’s flights and Aylin told her this was actually the first time she had flown to Sweden. She’d been there since last week, but had always arrived by train or even bus.

After a small tour around Gothenburg’s Central Train Station, they finally sat on the train to Halmstad.

“So,” Stella said, “you thought it would be nice to enter my song in this contest…”
Aylin’s cheeks turned a bit red and she nodded.
“Yeah well… eeehm… I thought, let’s give it a try. See how far it gets… do you mind?” she really looked a bit guilty.
“Huh well that depends on what horrible situations are waiting for me…” Stella said but then she laughed.
“Of course I don’t mind! After all, you wrote part of the lyrics!” she added.
“Hehe. Not really, I gave you a lead maybe. Oh look! There’s Anneli’s building!” she said and pointed out the window. The train had started moving and they left Gothenburg.

Mölndal, Kungsbacka, Varberg, Falkenberg. Aylin almost knew their route by hard, and some of the places they passed without stopping too. She talked and talked and told Stella as much as she could about every tree, house and water they passed. Their trip was over before they knew it.

Halmstad’s station was busy. A lot of tourists or people visiting family, a lot of get-togethers on the tracks, and the sun mildly shining down on everybody. Stella and Aylin walked from the station to the centre of the city. This walk usually takes about twenty minutes but the girls spent at least twice that time. There was so much that Stella needed to see, so many signs she tried to read and people that walked by. They passed the Picasso statue in the park and asked someone to take a picture of them.

“Here’s the bus station.” Aylin said and pointed.
“This or one of the stops nearby is where every trip to the city starts or ends, kind of. Our hotel is not in the city you see…” she said with a cheeky smile.

The bus drove them through Halmstad, with lovely view and even more to see, to the other side of town, in the direction of the sea. They passed Sandhamn, where Per lived. It was the first time that Stella really thought about him, visualising her meeting him, and her stomach twitched.

“Hotel Tylösand!” the bus driver said. The girls carried Stella’s big suitcase together. They walked to the end of the street, crossed the road and walked up to the hotel. The road went down in a circle, for cars to get near the door. There was a big fountain in the middle of the drive. The top of the fountain was connected to the roof of the hotel. The front of the building was made of glass, showing the lobby and front desk. There were wooden benches beside the door and on one of them sat two girls.

Anneli and Robin came sprinting to them and hugged Stella tightly in between them. A cacophony of girls’ voices and laughter filled the air.

“What’s with the car?” Aylin said with a move of her head, when they were about to go in.
“Oh the car, I forgot! He’s here!” Robin cheered with a wide smile. Stella looked startled.
“He’s here? Is that his car?” she asked and looked at the black Mercedes. It was parked on a rather strange spot beside the lobby. There was only one parking space here; all other cars were parked on a lot further up the road.
“That’s his private parking space.” Anneli explained as if she could read Stella’s mind.
“Did you see him?” Aylin asked. The girls nodded.
“He just got in like, five minutes ago! We just sat down here to wait for you guys when he came around the corner. Good timing, right!” Robin said.

They were waiting for the elevator when Aylin suddenly grabbed Stella’s arm.
“At the desk, look at the desk!!” she whispered between her teeth. Stella turned her head instantly and looked right into Per’s face. Aylin’s whispering hadn’t been subtle enough and Per noticed them.

Stella turned red when their eyes met. She smiled and he smiled back for a split second, before continuing his conversation.

The four girls spent some time in their room and later they took Stella to see Leif’s Lounge. They took funny pictures with most of the platinum records, pictures, posters and of course guitars that were covering all the walls. They enjoyed a cold drink on the terrace and waited for the After Beach to start. Leif’s Lounge has a big garden, Solgården (Sun garden) and in the summer there are live performances almost every day, in the afternoon. A lot of people came to Solgården to enjoy some live music and especially some booze, after spending most of their day on the beach or in town.

When Anneli came back from the toilet, she reported that Per’s car wasn’t there anymore. He had left.
“What’s going to happen this week, actually?” Stella said, looking at all three of them. The girls smiled at each other, grinning.
“We can go out tonight, if you’re not too tired!” Anneli said.
“Oh yes, and then loose our hangovers on the beach tomorrow.” Robin added.
“And we’ll invade H&M on Monday.” Aylin concluded. Stella laughed at them and then sighed meaningful.
“Aaaand?” Stella said, moving her hands, urging them to speak up.
“Oh alright then…” Aylin said with a faked irritated sigh.
“Yeah yeah… on Monday evening, there will be a dinner meeting here at the hotel. You will have dinner with Per, and a lot of other people. The radio station will be there too and probably TV Halland – the local TV station – as well.”

Stella’s mouth was open but she didn’t speak.
“So you better start thinking already about what you’re going to wear, what you will say and how you will be able to eat something with him in the same room.” It was again Aylin who spoke. The three girls giggled and all looked at Stella. Before she could speak, she was cut off by a loud bump coming from the speakers. Someone was testing the microphone, and a couple of minutes later, a band started playing.

“I guess I can’t take you and the girls with me, Monday evening…” Stella said to Aylin when they were washing their hands together in Leif’s bathroom.
“I’m afraid we have much more interesting things to do than to go dining with Gessle. Sorry babe!” Aylin said with a wink.
“Oh and by the way…” she continued, studying her face in the mirror, “did I mention that this is an all-expenses-paid-trip? So don’t hold back when we are in town Monday, and don’t look weird when I pay for everything. I got lucky, and I want my friends to join in that. Ok?” she looked at Stella now.
“What are you talking about?” Stella asked.

They spent some more time in the toilet while Aylin explained how her dad’s company had finally gotten his big break. She had been working for him since about a year and now he had given her a credit card and sent her off to Sweden with Robin. The timing had been perfect, because a couple of days later, EMI had called to inform her about the contest.

When the After Beach was over, Anneli suggested that they would all take a nap.
Their room was just big enough for two double beds and a dinner table with four chairs. All in all, it looked like any other hotel room in a middle class hotel, even though Tylösand had five stars.

Stella woke up around eight in the evening. The other three were still sleeping and everything was quiet and peaceful, the only thing that could be heard was their breathing. Stella sat up on the bed, legs crossed, leaning back into her pillow. Hotel Tylösand… Per… Sweden… it was almost too good to be true. Should she worry about that? Should she be prepared for something to go terribly wrong? She couldn’t think of anything that could go wrong. Everything seemed to be planned and ready and the only thing she had to do was do the best she could and leave a good impression on the guys… and him. She felt weird when she thought about that. Not really nervous or scared, just weird. ‘I am going to meet Per.’ she told herself. ‘I am going to meet Per. I am going to talk to Per.’ she said it inside her head a couple of times. Nothing really changed. She still felt weird and wasn’t nervous at all, as if it wasn’t her meeting him…

The girls had dinner at the terrace of a cosy Italian restaurant about an hour later. They were late guests; the restaurant was nice and quiet, leaving all the attention of the waiters for them. The meal was great though the girls laughed over the food a bit; Italian food is different in each country, because they all have their own way of making it.

A stroll around town followed after desert. They walked under Norre Port and let someone take a picture of the four of them. Then they past a little green field with ducks that were all napping, and continued their walk along the Nissan River.

“This is Per’s favourite place.” Anneli said and pointed to a pub called ‘Lilla Hellvetet’ (Little Hell). They walked back to the city and were looking for a nice place to get some drinks.
“But we won’t go here. It’s too posh and boring.” Robin added and made a yawning gesture. Stella giggled.
“So Per is a boring old man, actually?” the other three nodded.

They spent some time in two pubs where Robin, Anneli and Aylin had been before. Stella got overloaded with stories, memories, histories… she enjoyed every moment. The laughter of four happy girls sounded in the air like magic and attracted some Swedish blokes, ready to push their luck.
“Tjena flickor!” one of them said and three Swedish guys grouped around the girls’ table. Aylin ad Robin shared a look and Anneli poked Stella in the side.
“Ik geloof dat we aandacht hebben, Rob!” Aylin said very loudly.
“Ja ik geloof het ook ja! En volgens mij zitten we daar niet op te wachten!” Robin replied in an equally loud, theatrical tone. One of the guys said something rude in Swedish. Robin and Aylin kept speaking Dutch to each other for a moment, totally ignoring the guys and laughing loudly about their own jokes. The guys left.

Sunday

Though they were a little hung-over here and there, the four girls still wanted to go into town. They drove around Halmstad a little by bus to show Stella around, and ended the afternoon in the swimming pool of the hotel. Hanging around by the side of the pool, Stella caught a glance of a familiar looking face walking past.
“That was Åsa.” Anneli said. Stella smiled. She seemed to have ended up in Roxland or something, expecting to see familiar faces everywhere all the time and that wasn’t even a strange thought!

Monday

The girls came back from their shopping spree around two in the afternoon. A big van dropping off some people was almost blocking the door.
“Oh gosh! That’s EMI people!” Robin said and poked Stella’s side.
“Look, that’s Johan Åberg, the guy in the beige pants. Isn’t he cute?!” She went on and pointed at other people as well. Li Eriksson, Roxette’s EMI-representative on promotional occasions, was there too.
“Are they all going to be there?” Stella looked at Aylin.
“I’m not sure. I think Johan, because he was in charge of the contest, and Li, because she always comes with Per on things like this. But the dinner tonight is more an EMI-thing than anything else, it’s just to please the cameras and get some spotlights on EMI…” She said, and looked thoughtful in Johan’s direction.
“Are you sure that’s him, Rob?” she looked at Robin, who nodded.
“Yeah, I’m sure, that’s the guy from the picture.” She answered.
“So you haven’t met him either, then?” Stella asked and looked from one to the other.
“Nope. Everything went via e-mail, and later I spoke with Johan over the phone, the day before he called you! He sent me a picture of him with Li and some other EMI people, so that I would recognise him when I was here. But he’s just arrived, so I didn’t see him before…” Aylin told her quickly. Her voice died away when Johan looked their way. Even though he was not a very special person, accept from cute as Robin already pointed out, Aylin got nervous anyway. Whatever his job was, he was closer to Per than they were…

“He’s seen us.” Anneli stated dryly. Indeed he had spotted them. Four girls hanging around in the middle of the lobby, packed with shopping bags, were hard to miss.
“Ok, let’s go!” Aylin said and started walking to the elevator. Robin said something to her in Dutch, and Aylin shook her head.
“I don’t want to meet him just yet, not like this! Hahaha!” she pointed at the clothes she was wearing. Comfortable flip-flops under a cut-off jeans and an old, too short t-shirt. Not good enough to meet EMI-people in, she thought.

In their hotel room, they went over their plans again.
“Ok, so now I have to get all dressed up…” Stella said, hesitation in her voice. She wasn’t much of a dresser. Of course she knew what looked good on her, and how to dress up for a party… but that wasn’t quite what the girls had in mind.
“Yep! Why don’t you take a nice hot bath, to relax a little?” Anneli suggested.
“When you’re ready, you can try on some clothes and decide which set you’re going to wear!” Aylin said and tapped the bags that were spread out over the bed.
“These two ladies here will put some make up on you,” she pointed at Anneli and Robin, “then I’ll put on something more appropriate as well and I’ll bring you to the restaurant. It’s upstairs.” Aylin concluded.
“At what time again?” Stella started to take off her shoes and shorts.
“You’re expected there around half past five. So, get your ass in the tub! Let me know when you need your back washed!” Aylin added laughing and threw a towel at Stella’s head.

While Stella enjoyed her bath, the other three cleaned up the room. Amazing how fast four girls can make a huge mess! They also took all new clothes out of the bags and looked what fit best together. Aylin changed a couple of times too. She wasn’t going to the dinner, but she had agreed with Johan that she would introduce Stella to him, and he would take it from there. That would be her cue to leave. All in all it would take her a couple of minutes. A couple of minutes on this over-rated dinner-party that Mr. PG himself was supposed to attend as well. She’d dressed up for less obvious reasons, so why not now.

Aylin was having a smoke out of the window when Stella came back into the room, wearing a hotel robe. Anneli was reading a magazine; Robin was digging through her beauty-case.
“Ok! I’m ready!” Stella announced. Then things happened fast. They gave her sets of clothes with which she disappeared into the bathroom, came out dressed in them and walked around. Stella finally decided she felt most comfortable in the black linen pants she had bought, which had a matching jacket to it. But she needed something to go under it… The other three all said something different!
“Hey… but we are forgetting something…” Robin said. She picked up an H&M bag that had almost disappeared under the bed and pulled out a black and yellow striped shirt with sleeves to the elbows and a wide neck.
“This is stylie! The yellow is summer, the black matches the pants!” she cheered.
“But I didn’t buy that, did I?” Stella said when she took the shirt from Robin. It wasn’t really something she would wear, but she agreed that it would look good with the set. She heard Aylin laugh out loud.
“I bought that! Oh Stel, it would be such an honour if you’d wear my shirt on a dinner with Per!” She said, wrapping her arms around Stella’s shoulders and rolling her eyes.

So, Stella’s outfit was ready. Now hair and make up, which was in Anneli’s and Robin’s hands. Aylin took a quick shower and dressed up as well. The room was filled with giggles and jokes and all were in the best mood.

It was already half past five when Stella and Aylin stood in the elevator. They went to the top floor where the main dining room was. Aylin wore a long, wide, cream-colored skirt with a big belt resting on her hips. On top she had a wide shirt in the same colour, hanging off one shoulder, exposing the white net-top underneath it. She was explaining her mobile to Stella.
“So when you see an envelope, there’s an sms. You press this icon for a second, then you can type this arrow here and read the message. Here, press reply and type!” it was about the fourth time she explained everything. Stella couldn’t help but chuckle.
“What?!” Aylin said semi-insulted, but with laughter shining in her eyes.
“I wonder who is more nervous, you or me!” Stella said.
“Me. Until you sms to Robin or Anneli, that everything is ok!” Aylin replied and squeezed Stella’s side.
“I’ll try! I don’t know when I have a moment to do that, but I’ll try!” Stella promised. The elevator stopped and both girls felt their hearts skip a beat; they were there.

The big dining room was decorated with lots of lights, and a huge table was already set. The rest of the restaurant was closed. The girls entered the room, looking around for Johan. They spotted Per’s band members and Li first, and then Johan appeared out of nowhere.
“Johan?” Aylin started. He in Swedish, said something like, ‘how can I help you’.
“I’m Aylin, from the Netherlands.”
“Ah! Great to meet you Aylin, I am Johan Åberg!” he said and shook her hand.
“Then you must be Stella?” he said and held out his hand. Stella nodded and smiled
“Stella Dewitt, hi!” she said. She noticed her hands were freezing cold compared to Johan’s.
“Great to meet you too and sorry for that weird phone call…” he said with a smile. They laughed about that, and then Li Eriksson joined them.
“Hi Aylin! And then you’re Stella?” She said and shook their hands. Aylin tried not to be too impressed about Li recognising her. By now, she had seen every face in the room. He wasn’t there yet.

They said goodbye with a short hug, feeling kind of weird.
“Well… good luck, Cinderella…” Aylin said when she left. Stella was guided to a big group of people, in between Johan and Li.

An introduction followed. Stella shook hands with a whole range of people she knew only from videos and pictures. The most important people present were Christoffer, Clarence and Per… he entered the room when Stella was done shaking hands with the rest of the crew, fashionably late as always. Li lay a hand on Stella’s back.

“He’s here. Are you nervous?” she asked with a sweet smile. Stella wasn’t sure what to say. Would it sound careless if she said no?
“I’m ok…” she told Li and then she saw him. He entered the room with one hand casually in his pocket, his mobile phone and sunglasses in the other. He was wearing a black suit made of thin fabric, with a light pink shirt under it. A combination only he would wear, Stella though later. The jacket fitted perfectly around his waist and chest, and it was a bit of a pity that he opened it when he came their way and greeted Li. They said a few words in Swedish to each other. It was impossible to get rid of the radiant smile that shone over her face when she heard them talking. He spoke Swedish… of course he speaks Swedish you moron, he’s in his own country!! No more time for thoughts, because Li now turned to Stella and switched to English.
“Well, Per, this is Stella Dewitt. Stella, Per Gessle.” She said. It sounded formal but she winked at Stella. Per shook her hand.
“Hi Stella, nice to meet you!” He said politely.
“Nice to meet you too!” she said, trying not to pay too much attention to his warm, soft hand squeezing hers firmly.
“We need a moment for the camera’s now, please come this way.” Li directed them to stand next to the dinner table and Clarence and Christoffer joined them. They both looked at Stella with huge smiles on their faces, making her feel like some kind of attraction. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked to the other side; Per was standing beside her and had wrapped an arm around her. He said something in Swedish and the other guys laughed.
“Sorry, sorry…” he apologized when she looked at him.
“I will behave and speak English from now on. Smile for the picture!” he pointed at the cameras. Oh please, please don’t speak English… Swedish is just fine… Stella bit her lip not to laugh over her own thoughts and looked at the camera crew and photographers in front of her. After a couple of pictures, a woman with a microphone came up to them. Stella would later learn that her name was Cissi, she was married to Alar Suurna (one of the engineers for most Roxette-albums) and therefore she joked around with Per before really starting to interview them. Stella felt a bit out of place while Cissi spoke Swedish to Per. As if she had fallen from the edge of the planet and landed in this bizarre situation without anybody noticing it.

She didn’t even remember what she said to the journalists, but she would never forget how sweet Christoffer was to save her from some difficult questions. He was a really funny guy, seemed to always have a joke at hand to change the situation. She ended up sitting between him and Clarence during dinner, opposite from Per. Per sat in between Li and Marie Dimberg, who had suddenly arrived out of the blue when the dinner started.

Stella felt the phone buzz in the pocket of her pants. Shit! The girls! She had already almost finished the first course and was deep in a conversation with Christoffer about guitars. This guy was a walking guitar encyclopaedia, he knew literally everything!
“Christoffer, is it me or are you trying to impress our foreign guest?” Per asked over the table, with his mouth half full of crab.
“Oh don’t spoil it! She is about to become my fan!” he replied quickly, almost before Per had finished his sentence. Per and Christoffer had a funny conversation about who was stealing whose fans, and Stella saw a perfect moment to check the mobile phone. ‘And and and and?!?!?!?!’ it said. She pressed the reply-button and typed, just one word, then sent it.
“See, now she’s forgotten about me…” Christoffer said and looked at the mobile on Stella’s lap.
“I haven’t! I am all ears, don’t worry!” She said and put the phone away.
“Messages from Australia?” Christoffer wanted to know. Stella shook her head and finished her bite of crab in delicious sauce before she answered.
“I’ve got three friends in a hotel room, waiting for news.”
“Ah! And have you told them how great it is, dining with me?” he asked. He would never guess that Stella wasn’t laughing so hard because of his joke, but because of the word she had sms-ed her friends: ‘YUMMY’…

The food was good, the wine even better and the company… nothing to complain about. Stella excused herself and went to the toilet between the third course and desert. When she’d made sure she was alone, she called Robin’s mobile number. She picked up instantly.
“Stellaaaa!!!”
“Hey girl!”
“Did you speak with him?”
“Yes, I did. We are in the middle of dinner, I have to get back soon. Just wanted to say that everything is splendid!”
“Oh great!!” Robin said and Stella heard a lot of giggling in the background
“Aylin wants to talk to you, here she is!”
“Hey Stel! Have you impressed them yet?!”
“Hahaha… I hope so…”
“Good, good! We ate pizza and we’re now having rum and coke on the beach. Listen, you never guess what happened. When I left the restaurant, I went to the toilet first. Then I went to the elevator and who got out when I wanted to go in? Per! He looks gorgeous!”
“Hehe… yes he does indeed! I have to go, ok? I’ll let you know more later!”

Later…

After dessert and during coffee, the camera-crew was back. Stella was being interviewed while she nervously stirred her coffee for the third time. Sweden, ok. Per, ok. But now camera’s… this was new. She was a little afraid that the wine and her big mouth would start playing tricks on her with that microphone held in her face the whole time. Luckily, she didn’t say anything stupid. She didn’t remember saying anything stupid. The woman who interviewed her, Cissi, was nice, though the gossip-type. She was looking for freaky fan-stuff, Stella found out soon enough. She was digging for dirt when she asked if Stella knew anything about fans camping outside Per’s house.
“Well… maybe they misinterpreted the ‘Right for Public Access’?” Stella replied to the stupid question why fans would do such a thing. The guys around her laughed, as well as Li who was sitting beside her.

After the short interview, Stella was seated around another table with Johan Åberg, Li, Per, Clarence and Christoffer. They were going to explain to her what would happen the rest of the week, while the camera’s filmed everything. Johan asked Per to do the talking.
“Ok. Well, you’ll be welcomed in MP’s Tits & Ass studio for the coming week, until Saturday. Given the fact that we are skilled but uncreative, and you are creative but unequipped, I think we have to manage to finish an EP by the end of the week. EMI will release this EP in a limited edition of 50 numbered copies.” His eyes rested on her when he finished talking. They seemed much darker brown than on any picture she’d ever seen, Stella suddenly realised. She snapped out of that thought when the table was silent and everybody was waiting for her to say something.
“That’s… that’s great!” she stammered. Johan saved her by handing out a small pile of papers.
“This is your schedule for this week. We made this because we had to book the studio and the photographer in advance.”

Some more things were explained and Stella tried to listen but it was difficult. It was difficult to hear what everyone was saying when those dark brown eyes were on her all the time.

Johan told her it was time to go, down to Leif’s Lounge where they would finish the evening with a drink. Stella regained her ability to think within seconds.
“Can my friends come down too?” she asked him softly while they stood up. She was careful not to let anyone else hear it. Johan looked at her with a frown.
“They are fans?” he guessed. Stella nodded.
“They are the ones that got me here. They are not the hysteric type, don’t worry!” she said with her sweetest smile.
“I have to discuss that. You see, the club is closed actually, they’re only opening for us.”

They didn’t all fit in the elevator together, so Stella was already sitting in one of the comfortable Chesterfield chairs of Leif’s Lounge, with a cool drink in her hand, when Per came in. Stella didn’t notice him at first. She was busy trying to persuade Johan to allow the girls to come down, and Christoffer was helping her. He sat back with a bottle of beer in his hand.
“I’m saying you won’t regret it. The suits are getting boring now, that’s all I’m saying.” He said and looked around. Stella giggled. Indeed, a lot of suits around them.

The hairs on her arm rose when she met Per’s eyes and he answered her smile. He was standing at the bar, waiting for his drink.

“Ok ok!” Johan said, hands in the air in defence.
“I guess it’s ok. But I have to get them then because the guys at the door won’t let them in.”
“Oh great! I’ll call them, thank you so much!” Stella said with a hand on Johan’s arm. She gave Christoffer thumbs up and stood up. She walked to a small hall where the toilets were and dialled Robin’s number again.

* * *

“Oh my!!! hahahahaaha! You can’t be serious! Hahahaha!” Stella almost fell off her chair, she was laughing so hard. Opposite from her sat Christoffer and Clarence. Clarence was also hysterically laughing. Christoffer had a rather triumphant look on his face and took a sip of his beer.
“I swear, he really did say that.” he said with a chuckle.

“Hey what’s going on here?”
They all pulled a straight face when Per joined them with some new drinks. Stella couldn’t look at Clarence; she would surely burst into laughter again. Per sensed there was something going on and he looked from Stella, to Clarence, to Christoffer and at Stella again.
“Stellaaaaa…?” Per said and looked into her eyes.
“Mmmm?” Stella didn’t trust her voice enough to speak. Per leaned closer to her.
“Something the matter?” he asked. He smiled and looked into her eyes. Stella wasn’t only fighting laughter now, she also hoped she wouldn’t blush with Per sitting so next to her. She shook her head in answer.

Per sat back and sipped his wine. He pulled up one eyebrow and looked at Christoffer who was studying the label on his beer-bottle.
“You making fun of me again, Lundquist?”
“No, no! I wouldn’t dare!” Christoffer said, not looking up.

They were sitting in the comfortable lounge chairs of Leif’s Lounge. It was already after closing time but they still hung around there while the bartenders were cleaning up. They had been sitting upstairs before, in Per’s office. Their week in the studio together was almost over and had been one big rush. Stella had become best friends with Christoffer and Clarence. Per was more difficult to get through to, and she still felt shy in his presence. It seemed though as if he had the same kind of problem…

When Stella came from the toilet a little later, she almost ran into Per as he came out of the men’s room.
“Whoops! The bar is that way, isn’t it?” Stella said. Per smiled.
“Eh… yeah…” and he stood still in front of her. Stella was about to step around him to return to the bar but he stopped her, his hand on her arm.
“Stel, listen…” he said and looked around him. Stella stared at his hand on her arm and at the same time realised that he called her Stel. That had been Christoffer’s thing until now, Clarence was too polite and Per too reserved to give her a nickname.
“Excuse me.” Per said and let go of her arm.
“Actually, I was looking for you… I think I…” he stopped talking when someone passed them by and entered the restroom.
“I think I have to apologize.” Per said. He stepped closer to her. Stella unconsciously stepped back, until she was leaning against the wall.
“I think I missed something. What should you apologize for?” she said.
“For this.” Per said and within a split second, his lips were on hers. He kissed her just like that. He was so fast that Stella barely had time to realise what happened, until she very much realised his warm lips against hers. Her breath stalled and she didn’t even think of kissing him back. Just waited what would happen next.

Per leaned one hand against the wall. Stella felt his breath against her cheek when he let go of her mouth. He looked at her.
“Sorry…” he whispered and then kissed her again. Stella’s mouth was a little opened in surprise. She wanted to say something but didn’t know what. Per’s lips nipped hers and he slid his tongue slowly between them.

They got startled by voices behind them and Per backed away from her.

“Hey colleagues! You should have said that the party moved to the hallway…” Christoffer said. He was a little tipsy and almost stumbled over his own feet.

* * *

Friday, last studio-day

Stella arrived at the studio around nine. A little bit earlier than usual, as this was their last studio-day and not everything was entirely finished yet. Christoffer was already there with MP, Clarence arrived a little later.

Stella and Christoffer were well on their way with the mixing of the EP, but they were not sure if they would be able to finish it completely. It still wasn’t bad for a first demo-album… it contained two songs written by Stella, one song written by Per and two songs which Per and Stella had written together during recording. Per sang backing vocals to one of them. This particular process had brought them closer together. It had given Stella an insight on Per, as any other friend she had, instead of Per The Pop Star. Indeed, he was a genius in creating catchy tunes and pleasant rhymes. But he was also just a man, naïve and uncoordinated in what he was creating. It was clear that he had been lucky to have found these great people surrounding him. Especially Clarence could make the exact right comment on the exact right time, to send Per’s creative flow into the right direction. Stella had watched and learned.

He came around one, when the others already had a busy day. Marie Dimberg was with him and she carried a bag full of sweetbreads.

“Good morning sunshine!” Per said to Christoffer and patted his shoulder. He nodded and smiled at Stella who begged not to turn red instantly. She nodded and smiled back. Her heart was racing since he came in. They had both gone home after the ‘kissing-incident’ and now saw each other for the first time.

Marie Dimberg chatted to Stella while she took the sweetbreads out of the bag and put them on a big plate. Stella had trouble concentrating on what Marie was saying because… well… Per was around. And there was something about him. His presence seemed to buzz in her ears. The air seemed to have gotten thick. Stella saw images that made it difficult to focus on sweetbreads.

The whole group sat around the table and talked and ate. Stella and Per each sat on another side of the table. Their eyes met every other minute. As if they were just briefly checking up on each other. Eventually, Christoffer looked behind him to see what the hell Per was staring at all the time. Stella certainly developed a great interest in the crumbs on the table…

After their simple, unhealthy and late lunch, the artists went back to work. Stella felt uneasy. She wished Per would just leave, it was impossible to do anything useful with him there… she wondered what he was thinking while he looked at her the whole time.

Suddenly, they were alone. Dimberg had waved goodbye when she went back to the hotel. MP had disappeared to the house. Clarence was grocery shopping… Christoffer was nowhere to be seen. Stella pretended she didn’t notice and continued to write the postcards she was going to send to some friends. Per was walking around, asked if she wanted to drink and brought her a cold coke.

“Seems we are alone.” He sat softly and joined her behind the mixing panel. In a reflex, Stella moved her chair a little bit away from him.
“Are you angry with me?” He said. Stella looked up. Ahaa… so that was what went on in his mind. She shook her head.
“No. Stunned, but not angry.” She heard herself say and was surprised how sure her voice sounded. Not high and shaky and hysteric, not at all…
“Ok. good.” he said. He kept looking at her while she was writing.

“I do think it’s better if it doesn’t happen again.” Stella stated after a few minutes of silence. Per looked at her for a long time, first into her eyes but then his eyes wandered off to her mouth. Then he sighed shortly and looked away, nodding.
“Yes, right.” He said softly.

Their time alone had only lasted about half an hour but it seemed hours and hours before the guys came back. They worked until the evening, had Chinese food for dinner and worked more. Per had left them just before dinner and didn’t come back.

Saturday afternoon

“Ok, how about this then?” Stella emerged from the fitting room in a black dress. Cotton, ankle-length, no arms. Aylin and Robin looked at each other, then at Stella and shook their heads. Not good.
“Oh come on guys, you have to help me out! This way I’ll never find something suitable…” Stella sighed and went back to the fitting room.
“I’ll stay here until you find me something normal!” she yelled while she wrestled to get out of the stupid dress. Ok, ok, it looked silly. It made her look ten years older and it was un-sexy. But by god, every dress she tried on in the past two hours had been a ‘no’…

Tonight would be a big thing. The first copies of Stella’s CD would be presented to the press, EMI, the production team and of course herself. The girls said she had to wear a dress and high heels…

“Stella?” that was Anneli’s voice on the other side of the curtain. Stella peeked around it and the only thing she saw was a piece of cream-coloured cloth.
“This is the last option, or we will allow you to wear pants.” Anneli said and pushed the dress in Stella’s face. Stella chuckled to herself and shook her head over those girls, while pulling the dress over her head. The fabric was elastic but soft like an old t-shirt…

It was short; a little above the knee. It was tight too, she’d have to wear a seamless bra or something. It had no sleeves so Anneli had added a light jeans jacket to go with it.

“Girls?” Stella’s voice was questioning when she came out of the fitting room. All three girls turned around and the same time. Their mouths fell open.
“I think I found it…” Stella hesitated but her friends had already decided for her: this was going to be The Outfit!

After a visit to a posh looking lingerie-store, they went to the hotel to make themselves ready. All four of them this time because Stella could bring them with her to the party. They would finally be together again tonight! Stella had spent so little time with the girls in the past week that it felt like a reunion.

Around eight

They walked slowly because they didn’t want to be there exactly at eight. Aylin even suggested riding the elevator twice, but then someone came in so they couldn’t go back down. It was five minutes past eight when they reached the dining room, now transformed into a party hall.

Stella introduced the girls to the guys, Marie Dimberg and the EMI people. They all smiled their sweetest smiles and didn’t say anything stupid. So far, so good…

The official part of the evening started around half past eight. EMI praised Per and his team first, then Stella, and then… the CD was presented. Stella got the first copy, symbolically given to her by Per. He gave the CD and then hugged her shortly. The camera’s flashing around them seemed to have switched to slow-motion when he pulled her against him softly…. His suit crackled a little bit and his after shave prickled her nose.

Though in reality it didn’t take more than a couple of seconds, Stella felt like hours had passed by when she came from the little stage with the CD in her hands.

“And now… time for a party!” EMI’s representative Johan Åberg announced.
Now that’s a word Stella’s friends understood! They drank, laughed, flirted and still managed to behave quite well. Stella kept a bit silent. Her mind wasn’t really clear and it wasn’t because of the wine.

“Stel!! Hug me honey, my artist, my idol! I want your autograph!” Aylin swirled around her, grabbing her by the waist and hugging her tight. Stella laughed loud and held her friend.
“Oh Stel… who would have thought… months ago…” Aylin said softly and shook her head. The stood side by side, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders.
“Hey you actually have a good view from here…” Aylin mumbled, looking around from where Stella had been standing for a while.
“Yep. I can keep an eye on you.” Stella said. Aylin smiled and looked at Stella for a long time.
“He looks sexy tonight, doesn’t he?” Aylin said. Stella tried not to sigh. She nodded and smiled, but Aylin knew better.
“But?” she asked. Stella shrugged.
“Hey, Stel!” Aylin insisted…
“Mmm…”
“Is something wrong? Did Per seduce you?” Aylin joked, fiddling with Stella’s carefully-blow-dried-by-Robin-hairdo. Stella looked at her and she saw Aylin’s cheeks turn pale. Aylin shook her head, eyes questioning. Stella nodded.
“No….” Aylin whispered. Stella giggled, this was getting silly.
“Yeeeees….” She whispered back.

Aylin walked off and came back with two drinks.
“What’s this?” Stella asked.
“Drink up! I had to bribe the waiter for it so drink it!” her friend said.

The drink was sweet and strong. Coke with dark brown Jamaican rum… or maybe rather rum with coke. They finished their drinks quickly and in silence.
“So you are serious about…?” Aylin raised her eyebrows and put her glass on a table nearby. Stella nodded.
“How?”
“Pfff… ehm… well, basically, eeeh…”

“Are the ladies enjoying themselves?” Christoffer interrupted. Per and Clarence were with him.
“Oh yes, veeery.” Stella said, yawning. Aylin smiled and tried not to look at Per. Instead, she turned to Christoffer and started chatting to him.
“We met before, and I still don’t understand what you said to me then…” Stella heard Aylin say. Per was standing next to her now.
“Oh yes, I am well-known for saying the strangest things…” Christoffer smiled widely.
“Well actually… it was a Swedish saying which you said to me in English. In fact, I kind of know what it means now, but it took me three years.” Aylin said in quick, almost accent less English. Stella giggled. She knew Aylin had been waiting to start this conversation with Christoffer, and now she finally had her chance. She didn’t even seem to notice Per was in the same room… on the same couple of square meters to be exact…

“Do you have a minute?” His voice was a soft whisper beside her ear. When she turned her head, he was gone, but she saw him walking off in the direction of the hall. She waited for a moment and then followed. Aylin had of course mesmerized the other two with her stunning appearance; Anneli and Robin were on the other side of the room, trying to hit it off with Johan – both at the same time, as each other’s competition.

The hall was long and dimly lighted. It had started to get dark outside. Stella looked around and didn’t see anything, then decided to just walk into the direction of the elevator and back…

She almost jumped meters into the air when she saw Per standing in a corner, leaning against the wall next to some painting.
“Oh dear…” Stella breathed, hand on her chest.
“Sorry, hehe…” he said with a chuckle. He took her hand and opened a door, and pulled her into the darkness.

“What…” Stella started but she had no chance. She felt his warm lips pressed onto hers, his breath on her skin, his hands on her waist… she seemed to melt away under his touch, barely managed to stay on feet, the shock almost making her faint.

“Geez, Per…” she muttered when his lips left her.
“Just a kiss… Stel… I just want to kiss you…” he whispered under his breath. His hands squeezed her sides softly and his face came to hers again. They were still in complete darkness and Stella only saw the shimmering of his eyes. She accepted his tongue on her lips, opened them slightly to let him in. He growled when his tongue met hers and his body came closer, pushing her against something behind her, a table or something…

Per’s lips left her mouth and trailed along her face. He kissed her cheek, her eyelids, her forehead… sniffled her hair and then kissed the tip of her nose. Stella giggled.
“Per, I…”
“Shussh…” he silenced her. His lips touched her neck now, leaving soft kisses, then her shoulder… Stella’s hands finally came to action and she put them on his arms, going up to his shoulders, then over to his neck and hair. Per’s panting had become a bit steadier.

“So…” Stella said.
“Should I apologize again?” Per whispered to her neck.
“Mmm… No, not this time. But…” Stella started but hesitated.
“But what…” Per kissed her cheek again.
“We should go back, they will wonder…” Stella said. Per kissed her again. His tongue swirled around in her mouth slowly. Stella felt her legs weaken and she gasped when he let go.
“Yes I think we should.” Per’s voice was a hoarse whisper.

Stella had changed her mind. She pulled his face back to her and kissed him again. Per moaned when he felt how she wanted him and he pushed his body against her again.
“Oh shit Stel…” he mumbled.
“Shit what? This?” Stella said and put he hand on his crotch. He was hard and longing and felt good in her hand. Per made a hissing sound.
“Mmm… indeed, that.” he said. Stella squeezed him softly and licked his lips.
“No… please…” Per hissed.
“No? What, no?”
“I… I just wanted…” Per stumbled over his words but much more wanted to kiss her. Stella squeezed a little harder and Per gasped in her mouth. She heard him mumble something and then felt his hands cup her breasts. He pushed his hips against her.
“I believe…” he panted in her ear, kissing and licking that side of her neck, “I believe I have a crush on you…”

Stella only half heard what he said. One of his hands was slipping under her dress. Per pressed his hand against her leg as he went up under her dress, until he reached for her ass. His other hand supported her back while he pushed her further backwards into whatever she was leaning on.
“Mmm…” she mumbled. Per broke their kiss and looked at her.
“What is this?” Stella said and reached behind her.
“Oh… wait.” Per let go of her and for a moment, Stella had no idea where he was. Then a light suddenly flicked on and she saw Per standing beside the door.
“This is kind of a storage room.” Per said. Stella looked around. What she had been leaning on was an old desk and the rest of the room was also filled with old furniture and tools.

Seeing him so clearly with the light on, Stella’s heart skipped a beat when he came closer again. Her put his hands on her waist and lifted her up onto the desk. He pushed her knees apart with his hips and stepped in between. His eyes locked with hers and he didn’t stop looking at her when his hands began another journey over her body. Her legs, pushing her dress up to her hips. Then his hands went up to her breasts. He massaged her nipples with his thumbs and they became hard, pointing through the thin fabric of the dress. Stella sighed.
“We should go back…” she whispered. Per removed her jacket. Stella got goose bumps when she felt his warm hands on her bare arms.
“Shushh…” he said. His hands were everywhere at the same time, as was his mouth. Stella had trouble keeping up, her mind hazed and her body aching… aching for more of his touch, more more…

“Mmm!” she moaned against his mouth when Per pulled her tiny, brand new thong to one side and explored her with his fingers. A low grown came from his throat in reply, when he felt the affect their kissing had on her.

His other had stopped her when she wanted to open his pants.
“Stel… wait…” he mumbled. He took a step back and removed his jacket. Then he dropped to his knees. Stella opened her mouth to say something but Per put a finger on his lips. He first kissed a knee and then went up on the inside of her thigh. His lips were soft and smooth, leaving a wet trail on her skin. Stella didn’t know where to look… she didn’t want to see the junk around them in the storage room, which made the whole situation a little dirty. She didn’t want to look down on her own legs and she also couldn’t bear the sight of Per’s face between her legs… oh gosh please don’t let me burst out laughing, she thought to herself and closed her eyes.

She wouldn’t have any time to laugh though. Per’s tongue was exploring her and Stella felt shock after shock when he touched, licked and probed all her delicious sensitive spots. Her hands went through his hair and she whispered to him to stay there, yes, right there… that was the right spot…

Per slipped one of his fingers inside her as well and stayed where she wanted him. His tongue was slow, but not too slow… soon he felt her inside tense and her belly seemed to tremble a little. Her breath came out in long, low moans, making as little sound as she could… he didn’t stop until she told him to.

He kissed her thighs again, and her knees. Stella was still catching her breath when he came up to kiss her.
“Come here…” she breathed between kisses. She pulled him closer and started with his belt.
“No… no Stel…” he loosened himself from her.
“Yes… I want you.” she said softly and her hand dove inside his pants. Per gasped loudly when she got hold of the hard bulge that was hiding inside underpants.
“Ah!! Stop!” he said and grabbed her wrist. He pulled her hand away and leaned into her, kissing her and pushing his body into her.
“We can’t Stel, I didn’t bring anything… you know. Sorry…” he whispered into her mouth. “and we have to go back…” he added a little hesitantly.

* * *

Stella turned up beside Aylin in a flash.
“Oh! I was just getting a drink, here you go.” Aylin said and gave her a glass. Stella didn’t really look at it and gulped half of it down in one go. It was rum with coke and quite strong.
“Wow, girl, take it slow. I don’t want to carry you to the elevator…” Aylin said with a wink when she came back with a drink for herself.

Stella had trouble to catch her breath. Her heart was still pounding loud and fast and her knees were slightly wobbly.
“Hey, where have you been?” Anneli asked, her voice a little bit slurry.
“Are you ok?” Aylin went on. Stella nodded.
“Yeah, I have to go to the ladies…” she mumbled and left in a hurry.

Stella stared at herself in the mirror. What the hell just happened?! She asked herself. She stared at her own face. She looked pale but her cheeks were flushed at the same time. A sick feeling spread through her stomach and she started sweating. Act Normal!!! She told herself. Stella!! Get yourself together! Fool! She almost said out loud.

Stella washed her face, wrists and hands with ice cold water and then returned to the party. Per was talking to Aylin and glanced at her when she came in. She did her best to either stay away from him or be in the company of others the whole time, and by the end of the party she almost felt normal again.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” she whispered at Per. He approached her while they were both saying goodbye to some people who were leaving.
“Me either. I just want to finish it.” he whispered huskily in her ear. Stella stared at him with her mouth half open and watched him walk away.

“Excuse me?” she knew her voice sounded too loud, harsh almost, but she was too surprised to think clearly. Per walked through the hall, on his way to the elevator. He turned around when he heard her and gave her a cheeky smile.
“You heard me. I wish we…”
“Shush!” Stella whispered. She had walked up to him, in the middle of the hall, not far from the storage room…
“You said stop, remember?” she said softly, trying to sound angry. That was difficult though, with Per standing less that an inch away from her, smiling heavenly, smelling gorgeous, daring her with his eyes.

Per didn’t speak. People were talking in the hall behind Stella. She was about to turn around when Per pushed something in her hand and closed her fingers around it.
“See you around.” he said and then walked off…

Stella stared at the dark ceiling and listened to the steady breaths and occasional soft snores of her friends. She sighed and turned again, reached under her pillow and got out the key card. He’d given her a key card. It was a simple blue colour and had the name of the suite on it, the number and the floor, then the address of the hotel. He was staying there tonight, she knew that. And she was lying in the double bed with Aylin, and Robin and Anneli had two separate beds next to them. She glanced at the clock… it was almost one. There was no way she could… or… no. It was too late.

* * *

Half an hour later. Stella came out of the bathroom dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and slippers. She’d glanced at herself in the mirror for a moment but decided she couldn’t be bothered.

Per had fallen asleep with the TV on. He lay on top of the covers, dressed in shorts and with the remote control in his hand. Stella tiptoed into the room a couple of meters before she saw him. The flickering television shone a blue-ish light over his face and chest and he looked quite peaceful. A window was opened somewhere in the room and Stella felt a breeze tickle the bare skin of her arms. She sighed without a sound. Now what?

Standing closer to the bed, Stella watched his chest move when he breathed. He was in good shape for his age, tanned, and had a nice amount of chest hair. His skin looked soft, she thought. She bit her lip and smiled to herself. Per was frowning and stirred a little and Stella’s heart jumped.

Ok. This was too stupid, she thought. Action needed to be taken, NOW!!!

So, Stella climbed onto the bed. She sat next to him on hands and knees, careful not to make too much noise or movements. She leaned down to his face and a faint smell of shower gel prickled her nose. She kissed him softly, touched his lips very softly with hers. Third time she kissed him, he kissed her back. He took a deep breath through his nose and his hands came up to cup her face, dropping the remote control to the floor. He didn’t open his eyes.
“Stella…” he whispered between kisses, “you came…”
Per’s fingers softly caressed her cheeks, then got lost in her hair. He massaged her scalp while pulling her closer to him. Stella placed her legs each on one side of his hips and laid her hands on his chest.
“I-I couldn’t sleep…” she whispered barely audible.
“Oh poor darling… how come…” Per said, his voice low.
“I don’t know…” Stella replied. Her hands wandered over his chest; his skin was indeed soft. She stopped kissing him, sat up and pulled her t-shirt over her head. She wasn’t wearing a bra and Per’s hands hurried from her legs up over her body to touch her breasts.

Stella’s hips pressed down on Per’s and she felt him harden under her. She moved her hips, rubbing over him a little bit. He sucked in his breath with a hissing sound and sat up. He laid his face against her chest, breathing her in, brushing his cheeks against the soft skin of her breasts.
“Mmmm…” he mumbled and licked a nipple carefully. Now it was Stella’s turn to gasp and let her mouth fall open. She looked at him, how his lips closed over her nipple and a sigh escaped her. Her hands went through his hair slowly.

Per pulled her down on the bed with him and then flipped them over. He lay beside her with one of his legs wrapped over her waist. His mouth was on hers again, kissing her slowly but demandingly.

“Oh! Wait…” he suddenly said, more to himself than to her. He rolled to other side of the bed and looked beside it. There he found the remote control to switch off the TV.

It was suddenly a lot darker around them with the TV now off, except for a subtle shine of the moon coming through the window.

On hands and knees he came back to her. He leaned down and kissed her belly softly a couple of times. His breath was hot on her skin when he kissed up from her belly to her breasts, then to her mouth. He kissed her long and slowly.
“You are gorgeous.” he whispered softly.
“Hmpfff” Stella was about to reply when he kissed her again and pushed his tongue inside her mouth. His hands were going up and down over her body and he crawled over her, one leg on each side. His hands caressed their way down to her jeans, which he unbuttoned and pulled down. Stella lifted her ass a little bit to make it easier, while he was still kissing her.

“Ohh…” Stella gasped when Per let go of her mouth.
“Mmm?” he looked at her. He had taken off her jeans and panties in one move and threw them beside the bed on the floor. His shorts followed quickly.

Now they were both naked, the room was dark and everything around them was silent and peaceful. They got hesitant. They lay side by side and exchanged soft kisses and caresses. Stella took his hardness in her hand, stroking gently.
“Ohh…” he growled against her cheek.
“Mmmm…” she moaned back. He wrapped and arm and leg around her and pulled her on top of him. Stella sat up and looked at him with a cheeky smile. Per bit his lip and smiled back. He rubbed up and down her legs with his hands, his fingers sneaking in between. Her mouth opened when he touched her and she kept looking at him. His fingers explored, searched, and found…

Stella swayed her hips back and forth a little bit, Per rubbing her most sensitive spot there. A tremble went through her belly and she sighed. Per looked at her sitting on him, a small stream of light from outside shining over her naked body. His eyes traced the lines of her shoulder, down to her breasts, hardened nipples, the soft roundness of her belly…

Then Stella pulled his hand from between her legs and bend forward, surprising him with a deep, breathless kiss. She panted fast and her skin was damp and hot. Per growled, heat shooting through him even more when he noticed how aroused she was. Stella lifted her hips and then pushed herself onto him. They stared at each other, both keeping their breath when he disappeared into her. Per’s hand roughly went through the hair on the back of her head, and then pulled her down to him to kiss her again. Stella slowly moved up and down on him, letting out short puffs of breath.

“Oh… du… aaah…” Per mumbled something in Swedish. Stella bit her lip.
“Oh say that again…” she whispered. Per chuckled. He pushed his hips upwards into her movement to touch her deeper and a little harder, making her gasp.
“Come on…” she said again, grinning.
“Mmmm…” he panted in her ear and whispered more horny words.

Per grabbed held her close against him and moved his hips, flipping them over so that he was now on top. He gave a wet, long kiss and his hands seemed to be everywhere at the same time. Stella wrapped her legs around his hips and met his thrusts. Soft, deep moans left her throat. Per grabbed her hip with one hand as if he needed to keep her in place and short, fast thrusts upward followed.
“Oohhh…” Stella trembled and twisted under him and he felt her contracting around him. He slowed down his thrusts until she started to catch her breath.
“Oh… Stella…” he whispered huskily. She looked at him with a smile, eyes all dazed and shining.

* * *

Per awoke with a gasp and he sat upright. He looked around him, confused and dizzy. Sleep still had a tight grip on him but there was an obvious alarm sounding in his brain to get up and get to the toilet.

When he came back into the bedroom yawning, he looked at the bed. A grin formed on his face when he remembered. Oj… where was she actually? He looked around, which was ridiculous as she was obviously not in the room. Then he glanced at the clock… oh god, no. It was half past eleven. He had slept himself through the morning.

Click. Click click. Zzzzzzzzzzz…. Click. Mechanical sounds were the only thing that accompanied Aylin this morning. She was sure she had taken pictures of the whole hotel now, inside and out, including the library with Per’s piano. This was the final shot of the breathtaking view from the library.

As always, she had long been finished packing before the others even started. So now she was wandering around the hotel alone, dreaming away in her mind while taking a hysterical amount of pictures…

“Excuse me…”

The voice startled her, double. Once because she hadn’t expected anyone there and second because she recognized it. She had to take a deep breath before turning around. Per was standing in the doorway of the library. He was wearing a shirt that could’ve done with some ironing and a pair of jeans with an indefinable stain on one of the knees. His hair was wet and a hint of deodorant prickled her nose when he approached her. He hadn’t had time to shave. He was drop-dead-sexy.

“H-hi…” she half-sighed, trying to compose herself. Oh that shy smile was almost too much…
“You’re Stella’s friend, right?” he asked. His voice was suffering from the party last night. Even better. Aylin nodded with a proud smile, getting less nervous.
“And your group is leaving today?”
“Yes, we’re flying to Holland late this afternoon, Stella is joining us.”
“Do you know where she is now?”
“She’s packing, I think…” she said, staring at the camera in her hand. She was getting a bit uncomfortable.

Per nodded a bit hesitant and also looked another way.

“Did… uhm, something happen? Something with you and Stella?” she looked at him with her head slightly tilted and a twinkle in her eyes. He didn’t say anything, just bit his lip. She didn’t need any words.

“Stay here, I’ll get her.” She said and left, closing the door behind her.

He was staring dreamily out of the window when she came in. He turned around and saw she looked as tired, as rumpled, as hung-over as he. And sweet.

“Stel…” he said her name softly. A jolt in her belly. She couldn’t help but smile. She walked to him.
“Great view here.”
“Mhm.”

They were silent for a while.

“About last night…” he started but didn’t finish. Stella held a finger on her lips and shook her head. He nodded. Then he pulled her into a hug and held her for a moment.

“I’ll always have a thing for Australia from now on.” He giggled a little. Stella smiled and looked up at him.
“Thanks for everything.” She said with a thick voice. Then she kissed him on the lips shortly, loosened herself from him and left the room.

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