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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(10) by Samantha Young|
‘Who?’ Ellie asked.
Braden choked on a sip of coffee.
‘Joss,’ I groaned. ‘Stop. I’m dating Malcolm.’
‘Oh, is Joss trying to play matchmaker?’ Elodie finally caught on. When I nodded, she wrinkled her nose at Jocelyn. ‘You’re not very good at it.’
Affronted, Joss sniffed. ‘Well, give me a break, it’s my first time.’
Hannah giggled into her water. ‘That’s what she said.’
We all froze again in silence and then Adam spluttered, choking on his laughter. Just like that, he set us all off like dominoes around the table. All except Elodie, who sat back in her chair with a totally bemused look on her face. ‘What? What did I miss?’
By the time my shift came around on Tuesday night, I’d managed to work myself into a bit of a state. As always, it was a rush to get home from my day job, scarf down the macaroni cheese Cole had made, get washed and changed into my bar uniform, make sure Cole had done his homework and Mum was still alive, and then head off to the bar.
I’d been dreading it the entire day.
Butterflies flurried in my stomach as I gave Brian and our doorman a tight smile. I didn’t stop to chat with them, desperate to get the first meeting with Cam over with. I passed through the entrance and braced myself to enter the club. As soon as I did, I stopped, my gaze frozen on the guy behind the bar.
He stood, leaning his elbows on the black granite countertop and his head was bent over a napkin he appeared to be sketching on. His messy dark blond hair fell carelessly into his eyes. I watched as he brushed it away and I noticed a masculine Indian silver ring on the ring finger of his right hand as it winked under the lights. He looked just the same as the last time I’d seen him – same unkempt sexiness, same aviator watch and leather bracelets. His T-shirt was the only change. He wore the slim-cut white T-shirt with CLUB 39 scrawled across the chest that all the guys had to wear. It was the chest and shoulders, even when hunched over, that seemed much broader than I remembered.
I took another step and the sound of my boot on the floor brought Cam’s head up.
My breath hitched as our eyes collided.
Heat suffused my cheeks at my body’s instant reaction to this man’s attention. I could feel my br**sts swell and my lower belly squeeze, and as we continued to stare at each other in intense silence, my mind and body went to war. My body was panting, ‘He’s hot. Can we have him?’ while my mind was screaming, ‘Oh, dear God, what the hell are you thinking?’
Everything had blurred around me – the only thing in sharp focus was Cam and all the places where I wanted to feel his touch.
Malcolm’s face suddenly floated before my eyes and I flinched, breaking whatever bizarre spell we’d fallen under.
I gave Cam a tight smile and strode towards him, my eyes glued in front of me and very deliberately nowhere near him.
Cam had other plans. As I lifted the counter to join him behind the bar, he stepped in front of the doorway to the staff room, blocking my way. I stared at his black engineer boots for a second and then, realizing I must look like a total idiot, I let my gaze travel north. His arms were crossed over his chest as he leaned against the doorframe and I couldn’t work out what his expression meant at all. He was worse than Joss. If Joss didn’t want you to know what she was feeling, she’d slam down this blank mask over her face. It seemed Cam had bought his mask from the same store as Joss.
‘Hullo.’ I waved.
I actually waved.
Oh Jesus, let the floor open up and swallow me.
Cam’s lips twitched. ‘Hi.’
Why was this so awkward? Usually, I could flirt and charm the pants off any man. I’d suddenly reverted to acting like a reticent seven-year-old. ‘So you got the job, then?’ No, Jo, he’s just here for the banter. I rolled my eyes inwardly at myself.
If he had an equally sarcastic thought, he was gracious enough not to verbalize it. ‘I did.’
What was with the one-word answers? My mouth twisted as I remembered his wordy assault on me last time we’d met. ‘You were a lot more loquacious last time we spoke.’
Cam raised an eyebrow. ‘ “Loquacious”? Does someone have a Word of the Day calendar?’
So much for gracious. I tried to ignore the wince of hurt at his teasing remark. But that was hard to do when someone’s teasing felt a lot more like mocking. I glared at him. ‘I do.’ I brushed past him, my elbow hitting him in the arm as I headed into the staff room. ‘Yesterday’s word was “a**hole”.’ As I opened my locker I felt a sense of pride at having stood up for myself with him again. My body still trembled, though. I was not good at confrontation and I didn’t want to have to be. I resented his presence in my life already.
‘Okay, I deserved that.’
I shot a look over my shoulder and saw that he’d followed me into the room. In the brighter light, his cobalt blue eyes glittered at me enigmatically. He was sporting stubble. Did the man ever shave? Damn him. I dropped my gaze and turned away from him.
‘I actually wanted to thank you for giving Su my number.’
I nodded, balancing my bag half in, half out of my locker, pretending to riffle through it for something.
‘She said you recommended me.’
My bag was exceptionally interesting. Receipt for Mr Meikle’s sandwich and soup, chewing gum, tampons, pen, a leaflet a street person had given to me about some band …
‘She said, and I quote, “Jo’s right – you are hot.” ’
I flushed, just barely choking back the groan of embarrassment. I shoved my bag in the locker and slipped my phone into my pocket. Taking a deep breath, I told myself I could do this. I could work with this annoying asswipe. I spun around and almost lost my footing at the playful grin on his face. It was quite possibly the ‘nicest’ look I’d received from him yet.
I hated him then.
Not once in my life had I ever been physically attracted to a guy who was so utterly horrible to me. I knew, though, that once I spent more time with him, his bad attitude would shave the attraction down to nothing. It was just a matter of patience. For now, I threw back my shoulders, inserting a little flirtation into my smile as I passed him. ‘I said “pretty hot”.’
‘There’s a difference?’ he asked, following me into the bar.
It occurred to me that it was Tuesday night. A slow night. That meant it would be just the two of us working together.
‘ “Pretty hot” is a few levels lower on the scale than “hot”.’ I didn’t look at him as I tied the tiny apron around my waist, but I could feel his gaze warm on my face.
‘Well, whatever you said, I appreciate it.’
I nodded but still wouldn’t look at him. Instead I slipped my phone out of my pocket just to double-check that I didn’t have a message from Cole. Nothing.
‘Are you allowed to have that?’
I glanced over at him now, a furrow of confusion between my eyebrows. ‘What?’
Cam gestured to my phone.
‘I keep it on me. It doesn’t seem to bother anybody else.’
He smirked and reached for the napkin and pen he’d left on the counter. He tucked the napkin into his jeans pocket before I could see what he’d been drawing, and slid the pen behind his ear. ‘Oh, of course. Wouldn’t want to miss the latest gossip.’
I grunted, and grabbed a dishcloth to give my hands something to do. Otherwise I was going to wrap them around his bloody neck.
‘Or sexting from Malcolm – also known as the cash point.’
My blood ignited. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been this mad at anyone. Oh, wait. Yes I could. It had been at Cam only a week before. I spun around to face him, my eyes narrowed as he leaned back against the bar, his expression taunting and arrogant. ‘Has anyone ever told you, you are the most despicable, judgemental, self-righteous, obnoxious f**kwit that ever existed?’ My chest rose and fell with my rage.
Cam’s expression darkened, his gaze flickering over my chest before trailing back up to my face. His scrutiny just made me flush even more. ‘Careful, sweetheart. You’ll use up your entire calendar of words in a night if you keep this up.’
I closed my eyes, my hands clenched into fists at my sides. I had never been a violent person; in fact I abhorred violence. Since my dad had been too handy with the slaps and punches when I was a kid, I always froze when someone got too aggressive with me. Despite all that, I had never wanted to throw something at someone as much as I wanted to throw something at Cam.
‘A heads-up.’ Cam’s deep voice washed over me. ‘So you’re not too disappointed that Disney lied – no matter how much you wish it, I’ll still be here when you open your eyes.’
‘I forgot to say condescending,’ I muttered unhappily. ‘Despicable, judgemental, self-righteous, obnoxious, condescending f**kwit.’
At the warm sound of his laughter, my eyes popped open. He was smiling again. He must have noted my surprise because he shrugged. ‘So I might have been wrong about you being stupid.’
No, I wasn’t stupid. But I wasn’t educated. I hadn’t finished school or gone to university. And that just made me even more uneasy around him. If he found out, it would be just the ammunition he needed to torment me more. I was saved from having to continue our conversation as voices filtered into the club. The first customers arrived and we were soon too busy serving them to say anything more to each other. I watched Cam out of the corner of my eye to see how he was doing, but he was absolutely fine. An old pro at bartending.
A couple of times our bodies brushed each other and I felt like I’d been hit with a bolt of electricity. I also finally got a good look at his tattoo. It was a fierce black and purple dragon – the body and wings curled around his biceps, the long scaly neck and head inked on the top half of his forearm. The artistry on it was amazing. However, I couldn’t make out the script on his other arm without drawing attention to the fact that I was looking. Not that I thought he wasn’t aware of my attention. Nor was I unaware of his. The worst moment came when I poured a draught of lager at the taps, and Cam leaned past me for some napkins that sat on the lowest shelf behind the bar. It brought his body up against mine. I inhaled the masculine scent of bay rum and soap as he leaned down, and then I stopped breathing altogether. His face was at eye level with my chest.