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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(11) by Samantha Young|
My whole body tensed, I was so hyperaware of him.
Prolonging the torturous moment, Cam’s fingers missed the napkins and he had to lean back in, his cheek brushing my right boob.
I sucked in a breath and he froze momentarily.
When he straightened, I chanced a glance up at him from under my lashes and the darkly sexual glint in his eyes felt like a physical caress down my stomach towards my sex. My sensitive ni**les peaked against my bra. Uh-oh. Oh, my.
Cam’s jaw clenched and he backed away. I finally came to my senses, only to discover the draught had overflowed over the glass and my fingers, and I had to start again.
After that I tried to avoid any sort of physical contact with him. I’d never felt so intensely attracted to someone before. Usually, it took me a while to get to know a guy before I felt that kind of deep tingling in all my good-for-nothing places. Why did this guy have to cause such a visceral reaction in me?
The night plodded on, broken up between bursts of customers and quiet lulls. It was during one of those lulls that I slipped my phone out and checked it again. I had a text from Cole telling me the fuse in the plug for the toaster had blown and we didn’t have any in the flat. I texted him back to let him know I’d get one tomorrow. I just hoped I remembered.
‘Is it the guy from the other night or Malcolm?’
I shoved my phone back out of sight and when I looked up Cam was sneering at me.
Well, if he wanted to believe the worst in me, let him. ‘It’s the guy. His name is Cole.’
The sneer morphed into a glower. ‘How can you be so brazen?’
‘Probably the same way you can be such a prick.’
Startled, my head whipped to the side, following the familiar voice. Joss stood on the other side of the bar with Ellie at her back. The two girls stared at me open-mouthed, although Joss’s lips were beginning to curl up at the corners. She looked at Cam. ‘You must have really pissed her off. It takes a lot to make Jo insult someone.’
Cam grunted. ‘That’s funny. I’ve lost count of her insults.’
Joss looked back at me, her grey eyes glowing with pride. ‘Johanna Walker, you just hit a new level of awesome.’
I chuckled, my cheeks still flushed with embarrassment that I’d been caught swearing at Cam. ‘Only you would praise me for calling someone a prick.’
‘Oh, no, I would too,’ Ellie added, sliding closer to the bar, her eyes more assessing as she looked at Cam. ‘Especially if the person deserved it.’
I almost laughed at Joss and Ellie’s role reversal. Ellie was usually the one who gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, but she looked a little wary of Cam. I could only assume it was because she’d never seen me get riled up at someone before and thought there must be a good reason for it. She’d be right.
Joss’s eyes danced as they searched my face and then Cam’s. ‘Els, this is Cameron MacCabe. Just call him Cam. Cam, this is my friend Ellie.’
‘Your boyfriend’s sister?’ Cam asked casually, as he stepped towards them.
He stuck his hand out to Ellie, a friendly, gorgeous smile on his face that made my heart thump. A painful ache pierced my chest. He hadn’t smiled at me like that. ‘Nice to meet you, Ellie.’
Apparently, Ellie wasn’t immune to his charm – she beamed back at him, all her wariness disappearing. She shook his hand. ‘Joss says you’re a graphic designer?’
A customer came up to the bar, so I served him while Cam spoke with my friends. I managed to listen to the customer with one ear and to Cam with the other.
‘Aye, but I’m struggling to find a job here. If I don’t get one soon I might have to leave Edinburgh.’
‘Oh, that would be a shame.’
‘Any luck finding an apartment?’ Joss asked him, and I suddenly realized that the two of them must have got along well enough on Saturday night to manage a real conversation during the busy hours.
‘I’ve seen a few I’m interested in. None as nice as the place I have now, but you have to live where you can afford to, right?’
‘What about Becca?’ I asked before I could stop myself. I handed my customer his change and waited for Cam’s answer.
Cam’s brows drew together as he looked at me. ‘What about Becca?’
I’d been to Becca’s flat for a party. It was a huge place in Bruntsfield and she shared it with three other people. Still, I thought there must be room for Cam. ‘She’s got that big old place on Leamington Terrace. Surely there’s room for you.’
He gave a sharp jerk of his head in rejection to the suggestion. ‘We’ve only been dating a month.’
‘How did you meet?’ Ellie asked. I wasn’t surprised. Ellie was a hopeless romantic and looked for a love story wherever she could.
My stomach flipped unpleasantly as I thought of Cam and Becca creating a love story together.
What was wrong with me? I was with Malcolm and Cam was a bloody pain in the butt.
‘A party a friend hosted.’
‘You must get on well, what with Becca being an artist too?’
His mouth quirked up at the corner. ‘We have a difference of opinion on what constitutes art, but aye, we get on well enough.’
‘Meaning you’re just as condescending to your girlfriend as you are to me?’ I grumbled and subsequently ignored Joss’s little noise of amusement.
Cam flashed me a surprisingly coaxing smile. ‘You were there, Jo. Don’t tell me you didn’t think her art was shit.’
Joss laughed outright while I just shook my head, trying not to encourage him with an answering grin. ‘You’re supposed to be her boyfriend. You’re supposed to support her, not take the piss out of her.’
‘You’ve met Becca, right? Like she needs anyone else blowing smoke up her arse. The girl’s the most arrogant person I’ve ever met.’
‘Wait –’ Ellie looked confused. ‘You don’t sound like you like her very much.’
‘Of course I do,’ Cam grunted. He shrugged and shot Ellie a roguish smile. ‘I find her arrogance sexy … as well as amusing.’
I looked away, pretending interest in the customers out on the small dance floor. I wondered if Malcolm felt that way about Becca. And if he did, how did I fare in comparison? Unexceptional and insecure?
God, I hoped not.
‘You okay, Jo?’ Joss asked, bringing my gaze back to them. They were all staring at me, including Cam.
I nodded, giving Joss a soft, reassuring smile. ‘Sure.’
Her brow furrowed. ‘Is Cole okay?’
I flinched inwardly, aware of Cam’s body tensing at the mention of Cole’s name. I didn’t want him to know the truth about Cole. If he was so determined to see what everybody else saw when they looked at me, then I didn’t want to change his misconception. ‘He’s fine.’ I didn’t elaborate, hoping she’d drop the subject.
Of course Joss didn’t. ‘He seemed quieter than usual on Sunday. Is everything okay with him?’
Yes, now shut up! ‘Of course.’
Ellie threw me a sympathetic look. ‘When Hannah hit fourteen she went into classic teen mode. Moody and quiet. It’s worse when they’re shy like Hannah and Cole because when they’re feeling down about something they become so introverted.’
Cam straightened to his full height so that he stood a few inches taller than me. His eyebrows were raised in question. ‘Fourteen?’
Thank you, Joss and Ellie.
‘Cole,’ Joss explained to him, seeming way too eager to share information about me with him. I was seriously considering giving both Ellie and Braden a lump of coal for their Christmas present this year as a thank-you for turning Joss into a normal person who annoyed her friends with her terrible matchmaking skills. ‘Jo’s little brother. She takes care of him.’
Cam’s gaze sliced to me, his eyes sharp as he took me in, in all my new colours.
Yes, Cam, I read and write and I have a pretty good vocabulary. I’m not cheating on my rich boyfriend. I’m being a responsible adult to the teenager under my care. There go all your little preconceived notions. Asshole.
I shrugged at the questions in his eyes.
As for Joss, she could not be stopped. ‘We all let Jo keep her phone on her in case Cole needs her, so cut her a little slack if you see her checking it obsessively. She’s a little overprotective. She’s a really good sister.’
Would you stop pimping me out! I threw an accusatory look at Ellie, whose eyes grew round with confusion. ‘I blame you,’ I told her.
Ellie sighed, the confusion melting from her gaze as understanding dawned. ‘Would it help if I trained her better?’
‘It would help if you hit the RESET button on her.’
‘Hey,’ Joss protested.
Ellie shook her head vehemently. ‘No, I like the new Jocelyn.’
‘Well, I’m lost.’ Cam’s gaze bounced back and forth between us.
Yeah, if only you’d stay lost. ‘Never mind.’ I shook my head and looked at Joss. ‘What are you doing here tonight anyway?’
Joss smiled wickedly. ‘Just checking in.’
I couldn’t help the irritation that settled into my eyes and Ellie choked on her laughter. ‘I think it’s time we checked out.’ She took hold of a reluctant Joss and tugged on her arm.
‘Fine,’ Joss muttered, her calculating gaze shifting between me and Cam. ‘Jo, tell Cam about Cole’s comic books.’
I groaned inwardly. ‘Goodnight, Joss. ’Night, Els.’
Ellie waved and ushered Joss out of the bar.
Even though the conversation around us was a wordless babble of noise above the music, silence reigned within the bubble containing me and Cam behind the bar. No noise could penetrate the thick tension between us.
Finally Cam took a step towards me. For the first time since I’d met him (and it was weird to realize that I’d met him only twice, since it seemed like we’d known each other a lot longer), Cam looked uncomfortable. ‘So … Cole’s your wee brother, then?’