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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(15) by Samantha Young|
I groaned inwardly and turned back to serve my customer her Alabama Slammer.
Two minutes later the crowd around the bar started to wane. I was readying myself to be teased mercilessly by Joss when I heard her swear under her breath.
Snapping my eyes over at her, I saw the clench to her jaw and followed her narrow-eyed gaze across the bar. A curvy brunette had taken a seat next to Braden and engaged him in conversation. Braden didn’t look like he was being anything but polite, but the brunette was sitting awfully close to him. My eyes met Ellie’s and she threw me an ‘uh-oh’ look.
Joss was too classy to get into a bitch fight, especially with someone who was just sitting a little too close to her boyfriend. The girl would have to –
Oh, no. The brunette’s hand had landed on Braden’s thigh.
‘Be back in a second,’ Joss muttered furiously as she passed me.
She was too busy leaving the bar area with cool eyes and a burning rage to notice that Braden had already removed the woman’s hand from his thigh. I leaned against the bar with my elbows, settling in for the show. It was a shame I was too far away to hear Joss. She could flay someone alive with her words and do it with a great deal of self-possession. I was eternally envious of her ability to confront an aggressor without turning into a chalk-faced gibbering idiot.
A customer approached the bar, and I reluctantly drew my gaze away from the scene. As I was pouring the guy his whisky, Cam’s familiar and sexy scent infiltrated my olfactory senses and I could swear I swayed a little.
At the feel of his warm breath on my ear, my fingers trembled and I froze as I pulled the bottle away from the glass. I could feel the heat of his body all the way down my left side, as though he was actually pressed tight against me.
‘I’m sorry for being a dick,’ he murmured, his voice deep with sincerity.
The vibration of his words against my skin caused a shimmer of delicious shivers down my spine. It completely turned me on. I only just managed to stifle my surprised gasp.
Feeling off balance, I glanced at him over my shoulder, only to find he was very definitely almost pressed up against me. It took a minute for his apology to register with me.
Cam sighed, his chin dipping so that our noses were close to touching. My eyes tangled with his and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to move even if I wanted to. ‘I don’t know you,’ he continued, his eyes searching my face. ‘And I shouldn’t have presumed to.’ That searching look of his finally came to rest on my lips, and as his eyes turned molten with sexual awareness another rush of unexpected tingles awoke between my legs. I licked my lips, wondering what his mouth would taste like, and his breath hitched.
He leaned away from me, his eyes wary as they met mine. I saw the consternation in them and my whole body tensed.
Cam was just as attracted to me as I was to him, but he didn’t want to be.
Why? Was I ‘beneath’ him?
A sharp pain sliced across my chest and I pulled my gaze away and back to the drink I was making. And because I had just spent the previous evening preaching to my wee brother about being gracious, I nodded. ‘Apology accepted.’
‘So why do you have to look after your brother? Where are your parents?’
I turned away, brushing past Cam to slide the drink over to my customer. I took the money for it, hit the till, and then handed back the customer’s change. Just as I glanced around to answer Cam, another customer appeared.
The bar got busy again, and Joss skipped down the stairs and under the counter to help us out. I watched, while I served a customer, as Ellie, Adam and Braden left. I gave Joss a teasing smile. ‘You kicked him out?’
She shrugged. ‘If he’s going to be attracting hot women who don’t care if he has a girlfriend or not, then, yeah, I’m kicking him out.’
‘What if he goes to another bar? There are more attractive women out there who will come on to him.’
‘Yeah, but I don’t have to see it this way.’
‘Good point,’ I murmured, eyeing Cam as he leaned over the bar so a female customer could say something in his ear.
The unexpected explosion of jealousy that ripped through me when he pulled back and smiled at her with blatant sexual cockiness nearly floored me.
What was I doing? What was my body doing?
I was with Malcolm. I was happy with Malcolm.
Deciding it was time to go on break, I gave Joss the heads-up and hid out in the staff room for ten minutes. Berating myself for a good portion of that, I managed to get myself together enough to return to work. When I came back out, the bar had hit another lull of quiet and Joss and Cam were leaning against the bar, talking to each other. I drew a deep breath and decided to be a grown-up.
‘What’s up?’ I asked congenially as I approached them.
Joss gave me a surprisingly uneasy look. ‘Cam asked about your family. I thought you’d already told him. Sorry.’
My heart flipped in my chest, a rush of queasiness making my skin prickle. ‘Told him –’
Realizing what I thought she meant, she rushed to clarify. ‘About your mum’s illness and how you have to take care of her and Cole.’
An immediate rush of relief overwhelmed me and I let out a deep breath. ‘Right.’
Unfortunately, I’d given away too much. When I chanced a look at Cam, I saw his suspicious gaze flickering between me and Joss. He had just opened his mouth, presumably to ask another question, when Joss derailed him. ‘So what about you, Cam? Your family from here?’
Although his eyebrows were still drawn together in curiosity, he nodded. ‘My parents live just outside Edinburgh. Longniddry.’
Nice, I thought. Longniddry was this lovely village situated near the water. It was a beautiful place with rough beaches and old cottages. I wondered what it must have been like to grow up in such a place.
‘No overbearing brothers or sisters?’ Joss continued her interrogation. ‘No car crashes or drug addicts or medical problems?’
I tried to contain my snort.
Cam shrugged good-naturedly. ‘Not that I’m aware of.’
Looking nonplussed, Joss eyed him warily. ‘Are you telling me you’re actually a well-adjusted individual?’
He threw her his hot grin and I succumbed to another heated flare of sexual attraction. ‘I like to think so.’
Joss shot me a look that said, Well, at least I’ve got you before she shook her head at Cam as though she were disappointed in him. ‘And here I thought we could be friends.’
Cam laughed. ‘I could invent a tragic past if that helps?’
‘Or unearth some deep, dark family secret I can turn into a book.’
‘I’ll get back to you on that.’ He smiled and then looked at me carefully, his gaze lowering a little under his eyelashes. He had sickeningly long eyelashes for a man. ‘I made the mistake of telling Becca I had this Saturday off and I hear she’s booked a table for four at Martin Wishart.’
Yeah, I’m sure the last thing you want to do is sit down for a meal with me. ‘Malcolm told me.’
‘So I guess we’re having dinner together.’
Joss chuckled, and as she turned to serve a customer she rather unhelpfully advised, ‘Try not to kill each other.’
I smirked and shot a look at Cam, then immediately wished I hadn’t. He appeared to be trying to work me out, as though I was this mysterious puzzle he was drawn to solving.
My body flushed with pleasure at his attention, but my brain screamed at me to run as far away from him as possible.
As much as Joss acted as a buffer between me and Cam, the tension between us refused to dissipate. Friday night I danced around him like an idiot, desperate not to have a repeat of the previous evening. Joss kept eyeing me as if expecting me to hatch an alien at any moment, I was acting so strangely.
When Malcolm had phoned me during the day I’d felt this whoosh of guilt at the sound of his voice, as though I had cheated on him in a way with my impure thoughts about Cam. I wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t been ruthless when going after men. I tried not to think about the girls who had been hurt by their defection, and I tried to rationalize that somehow it was okay to have been party to such a betrayal because Cole needed me to marry someone like Malcolm. There was no truth in that. That somehow suggested there hadn’t been a choice for me, but of course there was a choice. I had chosen. And I had chosen selfishly.
I drew the line at physically cheating on someone, though. I particularly drew the line at being the direct betrayer.
Lusting after Cam seemed like one step too close towards that.
Thankfully, as always, Friday was really too busy to make much conversation with my colleagues. Cam cracked a few jokes, made us laugh, and Joss, as always, was her witty self. I, on the other hand, decided to try to diminish my awareness of Cam by focusing on filling up the tips jar.
I flirted my ass off and ignored the way Joss rolled her eyes at my girlish giggling. She’d once told me I had a fake giggle and a real giggle. My real giggle was apparently ‘adorable’, but my fake giggle – the one I used to convince a guy that I thought he was the funniest man I’d ever met – drove her up the wall.
If only she knew that just made me want to do it more.
I was serving drinks to three guys who weren’t mind-blowingly attractive but were charming and sexy in their own way, and I was enjoying their attention.
‘Seriously, you should just jump over the bar and come spend the rest of the night with us,’ one of them insisted, flashing me a crooked smile. I could usually read when a guy was being lascivious, but these guys were just having fun.
I leaned my elbow on the bar, handing the shortest guy his change with one hand while resting my chin thoughtfully in the palm of my other. ‘Hmm, where would you take me?’
‘I heard Fire is a pretty good nightclub,’ the one in the middle suggested, his eyes glinting with hope.
I snorted and gestured around the bar. ‘Leave one club for another. No, you’ll have to do better than that.’ I smiled slowly and watched the three of them lean in closer, their eyes dipping to my mouth.