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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(17) by Samantha Young|
And he was moving into the flat beneath mine?
I couldn’t get my pulse to slow at the thought of Cam being so close to all my secrets and shame. ‘You’re moving in?’
His eyes flew past me to the floor above us. ‘You live here?’
The rocks settled heavily in my stomach. ‘The flat above you.’
‘Jesus.’ Cam sighed, seeming as unhappy about the revelation as I was. ‘Small world.’
More like small city. ‘Very,’ I murmured. How had this happened? Did fate just hate me? Of all the coincidences in the world, why did I have to be landed with such a huge and very crap one?
‘Eh, this is getting heavy,’ Tall Guy complained, nodding at the coffee table.
I eyed the size of his biceps and doubted he found it at all heavy.
Cam gestured to the flat. ‘Take it in, guys. Thanks.’
‘No, no.’ Beanie Guy shook his head, smirking, his eyes still on me. ‘First introduce us to Miss Scotland.’
I felt my cheeks heat at the compliment, hating that it somehow added substance to Cam’s opinion of me.
Cam’s body tensed and he crossed his arms over his chest. ‘Just take it in the flat.’
My God, I was so unworthy that he couldn’t even introduce me to his friends. Ignoring the hurt that had gripped my chest, I smiled at Beanie Guy. ‘I’m Jo.’
Beanie Guy and Tall Guy’s mouths dropped open. ‘Jo?’ they asked in surprised unison … as if they’d heard of me.
My brow puckered in confusion as I slid a questioning look at Cam. His whole body was rigid now as he gave his friends the tiniest shake of his head.
His friends didn’t take whatever hint Cam was sending them. ‘Jo from the bar, Jo?’
Cam had spoken about me? I shifted uneasily, not sure in what light I’d been painted. ‘That’s me.’
The two of them grinned and Beanie Guy gave me a nod of hello. ‘I’m Nate and that’s Peetie.’
I eyed the tall guy incredulously. ‘Peetie?’ Not the kind of name you’d expect for someone of his size.
Peetie had a nice face, friendly and open. ‘Gregor. My surname’s Peterson.’
‘Ah, I see.’
‘Cam’s told us all about you, Jo,’ Nate continued, avoiding Cam’s glower.
Feeling a little shaken that Cam had spoken about me to his friends and far too curious about how he’d spoken about me, I decided it was time to move along so I could wrap my head around the fact that Cam was my new neighbour.
Come to think of it, he had been speaking to Joss about finding a cheaper flat.
Again … of all places, why did it have to be in my building?
I decided to pretend like I didn’t care what Cam had said. ‘Well, don’t believe a word of it.’ I ignored Cam as I passed him, and smiled at his friends. ‘Cam has the unfortunate habit of forming an opinion before he really gets to know someone.’
Nate nodded. ‘Yeah, he told us what a remarkable dick he was to you.’
That stopped me in midstride, and I twisted around to stare at Cam.
He shrugged at me, his expression still deadpan. ‘I told you I was sorry.’
My eyes swung to his grinning friends and then back to him. ‘Well, then, I guess I might actually believe you now. Neighbour.’ And with a nod of goodbye to them all, I started descending the stairs carefully.
‘That’s Jo?’ Nate asked loudly, as I disappeared from view, his voice carrying all the way down to me, and I couldn’t help but prick my ears up to listen.
‘Shut up,’ Cam hissed. ‘Let’s get the rest of the stuff in.’
‘Christ almighty, you weren’t kidding, were you? How f**king long are those legs?’
‘How can you stand it, mate? If you’re not having a crack at her, I am.’
Cam’s growl reverberated down to me. ‘Get in the f**king flat!’
His door slammed and I jumped, stalling on the last landing. What the hell had all that meant? What had Cam said about me?
The simple style of the restaurant with its soft wood and soothing beige and cream decor should have at least added a semblance of calm to the situation.
I sat across from Becca and Cam, Malcolm at my side, and prayed that I was the only one feeling the cloying tension at the table. We’d ordered and eaten our appetizers, and all the while Becca and Malcolm kept the conversation afloat. As we waited for our main course to arrive, I shifted uncomfortably under the silence that had fallen over the group.
Since the moment I’d arrived with Malcolm, I’d been desperately avoiding looking at Cam. He’d been on my mind all day, and I swear my pulse had not slowed since discovering he was our new neighbour. All the worst scenarios played out in my head. Cam hearing my mum, Cam discovering why my mum was so bloody noisy sometimes, Cam letting it slip to someone important to me … say, Malcolm.
And yes, if I was honest with myself, I was also worried that Cam’s already low opinion of me would be completely obliterated by the truth of my mother’s situation. Why I cared what he thought, I couldn’t work out. I didn’t know him. I didn’t really know what kind of man he was.
‘I love your dress, Jo. Malcolm has such good taste, doesn’t he?’ Becca smiled over the top of her wineglass.
I managed a small smile in return, not sure if she was being catty or genuine. ‘I love your dress too.’ I was being genuine. Becca was wearing a dark gold sequined dress with a high neckline and short skirt. It looked expensive and classy.
Malcolm was dapper as always in a three-piece suit with an emerald green tie to match my dress and Cam …well … Cam was Cam.
Although I avoided his direct gaze, I couldn’t help but check out his attire. His only concession to formal wear was a pair of black suit trousers – black suit trousers he had worn with a printed tee, a worn black leather biker jacket and his engineer boots. Out of politeness, he’d taken off the leather jacket at the dinner table.
Somehow I couldn’t help but admire him. He was dressed the way he wanted to dress and he didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought. That’s probably why he was so bloody attractive no matter what he wore.
‘Your shoes are cute too.’ Becca grinned. ‘I was eyeing them as you walked across the room.’
Cam snorted, pushing his fork into his napkin in absent-minded boredom. His mouth tilted up at the corner. ‘Malcolm, I just love your tie. It does magnificent things for your eyes.’
Malcolm grinned at his drollness and pointed at Cam’s tattoos. ‘I like the art. What does the black script say?’
I leaned forward. I’d wanted to know this from the moment I’d met him.
‘ “Be Caledonia”,’ Becca answered, eyeing Cam’s arm in irritation. ‘And don’t bother asking him what the hell that means, because he won’t tell you.’
I wasn’t even surprised any more at the warm shock of tingles between my legs at the way Cam’s lips curled in amusement. Apparently, anything he did turned me on. Our eyes met for a second and I lowered mine quickly, flushing.
‘Well, what about the dragon?’ Malcolm continued. ‘Does that have significance?’
Cam nodded. ‘I was significantly drunk when I got it.’
‘Oh, no.’ Malcolm laughed. ‘One of those.’
‘One of those. I was twenty-two, dating an older woman who happened to be a tattoo artist. We got drunk, I ended up in her chair, she asked me what tattoo I wanted, I said surprise me …’ He shrugged.
I laughed at the thought of him coming out of the chair to find he had a fierce dragon on his arm. ‘So she gave you a black and purple dragon?’
Cam flashed his knickers-dropping smile at me. ‘She was big into fantasy. I should have remembered that before I agreed to sit in her chair.’
‘It’s an amazing piece of artwork.’
‘Well, Anna was an amazing artist.’
‘Stop, or I might get jealous,’ Becca interrupted, laughing, but her laugh sounded fake. There was no ‘might’ about it. She took a sip of her wine and turned her direct gaze from her boyfriend to me. ‘So, Cam told me about the happy coincidence.’
Malcolm glanced at me. ‘What happy coincidence?’
‘Oh, Cam’s new flat … It’s in Jo’s building. The flat below hers, in fact.’
‘Really?’ Malcolm shot me a teasing look before smirking at Cam. ‘You’ll have to tell me what it’s like. Jo refuses to let me near it.’
I squirmed under Cam’s curious look, his eyes asking, What in the hell kind of relationship do you two have? ‘It’s just like anywhere in Edinburgh.’
‘Very informative, Cam, thank you. You’re as bad as Jo.’
‘Did it take you long to move your things in?’ Becca asked just as the second course arrived.
Cam waited until we’d all been served and had begun to tuck in before he replied. ‘All day.’
‘You know, it might have taken less time if you’d bothered to get rid of all those comic books.’
‘I’ve already said no to that suggestion,’ Cam replied to her lazily.
Becca shook her head and turned to us, clearly frustrated. ‘He has hundreds of them in plastic seal, in box after box. It’s ridiculous. I know I should get it, because I’m an artist, but I totally don’t.’
Malcolm nodded at her. ‘I admit to never understanding the fascination with comics.’
‘I don’t know.’ I found myself speaking up, thinking about the worlds Cole had created, and the worlds he had shared with me through his love of comics and graphic novels. ‘I think there’s something compelling about them. Most of them are really just about ordinary people rising to the extraordinary. We read books like that every day. These ones just have cool pictures to illustrate what the words can’t.’