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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(37) by Samantha Young|
While Phil thought this was funny, I tried desperately to ignore the hurt.
My hand slipped out of Cam’s and with a small smile at Brian, I went on into the club, Cam’s harsh voice echoing down the hall as he growled at Phil. ‘You. Watch it.’
I didn’t wait for Phil’s reply. Sufficiently pissed off, I hurried past Joss, ignoring her greeting.
‘What’s wrong?’ she called after me, her light footsteps following mine into the staff room.
Shrugging out of my coat, I tried to turn the seething down to a simmer.
‘You can blame Cam,’ I replied sourly.
‘What did I do?’ Cam marched into the staff room, heading for his locker. His expression was as dark as mine as he turned to face me. Joss sidled up next to him, her eyebrows drawn together in confusion.
I glared at them both. ‘You were right before.’ I directed my words at Joss. ‘I let people think the worst of me. And I could handle it. But Tattoo Guy came along and told me to ask more of myself, and suddenly snide comments from people I thought liked me – but it turns out they thought exactly what you said they thought of me – hurt me. So, thanks, Cam. Now I’m a bloody walking open wound.’
There were a number of appropriate responses to my rant. Joss grinning at Cam and then smacking him heartily on the back was not one of them. ‘You are my new favourite person.’
I gave points to Cam for looking at her like she was nuts. I gave him some more for pulling me into a hug. I wrapped my arms around him, finding the feel of his hard, solid, safe body soothing. I breathed him in and snuggled deeper when his arms tightened around me.
‘Why all the long faces? This is good news,’ Joss insisted, completely serious.
Moving my chin so I could rest it on Cam’s shoulder and glare at her, I warned, ‘I am this close to ending our friendship.’
Nowhere near intimidated by my threats, Joss’s expression turned mulish. ‘I’m sorry someone hurt you. Point me in their direction and I’ll give them a beatdown they won’t forget in a hurry. But this is good, Jo. Cam has done what I’ve been trying to do for a year. He woke you up.’
Cam pulled back, smirking at her. ‘That’s a little cheesy, Joss.’
It was like he’d told her she’d stepped in dog poo. Her nose wrinkled and she shuddered, a look of absolute self-disgust falling over her pretty features. ‘I have got to stop letting Ellie choose what we watch on movie night. It’s causing me to acclimatize to heartfelt emotion.’ She turned on her heel, muttering something under her breath about Jason Bourne.
‘Nicely done,’ I murmured to Cam, impressed at the way he’d so easily dispatched Joss. His lips brushed my cheek in response and I turned to look into his eyes. ‘You sure you want to be seen with a girl everyone thinks of as one step above a paid escort?’
It was clearly the wrong thing to say, as evidenced by the tic of the muscle in his jaw as he clenched his teeth. He gripped my chin so I couldn’t look away. ‘Don’t. Don’t even consider thinking of yourself in those terms. And don’t ask me stupid questions. If anyone ever says anything like that to you … tell me. They’ll not be saying it for long.’
Cam had gone all alpha male on me but I wasn’t even processing it. Despite his portrayal of the overprotective boyfriend, I couldn’t forget that only weeks before, he’d accused me of the same thing Phil had. I wanted to forget. I really thought I had. But it seemed it was still there, niggling away at me under layers of denial.
Eyes dimming of their anger, mouth slackening to exasperation, Cam sighed as he let go of me. ‘Is this about me? About before?’
I shrugged, not wanting to lie outright.
‘Are you ever really going to forgive me for what I said when we met?’
I shrugged again. Cole would have been so proud. ‘It’s forgiven.’ Just clearly not forgotten.
‘But not forgotten.’
Heaving another sigh, Cam took hold of my h*ps and pulled me close, dipping his head to kiss me softly. His right hand coasted up under my tank top, his cool hand on my bare skin sending shivers rippling over me. I felt my ni**les pebble as his hand cupped my bra, his thumb tracing the swell of my breast. My knees shook and I gripped Cameron’s waist tightly. ‘You’ve not forgotten,’ he repeated roughly. ‘But you will.’ He crushed my mouth against his, his kiss almost painful in its demand. I didn’t care. It was fair to say that at this point I was absolutely addicted to the taste and feel of him.
‘Customers!’ Joss yelled from behind the bar.
We jolted apart, Cam reluctantly pulling his hand out from under my top and smoothing it back in place. ‘You go out first.’
I glanced down at the bulge in his jeans and grinned. ‘Take your time.’
He growled at me playfully in response as I passed him, adding a taunting swing to my hips.
After the first two come-hither smiles Cam sent to customers I stopped looking at him. I was aware of him, as I was always aware of him, but determined to shut out actual hard evidence of the flirting.
Combating it with my own flirting might have worked, but every time I attempted to flirt with a customer, I could feel Cam’s eyes burning into my skin, and it put me off my game.
My growing irritation finally came to a head when there was a lull at the bar. I threw a dishcloth at Cam. ‘Our tips jar is suffering because of you, buddy.’
Cam had caught the cloth before it hit him and was now laughing as he wiped up some spillage on the bar top. ‘What did I do?’
‘I can feel you watching me. I can’t flirt with you watching me.’
His deep chuckle tickled all my good-for-nothing places and I hated that I found the cheeky grin he gave Joss so bloody hot. ‘Was I doing anything?’
Joss shrugged. ‘I have no clue what you were doing, but keep it up. The fake giggle’ – she gestured lazily at me – ‘has disappeared, so I’m happy.’
Another tag team? I crossed my arms over my chest, hoping my body language was a warning to back off. ‘The fake giggle is not that bad.’
My friend grunted in disagreement. ‘It sounds like Miss Piggy has a machine gun stuck in her throat.’
Roaring with laughter, Cam didn’t even feel the heat of my glower. But watching him laugh as Joss’s apt description took hold of me, I had to stifle my own amusement. I couldn’t encourage them or I’d have Cole and Cam against me at home and Joss and Cam against me at work.
Harrumphing at them both, I turned to greet our next customer. He was male. Tall. Pretty cute. As I poured him a draught, I asked him about his night, laughing and flirting with him for a good five minutes before his friends called him back to their table. I will note that I did all this minus the fake giggle.
Since Cam had already provided evidence that he was a fairly possessive guy, my intention was to piss him off and put him in his place.
I spun on my heel, expecting to face his annoyance. Instead he was leaning back against the bar, smirking at me. ‘Nice try.’
Damn. I was dating Mr Unpredictable. The bloody idiot did not respond to any situation the way I expected him to. How on earth was I meant to navigate these waters if I didn’t know the depth of them?
This really was going to be a relationship unlike any of my others.
The next words out of Cam’s mouth just reinforced that realization.
‘Let’s go to my mum and dad’s for a weekend.’
I blinked rapidly, taken aback by the suggestion, ignoring Joss, who was hovering on the edges of our conversation, pretending to fix the napkin holder.
‘Three weeks from Saturday, it’ll be my Saturday off work. We’ll go then. Stay the night. You, me and Cole.’
‘Dude, he wants you to meet the parents,’ Joss said under her breath. ‘Think carefully before you give him an answer. The parents. Already.’ She shuddered at the thought.
I glanced back at an expectant Cam. ‘I can’t leave Mum.’
‘I can check in on her,’ Joss offered loudly.
My mouth fell open as I stared at her in total bafflement. I whispered to her, ‘I thought you just said to think carefully about meeting his parents.’
‘I did. You didn’t say you didn’t want to. You offered up an impediment and I offered up a solution.’ When she turned away I caught the start of a sly grin on her face.
‘You’re twisted,’ I hissed.
Cam flicked the towel at me, bringing my attention back to him. ‘Well?’
I smiled tremulously. ‘Sure. Why not?’
For weeks after discovering Mum had hit Cole, I couldn’t go near her, could barely talk to her, and I swam in a muddy pond of bitter resentment and guilt. However, spending my nights with Cam when I could, whether that time involved the best sex of my life, or quiet time reading a book while he and Cole worked on their graphic novel together, changed me. It chipped away at my bitterness.
The weight I’d always carried on my shoulders hadn’t disappeared completely, but it was lessened. When I walked down the street my steps felt lighter, my breathing easier. I no longer felt old and tired.
I felt young. Excited. Charmed. Almost … content.
I’d also decided to try to relax more about our financial situation. As difficult as that was, I did give in to the expense of sending Cole to judo lessons with Cam. It meant the boys were out on a Saturday morning, one of the few times Cam and I could actually spend time together, but I didn’t care. It sounded so cheesy, but seeing Cole come through that door, smiling at Cam, being happy and having a guy to talk to … it gave me a kind of peace I never thought I’d have.
Cameron MacCabe. You charmer, you. You’re changing my life.
I rested my hand on the parcel I’d just finished wrapping, smiling stupidly as I remembered last night. Well, technically this morning. Both Cam and I had returned from work, feeling more buzzed than tired, and he’d finally taken me against his desk like he’d been promising. It had been slow, sensual, teasing, bloody fantastic sex. I swear I was getting through my days on a rush of endorphins. I think that’s what made it easier to say goodbye to some very pretty things. I stroked the brown paper of the package. Inside was my favourite Donna Karan dress – one that Malcolm had bought me. It had sold well on eBay and it was time to send it to its new home.