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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(41) by Samantha Young|
‘Aye.’ Andy nodded, cutting a hearty bite of pancake soaked in syrup as he winked at his wife. ‘Learned it from the best.’
Before we left for the day we decided to take Bryn to the beach. It wasn’t a perfect beach. It was typical of the area, covered in pebbles, mussels, icky seaweed and seagulls. Bryn immediately took off after the gulls, diving into the cold water without a care, doggy tongue dangling from her mouth in absolute delight. It was cute that she thought the seagulls were playing with her when in truth they were barely aware of her presence until she yipped at them to say hello and frightened them into moving along. Almost like what Braden must have thought of me when we first met. I’d gushed all over him like an idiot, so determined to land the perfect man that I’d been blind to his infatuation with Joss.
As I strolled with Andy at my side, Lena, Cole and Cam off in front, playing with Bryn, I wondered who that person was that had acted like such a fool over a guy. I didn’t recognize her. I didn’t know her and I never wanted to meet her ever again.
Thanks to Cam, I didn’t think there was a remote possibility that I would.
‘He’s happy,’ Andy suddenly said, his voice low so it wouldn’t carry on the wind that was whipping my hair past my cheeks.
I tucked it behind my ear, throwing him a quizzical look. ‘Cameron?’
Andy nodded, giving me a smile, one that reached his eyes, one that was full of a surprising amount of affection. ‘I knew from the way he spoke about you on the phone that you were different. Meeting you, though, seeing you together, I know.’
Confused, I slowed down while my heart sped up. ‘Know what?’
‘My son has always been a private person. He has his family and Nathaniel and Gregor, and that’s always been enough for him. There have been girlfriends, obviously, ones he was close to, but he’s always kept his circle tight, excluding them and not even realizing it.’ Andy grinned again, his eyes on Cam, who was walking with his arm wrapped around his mum’s shoulders, grinning down into her face. ‘Not you, though. You’re in. And Cameron is … well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this happy.’
My heart lurched, my breath stuttering as I focused on Cam, loving the way he moved, powerful, at ease with himself, confident. Not to mention his easy affection with people, his ability to reveal how he felt about someone without caring what anyone else thought. ‘You think?’
‘Yup.’ Andy nudged me with his shoulder, a move Cameron had obviously unconsciously developed from watching his dad. ‘I’m glad he met you, Johanna.’
All the tension melted out of my shoulders and I relaxed. ‘Me too,’ I whispered, unable to mask my feelings.
Before Andy could ask me whatever probing question was brimming in his eyes, my phone rang. I apologized and tugged it out of my jacket pocket. It was Joss.
My heart stopped.
‘Hello?’ I answered a little breathlessly.
‘Hey, you.’ Joss’s voice was quiet, unsteady.
I felt sick. ‘Is everything okay? Is Mum okay?’
‘God, yes.’ She hurried to reassure me. ‘I’m actually calling to tell you something.’
That sounded slightly ominous. ‘Something?’
‘Well … Braden proposed to me yesterday.’
WHAT? ‘Oh, my God.’
‘I said yes.’
‘What?’ I laughed happily, hearing her throaty and quite obviously pleased chuckle on the other end of the line. ‘I’m so happy for you! Congratulations, hon, and tell Braden I said “about time”!’
Her laughter warmed my frozen cheeks. ‘I will. Look, Ellie is already planning a dreaded engagement party, so, um, we’ll talk when you get back. Hope “meeting the parents weekend” has gone well.’
‘Very well. Not as well as your weekend, obviously.’
‘Yeah. Well, he paid a cab driver to be in on it and he proposed in Bruntsfield in the cab just where we met. He pulled out a ring, told me he loved me and that he’d try not to f**k it up if I tried not to f**k it up, so how could I say no?’
I snorted. ‘You couldn’t. Sounds like the perfect proposal for you.’
Her voice softened. ‘Yeah, it kind of was.’
‘So happy for you.’
‘Thanks, Jo. I’ll see you soon?’
We hung up and Andy looked at me with a quirked eyebrow. ‘Good news?’
I nodded. ‘My best friend just got engaged. She doesn’t have any family of her own, so this is amazing for her.’ Suddenly tears pricked my eyes at the thought of everything Joss was gaining, and I laughed a little weepily, feeling like an idiot.
‘What’s going on?’ Cam approached, his eyebrows drawn together in a glower. ‘Why are you upset?’
‘I’m not upset.’ I waved him off with a goofy smile and held up my phone. ‘That was Joss. She and Braden just got engaged.’
Cam grinned, hooking an arm around my neck to draw me into his side. ‘Come here, sappy girl. The brisk coastal wind will dry those tears.’
I cuddled into him. ‘Don’t you think it’s great news?’
He nodded, his eyes bright on me. ‘I think it’s brilliant news. She’s a good girl, deserves to be happy.’
God, he was lovely sometimes.
‘And Braden is a brave man. I’ll need to buy him a pint when we get back.’
Andy grunted at our side. ‘A pint for a soldier going off to war.’
Cam’s shoulders shook beneath my head. ‘Exactly.’
‘For a general surveying his battlefield and using logic against an illogical foe.’
‘For a warrior about to head into the mouth of the dragon’s cave.’
‘Okay, okay, funny men,’ I interrupted with a huff. ‘Who needs a coastal wind to dry the eyes when I’m in the presence of the MacCabe sense of humour?’
Andy shot me a wry smile and then turned a full-blown grin on Cam as we drew closer to Cole, Lena and Bryn. ‘You better keep this one, son.’
‘Hello, beautiful.’ A deep, familiar voice brought my head up from the letter I was shoving into an envelope.
Greeted by the sight of Malcolm standing in the doorway to Mr Meikle’s reception area, I smiled. My heart thudded a little faster as he smiled back affectionately, all class and polish in his designer suit. ‘Malcolm,’ I replied warmly.
His dark eyes glittered as he strolled casually into the room towards me. ‘It’s good to see you.’
I stayed frozen awkwardly in place for a moment as I decided what I should do, how I should greet him. Malcolm waited on the other side of my desk, his eyebrows raised in question.
After seeing his name on the appointment sheet today, I’d felt my stomach start to do flips. We’d been texting, but this would be the first time we’d seen each other in person since the break-up. Now that he was here in front of me, I didn’t know how to react.
Laughing a little at my own nervousness, I pushed back from the desk and rounded it, my arms open. He immediately drew me into a tight hug that I reciprocated, surprised by how glad I was to see him. I had to pull away, however, when his hands started sliding slowly down my back. My cheeks were flushed with guilt for letting Malcolm get close enough to touch me in any way that was remotely more than friendly.
It had been two weeks since the Saturday with Cam’s parents and Cam and I had been dating each other for just over six weeks. Six weeks didn’t sound like long, but it felt like forever. Long enough for me to know that this was the kind of flirtatious interaction with another guy that would piss my boyfriend off.
‘You look good.’ I gave him another quick smile to cover my abrupt departure from the hug.
‘You too. I take it you’re well?’
I nodded, and sat back in my chair, looking up at him with genuine interest. ‘And you?’
‘Yes. I’m good. You know me.’
‘And how’s your single mother of one?’
He laughed drily. ‘Ah, over. We didn’t quite fit.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.’
My cheeks heated again and I had to force myself to meet his eyes. ‘He’s good.’
Malcolm frowned. ‘Still taking care of you?’
‘Good.’ He blew air out between his lips, glancing around, I think attempting to appear casual. ‘I take it he’s met Cole and your mum?’
Crap. More guilt washed over me and I found myself choking on the answer. I suddenly felt panicked that if I told him the truth, that Cam knew more about my life than I had ever let Malcolm know, I would hurt this man even more than I already had.
My silence at his question seemed to provide my answer. His eyes dimmed as he watched me. ‘I’ll take that as a yes.’
‘Malcolm!’ Mr Meikle boomed as he threw his office door open. ‘Joanne didn’t tell me you’d arrived. Come in, come in.’
It was the first time I’d ever been grateful to my harsh employer. He’d saved me from having to answer to that wounded look on Malcolm’s face.
The entire time Malcolm was in Meikle’s office I watched the door like a hawk, chewing on my lip, my knee bouncing up and down with my anxiety as I waited for him to reappear. I spent twenty minutes building myself up to his reaction and in the end he walked out the door, threw me a casual smile, and told me he’d talk to me soon. Then he left.
I wilted against my chair, the tension draining from my body.
I snapped around, surprised not only that Mr Meikle had got my name correct but also that he had uttered it in a tone that was scathing, even for him. He stood in his doorway, his eyes narrowed on me, his expression almost incredulous. ‘Sir?’
‘You broke up with Malcolm Hendry?’