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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(55) by Samantha Young|
That had not been an outcome I’d imagined when I’d been guessing as to how our conversation would go. Mostly I hoped it would conclude with a lot of apologies from both of us, Cam agreeing never to see Blair again and then taking me wildly on his couch.
If he wasn’t home, none of those things would happen.
A little nonplussed, I moodily returned to the flat. Cole was having dinner at Jamie’s after school and returning home later that night. He was of course under strict orders to inform me when he got back to the flat. Strict orders or not, he had been getting a little lax lately with keeping me informed. Well, with thoughts of Murray riding me, baby boy would not be getting away with radio silence tonight. I’d be on his back like hair on a gorilla.
Determined to at least see Cam’s face (I missed the a**hole, goddammit), I knocked on his door on my way out to work. Again there was no answer. I pressed my ear against the door, but there was no sound of movement, no sound of the television, no music.
Where was he?
I glanced at my phone as I left the building, wondering if I should text him, make the first move, and it vibrated in my hand. My heart leaped into my throat as the message envelope blinked at me. Relief rushed through as I swiped the lock screen away and saw Cam’s name.
Think maybe it’s time we talk, baby. Can you come down to the flat tomorrow morning? Please. x
I sucked in the fresh air, feeling at least one weight lift off my shoulders. I nodded, as though he was there in front of me, and quickly sent him a reply.
I’ll be there. x
I was just getting on the bus for work when my phone vibrated again.
I chuckled and settled into my seat. A smiley face. A smiley face was always a good thing, right?
Joss was still unwell, so I was working with Sadie and Alistair again. Alistair inquired immediately if I was feeling better, and I lied and told him I was fine. It was nice of him to ask. Alistair was a sweet guy. I was glad, however, that we’d been so busy the night before that he hadn’t noticed Murray’s appearance. If Alistair had seen the interaction between us, he would have known something was wrong and he would have peppered me with questions. He was a sweet guy, but he was also a nosy bastard, and if I hadn’t given him answers, which I wouldn’t have, he would have sought out Joss for them. Joss would then be involved and well … she had a way of unearthing all of my secrets.
It was just as busy as it had been the night before, and I was a jittery mess. I got drink orders mixed up, I dropped not one but two glasses, and in general caused Alistair to raise his eyebrows so many times he could have been mistaken for a Muppet.
When the time for my break arrived, I couldn’t have been more relieved. I threw back water, staying away from anything with caffeine in it, since it would probably only make my nerves worse, and I pulled out my phone. Cole still hadn’t texted me.
I rang him.
‘Uh, hullo?’ I sniped. Sometimes worrying could turn me a mite crabby. ‘You were supposed to text me when you got home. Are you home?’
I heard him sigh heavily and had to stomp down on my aggravation so I didn’t scream at him. ‘Aye, I’m home. And when are you going to start talking to Cam again so you can stop being a total –’
‘Finish that sentence and die.’
Silence governed on the end of the line.
I scowled. ‘Are you still there?’
He grunted in response.
‘I’ll take that as a yes.’ I tugged on the end of my ponytail, wrapping my hair around my fist. ‘You locked the door, right?’
‘Of course.’ He sighed again. ‘Jo, is there something else bothering you?’
‘Nope,’ I answered quickly. ‘Just, you know, I worry, so next time I ask you to text me, text me.’
‘Okay. I’ll see you in the morning.’
With another grunt he hung up.
As I blew out the air between my lips in relief that he was home and safe, I noted the envelope in the top left-hand corner of my phone screen. I clicked on the unopened message. It was from Joss.
The Reign of the Vomit is over! Hope you’re not missing me too much:)
I choked on a weak laugh and texted her back.
Are you telling me you’re well enough to be working but aren’t? Tut tut, Mrs Carmichael, tut tut. x
Two seconds later my phone binged.
I was well until you called me that:\
Better get used to it x
I laughed for real now, shaking my head. She was worse than a bloke. Poor Braden had his work cut out for him with that one.
Feeling somewhat better, I returned to the bar, praying the evening would be over quickly. For the next few hours I couldn’t help but scan the crowds for Murray’s face, but as the night wore on and he didn’t show, I started to feel antsy. Part of me had wanted him to appear so I could get our confrontation over with. The sooner he realized I wasn’t with Malcolm anymore and didn’t have the kind of money he was after, the quicker he’d get the bugger out of Edinburgh.
Last night I’d called a cab to pick me up at the door of the bar, but tonight I was feeling defiant. I was still angry at myself for reacting to Murray like I was ten years old again and defending myself against his fists. I didn’t want him to know I was frightened of him. I didn’t want him to think he had that kind of power over me. I wanted him to think he’d never left a mark on me.
So I (in retrospect, stupidly) took my usual route home – walking to Leith Walk in hopes of grabbing a taxi with its light on once I got there.
I stood on Leith Walk for five minutes, waiting for a taxi to turn down the wide road. The only one that did was mobbed by a small group of guys. As the taxi drove away, I stood there for a minute, listening to two drunken girls across the street shout names at one another.
I was starting to get uneasy standing there alone. It never usually bothered me because Edinburgh was still so alive at this time in this area – people were still out and about, witnesses to halt any nefarious intentions of a creepy stranger. But I had goose bumps and the hair on the nape of my neck prickled. I whipped my head around, scanning back up the road I’d just walked down. I couldn’t see anyone watching me.
With a weary huff, I decided to just walk home. It was a fair wee walk at this time and I didn’t particularly enjoy walking down the very long London Road, but I didn’t want to hang around any more.
I was just about to turn the corner on to Blenheim Place when something made me look back. Call it a sixth sense, a chill down the spine, a warning …
My heart shot up into my throat.
A dark silhouette was a few yards behind me. I recognized the lope. Growing up, we called it the ‘hard man’ lope. The gentle but forced swagger of the shoulders, chest puffed up, steps deliberate. It was usually adopted by men when they were going into some kind of ‘battle’. My dad had walked like that all the time, though. Then again, every second of every day he’d treated life as one big battle and everyone as an enemy.
Murray Walker was following me.
I quickly looked in front of me, and without really even taking the time to think about it, I took the path up the cobbled streets of Royal Terrace instead of London Road. It ran adjacent to London Road on higher ground, but I knew there was a path by the church that would take me into Royal Terrace Gardens. I raced into the entrance, and the climb burned in my muscles, but I pushed on, taking the wide path that veered steeply up along the outskirts of Calton Hill. The precipitous pathway would eventually slope downward and bring me out on to Waterloo Place, and from there I’d go west back on to Princes Street. Then it was north to Dublin Street.
All that really mattered was misdirecting Murray.
He couldn’t know where we lived.
I was so panicked at the thought of him finding the flat that I didn’t think clearly and I didn’t see the error in my plan.
Me. Alone. On a dark, rough, muddy pathway. At night.
The adrenaline was pumping through me as I marched upward. I attempted to listen for the sound of footsteps behind me, but my heart was racing so hard it was pulsing blood in rushing waves into my ears. The palms of my hands and my underarms were damp with cold sweat, and I couldn’t breathe properly, my chest rising and falling in ragged breaths. I felt sick with fear.
When I finally heard the heavy footsteps behind me I glanced back and saw my dad’s face under the wash of moonlight. He was pissed off.
All the determination I’d had earlier to stand and face him and show him he didn’t scare me just disappeared. I couldn’t let go of that little girl who was terrified of him.
And so, like her, I tried to run.
My feet slapped against the steps as I ran upward as hard and fast as I could, wishing I could conjure up people, witnesses. But no one was there.
I was alone.
Except for the pounding of heavy boots behind me.
At the hard, warm grip of his hand around my arm, I made a noise of loud distress that was quickly muffled by his other hand clamping down over my mouth. The smell of sweat and cigarette smoke flooded my nostrils as I fought him, my nails biting into his arm, my legs trying to kick out as I was dragged off the path. I lost my grip on my bag with my pepper spray as I fought him.
I wasn’t strong enough, and now I was unarmed.
Murray slammed me back against the rocky, grass-covered slope of the hillside and pain shot through my skull before shooting all the way down to the tip of my toes. Tears leaked from my eyes as he held me there, his large hand around my throat.
I grunted against the other hand that was still clamped over my mouth.
He tightened his grip on my throat and I stopped squirming.
Despite the fact that his face was mostly cast in darkness, I could still make out the anger that stretched his features taut. ‘Trying to give me the runaround?’ he hissed.
I didn’t answer. I was too busy wondering morbidly what he was going to do to me. My body began to shake hard, and I lost complete control of my breathing. He felt the gulping breaths behind his palm and smirked.
‘I won’t hurt you, Jo. I just want to see my son.’