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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(59) by Samantha Young|
I shook my head, confused.
‘Let’s just say his dad was quick to violence as well.’
That information froze me in place for a second.
Murray Walker had been abused? Now, didn’t that make a whole lot of sense? A cycle of abuse. Of course.
I turned to Cole and brushed his hair back off his face. I may not have saved him from Mum’s quick hands, but I’d saved him from Dad’s brutality. It was a small kind of consolation.
At the thought of Mum, I focused on her. ‘We woke you up?’ I asked blandly, not really giving a crap if we had or not. My father’s attack had brought back my initial feelings of betrayal and anger when I first discovered she’d hit Cole.
Fiona’s anxious eyes searched my face. Let’s not forget this was also a woman who had known that Dad beat me as a child and had let it happen for far longer than she should have.
Was that what I was doing with Cole? I knew Mum hadn’t hit him since I confronted her in the kitchen, but did that really matter? He still had to live in an environment where I was nervous about leaving him alone in the flat with her. Was it selfish of me to keep him here because I feared losing him? If only she hadn’t threatened to go to the authorities if I took him …
Resolve forced its way into my bones and my eyes narrowed on her. I was a little tired of threats.
‘I wanted to make sure you were okay,’ she muttered before her eyes flickered over everyone. Her hand instinctively went to her unwashed hair. It was a rare moment of self-consciousness, and she followed it by pulling her robe more tightly around her frail body. ‘Now I know you’re okay, I think I’ll go back to bed.’
I watched her silently shuffle away, a difficult decision weighing on me despite everything.
‘Jo, this is Dr Henderson,’ Braden informed me quietly, dragging my thoughts from Mum to the distinguished-looking older man in the room, who now took a step towards me. I was acutely aware of Cam standing beside him, but I still hadn’t acknowledged his presence. There was too much going on and I was really too tired to think clearly on that subject. ‘He’s going to examine you.’
I smiled wanly at the doctor. ‘Thank you.’
His kind eyes dropped to my lip. ‘Where would you like to do this, Jo? Somewhere private?’
‘My room will be fine.’
Dr Henderson followed me silently down the hall to my small bedroom, and there he checked my cut, which Joss had already protected against infection, and then inspected my stomach and ribs. There was slight bruising around my ribs that made him purse his lips.
‘It seemed he wanted to frighten rather than maim entirely, Miss Walker,’ Dr Henderson murmured with a hint of anger. I was guessing it was directed at my dad. ‘He could have caused some internal injuries if he’d kicked you any harder. As it is, I think your ribs are just bruised, although it’s possible there could be a hairline fracture or two. You’re going to feel some discomfort over the next few weeks. There’s nothing I can do except advise you to take ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and to ice the injured area as well. I’ll also write you a line for work. It would be best if you take at least a week off. You don’t smoke, do you?’
I shook my head. ‘I quit a few months ago.’
‘Good. That’s good. If you feel any shortness of breath, or the pain worsens, or you feel any pain in your abdomen, contact me.’ He held a business card out to me and I took it gratefully.
‘Now, I’m going to leave you to rest. Get some sleep.’
Persuasion was not necessary, and I crawled into bed carefully, closing my eyes to the sound of my bedroom door shutting. I wriggled out of my jeans, hissing at the pain in my ribs. With a kick, my jeans fell out of my bed on to the floor and I pulled my duvet tighter around me.
For the first time in a very long time I felt absolutely safe. How could I not when I had a small army out there in my living room, willing to defend me until the last breath? I’d been so frightened last night, so panicked, but they had taken most of that away – Joss, Braden, Uncle Mick, Olivia, Cam and Cole.
Tired muscles melted into my comfy mattress, and my eyelids drifted closed. Deep sleep claimed me for the first time in days.
It was the heat that woke me up.
Agitated, I threw off my covers and my eyes shot open with the pain as I let out a garbled cry.
‘Johanna.’ Cam’s voice was suddenly there.
My blinking, bleary eyes met his. He was sitting on the floor of my bedroom, his back against the wall, his knees drawn up, his hands dangling listlessly over them. Dark circles plagued his eyes, eyes that were lidded but still brimming with concern.
I rolled on to my elbow, clutching my ribs. It was light outside. ‘What time is it?’ I asked, my voice cracking on the words. I felt icky and warm and my mouth was dry.
‘It’s eight o’ clock in the morning. Sunday.’
Oh, God. I’d slept for an entire day. With effort I processed Cam’s ragged appearance. ‘Baby, have you not slept?’
Something sparked in his eyes at my question. ‘I’ve drifted in and out. I didn’t want to leave you. Look what happened Friday night.’
‘Not your fault.’ My lips thinned and then I hissed at the sting. I’d forgotten about my lip.
‘I want to hit him again.’
My eyebrows shot skyward, his words waking me up. ‘You hit Murray, too?’
‘I would have killed him, but Mick thought that might be a bad idea.’
‘Ah, Uncle Mick. A man of rationality. He’s such a buzz kill.’
Cam’s lips twitched. ‘Glad to see your sense of humour is still intact.’
I grimaced at the waking aches and pains. ‘It’s about the only thing that is.’
He leaned forward. ‘Can I get you anything?’
‘Glass of water.’ Nodding, Cam got to his feet. ‘Where’s Cole?’
‘In his bed. Joss and Braden offered to come by and take him to the Nicholses’ for lunch later.’
‘Good.’ I closed my eyes again.
A minute or so later, Cam was shaking me gently awake. ‘You need to drink something.’
Reluctantly, I let him help me sit up, and I had to stop myself from leaning in and pressing my face against his neck. We still had way too much to discuss before we could even think about cuddling.
I took a big gulp of the ice-cold water he’d brought me and thanked him. And then before I could say anything, he gently nudged me over and got into the bed beside me, his arm coming around my shoulder to draw me against his chest. ‘What are you doing?’ I mumbled, but I didn’t really protest.
Cam sighed heavily, his fingers brushing through my hair. ‘I’ve been through hell and back in the last few days, Jo. Just let me hold you.’
Tears pricked my eyes. ‘I know you didn’t sleep with her.’
‘It looked bad, though, and you weren’t in any state to think anything else but the obvious.’
My fist clenched, curling into a tight ball. I hadn’t even realized I’d done it until Cam pushed his fingers against mine, forcing me to relax my hand. His thumb rubbed soothingly over my palm where my nails had bitten into the skin. ‘I’m almost afraid to ask this, but … why was she there?’
I felt his hesitation and my heart automatically lodged a complaint with a bang, bang, bang against my chest. ‘Cam?’
He turned his head and pressed his mouth against my forehead, breathing me in. When he pulled back, he replied softly, ‘She turned up late at the flat, distraught and a bit drunk. I let her in. She threw herself at me.’
It was decided. I hated her.
‘I pushed her off, told her nothing could happen between us and I thought it was best she leave, but she broke down crying and I felt like a bastard. I couldn’t just throw her out.’
I swallowed past the lump in my throat. ‘She’s still in love with you?’
‘She doesn’t know me,’ he answered, sounding irritated.
‘I’ll take that as a yes.’
‘We sat talking for ages, going around in circles until she started to sober up. She asked to use my shower and crash for the night. By then we were on the same page and I felt bad for her, so I said yes.’
It took me a moment but I asked, ‘Same page?’
Cam shifted away from me tentatively, and only so he could look me in the eye. His haggard face was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and the ache in my chest intensified for him. I lifted my gaze from the soft, sexy curl of his upper lip to his eyes and my breath caught at his expression.
It was vulnerable and raw and open …
He was na**d and bleeding for me.
‘I told her something I should have told you ages ago.’ He cupped a large hand around my neck, drawing me closer. ‘I’ve never met anyone as quietly brave and strong as you. I’ve never met a woman so unassuming, so kind and so selfless. You are a complex lady.’ His mouth curled up at the corners. ‘And you are smart, and passionate, and funny, and exciting, and you blow me f**king away. When I first saw you, I wanted you like I’d never wanted anyone. When you first tore me a new one, I wanted to know you. And when I got to know you, when I stood across a kitchen and you told me not to kill a spider because it didn’t say much for us as a species if we killed something because we feared it, I knew. I knew that I would never meet anyone as beautiful or as compassionate or as determined. I’ve known for a while that I was in love with you, Jo. I’ve known and I should have told you.’
Tears streamed down my cheeks and Cam’s thumb did its best to catch them all. My chin trembled as I asked, ‘Why didn’t you?’
He quirked an eyebrow at me. ‘Maybe for the same reason you didn’t tell me.’ He leaned in to place a very careful but sweet kiss on my mouth. When he pulled back he continued. ‘Last week, the Saturday we met Blair and I went quiet on you?’