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.’
I wanted to avoid Cam’s reaction to my opinion, but the heat of his gaze drew mine and when our eyes met they held. And locked. I felt my breathing grow shallow at his soft smile, his warm, inquisitive eyes. ‘Joss says your brother draws and writes his own.’
The thought of Cole loosened my lips into a more relaxed smile. ‘He’s very talented.’
‘I’d love to take a look at them sometime.’
‘I think Cole would like that.’ I didn’t know why I said that. I didn’t want Cam anywhere near Cole or my flat. It was the way he was looking at me. Like he saw something he liked and it had nothing to do with my pretty face, long legs or perky boobs. Words that had tumbled out of my mouth had pleased him and I was basking in his good opinion.
I was such an idiot.
My gaze was ripped from Cam’s at the voice.
No. I tensed. It can’t be.
I shifted around in my seat and looked up into the eyes of someone very familiar. An unexpected ache flared in my chest as a rush of memories exploded over me.
Oh, God. Was someone just being particularly cruel today? I mean, how many coincidences could a person deal with in one day?
‘Callum?’ My eyes searched my ex-boyfriend’s handsome face. I hadn’t seen him for about a year. We’d bumped into each other a number of times since breaking up three years ago but never somewhere where we could talk.
I noted a couple of lines around his eyes that hadn’t been there when we’d dated, but they only added to his attractiveness. Not a strand of his silky dark hair was out of place, and his suit was cut exquisitely for his perfect physique. The short brunette at his side was a fresh-faced beauty about my age.
‘Jo, it’s good to see you.’ He took a step away from his date and I thought I saw a momentary flicker in his eyes. I stood up from the table and was immediately enveloped in his hug. He hadn’t changed his cologne and it sparked sensual memories. Sex with Callum had been the best I’d ever had – nothing kinky or exceptionally adventurous, but earthy and satisfying. Sadly, I wondered if that was what had kept us together so long.
Callum’s hands had slid familiarly around my body as he drew me into the hug and now one of them was pressed low on my back and the other just touching my ass. ‘I’ve missed you,’ he murmured, giving me a squeeze.
I laughed nervously, pulling out of his embrace. ‘I’ve missed you too.’
A throat cleared and I twisted my head to see Malcolm staring up at us, his eyebrows elevated to his hairline.
‘Oh, Malcolm, this is Callum Forsyth. Callum, this is my boyfriend, Malcolm Hendry.’
Malcolm half stood so he could lean over and shake Callum’s hand. Callum eyed him carefully, murmuring a polite ‘Hello’ before sliding his gaze back to me.
‘You look amazing.’
‘Thank you.’ I flicked a look at his date, wondering if he was going to introduce her. Following my gaze, Callum seemed to suddenly realize she was there. ‘Oh, this is Meaghan. My fiancée.’
Wow, what a way to greet an ex-girlfriend in front of his fiancée. I almost sent him a chiding look. ‘Nice to meet you.’
‘You too,’ she answered politely, smiling sweetly up at Callum.
If I was her I’d have been pissed off if my fiancé had just had his hand on another woman’s ass. If I was her I’d be –
Rubbish, Jo. I chastised myself. You’re talking absolute rubbish. If it had been you, you would have pretended you hadn’t seen anything so it wouldn’t cause an argument and upset him.
As I stared at my ex-boyfriend and his new fiancée I saw that nothing had changed. She might be short and brunette, but she was likely just another version of me. That look of longing in Callum’s eyes perhaps attested to our great sex life and nothing more, because … he hadn’t known me.
I was the perfect girlfriend. Thinking back, I couldn’t remember a time we’d ever got into a fight. Why? Because I never argued. I always agreed with him or curbed my tongue. I didn’t care what we did as long as it made him happy. I was the epitome of congenial blandness. And when I finally hadn’t catered to his every whim, when I’d put my family’s needs over his, he’d kicked me to the kerb.
A shudder rippled through me and I took a step back from Callum, all those warm memories evaporating. Did Cam see that when he looked at me with Malcolm? Was I like that with Malcolm? We never argued. I always agreed … but that was the way to keep him, right? I shot a look down at him and saw he was frowning at me. I wanted this man to propose one day, right? It didn’t matter whether he was proposing to the real me or not.
My gut churned.
It didn’t matter.
I looked back at Callum with a tight smile. ‘I’d better get back to dinner. It was nice seeing you after all this time, and nice meeting you, Meaghan.’ I nodded at them and slipped back into my chair.
I knew they were gone when Malcolm’s gaze returned to me. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Who was that?’
Becca choked on a giggle. ‘A handsy ex-boyfriend.’
‘Too handsy,’ Cam muttered, and I looked up, only for our eyes to clash. I couldn’t tell what was going on behind his. Was he angry?
‘Yes, well,’ Malcolm replied tightly now. ‘He certainly didn’t care that his fiancée was standing right next to him.’
Did you care? Malcolm, did you care? I shot him a look and almost swore at the way he was looking at Cam. Not Callum. Cam. I frowned, totally confused. ‘Are you angry?’
With that careful look at Cam, Malcolm smiled at me and slid his arm around the back of my chair. ‘It’s my bed you end up in at the end of the night, sweetheart. I’ve got nothing to be mad about.’
I smiled weakly at him, taken aback by his uncharacteristic comment, and then chanced another look at Cam. His plate seemed to hold a great deal of interest for him, and since I couldn’t read his eyes, I read his body. His jaw was locked tight, his fist was curled around his fork until his knuckles were white, and his shoulders had tensed.
Cam was mad now?
Jesus, what were we playing at with each other?
‘Where are you going?’ Malcolm slid his arm around my waist and halted my progress out of his bed.
I grew still, confused. This was the part at the end of the night when I always left.
‘Stay. Stay with me tonight.’
Dinner had been a strange affair after Callum’s appearance. Malcolm seemed off, his behaviour taking a surprising turn as he acted both cocky and proprietary towards me, and Becca’s mood had soured along with Cam’s. I was grateful when Malcolm called it quits, taking me home to his flat. However, as soon as we were in the door, he was on me, his kisses hard and demanding, his need immediate and intense.