We ended up hav**g s*x on his living-room couch. It was the first time we’d had sex outside of his bed.
I wanted to find it exciting, but it hadn’t been. It had felt like a claiming, and with my mind all over the place, it was not a claiming I’d been into. After months of praying for this moment, I couldn’t believe I was questioning whether I wanted it or not.
Malcolm had carried to me to his bed after the couch sex, where he’d made love to me tenderly, sweetly … but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t switch my brain off, my thoughts buzzing around in my head like too many trolleys in one supermarket aisle – they were relevant, but they weren’t going anywhere that made sense.
‘I feel like you’re someplace else tonight.’ Malcolm tugged on my waist, pulling me closer. ‘I’d feel better if you stayed, but only if you want to.’
I took a deep breath, trying to remind myself that this was exactly what I wanted. So Malcolm didn’t know me as well as he thought he did. That was a good thing. And anyway, Cole was staying at Jamie’s. The only one I had to worry about was Mum, and really that was just a case of hoping she didn’t burn down the flat.
I relaxed, cuddling into Malcolm. ‘Okay.’
He wrapped his arms tighter around me, stroking my arm soothingly. ‘I wish you’d tell me what’s wrong.’
I tensed. ‘Nothing is wrong.’
‘You keep saying that, but I don’t believe you.’
I scrambled around for some excuse. ‘Things are just difficult with Mum at the moment.’
‘You could let me help.’
At his kindness, I melted against him, pressing a tender kiss to his throat. ‘You are helping. Being with you helps.’
He kissed my hair. ‘You weren’t with me tonight. Not the first time or the second time. And altogether that would be the third time.’
Oh, God. He knew I hadn’t come again. If sex with me was terrible, would Malcolm dump me? I tensed.
‘I’m not criticizing. I’m worried.’ He pulled away from me and tipped my chin up so he could look into my eyes. ‘I care about you, Jo. I hope you care about me.’
I nodded quickly, sincerely. ‘I do care about you. It’s just been a difficult few weeks, but I promise it’s going to get better.’
He pressed a soft kiss to my lips and snuggled us down under his duvet. ‘Let’s start with getting you a proper sleep. You work too hard.’
I held on to him, letting his patience and kindness act as a balm to my harried nerves. I was just drifting off when he said quietly, ‘You seem to get on okay with Cam?’
My eyes popped open at the question. ‘Not really.’
‘Hmm.’ His hand slid down to cup my hip, pulling my body into his. ‘I’m not sure about him. I don’t like the way he looks at you. And I don’t like that he’s living in such close proximity to you.’
My body wanted to grow tense at the suspicion in Malcolm’s voice, and it took everything I had to remain relaxed. His behaviour tonight had been so strange. ‘You were a little off tonight. I thought it was because of Callum’s appearance …’
Malcolm grunted. ‘No. You were uncomfortable around him. Anyone could see that. No, that didn’t bother me.’
However, Cam had. Malcolm’s slight possessiveness tonight and the claiming of me on his living-room couch hadn’t been about Callum. It had all been about Cam. He’d seen the way Cam had been looking at me and it had ignited his inner Alpha. And although Callum had touched my ass in front of Malcolm, that hadn’t bothered him because I hadn’t reacted.
But Cam had bothered him.
Because I had reacted.
I nuzzled against Malcolm, trying to force my pulse to slow. ‘He rubs me the wrong way too.’ I tried to cover up my attraction, making excuses for my response to Cam. ‘To be honest, we barely speak a word to each other at work.’
I hadn’t even realized Malcolm had been tense until I felt his muscles relax against me. ‘I’m going to see about getting him a job in graphic design. For Becca’s sake.’
Yeah. For Becca’s sake.
It took a while for me to fall asleep after that conversation.
My eyes slammed open, my heart beating hard against my ribs. I had sensed something was wrong.
Where was I? I tried to blink the fog of sleep from my eyes so I could focus.
Why was I so bloody warm?
Malcolm. I was in his room.
My eyes travelled down to the arm that was slung over my waist, and I turned my head over my shoulder to see Malcolm sleeping soundly behind me.
My eyelashes fluttered against the bright light streaming in through the crack in his blinds.
What time was it?
Lifting his arm as gently as possible, I eased out of the bed and tiptoed over to where my watch lay on his black lacquered Oriental cabinet.
‘Balls,’ I hissed, gaping at the time. It was past noon. On a Sunday. Cole would have come home early in hopes that I was taking him to the Nicholses’ for Sunday dinner. And I wasn’t there. Where was my phone? Where was my dress?
Shit, shit, shit.
‘Jo?’ Malcolm mumbled and my gaze flew back to the bed, where he was staring at me sleepily. ‘Where are you going?’
‘I slept in. I’m supposed to be home for Cole and my mum by now.’
‘Fuck,’ he mumbled. ‘What time is it?’
‘Quarter past twelve.’
‘It feels earlier.’
‘Well, it’s not,’ I replied, exasperated. I wasn’t quite sure at whom. I dashed across the room and planted a quick peck on his cheek before hurrying away. ‘I’ll phone you later!’ I called, grabbing my dress from his bedroom floor. I found my shoes, knickers, bra and bag in his living room, and as I hurriedly dressed I called for a taxi on speakerphone.
It was there in no time, and I dashed out of the duplex, shivering against the blast of cold air coming off the water, before I dived into the warm confines of the cab. I took the opportunity to check my messages.
I had one from Joss asking if I would be at lunch today.
And, bloody hell, I also had a text from Cole that he’d sent hours ago. I’d missed it. It seemed Jamie’s parents had had a huge argument, so Cole had got a taxi home last night.
In the flustered, muddled mess I was in, Sunday lunch was not a good idea. I texted Joss back to let her know we’d be skipping it this week.
When the taxi pulled up to the flat, I tore up those stairs in my five-inch heels, not caring about the noise clacking like nails against steel all the way through the building. I shot a glower at Cam’s door as I passed, and then threw myself up the last few stairs, bursting through my front door, only to be welcomed by the sound of Cole’s laughter. Laughter that was followed by deep masculine laughter.
‘Cole?’ I stormed from the hall into the living room and stopped dead in my tracks.
My little brother was sitting on the floor, surrounded by his drawings, laughing up into Cameron MacCabe’s face. Cole’s eyes were lit up in a way I hadn’t seen in a long time, and for a moment all I could think was how much it hurt that he didn’t look that happy more often.
And then the fact that Cam was in my flat registered.
Cam was in my flat.
My flat, where my mother lived.
I felt sick.
‘Jo.’ Cole jumped to his feet, his eyes dimming. ‘I was worried.’
‘I’m sorry.’ I shook my head, gesturing with my phone. ‘I didn’t get your text until twenty minutes ago.’
‘It’s okay.’ He shrugged. ‘Everything’s okay.’
Cam stood up, smiling at Cole. That expression completely dissipated when he turned to face me, the softness melting into absolute nothingness. ‘Jo.’
‘Cam, what are you doing here?’ I asked breathlessly, my eyes darting towards the hall, thinking of Mum hidden away in her room. Maybe I could get him out before she made an appearance.
He strode past Cole, patting his shoulder almost protectively, before moving towards me. ‘Let’s talk. Out in the hall.’
Dumbfounded, I watched him pass me.
I flinched at the demand in his voice, annoyance taking over my bemusement. How dare he speak to me that way? I wasn’t a bloody dog. I narrowed my eyes on Cole. ‘What happened?’
‘Johanna, now,’ Cam snapped.
My spine straightened. He might as well have whacked me across the ass with a belt. I gave Cole a look that promised retribution for letting Cam into the flat, and then I turned on my heel and followed Cam out into the hall. He’d walked down the first flight of stairs.
I threw my hands on my hips, giving him attitude as I glared down at him. ‘Well?’
‘Would you come here?’ His authoritative voice drew my gaze to his features – they were tight, his blue eyes blazing sparks at me. Someone was seriously pissed off. ‘I’m not shouting up there to you.’
With a huff of annoyance I tore off the heels that were hurting me and threw them back into the flat. My bare feet touched the icy concrete as I hurried down the stairs towards him, and that seemed to wake me up. It also made me fully aware of what a dishevelled mess I was. ‘What? Why were you in my flat?’
Cam leaned into me, our faces almost on eye level. That soft curl of his upper lip was gone again, pinched against his lower lip. His gorgeous cobalt eyes were bloodshot today, and he looked even more tired than he had yesterday. Despite his obvious and mysterious irritation with me, I couldn’t help but want to fall against him, feel those strong arms wrap around me, and inhale the scent of Cam and bay rum.
‘Maybe first you’d like to tell me what kind of sister leaves her wee brother alone all night to deal with an alcoholic mother who’s a bit too quick to raise a hand against him. Hmm? What kind of sister would leave a kid to that so she can spread her legs for someone who probably doesn’t know the first thing about her,’ he hissed, his eyes flashing with disgust. ‘Just when I think I’m completely wrong about you, you prove me right with your utter selfishness.’
I couldn’t breathe.
What did he mean she was quick to raise her hand against Cole?
‘I had to help Cole out last night. I heard shouting coming from the flat and I went up to see if you were okay. You were gone. And he was left alone with that.’ Cam couldn’t have looked more disappointed in me if he’d tried. In fact, he seemed enraged by the disappointment of me. ‘You should be f**king ashamed.’
Words failed me.
I could feel the tears welling up inside me and I pushed them back, refusing to let him make me cry. His attack seemed to boomerang around my head and it took me a moment to gather myself, to come to a decision about how to react.
My first thought was of Cole.
What does Cam mean? Fear and a sleeping anger burned in my stomach.
As for Cam, he was going to think what he liked about me. He had a proven record of jumping to conclusions and ripping me apart. As much as I was attracted to him, I knew without a doubt that I wouldn’t be able to like this man. He so easily hurt me.