I tried not to cry as the taxi took me home, and I definitely tried not to cry as I quietly let myself inside. I was just creeping toward the stair when a head popped out of the kitchen and gave me heart failure. I sucked in a breath, clutching a hand to my chest in fright.
Adam stood in the light from the kitchen doorway. He crooked a finger at me and as I approached him I saw that image again of him and caterer girl, and the anger returned.
I followed him into the kitchen and he closed the door behind me. I studied his face and saw his eyes were bloodshot. The smell of coffee filled the air and I noted cheese toasties sitting on a plate. He was obviously hungover and trying to diminish the affects. I was so busy noting these things that I didn’t notice his anger.
“Where the hell have you been?” he hissed at me.
I glowered at him, momentarily blaming him for the loss of my virginity. “Out.”
He narrowed his eyes. “With who?”
Adam’s face instantly darkened and he took a step toward me, his eyes moving over my messy hair and then coming to rest on my mouth. They stuck there until I touched my lips, wondering what was so fascinating about them. “What were you doing?” he finally asked, his voice gruff.
And that was the point in the interrogation I lost my temper. My loss of temper transformed into blasé petulance. “I’m eighteen, Adam. I can have sex with my boyfriend.”
His body jerked, like I’d shot him. “Sex?” he choked out.
I shrugged as if my heart wasn’t hammering against my ribcage. “It was a present to myself.”
He swallowed, his eyes roaming over me again. “Are you telling me… you lost your virginity last night?”
I nodded slowly, hearing an edge in his words I was a little bit afraid of.
Adam’s eyes flared after my confirmation and I stood there squirming as he drank me in from head to foot. I flushed at his appraisal, not quite sure what was happening. And then he made it clearer by turning on his heel and throwing the kitchen door open. Without a care to those sleeping, Adam stormed out of the house, the front door slamming in his wake.
I let out a shaky breath, realizing what the edge was now.
Adam thought of himself like my big brother. No big brother wanted to hear that their little sister had “gotten herself some”. More than that, I wondered if he was as disappointed in me as I was in myself. He knew me. He knew I believed in stars and sunsets and “happily ever afters”. I’d compromised my own beliefs by having casual sex with a boy I barely knew.
The tears came then and I hurried to my room with blurry vision. I grabbed some fresh underwear and pajamas and took them into the bathroom with me. For half an hour I remained in the shower, crying the entire time.
At least, I told myself, I’d learned a huge lesson.
I’d learned there were some things in life you could never take back.
Adam put down the diary and looked up at me, something like regret in his eyes. I didn’t want him to feel regret, I just wanted him to know that even if my first time hadn’t been with him, I’d always wanted it to be.
“Baby, I’m sorry,” he whispered.
I frowned and shook my head. “Don’t. That’s not what… I just wanted you to know that it’s always been you.”
“But your first time should have been special, Els. It should have been romantic.”
I shrugged. “In the grand scheme of things it’s not the worst thing that happened. Dad—”
“Douglas died a few days after your birthday,” Adam murmured, finishing my sentence.
“Yeah,” I whispered back, remembering how mixed up I’d been over my dad’s death. I’d grieved, but I couldn’t work out if I was mourning the idea of a dad or if I was mourning Douglas Carmichael. To make matters worse he left me a boatload of money and it took me a while to come to terms with how that made me feel. Not to mention, “I was mad at him and he died with me mad at him.”
Adam slid across the floor and put his arm around me, hugging me close. “Ellie, I thought you stopped feeling guilty about that. He was a shit dad. You had a right to be angry at him, no matter what happened.”
I nodded and snuggled closer to him, inhaling the scent of him and his aftershave. He smelled good. He always smelled good.
We sat in silence for a while until Adam said, “Just so you know, I barely remember what I did with the catering girl. And I had no idea I said that to you at your party—calling you beautiful and telling you I worried all the time about you. Fucking mixed signals. I was pretty drunk that night.”
“I know. But in the end you were right about Liam. He ended up cheating on me with Allie.”
Adam tensed. “That’s why you stopped talking to Allie? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because you would have beaten the shit out of Liam.”
I snorted. “Always fighting my battles for me.”
“With you, baby. With you, not for you.”
Liking that a lot, I turned my head and kissed him, loving the now familiar press of his mouth against mine. I pulled back and cocked my head in thought. “I thought the year you started to see me differently was the one after my eighteenth.”
“The one after…?” Adam’s eyebrows drew together in thought for a minute and then instantly cleared as he remembered. “The almost kiss.”
While he’d been reading the last entry, I’d found the entry I’d expected him to allude to as to the moment he started to see me as more than Braden’s little sister. I held the diary out to him and he took it with a small smile as the memories flooded him.
Friday, July 5th Tonight I had my first truly grown-up, sophisticated and, well, HOT, date. I’m just not sure who I had it with… As Christian helped me out of the taxi I had to wonder if this was going to be “it”.
Christian was handsome, charming, a total gentleman and he had class. He had yet to make me laugh but I was sure that would come as we became more comfortable with one another.
He smiled at me again as I pushed the hem of my black dress back down. It had shimmied up while I was sitting in the taxi. “You look stunning.”
I flushed. When he looked at me like that I felt stunning. I was wearing a plain black sleeveless dress that should have been somewhat modest considering its high neckline and mid-thigh hemline. However, the dress hugged every inch of my body leaving little to the imagination. It was a sophisticated dress with a splash of “hot”.
I’d bought it earlier that day specifically for Christian.
We’d met a week ago in the student union. Christian was pre-law, two years older than me and from an obviously wealthy and well-to-do family. They had an actual “estate” in the highlands. That had nothing to do with what attracted me to him of course. I was attracted to him and how he’d acted upon our first meeting— with a fresh and open honesty that really appealed to me. It made me feel like I could be just as open with him. It made me feel like I could be myself.
Christian had told me that although his family had the estate, they also had a home in Corstorphine, a busy suburb out in the west of the city. His parents had bought it when his sister had moved to Edinburgh and started popping out children. She was pregnant with her third and the entire family was living in Edinburgh to be closer to her. I thought that spoke volumes about them and was more than a little excited to meet them already.
To my delight, Christian had booked us a table at La Cour for our first date. I didn’t even get a chance to tell him it was Braden’s restaurant. He inherited it from our father. As we entered I opened my mouth to tell him but Christian started speaking about the menu and what he thought I should order. I was going to tell him I knew what I wanted to order, since I’d eaten at La Cour more times than I could count, when I heard Adam call my name.
Christian and I drew to a halt as the maitre’d led us to our table, and I turned my head to see Adam sitting in the center of the restaurant across a small table from a gorgeous brunette.
I ignored the flare of jealousy, squashing it, and reminded myself I was on a date with a fabulous man, and that the gorgeous brunette was just one of many sexual partners for Adam.
He was a manwhore.
But he was my manwhore, and I couldn’t help but walk over to him, Christian at my side, with a huge smile on my face, because as always I was delighted to see him.
Adam grinned up at me, his smile dimming slightly as his gaze flickered to Christian. He gave Christian a once over and then turned those beautiful eyes of his back on me. He perused me with a small smile and when his eyes hit mine they were full of tenderness. “You look absolutely stunning, Els.”
I didn’t just flush at his compliment, I burned. “Thank you,” I murmured and then gave his date a polite smile. “Hullo.”
She glared at me.
“Adam, this is Christian.”
Adam gave Christian a taut nod and then flicked his hand to his date. “This is Megan.”
“It’s Meagan,” she corrected him waspishly, pronouncing it like ‘mee-gan’ instead of ‘meh-gan’.
I saw Adam stifle a long-suffering sigh. Uh oh. His date obviously wasn’t going well.
“We better get to our table.” Christian gently pulled on my elbow.
I gave Adam another smile. “Enjoy your evening.”
“You too, sweetheart.” I moved to follow Christian but had only taken a step to walk away when I felt a tug on the hem of my dress. I glanced down, frowning, and watched Adam pull off the price tag. I blushed as he winked at me.
I closed my eyes briefly. I’d left the price tag on. I was always doing stuff like that. God, I hoped Christian hadn’t seen it. Opening my eyes I deliberately ignored Adam’s date and mouthed a heartfelt “thank you”. He grinned at me and I smothered a laugh at myself before hurrying to catch up with Christian at our table across the room.
“Who was that?” Christian asked casually as we were seated.
“My brother’s best friend,” I replied equally casually. “We grew up together.”
Christian nodded and then ordered us white wine. I preferred red.
We chatted as we waited for the waiter to return, and Christian told me all about a charity he was organizing. He stopped talking when the waiter came back and he began to order my food for me. Deciding to think this was charming rather than overbearing I informed him this was my brother’s restaurant and that I knew what I wanted. He was impressed that Braden owned La Cour and for five minutes I told him about Braden’s other businesses.
After that we were back onto Christian.
By the time the second course arrived, my hope for this being “it” was diminishing rapidly. Not once did my date appear to take any real interest in me, and the more I realized how self-absorbed he was, the more aware I became of Adam sitting across the room from me. Adam whose eyes glittered with interest every time I opened my mouth.
I had just picked up my fork to take a bite of my steak when a phone rang. Debussy.