Explosions are easily triggered when two headstrong individuals try to manoeuvre around each other’s flaws. Then again, only another fire would know how to read the dance of one’s flames.
After a turbulent start, Cara and William give their chemistry a chance to manifest. Between secret kisses at work and lustful grazes after dark, they hardly have the mind for anything but each other.
As they dive deeper, William’s love grows darker and graver. When his most dreaded vice returns, threatening to wreak havoc, Cara is forced to make a choice. She can’t have it all. If she means to keep William, she must be willing to compromise.
While they try to find their footing, an ominous past looms, just waiting to strike. A moment is all it takes – everything they’ve fought so hard to build, lost. This time, Cara may be too late.
Into the Night is the second instalment of The Night series
Purchase Into the Night
Into the Night
Chapter 1: To New Beginnings
The shattered look in his eyes haunted me. Through their warm brown colour, I’d seen his heart break into pieces. My best friend; heartbroken, because of me.
A shudder ran through me, my hand gripping the pole on the train. Biting into my lower lip, I fought back the urge to cry. What a sight that would have been for these poor strangers. A grown woman, noisy tears erupting from her as though someone close to her had just passed away into the unknown.
Perhaps I was being dramatic, but I did draw a parallel to death when it came to my ruined friendship with Aaron. Who knew if he’d ever want to see me again? Then again, he hadn’t told me to stay away from him for ever. He had only said he would require time, so perhaps death was too final a concept to signify what I felt. Either way, I would respect his need for space.
I missed him already. We had shared so many fond memories, and I had thought a lifetime of them remained to be crafted. To think it might not happen was brutal. For three years he’d been one of my closest friends, a companion I had never wanted to lose. I wasn’t one to get attached to people easily, but Aaron I was certainly attached to. He had slipped under my skin and straight into my heart, though the space he had carved out for himself couldn’t offer what he wanted.
What would I tell my parents? They had never been aware of our arrangement. However, they were aware he was one of the few precious people in my life, so questions would certainly ensue. And if there was one thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do, it was to lie to my parents.
Trying to suppress the rising rage of my emotions, I blew my cheeks out and released a loud breath. I’d have to tell Olivia as well, but, since I hated crying in front of others, I would delay it till my feelings had settled somewhat and I was confident that I would be able to speak without being interrupted by sobs.
Then there was dear Mary-Anne, Aaron’s mother. What would he tell her? Would he tell her anything at all? Like my parents, I knew she would be asking questions if she heard nothing about me for a while. In the end, it had been somewhat of a tradition that Aaron brought his closest friends to dinner with her once a month. Now that I was no longer invited, she would surely grow suspicious.
I hoped he wouldn’t paint me in an awful light. I adored Mary-Anne, so the idea that she might think badly of me after this was adding further pain to my misery.
I sighed. At least I still had Olivia and Jason. I supposed I had William, too, although he was hardly the person that I would seek comfort in about this. Knowing him, he would probably be over the moon to hear that Aaron and I had cooled our friendship, and I wouldn’t be able to stand the concealed satisfaction in his eyes.
I was convinced he wouldn’t be able to sympathise with my distress sincerely. To him, Aaron was a threat. So his withdrawal from my life was probably a dream come true. However, to me, it was anything but. He was my best friend and knew me better than most. A friendship like ours was irreplaceable, and the recent absence of it brought sorrow that I would require plenty of time to recover from.
But, like I always did, I suffered in silence. I hadn’t told Jason anything yet, and I dreaded having to. When I’d arrived home after visiting Aaron yesterday, I had shut myself into my bedroom and locked the door. Jason had been out for dinner with Jon and Stephen, and I’d pretended to be asleep when he got home and knocked on my door. He’d tried to open it; he even called my name, but I hadn’t answered.
I was sure he had found it strange that it had been locked. After all, I usually kept it open in case he wanted company while asleep. Questions about my deviation from the norm were likely to come my way the instant I arrived home from work today, but perhaps I would have recovered a small portion of myself by then so that I’d be ready to answer them.
My low mood persisted as I entered through the Day & Night building’s revolving door on Cannon Street. It was half seven, so I had arrived earlier than usual, but I’d had poor, restless sleep and was already awake when my alarm rang at half six. While part of me wasn’t looking forward to seeing William again so soon after my conversation with Aaron, I hoped his company would treat me to a few moments of forgetfulness.
After settling into my chair by his desk, I wrote down my to-do list for the day. I had to stop by Clifford Paints to collect more files before our meeting with Craft Interior’s lawyers on Friday, so I thought I’d make the trip shortly after lunch. I wished they’d stored their data virtually rather than physically. It would have saved us all a lot of time, and paper. Then again, if the congeneric merger went according to plan, the new company would certainly opt for a virtual solution to store their data – hopefully.
I knew William had a meeting with Bo Zhang – Clifford Paints’ financial advisor – and the representatives from the bank this afternoon, but I supposed he would fill me in later. Right now, I had too much grunt work to look over regarding the due diligence process for the transaction between Elixerion Pharmaceuticals and Porter BioScience.
My first weeks here had consisted of getting familiar with everything. Even though I was still a novice, William had seen me capable of managing both my work and time somewhat independently, which I appreciated. He wasn’t the type of supervisor to micromanage. Instead, he encouraged independence, and that was an effective method to employ on personalities like mine.
After writing my to-do list, I got straight to working on the material William had emailed me yesterday, and I was grateful for the mental escape. I did not want to face up to my feelings right now. They were scattered into a seemingly unsolvable mess while I wondered if I’d ever know Aaron again.
Moments later, I heard the door open behind me. My fingers paused on my keyboard for a beat, but I didn’t turn to acknowledge him, as I was afraid that the sight of him would trigger my tears to return.
“Here already?” he questioned, amazed.
Looking at the time in the corner of my screen, I saw it was a quarter to eight.
“Mm,” I said with a slight nod.
His familiar footsteps drew nearer, but instead of rounding his desk like I had expected him to, he grabbed the available chair beside mine. Leaving his bag on the desk, he pulled out the seat and sank into it.
Curiosity drove me to glance over. With a vague smile on his mouth, he studied me. The sight of him made my heart tingle, but it was a bittersweet sensation. Though I did smile, it wasn’t from the heart.
A worried look crossed his face then. Leaning forward, he put a Starbucks coffee on his desk absentmindedly. At that moment in time, I didn’t have the strength to look at it, or him. Instead, I relocated my focus to my laptop.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, gently, and continued to analyse my profile.
I shook my head and willed for my tears not to surface.
“Cara. I can tell something’s wrong. What’s the matter?”
Again, I shook my head, but my feelings ran amok within me, so I could no longer concentrate on the words on my screen. Instead, my entire focus was on keeping a lid on my emotions.
I sensed him watch me for another minute until he reached forward to place his large, warm hand on my thigh. “I won’t ask again, but if you find yourself wanting to talk about it, I’m all yours.” He squeezed.
I’d never seen this side of him before, and it nearly devastated my efforts to maintain my equilibrium on the surface. He was being unbearably tender, and it made my heart throb.
“If you want to cancel our date, I’ll understand,” he continued, and I was shocked by his statement. For the first time, he was placing me before himself. I knew how much our date meant to him, how hard he had strived for it, and now he was willing to cancel it? Without even knowing the reason behind my misery?
His searing gaze burnt my profile as he tried to gauge my thoughts. Hoping to be relieved from it, I shook my head again. I didn’t want to cancel our date. Right now, nothing was more tempting than letting William distract me. In all honesty, what I would have loved more than anything was to discover genuine sympathy in him while I wept in his embrace.
“I don’t like seeing you like this,” he said softly and took my hand.
“I’ll be fine,” I mumbled. It was all I could manage.
“That tone is not very convincing.” He sandwiched my hand between his. “Let me know, yeah?”
I still hadn’t looked at him when I nodded my head, but I heard him sigh. Lifting my hand to his mouth, he gave the back of it a few pecks before he released it to face his day at work. As he was walking away, a tear leaked from my eye, but I rushed to wipe it away before he could notice. Just as he rounded his desk, my eyes flickered to the Starbucks cup to avoid his gaze.
To new beginnings, it read. I smiled. Genuinely, this time. Unwittingly, he’d told me exactly what I needed to hear. To new beginnings, indeed. Aaron hurt, but I’d chosen to give William a chance, and now I had to embrace my decision. I couldn’t let my hurt over Aaron ruin what I could build with William. That would be letting the past ruin the future, and I was not inclined to allow it.
We worked with a razor-sharp focus that I, ironically, found relaxing. Neither of us said much, but, just before lunch, William broke the quiet by saying he had to consult Lawrence about some tax issue he had discovered, which might pose a liability in terms of the deal between Elixerion Pharmaceuticals and Porter BioScience.
After his departure, I worked until my stomach reminded me that it was time for lunch. Hearing it complain, I turned my head and noticed that Elisabeth hadn’t gone to the canteen yet. I considered whether to approach her, but at the same time, I wanted to wait for William. However, I knew Lawrence specialised in matters relating to corporate tax and had an office in the floor below ours, in the tax department, so perhaps William meant to go straight to the canteen after consulting him.
Standing up, I decided not to wait. As I made my way over to Ellie’s desk, she caught my eye and raised a finger in the air. “Hang on. I’ve only got one page to go.”
With a nod, I sat down next to her desk and zoned out of the present. Seeming to understand that something was on my mind today, she sent me a curious glance, but didn’t pry, which I was grateful for.
It didn’t take long before Andy exited his office to approach Elisabeth’s desk. I ignored most of their conversation because I couldn’t be bothered with socialising today, but, eventually, Andy’s jovial presence barged into my brooding, melancholy zone.
“Seriously, you need to try these.” He shoved a box of chocolates into my face, which a client had brought with them from Belgium. “The best I’ve ever tasted. Come on. Where’s your bravado, Cara? Did Will finally manage to kill it off?”
I glared at him. “Christ, Andy. Give me a break, yeah?”
Taken aback by my hostile tone, he blinked. “Damn, what’s with the fire-breathing dragon? You on your period?”
My glare persisted. “Is that what you think every time a girl doesn’t smile? We’re allowed to be unsmiling, you know.”
He hollowed his cheeks as he sucked on the chocolate, and, after swallowing it, glanced at Ellie. “She alright?”
“Andy,” she replied with a sigh.
He shrugged his shoulders and threw another chocolate into his gaping mouth. “Only saying. Every time Chloe’s like that, there’s either something serious on her mind, or she’s on her period – or both.”
“And after ten years of it, you still haven’t learnt how to treat it?” I fired back, annoyed. “Poor Chloe, having to deal with you.”
“Whoa.” His lips curled up into a humoured grin. “Shots fired, indeed.”
“Andy, leave her alone,” William grumbled from my right, and his presence startled me. Whipping my head around, I saw him arrive from the lifts whilst scowling at his best friend. Meanwhile, his graceful deportment filled my stomach with ticklish sensations.
Dropping the box of chocolates onto Ellie’s desk, Andy threw his hands up. “I was only offering her chocolate, mate, and she chewed my head straight off. She’s all yours. I’d like to keep at least my cock while I still can.”
William’s lips twisted with amusement. “We both know you’re a dickless twat already, so I wouldn’t worry if I were you. They any good?” Halting in front of Ellie’s desk, he reached for a piece. While he unwrapped it, Andy chuckled at his banter and smacked his arm, playfully.
Hyperfocused on William, I watched as he placed the sweet in his tempting mouth. Saliva gathered in mine when I saw his strong jaw flex as he chewed.
“They’re better if you suck them,” I murmured. “Lasts longer.”
Andy pressed his lips together before he spun around to face away. A heartbeat later, laughter burst out of his mouth.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Andy. When was the last time you got laid?” William muttered.
“Not recently, clearly,” Ellie said with a giggle.
Andy’s laughter ceased instantaneously. “Well, Will’s always cock-blocking me, so what’s a man supposed to do?”
“Fix his relationship,” William replied and reached for another. An irrepressible smile made its way onto my lips. Again, I was reminded of his admirable virtue – unquestionable loyalty.
Before placing the chocolate in his mouth, he studied the texture of it. “These really are quite good. Where did you get them? Are they Belgian?”
“Yeah. Client,” Andy said and tucked his hands into his pockets. “Anyway, lunch?”
William nodded his head as he resorted to sucking on the chocolate this time around, and the sight made my mouth bend into another small smile. He was heeding my advice. Headstrong as he was, I hadn’t expected that. Then, suddenly, his gaze shifted to me. Surprised by his attention, I stared back, wide-eyed, feeling caught. When he winked, it said more than a thousand words ever could. Completely smitten, I nearly sighed – what a man.
Smiling at me, he faced Andy and Ellie again. “Cara and I aren’t having lunch with you lot. I need to hear how things are going for her,” he informed us.
Puzzled, I frowned up at him. Was he doing this solely because he wanted to know what was bothering me, or was he doing it because he wanted to spare me from having to endure small talk over lunch? Both? Either way, I appreciated the gesture.
“Right.” Andy smirked and looked directly at Ellie. “Let’s go then, shall we?”
“Yeah.” She shut her MacBook, pushed her seat out and smiled at us.
Andy headed towards the lift and we all followed. As we rode down to the lobby, I stood next to William, whose alluring scent drifted in the air around me like a custom-made drug. Inhaling it, I lost focus on everything but him. When his arm suddenly brushed against mine, my breath caught in my throat. At first, I thought his touch had been accidental, but when he did it again, I realised he was seeking my attention. Looking up, I saw him smirking at me. Then, while withdrawing his hand from his pocket, he lowered his gaze, silently signifying mine to follow. I studied his fisted hand. Opening it, he revealed a single piece of wrapped chocolate.
To hide my smile, I pulled my lower lip between my teeth when he nudged it against me. Meeting his eyes again, I took it, unwrapped it quickly, and tossed it into my mouth.
Grinning, he winked at me as I shoved the sweet confectionary into my cheek and smiled back.
Andy had been right. The chocolate was indeed delicious, and William had saved me one. It was a surprising, sweet gesture. Today, William was chasing the clouds away.
“See you later then,” Andy said once we reached the lobby.
“Yeah,” William replied, but didn’t bother to look at him. With his hand on my back, he ushered me through the security gates, beyond the revolving door, and out on the streets.
“Thank you,” I said and smiled up at his profile as he guided the way along the pavement. He reached for my hand, entwining our fingers, and the action made my heart melt. Oh, Will. This was exactly what I needed.
I was still enjoying the electric feel of his hand around my own when he lowered his head to press a firm kiss to the top of mine.
But he said nothing – only squeezed my hand in his. The whole way there, my heart was beating so hard that I worried it’d break my ribs. Each second that ticked by was intense. He was being agonisingly sweet today. I could hardly fathom this side of him. I hadn’t endured such delightful emotions in a very, very long time, and I frowned to myself when I wondered if I ever truly had.
By the time we got to the place where he meant for us to eat, we hadn’t shared a word. However, just as he reached the door and was about to open it, he broke our silence with a certain look on his face.
“Just to be clear,” he said, “this does not count as our first date. This is lunch. Work lunch.”
A giggle escaped me before I stretched up on my toes to plant a kiss on his mouth. “Here’s your good morning kiss,” I said. “And if that’s the case, I’ll be allowed to pay for my share, correct?” I said, teasing, watching him tense. It tickled me that he wasn’t one to accept his generosity being turned down.
“Cara, till you’ve completed the LPC, you’re essentially a student,” he reminded me. “Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, this was my idea – and I’m your boss. It’s etiquette that I should pay.”
I rolled my eyes. “Have you always got ten arguments to back up any—”
“Yes.” His smile was shrewd. “You’d better get used to it. This,” he motioned between us with his free hand, “whatever this is, will prove most beneficial for you. You should be taking notes. Watch and learn, and I’ll make a great solicitor out of you.” Finally, he opened the door for me.
“You’ve got an inflated ego, Will,” I countered, amused.
He scoffed. “It’s not inflated.”
“Confidence is indeed your forte.” I bowed to him, imitating a Japanese greeting. “Sensei.”
“That’s more like it,” he said with a laugh.
We were shown to a table at the far end of the restaurant by the windows. Suddenly the gallant version of himself, William helped me into my seat. The restaurant was light, airy with floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows. Sheepskins covered the contemporary chairs of various colours.
“What’s this place called?” I asked, realising I hadn’t spotted a sign outside.
“The Listing,” he murmured and peered at the street outside. “Good food, quick service.”
I smirked at his comment. “Efficiency is your bible, isn’t it?”
He looked at me then, and a sly smile rested on his mouth. “Sounds about right. Why, are you religious?”
“Very.” Since I’d always considered myself an agnostic atheist, I barely managed to keep my smile at bay.
Judging by his astonished expression, I had surprised him. “Really? Which religion?”
“Christianity,” I lied.
After scrutinising my features, he looked far from convinced. Dubiousness crowded his brows while he asked, “And what does Jamie make of that, given he’s a philosophy teacher and all? I mean, yes, there are plenty of Christian philosophers. I’m just not entirely convinced that dear Mr Darby is one, and I’m even less convinced that he would raise his daughter a Christian. After all, critical thought is at the core of philosophy. Surely, he must have raised you to consider religion with a critical eye, rather than shove it down your throat?”
I laughed at the mention of my father. It was charming that William remembered all these details about him when I hadn’t mentioned him since our lunch at Farm Girl in May – over a month ago. Dad was also precisely the character William seemed to have deduced. It impressed me that William could consider my personality traits combined with such few details about my father, and thereafter craft a reasonable impression of him.
“You’re right. I’m not religious at all,” I admitted. “None of my family members are. Are you, though?”
The grin he presented was winsome. “Yes, of course. I’d kiss your feet right now if you asked me to.”
The unexpected twist led heat to gather in my cheeks. By insinuating that I was his god, he made it clear that he wasn’t taking me seriously at all.
“Foot fetish?” I replied, nose wrinkling somewhat. “We’re going to have to work on that,” I said and rested my cheek in my palm. “Not judging those who are, but I am not into that.”
He chuckled and leaned back in his seat. “Not into it myself, but I gather there must be a reason for its existence. The fetish, I mean. Perhaps there are some erogenous zones there.”
I shook my head. “Listen, I’m all for exploring limits, but not that one.”
“Done anal?” he asked with a face that was devoid of emotion. I wished I had something to smack him over the head with. Vulgar William had returned.
“Christ, Will,” I growled under my breath and glared at him while my cheeks burnt hotter.
He laughed; I adored the sound. In many ways, he truly had become a version of sunlight in my world in such little time. Odd as it were, he always seemed to know what to say.
Though we had only known each other for a few months, I often felt like I’d known him for a lifetime. So yes, his company never failed to leave me tense, but it was only because he stirred such intense feelings in me. But, if I were to overlook that, his existence had always been strangely familiar, as if we’d known each other in a past life and were just learning to know each other all over again. Truthfully, I had never connected with anyone as instantly and as profoundly as I’d connected with him.
“You’ve definitely done it,” he said when he stopped laughing.
Pursing my lips, I looked away from him. Indeed, I had done it, and it was in fact something I quite enjoyed when done right. Aaron and I had done it several times, and while it had been an uncomfortable sensation in the beginning, we’d eventually cracked the code. These days, using butt plugs during sex was one of my favourite things because the fulfilment was unlike anything else.
The thought of Aaron and all the things we’d done together made my mood plummet in the span of a mere breath.
“I have,” I confessed, pouting.
He seemed to notice the drop in my mood, but it was evident that his curiosity got the better of him. “Do you like it?” he probed. Lust flared up in his eyes as he leaned forward to arrest mine.
My blush was constant at this point. “I can’t believe we’re discussing this over lunch, in public,” I replied quietly and glanced around to see if anyone were eavesdropping. There was only one other couple here, however, and they sat several tables away from us.
“You do,” he said, grinning widely.
This topic, as well as the excitement in his eyes, made it impossible to hold his gaze. “I prefer regular sex with butt plugs over anal sex,” I mumbled, embarrassed, while I studied the street outside.
“Duly noted,” he replied, satisfied.
“Do you like it?” I stole a glance at him.
He shrugged. “I don’t really have an opinion on the matter. I’m into it if my partner is, but it’s not something I desperately need to do. Regular sex is equally pleasurable in my experience.”
“Good to know. I don’t think I could take you up the arse anyway,” I replied boldly.
His eyebrows twitched. “Are you saying I’m bigger than—” He turned mute upon my glare.
“Don’t compare,” I insisted, defensive of Aaron. I hadn’t meant to expose the truth like that, and I regretted it profusely. While he wasn’t William, Aaron was surely adequately endowed, and I hated the idea that William might gloat about this. “Besides,” I continued vehemently, “size only matters up to a point. After that, how you use it is much more important.”
Before he could say anything else, the waiter approached to take our orders, and I was relieved by his arrival. I settled for a duck salad as my appetite had essentially vanished upon the thought of Aaron.
After the waiter left with our orders, William was wise enough to avoid returning to the subject. Instead, we discussed work for some time until he turned quiet altogether. Since I appreciated the silence, I didn’t say anything either, but I didn’t fail to notice that he spent it studying me.
Just before the waiter reached the table with our orders, he asked, “Are you going to tell me what’s eating you?”
I waited till the waiter had left again. Wearing a pout, I averted my eyes and said, “Doesn’t matter. There’s little to be done with it.”
“Please don’t tell me someone has died.”
Frowning, I turned my gaze to his. “If someone had died, I would have cancelled our date.”
“All grandparents alive, then?”
I chuckled against my will. “Alive and well.”
“Good. Parents, too?”
“Unless something’s happened since last week, yes.”
“Is it Aaron, then?”
My breath hitched.
Upon my delayed response, he nodded. “Hit the nail on the head, didn’t I?” Folding his arms, he looked away.
“How?” It was all I could manage.
He grimaced and shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know. Call it intuition. He did seem rather infuriated last Saturday. Can’t imagine he was thrilled if you’ve told him about our date.”
Trying to calm the uprising of my emotions, I faced the window beside us and focused on breathing slowly for a few seconds. “I didn’t tell him,” I eventually murmured. “I meant to, but he broke things off before I could.”
“Did he?” he questioned sympathetically and tilted his head. “Did he say why?”
I directed my wet eyes to him. He didn’t look smug, and I appreciated it immensely. I couldn’t tolerate a smug William right now. I’d tear his guts out. “Yeah,” I replied upset.
With a sigh, he leaned forward again, and his eyes roamed across my face for a brief while. “Was it because he’s got feelings for you?”
“Ye-es,” my voice broke. Hurriedly, I shielded my face with my palms and continued to focus on my breathing. I did not want to cry, especially not in public.
“I’m sorry, Cara. Honestly, I am. Obviously, this was what I wanted, but I still hate to see you like this. I’m aware he was, and probably still is, one of your best friends.”
Sniffing, I spread my fingers apart to look at him through the gaps. “Who are you, and what have you done with my entitled arsehole of a boss?”
He smiled crookedly. “He’ll be back later – when he isn’t going to do any serious damage.”
Despite how sorrowful I was, his reply made me giggle. “Can’t wait.”
Hearing me, he sent me such a gorgeous smile that I had to catch my breath. Had this been a film, I would have rubbed my eyes to see if I were dreaming. He truly was an outstandingly handsome man.
Rubbing the back of his head, he said, “I’m happy to hear that you still want to go on a date with me despite everything with Aaron.” He reached across the table for my wrists. Dragging them up to his mouth, he granted them each a tender kiss precisely on my pulse. My heart jerked within me when the same feeling I’d sensed earlier streamed through it.
Was I starting to fall in love with this man?
“Yeah, well, you’d be a bloody thorn in the side if I didn’t, wouldn’t you?” I replied dryly and retrieved my hands from his grip.
A cunning gleam entered his eyes. “In Ancient Rome, they called it ‘divide and conquer’.”
Incredulous, I reclined deep into my seat and folded my arms over my breasts. That had been his tactic in all this? “Will, are you implying that you tried to separate us? On purpose?”
He shook his head. “No. Happy accident, though.”
It was in moments like these – when he shamelessly confessed to his selfish feelings – that I questioned both him and whether we had a future worth pursuing. “Do you read strategy during your spare time?” I asked, astonished.
He chuckled and scratched his stubble. “I’m an avid reader. Always have been, and I played lots of chess growing up. Everything’s strategy, Cara, and I’ve always had a flair for it. Anyway, I was drunk on Saturday. I spoke without thinking. So, I meant what I said. It wasn’t my intention to divide you and Aaron quite like that. I had hoped you would simply dump him.” He shrugged. “Now, I’m not sure exactly how things played out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave you an ultimatum. If he did, I’m sorry. That really wasn’t my intention.”
Sometimes, his perceptiveness truly got on my nerves. “You’re outrageous,” I grumbled, annoyed.
He sighed, and his shoulders sank with it. “Cara, I told you I’m not going to waste your time, and I meant it. You won’t regret this. On a completely different note, try not to chew off Andy’s balls when we return to the office. I know you’re having a rough day, but so is he. He and Chloe had another big fight about whether to have a baby yesterday, but he’s always goofing around, so I can understand that you find it difficult to tell if something’s bothering him.”
My blood stilled. “Christ,” I breathed upset, “that didn’t even cross my mind. God, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. Just thought you should know. Besides, it won’t be long till they’re reconciled. He’s lonely without her. It’s only a question of time before he’ll realise that a baby is the right thing for them both.”
“Poor Andy,” I mumbled, pushing my long, wavy brown hair back behind my ear. I genuinely felt for him. I couldn’t imagine how painful it must be to be in such different places within a relationship, and they had been together for a whole decade, too.
“Poor Chloe, if you ask me,” William muttered.
I tilted my head. “How come you’re siding with her?”
He shrugged again. “I have my reasons.”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you that without first receiving both Andy and Chloe’s explicit consent.”
I was astonished by that, and it revealed itself in my smile. “Wow. You really do keep secrets, don’t you? Why wasn’t I treated to the same luxury?”
His expression was sober. “To the grave – unless permission to spill is granted. And I spilled your secret to Jason because it wasn’t only yours. It was mine as well.”
I nodded. “True.”
“I’d never spill a secret that wasn’t any of my business.”
“I love that.”
“Good. Anyway, did you say you’re unsure about whether you want children?” he asked then, and I wondered for a moment if he’d brought Andy up simply to create an opening so that he could ask. Knowing how slick he could be, it wouldn’t be surprising, and I did recall telling him that I was uncertain about whether I did or not.
“I did say that, didn’t I?”
He nodded. “Did you mean it?”
“Why are you unsure?”
“I’m just not sure it’s for me.”
“So, you don’t dismiss the idea completely?”
“No.” I narrowed my eyes at him. “But I’ve got ambitions I’d like to see through first.”
He snorted. “Ambitions are subject to constant change, Cara.”
A valid point. I cocked my head from side to side, not disagreeing.
“I want five,” he stated. Upon my gape, he asserted, “Yes, five, so you ought to prepare.” The grin he flashed me made me realise that he was joking.
“You’re crazy, and you’re getting far, far ahead of yourself,” I fired back. “Let’s start with dating, and, if you’re lucky, maybe I’ll grant you the title of my boyfriend.”
Again, his laughter sounded through my ears, making my heart contract. “Allow me to make this clear, once and for all,” he said and pointed his finger at me while his grin persisted. “If you upgrade me to the status of being your boyfriend, you’ll be the lucky one.” Suddenly, he frowned. “Actually, I take that back. We’ll both be most lucky.”
I shook my head in comic despair. “Where does this confidence stem from? How can you be so sure when you’ve only known me for a few months?”
“It just…feels right. Is that entirely one-sided?”
I blushed and looked away from him. “No.”
Always so self-assured.
A comfortable silence sat between us for a moment, and, when I realised it, an affectionate, shy smile claimed my mouth. I loved that we could spend silence in comfort. It was a feat, and it was also evidence of our compatibility, so I savoured the moment.
“Yeah?” he replied nonchalantly, swallowing a mouthful of the Chicken BLT sandwich he’d ordered.
“Thank you,” I said and held his gaze. He frowned and took another bite.
Another swallow and he responded affectionately, “Anything for you.” Amidst the affection was a casualness that I adored.
Combined with his tone, his words struck me as being the sweetest thing I’d ever heard. It echoed round my mind, and I wondered if I would ever forget it.
He chuckled at my smitten expression. “There’s plenty more where that came from, darling,” he assured me with a smile.
I sighed, content.