Chapter 15: That Colour In Your Cheeks
Elisabeth had just showed me to my new desk, beside hers, when warm brown eyes met mine across the room. The owner was on his way to William’s office when he reached an abrupt halt. Visibly confused, his orbs flickered between Elisabeth and I.
Startled by the memory of him, I stared wide-eyed at his – now – approaching figure. Could this day get any worse? If he was to learn about my true identity, there was only a question of time before rumours about my prior encounter with William would flood the office. As their latest trainee, that was the last thing I wanted. Being subject to office gossip was not on my wish-list. How to handle this?
When Andrew reached my desk, Elisabeth looked up from hers to regard him. Unashamed, he stared at me with a bewildered expression on his otherwise handsome face. Exerting every ounce of self-discipline I’d harnessed over the years, I managed to remain composed. Whilst feigning obliviousness, I returned his attention through eyes that claimed innocence.
“Sorry, was it Sandra?” he eventually brought himself to ask.
Elisabeth became my rescue, “Sandra? What on earth did you spike your coffee with this morning, Andy? This is Cara Darby, our new intern.”
Perplexed, Andy’s brown eyes did a visual sweep of my body. Faint pink made claim of his cheeks while he frowned to himself. After clearing his throat, his eyes returned to mine. Since I sympathised with his confusion, I paid him a small smile.
“Sorry, I must have confused you with someone else,” he murmured embarrassed. “I could have sworn you were her.”
Elisabeth giggled beside me, reached over to grip my arm, and while offering it a maternal squeeze, smiled up at me. “Please excuse him. He’s a delightful man.”
“Yes, please pardon me,” Andy converged and extended his hand to me. “I’m Andrew Thompson, but everyone calls me Andy.”
While nodding my head at him, I grabbed around his hand and paid him another small smile. “Cara,” I introduced myself.
“Has Elisabeth been treating you well?”
“I have no doubt. She’s the sunlight of this office, I assure you.” He sent her a fond wink before he looked back to me. “And William? Last I heard, he was supposed to supervise the new intern.”
He was slick! I was certain he’d only asked to observe my reaction. Thankfully, my face didn’t even twitch upon the mention. “Yes, we’ve met. He seems delightful.”
He laughed rather loudly at my statement. “He seems delightful?” he echoed humoured. It poured from his eyes. “First time I’ve heard that! ‘Delightful’.” A poorly stifled chuckle leapt out of him. “You’re in for a treat, love. Just remember that even though he may bark, he never bites. Where other people might end a sentence with a question mark, Will usually finishes with a full stop. It’s just who he is and always has been,” he reassured me. “But as long as you’re aware of that, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
No shit, Andy. I’d gathered as much already. A domineering arsehole, William could be.
Elisabeth smirked beside me. “I haven’t briefed her on what to expect of her boss’ general behaviour yet, so thank you for taking care of that, Andy.”
Andy passed me a wink. “I’ve got your back, sweetheart.” Directing his focus to Elisabeth again, he leaned slightly forward. “Is he busy now? I’ve got something I’d like to run by him, preferably before his meeting with the people from Clifford Paints this afternoon.”
Nodding to herself, Elisabeth checked William’s virtual calendar on her stationary Mac. “While he’s always busy, he hasn’t got anything besides paperwork until then. I’m sure he could spare you five minutes, if you ask nicely.”
“Brilliant. I’ll see you for lunch then.” Turning toward me, he paid me a huge grin. “Cara.”
“Andy.” I nodded at him as I descended into my respective chair.
As he walked away, he shook his head to himself, and I had a feeling as to why. I feared he would probe William about me in only a few moments. If he did, I prayed to the God I didn’t believe in that William would either tell him a lie, or ensure his silence some other way.
“Appears you’ve got a replica out there, somewhere,” Elisabeth teased me.
“Would seem so,” I replied, amused.
“I’m sure her freckles aren’t as adorable as yours.”
Her compliment made me flash her a grin. I’d always been grateful for the freckles that covered my nose. They were cute, even if they had made me a subject of bullying during my earlier days. ’Freckleface’, they’d toss after me. With my head held high, I’d obliterate them in return. Like I’d once told Olivia, I never took shit from anyone.
Well, except from when William Night was the provider, perhaps. Then again, I’d deserved every word of his earlier tirade.
While I wasn’t one for romanticising bullying, I still appreciated having been victim of it. It had made me much stronger than I’d thought possible, because it had taught me to rely on myself first and foremost. It had shaped me into the fierce individualist and independent woman that I was today. Alas, I knew that my story was the exception to the rule. Therefore, I fundamentally despised bullying with all my heart.
Besides, these days, men drooled over my freckles. To make matters even better, it was Robby’s favourite part about my face.
I paled upon the reminder of him. Bollocks. Now that I was forced to interact with William on a daily basis, it was certain to wreak havoc across the dynamic between Robby and I. It had taken me two weeks to recover from my session with William, and they were two weeks that Robby had spent growing worried about our arrangement. How was I supposed to manage this time around?
By not sleeping with William, I thought to myself as the obvious answer. Well, I was motivated to manage that for three reasons: for the sake of my internship, for the sake of my friendship to Jason, and last, but not least, for the sake of my arrangement with Robby.
“Let’s get started, then. Shall we?” Elisabeth suggested, bringing me back.
“Yes. Please,” I replied, perhaps a tad too eagerly, but I was in dire need of a distraction. Vaguely, I noted that I’d have to call Olivia after work today. She was the sole person I could confide in about this, and I was desperate to talk to somebody. I would use her as a soundboard to air my thoughts. Perhaps then, I’d be able to make sense of this dreadful mess.
By lunchtime, Elisabeth and I had managed to exchange some small-talk. We had spoken about where we lived, what sort of party-scenes we were into, what interests we had in common – we were both avid readers – as well as romantic statuses. Elisabeth was engaged to a man named Brian, who she had met four years ago. He was an economist, and their encounter hadn’t been particularly unique, according to her. They’d both been drunk, at the same pub, when Brian had decided to chat her up.
“But you’re determined to remain single?” she asked when the doors to the lift opened, and I noted her tone of surprise. I was about to elaborate when a large hand landed on my back, gently ministering me into the cage. Tilting my head back, my blue eyes were instantly hypnotised by another spellbinding pair.
“Please, don’t let me interrupt,” said William and continued to hold my gaze. Flushing bright red, I stared speechless back at him.
Elisabeth demanded his attention when she teased him with, “Mind your own business, Will. Nosy.”
I saw this as an excellent opportunity to remind him of my stance, so I said, “No, it’s okay. I was only going to say that I’m committed to my education. That’s the only relationship I have the capacity to entertain at the moment.”
“She sounds like you,” she remarked and stole a glance at Will. His lips twisted with his amusement.
“She does, actually.”
What? My eyes widened. Was that the impression other people had of him? Was I deluded to have read him differently?
“Anyway, everything all right thus far?” he enquired of us while the doors drew to a close. His hand stayed glued to my back, and it felt to burn straight through my white blouse. My pulse drummed behind my ears as I struggled to gain control of my rising heartbeat. His touch truly was electric, and it perturbed me. To escape it, I turned sideways and propped my back against the wall.
“Yes,” stated Elisabeth. “We’ve gotten her a temporary access card to the building, and snapped the photograph for her long-term one. The tech department said it would be ready by Thursday. Other than that, I’ve mainly been teaching her how to answer calls and how to book appointments into your calendars etcetera. We haven’t really gotten to the serious stuff yet, but she’s a quick learner.”
“I have no doubt,” he responded, but I could have sworn he was implying a double meaning. His tone of voice had been too conspicuous, as though he was referring to something particular. In the mirrors of the lift, I sensed his eyes search for mine, so I kept them fixed on my feet.
“You’ll get to see it for yourself during your meeting with Clifford Paints in an hour. Seeing as Cara will essentially be my fifth limb until she finds her footing around here, I thought I’d bring her along.”
“Good thinking, Elisabeth. I knew trusting her in your care was the wise thing to do.”
There were two dimensions to his response, I gathered. One expressed respect toward Elisabeth’s skills, while the other referred to our sensual past. He did not trust me in his own care, and the potential of it made my heart skip a beat. If it were true, why didn’t he trust me in his care? Was it a lack of faith in me, or himself?
Could he have misled me on purpose earlier? Upon further reflection, his statement had been rather ambiguous. ‘Who says I’d want to?’ didn’t erase all room for doubt. He hadn’t actually denied anything. Had he phrased himself that way deliberately, so to misguide me, and thereafter buy himself more time to analyse how to proceed? In fact, he might have said it only to retaliate for a bruised ego.
The potential intrigued me. Did he truly intend to relent his efforts, and therefore desired as much space between us as possible, or was he only weighing which route to take in order to win me over, despite my convictions?
The impression I had of him was that he was not inclined to cease his pursuit when he had his eyes fixed on a prize. He was far too assertive. Last time we’d met, he had ardently tried to persuade me to give him a chance. So the question remaining was, were I still the prize?
“Oh, my God! I just recalled! Do you know what Andy brought himself to do earlier?” Elisabeth exclaimed then, and whirled around to face William. While laughing, she continued, “He thought Cara was someone else, so he called her Sandra. You should have seen him. I’ve never seen him quite so confused.”
“Did he?” William replied, and it was audible from his tone that he was severely amused. Too curious to manage without, I stole a glance at him. He met it with a gleam dancing in his, and I immediately grasped that they had talked about it behind closed doors.
When we reached the ground floor where the cafeteria was located, a delicious scent filled my nose. Well, I hadn’t expected anything less from a firm of solicitors. Snobs that they were known to be, of course they wouldn’t settle for anything other than fine cuisine for lunch options.
Elisabeth exited before William and I, so when he grabbed my arm to stall me, she kept on walking, assuming we were trailing behind.
With my heart in my throat, I faced him.
“Andy knows,” he declared, leaving blood to drain from my head.
“Did you tell him?” I snapped, both irked and defensive.
He glared back at me. “He’s a fucking lawyer, Cara. He can detect a lie when he hears one, especially from me. And he’s not stupid. Of course he remembered you.”
“Shit,” I whined and stomped my foot.
Blinking, he dropped his gaze to it. “Did you truly just stomp your foot?”
“William! If Andy spills, it’s only a question of time before everyone knows!”
His grip tightened around my arm. “He won’t tell anyone, Cara. He’s my best mate, and he’s got my back. Always.”
“Tell anyone what?” a remarkably gorgeous woman probed as she entered the lift. With raven black hair that cascaded down to the middle of her back, she took my breath away. Dark brown and slanted eyes, complemented by long lashes, met mine. Her full lips tucked into a wry smile beneath her small nose, until she turned her focus to the man holding my arm. When she saw him, it transformed into a grin.
“That’s none of your concern, Violet,” William quietly retorted as he dragged me out with him. Casting a glance at her across my shoulder, I saw her fold her arms over the chest of her slender and curvaceous figure.
“Who’s that?” I asked, intrigued.
“Violet Rodriguez. She’s my partner on the case I’m currently working on,” he muttered.
“She’s gorgeous,” I commented. When I looked back at him, I found him staring at me with an unreadable expression on his face.
“Do you swear Andy won’t tell?” I pleaded, returning to our earlier conversation.
His jaw clenched. “Yes. But don’t be surprised if he gives you any funny looks. He laughed until he cried earlier, in my office.”
Well, at least somebody was enjoying the chaos of our circumstance.
Later, as we filled our plates with food that I would believe were reserved for gods, I asked, “How come Elisabeth puts up with your barking?”
Towering beside me, he scoffed. “I do not bark.”
“The appropriate thing to call it is delegating responsibilities.”
I nodded. “While barking.” When I looked to him, I thought I detected a ghost of a smile on his mouth.
He shook his head to himself. “Call it what you want. She puts up with it because she knows I truthfully respect her. I’ve grown on her. Perhaps I’ll grow on you, too,” he murmured and regarded me with a sense of longing in his eyes.
“I’d prefer cancer,” I bantered.
His face fell, but he managed a chuckle. “Glad to hear your bravado is restored.”
“You filed it as ‘missing’, earlier. Thought I’d ease your concern,” I continued to tease.
Sighing, he suddenly leaned toward me, and while staring deep into my eyes, whispered harshly, “Please, shut up, Cara. You’ve no idea of how tempting your mouth is, and especially when I know so well what it’s capable of.”
His statement elicited the memory of the blowjob I’d finally been allowed to grant him so long ago. He had been close to coming before he suddenly pushed me away. I had been annoyed at that point. Performing fellatio was something I relished doing. Being in charge of providing pleasure was a task I took very seriously, because feeling them come undone in my mouth was unlike anything else. I honestly loved it, but William had robbed me of that satisfaction when I’d been with him. He’d barely given me a taste.
Lost for words, I gaped back at him, shocked. Wherever he found the courage to state such crude things, at his own workplace, was beyond me.
Clearly unapologetic, he smirked. “I fucking love that I can silence that dreadful mouth of yours,” he continued in another whisper. “Be it with my cock or my words.”
An intense wave of heat climbed to my face, and I dared not question how red I was. Had I heard him correctly?
“You look lovely with that colour in your cheeks, Cara. Especially because I’m the one who planted it there,” he commented while his eyes roamed across my face to admire his craft.
“You!” I peeped in my profound annoyance.
“Yes, indeed. I’d try and get used to it, if I were you. In the end, we both know I excel at making you flush. Though, I’ll admit, it was more exciting without clothes involved. You see, I fancy you pink, be it as Sandra or Cara. I’ll take them both, even if Cara is proving more troublesome.”
I was about to implode when Andy called from his seat beside Elisabeth, “Cara! Will! Over here!”
After paying a nod in their direction, William handed me a small receipt. “You’ll need that. It’s the slip for your meal,” he said and, without further ado, headed toward the others. I watched his powerful strides with a sense of awe. That man surely knew how to rile me. Was I supposed to take his words seriously, or was he only pulling my leg?
When I eventually managed to compose myself, I studied the receipt, bewildered. He’d bought me lunch? When? Had I been too busy ogling him to notice?
Turning my head again, I glared holes into his broad back and struggled to forget the knowledge of what it looked like unveiled. Nevertheless, I managed to trail after him. I hadn’t even been here an entire day, and yet my emotions were all over the place. Merely thinking proved insufferably difficult with his looming presence nearby. How in bleeding hell was I supposed to last an entire internship?
No, he was without a doubt the most irritating man I’d ever met, and yet all I desired was for his hands to undress me again.
“Shit,” I hissed under my breath.