Skin of the Night

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Chapter 25: Actually, Cara, I Am

Though it hadn’t been urgent, I decided that I might as well relieve my bladder. I required a minute to muster my strength before I dared to go outside again. Being in the presence of William was like intensive interval training. Quick breaks to regain my strength, before I’d push myself to the limit again. And with each interval, my general strength declined.

Fuck.

I was shaking my head to myself when I eventually headed out of my booth to wash my hands. That’s when Violet’s presence startled me. She was leaning over the basins, drawing on a thin layer of nude lipstick while she studied her plump lips in the mirror. In the reflection, I saw her brown eyes turn sideways when she heard my exit.

“Cara,” she greeted me through a smile. “You look lovely.”

I batted my lashes as I studied her from head to toes. She was wearing a beautiful black dress that clung to her curvaceous figure. She had such a beautiful bum, full and perky, and it was pointing straight at me. Latina women had such a marvellous physique, if I were to be generalising their traits.

For a moment, I couldn’t help but smile. It dawned on me that William Night didn’t have a particular flavour of preference. He did not discriminate in his pursuit of skirts. Latina, Caucasian. Blonde, brunette. It was all tomato tomata to him. It amused me, and I found that I actually adored that about him. Clearly, he was one for appreciating the uniqueness of each individual.

“Thank you, Violet. So do you,” I finally replied and approached the basin by her side.

“How have you found your first week with us?” she queried while she searched through her purse for her blush.

“Exciting,” I answered while I collected soap in my hand.

“Good. I’ve come across some of your work. The report you wrote regarding Clifford Paints was truly good. I was impressed,” she said and sent me a sweet smile.

She intrigued me. Did she like me, or did she not? I couldn’t be sure. Then again, she didn’t strike me as the sort of woman who bothered much about men. My impression of her was that she was not the type to grow bitter and petty solely because I often interacted with her favourite plaything. And I did recall William stating that Violet didn’t give a shit about him; that he was ‘merely easy access to her’. I admired that about her. She was clearly one for integrity.

“Well, you impressed me during the meeting,” I replied as I cleaned my hands under the tap.

“Did I?” She smirked. “Did William impress you as well? I think he wanted to.”

I froze beside her, startled by her apparent insinuation. She sent me a knowing look.

“Listen,” she murmured and brushed a few strands of her hair away. “He told me you know about us.”

My face paled. Why had he done that? “It’s not my business,” I peeped and avoided her eyes.

She reached forward to grab my arm. “Cara, don’t worry. I’m not angry. I just need you to listen for a second.”

I met her eyes then, to assess her sincerity. When convinced, my shoulders relaxed.

She sighed and shook her head to herself, while muttering under her breath, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Doing what? When I was about to ask, she raised her finger at me.

“Though he’s easily misunderstood, William is in fact a remarkably good man, and he’s a fucking brilliant solicitor. One of the best of his generation. In many ways, he’s the spitting image of his father. They have this unique assertiveness about them. They don’t waste time getting things done, and they don’t stop until they’ve reached their goals. But unfortunately, his brilliance doesn’t always extend to women. Because of his assertive character, he can come across as a tad too aggressive.”

Oh, God. Was she going to warn me off, too?

“So just,” she sighed, “cut him some slack. He’s trying very hard with you. I can tell. Aside from Andy and his father, I know him better than anyone else in this firm. I truly wish for him to see his efforts pay off. I’ve never seen him like this.”

Well, I surely hadn’t foreseen that. A little confused, I frowned at her. “I’m sorry, you’ve lost me.”

She chuckled. “William told me that we had to end our arrangement. When I asked him why, he didn’t say much. He just said it wasn’t appropriate. Now, we’ve been sleeping together for the better part of a year. Then you came along, and suddenly he deems our relationship inappropriate? Right after you were enlightened of it? I’m not stupid. I can connect the dots.

“And don’t think I haven’t seen the coffees he brings you every morning. But I’m not bitter. He’s all yours. I’ve never harboured any feelings for him. Only respect.” She cocked her head from side to side. “And perhaps a little lust, but honestly, he’s a bloody gorgeous man, so who could blame me. Anyway, I’ll stay away from now on. I hope you’re not angry with me for sleeping with him.”

I looked to the heavens for aid, utterly despaired. Why did everybody seem to think that William was mine? “Violet, I’m not remotely angry with you. He’s not... mine, for lack of a better word. I don’t understand where all of this is coming from.”

“He could be, if you wanted,” she countered through a shrewd smile. “Give it a thought, Cara. You’re just an intern. You can reciprocate his flirting, especially when he’s your boss. He’ll be writing your reference when you leave us. Nobody else.

“And I’d love to see you make him happy. I’ve had a few cocktails already, so excuse me if I’m speaking out of turn now, but he’s fucking outstanding in bed. A miracle. God’s gift to women. You’ll never want to settle for any less again. I can promise you that. So yes, he’s a bit of a challenge on other fronts, but his sex game compensates for that. Honestly, he’ll make you feel like a goddess if you just give him the chance.”

I blushed bright red, shocked by how blunt she was being with me. I hardly knew her. And yet I did appreciate it. She was authentic. Real.

“Just give it a thought,” she repeated and sent me a wink before she headed toward the door. When she opened it, she eyed me across her shoulder. “Oh, and this conversation never happened. He’d break my neck.”

I swallowed the massive lump I had in my throat and nodded my head at her. When she shut the door after her, I propped my hip against the counter of dark stone and felt my pent-up breath leave me. Were all solicitors so intense?

Turning toward the mirror, I studied my reflection. I’d gone for a more smokey appearance than usual, but it looked good. I hadn’t overdone it. It didn’t look like somebody had tried to punch me to death, as Jason had said while he drooled after my figure sauntering down the hall of our flat. Unlike his brother, Jason was terrific at offering compliments. His body language even more so. I’d felt like a million quid when I’d left our flat today, confident in my strut.

When another lady stepped into the space, I was dragged back to reality. It was time to step outside again. I was quite confident that a certain someone had been counting the seconds I’d spent in here. And for each one that ticked by, I imagined his overbearing character become increasingly impatient and concerned.

So with my chin raised, I braved the bar again. I had only walked three steps when I saw that William and Andy had been replaced by a group of men, and they were all chatting with Elisabeth.

Scouting the room, I searched for him. I located him by the bar, next to Andy, while a group of girls surrounded them. They looked slightly older than me, and there were six of them. Christ. They were circling the two lads like vultures.

His eyes caught mine across the room, so with haste, I looked away and decided to be Elisabeth’s moral support. She was visibly uncomfortable where she sat, surrounded by three strangers. I was certain she’d already informed them she was engaged, but not everyone respected boundaries.

“Hi,” I said when one of the men looked over to my arriving figure. He wasn’t particularly handsome. Pointed nose and mouse eyes, with thin lips and a narrow head, but his gawk made up for it, because it boosted my ego.

Turning my attention to Elisabeth’s desperate eyes, I sent her a fond smile. “Blonde girls only, or am I allowed?” I asked and gestured toward the only vacant seat.

The lad that had noticed me first immediately stood to grab the chair for me. “Please,” he said and cocked his ginger head toward the seat. While smiling at him, I allowed him to aid me into it.

“I’m Lewis,” he introduced himself. “Those things over there are James and Francis, but you shouldn’t mind them,” he continued while he grabbed his seat.

“Mate!” James barked. “Killing the competition already, are you?”

“Like a true capitalist.”

“Christ,” Francis moaned.

I giggled.

“Can I fetch you anything to drink?” Lewis asked me, brown eyes intense. They looked like they wanted to dig into my soul.

“She’s already got one,” Elisabeth interrupted and pushed a Gin and Tonic toward me. I recognised it as the one William had placed to the table earlier. He’d bought it for me?

“Alright then. I’ll still be here for the refill, hopefully,” Lewis responded amused.

I sent him a wry look while I raised the refreshing beverage to my lips.

“So what’s your name?” he queried.

“Jessica,” I lied. It was just so amusing. I couldn’t shake off the habit. From the corner of my eye, I saw Elisabeth struggle to repress a smile.

“And how was work, Jessica? Do you work?”

“Does it look like I don’t?” I replied intrigued.

“You look like luxury, so yes.”

Slick.

“Got a taste for the finer things in life, do you?” I teased back at him.

His thin lips tucked up into a smug smile while a lascivious gleam entered his brown eyes. “There’s not a doubt in my mind.”

I soon realised that I had become Elisabeth’s entertainment for the night. She was laughing without stop while I teased the men accompanying us. And as though my attention was of short supply, they fought for it until they nearly surrendered their dignity. For a good two hours, I kept them on their toes, while they ordered round after round for Elisabeth and I.

I had forgotten all about William by the time he demanded my attention. When he placed his large hands to my bare shoulders, I nearly spurted on my latest drink. Only one touch could make me feel this way. Therefore, I didn’t have to turn around to know who it was. Besides, after a shy glance at his handsome hands, I had enough proof to be certain. Those beautiful long fingers had once caressed my skin, and they had done it so well that I couldn’t ever forget their appearance.

Nevertheless, I tilted my head to look up at him. But he didn’t meet my gaze. Instead, his eyes resembled two blue flames while he glared at the men around me.

“Gentlemen, I’m afraid I’ll have to steal this one away from you. Considering how many drinks you’ve bought her, I doubt she can walk in a straight line anymore,” he declared, voice composed, and squeezed my shoulders.

He did have a point. I felt positively drunk by now, but I wasn’t completely off my face either. Though I doubted I’d be able to walk in a straight line, I could probably do some fancy zigzag pattern for him.

Lewis frowned up at him. “I wasn’t aware she had a boyfriend.”

“You don’t strike me as being aware in general,” William brought himself to reply before he dragged my seat out with surprising force. I gasped at his insolent comment, shocked.

Elisabeth pursed her lips so not to laugh, but when James and Francis burst out laughing, she lost control. Her laughter rumbled out of her until she snorted, and it made me giggle to hear it, so much so that I barely noticed William’s hand around mine while he dragged me away.

He didn’t stop until he’d reached the bar where Andy stood waiting. When he did, he released my hand to glare down at me, but he said nothing.

Drunk as I was, I swayed a little under his glare. “What?” I innocently asked.

Andy sighed and shook his head to himself. In front of me, William’s jaw clenched. Hard. Was he supressing his anger? It did look like it.

“Sorry, could I have a bottle of water, please? Still, preferably,” Andy asked when he grabbed the bartender’s attention.

“What happened to all the girls?” I asked and looked around them. Had they left?

William merely continued to glower. Why wasn’t he taking his eyes off me? It unnerved me. Folding my arms together, I leaned against the counter and turned my side to him.

“Thank you,” I heard Andy say before he walked to stand between William and I. After undoing the cap, he handed the bottle to me. “Drink. You’ve had more than a barrel of whiskey by now. It’s going to hit you any moment,” he told me, strict in his tone.

I scoffed. “Christ, Andy. I’m not a child. I can manage my intake. But thanks anyway,” I muttered and raised the bottle to my mouth. He sent me wink. Then, looking toward his best friend, he sighed and raised his hand to pat his shoulder.

“Calm down, Will. She’s fine.”

William shot him a glare. Meanwhile, I saw his Adam’s apple ascend and fall. It dawned on me the some moment I saw it that I’d read him wrong. He wasn’t angry. He was anxious, if not even worried – for me. But, why?

“Cara!” Elisabeth called, seeming to have left the table. When I looked over, I found her waving me forward. Right. The club.

I had hardly moved a step when William clasped around my arm to drag me back, and he did it with such force that I nearly dropped the bottle I was holding when I crashed into his chest.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he barked down at me.

I frowned into his chest, awfully confused. Why was he being so overbearing? Oh, right. He was just being William.

“Ellie and I are meeting Brian at a club. I have to go,” I explained through slurred words.

His eyes flickered in Elisabeth’s direction before they landed on mine again, and they were scorching. “There’s not a fucking chance that I’m letting you go to a club with the state you’re in. When the drinks kick in, you’ll be up for grabs.”

“Excuse me? You’re not my boss!” I fired back. Shit!

His eyebrows arched and his head tilted. Slight amusement swam in his eyes. “Actually, Cara, I am.”

“That’s not what I meant. I meant you don’t get to decide that.”

His chest expanded against me with his deep breath. “Fine,” he snapped. “Then I’m coming with you. Andy?”

With his hands tucked into his pockets, Andy shrugged his shoulders. “Sure. But we aren’t appropriately dressed for that.”

“I’m sure they have wardrobe options,” William countered and proceeded to drag me toward Elisabeth.

She blinked confused when we reached her, eyes glued to my figure. It made me sigh. She wasn’t an idiot. If William didn’t change his ways, there was only a question of time before she realised the extent of our... issue? What was it, really?

“Mind if we join you, Ellie?” Andy asked, a friendly tone to his voice.

A grin grabbed her mouth. “Of course not!” Always so cheerful. I wished she’d said no. Then again, I doubted that William would have listened.

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