Chapter 34: You're An Occupational Hazard
I had just collected my things to leave for the day when Ellie answered the line beside me. “Yes, I’ll tell her,” she murmured and sent me a humoured glance. I frowned back at her, but it vanished as soon as I connected the dots. William had requested my attention. With a deep breath, I mentally prepared for war with myself. I did not trust him not to try and seduce me, but I was unwilling to have sex with him before I had sorted things out with Robby. My reason forbade it. But my vagina was begging for it. Hence the war with myself.
“Will needs a minute of your time,” Ellie said after hanging up on him.
“Shock,” I muttered and grabbed my purse. “I’ll leave straight after I’m done with him, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Be brave,” she replied and winked up at me. Though I hadn’t told her anything about what was going on between Will and I, she wasn’t an idiot. She probably had a vague idea, but at least she wasn’t giving me a hard time for it. In all honesty, she seemed more intrigued than anything else.
“I shall.” I giggled and shook my head to myself while I approached his office. After two gentle knocks, I turned the handle and peeked inside.
“Practical question,” he said while he continued to study the screen of his stationary Mac. My brows furrowed while I snuck into the space and quietly closed the door after me.
“What’s that?” I queried.
He cocked his head from side to side, and I despised how handsome he looked even while doing normal human things like that. What was wrong with me? The sight of him cocking his head from side to side shouldn’t send my heart racing like this. This was becoming ridiculous.
“Well,” he murmured and tucked his chin into his hand so that his index finger repeatedly tapped on the cupid’s bow of his upper lip. All the while, he was wearing a devastatingly sexy frown on his face. I wanted to slap it off him, just to spare my ovaries the grief.
“Yes?” I prompted and dropped my purse to the floor.
With a sigh, he reclined in his seat, large hands gripping the end of the arms of his chair. When he finally blessed me with his visual attention, I saw his jaw flex while his fingers tensed around the material of his chair.
While blatantly ogling me, he asked, “Do you have to look so appealing, Cara? Couldn’t you wear burlaps or something of the sort, just to spare me the pain? I mean, honestly, wearing a dress like that, you’re an occupational hazard.”
Confused, I blinked back at him, before I dropped my gaze to study my attire. I was wearing a grey dress, and it did cling to my curves. But it was a sophisticated dress, like that of a secretary during the sixties, and it showed no cleavage to speak of. It was squared at the top; hiding the golden necklace my mum had given me for my eighteenth birthday.
“You’re still not very good at giving compliments, Will,” I eventually murmured, now somewhat offended. “If you can’t keep your stiffy in check, that’s not my problem.”
He chuckled and spun his chair around, leisurely. “It’s going to become your problem, I assure you.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “What did you want?”
He continued to spin his chair around while he gazed up at the ceiling, and the sight was terribly amusing. Carefree William Night was a sight to behold.
“Practicalities. Tomorrow. We could be traditional, meaning I’ll take you to some expensive restaurant, or we could settle for something more... casual. And while I know you’re a feminist – as am I, by the way – I won’t let you pay for a single thing. I’m not budging on that. Call me old-fashioned if you want, but I fancy the traditions of a gentleman.”
“You’re hardly a gentleman,” I twitted.
His feet charged down to the floor to halt his spin. With a wicked gleam in his magnificent eyes, he watched me with a wry smile on his tempting mouth. God, that mouth, and all the things it could do. “Well, pardon my manners, but something about you turns me to a savage.”
I had to fight back my urge to giggle. Flattered, I looked away from him with a poorly suppressed smile on my face.
“So, then. Which is it? Stiff or casual?” he queried and rested his handsome head on the fist of his hand.
“I wagered as much.” He chuckled and spun his chair around again. When he’d gone full circle, he stopped the motion by resting his long legs on his matte desk, and then proceeded to cross them. Next, he entwined his fingers atop his torso and watched me for a few breaths.
“I’ve got time for a quick snog,” he teased. “I’m spending the entire evening here.”
I turned for the door, groaning.
“Wait, wait,” he laughed, and the sound made my heart tingle. He had the most beautiful, contagious and elating laugh I’d ever heard a man possess. “Meet me at Leicester Square tomorrow. At seven.”
Across my shoulder, I sent him a joyful smile. “Sounds good. Will I be seeing you out of your suit?” I asked curiously. I’d never seen him wear casual clothes before.
He arched a brow at me while a crooked smile dominated his mouth. “Why, Cara, you’ve already seen me out of my suit.”
Rendered momentarily speechless, I felt a wave of heat hit my face. “I set myself up for that one, didn’t I?”
“You did,” he confirmed amused. “But rest assured, you’re welcome to help me out of my suit at any time.”
“You’re incurable,” I moaned and opened the door.
“And you’re my disease. Though, are you truly not even going to kiss me goodbye?” he teased.
This man. “No,” I retorted.
“You’re delightfully weak for me,” he continued to tease and sent me a self-assured wink. “Guess you’ll just have to compensate tomorrow.”
“If you behave, I might,” I countered and stepped out.
I had promised myself not to be a nuisance to him, but after today’s events, I couldn’t respect his wishes. So I found myself outside Robby’s door, arriving straight from work. We needed to talk, and I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be pleasant.
After pressing his name on the doorbell, I waited impatiently for either Tyler or Robby to pick up, though neither of them had answered their mobile when I’d tried to ring them earlier. It was perfectly possible that they weren’t home, but I had decided to take my chances.
“Yeah?” I heard Tyler’s voice greet me.
“Tyler, it’s Cara. Is Robby in?”
He hesitated for a beat. “No, he isn’t, but have you tried calling him?”
“Yes, and he isn’t answering. Nor were you,” I grumbled.
“Well, sorry, love, but last time I checked, Robby was pissed at you. I didn’t want to get in the middle of things.”
“Well, you are now. Will you let me in? I’ll just wait for him to come home.”
He hesitated again.
“Tyler, I’ll either wait here outside, or you can let me in. It’s up to you. I’m not leaving until I’ve talked to him.”
I heard him groan before the door buzzed. “Thank you,” I stated and dragged it open. After climbing the stairs to the third floor, I found him waiting for me in the doorway.
“Beer?” he asked and showed me his Corona.
“Yes. I have a feeling I’ll require liquid courage,” I replied in gratitude and nodded my head at him.
After slipping out of my low heels, I journeyed into their living area and collapsed onto their dark grey sofa. With arms and legs spread wide, I stared up at the white ceiling and wondered what I had in wait. I was starting to grow anxious. Would Robby get over this, or would he turn bitter on me and cast me aside completely?
“You look defeated,” Tyler commented when he headed out of the kitchen with a bottle of Corona for me. He’d even added a lime boat.
“I’m a bit scared,” I murmured and reached out for the bottle when he extended it to me.
While he dumped his body next to me, he asked, “Scared because he’s angry?”
“Amongst other things. What did he tell you?” I enquired while I lifted the bottle to my mouth. Corona. Nothing tasted quite as much as summer as this golden liquid.
“Told me some prick you’ve shagged pissed him off, and that he was supposedly Jason’s brother. And well, shit, Cara. I didn’t think you had that in you. I know you’re a free spirit, but Jason’s brother? Really?” He sounded appalled.
I pouted into the bottle. “It was an accident,” I said after another mouthful. “I wasn’t aware that he was Jason’s brother at the time. Jason had only mentioned his brother a few times before, and never by name. He’d always just say, ‘Ah, my brother does that’, or ‘My brother is a solicitor’. You know, things of the like. And then Livy wanted to go on the prowl before exams, and she wanted a solicitor, since she’s aspiring to become one. She was hoping to find a kindred spirit. So I asked Jason if he knew about a place we could go. He recommended this cocktail bar that I later found out that his brother frequents, but I’d never imagined that I’d be meeting him there.”
He started shaking beside me, and I realised he was laughing. When I looked over, it spilled out of him, long and loud. “Sorry, this is just fucking unbelievable. How did Jason react when he found out?”
I sighed and collected dew onto my thumbs from the cold bottle in my hands. “He was pissed, but he’s over it now,” I murmured while I studied the bottle design of the Mexican elixir.
“Well, that’s big of him,” he remarked impressed.
I glimpsed him from the corner of my eye. “Did Robby say anything else?”
“Said you defended the twat,” he obliged with a shrug of his shoulders. “Think that’s what pissed him off the most.”
I sighed long and loud and depressed into my seat. “It’s been two days, and he hasn’t initiated any contact. It’s becoming weird. I feel he’s blowing things out of proportion. We were all drunk. And I’m allowed to sleep with others. It wasn’t like I meant for any of this to happen. I seriously think he’s punishing me too hard.”
Tyler was quiet for a beat. “You’ll have to discuss that with him, Cara. I’m not saying anything else.”
“Yeah. You’re a good mate,” I murmured with a nod of my head. “Anyway, have you had dinner? I’d love me some home delivery.”
“I’m in the mood for pizza.”
“Pizza it is,” I concurred.
With my slice raised high above my head, I rescued a chunk of melted cheese that had threatened to fall down with my tongue, just as Robby entered through the front door. When our eyes met, I blinked for a second. With haste, I closed my mouth and swallowed my mouthful. My heart raced within me. Thankfully, I’d had three Coronas by now.
His emerald eyes rolled when they realised my presence. “I thought I was supposed to reach out to you when I was ready?” he muttered annoyed and dropped his bag in the hall.
Tyler snatched three slices onto his plate before he scurried out of the room like a rat afraid of the cat. “Good luck!” he exclaimed while he charged out.
“So much for moral support,” I muttered to myself and had another bite. “There’s pizza for you,” I mumbled behind my hand and cocked my head toward the box.
He sighed while he sauntered into the space and then slouched down in the chair Tyler had vacated opposite of me. I studied him intensely, trying to gauge his thoughts. He did seem angry, still. This wasn’t like him. Robby was never angry, and surely not for extended periods of time.
“How was work?” I asked after swallowing and reached for my Corona.
He raised a brow to himself and grabbed himself a slice. “It was good. Why are you here, Cara?”
I frowned at him. “Why do you think? You’ve been dead silent for two days straight. It’s not like you. I know I fucked up, no pun intended, but you know I didn’t mean for that to happen. I didn’t know he was going to be there, and-”
“Yes, I know that,” he interrupted and finally met my gaze. His eyes were blistering, and it rendered me paralysed for a moment. I’d never seen him like this.
“Th-then what’s the problem?” I stammered uncharacteristically. I was growing increasingly nervous, and I could see it on my hands. They’d started to shake a little.
“I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out,” he quietly replied and looked away from me again. My heart clenched. I could barely breathe. So swiftly, my appetite vanished. This wasn’t normal. I could feel him slipping through my fingers by the second, and I hated it.
“You’re still trying to figure out why you’re angry with me?” I enquired puzzled. “You don’t know?"
He grimaced and then frowned angrily to himself. “No. I don’t know, Cara.”
My breath hitched. “I don’t get it. I’m sorry I defended him like that. I didn’t mean for it to come out the way it did, but-”
“Cara, it’s not that!” he snapped, unusually impatient. “It’s the fact that you’ve fucked him that’s bothering me!”
His brutal declaration struck me like a cannon to the chest, leaving my back to jerk into the back of my seat, away from him. Pale-faced and with lips parted, I watched him in my utter confusion and despair. “Because it’s him?” I dared to whisper.
He tossed his slice of pizza back into the box and leaned backwards. “Yes. No. I don’t know!”
What did he mean he didn’t know? “Robby,” I softly said. “Please... We need to talk about this. I’m growing scared,” I confessed, and my voice broke. In my lap, my fingers toyed with each other, revealing how anxious I was.
He stretched up from his seat and started pacing around the room while he ran his hands through his hair. “Cara, do you know that during the three years we’ve spent together, I’ve only slept with one other girl?”
My lips closed so that I could swallow the lump in my throat. What the hell? Where was he going with this? How was that relevant?
“N-no. I didn’t know that.”
He turned toward me and nodded repeatedly. “Yes, that’s right. One. It happened about three months into our arrangement, and afterward, I felt like vomiting. I felt bloody disgusting, and that feeling has prevented me from doing it again ever since. And it wasn’t the girl, Cara. She was perfectly sweet. It was because of you.”
Tears were starting to well in my eyes as my level of fear increased. I did not approve of the direction this was going. “M-me?” I stammered again and studied him blankly.
“Yes, you!” he moaned and rubbed his face.
“I see,” I mumbled and looked away from him. “I’m sorry to hear that, Robby. I haven’t meant to be a hindrance.”
“Cara!” he yelled annoyed. “Would you please not make this so bloody difficult for me?”
I rushed to save a tear that had fallen over. He’d never shouted at me like this before. It was shocking me. “I just don’t understand how this is relevant,” I mumbled upset. But I was starting to see. I just didn’t want to believe it.
He moaned in despair and shook his head to himself. “Cara, for the three years we’ve been sleeping together, I’ve essentially been monogamous! I haven’t minded the idea of you with other men before, because I haven’t really known that it was happening. And every time we met, you’ve been so attuned to me that I found it hard to believe that you could have been like you are with me with somebody else. But I can’t... I can’t overlook this. I can’t... ignore it. I can’t pretend like I don’t know this happened, the way I could with others. Because I’ve seen him, and I know it’s happened, and I can’t get the images out of my head!”
I flinched at his last shout and covered my face with my hands. Was this truly happening?
“And what makes it even worse,” he continued agitated, “is the fact that he’s your fucking boss! You’ll be seeing him every day for the next three months, and from the look of him on Saturday, he harbours no intention of letting you go! I can’t stand that, Cara! I can’t stand knowing he’ll be trying to get in your knickers day after day, and I especially can’t stand it when you’ve shagged him before! You’re obviously attracted to him! And whatever happened this last Friday between you, I don’t want to know, but clearly, the two of you are unfinished business!”
I pressed my lips together to prevent a sob from spilling. Beside me, I heard him sigh before he dropped down into the sofa. Minutes of silence passed between us where nobody shared as much as a sound. We were both processing.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore. I’m sorry,” he eventually stated, voice calm and defeated, and my heart felt to break in my chest. “The way I see it,” he continued, “we can either upgrade this to an actual relationship, exclusive at that, or we’ll have to settle with being platonic. And if you decide on the latter, you should know I’ll require some time to move on, so we shouldn’t be in touch for that while.”
I started sniffling, and nearly choked on my row of stifled sobs. My entire body was shaking. I couldn’t believe this was happening. He was giving me an ultimatum, and I hadn’t seen it coming for the life of me. To make matters worse, I didn’t return his feelings. I had wondered a few times in the past, if what we shared was actually love, but meeting William Night had disproved it. Robby had never given me butterflies, he’d never made my blood tickle and he’d never made me crave him like I craved William.
But there was still love. Just not the romantic variety, and that was why this agonised me so. I’d have to break his heart, and it would break mine to have to do it.
I sensed him watch me for a long while before he sighed again. “Right. You don’t have to say it. If you did want to be with me, you would have said it by now. So just get out, Cara. Please.”
I shook my head from side to side, disbelieving of reality. This wasn’t what I had expected. It felt like I was about to implode from the amount of emotion that clawed on my chest. I’d never felt so despicable. How could I have been this blind? I’d never noticed his feelings for me. But Robby had always been good at maintaining his composure.
“Cara,” he pleaded. “I don’t want to be mean, but I’d really appreciate it if you left. Looking at you right now is making me want to cling to you, and that’s not good for me in the long run. I’m running out of strength here.”
While sniffing, I pushed my seat out and headed straight for the hall without looking at him. I couldn’t bring myself to speak a single word. I was much too rattled. I worried it would just unleash my inconsolable sobs.
So without a word, I closed the door after myself and cried like a baby all the way home. I’d never been so heartbroken before.