Skin of the Night

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Chapter 35: To New Beginnings

My morose mood hadn’t subsided by the time I got to the office earlier than usual the next morning. When I’d arrived home after visiting Robby yesterday, I’d shut myself into my bedroom and locked the door before Jason had arrived, seeing as he’d been having dinner with Jonathan, another mate of his. He’d been home late, so when he knocked on my door, I’d pretended to be asleep, even though I wasn’t.

After setting myself up, I started dribbling down my to-do list for the day, knowing the solicitors had plenty of work that needed to be done. My first week had been spent getting familiar with everything, and even though I was still a novice, Ellie had seen me capable of managing more than just William’s material by now. So now I was working on Violet’s case, too, polishing a contract she’d drafted up the day before.

I finished my tentative to-do list after five minutes and got straight to work on polishing Violet’s material, 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 Robby again.

Half an hour into my labour, I heard a body occupy the seat of Ellie’s desk. When I looked over, I saw William study me with a faint smile on his gorgeous mouth, and while the sight of him made my heart tingle, it was a bittersweet sensation this time around. Though I did send him a smile, it wasn’t a genuine one that I offered.

Upon recognising it, a brooding look crossed his beautiful face. While leaning forward, he absentmindedly placed a Starbucks coffee on my desk. At that moment in time, I didn’t have the strength to look at it, or him. Instead, I returned my focus to my computer screen.

“What’s wrong?” he gently asked and continued to study my profile. I shook my head and willed for my tears not to surface.

“Cara,” he softly pushed. “I can tell something’s wrong. What’s the matter?”

Again, I shook my head, but my feelings were acting up within me, and I could no longer concentrate on the words on my screen. My entire focus was placed on keeping a lid on my emotions.

I sensed him watch me for another while until he reached forward to place his large, warm hand to my thigh. “I won’t ask again, but if you find yourself wanting to talk about it, I’m all yours,” he murmured and gently squeezed.

I’d never seen this side of him before, and it nearly ruined my efforts to maintain my equilibrium on the surface. He was being unbearably tender, and it made my heart throb. I hadn’t known he harboured even the potential of tenderness, but it was a welcome surprise.

“If you want to cancel our date, I’ll understand,” he continued, and I felt his eyes browse my face in an attempt to gauge my thoughts. I shook my head again. I didn’t want to cancel our date. Right now, nothing tempted more than to be distracted by William’s mercurial and peculiar character. In all honesty, what tempted more than anything was to weep into his embrace.

“I don’t like seeing you like this,” he softly said and reached for my limp right hand that had rested on my desk.

“I’ll be fine,” I whispered monotone. It was all I could manage.

“That tone is not very convincing,” he countered and sandwiched my hand with his pair. “Let me know, yeah?” he murmured and paid my hand a squeeze between his.

I still hadn’t looked at him when I nodded my head. He sighed while he released my hand and stretched up to face his day at work. Only when he was walking away did I lift my gaze toward him. A small tear leaked from my eye as I did, and I rushed to wipe it away.

“I’ll be fine,” I told myself and exhaled loudly. When he’d escaped into his office, my eyes flickered to the cup he’d brought me.

To new beginnings, it read this time, and it actually made a genuine smile reach my face. Unwittingly, he’d told me exactly what I needed to hear. To new beginnings, indeed. Robby hurt, but I’d chosen to give William a chance, and now I had to embrace my decisions. I couldn’t let my hurt over Robby ruin my potential with William. That would be letting the past ruin the future, and I was not inclined to allow it.

I worked silently until lunch. Ellie hadn’t said much, but as the empathic person she was, I gathered she could tell something was on my mind. When Andy reached our desks, hovering, I was brought out of my brooding, melancholy zone.

“Seriously, you need to try these,” he demanded and shoved the packet of chocolates into my face, which a client had brought with them from Belgium to a meeting of his today. “The best I’ve ever tasted. Come on. Where’s your bravado, Cara? Did Will finally manage to kill it off?”

Up through my long lashes, I sent him a glare. “Christ, Andy. Give me a break, yeah?”

He blinked back at me, startled. “Damn, what’s with the fire spitting 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 swallowed his mouthful and sent Ellie a glance. “She okay?”

“Andy,” she replied through a sigh.

He shrugged his shoulders and threw another piece of chocolate into his gaping mouth. “Only sayin’. Every time Chloe’s like that, something serious is on her mind, or she’s on her period. Or both.”

“And after ten years with it, you still haven’t learned how to treat it?” I fired back annoyed. “Poor Chloe, having to deal with you.”

“Whoa,” he replied and his lips curled up into a humoured grin. “Shots fired, indeed.”

“Andy, leave her alone,” William grumbled from my left, approaching. Whipping my head around, I found him glaring at his best mate while his graceful walk made my stomach fill with ticklish sensations.

After dropping the box of chocolates to 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 his amusement when he finally reached us. “We both know you’re a dickless twat already, so I wouldn’t worry if I were you. They any good?” he queried and reached for a piece from the box.

Andy chuckled at his banter and playfully smacked his arm. Vigilant, I watched him place it into his tempting mouth. Saliva gathered in mine when I watched his strong jaw flex with his chewing.

“They’re better if you suck them,” I murmured. “Lasts longer.”

Andy pressed his lips together before he whirled around and burst out laughing at my comment.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Andy. When was the last time you got laid?” William snapped at him.

“Not recently, clearly,” Ellie remarked through a giggle.

Andy’s laughter died a violent death upon their banter. “Well, Will’s always cock-blocking me, so what’s a man gonna do?”

“Fix his relationship,” William replied and reached for another piece. “These really are quite good. Where did you get them? Are they Belgian?”

“Yeah. Client,” Andy muttered and tucked his hands into his pockets. “Anyway, lunch?”

William nodded his head while he resorted to sucking on the piece of chocolate this time around, and the sight made a small smile climb to my mouth. He was heeding my advice. I would have thought him to consider that beneath himself. His eyes suddenly turned toward me, and I was surprised by the attention, so I stared wide-eyed back at him, feeling caught. When he sent me a wink, it said more than a thousand words ever could. I nearly sighed, completely besotted. What a man.

After smiling at my hopeless facial expression, he faced Andy and Ellie again. “Cara and I aren’t having lunch with you lot. We’re going to step out, just down the street. I’d like to hear how things have been going for her thus far,” he informed them.

Puzzled, I blinked up at him. Was he doing this because he wanted to know what was bothering me, or was he doing this because he wanted to spare me from having to endure small talk during lunch? Both? Either way, I appreciated the gesture.

“Right.” Andy smirked and looked directly at Ellie. “Let’s go then, shall we?”

“Yep.” After shutting her MacBook, she pushed her seat out and smiled at the lot of us. Guiding the way, Andy headed toward the lift while the rest of us followed his lead. As we rode down to the lobby, William had taken a stand beside me and stared at my profile. Bewildered by his seeming desire for immediate attention, I looked up at him and saw him smirking at me. Then, while withdrawing his hand from his pocket, he lowered his gaze, silently telling me to follow. My eyes studied his fisted hand. Then he opened it, revealing a single piece of chocolate within.

I chewed into my lower lip to hide my smile when he nudged it against me. While making contact with his eyes again, I fished the piece of out his hand and dropped it into my mouth like a mischievous girl.

He paid me another wink when I pushed the sweet confectionary into my cheek and smiled wryly up at him. Andy had been right. It was indeed delicious, and William had saved me a piece. It was a surprising gesture, not to mention sweet, and it made me want to snicker like a young brat. Today, William was chasing the clouds away.

“Right,” Andy murmured when we reached the lobby. “See you later, then.”

“Yep,” William replied, but didn’t bother to look at him. With his hand on the small of my back, he guided me through the security gates, through the revolving door, and out on the streets.

“Thank you,” I stated and smiled up at his profile while he guided the way along the pavement. While chuckling, he reached for my hand and entwined our fingers, and the action made my heart melt. Oh, Will. This was exactly what I needed right now. I was still processing 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 and led the way toward a restaurant nearby. The entire stroll, my heart was performing such labour that I worried I’d break my ribs. Each second that ticked by felt awfully intense. He was being agonisingly sweet today. I could hardly fathom this shade of him. I hadn’t endured such delightful emotions in a very, very long time. I frowned to myself while I wondered if I ever truly had.

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