Chapter 38: When One Door Closes, Another Opens
“Open yours first,” he ordered, voice authoritative. When he used that tone of his, you’d be a fool not to listen. Still, it both amused and agitated me simultaneously. Mercurial William Night could switch between being the most tender of men to the most commanding in the span of a mere heartbeat, and without fail, it kept me on my toes.
He’d just bought us a fortune cookie each, after we’d walked around Chinatown with our dinner in our hands. Fortune cookies didn’t taste great, in my personal opinion, but the real treasure wasn’t in the flavour.
I scowled up at him while I broke mine apart. “So domineering,” I grumbled.
He passed me a wolfish grin. “Well, forgive me, but I’m only trying to talk in a language that a stubborn-head like you will understand.”
I scoffed at him while I pulled the small scrap of paper out of the pastry. As I read the tiny text, a frown occupied my face, and it persisted when I processed the meaning.
“What’s it say?” he asked intrigued.
“It says ‘When one door closes, another opens’,” I murmured and felt chills tremble down my spine. I’d never been one for superstition, but that was nothing short of eerie. What the hell? All I could think of was my ended relationship with Robby, and my new start with William.
“Uncanny,” he commented, thoroughly amused.
I looked up at him again. “What about yours?” I questioned and then filled my mouth with the biscuit.
Snapping his apart, he pulled out the paper and read the content to himself first. Then, after leisurely devouring the entire biscuit – probably to taunt me – he met my impatient scowl and handed me a humoured smile. He truly was exceptional at pushing my buttons, and worse was it that he was definitely doing it on purpose. Did he truly obtain that much joy from teasing me? He must, because he was expert in the art, and he never overlooked an opportunity to do it.
“Says, ‘Look around. Happiness is trying to catch you’,” he finally said. His eyes turned astute then, and burrowed into mine. “I’m looking, alright,” he said and offered me a playful wink.
My face flushed again. Suddenly hyperaware of myself, I crossed my arms over my breasts and rocked back and forth on my heels, nervous.
“Think Cupid’s lurking around somewhere, messing with our fortune cookies?” I queried in response to his fortune telling. His eyes were smouldering when they watched me after what I’d asked, and it made me hold my breath.
“Hard to say,” he murmured. “His arrow struck me some two months ago. He might be following up on his work, though,” he continued and, before I could gather myself, threw his arm around my neck to bring me against his chest. The intoxicating scent of him flooded my nose, leaving me lightheaded. Christ, this man. I was defenceless against him. And what he had just brought himself to say had completely stunned me.
In that intense, yet delicate, moment, I was too shy to look at him, so I wrapped my arms around his beautiful, strong frame and buried my face against his chest. It shook against me, so I realised that he was laughing at me. Again. When he composed himself, he dropped a chaste kiss to my hair, and then grabbed my upper arms to push me away from him.
A playful look resided in his face while he studied me. “Our date’s not finished yet. We’ve got a reservation in half an hour, so we best get going,” he informed me and grabbed my hand to drag me with him down the street. I stared wide-eyed after him. He had more on the agenda?
He dragged me along some ten to fifteen minutes until he reached a place called Swingers on John Prince’s street. At first, I thought he’d been daft enough to bring me to a swinger’s club in the sexual connotation of the word, but when I read the sign again, I saw that it was miniature golf.
“Oh, my God!” I cheered excited when he opened the door for me. This was unexpectedly creative of him. Clearly, he didn’t suffer from a shortage of ideas in the date department. He was an original man, an original lover, and I adored him for it. If things worked out between us, I reckoned I wouldn’t encounter a boring day for the remainder of my life.
“I should warn you,” he smugly said while I rushed past his figure in the door, “I’m a mean swing.” The sexual insituation dripped from his tone.
I knew full well what a mean swing he was. Across my shoulder, I gazed at him with a lascivious gleam in my eyes. “Good at putting it in the hole, are you? Try me.”
He bit into his lower lip when he grinned back at me. “Cheeky.”
We were on the seventh hole of ‘Helter Skelter’ when he returned with another two cocktails. Thus far, we’d had three each. I noted one mojito and one martini. I hoped the mojito was for me. I did not like martinis, but then again, alcohol was alcohol. So of course I’d manage.
“How many tries?” he asked when he saw that I’d finally managed to send the ball into the hole.
“Like twenty,” I muttered annoyed. A humoured look crossed his face while he lifted the sheet of paper keeping our score.
“We’ll say ten, then,” he purred and passed me wink.
“These courses are impossible.” I had wanted to sound annoyed again, but I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing and laughing, because I felt so comically useless. During my days in school, I’d always been the best athlete out of the girls, but my presentation today was not very impressive.
He was caught by my laughter, because while he sipped on the martini, he chuckled into it. “You’re a bit tipsy. Maybe that’s why. This course is all about the physics. Maths and alcohol don’t tend to blend well. In any case, let’s move on to the next one.” Upon that note, he guided the way to the eighth course.
Earlier, I’d insisted that he should start so that I could watch what he did wrong or right and apply it to my own swings. But it hadn’t helped much. He was far, far better than me.
When he’d nearly managed to send the ball into the hole on the first strike, he looked to me with a smirk on his face. “Tell me, darling. Where about in London did you grow up?”
I sighed and sipped on the black straw of my mojito. “West Hampstead.”
“Cool area,” he commented when he made another calculated swing and tricked the ball straight into the hole.
“You think?” I queried and narrowed my eyes at him. The insufferable bastard was too good at this, and part of me worried that he was even being merciful.
“Indeed.” He nodded while he approached me with his putting stick over his broad shoulder. “What do your parents do? What are their names?”
Christ, he wasn’t holding back on the interrogation, was he?
“My mum’s an economist. Dad’s a sixth form philosophy teacher.”
“Impressive,” he remarked and reached for his martini while I approached the course for my turn. I nearly scoffed at him, but not quite. Surely, he had an impressive pair of parents himself, what with his mother being an oncologist and his father being the founder of Day & Night.
But I adored my parents, and I did find them impressive. They had raised me well, and they were a loving set of parents. My dad was a bit of a nutter sometimes, but then again, I supposed that was obligatory for any schooled philosopher. It always made my mother laugh when he started his Socratic questioning of me. In all fairness, I had my parents to thank for my liberal outlook on life.
“My mum’s name is Lily, and my dad’s name is Richard,” I continued while I dropped my ball to the respective starting point.
“And which parent should I be most careful with?” he asked then, leaving me to freeze for a second. Gazing toward him, I blinked twice over. He was surely taking this in big strides, wasn’t he? For the first time, it scared me a little.
“What?” He chuckled and spread his arms apart, seemingly clinging to his innocence. “It’s only fair I get to meet them sometime. You’ve already met both my parents, with thanks to Jason. Besides, I’m intrigued to meet the people that designed you into the bewitching woman that you are.”
“If you make it to ten dates, I’ll consider it,” I replied reserved. “And my dad would be the one to worry about, though not in the stereotypical sense. He’s just a bit of a... challenge. Hard to understand, and he makes a hobby of annoying people with Socratic questioning. Mum’s easier on the mind.”
He laughed to himself. “I’m compelled.”
“My turn to do the interview,” I said after failing completely at my swing. He was distracting my focus with all of these personal questions.
“What would you like to know?” he replied and watched my on-going parody of attempted miniature golf with amusement dancing in his arresting eyes.
“When did you realise you wanted to become a solicitor?”
“I realised that I wanted to study the law when I was six. My dad’s the inspiration. A solicitor? I made that decision while I was studying it.”
I nodded to myself and looked between the ball and the hole. That bloody hillock in the middle was a complete nightmare. How was I supposed to send the ball over it? “Have you always been this driven and ambitious?”
He cocked his head from side to side. “Yes.”
“Did you play any sports in school, aside from chess?” I continued my interview.
“Yeah. Started playing tennis when I was seven.”
“Like a true snob,” I teased. “Badminton, too?”
“Football,” he corrected me. “Striker. Started when I was eight. But at Cambridge, it was all about the rowing.”
I took note of the fact that he was obviously an athletic nerd. “Oh, right. Football. You’re a Chelsea fan, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. No hooligan, but passionate about the sport nonetheless.”
“Sothat’s your religion,” I teased and offered him a wry smile. “I thought the seasons were finished for the summer,” I pointed out.
“They are, at the moment.”
“Then how come you and Jason were talking about it last weekend?”
“Pre-season fixtures,” he explained, and I sent him a mystified look.
“Passionate about the sport, indeed,” I echoed.
“You into any sports?”
“Not really. I’m a neutral observer. I prefer playing sports rather than watching them. Anyway, this is still my interview,” I reminded him and eyed him sternly. Amused by my strict character, he chuckled on his sip.
“You mentioned an ex some while ago,” I murmured and looked away from him.
“I was wondering when you’d question me about her.” He laughed wholeheartedly and shook his head to himself. “There’s not much to tell. It lasted for about two years until we mutually decided to break up. We weren’t compatible, and I was never in love with her – merely very fond of her. It was more of a convenient relationship than anything else.”
I was intrigued. It had lasted two years? Since I was still a stranger to the scene of relationships, I found that to be quite a while. Especially if he claimed he’d never been in love with her.
“What was her name? What’s the more elaborate story?” I asked without looking at him.
I sensed him watch me, vigilant in his demeanour. “Her name was – is, seeing as she’s not dead – Katelyn Watson, but I called her Kate. We met at Cambridge. She studied chemical engineering. Brilliant mind. That was what piqued my interest the first time we met. But as I got to know her, I found that there was little else I found intriguing about her. She was a bit dull, and sort of insipid. While her dedication to her course was admirable, and clearly a calling she had, it was essentially her entire identity. I’m weak for bright minds, but I prefer a brain that’s got a broader range of interests and vaster knowledge. A single topic can only stimulate me for so long. That’s why I love working with the law. It touches upon most everything.
“Regardless, she was the perfect partner during my studies. Very low maintenance, rarely insecure, experimental in bed, and we worked well on those rare occasions when we decided to study together. I harboured great respect for her. I still do.”
I had frozen. The story he’d shared was original, and I found myself intrigued by this Katelyn Watson. Like William, I was weak for bright minds, and Katelyn’s intimidated me somewhat. Ifshe’dbored him, how on earth wouldn’t I?
“You said you were never in love with her,” I quietly murmured. “Was she in love with you?”
His brows furrowed as a gloomy expression crossed his face. “Yeah. She was. But ending our relationship was a mutual decision. She didn’t want to be with me if I didn’t love her. She had enough integrity to realise that.”
“When did you break up?” I asked and looked to my hands around my putting stick. They were shaking now. This story was clearly making me nervous.
“I was twenty-three, so five years ago, about?”
“Have you talked since?”
He folded his strong arms together. “Not really. I personally believe that hanging out with exes is toxic behaviour, for a list of reasons. Firstly, the relation could stir insecurities in potential new partners. For instance, if I frequently kept in touch with Kate it could troubleyou. I’m not inclined to let that happen when I can prevent it.
“Secondly, it’s my understanding that the person that was rejected in a relationship will always seek to be validated by the partner that rejected them; meaning Kate is likely to want to regain my affections, even if she’s moved on, just to prove to me that she was deserving of them. Generally, that’s just the way the human ego works.
“Thirdly, it’s confusing. Role-wise. How do you go from being so intimate with someone to being strictly platonic? There’s such a dreadful risk of somebody misreading the signals. But don’t get me wrong, I know there are people out there who manage it, but I don’t think I’m one of them. She’s history, and I prefer to keep it that way. I can be very cold about things like that.”
I placed my hand to my hip and watched him for a moment. He was clearly a reflected man – far more than I’d given him credit for, and I found it captivating. What other ideas did he store in that beautiful mind of his?
“I hear you. But you’re a jealous person. I’m not. And I can’t help but hear the insinuation toward Robby,” I pointed out and focused on my swing again.
He rolled his eyes at me, so I decided to change the subject before he got too worked up. “When’s your birthday?”
He frowned at me, taken aback by my change of direction. “Next year. March eighteenth. Yours?”
“Second of February,” I replied, nonchalant.
A haughty smile was the response that he offered, before he said, “I’ll bear it in mind.”
I giggled and shook my head to myself. “If you find out that I’m merely ‘convenient’ like Kate,” I said, quoting him, “you better hope you’re not still around by then. I will personally emasculate you,” I warned.
His lips twisted with his amusement. “Cara, don’t be silly. If anything, you’re completelyinconvenient.Firstly, you’re currently my colleague. Secondly, you’re my brother’s best mate, and thirdly, you’re the tenant of my parents’ flat. To make matters even worse, you’re a bloody challenging woman, and I am completely crazy about you. To be perfectly frank, if you knew how much I think about you, you’d be looking at me like I’ve grown three heads right now.”
Taken aback, I blinked back at him. “Then why do you bother with me? If I’m such an inconvenience?”
He laughed to himself. “Did you not just hear what I said? I can’t stop thinking about you. Pursuing you doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like a... need.”
Whoa. That was quite the profound description. My cheeks were burning up while I steered my eyes away from him, horribly embarrassed.
“Well, you’ve been warned,” I muttered and took another swing.
“Duly noted. But speaking of dating others,” he murmured while he watched the ball fall off the hillock prop. I groaned and planted my palm to my face. At this rate, this was going to last forever.
He resumed, “While we’re seeing each other, I expect your exclusivity. I’m a possessive man. I get intensely territorial, and it’s impossible to switch off. Trust me, I’ve tried.”
“You? Territorial?” I gasped, feigning surprise.
“Fuck you,” he grumbled and tucked his hands into his pockets. Meanwhile, I resorted to laughing at him, but when I looked over again, I saw that he did not share my amusement.
After grinding his teeth for a quick beat, he continued, “So I’d like it if you respected it. I’m aware you’re not accustomed to monogamy, but you’ll have to adjust if this is going to work out. Obviously, I’ll return the favour.”
I approached my ball with a shrewd smile on my face. “Sounds fair to me. And it’s not going to pose a problem, William. When I slept around before, I wasn’t seeing anybody. Yes, I had Robby, but we had a specific agreement, and it wasn’t romantic. Hell, you’re the first man I’ve ever dated. This is my first date! Ever!” I replied and waved my arm in the air. “That should speak volumes. Seriously. You have better feel special.”
He shook his head to himself. “I don’t understand that. It’s ridiculous.”
“What don’t you understand about it?” I responded perplexed.
“Surely you must have been asked on a date before,” he replied equally bewildered.
I blushed, however faintly, and looked away from him again. Modestly, I answered, “Well, yes, I have been asked. But I’ve always said no. I mean, do you remember when we first met, Will? I didn’t even give you my real name. I’ve always been fixed on my education, and I’ve always avoided things that could come in the way of that.”
“Cupid’s definitely been lurking behind the scenes of this,” he then mumbled to himself. “I can’t believe I didn’t even know your real name that night, and yet here we are two months later.”
“Strange world,” I explained.
When we finally finished the last course, I was moderately tipsy, but my travesty of a defeat was sobering. Therefore, I didn’t listen to him declare the final score, because my ego wouldn’t wear it down. We were standing outside now, facing each other, both uncertain about what to do from here.
“Well, regardless of whether we decide to continue this back home, I have something else for you,” he murmured and reached into his back pocket again. I frowned up at him, bewildered.
Humour etched through his gorgeous features while he towered in front of my much shorter person. While holding whatever it was behind his back, he said, “Do you recall when you accused me of being more exhausting than a marathon?” he enquired.
I couldn’t help my giggle. I had said that, hadn’t I? “Yeah.”
“And do you remember what I replied?” He was profoundly amused, and it made me wonder what he was hiding behind his back even more.
“Not really?” What had he replied again?
He chuckled. “I said I promised to give you a medal if you lasted an entire date with me, as well as a reward. So here goes the first part. The reward I’ll grant you tonight, if you want.”
With my eyes wide apart, I watched him lift a golden medal with a red ribbon into my field of vision. He dangled it in front of my face, and I read the number one on the front of it, while the initials ‘W.N.’ were engraved on the back. He’d had it custom made? How much thought had he put into this?
Overwhelmed, I stood frozen while he moved to hang it around my neck. “Congratulations, Cara. You survived,” he teased me and leaned in to place a soft kiss to my forehead. But just before he reached his destination, my hands shot up to grab hold of his strong jaw so that I could lower his mouth to mine.
My heart fluttered at the delicious taste of him, as well as the unique motion of his perfect lips against my own. So soft, they were, and achingly passionate. They moved with such eerie precision, expertly synchronised with mine, as if we’d always been meant to do this. My chest ignited with exultation when I was yet again reminded of how beautifullyrightit felt to kiss him. This was how it was supposed to be. I just knew, because I’d never felt anything remotely similar before, until I met this spellbinding man.
I couldn’t believe what lengths he’d gone to for our date, just for me. Like he’d said, giving him a chance had been the right choice, and he was proving it right now. Furthermore, I had a feeling he would continue to prove it, time and again.
He groaned against my mouth and leaned away rather abruptly. Out of breath, I watched him with a worried expression on my face; scared I’d done something wrong. Using the back of his hand, he discreetly wiped his mouth and shook his head to himself.
“Sorry,” he panted. “I can’t be doing that right now. You’ve no idea what it does to me.”
I grinned at his willing expose and reached for the brim of his jeans. After hooking my fingers into them, I tugged him toward me again. “Then we’ve got a problem, because I am desperate for your mouth on me,” I confessed while staring at his perfect mouth. God, how I wanted that mouth to devour the entire of me. It was sent straight from heaven. I was sure.
He chuckled, visibly charmed, and cupped my cheeks in his large, warm hands. Softly, he stared down into my eyes. “How about a bed crawl? Quick round at yours, so that we won’t get arrested for public indecency on our way to mine, before we continue in my bed afterward?”
I grinned up at him. “Sounds good. You don’t think Jason’s going to mind?”
“Does it look like I give a pin? Fuck if I care,” he growled under his breath and placed a solid kiss to my mouth again. I sighed and felt my shoulders sink while I melted against him, completely smitten for the first time in my life.