Skin of the Night

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Chapter 89: I Can Make Your Dream Come True

I was in a rush to leave the office at precisely five o’clock the next day. Friday was tomorrow which meant it was also Jason’s birthday, and because he was celebrating reaching the middle of his twenties, he had invited quite the amount of people. That meant he required assistance with regards to the preparations, so he’d asked whether I could help him out, and perhaps bring Robby with me for an extra pair of hands.

Daphne and John had generously allowed him to throw his birthday bash in their house in Chelsea, so Robby and I had agreed to meet at my flat to drop off our things from work before heading there together.

“Plane to catch, Cara?” Elisabeth teased when she saw how quick I was to clear my desk for the day.

“Party to prepare.”

“Oh, yes, of course. Jason’s birthday.”

“Indeed.” After zipping my purse shut, I swung it over my shoulder and brushed my hair behind my ear. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She paid me that ever maternal and characteristic smile of hers. “Yes. Good luck.”

I had just stepped into the lift when I noticed someone stalking after me. As soon as I looked into the surrounding mirrors to identify the person, my heart jolted. Of all the people in this building, I hadn’t expected to see him, and it was simply because he never left the office this early.

I said the only thing I could think to say in my state of surprise, “Oh.”

I watched as his light blue eyes softened with his responding smile. “Didn’t think to tell me you were leaving for the day?” he asked and tucked his hands into his pockets while he turned to face the closing doors.

A wave of heat struck my face. “Oh, sorry. I completely forgot.”

“You seem stressed,” he remarked and glanced at me from the corner of his eye.

“Yeah, I am a bit stressed. Jason’s birthday, remember?”

“Right,” he nodded as he recalled what I’d told him during lunch, “you’re helping him with the preparations.”

“How come you aren’t?”

“I’ve got an appointment with Dr Fielder. If not, I would’ve been happy to help.”

“So that’s why you’re leaving this early.” I nodded to myself.

He chuckled. “Yes, this is quite unusual.”

“Doesn’t it feel a wee bit nice to leave before the sun has set?”

He shook his head. “I wasn’t aware there was sun in England.”

I laughed. “You know what I meant.”

“I do, but no. I love my job. Had it been a woman, I’d marry it.”

“Then I’m glad it’s not a woman,” I murmured amused.

Again, he glanced in my direction. “Are you flirting with me?”

“I’d never dare.”

“I think you would.”

We smiled impishly at each other until we both realised the same thing. The cage wasn’t moving. Awkward silence passed between us during that brief moment of confusion, and I realised with dread that I’d been so distracted by encountering him that I’d forgotten to push the button to take us to the lobby.

“Stressed, indeed,” he murmured as he reached over to press it.

I was certain my cheeks would burst with blood any second. “Heeeh.”

“Have you bought him a present?” he asked when the lift finally moved.

“Yes.”

“What did you buy?”

“He likes gadgets, so I bought him a GoPro camera.”

He studied me incredulously. “That’s a bit excessive. Aren’t you a student? How much do those cost? Four hundred quid?”

I shrugged. “It is excessive, but it’s also for Jason. He’s essentially family to me, so I’ll gladly empty my pocket to put a smile on his face.”

He cringed. “I wish you’d stop staying that. I get the point, I really do, but we do not share a brother, Cara.”

I laughed to my heart’s content, and I was still laughing when the lift stopped to let us out.

“You’re so fond of your incestuous jokes,” he murmured with a shake of his head and motioned for me to exit first. “Either I’m sleeping with my mother, or I’m sleeping with a girl who insists she’s my brother’s sister, ergo my sister.”

“I thought you once said that family is everything to you?”

“Fucking hell.”

“I’m only pulling your leg, Will.”

“By the standards of the law, it is actually within my power to make you Jason’s sister, you know. I can make your dream come true.”

“Because that’s the sort of reason people should marry for.”

“I’ll admit I’ll feel exploited if you were to marry me on that premise.”

Again, I laughed. There were few things I enjoyed more than bantering with William Night.

“If ever I marry you, Will, it will be because I want you as my husband. Getting Jason as a brother would only be a huge bonus.”

“That’s good to know. I only have one condition and I’ll make your dream come true.”

I eyed him sceptically as I headed toward the security gates. “And that is?”

“We’ll have five kids.”

I rolled my eyes. “I should’ve known.”

I had expected him to be grinning when I looked back to him after scanning my card to open the gates, but instead, he had reached a full halt behind me and stood entirely frozen, eyes firmly set on something ahead of us. Turning, I followed his gaze and then froze myself.

Approaching from the sofa group of the reception was Robby.

Seized by complete surprise and dread, my mouth opened and closed several times as I struggled to weave together a single coherent thought.

What the hell was he doing here?

“Robby,” I greeted, and my surprise seeped through my tone. I had never expected a scenario like this, and it scared the shit out of me, because I wasn’t prepared.

Robby was not aware that William resented him absolutely, or that he was filled to the brim with jealousy. In fact, he wasn’t even aware that William and I had broken up, because I hadn’t wanted to tell him, and I hadn’t wanted to tell him because he would inevitably have asked me why, and what would I say? That my boyfriend had expected me to neglect him when his mother was dying, and that I had refused to concur with those expectations, which had led him to leave me?

In the end, I hadn’t told him because I knew he would have blamed himself for my failed relationship. He’d think my broken heart was his fault, and he would have told me to go back to Will and that he would be fine on his own, because in matters of love, Robby had always been a martyr. And like William, he would have been unable to understand that it was myself that I had chosen, not one of them.

Halting a safe seven feet away from me, he glanced vigilantly in William’s direction before returning his green eyes to mine. “I sent you a text to warn you that I was coming,” he murmured. “I was let off early, so I reckoned I’d wait for you here.”

It took me a moment to remember that I had in fact received a text from him a short while ago, but I hadn’t opened it because I’d been preoccupied with finishing my work on time so that I could leave at precisely five o’clock.

“Right. I forgot to open that.” I swallowed my heart back down to my chest where it proceeded to sprint a hundred miles per hour. It accelerated another hundred when I suddenly heard the gate behind me, informing me that William must have stepped through. Filled with dread, I turned to observe him, and I was honestly prepared to grab Robby by his ear and drag him out with me any second.

When I glimpsed his light blue eyes, I held my breath. They were frosted as though he’d just come upon an internal ice age. I’d never seen him look so cold and hostile.

“Hi,” he greeted my poor dear friend, and I was surprised he managed to sound somewhat composed. My eyes flickered to Robby’s face at the speed of light.

Like I’d done a few seconds ago, I saw him swallow a lump in his throat. He was visibly intimidated, and I didn’t blame him.

“Hi.”

“Cara told me about your mum,” William murmured. “I’m sorry you have to go through that.”

Would you look at that? Caveman William Night was capable of acting like an evolved and civil human being. I hadn’t expected that display of unquestionable progress in a million years. This day was just full of surprises, and thankfully mainly of the pleasant variety.

Robby responded only with a grateful nod of his head, but their eyes remained locked. It was like I no longer existed where I stood beside them, on alert and ready to jump between them any second.

“Will you be joining us to help Jason out?” Robby asked.

William tensed beside me, and it took him such a long time to reply that I seriously wondered if he’d changed his mind and was about to cancel his appointment with Dr Fielder.

“Unfortunately, I’ve got other plans.” I noticed that his tone lacked any trace of emotion.

“Oh.” Robby nodded understandingly. “Well, as I’m sure you know, your girlfriend is an expert at organising things, so I suppose it’s in capable hands either way.”

William sent me a puzzled look at once, but I didn’t meet it, because I knew what his question was. So instead, I focused on Robby. “Robby, would you mind waiting outside for a bit?”

“Sure, of course,” he immediately concurred, and I almost laughed at how obviously eager he was to escape William’s proximity.

The second he’d stepped out of the revolving door, William opened his mouth to ask, “My girlfriend?”

“I may have neglected to update him.”

There was a sense of awe in his eyes, as if he hadn’t expected that at all, and it made me realise that deciding not to tell Robby about our breakup had benefitted me in ways I hadn’t intended for.

“Really? You haven’t told him about us?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

I gulped. Deciding to be economical with the truth, I replied, “Because I’ve deemed it unnecessary. Especially if it’s only going to be temporary. Besides, whether I am single or not has nothing to do with anything. It’s not relevant information for anyone except you, because I am not available in that regard to anyone other than you.”

He looked away from me and blew his cheeks out, obviously gobsmacked. “I have to say, this surprised me, Cara.”

His comment inspired me to watch him derisively. “That’s sad to hear. It must be because you haven’t bothered to actually understand me or listen to a word I’ve told you.”

A contrite look crossed his face before he eyed his Rolex, presumably because he sought a way to excuse himself from the situation.

“I hate that you’ll be spending time with him today,” he murmured. “You should’ve told me he would be joining you.”

“Perhaps I should, but it was also decided after lunch, and I haven’t seen you since then,” I defended myself. I gathered it was convenient that he was meeting Dr Fielder shortly. Hopefully, the good doctor would be able to prevent my silly love interest from overthinking the situation with his distorted views on my friendship to Robby.

“I need to get a move on it or I’ll be late for my appointment,” he said stoically.

I nodded my head as I turned to approach the exit. Once we were out on the street, William shocked me by walking straight up to Robby and extending his hand to him.

My eyes nearly fell out of my skull when I saw them shake hands. William’s behaviour was exceeding all my expectations.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Robby,” he said. “Thanks for helping my brother out with the preparations.”

“Least I can do,” Robby replied with a faint smile on his face and released his hand. “But before you leave, I’d like to say that I’m sorry about my behaviour last we met. I was very drunk and–”

William cut him off, “Don’t bother. I didn’t behave any better. We were both shitheads, and Cara got caught in the crossfire. It’s her we owe an apology.”

Robby’s eyebrows climbed up his forehead while he glimpsed in my direction. “Suppose you’re right. I haven’t thought of that.”

“Tomorrow, then,” William repeated before he turned toward me. “Tell Jason I said hello, would you, love?”

“Of course.”

He left without another word. Struggling to process what had just happened, I stared after his graceful figure for a few seconds.

“He hates me,” Robby eventually alleged, earning my attention. When I looked over, I saw that he was staring after him as well.

“What makes you say that?”

“I’ve never seen such hateful eyes in my life. When he first saw me just now, I honestly thought he was going to strike me.”

“He wouldn’t strike you,” I said, but in all honesty, I wasn’t entirely sure of it, and that was a huge red flag. I sincerely hoped Dr Fielder would help him work on his temper as well.

He shook his head in disagreement. “I think he could. And the lad’s massive. I’d be dead after a single strike of his fist, I’m sure.”

I snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous. He’s a man of the law.”

“That’s a terrible argument. People can be lunatics even if they’re men of the law. There are plenty of dodgy police officers out there, and lawyers. Someone’s line of work doesn’t mean they can be trusted implicitly.”

“What I was trying to imply is that he’s aware of the consequences of hitting someone. More so than the bloke flipping burgers down the street, presumably.”

“Oh, that’s a relief,” he muttered sarcastically. “So the only reason he doesn’t strike me is because he doesn’t want to be charged for it.”

“Honestly, Robby, he wouldn’t hit you. I reckon he’s more talk and very little trousers... William’s way of battle is a vocal one. Not a physical one.” When I thought of it that way, I was more confident in the fact that he’d never resort to physical violence. He was more evolved than that, surely.

Robby studied me in his bewilderment. “Why does he hate me so much? Is it because of my behaviour when I first met him, or is it because of you and I? Both, maybe?”

I wanted to tell him that William did not in fact hate him, but that would be a lie. “Robby, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

He sighed. “I gathered as much.”

I adjusted my purse on my shoulder and stuffed my hands in the pockets of my beige linen trousers. “William is quite jealous of you.”

He looked sideways, and I could tell he wasn’t impressed. “That’s absolutely ridiculous. What reasons could he have? I mean he won, didn’t he? You’re his girlfriend, not mine. And he managed that in the span of a month, which I couldn’t in three years."

“He doesn’t see it that way. He perceives you as a threat.”

“How on earth am I a threat?” he countered disbelievingly. “I’ve no intention to mess with your relationship. On the contrary, I’m trying bloody hard to move on. I’ve got feelings for you, sure, but that means I want to see you happy. Yeah, it’s a sure bummer that you’re happier with him, but it is what it is.”

“He doesn’t work like that. You’re very different. In particular, how you love is very different.”

“I don’t understand him at all. What exactly is he jealous of?”

“I think he’s jealous of our bond. How profound it is. He doesn’t appreciate that you know me better than he does.”

He groaned in loud despair. “Obviously I would know you better. We’ve known each other for three years. Are you trying to say that he’s acting like you’re not allowed to have had a life before he came along?”

“No. I’m saying he’s scared I’ll change my mind and... well,” I motioned toward him, “pick you.”

He regarded me as if he couldn’t understand me at all. “How can you stand that? It must be asphyxiating.”

I shrugged. “I manage just fine, actually.”

“You’ve always been remarkably forgiving.” He shook his head to himself. “Sometimes, I sincerely worry that people take advantage of that trait of yours.”

I snorted. “That’s unnecessary. I might be forgiving, but I’m not an idiot. I know when to put my foot down.”

“What should I do, then?” He raked a hand through his hair. “How do I erase his concerns?”

My eyes widened at his behaviour. I hadn’t expected him to care this much.

He continued before I could reply, and I could tell he was flustered, “See, I want you in my life, Cara, and it’s not because I’ve got feelings for you. It’s because our friendship is invaluable to me. So if your boyfriend hates me, that’s something I need to fix. If we’re both going to be part of your life, I’ll be stuck with him one way or the other, so I want to make the best out of it. And I surely don’t want to give him any reason to persuade you to kick me out of your life.”

Pondering, I dropped my gaze to my feet. “I don’t know, Robby. I suppose it might help if you got to know each other a little better. Like I said, you’re quite different – almost opposites, actually – so I think Will’s having a hard time believing that your intentions are pure, because he wouldn’t have thought like you himself. He’s very suspicious. He doesn’t trust anyone other than himself.”

“A cynic?”

“Absolutely.”

A humourless laugh escaped him. “That’s funny. I’m a complete idealist.”

My lips tucked up as I met his eyes. “I know.”

He released a loud sigh. “Suppose I’ll just have to try and build a bridge with him. Tomorrow would be a good place to start.”

“Yeah, about tomorrow...” I grimaced. “I meant to tell you that I’d appreciate it if we didn’t interact that much in front of him.”

He raised a brow at me. “After what you’ve just told me, I’m not surprised in the least. I’ll keep my distance.”

“Thank you.”

Some silence lapsed before he said, “I find it weird that you’re into that sort of man. You’ve never struck me as the type of woman who fancies possessive men. I mean you’re about as liberal as it gets, and you haven’t got a jealous bone in your body. I just can’t seem to understand why someone like you, who prizes freedom above anything else, would want to be with a man who tries to limit it?”

I chuckled. “Robby, I’m not in love with him for his territorial tendencies. In fact, I consider them his biggest flaw. But he compensates in other departments. I’m in love with him for his wit, his intellect, and just his personality in general. He challenges me to grow and see things from a different perspective. I learn a lot from him. And the irony of it all is that William probably considers my liberal tendencies to be my biggest flaw.”

“You’re a weird couple.”

An involuntary chuckle escaped me. “We are.”

“Good for you, though. If you learn from each other, I mean. That’s the sort of relationship I’d want as well. To help each other grow.”

“Then why do you want me?”

He passed me a winsome grin that told me I’d just propelled him into remembering something pleasant. “Cara, I’ve learned several things from you. For starters, I wasn’t inclined to have a casual and open sexual arrangement with anyone before you came along. I wanted the conventional relationship. But you were irresistible, so I changed my ways, and I learned a lot from it.”

“I never knew that.”

“That’s not so weird when I’ve never told you.”

“Sometimes, I find it irritating that you’re so reserved.”

A chortle slipped out of him. “Sorry. It’s just how I work. I try to open up, though. And I dare say I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”

“You have. Marginally.”

“See? You’ve taught me to do that as well.”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re giving me too much credit. Anyway, we need to be on our way. We’re already running late.”

“After you, my lady,” he joked and gestured down the street.

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