Part Twenty Nine
Adam took her hand and smiled, “you look exhausted!”
Laura smiled, “I am frazzled, emotionally.”
He could see quite clearly the effect the evening had had on her, Adam couldn’t fight the protective urge to look after her, though he was trying desperately. “I have an idea...coffee, a quiet table in the private bar upstairs?”
She nodded, “sounds like heaven.”
Half an hour later she was sat in a comfortable Chesterfield chair in front of a small table, her gifts beside her, Adam was coming across the room with a tray of coffee and small light pastries. As he deposited the tray and started to pour, she smiled at him, “there’s no way I’d have coped tonight if you hadn’t been there!”
He laughed, sitting opposite her, “as soon as Elaine contacted me I intended to be there, but you never mentioned it! I know it’s not really your thing, but you were amazing, so gracious, so honest.”
Shrugging she evaded his eyes, “not really. I still don’t think I did anything exceptional. I mean I’m glad that John didn’t die, but...”
Adam smiled, “Laura, I wish you didn’t belittle yourself so much, you undervalue everything you do. You don’t talk about your work to your parents, they don’t know your entrepreneurial skills, that you’ve set up your own business, it may be ‘only’ dog walking,” he made quote marks with his hands to emphasise the point, “but it is still opportunistic and forward thinking. You’ve epitomised all that is supply and demand! Then there’s the fact that you work twelve hours plus a day, that cafe opens at six every day...at the latest! It may not be the same life as your father has, or maybe dreamed for you, but if tonight proves nothing else, you have a greater value than so many others. That family will think of you as their guardian angel for as many years as they all live, and very few people are thought of that way.”
She sighed and closed her eyes, “it’s easy for you Adam, you know what you want, you have direction. I have none of that...I don’t know anything anymore, and I suddenly realise how fraught my life is. Tonight, it made me proud I suppose, but it’s a fleeting moment...”
Sipping his coffee he had to pause to digest that, “what’s changed Laura? You’ve always loved what you do. You love Wales, the cafe, the surf, the dogs...You’ve set up a life that you love and it gives you rewards. Why are you suggesting that isn’t enough?”
Her eyes still closed she dropped her head back to rest on the chair behind her, so that he couldn’t see her face, “I’m twenty eight and I work for my rent, I have no stability. Maybe I’m just realising that...”
Adam groaned, “is this about Ben getting married? What will you do? Still live with them?”
Snapping her head up she opened her eyes to stare at him, “he’s not coming back, they’re not coming back! He wants to sell everything...” There was so much emotion in her voice that it almost broke Adam.
“Shit!” he leaned forward, “what will you do?”
Her laugh was harsh with irony, “what can I do? I could beg Daddy to loan me the money...he would I know, but the business has taken three of us working for pittance to break even. We do it because we like the lifestyle and the freedom that it brings, but it was never the most lucrative. I can’t ask him to invest in something that is closed half the year, that is a lifestyle more than a business, and who can I expect to work for the salary I have? So I don’t know what I’ll do Adam, I’m twenty eight with no experience, I’m hardly the next Apprentice candidate! It’s all I know, and all I’ve wanted. And in not very long it’ll all be over.”
It was rare in life that he felt helpless, but as he watched her reach for the mug of coffee and take a drink, he realised he had no answer for her. He could invest in those businesses, he had enough disposable capital, hell it was nothing compared to the recent deals he’d brokered, but she was right, it was hardly a sound decision, and he knew she didn’t need that kind of bail out. She had her parents, but he couldn’t imagine her living with them full time, after all her mother was a glamorous socialite, flitting between events in the cocoon Stafford had created for her. Hardly the place for Laura, rebellious, beautifully independent Laura.
“Come to LA,” he’d offered her a trip before, but she could come for longer, there was an attraction between them that he didn’t want to fight, but he knew that Laura wasn’t comfortable with it...yet, but she didn’t have to stay with him. “See what happens, I’ve got an apartment I never use on Venice, I’m not suggesting you stay with me in my house, just come use my apartment, take stock. Come over, take a break, it’s a great place for a vacation...I can speak to my lawyers, see if there’s any way you can get a work visa, the coast is you Laura, exactly what you’d love!”
Her eyes widened, and he knew she was intrigued, “I don‘t know Adam, I’m not a charity case...”
“And I’m not ‘Save the Children’! I’m just saying give it a thought. OK?”
When she nodded in a surprisingly amenable way, he refused to take confidence from that, the one thing he knew was Laura could bite if she was backed into a corner!
“When are they getting married?” Adam asked, not wanting to change the subject but knowing they were at a dead end.
“Six months according to Ben, what’s February like in Hawaii?”
Adam thought for a minute, “I went to Hawaii in late January a couple of years ago, the surf is great, and it’s warm but not oppressive. You’ll love it! After all you’ve got first class flights to get there now!”
She grinned, “you’re right, I do! Did you like Hawaii? I’ve never been, though it looks amazing! Alana told so many fantastic stories...”
He nodded, “it’s cool, I like it there, by good buddy Marco goes several times a year...he says business, but the surf is the main thing. You’ll love it.”
“Marco?” she looked at him, “you’ve never mentioned any of your mates before.”
He shrugged, “men don’t do talking! I have business acquaintances, golf associates and surf pals; I don’t have a friend who will reveal all my inner secrets like your Michaela, ok?”
Laura laughed, “now THIS is the first time I’ve seen you looking nervous, do you have a lot of skeletons in your closet Mr Purcell?”
Adam was more than willing to take her ridicule if it meant seeing her smile again, he hated seeing her sad, especially when he could do nothing to change it. And did he have any real skeletons? He didn’t think so, he’d not lived the perfect life, but he had nothing that he was completely ashamed of.
“If you ever meet my mother she’ll be happy to fill you in on every faux pas I’ve ever made, and I bet she has the obligatory naked bath photo, or embarrassing fashion disaster to share. What parent doesn’t?”
She laughed, “I was so overly fashionable as a kid that I looked ridiculous all the time...that’s my mother the fashonista!” When he laughed she asked, “How is your mother?”
Adam drained his coffee, then settled back in the chair, “chemo’s finished, all treatment, she’s on some meds, the doctor’s are planning to scan and stuff next month. She’s a long way off the all clear, but things are looking better.”
Laura nodded, “that’s good. You must be relieved.”
Nodding, he topped up both their mugs with hot strong coffee. “Of course I am, it’s great news.” he sighed, “it’s been a crazy few months.”
Laura couldn’t imagine being Adam, going through all he had, she couldn’t contemplate finding out your father isn’t your father, and then within weeks before discovering who your real father is your mother being diagnosed with cancer. Reaching out a hand she placed it over his, “sometimes I forget what you’ve had to deal with lately.”
He laughed, “there are silver linings to every cloud...six months ago I had different parents, but I hadn’t met you, had never surfed off the Welsh coast, and I’d never been on the London Eye at night...”
It was the first reference to that magical night they’d spent together and Laura blushed, “Adam...I...”
He smiled, “Laura I’m not going to throw myself at you. I know that we want the same thing, but I respect that you are fighting that!”
It was such an overconfident comment that she burst out laughing, “really?”
Grinning Adam leaned forwards, his elbows on his knees, “I know that you want me as much as I want you, but I also know that you are the most stubborn woman I’ve ever met, so I have that to contend with.”
“You’re wrong!” Her reply was a retort that sounded petty to her own ears, but he was right, on both counts. When he merely laughed she fumed, “we’re friends Adam, I’m not sitting here desperate for anything more than that.”
Laughing himself he looked at her for a moment, “so if I kiss you it’ll mean nothing? Is that what you’re saying? Ice maiden can resist?”
He had her. Laura had to commend the way he’d wound her into a corner, if she refused the challenge he’d claim he was right that she was too scared to kiss him, too scared of her own and his reaction, if he kissed her...she shook her head, she had no confidence that she could manage that. Why did his challenge matter so much? Why did she need to beat Adam all the time? Her independence annoyed her some days!
Offering a half smile she stood, “I could kiss you easily and walk away because it means nothing!”
Crossing her fingers behind her back she leaned forward and brushed her lips against his, then stood back upright fighting the weak legs and the heat pulsing through her at the thought of what those lips were capable of. “See!”
Laughing he jumped up, “you call that a kiss?”
In an almost theatrical fashion he tipped her back over his outstretched arm so that she was almost horizontal in front of him, then he waggled his eyebrows menacingly. It was the last conscious thought she had before his lips found hers.