M A X
"You need to spit it out," Charlotte commands, lifting a silk shirt from the rack. She examines it closely, holding it up against her tiny frame. "You have a regular thing going with Cain, don't you?"
I nod my approval as she lifts the shirt up questionably, my eyes avoiding making contact with hers. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to talk to Charlotte about Cain- I did- it was difficult because I didn't know what the hell was going on myself.
I turn to examine a rack full of dresses idly, my fingers skimming the metal of the hangers as I scrunch up my nose. Not one of the dresses would suit me.
"No, I don't," I finally answer, aware that I sound like I'm lying. "Well- we kinda did, but then I stopped it."
Charlotte is watching me, her eyes bulging with excitement. The girl adores gossip. Her lips curl into a wicked smile, before she pushes her arm through mine.
"Stopped it? Why would you do that if it was mutually beneficial?"
I smile to myself, avoiding her penetrative gaze as we continue to browse the clothes. Charlotte releases my arm in favour of a pair of strappy sandals, and I pray they distract her for long enough to forget the entire conversation.
"Because, Char, I don't want to end up falling for Cain Harvey," I admit, biting my lip. "That guy is a nightmare, one I don't want to have. Anyway, I'm seeing Andy again soon."
Charlotte locates a box of sandals in her size, and promptly walks towards the till, glancing at my empty hands.
"You and Andy are dating, right?"
I'm not sure how to answer that, considering the fact we had only been on two dates. Charlotte rolls her eyes at my hesitation, before turning her attention to the girl behind the counter.
"Well, sort of," I say, picking up a keyring in the shape of a pair of lips. "I'm seeing him next week."
The store assistant hands Charlotte her bag, and we make our way out into the shopping centre. My stomach rumbles, and I suggest a coffee and cake stop off. Moments later we are seated in the busy coffee shop, but I'm more interested in the coffee and walnut cake before me.
"So, you and Cain stopped...your sessions?" Charlotte grins, licking her frothy covered spoon.
"He isn't my therapist, Char."
We both laugh then, but I know I have to lower my guard. Charlotte was my best friend, and I had to talk to someone about the enigma that was my life.
"He stayed over, after," I explain, as Charlotte's eyes widen. "We had lazy morning sex."
Charlotte sucks in a breath, before releasing it as a moan.
"I love lazy morning sex," she breathes dreamily.
"Yes, but you're married," I point out, pushing another forkful of cake into my mouth. "It's not usual for one night stands to do that."
Charlotte nods in agreement, reaching over to steal a stray walnut that had tumbled from it's sweet position.
"Was Cain ok with no more sexy Max time?"
My cheeks flush and she gasps.
"For the love of God, woman, tell me what I need to know!"
"Don't tell Harry," I command, and she makes a strained face. I raise my eyebrows defiantly.
"I won't," she promises, reluctance echoing in her words.
"He asked me out on a date."
"FUCK OFF!" Charlotte gasps, her voice booming around the busy shop. I shoot her a deadly look, and try to avoid the disapproving stares from all around us.
"Charlotte!" I hiss, closing my eyes. "Keep your voice down!"
"But-" she begins, her mouth morphing into a wide smile. "Cain asked you out on a date?"
Even I can't hide my smile then, and we exchange a look that means neither of us know what to say. Charlotte sits back in her chair, her shoulders sagging as she whistles.
"He must have it bad."
"Charlotte, he likes the sex. He wants more of it, so he will do whatever I want to get it," I summarise, polishing off my cake. "Andy, on the other hand-"
"No," Charlotte cuts me off, waving her hand with disinterest. "Andy can wait. Cain, however, does not date. I think you might be the one woman-"
"Now who is talking crap?" I exclaim, waving my hand in front of her eyes. "I've just told you why he has asked me out."
"Dont take this the wrong way, sweets, but that man can get good sex wherever he wants. I don't care how amazing your snatch is."
I snort with laughter at her choice of words, but refuse to give her any further credit.
"We don't get on, so it will be a shit date. I'll probably end up slapping him," I frown, sipping my coffee. It burnt my lips slightly, making me wince.
"You're scared," Charlotte says, her eyes fixed on mine. "You're scared of falling for him."
I scoff as I shake my head.
"I am not. Anyway, Andy is the complete opposite of Cain-"
"Good. That makes it more interesting. Does Cain know you're dating Andy?"
I shift on my chair, chewing on my cheek as I nod.
"Yikes. I bet he hated that!"
I shrug, remembering the look in Cain's eyes as he'd studied Andy with annoyance.
"Maybe," I confess.
"Does Andy know you are going on a date with Cain?"
I shook my head, and Charlotte grins triumphantly.
"I love that you've been honest with Cain and not Andy."
"This is why I don't tell you things! You're biased."
Charlotte gazes at me, shaking her head.
"You're going on a date with Cain. What the fuck are you going to wear?"
I had thought about this already- and I'd decided that I was not going sexy. He could have me in my lounge wear, and deal with it.
"Char, can we change the subject? How's Harry?" I plead, wrapping my fingers around the coffee mug.
Charlotte sighs with irritation, but soon warms up to talking about her husband.
"He is still pissed about this case. They found the girls, but the guys running the operation are nowhere to be found. He just wants to send them down."
I couldn't imagine being a wife of a detective. Charlotte was incredibly patient and understanding, plus she said absence made the relationship even better. Still, I didn't envy her. Harry was married to his job.
"It's scary to think that's happening here," I shudder.
Charlotte nods in agreement.
"I know. Like, who is paying these poor girls? It's abuse!"
The conversation continues for a while, before Charlotte drags me to another store.
"You're fuelled on cake, and you need two date outfits!"
"Char, I'm a bookseller, not a film star," I remind her, as she shrugs.
"So? Your money works just the same, honey."
My phone vibrates in my pocket, and I drag it out to see it is a message from Cain.
Cain: Hey beautiful.
"Why are you smiling like that?" Charlotte demands, peering over my shoulder at my screen. "Oh my God."
Max: Hi, Romeo. Are there any women left alive in your hometown?
Cain: Don't know, haven't looked. What are you doing? Other than missing me, I mean.
Max: I'm out with Charlotte, clothes shopping. For dates.
Cain: Dates, plural? Hmm. You still seeing that guy? Don't break my heart, Maxie.
My fingers are flying over the screen, when suddenly my phone lights up with another text message.
Andy: Max, I just wanted to tell you that I'm thinking about you. You're the reason I can't stop smiling. Andy x
"Ohhh, my God, you have it all going on!" Charlotte hoots, her eyes shining with excitement.
Max: Hi Andy! Thank you, you are too sweet. Max x
Max: Yes, I'm still seeing Andy. Is that a problem?
Cain: Only for him when you drop him for me.
I shake my head at his arrogance, whilst Charlotte swoons over it.
"I love this! Jealous Cain is hot."
"Jealous Cain is like a child," I mutter, "He just wants to win the prize."
Max: You are so arrogant.
Cain: I'm confident- there's a difference. I doubt you have the connection with him that you have with me. Anyway, did I tell you I can play the guitar?
Max: Is there any end to your talents?
Cain: Yeah. Catching bad guys isn't performing too well lately.
Max: You'll find them.
Cain: I knew you liked me.
Charlotte studies me briefly, before leaning close to my ear.
"Have you and Andy-"
"No!" I cry out, half laughing. "He has been nothing short of gentlemanly."
"So who are you dating next? Cain or Andy?"
I frown then, my heart skipping a beat when I realise who it is.
"Cain," I whisper.
"Good. Excellent. Bravo. I hope he doesn't fuck it up," Charlotte grins excitedly.
Max: See you on Saturday. What time?
Cain: 8am? Breakfast in bed?
Cain: Be ready for 11am. Block out the rest of the day, and evening. You're mine.
Max: Just for the day, yes.
Cain: Of course, darling.
He was so annoying.