Tattoos, Tiaras & Thanksgiving

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Chapter 8 - Secrets roung the campfire

Callum

Last night’s horseback ride to the Plantation nearly backfired on me. No, scratch that. I let the opportunity to kiss Alex slip through my fingers.

She seemed as if though she wanted me to kiss her and the bloody idiot that I was, I froze.

I was so annoyed with myself. What was wrong with me?

An absolutely stunning girl was willing to kiss me, and I couldn’t be bothered.

I tossed and turned all of last night, dreaming up different ways I wanted the night to end. But no amount of replays could change what happened.

I had to fix things. I really did like Alex. I more than liked Alex, I was attracted to her. Even though I knew there was no chance in hell that we would work as a couple. Everyone was right about me; I was boring and plain. And Alex was fiery, exuberant and daring. She wasn’t afraid of being herself in a world that wanted her to be someone else.

I sat up in my bed, glancing over at the alarm clock on the bedside cabinet. It was only seven am and I was wide awake. Maybe a jog around the plantation would help me take my mind off things.

I decide to get out of bed. And low and behold when I swing my legs over the side of the bed and lift the duvet, my brain hadn’t been the only thing affected by Alex. The huge bulge in my Calvin Klein boxers was proof of that.

Great! I would need a cold shower too.

I head to the bathroom and get the shower running. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I let out a frustrated sigh “Dumb bastard!’

I splash some water across my face, to no avail… I still pretty much was a dumb bastard.

Getting into the shower, having the water run down my back, just dredged up more thoughts of last night. How we almost kissed… twice!

The problem with me and the problem with Alex was that she was an exceptionally pretty girl and my brain stopped functioning around really pretty girls.

A knock on my bedroom door distracts me from my inner self-loathing. My heart starts to race. Not sure if I half expected it to be Alex, because who else would knock?

Oh only… Carlotta, mum, dad… I rattle off the names in my head.

But when I hear my brother Finn’s voice yelling from the bedroom, I breathe a sigh of relief. I have to admit, I was fairly disappointed as well.

I grab a towel from the towel rack and wrap it around my waste. Finn had made himself comfortable in my room, sitting legs crossed on the couch in the far corner of the room… reading, would you believe, Anna Karenina. What was the point he wanted to prove?

“You either love Tolstoy or you hate him Finn… pick a side brother” I tease

I walk over to grab some underwear from a chest of drawers.

“A bit early for you to be up, isn’t it?”

“Pot… kettle… brother” he retorts without looking up from the book. “I’m bored… we should have one of those campfire things we always did when we were kids… maybe tonight?”

“That’s very random.”

“I want to spend some time with you Cal” he fakes a smile as he finally closes the book.

“Bullshit”

He laughs as he gets up from the couch and walks over to the window. I was puzzled as to why he opened the window seeing it was a couple degrees under outside, until he took a pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and proceeded to light one up. He sits on the window sill.

“Why do want to have a campfire Finn? What’s your real motive? And don’t give me any of that brotherly bonding crap”

I pull on a fresh pair of undies, followed by my grey sweatpants.

Finn smiles while puffing on his cigarette. “Oh, come on Cal… it’ll be fun. We’ll invite Carlotta… and Alex”

I raise an eyebrow. Now it all made perfect sense. This was Finn’s way of worming his way into Alex’s pants.

“Ah-ha… so this is about Alex then?”

Finn frowns as he looks over at me, “What about Alex? I just thought it’d be kinda Brokeback if it were just the two of us… but if you prefer…”

“Fine” I throw up my hands in submission.

I sit on the bed and pull on a pair of white socks and my running shoes.

“I think I’m dropping out of Stanford…” Finn changes the subject, “a couple of the guys want to head down to South America and explore the cannabis in Colombia… Is it Colombia? Or do they specialize in cocaine?”

I laugh, “That’s a conversation between you and dad I want a front row seat to.”

“I’m not afraid of dad” he says, defiant.

“You do know he’ll take the Maserati away and cut you off financially right?” I joke, still thinking that this was just one of Finn’s antics to get attention.

“Screw the Maserati… who needs cars anyways”

I sit up and look at Finn, not a hint of a smile on his face. He stares out with a pensive look on his face.

“You’re not serious are you Finn?”

He shrugs and flashes one of his trademark dimpled smiles. “Just thinking out loud I guess…”

I get up from the bed and pull my black t-shirt over my head. Finn gives me the once over.

“Where’re you going?”

“Going for a jog. Care to join me?”

He laughs as he dabs the cigarette before flicking it out the window.

“I’d sooner die… gonna go downstairs and catch up on my SpongeBob”

He jumps off the windowsill and heads for the door.

“Are you okay Finn? I mean… everything at school…”

He gives me a reassuring smile and a pat on the back. “Don’t worry… I’m just being me… trying to get a rise out of everyone… Be sure to invite the ladies to our campfire…”

He leaves, but seconds later peeks back in “… and arrange for firewood… and blankets… and marshmallows… I’ll bring my guitar and some bourbon” he winks before he leaves.

*****

It turned out the jog was just what I needed to clear my mind. It still didn’t get me to grow a pair though, as I asked Carlotta to invite Alex along to the campfire.

I wasn’t ready to face Alex yet. I knew it was going to be awkward.

I had everything ready just as Finn instructed me to do. I had the fire crackling, had a mega bag of marshmallows, and got some blankets and camp chairs… I even grabbed a bottle of dad’s chardonnay.

Standing by the fire watching the flames rise was soothing, so much so that I didn’t hear Alex walk up behind me.

I swear the touch of her hand on my shoulder scorched me more than the fire lit before me ever could.

“Hi…” she smiled up at me

Her smile turned my head to mush. “Hi…”

Things were definitely still awkward between us. Our greeting was filled with subtext.

Fortunately, Finn and Carlotta walked over and joined us.

Finn, as promised, had his guitar slung over his shoulder and a bottle of bourbon in his hand.

He made it look so effortless to be him, the eternal stud with not a care in the world. Most British men from upper class London wouldn’t dare wear their hair so long, walk out the door in such skin-tight jeans and have a body adorned with countless tattoos.

I could see why women loved my brother. He was the rebellious bad boy with killer charm to match.

Everyone got settled around the fire and things were pretty quiet, with Finn strumming his guitar in the background.

“Thanks for inviting us…” Carlotta broke the silence “Your mother told me you boys used to do this kind of thing a lot back in England…”

“Yeah…” Finn smirks “I loved the toasted marshmallows”

“What was home like?” Alex asks.

She looked so cosy snuggled underneath a blanket pulled up to her chin.

“Well winters were much like here… cold” Finn answers

I had yet to find my voice, quietly observing everyone… with particular interest in Alex. The firelight flickering in her eyes was sheer torture. Her dark brown locks hung loosely down her shoulders. Her mouth pouting around the wine glass from which she was slowly sipping dad’s prized chardonnay.

Finn turned out to be the only one drinking of his bourbon, so he didn’t bother with a glass and kept chugging it from the bottle.

“You’re so quiet Signore Callum…” Carlotta was the first one to notice how withdrawn I was from the conversation.

I caught Alex’s gaze, where she held me captive for several seconds. I force myself to look away, instead smiling at Carlotta.

“Just so nice and warm around the fire…” I lied.

“So how was your horseback ride around the Plantation last night?” Carlotta asks, obviously not aware of the awkward tension between me and Alex.

This sparks the interest of Finn.

“What horseback ride?”

It felt like the question was directed at me, but Finn’s eyes never left Alex. She looked nervous, like she’d been busted for doing something wrong.

Signore Callum took Alessa for a tour of the Plantation last night”

Carlotta was the only person oblivious to the piercing stares going around the fire.

“It was cool…” Alex answered “Now can we just drop it… and enjoy the night…”

The evening had taken a turn, everyone was on edge. For some reason Finn was shooting daggers in Alex’s direction. Carlotta crawled back into her shell and refrained from making any further conversation.

Alex switched over from the chardonnay to the bourbon.

It all felt a bit weird really. Carlotta only meant to keep the conversation flowing by bringing up last night. I understood why it was awkward between me and Alex, but why was Finn in such a flat spin about it.

Finn lit up a cigarette and started strumming on his guitar again. Alex stared at my brother with longing in her eyes. It didn’t make sense to me.

Why was he so upset? Why was she so concerned about the fact that he was upset?

Was there something going on between Alex and Finn? Surely not, Finn would’ve told me. We’ve always vowed that we will never fall in love with the same girl. And if we did, we would let her go because our bond was worth more than any girl.

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