Chapter 6 : Madelyn
Content Warning: Comment about self harm.
Chapter 6 : Madelyn
Friday, July 16th, 2021
“I like to look at nice things. Is that not allowed?”
I had no response to that, so instead, I just looked back down at my lap with a slightly shy smile across my face.
I still wasn’t exactly sure who this man was, but I couldn’t deny that a very large part of me was curious by him.
Or maybe I just wasn’t used to people as attractive as Caleb to be so openly flirtatious with me.
At my slight uncertainty around him and lack of response, the blond tilted his head in an expression that looked a lot like interest, a few strands of his hair brushing against his forehead at the action.
“I’m sorry about your breakup,” Comes genuine words, ones that I didn’t expect for him to say.
My eyes flicked up to Caleb’s at that, and while I saw his usual eased confidence in his body language, I also saw that he wasn’t simply using that knowledge as small talk.
“Thanks, but you don’t have to be.” I say, instinctively making sure to keep the ever so faint bruising across my knuckles hidden from the overhead lights of the cafe, “I’m not.”
My response was one that surprised myself a little bit, but it couldn’t have been more true.
As much as it hurts now, at least I’ll be able to move on to hopefully something better one day.
“You seem nervous nonetheless,” Caleb comments, and while I know he can’t see me picking at my thumbnail under the table, something still must have given my anxiousness away.
That didn’t mean I was going to admit it to a stranger, though, even if he was the one causing me to shift in my chair.
Giving him a small, innocent shrug of my shoulders, I just left things at that.
Caleb, however, didn’t.
“Anything I can do to help?” He asked with a calming sort of dominance that told me he didn’t buy the attempt of brushing his words off.
Surprisingly, that kind of made me feel a little more at ease.
“I’m just naturally stressed sometimes.” I deflect, unsure if there was some sort of hidden meaning behind his question.
I couldn’t exactly understand Caleb, though oddly, he seemed a little familiar in a way that didn’t make a lot of sense.
“And what has you stressed?”
I was tempted to tell him it was none of his business—to ask why he cared when I’m sure he had much better things to do than talk to someone who interrupted his lunch visit.
I took a breath to give him a vague answer, but my attention was quickly snagged at the sight of a full-handed Jolene walking towards us with a platter of freshly baked pastries and muffins from the front.
“Sorry that took me so long.” She huffed as she placed the sweets down on the table, “I’ll be back in thirty seconds with the lemonade.”
My eyes followed her movement to turn back to the counter, but I stopped her before she could even take a full step.
“Why don’t you let me get it for you?” I offer, even if it was more so an excuse for myself to breathe, “It’s the least I can do.”
I couldn’t explain the strange pull I felt to Caleb, let alone the way his constant attentiveness made me feel, but I was a little on edge because of it.
It was like he’s been observing my every action since we’ve been introduced, and acts as though he already knows everything there is to know about me from just a few minutes of my company.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Jolene ruffles as if my words were uncalled for, “I’ll be right back.”
Before I can seize an opportunity to protest, she’s moving away in the opposite direction.
I don’t know why, but there was something about Caleb that’s working me up.
He radiates some sort of unexplainable control that makes me feel both intimidated and drawn in at the same time. Either way, it was messing with my head.
“What is it, darling? Not enjoying my company?” Caleb teases the second Jolene is out of hearing range, a nervous flush making its way onto my cheeks.
I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying this or not.
Though, in response, I only shot him a small glance before grabbing one of the croissants Jolene had brought over.
The light, buttery flavour had my stomach satisfied instantly, the food a much better option than explaining to Caleb that my heart was currently beating faster from his presence alone.
“I haven’t known you long enough to figure that out yet.” I answer after a moment, briefly sucking just the tip of my index finger into my mouth to clean away some of the crumbs from my mostly finished pastry.
I regretted the action almost instantly, though.
Considering how put together Caleb seemed, I probably just embarrassed myself for not using a napkin, and the thought had me dropping my hand and glancing up to look at him.
Still, he maintained that intense, confusing stare of his, only now it wasn’t on my eyes, but rather the curve of my lips.
For the first time since I’ve met this man, he seemed a little bit spaced out.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the expression on Caleb’s face right now, or how his jawline became more prominent as it flexed in... restraint, maybe?
Either way, it ended in me mumbling, “Stop looking at me like that.”
I really shouldn’t like the way his stare made me feel as much as I do, especially considering I came here to discuss my breakup, but I did.
I did, and I needed it to stop.
“And how exactly am I looking at you, darling?”
A steadying inhale was breathed through my nose at his words, my body reacting to the way his lips curved upwards into an easy smile.
His eyes followed, meeting mine and showing both a hint of challenge and slight surprise I spoke up.
What was worse about that was that we both knew exactly how he was looking at me.
Why does he feel the need to keep asking questions he already knows the answer to?
Ignoring the butterflies that arose at his nickname for me and choosing to not respond to his most previous words, I suddenly became very interested in everything other than the blue eyes and appealingly soft waves of hair in front of me.
“I asked you a question, Madelyn.” Caleb doesn’t allow me to close him off, his unrelenting calm composure never breaking or revealing even an inch of how he was really feeling, “I highly suggest you answer it.”
His tone for the second half was demanding, yet not in a way that made him seem desperate for my answer.
No, Caleb’s words were laced with dominance and amusement, seemingly having no doubt he would get what he wanted from me, even if I myself couldn’t figure it out.
Despite the way his voice sounded as he spoke, and despite the knot slowly tightening deep in my core, I huge part of me remembered he was a stranger and I didn’t owe him anything.
What makes him think he can tell me what to do?
“Or what?” I raised an eyebrow back in challenge, allowing Caleb to see the defiance in my body language.
What would he possibly do?
This time it’s him who doesn’t respond. Instead, I watch as his jaw clenches slightly as if he’s holding himself back from saying something he shouldn’t.
“Alright, don’t answer.” Caleb settles on, his grin causing my body to shift under his gaze, “More time for me to tell you just how pretty I think you are.”
Just like that, my confidence in holding a normal conversation flew out the window as surprise rolled through me.
How in the hell can a person be so flirtatious yet controlling as the man across the table?
“Jolene was right.” I said under my breath, more so to myself than anything else.
I didn’t catch how bad that sounded until it was too late, though.
“About me being a manwhore?” Caleb’s eyebrows raised at me in question, for the second time today showing I’ve caught him off guard as an amused, yet calm reaction appeared on his face.
I didn’t mean it like that, but I only shrugged as if to say otherwise.
“I’m not used to people flirting with me is all.” I simply respond, seriously beginning to wonder where the cafe owner was at.
I swear Jolene wasn’t at the till, however, Caleb’s company was shockingly serving as a great distraction from all of my stress right now.
Both on the eye and the brain.
“Didn’t know we were lying to each other now.” Caleb tilted his head, reaching out for the muffin in front of me and beginning to promptly peel away the wrapping.
“Who said I was lying?” I ask, confused at his words or rather what they insinuated.
The look the blond shoots me copies my expression.
“Didn’t you just get out of a long term relationship?” He takes a small bite of his muffin before placing it down at my nod in confirmation, “And he never flirted with you?”
“Well he did at first.” I said, remembering the way he used to be and how smooth he was when he tried to buy me a drink that first night we met.
It still hurt to think about him, but Caleb was kind of distracting me from that pain, even now.
A hint of disbelief crossed his features as he looked over me again like it was for the first time before his collected smirk returned.
“That’s quite a shame.” Is all he says, his eyes making me feel as though he were trying to touch my body with his gaze alone.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so warm or my stomach flutter as much as it was now.
I knew I was just out of a relationship, but the man in front of me not only made me feel a little aroused, but also a little bit calmer after a really shitty week.
Caleb seemed to offer undeniable sin, and I was pretty damn tempted to fall into it.
“Cal.” Jolene’s voice sterns as she finally walks over with a tray of lemonade. “Stop making our company all flustered and go find someone else to prey on.”
“He wasn’t—” I start.
“Why not? She’s cute when she gets flustered.” Caleb interrupts.
I have seriously never met a stranger as forward as the man across from me. When I go to look at him like he’s crazy, he just smiles.
For a second, I forget the whole reason why I’m here, but once Jolene sits down and turns to face me, I know that I’m in for a long talk.
“Do you want him to go?” She asks me, referring to Caleb.
I knew they were talking before I came in and I don’t want to be rude and kick him out.
“No, he’s fine I guess.”
I see in my peripheral vision his eyebrows rise at the ‘I guess’ part, but I don’t look to see his face.
“Good. Now tell me what happened.”
Straight to the point I see.
I’m not sure why I’d expect anything else from Jolene, and that realization brought a small smile to my face.
“Listen, it’s honestly not that big of a deal. Believe it or not, crazier things have happened in the last three days than my ex cheating on me.”
“No, I’m not accepting that as an answer. You—”
“You got cheated on?” Caleb asks in a tone I couldn’t read, but it sounded a little like anger.
Why would he care?
Turning my head in his direction, I find him looking at me as though he were trying to make sense of this simple situation.
“He’s a fucking idiot then.” He says, surprising me.
“It’s fine.” I lie, “It’s really not that big of a deal anyways.”
The alternative is explaining how I drove myself into a panic attack and cried for what felt like forever, heartbroken over someone who doesn’t deserve my tears.
“Not that big of a deal?” Jolene says in disbelief.
“Look, I’m good.” I reassure, “I got my first client since moving here this morning and I’m finally feeling a little better after a crazy weekend.”
“No, nothing is good. I was able to accept the fact that he was never able to please you in the bedroom, but cheating is a whole other level of pathetic.”
“Oh my god, Jolene.” I grumbled in embarrassment, sinking slightly lower in my seat. I can’t believe she just voiced that in front of Caleb.
I couldn’t bring my eyes to meet his, but I knew his were on me.
“It wasn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be.”
“Oh yes it was. There’s a reason I call him Vanilla and you know it.”
My god. I’m very much regretting my choice to let Caleb stay right about now.
“Yeah, well I’m starting to think it was just me and not him, because he didn’t seem too vanilla when I walked in on him a few days ago.”
“Or maybe he was just a dickless asshole who didn’t know what you needed.” Caleb argues, and this time, I found the courage to look at him, but I almost wish I didn’t.
Something had changed in those beautiful eyes of his, the once light blue irises now much darker. I can’t help but wonder why.
“You’ve sure got the dickless part right.” Jolene speaks from beside me. “I just can’t believe...” I hear her start, but lose focus when I feel the light brush of a leg against mine.
Snapping my head to Caleb, he shows no indication that he meant to do that.
Uncrossing my leg to move it away, I rule it out as an accident and return my focus back to Jolene. But, within seconds, I feel another movement, this time at my ankle.
“... he doesn’t ...” I catch Jolene say in the background, but I am once again completely lost in Caleb’s touch. He’s now looking at me with a challenge in his eyes, and there’s no doubt that what he’s doing is indeed intentional.
Trailing his polished shoe up a little higher along the inside of my leg, his gaze keeps me pinned, demanding my attention. There was an unspoken statement in his eyes, as if he were daring me to move away. To stop the action that is making me incredibly turned on right now. I should have, but I didn’t.
As if sensing my newfound determination, a devilish smirk appears on his face. At that moment, I knew I was done for.
Continuing his path upwards, my breath hitches as he meets to where both of my knees are pressing tightly together in a desperate attempt to relieve the pressure he has created. Pushing in between them, he spreads them ever so slightly, gaining better access to my heat.
How far was he wanting to take this?
This felt like a game of chicken, except unfortunately for me, I could feel I was about to back down. I couldn’t do this, and Caleb realized it too. Retreating his touch, I felt a slight weight lift off of my chest, but not as much as I felt the consuming need for him to continue.
My gaze instantly fell to the floor, embarrassment flooding through me. What was I even thinking? He is a complete stranger for heaven’s sake. Not to mention that Jolene is sitting right beside me, still going on about the many ways she was going to hurt Noah.
Bringing myself to quickly glance at him, I expect him to be angry at me for backing off, but instead, a smug look dances across his features. What the hell was he proud of? The fact that I was once again embarrassed for the millionth time today?
However, it drops when his eyes flick to behind me.
“Hey, Madelyn?” Caleb suddenly says, interrupting Jolene’s commentary.
“Hm?” I respond.
“Your ex wouldn’t happen to be the angry man outside who looks just about ready to kill me, would it?”
“What?” I gasp. Sure enough, when I turn around, I see a very pissed off Noah shooting daggers at Caleb through the window.
“Oh, hell no.” Jolene mutters angrily as she moves to get up.
“Jolene, don’t.” I say, standing as well.
“He’s more of an idiot than I thought if he thinks he can come around here after what he did.”
“It’s fine, I’ll get him to leave.” I insist, moving to go towards the door.
“Not so fast darling.” Caleb says sliding to the right and pulling me to sit beside him on the long booth seat. One of his strong arms wraps around my waist, moving me closer to his body.
“What the hell are you doing?” I complain, squirming in his hold. “Caleb!”
My heart races at the sight of Jolene already out the door, but it nearly explodes at the feeling of Caleb’s large fingers wrapping around my thigh. It wasn’t anything intruding or crossing any boundaries, but just enough to keep me grounded.
“Calm down. One, this will make him jealous. Two, if someone is that much of a moron to cheat on a girl like you, then he could benefit from Jolene setting him straight.”
His voice that close to my ear causes an involuntary shiver to pass through my body. God, I just hope he didn’t notice.
“And relax yourself. I can feel how tense you are.” He adds.
I don’t though.
Looking out the window, I see Noah is no longer looking at me, and instead yelling at Jolene. If it were anyone else, I would have already been out there to intervene, but if anyone could hold their own, it was Jolene.
That still didn’t change how much I hated this though. I should have just kept my mouth shut. It’s always easier when I keep things to myself. Seeing what a mess I’ve caused outside with Noah only adds to my regret. After all, he’s here because of me.
“Why are you so stressed right now?” Caleb asks from my side. His thumb starts to rub back and forth along my leg, trying to calm me. Honestly, it kind of helped.
“I’m always stressed about something.” I sigh, but I feel myself relax slightly by his touch.
“Maybe you just need to find yourself an outlet.”
“Mhm. You know, something that makes you happy.”
I have an outlet, but the cause of the scars on my inner thighs is not the answer Caleb’s looking for. So instead, I lie, “I can’t think of anything in particular.”
“Nothing strong enough to be considered as a stress reliever.” I pause for a beat. “But what about you? Maybe you can give me some inspiration.”
He stays quiet.
“Sorry darling, I just don’t think you’d find much interest in how I let off steam.”
There he goes assuming that he knows me again. “Try me.” I press.
Leaning into my ear, I can feel his warm breath tickling my skin, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to rise.
“No.” He breathes, his voice low, but stern.
“And why not?” I retort, becoming increasingly aware of the tension that has formed between us.
The air feels thicker, and every touch on my leg feels intensified to the point where it’s almost too much to handle.
“Because Madelyn.” He says, his grip on my thigh tightening ever so slightly. “Pretty things like you don’t belong in my world.”
Just as I go to ask what the hell that means, the sound of the door opening snaps my attention to the entrance. Jolene storms in, and Noah is now nowhere to be seen.
The temporary distraction of Caleb and I’s conversation comes to an end, my guilt taking its place.
“Jolene, I’m so sorry for bringing him here. He—”
“My dear, you didn’t do a damn thing other than have really shitty taste in men. Don’t you ever apologize for that boy’s tantrums.” She sighs. “I’m honestly glad you’re done with him now, so you can also be out of that crappy house of yours.”
Oh my god, the house. The same one that still held all of the photography equipment I needed for Sunday’s shoot.
“I’m—” I started, about to apologize again, but caught myself before the words slipped out. “It was really nice seeing you again, but I just realized I have to go. I’m meeting a client in about a half hour and I still need to pick up some stuff from my old place.”
“You’re going back to Noah’s? Are you insane?” Jolene scolded, following my movements as I stood and moved out from behind the table.
“I need my things for the weekend, so I may as well just get it over with now.”
“I’m driving you then.” Caleb offers, he too getting up.
I appreciate it, but I already know I can’t accept. The thought of being that close and alone with him did not seem like a good choice for my emotions right now.
“Thanks, but I have my own car.”
“You can’t go back to your ex’s house on your own, especially when he’s this angry.”
“I can handle myself just fine.” I protest, slightly annoyed at how he thinks I need him to protect me. Because I don’t.
His jaw clenches, showing that he was also a bit frustrated.
“Mads, you really should just go with Caleb. Noah is not in the right headspace right now and it’s not going to hurt to have someone else there.” Jolene intervenes.
“Why don’t you come with me then?”
“Because I’m a fragile, sixty year old woman. You really think I could manage Noah on my own?”
We both knew she could, and I didn’t buy a single part of what she just said.
“It’s fine. I’ll go on my own. It’s seriously not that big of a deal.”
“Why are you fine with Jolene going with you, but not me?” Caleb asks.
Because you’re extremely attractive, and it’s taking everything in me to stop myself from throwing myself at you.
I don’t say this out loud of course and instead settle on, “I don’t even know you.”
“Yeah? Last I remember, that didn’t stop you from letting me tease you under the table earlier.” He counters.
Holy shit. He did not just say that in front of Jolene.
“Um...” I shoot her a panicked look.
“As if I didn’t already know.” She shrugs, completely unfazed.
Oh god. That only made it worse.
And Caleb, that smug asshole, just stood there with his arms crossed, staring at me as if he couldn’t figure me out.
Of course you can’t. We’re strangers.
“Listen, I gotta go.” I say, looking down at my feet and moving past Caleb’s large body to grab my purse. Pulling out a twenty dollar bill, I place it on the table to pay for the remaining untouched food and drinks.
“I really appreciate it, but you should be paid for the things you work hard to make.” I argue at Jolene’s protest against the money.
After a moment, she just sighs, knowing I will never budge on this. “Come here, kid.”
Moving towards her, she surprises me when she pulls me into a tight hug.
“You’re a good person, you know that?”
“Thank you.” I mutter. I’ve never been good with compliments, but they always mean the world to me when I receive them.
“You’re going to text me when you get there and again when you leave. Got it?”
“Good, now go on. Wouldn’t want to miss that meeting of yours.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow. I promise.” Pulling back from her embrace, I turn towards the infuriatingly handsome man before me.
“Caleb.” I say in goodbye.
“Darling.” He smiles.
And there’s that name again that never fails to cause my heart to race.
I can’t explain why, but I have a strong feeling that this won’t be the last time seeing Caleb Harris.
- End of Chapter 6 -
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