Until Fountain Bridge
“Don’t feel bad, sweetheart. She started complaining the moment I picked her up. If I was rude, it was only in retaliation.”
I gave him a sympathetic smile. “Looks like we saved each other from crappy dates then.”
He grinned. “Looks like.” His eyes dropped to the menu. “Now, what are you having for dessert?”
“We don’t need to,” I told him quietly. “We could just pay up and I’ll go home and let you get on with your night.”
His eyes rose to meet mine and he gave me an “are you daft?” look. “Els, shut up and pick a dessert.”
I swallowed a smile and lowered my eyes to the menu.
*** We stepped out into the warm summer night, and Adam took my arm and tucked it in his.
“Where to next?”
I blinked in surprise. We’d finished our meal and I’d just assumed I’d be going home.
“Um, where do you fancy?”
“The Voodoo Rooms is only a five minute walk away and I know the bartenders so we’ll get a seat.”
I nodded, trying to stop my heart from taking off. Adam was taking me out for a drink.
He’d never taken me out for a drink just the two of us before. Recently he, Braden and I would meet up for a drink or two but never just Adam and I.
As I walked down the street with him, arm and arm, I allowed myself the fantasy that we were a couple. That’s what other people would see when they passed us. My chest squeezed with utter longing.
Unrequited love wasn’t nearly as romantic as the books made it seem.
“Who don’t you know in this city?” I teased in an attempt to appear normal around him.
Adam grinned. “There are a few people I’ve yet to meet.”
I snorted at that. Adam and Braden called Edinburgh “their city” and they almost meant that literally. They had acquaintances everywhere and anytime I was out with one of them we spent half our time greeting people they knew. Some might say that Adam would never have had that kind of relationship with the city if he hadn’t grown up as Braden’s best friend.
Unlike us, Adam didn’t come from a well-off family. His mum and dad were ordinary folks who never really gave the impression that they’d wanted to be parents. Adam had been an accident. Although they’d never been neglectful or cruel, his parents had been distant, and he’d spent most of his childhood hanging out at Braden’s and bemoaning the summers when Braden was off in Europe with his mother. As soon as Adam turned eighteen and moved into student housing that put him into a lot of debt, his parents had gotten on a plane and moved to Australia. He heard from them once a month. Incidentally, Braden had paid off Adam’s student debt as a graduation present, something he proudly wouldn’t accept until Braden had gotten him drunk and recorded his slurred acceptance on his iPhone. I’d heard the recording.
He’d said “Love you, mate, you’re beautiful” so many times to Braden I’d almost peed my pants with laughter.
I knew Adam well enough to know his difference in background didn’t mean anything.
Even if he hadn’t had Braden there opening all these doors, I believed with his charm and charisma he’d still be a guy that a lot of people knew, liked, wanted to be or wanted to sleep with.
When we got to the bar and restaurant, dinner service was just finishing up and the place was crowded.
“Adam,” a bartender called to him as soon as we walked in and Adam gave him a chin nod. “I’ll get you a table.”
We followed him as he claimed a table a couple was leaving, wiping it down with a wet dishrag. The guy eyed me as I slid into the booth and then he gave Adam a smile of approval that made me blush to my roots.
“What can I get you?”
“I’ll have a Macallan and ginger ale. Sweetheart, what do you want?”
“I’ll have a mojito, please.”
Adam settled into the booth with me, his arm sliding along the back of the seat behind my head. For some reason I felt incredibly awkward and I struggled to find something to say.
“Sorry your date was rubbish.”
Adam shrugged. “I’ll just celebrate with you.”
He gave me a small grin, looking boyishly pleased about something. I felt that look hit me between my legs. I needed help. “I’m now a registered architect.”
My lips parted on a silent exclamation and I impulsively threw my arms up and around him. “Congratulations!”
He chuckled against my ear and I shivered, loving the press of those strong, creative hands against my back. “Thanks, sweetheart.”
“Does Braden know?” I asked, pulling away.
“Yeah. He congratulated me by giving me a permanent contract.”
I laughed. That was so Braden.
Adam had gotten his practical experience to complete his qualification by working alongside Braden’s architect. This last year, however, he’d been doing the work himself and having now achieved all the qualifications and experience he required, he’d applied to ARB (Architects Registration Board UK).
“I’m really happy for you.”
“I know. That’s why I’d much rather be here with you than with Megan.”
“Meagan,” I corrected.
“Whatever,” Adam muttered.
Our drinks came and I asked him about the project he and Braden were working on now.
Adam then asked about my classes. I had chosen to study History of Art and Fine Art with grand hopes of becoming a gallery curator one day, but now that I was in the course, at the university, I was falling in love with the idea of a career in academia. Clark, who was a professor of classical history at the university, was extremely proud and excited that I wanted to follow in his footsteps. When I told Braden I was thinking of doing a phD in Art History he’d given me Adam’s “are you daft?” look, but then kissed me on the forehead and told me to do whatever made me happy.
The night seemed to speed away from us and before I knew it I was on my third mojito and snuggled much deeper into Adam’s side, laughing as he regaled me with his and Braden’s antics at work and elsewhere.
To the outside world the two of them were extremely mature young men in their mid- twenties.
I knew better.
I wiped tears of laughter from my eyes and reached for another sip of my drink. “You two are idiots.”
“Ssh, that’s a secret.”
I grinned back at him and the smile he gave me suddenly froze.
“What?” I breathed, my heart stopping.
He swallowed and shook his head. “I just sometimes wonder where the time has gone.”
“I know. We’re all grown up now,” I teased.
His eyes searched my face, his expression enigmatic. “Yes, we are,” he murmured and something about the way he said it made the air between us grow suddenly charged. I swore I stopped breathing altogether. His eyes were dark and focused and I felt the heat of his look slide sensually down the center of my body. Nervously, I licked my lips and his gaze dropped to my mouth.
My gaze dropped to his.
I don’t know which one of us moved. Me to him, or him to me? Both of us moved?
Whichever one of us it was, our faces were so close our lips were almost brushing. I could feel his breath on mine and he obviously could feel mine on his. The smell of Macallan and Adam played chaos with my hormones. My chest began to rise and fall with excited nerves and hopeful anticipation.
I moved my head that little bit closer and our lips brushed. Infinitesimally. Still, that slightest touch sent a bolt of lust straight through me.
Adam made a sound in the back of his throat and I swore he was about to close the distance between us… …but I’d never know for sure. His phone rang in his jacket pocket throwing a bucket of ice cold water over the moment. I jerked back and watched his face cloud over as he realized what had almost happened. Jaw clenched, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone but it had already stopped ringing. He lifted his eyes to me and told me darkly, “Braden.”
I guessed he meant that Braden had been the one who’d called him, but I also guessed it had a double meaning. I knew I was right when he quickly paid for our drinks and put me in a taxi, abruptly ending our night together.
I was Ellie, Braden’s little sister. To Adam I would always be Braden’s little sister, and that meant I was off limits.
When I laid in bed that night I cursed Adam Sutherland to hell and back. If he hadn’t already ruined things for me before, he definitely had after tonight.
A lip brush.
One tiny lip brush and I felt that spark I’d been waiting on since I was fifteen and I kissed Pete Robertson on bowling night. Whatever guy came next had a lot to live up to.
“I was freaking out,” Adam admitted. He threw me a wicked smile. “I’ve never been so hard in my life from a lip brush. I wanted to fuck you every time I saw you after that.”
I shoved him playfully, blushing. Adam was often deliberately crude because he knew it made me equal parts embarrassed and turned on. I’d always hated when people used the “f- word” to describe sex, thinking it emotionless and casual. But after Adam and I became a couple I’d discovered that when you were in love with someone and you knew they loved you back there were different levels to sex. At one end of the spectrum there was the tender, sweet, slow sex that I would call “making love” and at the other end of it there was the rough, wild, can’t-get-enough-of-you sex that was definitely the “f-word”. Adam was more than proficient in both kinds.
I thought about what he’d said and frowned. “You did a good job of hiding it.”
He harrumphed. “I don’t know about that.” He looked back at the diary and frowned.
“What ever happened to that Christian guy, by the way?”
“I let him down gently when he called to reschedule our date.”
“I would say “poor guy” but I had to endure five years of wanting you and not having you.”