I was shocked. I was disappointed. I was a lot of things. Most of all, why did I feel hurt?
Callum and I were nothing.
I was out of his house in a flash and had to pause a few steps down to calm myself. My hands were shaky and I was breathing erratically. Then my heart jumped into my throat when I noticed someone was behind me.
I registered the surprise in his voice.
I can do this, I silently urged myself to be a civilized woman. Paste a smile then all will be well, I chanted in my mind before I had the capacity to turn around and face him.
All bare except his trousers on, zippered and unbuttoned. Hair in his usual disheveled state. Even if the urge to cry was high, I still noticed how gorgeous he was. This was truly quite out of character.
Huffing out a tiresome sigh, I spoke, as calmly as possible. “I hope I didn’t interrupt your night. Of course I should’ve thought that you’d be entertaining, but I wasn’t thinking properly.” He was still looking at me strangely. Great, fuck. Here comes the grandest excuse, but it was ingenious. “I came here to invite you to the fundraiser the Pisano’s are throwing.” My clutch purse was semi open so it was easy to take it out and hand him the invitation. “It’s two months from now,” I continued. “Uh, I really should get going and let you go back to your friend. Have a goodnight.” A tiny strand of hair fell off my loose chignon so I had to curl it behind my ear.
Our eyes clashed. His looked confused while I remained undisclosed as to why I really came here in the first place
Just when I was about to hail a cab, Callum finally found his vocals. “You came here at eight at night to drop me an invitation? Are you fucking with me?”
If only. “Yes, I came here specifically about the invitation, and no, I’m certainly not fucking with you. The woman inside is.” The redhead, who was probably still naked on the table, readying herself for dessert ‘cause the main course sure looked like it was a bloody success.
Angry, I hailed a cab, needing to get away from here. Luciana better come through tonight because I needed to vent or simply party and drown myself with great amounts of alcohol. Maybe I might even fancy a hot bloke to get hot and heavy with.
“You’re dressed to party.”
Oh, he was still standing there? The cab was now parked, waiting for me. “Yes,” I responded before heading towards it, not bothering to say goodbye as I opened the door and went inside. Just before I was to close it, he came up to me again.
“Wait!” Callum was now holding the cab door open while I sat there, bothered and speechless. “Stella—I—” he paused, seeking my face. I suppose we both mirrored each other quite well. Confused. “Stay safe tonight.”
“Always.” I nodded and then watched as he slammed the door shut and retreated inside his home again.
How many times will he be spending time in between her legs tonight? I thought rottenly as jealousy ate me whole. Truly, why should I be jealous? He did me a favor. A favor I practically begged him for. I should be grateful.
Callum never wanted me in that sense. He did as I asked, so I shouldn’t be even sulking when he had now moved on. He was fucking Callum Kensington for fuck’s sake! Women like me didn’t have a chance to compete and satiate the likes of his kind.
I should be feeling celebratory. I mean, after all, I wasn’t a virgin anymore. Wasn’t it time for me to explore sexuality and maybe find a great man to lose myself in? I wanted to be in a relationship and, well, tonight was as good as any to start prowling for one.
“Are you ready to accept my invitation yet?” Clive Barrington kissed both of my cheeks, lingering by my ear a tad longer than anticipated. I had barely just gotten here and the first person to see me arrive was Clive, another bloody playboy.
He was good friends with Alec, but his family was making the round in the news because his cousin, Blake Knightly, had recently gotten hitched to Sienna, one of my interns. Knightly was known for being the hottest man to walk on earth, but apart from that fact, the man was a genius in the business arena. Now, if I could get a passionate man like that myself, a man who fell hard—so hard for his woman that he was willing to risk his life for her—then I would be the luckiest woman alive.
Knightly’s cousin, on the other hand, was without question not that man. Don’t get me wrong, Clive was a handsome man, but he was one who always liked everything in twos, including women in his life.
“Don’t worry, Clive, the second I realize I’m into ménage á trois, you’re the first on my list to call.”
Blue eyes sparkled at me, trying to work his devilish playboy charms on me. “Hey—hey, now you’re hurting my ego. I can very well manage one woman at a time. Have dinner with me. I won’t let you down.”
Playboys were into games. I wanted a regular man. “Clive—”
He pressed closer, lifting my chin up to him. “Let me be really honest with you. I do like you, Stella. I think you’re stunning, but most of all, you’re easy to talk to. I like that about you, but there is another motive, perhaps as to why I’m being such a pest.” He paused, gathering courage. “My parents want to see a healthy dating lifestyle. I was hoping if you could show me—help me even.” Clive held up his hands. “I swear, on my honor and all of my cousin’s, I will not attempt anything sexual.”
“Are your parents trying to make you like your cousin? I doubt that’s possible. You’re too wild, Clive.” I grinned harder when he appeared to look hurt.
“I love my baby cousin, but for fuck’s sakes, I’m fucking done being compared to him. Too bad I’m not a genius whizz. I don’t fucking speak five different languages or flip failing businesses into successful ones, but I’m a good guy inside. I may like sex for far too much most nights, but I have a compassionate heart. I’m not selfish. Besides, I make the best goddamned cupcakes in all of England.”
“Cupcakes? The chocolate kind?”
“Any kind you like.”
Goodness, Clive. I adored cupcakes. “You’re joking.”
He cocked his head to the side, flirty. “A little. I confess I get the boxed ones, but I do add some more chocolate in and make it my own. Hell, all that matters is that I made them. The rest is just useless details.”
He laughed. “You haven’t seen me in action yet.”
Hooking my arm around his, I led us inside the bar where everyone was celebrating. “Start impressing me, Barrington. I’ll let you know my answer by the end of the night.”
“Game on, heiress.” Clive winked at me.
Was it just a little less than an hour ago when I had been with Callum, feeling like the world had practically collapsed on my feet? I was teary and beyond saddened when I realized he was moving on. Yet, look at me now, I might have been feeling hurt deep inside because I missed a good chance of being with him when I declined his offer, but here was another opportunity for me to get to know a potential man. Clive was still questionable based from his reputation, but honestly, the man was funny and didn’t take things seriously.
Maybe I needed a fresh start.
Who was I to judge? I had begged a man to take my v-card.
Pathetic didn’t fit me.
The next day, Clive surprised me by picking me up from the office and taking me back to his home. Mind you, the man was serious about his baking capabilities. The cupcakes were divine. I had such fun with him that I forgot tomorrow was a working day and I consumed way too much champagne and wine.
I was knackered and beyond ready to call it a night.
“You can stay the night here. I can guarantee that I won’t even cop a feel until you beg me a few times. Then, I’m afraid, I’ll have to give in.” His blue eyes mocked me while I simply rolled my eyes at him.
It was time that I lived a little. It was time to have fun. It wasn’t like I was going to shag him. No, of course not… but I missed being held. A lot. “I need a spare toothbrush and a shirt I can sleep in.”
“You’re quite sure that you’ll be able to resist me all night?” he teased as he helped me to my feet.
“I will be in a coma soon, so you can forget about any of that,” I muttered, yawning.
He led us upstairs while his arm comfortably rested on my hip.
“There are clothes that are new in the next room. You can get whatever you need so you can go straight to work tomorrow.” He pointed towards the room on the left. “I remember you mentioning that you always went to work early so I have to ask what you eat for breakfast? I’ll make sure I have it ready before you’re even awake.”
This was a different side to Clive—the caring, attentive side of him—and, even though I’d barely spent that much time with him, I found myself liking the man.