Authors: Hannah Ford
“Don’t start,” my mom said warningly.
The sound of the doorbell ringing echoed through the kitchen, and Ciara jumped up from where she was sitting at the kitchen table.
“Ohmigod,” she said. “They’re here! They’re here early!” She glanced around at the kitchen, which was a mess, and my mother, whose hair was in a messy bun and who was wearing an apron that said, “CATS ARE LIFE.” “FML,” she muttered under her breath before running off toward the door.
“What can I do to help?” I asked, reaching for an apron in the apron drawer and pulling it on.
“Um, crack some more eggs into the bowl,” my mom said, looking at the crab cake mixture uncertainly. “Maybe if we make them small we can pretend it’s not a dinner but an appetizer hour.”
I wasn’t sure how my sister was going to feel about that, but I cracked another egg into the bowl gamely.
A second later, Ciara appeared back in the doorway that led from the kitchen into the hallway.
“Um, Adriana?” she said. “Someone’s here for you.”
I looked up, my hands still full of crab cake.
He was standing there in the doorway, wearing dark wash jeans and a leather jacket over a black t-shirt, his face freshly shaven. His bruises were already starting to fade, and he looked so smolderingly hot standing there, his broad frame taking up the whole doorway. My lungs constricted and my belly twisted and somersault into a tight knot.
“You didn’t tell us you were bringing a date,” Ciara said as she moved by my mother. “Smoking,” she mouthed at me as she took her seat back at the kitchen table.
“What are you doing here, Callum?” I tried to keep the anger from showing in my voice. The last thing I wanted was to cause a huge scene in front of my family.
“I thought I would surprise you,” Callum said, crossing the kitchen and kissing my cheek. His lips burned against my skin, and a pulsing ache settled between my legs as I remembered what we’d just done a few hours ago on the plane. “I know how important this was to you, your sister’s wedding.”
I pulled my hands out of the crab cakes and walked to the sink slowly.
My heart was pounding, the adrenaline coursing through my veins.
From behind me, I heard my mother introducing herself to Callum, apologizing for the state of the house, letting him know that I hadn’t told her I was expecting company.
“I wasn’t expecting him, either,” I said bitterly.
“Well, we always have room for one more,” my mother said brightly, even as she looked down at the crab cake mixture uncertainly.
“What are you making?” Callum asked. “Crab cakes?” He picked up the apron I had just taken off and began to tie it around his waist.
“Callum, can I talk to you for a second, please?” I said, forcing myself to keep a smile on my face. Now that the shock of seeing him here was wearing off, I was staring to lose control of my anger. I was livid, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to hide it.
How dare he show up at my house and pretend like everything was fine, like I’d invited him here, saying those things in front of my family, inserting himself into my life?
“Of course,” he said, taking the apron off and setting it down on the counter.
I led him to the only place in the house I knew that I could have privacy – my bedroom.
Once we were inside, Callum shut the door behind him.
“Lemon,” he said huskily, and then moved toward me.
I held my hand up. “Oh, hell no,” I said. “Don’t even.”
“You’re being so rude, Lemon,” he said, acting mock shocked. “You weren’t nearly this rude to me on the plane.”
I hated him.
I hated that he was here, hated that he thought what he was doing was okay. Hated that he was acting cocky, hated this wall he put up that was stronger than how he felt for me.
“I’m calling the police,” I said, and went to move by him, but he placed his hand on my arm, stopping me.
“Okay, okay, wait,” he said, holding his hands up in surrender. “Just wait. I just want to talk.”
“I don’t want to fucking talk.” I wrenched out of his grasp and took two more steps away from him. I was so damn sick of fighting, was so sick of pretending he didn’t mean anything to me, was so sick of this anger I felt toward him. “Why are you doing this, Callum? Why? Do you enjoy torturing me?”
“No!” he said, and every trace of cockiness was now gone from his face. He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “I told you, Adriana. I can’t fucking stay away from you.”
stay away from me, Callum, you just chose not to.”
“I’m not drinking anymore.”
“Ha! Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.”
“I’m serious this time.”
“Good,” I said. “I hope you are. But I’m not a part of that, Callum.” I shook my head. “I can’t be. You have to leave.”
“I told you,” he said, and his voice was gruff, his eyes serious and hooded with emotion. “I can’t do that.”
“If you don’t leave, right now, I’m serious, I’m going to call the police.” I went to move past him, out the door, but he put a hand on my arm again, stopping me.
“Last night,” he said, his voice low and serious, “was the worst night of my life. And I’ve had very bad nights before, Adriana. But nothing like last night.”
I felt my eyes fill with tears, and I was afraid to look at him, afraid that if I looked at him, I would fall into those deep blue eyes and he would pull me back in, under his spell, into his whirlwind. Because that’s what he did – he gave me just enough to keep me on the edge, just enough to make me believe that I had a chance to change him, that things could be different.
“Being in jail will do that,” I said. “It’s supposed to be terrible.” He wasn’t holding my arm that hard, his grip was almost non-existent, but I was rooted in place.
“It wasn’t because of jail, Adriana. It was because of what you said.”
“I meant it.”
“Did you?” His grip on my arm tightened just a tiny bit, not enough to hurt, but enough to let me know he was struggling against his desire to dominate me.
“You meant that you never wanted to see me again?” His tone was low, soft, melodic and sexy. “Look at me, baby,” he said, and there was a faint note of pleading in his voice, like nothing I’d never heard from him before. “Please, Adriana, look at me and tell me you mean it.”
I looked at him, and I saw the longing and need, the regret, reflected deeply and intensely in his eyes. His jaw clenched and his eyes were blazing so bright blue. “Tell me you don’t love me,” he whispered huskily. “Tell me you don’t love me, and I will leave you alone. It will destroy me, but I will do it.”
“Love doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Love has everything to do with it. Love is the reason I’m here. Love is the reason I can’t stop thinking about you, why I’m missing the very important meetings I’m supposed to be having, why I’m losing millions of dollars right now, as we speak.”
“Love isn’t about giving up money, Callum.”
“You miss the point.”
“Which is that before I met you, all I cared about was work.” He was inching toward me, and I could smell his woodsy shampoo, and I was almost sure I could feel his body heat radiating from him. “Now all I care about is you.”
“No.” He shook his head. “No, Adriana. That’s what last night proved to me. I used to control my emotions by not allowing myself to feel them.” He was even closer now, and he reached down and tipped my chin up gently, then brushed a stray strand of my hair off my cheek. “And when I couldn’t do that, I would drink. Now, though, that isn’t working.” His eyes softened and I saw the hunger there, the desperation. “Now I found something worse than emotions.”
“Losing you.” He lowered his lips to mine, so close that when he spoke, they brushed against me softly. “Losing you would be worse than anything I could imagine. I love you, Adriana. I love you more than anything in this world.”
He moved to kiss me, but I turned my head at the last moment, so that he was left to brush against my cheek.
I felt him bristle against me, knew he was still fighting hard against his urge to dominate me, to punish me for refusing him.
I held my breath, knowing it was a test, wondering if he could do it, if he could put his own need to protect his emotions aside while he allowed me some ownership in this relationship, allowed me to figure out how I felt about everything.
My breath was coming in short gasps, my heart beating so loudly I knew he could tell the effect he was having on me.
“Tell me you love me,” he whispered. “Tell me you want me to be here, tell me you want me as much as I want you. Because I know those things to be true.”
But I wasn’t going to admit those things to him, even though they
“No.” I shook my head. “You don’t get to tell me how I feel.”
His hand on my back tightened for a moment, his grip firm as he pushed me against him as he struggled against his twisted need to whip me, to tie me, to bind me and make me his.
Instead, he took a step back and crossed the room toward the window, like he needed to put distance us in order to be able to stop himself from doing what he wanted.
He gazed across our front yard, to where our neighbor Mrs. Huggins was unloading groceries from her car on the other side of the street. The room was so silent I could hear the shriek of kids playing a few houses down.
Finally, Callum turned around.
“When is your sister’s wedding?”
“Just give me until then. If you decide after the wedding that you don’t want to see me again, then I will respect that.”
“What’s the catch?”
“No catch.” He took a step toward me. “One day. Just give me one day to prove it to you.”
He leaned down and kissed me, sending shocks of pleasure shooting through my core. His kiss was soft and gentle, controlled, but I could feel the desperation behind it.
“Say yes,” he whispered. “Please, Adriana, say yes.”
I nodded. “Yes,” I whispered. “Yes.”
He trailed kisses down across my neck, and I wrapped my arms around his him, my body shuddering.
He grabbed my ass and pressed me to him, and I could feel his cock hard in his pants. His pelvis pressed into me, and I felt my panties start to get damp.
I extricated myself from him and headed for my bedroom door.
“One day,” I said as we walked back toward the kitchen, making sure the rules of our agreement were clear. “And then you won’t contact me again.”
“If that is your choice, yes.” We were almost back to the kitchen when I heard him mutter the words, “But we won’t have to worry about that,” under his breath.
* * *
wenty minutes later
, Callum had officially charmed the pants off my mother and sister.
“Callum, check it out,” Ciara said excitedly as she whipped up a dressing in a bowl. Callum had taught her how to make a homemade blue cheese dressing and now she thought she was Martha Stewart. “It’s thickening up just like you said, Callum!”
“Nice,” he said with a smile. He was over at the bowl of crab, wearing the apron he’d put on when he’d first got here, a red and white gingham that barely covered his broad shoulders.
“What are we going to do about the crab cakes, though?” my mom asked. Her question was directed to no one in particular, but she was looking at Callum. He’d barely been here an hour, and yet somehow he was the one everyone was looking toward to take control.
Not that I blamed them.
He was the only one of us who seemed to know anything about food.
“Do you have any tuna?” Callum asked.
My mom’s eyes brightened. “Yes! I do!” She bustled off toward the pantry to get it, and Callum caught my eye and gave me a smile. I was standing by the counter sipping a Diet Sprite.
I gave him a small smile back, still not completely sure how I felt about him being here, at my house, hanging out with my family, cooking and acting like he was a part of us.
Part of me loved it.
The other part was screaming that I needed to put an end to this, that I needed to stop him before I allowed him in any further, allowed him to get any closer to me.
“Here,” my mom said, thrusting two cans of Starkist at him helpfully.
“I don’t think Callum meant canned tuna, Mom,” I said.
“Taste the dressing, Adriana,” Ciara said, picking up a carrot from the veggie plate she’d cut up. She slid it through the dressing and handed it to me. “Isn’t it so good?”
“It is good,” I admitted.
She beamed with pleasure.
“I don’t have any fresh tuna,” my mom said mournfully. “I only have canned.”
“That’s perfectly fine,” Callum said, taking the cans out of her hands gently. “We will make it work. Adriana?”
“Callum?” I said back, kind of bratty.
“Come assist me at the counter.”
I sighed and walked over to him, let him lead me through adding the canned tuna to a separate bowl, watched as he whisked eggs and added flour, shook spices and did it all with the deftness that came from always being good at everything you did.