Authors: Hannah Ford
When we were done, we had two separate bowls full of mixture – one for crab cakes, one for tuna cakes.
Callum took a fork and dipped it into the tuna bowl, forked up some of the mixture and held it out to me.
“Taste,” he said.
I took a bite, the flavors exploding on my tongue.
“Good?” he asked me, brushing a stray crumb off my bottom lip. His eyes blazed bright blue, his gaze focused solely on me, and I couldn’t help but think he was asking me about way more than just a bowl of tuna.
“Good,” I said.
“I want to taste!” Ciara said, running over to the bowl and breaking the spell.
She picked up her own fork. “Delicious,” she said, clapping her hands. “Thanks, Callum! You totally saved the day.”
Callum smiled and turned around, back toward the bowl, where he began chatting with my mom as they formed the mixture into cakes.
“He’s amazing!” Ciara mouthed to me once his back was turned.
you have no idea.
* * *
Bryan showed up right on time, along with his parents and his niece, a little girl named Chelsea who was wearing a pink tutu, carrying a sparkly silver wand and had what looked like an Easter basket thrown over her arm.
“I’m so sorry,” Bryan’s mother said as Bryan greeted Ciara with a kiss on the cheek. “Bryan’s sister had to leave Chelsea with us last minute. I tried to call and ask if it was okay to bring her, but there was no answer.”
“My phone was charging,” Ciara said. “But I’m sure it’s fine.” She had a strangled look on her face, and I vaguely remembered something about Chelsea, that she had once locked Ciara and Brian out of the house while they were babysitting her, and refused to open the door even when they bribed her with promises of ice cream and trips to the toy store.
“I have a tiara,” Chelsea announced.
“It’s very pretty,” I said politely.
“Hey, Adriana,” Bryan said. “Nice to see you.”
“Nice to see you, too.” I liked Bryan, and thought he was good for my sister. I thought she was crazy to get married so young, but that had nothing to do with Bryan -- I would have thought the same no matter who she was engaged to.
“I HAVE A TIARA!” Chelsea screamed. This time she stamped her foot.
“I know,” Ciara said. “I see it. It’s beautiful.”
Chelsea rummaged around in her basket and pulled out another tiara, and held it out. “Wear it,” she said.
“Oh,” I said. “Um, I’m not –”
“Not you,” she said, like I was a common peasant and the thought of her wanting to bestow me with a tiara was completely out of the question. “Him.”
Her gaze was focused on something behind me, and I turned to look.
Callum had come into the front hallway.
“Him,” Chelsea said, pointing at him. “I want him to wear it.”
“This is Callum,” I said by way of introduction to Bryan and his mother.
“Nice to meet you,” Bryan said, and shook Callum’s hand.
“I WANT THE MAN TO WEAR MY TIARA!” Chelsea yelled.
“Now Chelsea,” Bryan’s mom said. “I’m sure that Callum doesn’t want to wear a tiara.” She rustled around in her purse and pulled out a stuffed bear that was missing an eye and wearing a crooked bow tie. “Why don’t you put the tiara on Mr. Wrinkles?”
“Not Mr. Wrinkles,” Chelsea said. “I want the man to wear it!”
She was obviously one second away from a full-on meltdown.
Callum knelt down in front of her. “Wow,” he said. “That’s a very beautiful tiara. I’d love to wear it.”
“Okay,” Chelsea said, as if this was a special request from Callum, and not a demand she’d been making just a second ago. “I will put it on you.”
Callum tipped his head so Chelsea could reach it, and Chelsea put the tiara on him. “Now you are a princess,” she said proudly.
“Thank you,” Callum said.
“You are quite welcome.” She took his hand, obviously having decided she’d made a new friend. “Now come with me, we have to create our castle.”
I covered my hand with my mouth and tried not to giggle as Callum followed her gamely into the backyard.
* * *
outside at a long picnic table that my mother had covered with a baby blue linen tablecloth.
The crab and tuna cakes were a big hit, and we ate and drank iced tea and sangria and my mom was getting along with Bryan’s parents and everyone was talking and laughing and I knew my sister was loving it.
Callum was charming as all get out, attentive to me, serving me food, making sure my every need was taken care of.
We ate strawberry shortcake made from thick slices of store-bought pound cake for dessert, and it was the most delicious thing I’d ever had in my life.
After all the food was cleared away, the adults drank coffee while Callum and Chelsea played in the backyard, constructing a castle out of sticks and stones and dirt.
I’d gone inside to get some more coffee when my sister ran up to me in the kitchen excitedly.
“Bryan’s mom said that Callum is famous!” Ciara’s eyes were shining.
“He’s not famous,” I said as I emptied coffee grounds into the garbage and began refilling the filter.
“He looks famous to me,” she said, obviously expecting my rebuttal. She held her phone out to me, showing me his google results. Her index finger slid against the screen and articles went flying by, all of them about Callum’s wealth or who he was dating or some new business venture he’d been involved in.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell us you were dating a rich, famous person!” she said.
I kept quiet, knowing there was nothing I could say that would even being to explain why I would have kept something like that quiet, knowing that the truth was way more unbelievable than any lie I could have told.
We turned and looked out the window to where Callum was playing with Chelsea, wearing a tiara and helping her carefully shape the top of a dirt tower into a point on their castle.
“He’s so laid back for a billionaire,” Ciara said thoughtfully.
“He’s not usually,” I said. “He’s doing it for me.”
* * *
e left together
I could have taken an Uber or called a cab, but I went with Callum. He’d rented a car, and as we walked down the driveway, holding a plastic Tupperware of leftover crab cakes, I told myself that it was because it would have looked strange to my family if I didn’t go with him.
But the truth was that I
to leave with him.
He held the car door open for me, and I slipped by him, his woody scent tickling my nostrils and sending heat through my body.
The car was a red Chevy Malibu, and once the key was in the ignition, I couldn’t help but remark on it.
“This car doesn’t seem like your style,” I said.
“Maybe my style is changing.”
I raised my eyebrows skeptically.
“It was the only car they had that was ready immediately,” he admitted.” And as you can imagine, I was in a rush.” He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye, and I blushed, thinking about him in a rush to get to me. A secret thrill ran through me thinking about him being on the ropes because of me for once, instead of the way it usually was – me always waiting for him, wanting more, wondering.
When we got to the hotel, Callum insisted on walking me in and taking me to my room.
“Thank you,” I said when we got to my room.
“I don’t like you staying here,” he said, looking up and down the hallway. “It doesn’t seem safe.”
I rolled my eyes as I slid my key card into the door. “It’s fine.”
“I’m staying with you.”
I shook my head. “Not a good idea.”
“Why not?” His eyes bore into mine.
“You know why not.”
“Are you afraid of what might happen, Adriana?”
I thought about telling him no, I wasn’t, but then I realized I was sick of trying to deny my feelings, was sick of having to hide things from him just because I was afraid of pushing him.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m afraid you’ll try to solve our problems with sex.”
“We have problems now?” he asked, his voice teasing.
“Don’t,” I said.
“Don’t act all cocky and sure of yourself in order to avoid talking about things that are real.”
“I don’t want to avoid talking, Adriana. In fact, I welcome it.”
“So then talk.”
“We’re in a hallway.”
“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
A smile tugged at his lips, and I slid down to the floor and sat down, cross-legged, putting my hands in my chin. “You want to talk? Then go ahead. Sit down. Let’s talk.”
He didn’t hesitate. I was sitting with my back against the wall, and I had intended for him to sit down next to me, but he sat in front of me, took my hands in his.
I wanted to pull away, but his touch was so soft, so sure.
He waited a moment before speaking, as if he knew how important the moment was, as if he wanted to make sure he chose his words carefully.
“I should have handled things differently,” he said. “When Rose died. I should have talked to you about it. I shouldn’t have invited Brendan over.”
“No,” I said. “You shouldn’t have.”
“But I’m done with that.” His thumb moved over the back of my hand, and his hands were resting on my knees, and I could feel the desire pulsing up and exploding between my legs.
Normally his words and his touch would have been enough to melt me, I would have been leaning into him, afraid that if I pushed him any further he would shut down and leave.
But I was done with that.
were done with that.
“You shouldn’t have drank,” I said. “And if you were determined to make that insanely reckless decision, you shouldn’t have shown up at the dinner and made me a part of it.”
“I lost my job.”
“I know.” His thumb was still making circles over my knuckles. “I will do whatever you need in order to make it up to you.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Why not?” He was leaning in closer, and I could feel the heat radiating off of him through his t-shirt, could smell the leather of his jacket, could hear the measured rhythm of his breathing. The closer he got to me, the harder he was to resist. I closed my eyes for a moment and took in a shuddering breath, wishing he could come inside my room with me, wanting him to tie me up, to cuff me, to take off his belt and bruise my flesh, leave me wet and wanting, punishing me like I deserved.
I stood up.
“I’m going to bed.”
He stood up. “I’ll tuck you in.”
I saw his need to dominate me flash in his eyes, as his jaw tightened and he ground his teeth at my disobedience.
“Do not leave your room tonight.”
“I will be staying in this hotel, Adriana.”
“Whatever.” I shrugged. “It’s a public place. But you won’t be staying in my room.”
I walked into my room, leaving him in the hallway, and I closed my eyes and leaned against the back of the door, fighting against the urge to call him back inside.