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Authors: H.M. Ward,Stacey Mosteller

Shadows of the Past (8 page)

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
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Once she's done torturing me, she lets me leave. No, really, she lets me leave. Emily may look like a soft-spoken socialite, but that idea of her couldn't be further from the truth. She scares me a little.
 

Even with Emily's help and lecture, I'm outside the entrance to Oliver’s hotel almost twenty minutes early, looking like a lovestruck schoolgirl.

Just when I see the top of his head coming toward me behind a group of tourists, my phone rings. The display reads: UNKNOWN CALLER.

Crap. How’d they find me again? I changed my number after Barkley smashed my phone. The calls became too frequent.
 

Wanting to silence it before Oliver gets here, I hover over the "DECLINE" button. Just as I go to press it, a guy walking past me bumps into my shoulder and I hit "ANSWER" instead. Crap. I can't just hang up; they'll call right back now that they know I'm here.

"Hello?" My voice is suspicious, and I hope it's just a random telemarketer looking for someone other than me.

"Hello. Is this Kayla O’Mally?" The male voice on the other end of the phone is American, and my heart stops for just a second. Thinking quickly, I try to adopt an English accent. Four years in Europe should make that easy, right? Wrong, so wrong.
 

"May I ask who's calling?" I cringe hearing my pitiful attempt at the accent, and the guy on the other end tries to muffle his laughter.

"My name is Eric. Your mother—"
 

As soon as he mentions my mom I end the call. I don't know who he is, and I don't want to know what he has to tell me about my mother. I'm an awful daughter, but I just can't handle anything from home today.
 

It hasn't been long enough.

"Kayla?" Startled, I drag my eyes away from the screen--where formerly unknown Eric is now calling me back--and see Oliver standing directly in front of me. My mind is reeling, and now I'm wondering if my mom is going to start calling this number, too.
 

Our eyes meet and he looks down at me, concern in his eyes as he says, "Are you all right? You're very pale."

Great, twice in a row. He’s going to think I’m nuts. I know I'm sweating, and it feels like all the blood has drained from my face, but I still try to play it off.
 

"I'm fine." He doesn't look like he believes me, but he thankfully doesn't press.

Instead, he gallantly offers me his arm and I accept it with a shaky smile, allowing him to lead me down the street and into the gardens. We walk in companionable silence until we're standing in front of The Orangery.
 

I suppose Emily guessed right. The building is stately and beautiful, with big windows, orange bricks, and white accents. I want to look at everything at once, but Oliver continues walking, taking us inside, into open white room with gorgeous natural light streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows. Long rows of white linen covered tables line each wall, with small bright green citrus trees scattered throughout, preserving the look of a Victorian greenhouse while serving as an elegant tearoom.

We pass a glorious display of tiny cakes, cookies, and scones on our way to our terrace table. The amazing smells making my empty stomach rumble loudly. Our waiter immediately brings out a three-tiered silver tower of cakes, sandwiches, and scones, along with jam, clotted cream, milk, sugar, and tiny white china pots of tea. He asks Oliver's preference of Laurent-Perrier Brut, Pimm's or Merlot Rosé Spumante.
 

I don't hear his response, I'm so distracted by the dazzling smile he's aiming at me. I don't even realize he's asked me a question until he raises an eyebrow at me in question.

Oliver asks, "Which would you like?"
 

“I…I’m not sure.” Code for: I have no freaking clue. I must look trapped because he takes my hand.

"May I order for you?" His blue eyes are soft and kind, crinkled at the corners in a way that makes me want to let him order me anything, anywhere.
 

I give a grateful nod in response and he orders a glass of the Laurent-Perrier for both of us.

There are so many things on the table I'm not sure what to think or where to start. I want it all—even the weird looking cakes that remind me of Play-doh.
 

The waiter returns with our champagne and slips away discreetly, leaving us alone with our feast of fancy foods. Oliver lifts his glass and gazes over it at me, prompting me to blushingly raise mine as well. “To a fun filled day of London’s finest.”
 

I clink my glass to his and set it gently back on the table, not sure if I’m part of the finery. The way he said it makes me wonder, but then I rule out anything because of the friend declaration.
 

I decide the sandwiches are a safe start, and since I haven't eaten, I take several different ones even though I have no idea what they are.

I bite excitedly into the first and discover... salmon. I can only imagine what face I made, because as soon as I take the bite Oliver starts to laugh. I manage to chew and swallow because spitting it out would be the worst manners ever, but it's so slippery and gross.

"I take it you're not a fan of salmon?" he asks, trying to keep his laughter contained.
 

The sour face I'm making gets worse the longer I have the fish taste in my mouth, and he begins to laugh out loud with abandon. "Poor little American Girl just can't handle decent food."
 

He's teasing me, I know he is, and just to be a pain, I act like I'm angry. "Decent food? That was not decent food. Fish should stay in the ocean."
 

Anxious to remove that sexy smirk from his face, an idea comes to me. One that is probably going to get us in trouble, but I don't care. Taking a small piece of the fish off my sandwich, I act like I'm studying it, and then toss it at him. It hits him on the nose and his eyes widen in shock. Covering my mouth with a hand I try to keep my snickering quiet, but he looks royally - ha - pissed, and I just can't do it.

When I start to laugh outright, his eyes narrow, and his head tilts to the side, contemplating his next move. I know it's going to be bad when he smiles devilishly at me, distracting me. He moves a finger around his plate, but I can't see what he's doing for the towers of teacakes.

Suddenly, Oliver's hand moves and something slimy lands on my cheek. I saw it coming, but the cold still makes me jump. I put a hand up to my cheek and wipe the wet away. When I pull my fingers back, they're covered in a buttery substance.
 

"You did not just do that!" My voice shrieks through laughter.

"You started it," he says, sticking his tongue out and acting much younger than I know we are. I form a piece of my scone into ammunition and throw it at his face. The jerk catches it in his mouth. What a show-off!
 

"Yum." He licks his lips. "I think it tastes better coming from your fingers." He smiles deviously, both sides of his mouth tipping up, his mouth too wide for it to be a smirk, then throws a piece of something else at me. I'm not as coordinated as he is, and it bounces off my nose before landing on my plate. My nose feels cold and sticky.

I stick out my tongue, acting like I'm just going to lick the stickiness off and watch his eyes get wider the closer my tongue gets to my nose. Giggling uncontrollably, I wipe it off with a napkin before picking up the piece he threw and put it in my mouth.
 

"Mmmm," I moan loudly, closing my eyes and acting like it's the best thing I've ever eaten. When I open my eyes, he's breathing a little heavier, and I start to feel self-conscious.

Suddenly, a throat clears beside us. We both look over to see the waiter glaring at us.
 

"Sir," he says looking at Oliver and completely ignoring me. "I'm sorry, but we're going to have to ask you to leave." He looks down his nose at Oliver before he continues, but Oliver just smiles at him.

Oliver looks properly chastened, but when our eyes meet, he winks. "My apologies," he studies the man's name tag, "Lionel. We'll just be on our way." He stands, pulling out a long wallet and putting a few bills on the table.

As we walk out, the manager rushes up to Oliver, “Mr. Jackson, it’s so nice to see you again. Are you leaving already?”

“Yes, I’m afraid something has come up.” He smiles at me, gesturing for me to walk in front of him.
 

The man is acting like Oliver is very important and appears slightly horrified. “Please, can I make amends for Lionel? He’s unaware of our select guests. Please, both of you come back this way and I’ll have your tea drawn in the private room. It’s a beautiful view and offers a private place to try new things.” The man looks discretely at me and I feel silly for starting a food fight.

Oliver looks at me. “What do you say? Maybe we can find something you enjoy?”

“I can make you something if need be, I’ll wait on you personally the rest of the afternoon. Anything you like, miss, just let me know. Sir, if you’ll follow me?”

I lean into Oliver and whisper, “Who are you? You should have been tossed out.”

“Likewise, American Girl. I can’t take you anywhere.” He grins as we are seated in a private room. Lionel, who looks like he swallowed a sheep, brings in our tea and champagne.

“Sir, madam, I’m terribly sorry for the misunderstanding.” He bows and turns, leaving us alone.

“I think we got put in the kiddy corner. I hope you’re happy.” Oliver scolds me, teasingly.

I pick up the little purple cake and toss it at him. “Don’t throw those!” He leans sideways and catches it before it hits the floor, then pops it in his mouth. “God lord, woman! Your aim is horrendous.”

I laugh. “The purple cake is that good?”

He nods and picks one up, holding out for me. Being the dork I am, I lean forward and bite it. It’s flakey and sugary. “I thought this was going to taste like Play-doh.”

“I figured as much.” He takes a plate and puts a scone on it. “Here, try it with these.” He hands me the clotted cream and jam.
 

“What do I do with it? Dunk it?”

He laughs. This must be like watching someone try to eat a taco the wrong way. To him, it seems normal, but this thing looks like a biscuit and at home we dunk biscuits.
 

“No, split it open. You put some of this and then that.” He points at the preserves. I do as he says.
 

“What is clotted cream? Is it like sour cream?” I hope not. I grimace and stop to look at him when I’ve got both sides slathered in something.

“Taste it and find out.”

I raise it to my lips and giggle. “I’m not feeling brave after the fish.”

“It’s not fish, love. Bite it.” The way he says those last few words makes my tummy flutter.

I bite into the bread and am surprised. All three of those things together are good. “This is yummy,” I say with my mouth full, pointing at it.

Oliver laughs and leans back in his chair. “I could watch you eat all day.”

“Yeah, let’s not.” I swallow hard and take a sip of the champagne.

Oliver remains silent, his gaze locked on me as I pick through the little cakes and sandwiches, looking for something I might like. I take a nibble of one and then another.
 

“Eat something, pervert. You can’t just watch me the whole time.” I laugh nervously, picking up a little purple cake and setting it down on his plate.

He lifts it to his lips, and slowly bites down. His eyes remain locked on mine and the way he does it makes me melt. My stomach twists and I feel like I’m in a free fall. “Holy hell. No wonder why people like tea.” My face burns bright red as soon as I say it.
 

“I think that was out loud, Kayla.”

I laugh and try to hide behind the tower of cakes. “I noticed.”

“What part of it was ‘holy hell’?” He pushes the tower to the side and arches an eyebrow at me. “Was it my lips or my mouth that interests you?”

My heart slams into my ribs and I stare at him, holding a little cake haphazardly in my hand. I try to blow it off. He’s messing with me again. Fine, I’ll screw with him. I laugh lightly and smirk. “Oh, it’s the whole thing. A tiny cake draws attention to the lips and then the way you swallow. Just watch.” I pick up a little cake and slowly bite down like he did, closing my eyes, savoring it before I swallow. When I open my eyes again, Oliver is tense and breathing harder.

“Are you saying afternoon tea was designed as an aphrodisiac?”

I nod and take a sip of champagne. “Pretty much. Well, except for the salmon.” I make a face and Oliver laughs.

“I can’t say I’ve ever been hit in the face with a fish before. Thank you, it was very educational.” He rubs his hands through his hair and leans back, his gaze wandering outside.

"What's wrong?" We haven't been talking, so I know it's not that I said something wrong, but his mood has turned melancholy.

His mouth twists and he stops, turning to look at me. "I've had a lot of fun today." I know there's a but coming, and sure enough he says, "But, I need to get back to work in a bit. I'm sorry, I know I told you I’d spend the entire afternoon with you, but something came up."
 

I lean forward and reach across the table, tracing the back of his hand with my finger.
 

“Do you feel a sudden need to work now because I skipped out on you last week?”

“No, it doesn’t, but while we’re on that—what happened?”

Frack. I squirm in my seat and intend on pulling my hand back, but he takes hold. I laugh nervously.
 

“Well, I walked right into that one, didn’t I?”

He nods. “A little bit, yes. Listen, you don’t have to tell me anything, but please don’t lie to me. It’s a sore spot and I know for a fact that you weren’t working.”

I jerk away from him. “How do you know? Did you ask?”

“No. I didn’t.” He’s mad, but so am I.

“Then how’d you know?”

He swallows hard and tosses his napkin on the table. “Listen, I don’t want to fight with you. Did you lie to me last week or not?”

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
4.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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