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Authors: H.M. Ward,Stacey Mosteller

Shadows of the Past (9 page)

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Are you still acting like a creeper?”

“Only if you keep acting like a liar.”

“Oliver!” I say his name as if he'd slapped me. I push away from the table and walk away without looking back.


Saturday morning I finally pull the note with Oliver's number out of the drawer in my bedroom where I shoved it the night he gave me my new phone. I sit on the edge of my bed with the number and a text message typed in, terrified to hit send. Gathering all my courage, I take a deep breath, shut my eyes, and press the button.

- Hey! Sorry about the other day. How are you?

The wait for it to show delivered is excruciating. When it finally shows him typing back to me, I think I'm going to hyperventilate and pass out. Why am I so freaking nervous? He's just a guy... A guy I barely know.

- Who is this?

Duh, Kayla. Oliver doesn't have my number, so of course he doesn't know who is texting him.

- Kayla.

His response is almost immediate.

- Ah, my American Girl!

Even typed, the word "my" has butterflies fluttering nervously in my stomach.

- I’m fine. A little lonely perhaps, but I'll live.

- Aw, poor baby.

- Cheeky girl. Are you working today?

The question surprises me though I'm not sure why. He probably just wants to make sure he has someone to talk to while he's drinking. Stupid me, I got my hopes up thinking that maybe, just maybe, he wants to see me.

- Hello?

Oh, jeez. I was so lost in what I wish versus what he's probably asking that I never answered.

- No, I'm off work the next two days.

- :) Meet me at the Gardens?

Oh wow. He does want to see me! I feel a goofy grin form on my face as I type a message back to him.

- Okay. Where?

- The carousel. Can you be there in an hour?

An hour?! That means I'll have to hurry. I haven't even had a shower yet!

- I’ll try.

I don't want to seem too eager, even though I am. I still don't understand why I react this way to him. I've been gone for four years, and no one has affected me like he does. It's insane and a little reckless. I'm not sure I'm ready for the heartache I instinctively know he will cause. In fact, I know I'm not. The cracks already on my heart are still bleeding.

Rushing through a shower, I pull my hair up on top of my head in a messy knot, deliberately dressing in jeans and a t-shirt, wanting to convey nonchalance. I don't want to give him more ammunition to use against me by letting him see how off-balance I am around him.

Luckily, Emily's already left for work when I stop in the kitchen for a granola bar on my way out the door. It's a fifteen-minute walk to Kensington Gardens from here and it's already been more than fifty minutes, so I don't have time to stop and get coffee on the way. Maybe I can stop on my way back home.

Walking through the entrance, I maneuver around all the people - the joggers, the walkers, and the mums with baby carriages - quickly making my way to the carousel. Like he could sense me coming, Oliver turns to greet me with a small smile on his face. He's holding two coffee cups and is quick to hold one out to me, relief flooding his eyes.

"Oh good. I was worried you'd already have one." The gesture is sweet, and I smile up at him in gratitude.

"Thanks, Oliver." Taking the cup from him, I blow into it gently to cool it off a little before taking a sip. Mmm...I love these. I don't have many addictions, but this white mocha is one I can't shake.

Oliver swallows thickly as I open my eyes to find him staring at my mouth. Oh. Suddenly uncomfortable, I shift from one foot to the other, careful to not let out any more delighted sounds at the taste of the rich coffee. He clears his throat, lifting his own cup to take a sip and studiously avoiding looking over at me. Instead, we both stand in front of the carousel watching the children go round and round. Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would.

"So, where's Barkley?" I ask him, wanting to break the awkward silence now surrounding us.

Oliver chuckles, "I left him at home. He has a cone collar and isn’t very polite right now." He looks over at me out of the corner of his eye with a sly grin on his face. "I think he likes you."

"Just him?" The awkward silence returns as soon as the words leave my mouth and I want to kick myself. I can't believe I just said that! Hell, I'm flirting with him. What on earth is wrong with me? This is so not me.

"Uh, sorry." I apologize, completely mortified at my words. He dismisses the apology with a wave of his hand.

"No, not just him," he murmurs so softly I almost don't hear him. In fact, I'm not completely sure I'm not projecting my feelings onto what I want him to say. When the words penetrate, I gape at him in shock, causing him to laugh at me. Offended, I start to walk away, but he follows. "Stay. Please? I'm just teasing you." I look over at him warily and decide to take the chance.

"So until the other day, you had never toured Kensington Palace or taken afternoon tea; what else have you missed?"

"I'm still not sure I had afternoon tea, properly." I respond laughing. I look up at him. “I’m sorry about freaking out on you. You’re right, I shouldn’t have lied.”

“I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. It wasn’t my intention. It’s just a sore spot with me that some people tell lies thoughtlessly. I didn’t take you for that kind of person, so I assumed there was a reason you’re not ready to share, which I understand.”

I hide behind my hair and lower my gaze. It feels like he can see through me.

“Thank you. I should have told you I needed some space. It was my fault. I’m just like that.”

I don’t think Oliver understands, but he nods as if he does. “We don’t need to talk about it again. We’re on the same page, Kayla. So, have you been to the shops on Kensington High Street?"

I shrug. "Not really. I go when I have to, but I'm not a shopaholic."

"Are you sure you're a girl?" His voice is teasing, but it still puts my back up.

"Yes, I think so," I say sarcastically and look down at the two bumps on my chest that are pretty hard to miss.

“Yes, they’re lovely.” Oliver grins and then his lips twist into an awkward smile.

"The thing is, I like clothes, I like cake, and I love anything chocolate." I stop for a second, before adding, "I might also enjoy the occasional steamy, smutty romance novel. Isn't that a prerequisite for being female?"

"You like chocolate? If you like chocolate, I'm sure you agree that English chocolate is loads better than that shitty stuff you Americans eat."

I grin up at him and shake my head. "No way. You’re screwing with me, right?"

Oliver looks at me in horror.

"You've never had English chocolate? Not even a bite? Oh, my American Girl, we need to correct your misconceptions and open your world to something divine." Leaning in close, his mouth almost touching my ear, he says, "Once you taste Brit, baby, you won't ever go back."

My breath catches and he leans back to wink at me before grabbing my hand, and leading me through the park entrance and onto Kensington High Street.

We pass by shop after shop, some I have never noticed. He is a man on a mission, dragging me on when a window display distracts me, finally stopping in front of a store with a dark exterior. Holding the door open, I walk inside.

Oh my God. I'm assaulted by the rich smell of chocolate. The interior of the building is bright and welcoming with lots of light and gold accents. The entire right wall is covered in packages of chocolate on shelves and there are big circular displays in the middle with more. The left side has a display case of chocolate you can purchase separately and that’s where Oliver stops.

"Holy crap, Oliver!" I exclaim when I see the price per piece. It's an insane amount and I understand why I've never had any. I'd have to sell my soul for a piece of this. "I can't buy any of this! You're crazy—" I can't finish the sentence because Oliver stuffs a piece of chocolate in my mouth.

The taste explodes over my tongue. Oh. My. God. It's like an orgasm in my mouth! It’s rich and creamy, minus the powdery wax thing American chocolate has going on—I didn’t even notice before but now it’s obvious. This is better.

“I've never tasted anything like that. What was it?" I ask in a breathy voice. When I open my eyes, Oliver is grinning. I bump his shoulder with mine. “Quit looking at me like that.”

He goes back to serious Oliver. He holds out another and I see it's a little pink ball.

"It's a Pink Champagne Truffle." I take the piece and shove it in my mouth before he takes it back. I don't want to risk not getting to taste that one more time. We chew the truffles, neither of us speaking, just enjoying the freaking amazing nature of that little ball of ecstasy.

"I feel a little pervy, gushing over the food in the middle of the store. But, I've never tasted anything that good in my entire life," I gush, avoiding his gaze as I do so.

Oliver leaves me at the counter looking at all the different kinds of chocolate while he walks around the store. When he comes back to the counter and pays, I figure he's buying more for his stash, but instead of putting his purchase in a bag, he hands it to me.

"Here," he says, prompting me to look down at what he's putting in my hands. It's a box of the truffles.

Frack. He got me. Normally I pay my own way, but I can’t afford this and I so totally want it. That stuff is heaven in a box. I shake my head and tell him, "I can't accept this Oliver." I really want to, so much so, that I’m pretty much drooling.

He backs away from me, shaking his head as he says, "Nope. It’s too late. I already paid and the store has a no returns policy. It's yours." I start to protest, but he puts a finger over my mouth to stop me. "Uh-uh. Just say, ‘Thank You, Oliver,’ and take it. By the way, accepting a gift isn’t the same as taking a handout. And even if it were, chocolate should break all the rules, right?"

I smirk and glance down at the floor and then back up to him.

"It’s just that—”

“What? You’re afraid you’ll spontaneously orgasm if you carry that bag?” He says it so loudly that several people turn around and look at me. He laughs softly as my face turns red.

I slap his arm and say in a mocking tone, “Thank you, Oliver.” No, that wasn’t enough. I’m already beet red, so why not? “Oh,” I close my eyes and the word turns into a moan. “Oh, Oliver.” I purr his name as I touch his arm lightly and drag my fingers over his jacket. I suck in air quickly and make a high-pitched noise and sigh. I laugh and pat his arm. “Thanks, it was good for me.”

People are watching, but the look on Oliver’s face is priceless. It holds me in place. His mouth is open and his lips form a little O. He watches me and I feel like I'm a goddess for a second.

“Oliver?” I pat his face lightly and grin.

“Right.” He has to shake himself out of it. He blinks rapidly and those blue eyes snap back to life.

We wander the store for another moment, commenting on some candies he likes, and then head for the door. When we step outside, there's a very expensive black car waiting at the curb. It’s not the Bentley, which makes me blink.

“How many cars do you have?”

Oliver looks at his shoes and then up at my face.

"Too many. I admit it’s a vice. I like to call myself a collector, but it’s more of a fetish.”

Say what now? I glance at the car and back at Oliver. A car fetish? Does that mean he likes to suck tires?

He pulls me from my thoughts. “Can I give you a ride home?"

Yes, you can ride me all the way home. I stare for a second and then say something more sensible. The guy is looking for a friend, not a lover.

"No, that's okay. I don't live very far, and it's a nice day." Okay, that might be a bit of a lie. I don’t live over here, but I can hop on the Tube and be home pretty quick.

"If you’re certain," he says before getting in the car.

I nod and smile at him.

“Yeah, and thanks for this.” I hold up the bag.

“Anytime, American Girl.” He seems like he’s going to say something else, but decides against it. He presses his lips shut, glances at the car and then back at me. “Well, I’ll be off.”

I turn and walk the other way, pulling out the box of truffles as I go. I pop one in my mouth and moan. The woman walking next to me laughs.

“Those are so good, but they go straight to my hips,” she says regretfully. She hurries off before I can reply.

I look at the little box in my hands and decide I should walk home so I can eat a few more.


The next day, he's the first to text.

- You up yet?

- I’m awake, not up.

His answering text makes me giggle.

- … Not cool

I don't immediately answer back I'm laughing so hard, and he quickly texts again.

- Breakfast?

- Where?

- Let me pick you up. What's your address?

Staring down at my phone, I try to decide if giving it to him is a smart thing to do. He must sense this because he sends another message when I don't reply.

- I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

- What are we 12?

- Come know you want to.

Okay, obviously we are twelve. I text him the address before I can change my mind and he sends one final message.

- See you soon, American Girl.

Crap! I haven't even gotten out of bed yet. I run into the bathroom and get blasted with cold water and brush my hair, but that’s about it. I pull on clothes and run out into the kitchen. This morning is even more of a rush than yesterday, and by the time I leave my room, he is here.

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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