Until Fountain Bridge - Page 9/18

“That was entirely your own fault.” I searched for the diary I wanted and once finding it, found the entry easily since it was a night I would not likely ever forget, “Nine months before Joss showed up… it’s a perfect example of it being entirely your own fault.”

Sunday, October 23rd That’s it. I give up. I’m humiliated. Confused and humiliated. And hurt. God… hurt doesn’t even cover it… I was supposed to be spending my Saturday evening with Jenna and a few girls from uni sipping cocktails and talking about anything else but our degrees. Instead, I was in a taxi heading to Adam’s duplex apartment in Fountain Bridge. I could have walked there, but I felt a sense of urgency to get there and make sure he was okay.

And I really needed to thank him for having my back, like he always had my back.

The last week had not been a particularly good one. That was putting it mildly.

I’d been betrayed. Again. But this time it was worse than ever. For the last five months I’d been dating Rich Stirling. For the last five months I’d thought I was dating a nice guy who worked in Glasgow for a recruitment agency. I’d only just discovered that in actuality he was a corporate spy for a competitor of Braden’s in Edinburgh. This property developer was so desperate to outbid Braden on a piece of coveted land down by Commercial Quay that they’d enlisted Rich to get close to me, to get close to Braden, to unearth Braden’s bid and offer more money for the land.

I wasn’t in love with Rich but I’d let the sleazeball into my life, into my bed, and I’d given him a piece of me. I don’t think I’d ever felt so completely stupid in my entire life. All of my friends and family kept telling me I was too nice, that I didn’t have good intuition when it came to people, that I let a-holes into my life, and I was finally starting to believe they were right.

I could close down, refuse to let people close, be smarter, more selective… but that wasn’t me, and that was somehow letting Rich win. So I refused to change and there was a tiny sense of victory in that, at least.

It still stung like a mother that I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t take some kind of retribution. So when Braden turned up at my flat — this gorgeous property on Dublin Street that he’d renovated and then allowed me to stay in rent-free — to tell me he and Adam had bumped into Rich out on the town the night before, I’d held my breath, knowing exactly what was coming. Sure enough, Braden had had to haul Adam off of Rich and take him home to calm him down and ice his knuckles. Apparently, Adam had let the whole world know how he felt about anyone betraying me. He didn’t like it. And when he didn’t like it, he’d acquaint your face with his dislike.

As soon as Braden left I buzzed around my flat in a tizzy, wondering what I should do.

Should I call Adam and thank him? Should I go to his place and thank him in person? Should I berate him for using violence to make a point? No, that last one definitely wouldn’t wash with him. He wasn’t a violent person. In fact, although he could be intimidating and had warned off a number of bullies when I was younger, this was the first time I knew of that he’d actually gotten physical with someone on my behalf. I’d half expected him to go after Rich. Adam had exploded and stormed out of my mum and Clark’s house when Braden relayed the news to them all. Braden had told them after he told me but my throat was still tight with tears as I had to hear it a second time.

After Braden’s departure, I finally made the decision to cancel my night out with the girls.

I jumped into the shower, blow-dried my hair straight, and threw on a long skirt with a low waistband, my Uggs, and a wooly turtleneck with a cropped hem. I wanted to be casual, of course, but whenever I knew I’d be seeing Adam, I liked to remind him in some way that I was a woman with a woman’s figure. Not that it made any real impact. Despite evidence that he checked me out sometimes, Adam had been carefully platonic in our interactions since our lip brush three years ago. I had dated three guys in a bid to get over him. It never worked.

The guys just paled in comparison to him and the relationships fizzled out.

With a mind to the cold, I’d thrown on a short wool jacket over my top, along with a scarf, and I’d flagged down a taxi outside my flat. It was only as the cab was pulling up to Adam’s place that I thought maybe I should have called to warn him I was coming over. It was a Saturday night. He might have company.

My stomach lurched unpleasantly at the thought. The last time I’d visited Adam unannounced had been four months ago, and I’d walked in on him with a girl called Vicky.

Not only was I horrified once more to play witness to one of his sexual interludes, but I’d been shocked to realize that he and my brother shared women. Not at the same time, thank God. I knew they shared (and I didn’t want to know if it was a reoccurring thing) because Braden had been seeing Vicky for three months. In an effort to soothe my severely bruised romantic notions, Adam had explained Braden and Vicky were really casual and when Vicky had said she fancied Adam, Braden had mentioned it to his friend and Adam had—la, la, la, la, la, la, la! I didn’t hear the rest of the explanation because I had indeed stuck my fingers childishly in my ears and “la, la-ed” at him.

Sex was not casual to me. Not only was I annoyed that my brother, who had once been a secret romantic, had turned into a serial monogamist, I was even more annoyed at Adam for encouraging it. I couldn’t even describe how angry I was at Vicky.

After asking the cab driver to wait a second, I pulled out my phone and called up to Adam.

“Hey, Sweetheart,” he greeted me, his rich voice filled with concern. He was clearly still worried about how I was coping with Rich’s treachery.

“Hullo,” I replied quietly, letting the warmth of hearing his voice fill my chest. “I’m downstairs. Are you okay for me to come up?”

“Of course. I’ll buzz you in.”

I hung up, paid the taxi driver and hopped out, my heart racing as I hurried to the entrance doors just as Adam let me in. My palms began to sweat as the lift took me up to his floor. It was strange but my reaction to being alone with Adam had only gotten worse over the last few years. Every time was like a first date, and yet I knew him better than I knew practically anyone.

When the lift doors opened my eyes met Adam’s. He was standing in his doorway across the hall, his arms crossed over his chest as he leaned his shoulder against the doorjamb. He wore a plain white T-shirt and a pair of old jeans, his feet bare, his hair mussed, and he needed a shave.

He was so bloody hot it was a wonder I didn’t start hyperventilating on the spot.

I crossed the hallway to him and held out the bottle of wine I’d brought him. He took it with a quizzical smile and I sighed. “It was either a bottle of wine or a slap on the wrist.” I eyed his bruised knuckles pointedly.

Adam’s lips twitched. “Wine will do.”

I followed him into the duplex, my eyes drinking in the space as always. A large open staircase greeted you at the front entrance, leading up to two spacious bedrooms, a bathroom and an office. Beyond the staircase on the ground floor was just wide open space—a massive sitting area with floor-to-ceiling glass windows covering one wall, and at the very end of the room a stylish kitchen with an island, breakfast bar, and a dining table and chairs.

It was a luxurious property and one he could more than afford. Not only did Braden pay him extremely well, Adam had invested in his own rental properties these last two years and it supplemented his income nicely.

I took another look around the large space, smirking. Unlike my flat, Adam’s was completely clutter-free. All items were carefully chosen and had their place. In fact, if I didn’t know first-hand that he was the straightest straight guy ever (well, with the exception of Braden), Adam’s duplex might convince me otherwise.

“I think I’ll crack this open… I feel a lecture coming on.” His voice was teasing as he wandered toward the kitchen.

As I shrugged out of my jacket and took off my scarf, I tilted my head and watched his delicious arse walk away from me. The man had the most perfect bottom in the history of all bottoms. Laying my jacket over his huge corner sofa, I wandered toward the kitchen, watching as he pulled two glasses out of a cupboard and began to pour wine into them. Adam turned just as I reached him and I saw his eyes flicker over the bare skin between the hem of my top and the waistband of my skirt before quickly shifting away. I gave myself a secret smug smile. Good wardrobe choice.

“Here,” he said somewhat gruffly, handing me a glass.

Our eyes met as we each took a sip of wine, and as I lowered my glass I told him solemnly, “I came here to thank you.”

Adam shook his hand. “Ellie, you don’t need to thank me.” His face darkened. “It was my pleasure, believe me.”

“Braden said he had a hard time pulling you off of Rich.”

“He fucked with you, Els. I mean he really fucked with you.”

“Literally,” I murmured and Adam stiffened.

“Don’t,” he warned me. “I’m this close to finishing the scumbag off.”

I felt a small thrill go through me at the sincerity in his voice. I loved that Adam cared this much. He might not be willing to see me as anything but Braden’s wee sister, but it was a nice consolation prize to know he had some feelings for me. “I should be reprimanding you.”

I reached for his free hand, using his wounds as an excuse to touch him, and lifted it closer to me for inspection. His knuckles weren’t just bruised, they were swollen, and the middle one had a small, healing gash in it. I hissed in a breath. “How many times did you hit him?”

Adam stepped closer, staring at his hand in mine. “I hit the wall next to his head as a warning shot. He didn’t heed the warning, said shit he really shouldn’t have, and I think I got in four really good hits before Braden pulled me off.”

I lifted my gaze to his face, no longer feeling the thrill. “Did you leave him conscious?”

“Barely.” Adam’s eyes narrowed. “Do you care?”