FOUR YEARS EARLIER
Left side of the room. The middle. Right side of the room. Behind her. Lorna’s head turns from one side to the other, and her eyes scan the members of our brotherhood surrounding her.
She’s looking for something. Someone?
I watch her. Unable to resist, I study her face and body and analyze her facial expressions and body language. It’s all part of an attempt to gain some insight into what’s going through her mind.
I do it a lot—watch her while she’s unaware. It’s impossible not to when she sashays around my pub wearing the Duncan’s uniform. No one looks like she does in that blouse and kilt.
I want to get closer. Close enough to smell the peach and cherry-blossom body spray on her skin. Her signature fragrance. That shite drives me crazy. Just a single whiff of it makes me hard.
One of her arms crosses over the other, and that’s my cue. I’ve indulged for too long in my little spying game.
“May I have this dance, Miss Frazier?”
Lorna unfolds her arms and looks at me over her shoulder. I love watching her dimples form, but I especially love watching those small depressions in her flesh deepen when her eyes meet mine. Because I know that her smile is especially for me.
She clears her voice and whispers, “You already know that you can have anything you want where I’m concerned.”
“Do I know that?”
She turns around and both brows lift, widening her brown-green-golden eyes. No one has eyes like hers. They’re like chameleons, always changing colors. “You should.”
“Perhaps I need reminding again.”
I slip my hand inside of hers and lead her to the center of the dance floor. Once we blend into the dancing couples around us, I pull her close. Probably closer than I should, but I don’t care. And even if I did, I can’t help myself. This woman does something to me.
No, this woman does everything to me.
Lorna Frazier. She’s the first thing to come into my head when I wake and the last before I fall asleep. And that isn’t the end of it. She constantly enters my thoughts throughout the day. I can’t get enough of her. She consumes me. No woman has ever had that kind of power over me.
The longer we dance, the closer we become. And the closer we get to exposing our secret.
“I love this song,” she says.
“I don’t know it.”
I’m not usually a fan of the bands that The Fellowship hires to play at weddings, but this one isn’t half bad. Their music isn’t a repeat of the typical wedding songs that the other bands perform.
“This is ‘Moonlight’ by Dan Owen. But I’m not surprised by your not knowing it. Your taste in music is…”
The corners of her mouth curl upward and she looks away.
“My taste in music is what?”
“Not the least bit romantic.”
I’m a man and not just any man. I’m Fellowship. I don’t do romance and Lorna knows this about me. “Why should my choice in music ever be romantic?” The final word of that sentence leaves a bad aftertaste on my tongue.
Those dimples that I love so much slowly disappear, and the light in her eyes fades. “I guess there is no reason.”
I don’t like the sadness I see on her face and hear in her voice. And I especially don’t like the distance that is growing between her body and mine.
I lower my head and place my mouth against her ear. “Have I upset you?”
She shakes her head. “Don’t be silly. I’m not that girl, the one who pouts because she doesn’t get wooed by the man in her bed.”
The man in her bed. Singular, implying that I’m the only one, and that isn’t the case. I share Lorna with another. And I’ve come to hate every fucking second of it. But at least it’s an improvement from when I used to share her with two men.
But I don’t want to think about that right now.
Sin will be tied up at this wedding for the rest of the night. There’s zero chance of him intruding on my alone time with Lorna this evening. And I plan on taking advantage.
“We should wish Logan and Emilia our best and get out of here.”
“And where would we go?”
“You know exactly where we’d go.”
Her smile returns. “Another one-on-one?”
“Aye. Just you and me tonight in our special place. What do you say?”
“I say that you leave first. I’ll follow fifteen minutes later and meet you at your flat.”
The song ends and my lovely raven beauty steps away, slightly lowering her face and bending at the knees. “Thank you for the dance, Mr. Duncan.”
Her curtsy is proper and old-school, just the way Edin taught her it should be.
She doesn’t look anything like a woman who is about to get fucked into oblivion.
“It was my pleasure, Miss Frazier.” The first of many that I plan to have with you tonight.
At least a dozen brothers prevent me from leaving as I’m on my way out the door. All of the bastards want to talk tonight, and it takes much longer than I’d like to slip away from the wedding reception. I suspect the same must be true for Lorna as well since I’ve been waiting for her at my flat for almost an hour.
Lorna: Sorry. On my way now. Be there soon.
Leith: You better be. I want you beneath me right now.
I grab a whisky and turn on some music, thumbing through my favorite playlist. And Lorna is right. My taste in music works for me, but it is gruff and unromantic for a woman.
Lorna wants to be wooed. She didn’t come out and say the words, but I heard them loud and clear. And I want to give her everything that she desires.
Her knock is soft, just like the music that’s playing when she comes through my front door.
I put an end to her apology when I push her back against the interior side of my front door. With my hand in the back of her hair and my mouth pressed against hers, a soft moan emits from the back of her throat, making my already-hard dick throb against the zipper of my trousers.
Her mouth opens and our tongues meet, moving frantically against each other at first, but then they slow to the rhythm of the song playing through the surround speakers in my flat.
“Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” by Cigarettes After Sex. Maybe not the most romantic song in the world, but it fits us. Or at least it fits the way I want us to be.
My mouth leaves hers and moves down the side of her neck, leaving kisses in a path.
“This song… it’s soft and slow,” she whispers.
“I know. I chose it for you.”
“I love it.”
My hands grip the backs of her lower thighs and lift. In one fluid motion, her arms encase my shoulders and her legs wrap around my waist.
“Take me to your bed.”
I’ve shared Lorna with Jamie and Sin more times than I care to admit, but never at my place. My bed is a refuge where it’s always been only the two of us. I think of it as our hideaway where she belongs to only me. I never have to share her when we’re here.
Our one-on-ones have been happening more and more frequently. And each time I have her all to myself, it only manages to increase my inclination to make her mine. Only mine.
This arrangement, the three of us sharing her, was Lorna’s idea. And for months, the sex was hot as fuck. But something unforeseen happened along the way.
I fell in love with Lorna Frazier.
I. Fell. In. Love. And I don’t even know how it happened.
I know exactly how it happened.
It began when we started seeing each other one-on-one behind Jamie’s and Sin’s backs. She could have chosen any one of us to be alone with. But she chose me—a Duncan by birth. A simple pub owner. Not a Breckenridge. Not the next leader of The Fellowship. Not the well-educated doctor.
Our secret trysts had been going on for a few months when Jamie stopped joining our foursomes. I can’t lie. I was happy to have one less person taking a turn with her. And I had hoped that Sin, too, would lose interest. But he hasn’t, and it’s becoming a huge problem for me; he’s standing in the way of my having Lorna all to myself.
I don’t want him touching her.
I don’t want him kissing her.
I don’t want him fucking her.
I’m tormented, day and night. The only thing that manages to get me by is the alone time we have when we’re able to sneak away.
I lower her feet to the floor and her eyes are alight with delight when she notices the glow of burning candles dancing all around the room. “Leith…”
“Is this what you want? Soft music? Burning candles? Romance and tenderness?”
“This is exactly what I want,” she whispers.
“And you want these things with me? Not Sin? Not Jamie?”
Her hands frame the sides of my face. “Yes, I want these things and so much more with you. Only you.”
She presses a soft kiss to my mouth and then turns around, pulling her long, lush hair over her shoulder. My fingers tremble as I lower the zipper of her black lacy dress. Not because this is the first time ever that I’ve undressed her. I’m pretty sure that it’s not even the one hundred and first time. But it is the first time after hearing her confirm that I’m the one she wants.
The top of her dress falls, and the warm yellow candlelight dances against the bare skin on her shoulders. The urge to kiss and lick and nip at her skin is irresistible. And her body tells me that she wants it too when she leans against me, tilting her head, giving me full access to the side of her neck.
I’ve been gentle with her skin, careful to not leave any evidence of a sexual encounter since that could lead to her being labeled a tainted woman. But now, the need to see my mark on her body is overpowering.
She reaches overhead and her hand grasps the back of my head, pulling me closer, encouraging me to suck harder and leave a more profound discoloration. Because she wants this as much as I do. She wants to be marked by me.
I push her dress downward until it becomes a pile of black fabric on the floor. A single quick yank and her black strapless bra becomes the second piece of clothing to hit the floor, leaving her wearing only her tiny black knickers. And fuck, what a measly scrap of fabric those knickers are.
Her back arches, forcing her arse to press against my cock, making me harder. And then she moves to the beat of the music, rubbing her bum back and forth over my erection.
Her hands find mine and she brings them upward, encouraging them to grope and massage her tits. “How much do you want me, Leith?”
I suck her earlobe into my mouth and nip it lightly before releasing. “You can’t imagine how badly.”
Her nipples harden beneath my touch, and I give in to the urge to roll them between my thumbs and index fingers before lightly pinching.
My hand moves on from her tit and slowly works its way down her stomach, sliding into the front of her knickers. Her body arches deeper when my fingertips hook around that special place between her legs to find that sensitive little bundle of nerves hooded beneath her soft, delicate flesh.
“This is mine. Only mine from now on.”
“Only yours.” Her voice is muffled by the pant of her breath, but I’m able to make out the sound of her confirmation.
“It’s over. From this night forward, no more sharing. Do you understand?”
Her desperate, breathy whimper makes my dick twitch. “Please don’t stop.”
“Don’t worry. I have much bigger plans for you.”
She turns and her hands grip my shoulders for balance while I pull down her knickers. She steps out of them and the final piece of her clothing is added to the collection on the floor.
“Lie on the bed. I want to look at you while I take off my suit.”
She stretches out on the bed and props her upper body on her elbows and lower arms, watching me remove my clothes.
“Do you like the suit?” I ask.
“I do, but I prefer to see you in jeans and a T-shirt.” The corners of her mouth turn upward, and fuck, I love that naughty little grin of hers. “But naked looks mighty fine on you too.”
“I’m glad you prefer the jeans and a T-shirt. You probably won’t see me wear a suit again until there’s another Fellowship wedding. But naked? I’m happy to wear that for you anytime.”
She nibbles her bottom lip as she watches me take off my clothes. “You’re beautiful.”
“Men aren’t beautiful.” Especially Fellowship brothers. Brawny, frightening, scarred, yes. But beautiful? No.
She stretches one of her legs out, and her toes wiggle against one of my thighs. “You are.”
“No, babe, you’re the beautiful one. I’ve always thought so.”
There are those dimples I love so much. “You’ve always thought I was beautiful?”
“Well, maybe not always. I guess that I started taking notice when you were about thirteen or so.”
The skin of my chest and stomach brushes against hers as I inch up her body. I don’t know what it is about us touching this way, but it sends tingles all over me. Maybe because it feels intimate in a way that I’ve never experienced before her.
Maybe because I love her.
My upper arms press into the mattress, forming a cage of flexed biceps around her head. And I look at her face. The face of an angel. And those eyes. I could get lost in them, trying to figure out if they’re brown or green or amber.
I lower my head and the tip of my nose brushes hers. “I could stare at you forever.”
“Well, I hope you don’t because there are a lot of other things I’d prefer you to do to me.”
“Tell me what you want. You know I’ll give you anything.”
I quiver when her nails drag up the center of my spine ever so gently. “I want you to kiss me. And touch me. And make love to me.”
“And make you come?” As if I have to ask.
“Yes, over and over. And after we’re covered in sweat and our bodies are exhausted, I want you to hold me close in your arms.”
“Can you stay for a while?”
Up and down, the tip of her nose rubs against mine. “Yes.”
“Good. Because what I want to do with you is going to take a long time.”
I pull back and stare at her lips for several heartbeats before lowering my mouth to hers again, delivering a delicate yet passionate kiss. This time, I taste what remains of the sweet wine on her tongue.
“I want to devour you. Every. Delectable. Inch.”
I give her a soft kiss before slowly slinking down her body, my lips grazing her skin as I move lower. I’m not sure if she’s trembling from the contact of my mouth or the anticipation of what’s to come. Either way, it inflates my ego to know that I have the power to evoke that kind of reaction from her. A natural response that can’t be faked.
I place my fingers on the insides of her inner thighs and push her legs apart. The force required to open them is nonexistent. And then it hits me—the sweet smell of her arousal. The scent invades my nose and my mouth waters.
“I’m going to make you come so hard.”
“I know; you always do.”
I breathe in deeply, inhaling her scent. “But not before I tease you a little.”
“Tease? Or torture?”
“Call it what you like, but either is going to make you explode when you finally get to come.”
She squirms beneath me when I drag my tongue up the length of her inner thigh until it reaches her groin. And because I don’t want to give attention to one and not the other, I repeat the same treatment on the opposite leg.
I smile when her upper body stretches, her arms reaching over her head to grip the bedsheets and edge of the mattress.
That’s right, Lorna. You’d better prepare to hold on for what’s to come.
I lie on my stomach, my face planted right between her legs. Ready to feast. Ready to fuck her with my mouth and tongue. Ready to make her scream my name.
She lifts her head to look down at me and our eyes lock. And because it’s hot as fuck, I can’t resist licking her in a long, upward sweep while she’s watching.
“Oh my God.”
I lick her again and she closes her eyes, falling backward. Her legs widen and her back arches from the bed while she grips the edge of the mattress.
“Someone wants more?”
“I want so much more. I want everything you have to give to me. Every. Thing.”
Lorna wants everything I have to give her? Does that include my love? My heart? Because all of it, every part of me already belongs to her.
She squirms beneath me when I kiss her slit, but her body jerks when I flick my tongue over her clit. That makes me smile.
“Ohh, right there. Just like that.”
This—my mouth on her—I’m the only one who does this. The only one who cares anything about pleasuring her. The only one who doesn’t use her body only for his own pleasure.
Using my thumb and middle finger, I spread the top of her slit apart and use a flicking motion with my tongue to build the ecstasy that I already know she craves. Up and down. Side to side. And I’m certain that I’m reaching my goal when she pushes her fingers into the top of my hair and drags her nails across my scalp.
“Oh God. I’m coming, Leith. So hard.”
She tugs on my hair when her body tenses and jolts several times. A sound between a moan and cry fills the room, and then her body relaxes at the same time that her grip on my hair loosens.
I press my lips to her inner thigh and crawl up her body, leaving a path of kisses up her abdomen and chest. I stop when my face hovers above hers and I study the expression I see there. Pure bliss. Those are the only words to describe the satisfaction in my girl’s eyes.
“You are so damn good at that.”
“You do more than try. You do it perfectly.”
She stretches and presses a kiss to my lips. “My turn to make you feel good.”
Our bodies roll as one so that she’s on top of me. I lie on my back, looking up at her. Studying her. Coveting her.
She pulls her hair over one shoulder and leans forward, making the soft curls on the ends tickle my chest. My eyes move over her face until they reach the scar beneath her chin. I can’t resist reaching up and touching the faint white line running parallel with her jaw. A reminder of a day long ago.
“You have this scar because of me.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
I’d yanked her hat from her head and ran with it. “It was my fault. You fell while chasing me.”
The corners of her mouth pull her pink lips into a smile. “It’s twelve years later and not much has changed. I’m still chasing you.”
My hands move to the curves of her hips and I squeeze them gently, my fingertips digging into her soft flesh. “You’re wrong. I’m not running from you anymore. And I never will again.”
Her hands slide up my chest, and she leans forward, suspending the most beautiful and perfect pair of tits in front of my face. It’s impossible to not stretch upward and place a kiss between them.
Her nails rake down my chest, bringing all of my desires to the surface. It spawns a crazy kind of desperation to be inside her. “Fuck, I want you.”
Her pussy moves up the length of my erection, and her slippery wetness smears over the tip, lubricating it so I can slide into her smoothly. My hands cling to her hips, and I take a breath, preparing to feel her body swallow my cock.
Skin on skin. No barrier between us. Another thing that only we do together.
She sits up and her hair covers one side of her body, hiding her left breast from me. But I’m not having it. I push her hair out of the way because I need to see all of her.
She arches her back and rises to position the tip of my cock at her entrance. Fuck, this is going to be fun.
She sucks her bottom lip and breathes in deeply through her nose when she lowers her body. And then the tightest and sweetest and wettest pussy that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being inside slides down my length.
“Holy shite, baby, that feels so good.”
My eagerness gets the better of me and I sit up, hooking my arm around her waist. I pull her down and thrust upward until I’m buried balls deep inside the most incredible woman in the world.
She lowers her forehead to mine and wraps her arms around my shoulders, pulling my chest against hers. And when she nods, our heads move in sync. “Yes, it does.”
“We fit together perfectly.” Like we were made for each other. I’ve never had that thought about any other woman.
She rises and lowers her body over and over, her slick pussy gliding on and off of my cock. Every time she comes down, she rolls her hips forward, taking me in even deeper than I thought possible.
I’m sucked in by the ecstasy until I become lost in her. Using my grip on her hips, I pull her down hard, thrusting into her from below. But it’s not enough.
Hooking my arm around her waist, I flip us over. Lorna on her back beneath me, legs wrapped around my waist, fingers digging into the flesh of my back—that’s what does it for me.
I hover above her and the brunt of my weight is supported by my lower arms pressed into the mattress on each side of her head. Her eyes lock on mine while I’m rocking in and out of her, and something happens.
Everything slows down.
We’re no longer fucking.
We’re making love.
Using her grip on the back of my neck to pull me closer, she presses her lips to my ear, amplifying her breath and voice against my canal when she speaks. “All of this time, it should have been only you.”
“It will be from now on. Because you belong to me. You’re mine and no one else’s.”
As if my words set her off, her legs tighten around my waist, and she whimpers when her body rhythmically contracts around my cock. Squeezing me. And the start of her climax initiates mine.
I pin her body against the mattress, deepening the angle, putting every inch of my cock inside her. I want her to have every drop.
Lorna frames her hands on each side of my face and our eyes lock. “Leith…”
Come on. Say it, Lorna. I love you. Say it and I will too.
She closes her eyes and her mouth forms a perfect O. The grip of her legs around my waist tightens, and she holds me close and deep when I release. It isn’t possible for us to be closer than we are in this moment, physically or emotionally, and yet we’ve never said those three little words to one another.
I love you. The words are dancing on the tip of my tongue. I want to say them so badly, and I will at some point, but not now. Not yet. Not until this situation with Jamie and Sin has been made right and put behind us.
I press a soft kiss to her lips and roll off of her, pulling her to lie on my chest. “I want you to stay here tonight. I want to see your face in the morning instead of waking up alone.”
“I would love to, but what would we say if someone notices that my car was here all night long?”
“No one is going to notice.”
“But they could. And that would be disastrous for me.”
“I would never allow you to be labeled as tainted. I would kill any man who ever called you a whore.”
Lorna doesn’t yet understand the intentions I have for us and our future. I’m going to take away that gaping hole in her heart. I’m going to claim her. And I’m going to make her my wife and mother of my children.
We’re going to be so happy.
“I have to go. I’ve already been here longer than I should have been.”
She tries to get up, but I snake my arm around her waist and pull her down. “You’re staying. End of conversation.”
She stops trying to get up and returns her head to my chest where it belongs.
I grip my hand around her upper arm, caressing it in an up-and-down motion. And it isn’t long until her breath becomes steady and rhythmic.
And we fall asleep.
* * *
Lorna places her tray on the bar. “Black Hawk, Black Isle Blonde, and Johnnie Walker. A double.”
I turn and look at the trifecta table, confirming what I already know. “It’s late. I had decided that he wasn’t coming in tonight.” Or maybe it was more like I was hoping that he wouldn’t.
I’m not looking forward to the conversation where I have to tell Sin that he’s losing his hookup. He’s my best mate, but he’s also my leader. He has the power to refuse my match with Lorna and keep her for himself if he chooses.
Sin is Sin and he gets what he wants, but I don’t think he would do that to us. And if he did? I wouldn’t go along with it. I would risk going to hell and back for Lorna.
Lorna’s head tilts to the side. “Leith…”
“What is it?”
“Will you take this whisky to Sin? I don’t…” She inhales and blows the air out slowly through her mouth. “I’d just rather not if I don’t have to.”
My self-esteem, my pride, my heart… all of it inflates because Lorna isn’t interested in interacting with him. “Aye, of course I will.”
I pour the two glasses of draft and place them on her tray. “Black Hawk is on the left.”
I catch Kenrick’s attention and nod in the direction of the trifecta table, letting him know that he’s in charge while I step away from the bar. He lifts his chin to acknowledge my meaning and then returns to talking to Rodrick Lester’s youngest daughter.
This is the third time that I’ve seen that lass in here talking to Kenrick. I hate to break the news to my baby brother but old man Rodrick will not approve of his daughter’s relationship with a lowly bartender.
I take the seat across from Sin. “Lorna said a double?”
“Fuck yes.” Sin lifts the glass and tosses back at least half of the golden liquid. “I’ve had a shite day.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’m having problems with one of my professors. The fucker is trying everything within his power to fail me. I think that someone has been in his ear. It’s the only thing that makes sense; there’s no other reason that he should want me to botch his class.”
“Who do you think it could be?”
Sin shrugs and holds out his hands, palms up, with his elbows on the table. “Someone within law enforcement? An Order member? Who the fuck knows?”
“You could always force him to tell you?”
“Placing the barrel of a gun in my professor’s face isn’t a wise choice.”
I didn’t go to college. I don’t have any suggestions for how to handle professors.
Sin turns up his glass, taking another large gulp. When he finishes, he puts the glass on the table, and his eyes focus on something behind me. “A good fuck. That’s exactly what I need after the shite day that I’ve had.”
I turn around to see who he has set his sights on, hoping like hell that it’s not Lorna behind me. But it is.
“Lorna’s closing tonight. Both of us are. We won’t get to leave until after the last customer is gone.”
“What time is that?”
“Never know. It could be midnight. Could be two or three. Depends on how late the brothers want to drink.”
“Well, fuck. I can’t hang around waiting that long.”
“You can have your pick of any woman you want. There’s at least a dozen in here right now that you could take to the back.” No joke. Fellowship women spread their legs for Sinclair Breckenridge with no questions asked. He doesn’t even have to try.
“Yeah, sure. I guess that I can pick one of them for tonight.”
Thank fuck. I was scared shitless for a minute that he was going to go after Lorna before I’m able to talk to him about ending our arrangement.
“I have something to discuss with you and Jamie.” And the sooner, the better.
“What is it?”
I’m not broaching the topic here. Too many ears. “Let’s meet at the gym in the morning. We’ll talk about it there.”
“In the ring?” he asks.
“Sure. I’m game if you are.”
“I’m always game. You know that.”
I can’t contain my laughter. “What I know is that you’re a cocky shithead who believes he’s always game.”
“I am a cocky shithead but with good reason. You’re lucky that this cocky shithead is your best mate. Otherwise, you’d get knocked on your arse more than you already do.”
“You wish you could knock me on my arse.” I gesture to his near-empty glass. “Want another one, you cocky shithead?”
He picks up his glass and tosses back the remainder. “Only one more. A single this time. I’ve got to study for an exam when I get home.”
“A single coming right up, mate.”
There have been times throughout our lives when I have envied Sin for one reason or another. His place at the top of our brotherhood. The way he gets whatever he wants. The way everything in his life always seems to align perfectly. But those days of envy are over. I’ve won Lorna, and for once I’m the one who is getting what he wants.
All it takes is a single lift of my finger, and Kenrick pours another whisky for Sin. To my surprise, my baby brother is turning out to be a great addition to the pub.
“Johnnie Walker. Black label. Excellent taste,” Maisie says when she places the glass on the table in front of Sin.
“I have excellent taste in all things,” Sin says.
Maisie lifts her left brow. “I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?”
She shakes her head. “Your taste in women is poor.”
“What leads you to believe that?”
“Because you’ve never tasted me.”
“And what are we going to do to rectify my obvious mistake in overlooking you?”
Maisie is new to the pub. She’s young and doesn’t understand that playing with Sin is the same as playing with fire. But she’s distracting him, and his attention isn’t on Lorna so I won’t intervene.
“I’m scheduled to work until ten.” Maisie widens her eyes at me. “But I’m sure that it would be okay for me to go now if I were leaving with Sin?”
“Sure. Go ahead and clock out.”
Sin studies Maisie’s arse as she walks away. “How old is that girl?”
“Old enough.” Although I doubt that her father would agree. But he’d never take on Sin for fucking his daughter. No brother would.
“Have you fucked her?”
Maisie came to work at the pub after I fell in love with Lorna. The only interest I have in her is if she shows up for work or not. “Never touched her.”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Can you manage without her?”
“Aye. I’ve got Lorna and Moira. And Kenrick.” And even if we were snowed under, I’d be a barmaid myself if it meant Sin’s attention was on someone besides Lorna.
Sin picks up his glass and swallows the remaining whisky. “I hope she isn’t one of those women who has it in her head that she’s going to make me fall in love with her because she gives me some pussy.”
“I couldn’t tell you one way or the other, mate.”
Sin pushes away from the table and stands. “I guess I’m about to find out what kind of woman she is.”
I go back to my place behind the bar, and I’m instantly pissed off when I see the stacks of dirty glasses in and around the sink. “Kenrick. Come here.”
I had to step into the role of father for Kenny six years ago after Dad died. I never complained about the responsibility. Not once. But he’s eighteen now. Sure, he still has a lot of maturing to do, but he’s not a wee lad anymore. It would be nice if we could interact as though I’m his brother rather than his parent.
“What are you doing, man?”
He shrugs. “What do you mean?”
“You’re down there talking to Rodrick Lester’s daughter like you don’t have anything better to do.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but while you were over there shooting the shite with Sin, I made every drink that left this bar.”
“Making drinks isn’t your only responsibility.” I flick my hand over the sink. “Look at this damn mess. There must be at least fifty dirty glasses here, and they’re not going to wash themselves.”
He lowers his voice. “Come on, dude. I don’t want Kameron to see me washing glasses.”
“We’re bartenders. Washing glasses is part of what we have to do or we’ll run out and then we can’t serve drinks. Use your head, Kenny.”
“Can’t Lorna or Moira or Maisie come back here and do it?”
“No, they can’t.”
At this point, I shouldn’t have to explain the way this pub runs. “Maisie has to leave early. Moira is slammed. And Lorna is…” I look around the room searching for her. “Lorna is?”
“I sent Lorna to the stockroom for a bottle of Dimple, and she never came back. Henderson is still waiting for his drink.”
“How long has she been gone?”
“I sent her back there right before you and Sin left your table.”
I’ve been back at the bar for at least five minutes. Probably closer to ten.
I point at the sink. “Wash these glasses. Now.”
“Where are you going?”
To find my girl. “To get the bottle of Dimple.”
“If you see Lorna, will you ask her to help me wash these? She’ll do anything for you,” Kenny calls out.
I meet Maisie in the hallway on the way to the stockroom. “Thanks for doing this, Leith. I’ll make up the time by staying late another night.”
I go to the toilet. No Sin.
My office. No Sin.
I break into a run and then stop dead in my tracks when I reach the stockroom door. I wrap my hand around the knob and turn it but hesitate for just a second before opening it. I’ve never had a more sickening feeling in my gut.
I push the door open and Lorna’s eyes meet mine. But Sin’s don’t. Because he’s too busy fucking her against the wall.
Sin. Is. Fucking. Lorna.
My best friend is fucking my girl.
They’re having a one-on-one behind my back.
I thought that I was the only one she was seeing outside of the group. Because I believed that she loved me. Believed that we were going to be together. Believed that we were going to be Mr. and Mrs.
I was wrong. So. Fucking. Wrong.
Lorna never loved me.
She never chose me.
I step out of the storage room, closing the door behind me. I need a barrier between us. Right now. Something to block my view of what’s happening on the other side.
The pain in my chest is spreading. The agony isn’t contained only within my heart. The torment is being pushed throughout my body with every beat, making me ache all over.
I go to my office and close the door. It’s a barricade between us, but it isn’t enough. And that’s when I close the door on every hope and dream I had for my future with Lorna. And I close the door of my heart, locking it so that it never opens again.
I skip pouring the whisky into a glass and turn the bottle up, taking a long drink that requires several gulps to get all of it down. It burns my throat, but I welcome the sting. I know that it’s the only remedy for my suffering.
A knock at the door interrupts my fourth big gulp of whisky. “Go away. I’m busy.”
Lorna opens the door and stands in the doorway. My fucking mistake. I should have locked that motherfucker, but I didn’t think she’d have the nerve to come in here and face me.
“Leith…” She stops and shakes her head. “I didn’t—”
I interrupt her because I can’t bear to hear anything that she has to say about fucking Sin in the storage room. “You didn’t take the bottle of Dimple to Kenrick. He’s still waiting on it.”
She comes closer and stands in front of my desk. “Leith, don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what, Lorna? Act as though I didn’t just see the woman I…”
I look away from her face and stare at the bottle of Ballantine’s on my desk because I can’t bear to look into her eyes. “Your break is over. You need to get back to work.”
She stands in front of me, unmoving. Silent.
“Shut my door on your way out.”
“We have to talk about this.”
I hear the desperation in her voice, but it means nothing to me. “Actually, we don’t have to talk about it. Because there’s nothing to talk about.”
I’ve played the fool one too many times. But it won’t happen again. Ever.
Her hands go to her mouth, forming a cup to cover it, but it doesn’t stop the cry that escapes. “I’m so sorry.”
She walks to the door and turns, stopping in the doorway to look at me. As she stands there, I wonder what must be going through her mind. Is she laughing on the inside because she fooled me into believing that we could have a life together? Is she regretful that I figured out she was doing the same thing with Sin behind my back? Does she care that she has shattered my heart into a million pieces?
“I get it. You’re upset. I’ll give you some space for now, but we’re going to talk about this tonight after everyone leaves.”
“No. We. Aren’t. I don’t want you to EVER bring this up again. And if you do, I’ll fire you. Now get the fuck out of my office.”
When she’s gone and I’m alone behind a closed door, I beat the palm of my hand against my head because I can’t stop replaying the image of Sin and Lorna in my head. And I do something that I’ve not done since I was a child.
I fucking cry.
Tears need whisky, so I pick up the bottle of whisky and chug down as much as I can before I’m forced to take a breath. And that’s what I continue to do until I see the bottom of the empty bottle.
But it doesn’t make the ache go away.
And I’m afraid that it never will.