Erase and Rewind - Chapter 4

Cait breathed in and out slowly, steadying her heart rate. She wouldn’t panic. She didn’t have any reason to panic. She was Caitrióna Wallace, after all, not Laurel Lance. She would calmly remain seated, sipped her juice, and then, when she was done, she would calmly slip off the bar stool and leave. They wouldn’t even notice her.

The fact she surreptitiously checked out the exit behind the bar and calculated the time it would take her to reach it didn’t mean much. Old habits die hard, she supposed. One of those old habits, one she suspected she’d never get rid of, was always sitting with her back to the wall, in a darkened corner where no one could spot her quickly, and keeping all possible exist in sight at all times.

The first to enter the bar was Sara Lance—alive and well, who would’ve thought, good for her, and Cait knew she hasn’t been wrong earlier, associating the voices with the correct people. Dinah Drake and Quentin Lance followed their daughter, accompanied by Moira Queen, then came Thea Queen and Roy Harper, chattering merrily, holding hands, and making googly eyes at each other—at least Thea did, Roy was too much of a tough guy to stoop so low.

Cait waited, knowing nothing on the outside betrayed just how edgy she felt.

And finally he appeared. Oliver Queen himself, his signature playboy grin firmly in place, with a blonde on his arm. Actually, the blonde was underneath his arm that he’s slung over her shoulders. Cait shook her head minutely. Another one bites the dust. In those brief moments that they’d met, she thought Felicity Smoak to be smarter than this, a better judge of character. But despite everything, the girl has succumbed to the magical Queen charm.

Och, lassie.

Cait winked at Kaylee, who’s been trying to get her attention for the past few minutes. Yes, she was looking at them. Yes, they were indeed posh. Yes, the women were gorgeous. Yes, the men were handsome.

Yet none of them possessed the decency to believe a family member or a friend no matter how long they’ve known them. Unfortunately, she was the only one who knew that one.

She chuckled softly as Hamish rolled his eyes, grumbling about spoiled Americans under his breath. He wouldn’t move from behind the bar to serve them, and though she found it amusing, the fact they’d have to get their drink orders themselves, might pose a problem for her. She slowly scooted a little deeper into the shadows, and angled her body toward the main exit.

She leaned her head on her palm as Sara approached the bar, but the move must’ve been too abrupt.

“Laurel?”

Bollocks. Cait didn’t move. She kept her head on her palm, her fingers around the glass, staring at her juice. She could do this, she wouldn’t respond. Sara would think she’d been mistaken. All good.

Unfortunately, Sara Lance hasn’t yet learned when to let go. “Oh, my God. Laurel! It is you!”

Did she have to yell? Did she really?

“Mom, Dad. Ollie!”

Great, she was calling in the troops. Did he really still respond to that idiotic nickname? Was he twelve?

As if finally noticing the blond girl at the bar was talking to her, Cait slowly lifted her head. Her face was partially in shadows so the color of her eyes wasn’t discernable, and she knew she didn’t look anything like Laurel Lance had when she’d left Starling City. She looked healthier. She was healthier. There was more meat to her bones that gave her curves she’d never thought she could have. Her skin had lost its sallow hue, and though she was paler than before—there was no real sunbathing in the Highlands, she didn’t look sickly. Her posture had changed. She dressed differently, and her hair was shorter, straighter, and darker, gathered into a thick braid. Laurel Lance had never restrained her hair, while Cait never let it hang loose. At least not in public.

“Laurel?” Dinah Drake said her eldest daughter’s name reverently as she came closer. “Laurel.”

“I’m sorry,” Cait said, deliberately thickening her accent, disguising her voice better, “are ye talking to me?”

Hamish frowned slightly, and moved closer to her, just in case she needed help. She was thankful.

“Oh, baby.” Quentin Lance stepped forward, his arms outstretched.

Cait stopped him with a lifted hand. “There must be a mistake. My name is Cait.”

Nathan, the owner of the only shop in town, unfolded his large frame out of the chair. “Is there a problem?” he rumbled. “Cait, are ye okay?”

The other patrons followed suit, straightening out of their chairs, some echoing his question.

She smiled reassuringly. “I’m all right, thank you.” The accent rolled off her tongue with ease. “Just a misunderstanding, I’m sure.”

Quentin dropped his arms to his sides. “I’m sorry, ma’am. It’s just that—” He grew silent, his eyes troubled.

“You look so very much like our daughter,” Dinah explained softly.

“You could be her twin,” Oliver Queen added and moved closer.

Cait didn’t miss the hostile expression that passed over Felicity’s features. Everything was not good in paradise, huh? She could’ve told her this was just the beginning, but instead said simply, “I was born like this.”

Nathan roared with laughter, leaned around Oliver, and patted her on the head. “And ye’re pretty as a bird, lassie.”

“As pretty as a bald-heided eagle, if ye dinnae stop patting me on the heid, Nathan,” she replied, earning another laugh.

Sara kept eyeing her suspiciously. “Cait, huh?”

She nodded. “Caitriòna Wallace. I run the B&B by the river.”

“What about your family?”

“My parents are dead.”

Maura suddenly appeared in the doorway. “We’re her family,” she stated firmly. “And she has no reason to participate in this interrogation.”

Sara frowned. “It’s not an interrogation, I’m just asking some questions.”

“With what purpose?” Maura snapped.

“She looks just like my sister,” Sara replied angrily. “And I find that to be too much of a coincidence.”

Maura positioned herself in front of Sara, arms akimbo, determined as a mother bear protecting her cub. “I don’t know about America, but here, looking similar to someone else is not a crime.”

Dinah hugged her daughter. “Sara, calm down.” She looked apologetically at Maura and Cait. “I’m sorry. We all are. We didn’t mean to upset anyone. It’s just that...You look so much like my Laurel. It took us all by surprise.” And she burst into tears.

Maura clucked. “There, there. Don’t cry. I’m sure you’ll find your daughter.”

Quentin shook his head, holding his ex-wife close. “She’s dead.”

That explained why no one but Blood’s henchmen bothered looking for her. Her theory proved to be correct. For everybody else Laurel Lance died in the explosion in her apartment. And the people who should’ve believed her in the first place, who should’ve suspected something was wrong, especially with her death following her release from prison, the people who should’ve hoped she’d somehow survived and continued looking for her, were here crying their eyes out because she’d died. Were they hoping to make amends with someone who looked like Laurel? Was that why Sara was so insistent? Was that why Oliver was staring at her so intently? Were they hoping for redemption? For forgiveness?

Screw them. It was too late for that.

Still, as Cait Wallace, she had to maintain a mask of polite indifference, or in this case polite compassion, so she forced her facial muscles to move into what she hoped was an appropriately contrite mask. “I’m very sorry,” she murmured and received stiff nods in return as they moved back toward their table.

The only one left was Oliver Queen, his eyes running intently over her face and down her body. She wanted nothing more than to punch him, but that wouldn’t do. To Cait, he was a stranger, and people didn’t go around punching people in the face.

“There you are.”

The deep, rich baritone slid over her nerve endings like a balm, making her blood slow, her limbs tingle, and heat slowly pool in her stomach. Alexander Cameron filled the doorway, capturing her full attention, drawing her in like a moth to a flame.

“What are you doing here?” she asked breathlessly.

Alex grinned, the corners of his eyes crinkling endearingly. “Is that the greeting I get after being away for so long?”

He stepped leisurely in, brushed past Oliver, and then he was in front of her. He pulled her knees apart, stepping between her thighs, curled one hand around her nape, the other arm around her waist, and captured her lips in a kiss that made little electric shocks zing through her body. She lifted her arms to circle his neck, pulled him closer yet, and let him deepen the kiss, the Americans completely forgotten. She couldn’t think of anything when she was in Alex’s arms, except how good it felt to be there.

When he finally ended the kiss and lifted his head, she was breathless, hot, and trembling.

“Now, this is the greeting I was looking for,” he murmured against her lips.

“And ye sure found it,” Hamish chuckled.

Cait couldn’t muster the will to blush or push Alex away. His arm around her waist was the only thing preventing her from falling off the stool.

“I missed you,” Alex said softly.

“I missed you, too,” she replied just as softly.

“We missed you, too, Alasdair,” Maura said with a grin. “A little less than Cait, though.”

“A lot less,” Nathan amended and the others laughed.

“You better,” Alex replied with a chuckle. “Now, if you’ll excuse us.” He lifted her easily into his arms, and quickly carried her out.

The image of Oliver Queen’s eyes boring into hers remained on the outskirts of her mind long after they left the hotel.


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