Erase and Rewind - Chapter 5

Cait was seething. She simply couldn’t stand the idiot. She knew he was a few years older than her, but what he gained in age, he lost in maturity. Because he acted like a twelve-year-old. She hated it. She hated him, actually.

Which was a pity.

She knew he was a great listener, incredibly intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humor, very similar to hers...When he was with other people, that was. With her...Well, with her, he was a complete plonker. An arse of the highest order. Constantly teasing her, making her angry, calling her by her last name. Nowadays, he didn’t even have to open his mouth to set her teeth on edge. He simply had to show up, and she saw red.

When they’d first met, soon after she moved into her cottage, she’d almost swallowed her tongue. He was gorgeous. An epitome of the what-women-want cliché. Tall, dark, handsome. So handsome, in fact, it was unfair, with short raven hair, midnight-blue eyes, a straight, proud nose—no bumps or other imperfections, a generous mouth with a fuller, utterly bitable lower lip, and a million watt smile accentuated even more by his swarthy complexion. It had been the eyes that had drawn her in at that first glimpse. She’d felt herself drawn in those dark depths that had seemed to swirl with promises. Only after he’d stopped in front of her, had she noticed she had to look way up to meet those hypnotic eyes, and had finally managed to look away.

Down. Over his body. And had felt heat pool in the pit of her stomach and blossom on her cheeks. The simple white shirt had done nothing to hide the expanse of his chest, the broadness of his shoulders, the thickness of his arms, and the tightness of his stomach. Tight black denim, whitened with wear in all the right stress points had accentuated the narrowness of his hips, and length and strength of his legs. His body was a wall of muscle, not an extra ounce of fat, she’d suspected, but despite the fact he’d towered over her, there’d been no menace in his stance, no spark of fear from her. Quite the opposite, he’d made her feel secure, protected. Cherished even, though he’d been a stranger.

Then he’d spoken, and her brain had short-circuited. The deep, rich tone washed over her like warm tide, making her knees tremble, and her nipples tighten. She’d never experience anything like this before. She’d never considered herself to be particularly susceptible to auditory stimuli like a person’s voice, but she’d figured she hadn’t met the person with the right kind of voice.

Until the moment she’d heard Alexander Cameron speak.

Everything inside her had recoiled in that moment. Everything inside her had screamed danger. Not because of the man, but because of what he represented. She’d immediately viewed him as a threat. Not to her life, but to her heart, her mind, her body, and her soul. He called to every cell of her body, he called to her baser instincts. The instincts that had screamed that this was the man the moment she’d spotted him. And she’d refused to listen to those instincts. She prided herself on being a woman who learned from past mistakes, and those mistakes had taught her not to fall prey to a pretty face or gorgeous body. That way lay disaster, and she refused to walk down that path again.

As if that decision had shown on her face or her stance, he’d changed as well. Gone was the pleasant smile, the admiring look in his eyes. Gone was the handsome, charming man. In his stead, the Alex Cameron she encountered from that moment onward was a real bugger. He simply couldn’t keep his mouth shut. If at least he had something nice to say instead of the merciless teasing and barbs. He wasn’t insulting or rude, just obnoxious.

And she fell for it every single time. Allowed herself to be baited. What the hell was wrong with her? She could’ve simply turned and walked away, but no, she had to counter every single thing he said. She couldn’t help it. It was like a compulsion. And they always ended up bickering like children. And there was bound to be someone present to enjoy the show, grin like an idiot, and report back to anyone who could be interested.

Which meant everybody in town.

Cait never asked the pillock what exactly she’d done to deserve such a treatment, but she figured she ought to. She might as well do it right now, in the middle of the town’s little fair, with everybody as witness. She deserved to know.

“What is your problem?” she snarled.

He grinned. “I don’t have a problem, Wallace.”

There went another half inch off her back teeth. “It seems you do,” she reiterated. “With me.”

He simply shook his head, grin firmly in place, his eyes twinkling, but with something different. Something that wasn’t usually there. Something she’d seen only once, when they’d first met.

“God, just tell me.” She sighed. “I think I deserve to know.”

“There’s nothing, Wallace.”

She felt her fingers curl into fists. She might just as well punch him and end this stupid conversation that has drawn too much attention already. “I have a name,” she said forcefully.

“I know,” he said softly, a smile replacing the shit-eating grin.

She shook off the shivers she always got when he smiled like that. “And I also have the right to know why you’re always baiting me,” she snapped.

Alex was suddenly so close, she had to lean her head completely backwards to look at him. She swallowed loudly when he leaned down. Closer, and closer, until his breath brushed her ear.

“Because you’re breathtaking when you’re ticked off, Cait.”

She felt him brush the softest of kisses on her cheek, and then he just walked away, leaving her there gaping like a fish. Maura caught her gaze and winked as if to say ‘I told you so’. And she had. One night, at dinner, Maura had told her it was the scholarly way. Be it nursery, primary or secondary school, boys always teased girls they liked. It was apparently the way to get those girls to notice them. Cait had scoffed at the notion, but now...

She shook her head. No, it was a trick. Another idiotic ploy of his. Only this time she wouldn’t fall for it. No, she adamantly refused to fall for it.

So why was she following the sod?

Granted, that did present her with a wonderful view of his backside, but why was she following him? Damn it, because she was curious, that’s why. She was intrigued. His tone when he said her name...That softest of kisses...

Fine, she fancied him. She was woman enough to admit it.

Och, when would she stop pulling the wool over her own eyes? It went beyond a crush, beyond fascination. She was half in love with the man, no matter how he treated her. Actions spoke louder than anything else and what she’s seen so far every woman would want him for her own. He was generous, considerate, funny, intelligent, gentle, handsome, strong, humble...Yes, he was a prick when he wanted to be—mostly when dealing with her—but she just couldn’t help it.

She needed to know. She needed to know what he meant with that tone, with that kiss...Just why he acted like a wee bastard around her.

She rolled her eyes, and almost laughed at herself aloud. What was she doing? Why was she so curious? It must’ve been spur of the moment, maybe gathering more teasing material for future reference...He was probably long gone—

But Alexander Cameron wasn’t gone. He was waiting for her around the corner, leaning his back against a wall, ankles crossed, his hands pushed into his pockets. His eyes lit up when she rounded the corner, and he smiled. Smiled! It wasn’t a grin. It was a smile, a smile that showcased the dimple in his left cheek to perfection. He smiled like he was pleased she followed him.

And her heart did a little somersault. She was feeling like a little girl, like a teenager seeing the boy she loved. She’d felt that way once, and it hadn’t ended well.

The light in his eyes and the smile were gone in a heartbeat, replaced by a regretful expression that stopped her in her tracks as she was preparing to flee.

He sighed. “When I saw you round that corner, I hoped—” He shook his head. “Never mind.”

“Hoped for what?” She should’ve used the out he presented her with, but she just couldn’t.

He pushed away from the wall, and walked to her. He lifted a hand and touched the pad of his index finger to her cheek. “You looked happy, then you remembered something, and it was gone. You looked just like you did when we first met.”

She swallowed. “How did I look?”

“Frightened. Sad. Lonely. And the ‘Keep Out’ sign was back.”

She felt her hackles rise. What did he care if she looked sad and lonely? And he’s been doing his best to keep that sign from disappearing. “Yet you keep ignoring it.”

He shook his head again, and cupped her cheek. “I know it’s there. I’ve been trying to knock it off you for months.”

She scoffed. “Right. Acting all nice and kind. How could a woman resist?”

He smiled again. “How else would I get you to notice me?”

Well, that got her attention. She looked at him, trying to read his expression, his eyes...She wasn’t exactly sure she wanted to.

“When I first saw you, you captivated me. Before, I thought that kind of connection was possible only in movies and those books you girls love to read, but there you were, a living proof. You were laughing at something Maura said, your eyes were alight...” He chuckled. “And I swear the clouds parted and the sun shone on you. Just you.”

She swallowed again.

“In that moment, there were just you for me. But when I approached, you changed completely. Your eyes shut, your expression turned blank, and your entire posture changed. When Maura introduced us, it was all you could do to shake my hand before you ran. And things didn’t change after. You shut down whenever I was near.” He lifted his other hand to cup both sides of her face. “I hated it. I knew that wasn’t you, and I wanted the real you.” He shrugged. “The only time the real Cait came out to play was when I was mean.” He brushed his thumbs softly over her cheeks. “Your eyes sparkle, your shoulders straighten, you just out your chin just so, and your cheek flame...You’re magnificent when you’re angry with me, and it that’s the only way I get to be with the real you, so be it.”

And just like that, Cait fell the other half in love with Alexander Cameron.

She lifted her own hands, placed them on his wrists, and smiled. “If I promise to be the real me, could I spend some time with the real you?”

He became suddenly serious as he looked at her, keeping her spellbound. “It's a deal.”

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