How did it go with Cleo? Ailsa thought you two needed some time alone. Don’t blame me. Did you talk to her about the food and wine stuff? Catch you soon. MC
Damn! That’s what he had forgotten. In the enjoyment of Cleo’s company, he’d completely forgotten Coop’s suggestion they try to combine their fundraising efforts in some way. But perhaps it gave him the excuse he needed to see her and apologise.
Cleo couldn’t stop thinking about how it had felt to be in Will’s arms, to have his lips on hers. It had been a perfect end to a perfect evening. The night she’d dreaded, wished she hadn’t agreed to, almost backed out of, had been amazing. When the message from Martin had arrived, and she and Will had been left alone, she’d felt a rush of fear. But it had been fine. Will had been perfect company. And, if she became a little tipsy, it had been fun to let her inhibitions go for just one evening and enjoy the company of a man… of Will Rankin. The man she’d dismissed as being just another surfing tragic was really an interesting and knowledgeable person and one whom she’d like to get to know better.
But clearly, he didn’t feel the same.
Will’s ‘Sorry’ as he pulled away after kissing her, had really hurt. It was a long time since she’d been kissed like that – since she’d been kissed at all – and his apology was like a slap in the face.
After a restless night – she knew she should have refused the coffee – Cleo made her way to the kitchen, turned on the electric jug and dropped a slice of bread into the toaster before heading into the shower.
As the water cascaded over her, bringing her sleep-deprived body alive, she thought again about how she’d felt – for the brief moment when their lips met. Despite the warmth of the water she shivered, before reminding herself it wasn’t real, he hadn’t meant it, he’d immediately regretted it.Sorry. Will had been sorry he’d kissed her!
Cleo left the shower determined to bring this charade to an end. Damn the man! What did she care if he was being stalked by some woman? It was none of her business. She didn’t need the aggravation of a man who found her repugnant. But the fact remained.Sorry!
By the time she reached the café, Cleo had determined to call Ailsa to tell her of her decision. But, before she had even opened up, Ailsa walked in.
‘Hi, Cleo. I wanted to find out how you and Will got on last night. Sorry I piked out, but I thought you two needed some time together, without Martin and I there to cramp your style.’
‘So, you weren’t feeling sick?’ Cleo would like to have thrown something at Ailsa. It was all her fault.
‘Did you guess?’ Ailsa chuckled. ‘Martin said you would, said it was too obvious. But how was it? I’m dying to know.’ She pulled out a chair and gazed up at Cleo expectantly.
Cleo glanced around, but, apart from Ailsa, the café was empty, her staff busy in the kitchen. ‘I’ll fix us coffee,’ she said, seething inwardly.
Ailsa was looking smug when Cleo returned carrying two cups of cappuccino and two pieces of banana bread. ‘Well?’ she asked, leaning forward.
‘I can’t do this anymore.’ Cleo folded her arms to ward off the objections she knew Ailsa would offer.
‘Why not? What happened? You seemed to be enjoying yourself when we left the gallery.’
‘It was a good evening. I did enjoy the event. Thanks for suggesting it. And the cocktail bar was pretty special, too. But this thing with Will. It’s not going to work for me.’
‘Why not?’ Ailsa asked again. ‘You make a great couple. In fact, I told Martin I thought there was some chemistry between you.’
‘You were wrong.’
‘Did Will say something to upset you?’
The wordsorryechoed in Cleo’s head. ‘You could say that. He… It was a lovely evening, Ailsa. I may have had one cocktail too many, then we had coffee and the most delicious dessert. Then… when we got back… he kissed me.’
‘So? There was no spark?’
‘Not for him,’ Cleo said bitterly. ‘He immediately pulled away and apologised.’
‘Whether I did or didn’t is immaterial,’ Cleo sighed. ‘It was too embarrassing. So, you see why I can’t let this continue. You and Will will just have to find some other way of sending the message to this woman.’
‘Are you sure that was what he meant? Maybe he thought he’d crossed the line. After all, you were supposed to be pretending to be together, and there was no need for any sort of pretence when there was no one to see you. He must have felt something for you. He wouldn’t have kissed you otherwise.’
‘I don’t think so.’ Ailsa hadn’t been there. How could she know what Will was thinking?
‘Butyouenjoyed the kiss?’ Ailsa persisted.
‘It was the ambiance, the evening, the moonlight, the stars. We’d been drinking. It would have been all right if he hadn’t said anything, but to apologise…’