Callum tipped the taxi driver extra, hoping it would karmically make up for the poor abandoned driver from last night.
He really had felt bad about that. Not enough to take the cab, obviously, but bad all the same.
He proceeded quickly into his apartment building, shivering against the pre-dawn cold. Cautiously, he opened his front door, glancing around.
Predictably, Ezran was in bed.
Which made sense given the early hour. Still, part of him thought he might come home to find his brother snoozing on the sofa, primed and ready for an interrogation.
That would probably come tomorrow…
Definitely come tomorrow.
Callum tip toed to his room, opening his door gingerly to avoid making any excessive noise. He quickly stripped off his clothes and slipped beneath the covers, still feeling chilly.
What he wouldn’t give to curl up next to Rayla for warmth.
He stared at the wall.
When she had told him it wasn’t a sleepover he had thought she was joking. He certainly hadn’t expected her to kick him out at stupid o’clock in the morning.
Still, he understood her point of view. Office gossip and weird dating rules did not make for a relaxing morning.
How had that all just happened?
He had been hoping to clear up if they had been on a date. Actually getting to kiss her had been like some kind of amazing bonus.
It seemed like some kind of surreal dream.
What was he doing? He had never moved this quickly with someone before… but he’d never felt like this about anyone ever.
He felt… a connection to her like nothing he’d ever experience previously.
He had thought his attraction to her was intense before, but being in her physical presence was almost overwhelming.
A part of him couldn’t believe they had managed to go the entire day without kissing. Once that barrier had been crossed, everything that came after seemed inevitable.
He glanced at his clock. Just after half past four.
He really needed to sleep if he didn't want to be a zombie when they caught up tomorrow.
Though, if her colleagues’ plane wasn’t until after two then he was going to have some time to kill in the morning. They’d probably be leaving for the airport around midday though, right?
Why hadn’t he asked her that?
He needed to know how long it was going to be before he saw her again.
It had already been too long.
He sighed happily, laughing at himself in the grey, pre-dawn darkness of his room.
Callum startled awake at the loud bang from the kitchen. He groaned, checking the time on his phone.
He frowned a little to find no messages from Rayla.
Maybe she had been super rushed trying to get to her conference on time. She was the opening speaker after all.
Frowning, Callum considered his next move. It wasn’t obscenely early for a Sunday, but he felt like he had only just gone to sleep. His heart and mind had been racing for hours, replaying the previous days events over and over. Analysing every word Rayla had said, each look…
He sighed, feeling fully awake. Jumping up, he made his way to his en suite bathroom.
It was probably best to be showered and ready for whenever Rayla was available to catch up.
He stared at his phone as the water heated up.
Chewing his lip, he composed a text message.
Callum: Hope the conference goes ok.
Let me know when suits to catch up later.
Callum threw on a t-shirt and jeans, then took a deep breath before exiting his bedroom.
He was definitely going to get interrogated.
Ezran was in the kitchen, sitting on the bench with a bowl of cereal. A pot of coffee was bubbling on the stove.
Callum snorted. Ezran rarely made the first coffee of the morning. That was clearly for his benefit.
“Morning.” Ezran mumbled around his full mouth. He snickered at Callum, raising his eyebrows. “Good night?”
Callum sighed, desperately fighting the grin tugging at his mouth. “Yeah, okay.”
Ezran snorted, rolling his eyes.
Callum glanced at him as he pretended to check the coffee.
“What time did you get in?” Ezran asked innocently.
“Uh, not sure.” Callum turned his back on his brother and busied himself in the fridge, feeling his face burn. “Not too late.”
“Liar.” Ezran put his cereal down and hopped off the bench. “It was past four!”
Callum snickered. “Why ask if you were keeping tabs?” He turned to face Ezran. “Dad.”
“So I guess it was a date then?” Ezran grinned.
“Uh, I guess.” Callum checked the coffee.
“What do you mean?” Ezran nodded as Callum offered him a cup.
“We didn’t get a chance to talk about it exactly.” Callum began pouring their coffee.
“I don’t need details.” Ezran wrinkled his nose.
Callum snorted, as he added milk. “I wasn’t going to give you details.” He held a cup out to his unimpressed looking brother.
“So, what now?” Ezran sipped his coffee.
“Eh, that didn’t come up either.” Callum frowned.
“Oh.” Ezran paused. “She’s going back to Duren today though, isn’t she?”
“No,” Callum felt butterflies. “She’s here for another night. We’re catching up later.”
“Ah, for a proper conversation, I’m sure.” Ezran replied sarcastically.
Callum blushed into his coffee. “I’m sure.”
His phone buzzed in his pocket and he felt his pulse race. Pulling the device free, he unlocked it with one hand, the other clutching his coffee tightly.
“Well, I don’t need to witness whatever sext-capade will be happening from here.” Ezran grabbed his own coffee. “Well done on finally giving up playing the idiot.” He clapped Callum on the shoulder as he made his way to the lounge.
“Thanks,” Callum replied sarcastically, not taking his eyes off his phone.
Rayla: DYING of boredom.
Which is fine because everyone else is dying of a hangover.
There’s a nice looking pub on the corner here, The Royal? Lunch? One-ish suit you?
Callum felt himself grinning like an idiot. Lunch in a public place seemed like a very logical choice. He would struggle with the urge to kiss her if they met in private, and they really should talk.
Callum: Sounds good.
Rayla: Ok. Need to head back in. See you one-ish
Callum signed happily. One. Ish.
Still two and a half hours away.
Give or take.
“Good luck.” Ezran grinned. “Again.”
“Can you stop?” Callum blushed, wishing he had opted to drive himself. But parking in this part of the city was a nightmare and he had no idea what on earth this catch up would entail, nor how long it would last.
“I suppose you don’t need luck any more.” Ez mused.
“Okay. Leaving.” Callum opened the door. “I’ll talk to you later.”
He entered the gastropub Rayla had mentioned. It was an old converted stables, now an upmarket eatery, with exposed brick and reclaimed wood.
Rayla was seated in a brown chesterfield sofa, the leather worn and faded with age. She was dressed in an oversized white tee-shirt, faded black skinny jeans and red Converse trainers, her hair once again in a messy bun.
She glanced up from the menu as he approached, smirking. “Hi.”
“Hi.” He sat down next to her. His first instinct was to lean forward and kiss her, but something about the way she was sitting made him reconsider.
She had one leg up on the sofa, her arm resting on her knee. Her position seemed guarded.
“So…” She tapped the menu against her knee, blushing.
“So…” Callum felt equally lost for words.
Rayla bit her lip and began snickering and Callum relaxed a little, laughing nervously himself.
She tried to compose herself, sitting up a little straighter. “Em, so... about last night-”
“Are you ready to order now?”
They looked to the waiter, standing on the other side of the low table, looking unimpressed.
“Oh sorry.” Rayla glanced back at the menu. “Uh, can I get a pint of the house pale and sweet potato fries, thanks?”
They both looked at Callum.
“Uh same.” Callum glanced between Rayla and the waiter. “Oh, apart from the sweet potato fries.”
“Do you want any food?” The waiter looked up from his tablet.
“Uh no. I’m fine.” Callum answered without thinking. He hadn’t even looked at the menu but his stomach was too tied in knots to even consider food right now.
“Okay.” The waiter sighed and wandered off.
“I’m not sharing my fries with you.” Rayla teased.
“No?” Callum felt a surge of adrenaline as she smiled at him. “I kinda feel like you... owe me... just a little.”
“Do I?” Rayla chuckled. “Whatever for?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.
Callum shrugged, laughing as well. “The jelly tart. Obviously.”
Rayla ginned at him. “Surely that’s the Cornetto?”
“How was your conference?” Callum shuffled around a little closer to her, his eyes darting to her fingers. He desperately wanted to touch her again, even something as simple as holding her hand.
“Ugh, boring.” She groaned. “At least everyone was too hungover to pay attention to my presentation.”
“Did you change or was it a casual conference?” He gestured to her relaxed outfit.
Rayla rolled her eyes. “A casual conference? Are you kidding?! Of course, I changed, dummy.”
“Well, I don’t know. We don’t have conferences. I don’t know the rules.” His stomach once again flip-flopped as she teased him. He enjoyed hearing her call him ‘dummy’ way more than he really should.
“No?” She grinned, shuffling to sit crossed legged. “You all don’t get together and debate which is better crayons or colour pencils?”
“Colouring pencils, clearly.” Callum’s eyes darted to her throat, remembering how she gasped at his lips there.
Rayla laughed, shaking her head and Callum took the opportunity to grasp her fingers.
She started, looking to his face then immediately looking away. He felt her pull her hand back just a fraction.
“Callum...” She started, the teasing tone no longer in her voice. “Hold on.” She nodded behind him and Callum glanced over his shoulder to see the waiter arriving with their drinks.
Reluctantly, he let her hand go, reaching to take his pint from the waiter.
He took a long drink, suddenly aware of how dry his mouth was. Rayla’s body language had him on edge. Her tone even more so. Whatever she wanted to talk about, he had the feeling he wasn’t going to like hearing it.
She put her drink down and turned to face him, her legs tucked up under her body.
It reminded him of last night, of them both sitting on the sofa, side by side.
Both clearly nervous and unsure.
“So...” He resisted the urge to touch her again.
She looked at him and smiled, though it was more a wince. “So... em, about what happened... no one saw you leaving the hotel, did they?”
Callum relaxed a little. She was just worried about being caught? “No. Well, only the reception guy. And he didn’t even look up.”
“Good.” Rayla smiled at him briefly. “It obviously wouldn’t look good for gossip to get around.”
Callum nodded. “Obviously.”
“And, its probably best we keep it to ourselves too.” Rayla pulled at a loose thread on her frayed jeans.
Callum sighed. Was she just worried he would go around crowing about what happened? “Of course.” He tried to sound reassuring.
Maybe she thought he made a habit of hooking up with girls? Like she was some kind of notch on his bed?
“I just... I’m not sure... with all the stuff going on with my position and you know, you live here...” She played with her t-shirt. “It’s probably best if, em, this weekend is like, a one-time thing, you know?”
Callum felt like he’d been punched in the gut. He took a moment, for once happy she was so obviously avoiding eye contact. “Yeah, no. I… I get that.”
Not at all, in fact.
He liked her and he was pretty certain she liked him.
Sure, there were some complications but were they really insurmountable?
The distance was a problem but nothing they couldn’t work around. Restrictions were easing and people were travelling more. It would be hard not seeing her often, but he felt it was probably worth trying.
They had managed so far.
But he was also asking her to put her career on the line. If what she had said before was true, he’d be expecting her to risk a lot… for what? Someone she’d known less than a month?
“Thanks.” She breathed, finally looking back at him.
She smiled softly at him and Callum thought he could see she wasn’t exactly satisfied with this outcome either.
Which was something, he supposed. Maybe they could continue being friends and if circumstances changed in the future…
“Your fries.” The waiter said awkwardly as he put the bowl down on the table.
Rayla shook herself, smiling at the waiter, though he had already turned to leave. “Thank you.” She grabbed a fry, popping it into her mouth. “You know, I guess you can have one?” She grinned at him, the gesture not quite reaching her eyes.
“Eh, thanks.” Callum reached forward to grab a fry, more out of something to do than any real desire to eat.
“So…” Rayla grabbed another fry, dipping it in the sauce on the side. “You have any plans for the rest of the day?”
“Eh, no.” Callum munched. He had thought they were going to spend the afternoon together. Looks like he had a lot of free time for moping.
“Is that so…?” Rayla mused, delicately licking some of the coarse salt off her fingers.
“Yeah?” Callum queried.
Rayla shrugged, grinning at him wickedly. “Well, its still the weekend... want to catch a, uh, movie or something?”
Callum felt his heart leap in his chest. “Uh, sure.” He thought for a moment. “Though, there aren’t any cinemas in this part of town.”
“Huh...” Rayla seemed to be suppressing a grin. “I think the hotel had a decent selection of on demand movies.”
Realisation dawned on Callum, and he felt his face grow red. “Is that right?”
“We could check those out, I suppose.” She seemed unable to keep the grin from her face.
Callum chuckled. “I suppose.”
Rayla sighed, taking a sip of her beer. “You know, these fries aren’t the best.” She leaned back on the sofa, her posture a more relaxed. “… and I’m not even really that hungry.”
“No?” Callum grinned, his fingers snaking out to caress her thigh.
“No.” Rayla said decisively. She glanced at her phone, apparently checking the time. “If we go now, we could probably… watch two movies.” She smirked; the innuendo clear in her voice.
Callum nodded sagely. “Maybe even three?”
Rayla laughed out right and Callum sighed at the sound.
“Three? That’s ambitious.” She got to her feet; eyebrow raised.
Callum snickered as the elevator doors closed. The walk from the pub hadn’t been far but Rayla was still worried about people seeing them and continually batted his hands away.
As soon as they were in the relatively private space, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her against his chest. He gazed at her for a moment before moving to kiss her.
Rayla pulled back, giggling. “What if our friends from last night turn up again?” She slipped her arms around his neck, tugging gently on his hair.
“Well, they won’t be surprised.” Callum shrugged before capturing her lips.
It had been too long since he had kissed her.
Rayla chuckled but did not object as she ran her fingers through his hair.
The elevator dinged for her floor and she pulled back, panting, as she pressed her forehead against his. She smiled at him then stepped back and grabbed his hand as they made their way to her room.
She tossed the key card on the table by the door. Callum couldn’t help but note it was still in disarray, a notepad he hadn’t noticed for obvious reasons shoved at an awkward angle against some of Rayla’s personal affects.
Callum turned to Rayla, his eyes sweeping over her. Even dressed so casually she took his breath away.
He strode up to her, running his hands up her sides as he sighed in contentment. This wasn’t exactly what he had in mind for their catch up but there was no way he was complaining.
He would have thought they got… it out of their system last night, but as soon as they were secure in her room, his lips were on hers. Hands roamed, tugging clothing, tossing it around the room.
They stumbled until the back of Rayla’s legs hit the bed and she landed on her rear on the pristine white covers. Callum glanced down at her, his breath catching as she stared back up at him.
She scooted back on the bed, pulling him to her by the end of his belt. Callum dutifully followed, relishing the feel of her skin against his once again.
He struggled with her tight jeans and she laughed when he eventually got them down her legs only to realise, they had forgotten to remove her trainers.
They were both naked, having explored each other once again, when he tried to slip away to the bathroom for protection. She had whispered something about the bedside table in his ear and he realised that she had planned all of this.
It hadn’t been some slip of her mind in the bar.
She had intended for this to happen, exactly as it was.
As she moved above him, her eyes closed, small whimpers escaping her throat, he wondered how he felt about that.
He wanted her so desperately but not just like this… skin against skin, touching each other in the most intimate manner.
He wanted to know her intimately.
To be with her.
In every way possible.
This weekend… it couldn’t be it… could it?
Callum stared at the ceiling of Rayla’s hotel room, his heart still racing.
What the hell was he doing?
This really wasn’t him. At all.
She had been clear that this wasn’t going anywhere. She was going to get on the plane tomorrow and that was it. She would go back to Duren and he would go back to hopelessly pining for her.
But he liked her too much to say no. To listen to his brain.
And sure, he was thinking with his pants but that wasn’t solely it.
When she had been moving above him all he could think about was how stunning she was. How he wanted to be with her.
It had taken all his mental strength to hold his tongue, to keep himself back from begging her to reconsider.
As she climaxed, his name on her lips, he almost crumbled. Almost blurted out how he really felt…
But then his own release had crashed over him and all coherent thought had immediately left his mind.
He needed to start looking for another job. Immediately.
Preferably a job in Duren.
He groaned, squeezing his eyes shut.
He was going crazy. He’d know her for less than a month. He couldn’t change his entire life for the fleeting chance they might actually work out.
And she’d think he was insane if he just up and moved to Duren on the slight chance she also wanted to be with him.
What if the distance and work stuff was all an excuse?
Maybe she wasn’t interested in something long term?
He heard the toilet flush and tap run before the door to the bathroom opened.
Rayla practically skipped over to the bed, her white t-shirt just skimming her panty clad rear. She grinned at him as she landed next to his head.
Callum couldn’t help smiling back.
She really was gorgeous.
That smile was beyond infectious.
When she was apart from him it was easy to convince himself that this was all in his head, but there was something in her eyes that made him think she felt the same way too.
They had... a thing. Something special.
He’d never felt anything close to this before.
It just sucked that circumstances made it impossible to pursue.
Maybe she had the right idea? Enjoy this weekend together and not worry about anything outside this hotel room.
“Want to get room service?” She asked, leaning over to grab the menu from the bedside table.
Callum’s eyes drifted to her long legs. “I thought you weren’t hungry?” He teased, pushing himself up against the bedhead.
“Maybe I worked up an appetite?” Rayla said flirtatiously, eyes firmly on the menu as she shuffled a little closer to him. She leafed through the pages, subtly relaxing against his shoulder.
Callum pondered a moment, then wrapped an arm around her. She settled against his chest, opening the menu wider, ostensibly for him to read too.
He stared absent mindedly at the heavy paper, his eyes unfocused.
This was what he wanted with Rayla, this relaxed ease… enjoying nothing more than each other’s company.
He could only imagine how Soren would scoff at him. Claudia too.
How could he be unhappy about spending the weekend with someone as stunningly beautiful as Rayla…?
It wasn’t that he was unhappy about that. He just… wanted more.
The dumb stuff.
Hanging out together, doing nothing… watching movies, eating fast food... going for walks, for coffee...
But it would seem, the timing wasn’t right.
He hoped they could continue being friends, at least. That it wouldn’t be too weird after what happened this weekend.
And maybe, someday, if the timing was right…
“Is it wrong to eat a burger in bed?” Rayla mused.
Callum snorted, resisting the urge to kiss the crown of her head. “Surely hotels are the exact place to eat a burger in bed.”
He felt Rayla snort.
“Excellent point.” She looked back at him. “Anything tickle your fancy?”
You, he thought, groaning inwardly at his own cheesy mind.
Rayla’s expression changed as he hesitated.
“They have pizza?” He looked away from her, glancing at the menu.
“Yep.” She pointed at the obvious “Pizza" section.
“Hmm.” He mused, unimpressed. “No pineapple.”
“Good.” She poked him in the side. “I wouldn’t have you besmirch my hotel bill with your abomination of a pizza order.”
Callum pretended to ignore her. “Maybe I could get them to add it?”
“No!” She turned around, her fingers ghosting along his sides as she tickled him.
Callum made a grab for her hands. “Fine! FINE! I give up. Meat lovers it is.”
“Ah, my favourite pizza.” She winked devilishly, shuffling to the side of the bed. “Want to actually find a movie to watch?” She picked up the phone and held it between her head and shoulder as she tossed the remote control at him.
“Sure.” Callum missed it, grabbing it from the bed next to him.
He selected the “movies on demand” function and scrolled through the options. He glanced at Rayla as he hovered over one movie, his mind recalling a previous conversation.
“Thanks" Rayla said before putting down the phone. “Find anything worth-” She glanced at the TV as she turned to Callum. “No way!”
“What, no pineapple pizza and no Star Wars?” He grinned, satisfied with her reaction.
“Exactly.” She straddled his lap, smirking as he sighed. “My room, my rules.” She teased, leaning forward to kiss him.
Callum snickered, slipping his hands up her shirt and gripping her hips.
Rayla kissed him, her hands moving across his chest and down his arms before she made a grab for the remote control.
It took Callum a moment to realise what she was doing, by which time she had pulled the remote from his grasp.
“Those are dirty tactics!” He made a grab for the remote.
“Are they?” She teased, pouting as he managed to snatch it from her grip. “Anyway, you don’t want to watch a movie.” Grinning wickedly, she rolled her hips against his.
“Don’t I?” Callum gasped, his eyes falling closed as her hand trailed down his chest, nails lightly scratching the sensitive skin of his lower stomach.
“Nope.” Rayla sing-songed as her hand travelled lower.
Callum raised his head groggily as something moved against his chest. He glanced down, sighing contentedly as his eyes focused on Rayla snuggled up against him.
Her hair was flared messily out around her, and he could see the smudges of her mascara against her cheek.
He smiled happily. She was so beautiful.
He wanted nothing more than to stay in this moment. Relish it.
Savour what little time they had left together…
But his eyes drifted to the heavy curtains… and the strong sunlight streaming under them.
“Rayla.” He shook her, gently at first and then a little more insistently.
Once again, she had insisted this wasn’t a sleep over. She had prep work she needed to do for her meeting.
She groaned, snuggling closer to him.
Callum reluctantly continued. “Rayla, I think we might have slept in.”
That got a reaction. She startled awake, looking around groggily before scrambling to the bedside table and grabbing her phone.
“Fuck!” She grimaced, jumping to her feet, and running to the bathroom.
Callum winced. He jumped up quickly himself, rummaging around the room for his clothes as he heard the shower run. He glanced at his own phone. It didn’t seem that late, but he had no idea how much work she needed to do before this meeting.
She certainly seemed stressed about it.
He ran a hand through his hair, wondering what to do.
He didn’t want to simply slip out while she was washing, but it seemed intrusive to barge into the bathroom as well.
Eventually, he elected to wait on the couch.
Rayla showered quickly and he turned as she exited the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her chest.
“Hey.” He got to his feet.
“I’m in a rush.” She glanced in his direction as she hurried to the wardrobe.
“Okay.” Callum hesitated for a moment. “Em, I guess… if you need a lift to the airport or anything…?”
Rayla looked at him briefly, her face falling a little. “I think they’ve arranged a car service.”
“Ah, okay.” He felt his stomach twist. “Well, I guess I’ll… em, I’ll message you?”
Rayla turned to look at him. “Okay.”
He didn’t particularly like her tone. It sounded… final.
“It was, uh, nice finally meeting you.” He elected to hold back.
Rayla chuckled softly. “Yeah.” She sighed, turning back to the wardrobe. “I really need to hurry.”
“No problem.” He watched her, thinking she was pointedly avoiding eye contact. Turning, he made his way to the door.
He glanced back at her, finding her frowning at a pencil skirt on a hanger.
Not wanting to bother her more, he opened the door.
He turned back to her, finding her clutching the skirt tightly. “It was… nice meeting you too.”