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Authors: Jill Campbell

Celtic Rose (4 page)

BOOK: Celtic Rose
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Kallisto realized then that she hadn’t heard Talus in all the ranting. She didn’t want to be obvious and look just in case he saw her. Instead, she decided to get the skillet out of the cabinet. She had to turn to the side to do this, which put the table in view of her peripheral vision. Talus was leaning back in his chair with his legs stretched toward her. His arms were crossed over his stomach and his head was down. It looked as though he might be asleep. As she pulled down the pan she turned and took a chance by looking at him. She realized she was wrong to think he was asleep; his head was down but his eyes were on her. She froze, just for a second, but he noticed. He smiled; so did Kallisto, but she quickly turned back to the stove, flushing red with embarrassment yet again.

Kallisto tried to start the burner but it wouldn’t light, so she turned the switch off and pulled the oven top up to light the pilot. She found the knob to turn the gas on. There was only one problem–no matches. She sighed and bowed her head, then closed her eyes in defeat. When she felt someone next to her, she opened her eyes and turned to see who it was just as a Zippo opened and flicked. She looked up to see Talus turn the gas on and light the pilot.

Talus looked at her and smiled softly. “There you go.” He closed the Zippo in one of those fast movements all the smokers have.

“Thanks–um…you smoke?” Kallisto did a good job of controlling the shock so it didn’t come out in her voice. He really didn’t look like someone who smoked. His teeth were too white, and he smelled wonderful.

“I did before. Now I just keep a lighter on me in case I need it. It’s a good thing–otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to try the famous Kallisto omelettes your brother has been raving about for months.” His smile was more defined now, not a shy one. He definitely didn’t seem shy, but he wasn’t arrogant either. Kallisto flushed again. She thought it had to be some kind of record–she didn’t remember ever being embarrassed that much in one day.

“You know, you shouldn’t put much stock in what my brother says; you’re bound to be disappointed,” Kallisto whispered so Kalan couldn’t hear, smiling a little at herself. She couldn’t believe she was actually flirting like Ramina and Kalan. There was a familiarity that she felt about Talus, but she couldn’t figure out why.

She placed the bacon in the skillet. Talus leaned back against the cabinet next to her, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched her cook. The attention made her a little anxious. After a few minutes, she started to flip the pieces over and ended up dropping the tongs into the pan. Sizzling hot grease splattered on her hand.

“Ouch!” she yelled, jumping back and grabbing her hand, as the grease scalded the back of it. Kalan and William looked up, but before anyone could react, Talus grabbed Kallisto’s wrist and pulled her to the sink. He turned the cold water on and stuck her hand under it.

“Keep your hand there a minute,” Talus said as he went to the fridge and placed a few cubes of ice in a rag he grabbed from a drawer. He was back in seconds, and gently took her hand and held the ice on the burn, which was about the size of a quarter in between her thumb and forefinger. It really didn’t seem that bad to Kallisto, but Talus’ brow was creased with worry.

“It looks like you’ve got a second-degree burn. We’re going to need to keep this cool and moist. Do you have any burn ointment?” Talus asked, his gaze still on her hand.

“No, it didn’t occur to me that I’d need any.” Kallisto bent her head down to look up into his face until he finally looked at her eyes. “I’m fine Talus, really. It’s not that bad. Thank you for the ice, though.” She put her hand on top of his hand that was holding the ice. He still looked worried, but it eased a little. He slid his hand out from under hers and released with the other. He stepped over to the stove and pulled the bacon out of the pan.

Kallisto grabbed the pack of uncooked bacon with her burned hand, still holding the ice on it with the other. She walked up beside Talus and took the ice off, preparing to make more bacon. She didn’t get very far.

“No, you don’t.” Talus took the bacon from her with a seductive smile.

Kallisto smiled back, embarrassed by the way he affected her, not to mention her clumsiness and the special treatment. “I need to make more. I do
eat burnt bacon.”

“I’ll cook it. You can go sit down and hold the ice on that burn.” As he said it, he grabbed the makeshift ice pack off of the counter and placed it back on her hand gently.

cook, how are you going to be able to judge whether my brother was right or not?” Kallisto was doing her best to flirt with him, but all she could think was that she really didn’t know what she was doing. She scolded herself; why, oh why, had she not paid more attention to the flirtatious banter that’d been going on between Kalan and Ramina for years? Probably because she never thought she’d have anyone interesting enough to use it on.

“Don’t worry; I’m sure there will be other times. Go…sit and rest.” Talus grabbed Kallisto’s shoulder and turned her toward the table. Her stomach did a little flip at his touch. Kalan saw her face and smiled, but William glowered.

When Kallisto went to sit down, she headed to the opposite side of Kalan, to Talus’ chair, right by William. William smiled invitingly and Kalan was left glaring, which made Kallisto glad. She sat so her body was still facing the kitchen so she wouldn’t give William the wrong signals, but she turned her head to him. She’d decided try to perfect her flirting skills.

“So, William, you tried to convince my brother you were the right choice for me?” Kallisto hoped her smile was enticing. He took the bait and leaned over toward her, placing his hand on the back of her chair. She couldn’t tell if he was really falling for it or just playing along.

“Yeah, I’m much better than Talus,” William said with a seductive grin.

Talus snorted but kept his attention on cooking. Kalan gritted his teeth and balled his fists. William was apparently not the type of guy Kallisto’s brother wanted her to date.

Kallisto’s grin turned into more of a sneer; she thought William really needed to check his ego. “So what exactly makes you better than Talus? I didn’t see you coming to the rescue when I burned my hand.” She patted the ice pack.

“Well…I just…he seemed to have it under control.” William stumbled over his words as he tried to speak.

“I also noticed that you didn’t offer to cook breakfast.” Kallisto glanced at Talus, who seemed to be smiling triumphantly, but never took his eyes off the pan. As she looked back, she also noticed a smirk on her brother’s face. She thought that needed to go.

“I’m all for second chances, though, so…what can you offer that Talus can’t?” That wiped the smirk off her brother’s face, but Talus still smiled. Maybe he knew what she was trying to do. William, who had been somber, smiled again, but it wasn’t the same smile as before. He finally looked humbled.

“Well, maybe while you’re here, you could tell me,” William said grinning.

The only thought that came to her mind in that second was uh-oh. She never thought he’d take her flirting seriously.

“We’ll make your visit a type of challenge. You can tell us at the end of the trip who offers more.” William’s old smile came back as he spoke.

She should have known this new found flirting ability would land her into trouble; she’d seen it too many times with Ramina and Kalan. She flushed red again.
Definitely a record
, she thought.

Ramina came out of the bathroom wearing a baby tee and some tight jeans that made her muscles look even more defined. A braid that trailed down her spine past her waist was hiding her tattoo. Kallisto wished she had a tattoo like Ramina’s so she could wear clothes like her.

Kalan’s eyebrows rose as he appraised her. William leaned back and whistled. Ramina smiled, not the least bit shy to receive such attention. Talus kept cooking, never looking up. Kallisto used that moment to make her escape, rushed to the dresser, grabbed some clothes, and all but ran to the bathroom. She knew Kalan would fill Ramina in on everything that happened while she was in the shower, and she needed the time to collect her thoughts.

Luckily, there was still plenty of hot water, which Kallisto wasn’t used to. In her house she would’ve had to wait at least an hour after Ramina had taken a shower. In the hotel, though, the shower was blissful and eased all the stress she felt. While she thought about what just happened, she couldn’t help but smile. The hot water stung her burned hand, but as she looked at it, Kallisto remembered the care Talus showed as he took care of it.

Kallisto couldn’t wait to get back out there again. Even though William seemed egotistical, she could tell when she cut him down that it was just a show. His eyes showed a caring, kind man. He had probably been just as nervous as she’d been; the ego was probably just a defense mechanism of some kind that overcompensated for shyness. Kallisto thought she could definitely be up for getting to know him better. She just knew he’d make a fierce and loyal friend. He must be; that was the only explanation for Kalan allowing his advances on her.

Talus was someone Kallisto could see herself with as more than a friend. He was reserved, and definitely not as flamboyant as Kalan and William, but there was something about him. He was mysterious and intriguing, and Kallisto hoped she could unlock the mystery so she could see the real Talus before she left for home. She thought it would be interesting to see how he’d fare against William then.

Since she was clean, calm, and more than ready to see Talus and William, she got out of the shower and proceeded to get ready for her reunion with her newly acquired suitors. Looking in the mirror, she critiqued her look. She wore a pair of tight hip hugger jeans that fit her small curves well. The shirt she just happened to grab up was a baby blue silky shirt that only had one long sleeve that covered her right arm. The left side was sleeveless. It had cuts across the chest area instead of a v-neck, making it fairly open. It was the most provocatively she’d ever dressed in her life, and she thought it was the best she’d ever looked.

Kallisto decided to put her hair up in an octopus clip and let the ends flair out the top and sides. Again, she assessed her look in the mirror and was, to her surprise, pleased with the results. After a few deep breaths, she made her way to the kitchen. She’d been in the bathroom for about fifteen minutes, so when she got to the door, everyone was sitting at the table chatting and eating. Her plate was already made, and sat strategically in front of the chair between Talus and William. Taking another deep breath, she walked around the corner and through the door without hesitation, walking straight to her chair as if it was what she’d expected. Talus had his arm propped on the back of it. He saw her first, and froze in mid-bite. Everyone saw his response and looked at Kallisto.

“What? Did I forget something?” She looked down pointedly, checking for missing pants.

“You finally decided to wear the clothes I bought you, I see.” Ramina smirked and took a hinted glance at William and then Talus.

“Yeah, I decided it was time to break out the new stuff; out with the old, in with the new and all that.” Kallisto tried to sound flippant and unconcerned, but she blushed. She felt someone touch the back of her leg, just under her left cheek, a little too high for comfort. She jumped and looked just as Talus pulled the size sticker off.

“Sorry, it was bugging me. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He didn’t look the least bit sorry as he grinned up at her.

“You didn’t scare me–it just surprised me. I thought William was copping a feel.” She winked at Talus and playfully shoved William’s shoulder. He moved with the push, his cheeks reddening.

“If I hadn’t promised to be a good boy, I might’ve tried.” He clasped his fingers together on the table, showing his restraint. Talus pulled Kallisto’s chair out for her.

“Here, sit, eat.” He gestured at the chair and food. His voice was commanding yet light. Kallisto thought about saying ‘me no cave girl,’ but she was too much of a coward. She hoped she could do something like that when she knew him better, but for now, she sat and ate.

Talus leaned forward and propped his chin on his hand. He watched Kallisto eat, judging her reaction to his cooking. Kallisto thought it was even better than what she would’ve made, which made her a little leery about cooking for him. She grimaced and immediately hurt touched his eyes.

“Do you not like it? I could get you something else.” He gestured to the fridge. Kallisto swallowed, shaking her head quickly.

“No! No it’s okay. I didn’t look that way because of your cooking, it’s delicious. I’m just worried about cooking for you now. Yours is way better.” She took another bite and closed her eyes as the omelet melted in her mouth. Talus’ face lit up as she finished up the last bits of food on the plate. He got up and grabbed Kallisto’s empty plate in an air of triumph. She was mystified by Talus even more than before.

“Would you like some more?” Talus turned before she had a chance to answer.

“Maybe just a little, but if I don’t quit soon I just might burst.” Kallisto smiled brightly at Talus as he placed the plate in front of her, and she was pleased to see that he took her seriously about just wanting a little more.

“You’re so skinny, and yet you have room for more after that full plate. Where do you put it all?” She didn’t recognize the emotion she saw in his eyes as he watched her. It almost looked like adoration, but she didn’t think that could be possible–they’d only known each other for about an hour. He saw the confusion on her face and turned away with a knowing smile. When Kallisto turned back to her plate, William nudged her arm. She looked to see what he wanted and he was pouting with his bottom lip out a little.

“Yes, William?” Kallisto teased by sounding maternal.

“Is it my turn to get some attention now? Talus is monopolizing all of your time. It’s not fair.” William sounded like a disgruntled child, making Kallisto giggle.

“It might’ve worked better if you hadn’t said monopolizing–that’s an awfully big word for the age you sounded,” Kallisto continued, laughing, and everybody joined in.

BOOK: Celtic Rose
5.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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