Fall from India Place Page 5

“At least I need condoms.” He smiled, not unkindly.

I made a face. “So it’s been a while.”

“Correction: It’s been too long.” He frowned. “You ever going to give someone a chance?”

“Look, I just don’t want to sleep with random people. I’m not Suzanne, Cole.”

“I never said you were. Not all guys are just looking to hook up with you and then leave you in the morning.” His expression softened. “You’re not the kind of girl you want to leave, Hannah. Give one of them a chance to prove it to you. You’ve never been in a relationship. How can you knock it until you try it?”

I laughed. “I’m not knocking it. I’m just happy by myself right now. But speaking of couplings… how is the old ball and chain?”

Cole sighed. “Stressing. I promised her I’d head over to her flat after work to help her on her paper.”

“Aw.” I mocked him playfully. “You’re such a good boyfriend.”

Cole downed the last of his coffee and put the mug in my sink. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to my cheek. “Next time you see Steph, will you tell her that?”

“Trouble in paradise?” I asked, walking him to the front door.

“She’s become a nagger.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine once she stops stressing.”

“Hmm.” He smiled back at me as he stepped outside. “Enjoy the shower.”

“Enjoy tutoring,” I replied, grinning saucily. “Who knows? Things might get a little… educational.” I waggled my eyebrows.

Cole laughed as he took the stairs two at a time. “One can only hope.”

As soon as I walked through the door of my parents’ house I heard the cacophony of female conversation coming from the sitting room.

My dad stepped into the hallway as I was closing the front door, his eyes lighting up at the sight of me.

“Hey, Dad.” I walked into his open arms, melting into his hug.

“Hi, sweetheart.” He kissed my hair and pulled back to smile into my face. “Long time no see.”

I winced. “I’m sorry I haven’t popped around lately. I’ve been bogged down with work.”

My dad was a classical history professor at Edinburgh University. He was intelligent, passionate about his subject, laid-back, and most of all perceptive as hell. His eyes narrowed as he took me in. “Are you sure that’s all it is?”

“Of course. I’m fine, honest.”

“You would tell me if you weren’t?”

I suppose he had every right to worry that I might keep problems from him. I had a track record of doing that. For once I was honest. “I’m past it.”

“Clark! Can you get these canapés, please?” My mum’s voice could be heard yelling from the kitchen.

Dad’s eyes grew round with mock horror. “I’m trying to escape. Help.”

I laughed. “Go.” I gestured to the door. “I’ll distract her.”

He sighed in relief, kissed my cheek, and dashed out the front door.

Mum marched into the hall a second later. “Oh, Hannah.” She smiled, coming toward me with open arms. “It’s good to see you, sweetie.” She hugged me tight. “Have you seen your dad by any chance?”

“Um, he left.”

Mum pulled back, frowning. “He’s supposed to be helping.”

“Mum, he’s the only man here. I don’t think it’s really fair to ask him to stay when all the other menfolk don’t have to.”

She gave a huff at that but didn’t argue. “Would you help me, then?”

I held up my gifts. “First, where do I put these?”

“Sitting room.”

I wandered into the sitting room as Mum went back to the kitchen and was immediately set upon by my sister and friends. Ellie reached me first. Just as when she’d been pregnant with William, she not only had a fairly large bump but her cheeks were chubby and her lips fuller. She was absolutely adorable, even if she would disagree. “Hannah.” She tugged me toward her and I awkwardly hugged her, trying not to squash her bump.

“You look beautiful, Els.” I kissed my sister’s cheek and pulled back to stare down at the bump. “You’re even bigger this time around.”

Els groaned. “Don’t remind me. Jo makes me feel like a heifer.”

Jo laughed, gently brushing Ellie aside so she could hug me. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever,” she groaned, giving me a squeeze.

Except for the neat bump, Jo didn’t look much different – she was gorgeous, as always. I wondered how many women in the room hated her for being able to look glamorous while pregnant. “I’ve been so busy. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” She smiled reassuringly at me. “I know how hard you work.”

“Right, my turn.” A musical American accent hit my ears, seconds before Olivia Sawyer embraced me. “It’s been ages,” she complained, her eyes teasing so I’d know she wasn’t really grousing about my absence. “Your hair is so much longer than last time we saw each other.”

Olivia, or Liv, as we all called her, was a curvy, attractive brunette who was practically a sister to Jo. Liv’s dad, Mick, had been like a close uncle to Jo when she was young. He left for America to be with a kid – Liv – that he hadn’t known about until she was thirteen, and returned to Scotland seven years ago when his wife, Liv’s mother, died. Liv came with him to rebuild their lives. Mick and Jo worked together in his painting and decorating company, and Dad got Liv a job at the University of Edinburgh’s main campus library. She got her own happy ending when she married one of the sexiest men I’d ever met, Nate Sawyer. He was Cam’s best friend.

The group was so tightly connected we were all like one big family.

“Work.” I shrugged unhappily. “Being a probationer takes a lot out of me.” It didn’t help that Liv and Nate had moved farther outside of Edinburgh to a house that could accommodate their growing family. They had a four-year-old daughter, Lily, and a one-year-old daughter, January. “I take it Nate has the kids?”

“The men have all the kids.” Joss grinned, coming toward me with a flute of Buck’s Fizz. “Honey.” She kissed my cheek affectionately. “It’s good to see you.”

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