Sophia turned her face and was met with his eyes. Those cornflower eyes that had the ability to strip her bare from her pathetic lies. “Tom is here,” she whispered.
“Of course he is,” he observed, suppressing a smile.
“We are with Meghan and Adam.”
“Ah! And how is the Cornish lass? I haven’t spoken to her for ages.”
“As crazy as ever,” Sophia grinned. “You look happy, I’m so pleased for you, Callum.”
He nodded, smoothing his hair. “I cannot say the same about you, Sophia.”
“I have not come here to receive a lecture.”
She turned around in anger and he grasped her arm, forcing her to stop. “Don’t go, Sophia, pretending everything is all right. We cannot continue avoiding the truth. It is time we come to terms with our feelings for each other. Because you know, as much as I do, they have not faded away.”
“I have moved on Callum,” she scowled at him, “why can’t you accept it?”
“Because I can only see misery when I look at you. You may be able to hide it from him, Sophia, but not from me. I cannot stand seeing you like this, like someone who is petty and scared of living.” He took a deep breath, pinching his frown. “Look, I forgave you a long time ago. New York was good for me, for us, actually. Being away from you made me realise how much I loved you. I must admit I did not expect to find you married when I returned and I was mad at you, so mad for a while. And then one day I saw you at the Heath, wandering, with such sadness in your eyes that I had to look away to contain my anger.” He cradled her chin in his hand, “Sophia, there is nothing in this world that can put an end to the feelings I have for you. The same feelings I had when we were students in Edinburgh. I still love you, I really do, and I know you feel the same way.”
She tilted her head and reached for his face. “You make it sound so simple.”
“Because it’s simple!” He gazed at her, extending his arms and gripping her shoulders. “Tell me you love him.”
Unsuccessfully, Sophia tried to break from him. “Callum, please, this is not the place or the time,” she murmured, looking around, “your guests are starting to notice us.”
“Very well, tomorrow then. I’ll meet you at the Pergola at 4pm.”
“But it’s Saturday tomorrow. Tom is probably around.”
“Make an excuse. You were always quite good at coming up with pretexts.” He relaxed his hands, letting her go.
“All right. Four it is, and don’t be late.”
Her heels spun round and she felt the warmth of his breath against her bare back. “I know the passionate lass I fell in love with is still there. And I am going to get her back.”
Callum left Bond Street station and turned right into South Molton Street, heading towards Mayfair. It was a muggy day, with murky clouds that hung low in the sky, almost touching the earth, like a dense layer of insulating foam that prevented the circulation of air and instead, kept recycling it. A couple of young musicians played violin outside one of the shops, while a pretty girl of pixie mien, dressed in an old t-shirt and a gypsy skirt, sang an old celtic ballad in a beautiful high pitch. At the sound of the familiar lyrics, he came to a halt, rummaged in his pocket and tossed a five pound note. The girl sent him a charming smile and he could not help but think of Sophia, his Sophia, the lass with the blonde mermaid hair, who dreamt of becoming the twenty-first-century Keats and inspired his art.
Acknowledging her smile, he winked at her and resumed his way, striding down the street. He was going to be a few minutes late, but he didn’t care. In fact, he was rather annoyed that Simon had called him today and requested a meeting. It was Saturday, for God’s sake. But Simon did not seem to mind working weekends. The man had a sly nature. He knew it since the moment they had exchanged their first words. And he also knew he had shaken hands with the devil when he had accepted him as his patron. But he had needed the money so badly to leave New York. So he had taken his offer and returned to London, to Sophia. Few days after his arrival, Meghan had broken the news. “Sophia got married, Callum. I’m really sorry. I should have written to you to tell you but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, you know, just in case you were still in love with her.” And he was. He had never stopped loving her. He was sure she still loved him too. What they had shared was special, almost mystical. They were soulmates. And they were destined to be together. She had only married the doctor because he was wealthy, he was absolutely certain. “I want to make lots of money,” she had repeatedly told him, “we had so little when I was growing up and my mother did nothing to change it. All those boyfriends she used to bring home, they were as broke as we were. What a waste.”
Callum walked into the lobby of Clarence House and called the lift. Simon Brown’s office was on the third floor of the opulent Georgian building. A large reception area, carpeted in the company’s signature claret housed a half-moon shaped, white desk, two stylish leather chairs and a round coffee table. He opened the desk’s top drawer and helped himself to a packet of mints the young receptionist of peroxide hair and large fake boobs kept. She was probably one of Tom’s patients, he thought. Thank goodness he had not touched Sophia.
He looked at the brass nameplate and knocked on the door a couple of times. “Simon?”
“Callum! Please come in.”
“I’m sorry I am a bit late, the tube had delays.” He said carelessly, grabbing a chair.
“Punctuality has never been your speciality. But after all, you are an artist. And a good one. The launch was an incredible success last night.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Moreover, we have received a number of lucrative offers. Stuart Mason from Clifford Bank called earlier in relation to The Sacred Poetess. He wants to buy it and is offering a very generous amount for it.”
Callum leaned back in his chair, crossing his legs. “I've told you that one is not for sale.”
“Mr Reid,” Simon Brown said, rising from his chair and pacing around the room, “if you want to be a successful artist and make a profitable living from your art, you are going to have to detach yourself from your paintings.”
“I won’t sell The Sacred Poetess. He can have any other.”
“May I remind you I have invested a great deal of my time and money to finance your art?”
Callum rose from his chair and walked towards the door. “I will pay you with interest every single penny I have borrowed from you. And now, if you excuse me, I have some personal commitments I must take care of this afternoon.”
Turning the handle, he heard the lizard saying, “Lucy is expecting your call. She thought you would invite her for dinner to celebrate the success of the launch. She worked very hard all week, Callum. It’s the last thing you could do to thank her.”
“I’m busy today,” Callum replied, staring at his hand on the handle.
“My daughter has grown very fond of you and I wouldn’t like to see her feelings hurt.”
Turning around, he glared at him. “You cannot force me to date your daughter.”
“Until you pay me back the million pounds I have invested in you, I can force you to do anything I want. Please close the door behind you.”