Sidequest for Love - Page 20

Hmm, it sounded like he was trying to rationalise it to himself, but I had a feeling Annabelle wasn’t the sweet girl she wanted Neil, or should I say ‘Callum’, to believe she was. Neil might’ve been the one doing the catfishing, but I suspected that when it came down to it, Annabelle was the guilty party.



I stood outside the gaming sphere waiting for Afric. The place wasn’t too far from my work, so I was able to walk over once I clocked off for the day. I checked my watch. She was running a few minutes late. A part of me was relieved because the thought of practicing flirting with random strangers sent a chill down my spine. Maybe Afric wouldn’t show.

Flirting wasn’t my strong suit. This was a fact I knew about myself. It was something I tended to avoid at all costs.

I was about to call Afric to check where she was when I spotted her approaching. Her long blonde hair was down around her shoulders, and she wore a loose-fitting black and white striped shirt with burgundy coloured leggings, Converse, and large hoop earrings. It was the most normal outfit I’d seen her in yet. She even wore a little bit of make-up, the black eyeliner highlighting her startlingly blue eyes. My chest did a weird flip-flop, and I wasn’t sure why.

Okay, maybe I did know why, but I was trying to ignore it. It was only yesterday that I was at her place, and I still didn’t know how to feel about her admitting to checking out my arse.

Women rarely checked me out, so to have Afric compliment me like that was, well, it wasn’t unpleasant. I’d spent so long seeing myself as this plain, unnoticeable bloke that it was kind of shocking to have her compliment me. Even if it was only my backside she’d been complimenting. It gave me hope that once Annabelle discovered the truth, she wouldn’t be completely horrified by the real me. Perhaps I wasn’t as plain and unnoticeable as I thought I was.

“Hello! Sorry, I’m late. There was a delay on the Tube. Typical,” she said as she reached me. “Have you been waiting long?”

“Not long. You look nice.”

She patted her windswept hair. “I do? Oh, well, there’s no particular reason for that.”

I frowned at her odd statement. “Shall we go inside?”

Afric nodded, glancing at the entrance and biting her lip. She seemed nervous, which was unusual. “Just give me a minute.”

I studied her. “Is everything okay?”

She was still staring intently at the entrance. “What? Yes, I’m perfectly fine.”

“You sure? You seem—”

“What do I seem?”

“Tense?” I hedged.

She deflated, blowing out a heavy breath. “I just haven’t been here in a while.”

“Are you taking part in the tournament or something?”

“No, but my ex, Dev, probably is, and I haven’t spoken to him since our break-up.”

Oh. She was nervous about seeing her ex-boyfriend. Now it all made sense. Something about the show of vulnerability warmed me to her. “When did you two break up?” I asked.

“About six months ago.”

“We don’t have to go in if you don’t want to,” I said in a gentle voice.

Afric shot me a determined look. “No, I want to go in. I have to. He’s not stealing this place from me. I just need to reclaim it.”

“Well, in order to do that, you’ll need to actually step inside.”

She narrowed her gaze. “I know that.” Still, she didn’t move. I gave her a moment to prepare herself, and as we stood there, a man in a suit strode by, bumping into Afric without stopping to apologise. I caught her by the elbow and made sure she was okay. Then, feeling strangely bothered by his rudeness, I walked after the man and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, shooting me a questioning look. “What?”

“You should watch where you’re going,” I said. “You almost knocked my friend over back there.”

He glanced at Afric, then at me. “Whatever, mate. You two were blocking the path.”

With that, he turned and left. “Dickhead,” I muttered as I returned to Afric.

She smiled up at me. “That was rather chivalrous.”

“I just can’t stand rude people,” I said.

“You live in London, Neil. This city is full of rude people.”

“Well, it bothered me how he didn’t even stop to apologise. Are you okay?” I asked, looking her over.

“I’m fine, but thank you.” She took a deep inhale and straightened her shoulders. “Right, let’s do this,” she said, but she still didn’t move.

I bent my head to look her in the eye. “Do you want me to go in first?”

She swallowed then nodded, and feeling protective of her at that moment, I led the way into the gaming sphere. Afric followed close behind me, and I took the place in as we entered. A good number of people were gathered for the tournament, and computers were set up all about being used by lots of people with headsets on, completely absorbed in their gaming. I eyed the race car simulators surrounded by large screens, impressed with the setup. This place certainly meant business.

Tags: L.H. Cosway Romance
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