“I have to say; I quite like it when you’re pissed off on my behalf. It’s very sexy alpha male.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what?”
“Don’t brush off what happened by pretending to flirt with me.”
“Who says I’m pretending? Anyway, it was a long time ago. I’m over it.”
“It’s obviously still affecting you psychologically. You don’t just wear baggy clothes to stream. You wear them all the time. And for some reason, you hate kissing, which is also concerning—”
“The kissing thing has nothing to do with the clothes. That’s a separate matter entirely.”
“Even so, I don’t like it. You’re young and beautiful and funny and kind and brilliant, and you shouldn’t miss out on a lifetime of kisses,” I clamped my mouth shut when I realised how much I’d rambled.
Onscreen, Afric stared at me. For once, she looked speechless. Then she finally spoke, “You think I’m kind?”
It surprised me that kindness was the compliment she’d decided to focus on. “Yes, you’ve been kind to me at least.”
“I didn’t realise bothering you with random text messages day and night was considered a kindness,” she said with a surprisingly shy laugh.
I looked her in the eye. “The texts don’t bother me, Afric. I like them.” Not only that, I looked forward to them on an unhealthy level. I refrained from mentioning that to her, though.
“Oh … Well, that’s good to hear.” She fell silent again. Her eyes levelled on something on the other side of her room when she whispered, “Thanks for the other part as well.”
“What other part?”
“You called me beautiful. I can’t remember if anyone’s ever called me that before.”
A moment of honesty struck me. “Well, they should because you are. You’ve got incredible eyes, a cute nose, and gorgeous …”
At this, her lips began to curve in a grin. “And gorgeous what?”
I swallowed, forcing myself to answer. “Gorgeous lips. Don’t go getting a big head about it.”
Her grin widened. “Too late. I can already feel it expanding. Please don’t be too distracted by my gorgeous lips. I wouldn’t want you getting turned on by the idea of me wrapping them around your gorgeous—”
“Gorgeous cheek,” she finished. “What did you think I was going to say?”
I sighed and rubbed my forehead. “Go on, lap it up because that’s the last time you’ll ever get a compliment from me.”
“Aw, not fair! I want more compliments, Neil. I love how embarrassed you get when you give them.”
“I know you do, you sadist.”
“So, we should probably branch out and watch a new genre since we’ve exhausted the available selection of period dramas. How do you feel about romcoms?” she asked, and I was relieved for the change of subject.
“I have no aversion to romcoms. What did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking we could go by decade. Start with the best romcoms of the eighties and work our way up from there.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I replied and settled in while she searched for a movie.
The following morning, after I’d gone through security and had an hour to wait for my flight, I grabbed a coffee and found a quiet spot to do some work. When I logged into one of Callum’s social media accounts, I found a message from Annabelle.
I hope you’re doing well. I don’t want to be that whiny, insecure girl who complains about stuff like this, but you’ve gone real quiet on me lately, and I’m just worried I said something wrong. Did I? Or have you simply decided to ghost me? I wouldn’t blame you if you have. I’m just some random person on the internet, and you’re a famous TV star. I get it. If you don’t want to keep talking to me, that’s fine. I won’t bother you anymore. But if it’s something else, if it’s something I’ve done to upset you, please let me know. I’ve been driving myself crazy wondering.
Guilt sliced through me as I read her message. I was a pathetic excuse for a human being. I’d led this woman on and gone silent on her out of nowhere. I needed to fix the mistake. I needed to come clean to her. She deserved that much. Drawing in a deep breath, I drafted a reply.
First, please let me apologise for the silence on my end. I’ve been working through some things, but that’s no excuse. I’ve clearly hurt your feelings, and that was never my intention. I’m about to board a flight back to London, and once I get settled after I land, I’d like to meet up to talk in person. I have something important that I need to tell you, and I feel it would be a further disrespect not to explain everything face to face. If you’re free someday this week, please let me know. I’ll pay for whatever transport you need to come and meet me.