Snoring woke him.
The abrasive noise filtered into Craig’s unconscious and ripped him right out of sleep. He blinked against the faint light filtering in from the purple curtains hanging at his bedroom window.
Wait a minute.
I don’t own purple curtains.
The memory of last night slowly pushed to the forefront of his brain.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
Turning his head in tiny increments for fear he’d wake the snorer beside him, Craig glimpsed a pale face peeking out from the mass of red hair splayed all over the pillows. This wasn’t his bedroom. This was . . .
No, that wasn’t right.
Danielle “call me Danni.”
Craig sat up unhurriedly, his muscles locked with tension, worried that any slight movement would cause the snoring to stop and those bright blue eyes to open. Danielle “call me Danni” had hung around until he finished his shift at Club 39, the popular basement bar on George Street in the heart of Edinburgh’s city center. He’d been bartending there full time for five years and there were women who came regularly to the bar just to be served by him.
Some of them to be served by him.
She’d been coming to the bar for the last few weeks—every Thursday night without fail with her friends on student night. She was a postgrad. And she was fucking gorgeous. Craig could hardly let her down.
But sticking around in the morning?
Nah. They both knew what this was.
Or at least they both would when she woke up in the morning and he was gone.
He winced, hoping she was really all about casual like she’d promised she was last night. Craig never fucked a woman if he thought she might be clueless about the rules of a one-night stand. Ninety-nine percent of the time he read a woman right. There was the occasional one percent who always made him feel like a bastard afterward.
Shattered, and wanting his own bed away from the snorer, he slid carefully out of Danni’s bed and dressed quickly and quietly. He usually waited until a woman had fallen asleep after sex and then he’d leave, but last night he must have been more exhausted than usual because he’d drifted off too.
This was a close call.
He was just tiptoeing down the hall of the flat when a door to his right opened. He stopped in his tracks as a fresh-faced young woman gazed at him from her bedroom doorway.
She cracked a smile at his deer-in-headlights expression. “If you want to stay I can give you some earplugs,” she whispered.
He smirked at her joke and whispered back, “Thanks, but I need to get going.”
She nodded. “Don’t worry, Danni won’t be mad you left.”
“Good to know.”
“She would have thrown you out if you didn’t leave yourself.”
He grinned. “Is that right?”
“Oh yeah.” Her roommate grinned back. “She’s my hero. She’s better at this shit than any manwhore.” With that she shut the door in his face and Craig left the flat feeling amused and more than a little relieved.
* * *
“Pick a girl and settle down, Craig, before you catch a terrible disease. You know your dad was the same until he met me. Slept with anything with a vagina.”
La la la, la la la la.
“Son, are you listening to me?”
Nope. Because there were some words you never wanted your mother to utter, and vagina was one of them. Pretending the conversation had never happened, he opened the fridge, scrounging for a snack.
The fridge was almost empty.
Craig frowned, shut the door, and turned to look at his mum as she made him a cup of coffee with the last of the milk. “Why is the fridge empty?”
His mum glanced up from stirring sugar into his drink. “Och, don’t give me that look. Today was supposed to be my shopping day but they called me in to work to cover for someone. I just ordered some Chinese for dinner. I’ll go for my shopping tomorrow.”
After escaping Danni’s flat that morning he’d gotten home to his own flat and crashed until late afternoon. He’d showered and dressed, caught up with some friends for dinner, and then swung around to his mum’s on his way to work to check on her.
“So you’re okay?”
“I’m fine.” She handed him his coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.
Craig followed suit. “Are the girls okay?” He referred to his two sisters, Jeannie and Maggie.
“Fine. Both getting on fine.” She reached over and patted his hand. “You don’t need to worry so much anymore. Things have eased up since the girls moved out.”
For ten years—since he was fifteen years old and his dad died—Craig had been man of the house. He’d left school at sixteen so he could get a job and help his mum out financially. He hadn’t moved out of the house until the girls were old enough to get jobs and help out too. Now Jeannie was engaged at twenty-two and living with her fiancé, and Maggie was in the second term of her first year of university at Aberdeen.
This meant the pressure was off him somewhat, but it was hard to shake the responsibility and the constant concern he’d felt for them for so long.
“And how are you really, Mum?” He sipped at the coffee. “Since Mags left?”
A spark of sadness entered her eyes and Craig felt it in his gut. “I miss her. It’s quiet.” She forced a wide teasing grin. “I’m thinking about getting a cat.”
He shot her a grin. His mum. Cat lady. Somehow he couldn’t picture it. “I’ll try to come by more often.” He stopped over once a week for a coffee before his shift at the bar, and he talked to her on the phone a couple of times a week too.