Herne gently raised her face with a knuckle under her chin. “Now something’s bothering you.”
She felt her cheeks heat. “Um, well, Clio forgot pyjamas.”
His eyebrows rose. “What did you sleep in last night at your friend’s place?”
She closed her eyes, mortified. “Very ugly purple fairy pyjamas but Narcissus stole them out of my bag this morning and—“
Calypso opened her eyes and shrank a little at Herne’s anger. “He put something else in, I’m sure he thought we was being helpful, but it’s, there’s nothing there, and I just can’t…”
Dammit, this situation did not warrant tears but she could feel them trying to sneak through, to make things even more awkward. She swallowed hard and ducked her face down.
Herne sighed and wrapped both arms around her, tucking her head into the warm nook where his neck met his shoulder. “Your friends do like to play fast and loose with your trust, don’t they.”
Calypso’s protest was guiltily half-hearted. She was sure Narcissus hadn’t meant for her to be upset, but how could she not be? This weekend had been so special to her, and his little game, and Clio’s with the purple pyjamas, made it feel cheap and tacky. That they saw her as cheap and tacky. Or stupid. Probably that. Probably all of them.
She bit her lip, then scowled at herself.
She could have a crisis of faith over her friends later. Right now she should be focusing on the man holding her. Not offering pithy advice, or sniggering, or waggling suggestive brows; just giving her time and safety to work out what to do for herself.
The answer was rather obvious really, and she pushed back just enough to see his face. “Can I borrow a T-shirt?”
He grinned at her and snatched a quick, unsatisfactory kiss. “I like that idea. I’ll dig you one out as soon as I’ve dealt with the dogs.”
He headed for the back door, Holly and Ivy at his heels, and disappeared into the gloom of the outside evening.
Calypso had just enough time to second guess herself, and him, twice, before he reappeared and shooed the dogs to their beds.
Then he was beside her, actually sweeping her off her feet and into his arms. “Now, about that t-shirt…”
Then he did waggle his eyebrows but, somehow, it was perfectly fine.
She woke the next morning when the solid source of heat next to her moved away, with a soft kiss to her temple.
She smiled, and stretched, then let herself drift for a little while. The space beside her remained empty, and curiosity drove her from the nest they’d created.
She wandered into the living area, tugging at the hem of the t-shirt she’d borrowed, eventually. Herne was coming back in from the terrace, dogs at his heels.
How he could be out in that cold and wet, wearing nothing but pyjama bottoms, was beyond her but the view was delightful. He seemed to think the same from the grin that lit his eyes when he saw her.
“Don’t think that t-shirt ever looked that good on me. You might have to start a fashion range.”
She laughed but shook her head. “I don’t think it’s a new trend.”
Holly and Ivy ambled over for good morning scritches and she looked out at Owlbert’s sleeping area. “Is he back?”
“Tucked up and snoring.” Herne pulled her against him and added. “Just like you were earlier.”
Her eyes flew to his. “I was snoring?”
He chuckled. “No, but you were very tucked up and cozy.”
She mock-glared. “Not nice.”
It was some time before the dogs got their breakfast.
The day was spent doing the most delightful sort of nothing, although they did spend some time wandering through the downstairs rooms, discussing how to furnish the place in the most un-Hestia manner possible.
When Herne took her to the station for the trip back to London, they were surprised on the platform by Cernunnos – also on his way to the city. He rolled his eyes at Herne’s double-take.
“Fat lot of attention you pay, Hunter. I told you I’d be out from late Sunday to Monday night.”
“You did. You didn’t say it was for a town trip.”
Cernunnos shrugged, then wandered down the platform, leaving them to a pretence of privacy.
Too soon, the train arrived and Calypso took a seat by the window, lips still tingling from Herne’s final kiss.
A couple of minutes after it had left the station, she was startled by someone dropping into the seat diagonally across the little table from her. Cernunnos.
He studied her for a moment, then said. “So, you’re done then?”
Calypso frowned, confused. “Sorry?”
“You and Herne. You’re done. Hunt’s over, fun’s been had, he’ll be on to other quarry now, one of the other girls he has in his phone. It’s all about the chase for him.”
Calypso’s stomach started to churn. He couldn’t, please no, not him, not after everything. She maintained her receptionist’s mask. Cool composure, always.
She tilted her head to one side, examining him in turn. “Do you make a habit of going through his phone then?”
Cernunnos barked a laugh. “I don’t need to. I hear all about them. The London fashion one, I presume that’s you, the photographer, the interior designer, the local girl who moved away, the one staying in the place next-door and the one that dopey owl likes.”
Calypso started to laugh, the idiocy of the man, and the flood of relief. It was some time before she could catch enough breath to reply.
Mopping at streaming eyes, she wheezed. “Every single one of those ‘girls’ is me. Women can be slightly more than one dimensional you know.”
“It doesn’t matter. There are others.” Cernunnos replied.
“Others such as Janey Grey, or Cynthia Smythe-Browning?”
His eyes flicked from her face to the window, shoulders shifting uncomfortably.
She sobered and shook her head. “Just because you haven’t evolved since university, doesn’t mean Herne’s the same as he was then.”
With that, she turned her head to the window in silent dismissal. He remained where he was a few moments more, then stood and left.
She took a deep breath. That was unsettling, and upsetting. Should she tell Herne about it? Maybe Jason and Hercules could advise her. And Circe would make her laugh. She sent her friend a message.
Just had the weirdest conversation with Herne’s business partner. He told me Herne and I were now over, and there were other women on the scene. Then he proceeded to describe them, and they were all me! Trying to work out his agenda.
Circe replied. If you’re on the train, I won’t call, the dropouts are too tedious. Sounds like business partner’s jealous. Is he single or coupled up?
Single I presume. He’s too much of an ass for anyone to put up with him long term.
Ha! There you go! Possessive wives have got nothing on single blokes whose friends are in danger of coupling up. What did Herne say?
I haven’t told him. Not sure if I should. They work together and I don’t want to make things awkward.
I mean, I shut him down pretty well, and he’s part of Herne’s life. And it’s not like Herne and I are a proper couple or anything. I don’t want to create trouble … and I also don’t want to go crying to Herne when that’s exactly what Cernunnos is going to expect me to do.
Ohhh the baffle them with maturity manoeuvre, I like it!
And there was the laugh she needed. Circe was a treasure.
Any news for you? No bump-related fashion packages yet?
No, I’m having them delivered to work. Can you imagine? A non-Z Corp label being delivered to the front desk. It’s going to be hilarious. Maybe it’ll prompt one of those snooty high-ups to consider a maternity line.
They chatted sporadically for the rest of the journey, then signed off as Calypso switched to a local train for the final leg.
She walked into the flat shortly after dark, to find Jason contemplating ribbon colours and Hercules pouring wine.
Jason turned with a smile. “And here she is. Now grab a glass, sit right down and tell us all about your weekend.”
“Don’t you need me on wedding duty?”
He waved a handful of ribbons. “No need, Dionysus is taking over as event manager. All I have to do is pick colours and cake flavours and we’re done.”
Calypso gasped. “Oh that’s fantastic. And you can focus on what you want to wear and organising your honeymoon.”
Hercules smiled. “Even that’s been taken off our plates. Apollo himself is on our outfits and Posiden’s got his top assistant looking at destinations.”
Jason clinked glasses with her. “It’s Z Corp’s wedding present to us. Isn’t it amazing?”
She smiled at them both. “It is, and so well deserved. You two do so much for them.”
They both smiled back at her, although Hercules’s grin seemed a little strained. She wondered if there was still some element of Friday’s argument unresolved. She couldn’t ask though, so she told them about the weekend.
When she’d finished, and they’d finished exclaiming over Cernunnos, Jason said. “Narc said he’d snuck a rather fabulous bit of lingerie into your bag, how did that go over.”
Calypso closed her eyes, opened then again and said. “I borrowed a t-shirt.”
Jason’s eyes widened. “He didn’t like it?”
“He didn’t see it.”
Hercules looked concerned. “What was it?”
Calypso looked at the pair of them, then went to her bag, dug down to the bottom and pulled out the scarlet tangle of nothing.
Jason said. “Oh dear.”
Hercules put his head in his hands.