The wall between reception and the inner station was made of toughened glass panels, and as Calum approached, he could see a male figure in a dark suit, sitting on the far side of Julia. They were talking, heads together. Of course—Julia and Adam knew each other from their time in Glasgow, when they’d all been so full of hope. Calum had introduced them, in fact.
He clenched his jaw, pulled open the door, and strode into reception.
Adam glanced up and rose slowly to his feet.
The shock was visceral.
Adam hadn’t been kind enough to get fat. Or bald.
He was as tall and fit and lovely as when Calum had left him, except that his light-brown hair was longer and layered, parted in the middle, off his brow. His suit was a narrow cut black pinstripe, and he wore a white V-necked T-shirt under it. Calum’s uniform suddenly felt stiff and ugly.
Adam’s tanned skin was still smooth, his narrow jaw strong and sharp. Perhaps he had a few more lines around his eyes, but those eyes were a hooded, vivid light grey, taking in and assessing Calum in turn.
“…your sea-grey eyes…”
The treacherous echo of Calum’s threatening emails slammed him back to reality.
Adam raised an eyebrow. He’d always had a tendency to act the supercilious bastard when he didn’t like someone. Now, that someone was Calum.
Calum made himself hold out a hand. He felt sick. Adam waited a moment too long before taking it.
“It’s been a while,” Calum said with what he hoped was an easy smile. “I appreciate your coming by.”
“Not at all,” Adam said. That smooth, whisky voice that used to weaken Calum’s knees, when Adam whispered all he wanted to do to him. “I was just telling Julia I had to make the effort, after five years.”
“Six,” Calum said. Shit. His heart was galloping. Ridiculous. But at least Adam had somehow known to be discreet about why he was there.
“Julia just told me the terrible news about her uncle,” Adam went on. “That you’re investigating it. I can come back later if you…”
He was playing it beautifully. A friendly visit which had been arranged before the investigation had begun.
“No,” Calum said. “It’s fine. Come on through for a few minutes.” He met Julia’s innocent, anxious eyes. “Willie John’ll take you in for a chat, okay?”
Julia nodded miserably. “I want to talk to you, though.”
“Willie John’ll take all the details.” Calum gave a reassuring smile. “I’ll come along if I can.”
“Fuck,” he muttered, the moment the door closed behind himself and Adam. Cloak-and-dagger was not his strength.
“She doesn’t know,” Adam observed coolly. “I gathered that her uncle had to be your victim. And since she didn’t mention the chess piece…”
“Thank you,” Calum said, because he didn’t know what else to say.
Sorry you despise me? How could he, when he wouldn’t mean it? Their destruction had been a necessity.
Calum led the way, totally aware of how his uniform trousers fitted around his backside. Wondering if Adam was noticing. Furious and disgusted by his own thoughts.
But it was all instantly there again. Proof of why he couldn’t be near Adam.
Around him, he’d had no self-control.
And incredibly, as attractive as Adam was, Calum had once had power over him too. Long ago.
Calum’s name and title were on his office door. He was conscious of Adam taking them in, and then they were inside, and Ishbel rose to greet Adam like a long-lost member of the family.
Adam had stayed at Calum’s parents’ house for a few weeks in their final year at university, while he did some research at Uig for his thesis on the chessmen and Viking influence on Lewis. Every day, Calum had driven him over there, and helped him measure things and take photographs and interview people and dig. And every evening they’d come back to the house, and Calum’s mum fed them far too much, and they’d watched TV, and gone to their separate rooms.
Friends. That holiday had been pure. Because they were on Lewis, and Calum could not stand to even consider the remote possibility that someone might see them touching or kissing. Adam had respected it and hadn’t tried to sneak even a handhold, though Calum thought he saw it as regressive. Victorian.
But it had changed things, that holiday. It had reminded Calum graphically that he was living a fantasy. That there could be no future in what he was doing. It reminded him who he really was, and what he owed, and what was expected, and how stupid and self-destructive and unfair he was being.
Lewis was a place where religion mattered so much that ordinary people in congregations still fell out and had schisms and formed new churches over matters of theology and religious politics.
Just a few years before, the largest Church of Scotland congregation in the islands had split because the mainland church was willing to accept “practicing homosexuals” as ministers. The anti-gay dissenters had been welcomed into the Free Church—Calum’s parents’ church. His parents were kind and compassionate people, but the concept of homosexuality touching their own lives would be incredible and devastating for them. In a strange way, they were innocents.
Lewis had more than its share of alcohol abuse and illegal drugs and underage sex and unplanned pregnancies. They’d been around for a long time. But even in a community with such a close personal relationship with religion, you could be easily forgiven for those sins. You could even decide not to bother with the church at all.
But you couldn’t be gay.
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