“I’m fine.” She waved him off, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. “I promise.”
He squeezed her hand back and I added another thing I adored about him to my list: He really, really loved his sister. His whole family, in fact.
While we talked about Maggie’s roommates at uni, a family at the next table became hard to ignore. Really it was their son who became hard to ignore. He looked about four or five and he was being very loud. Extremely loud. And he was using his food as missiles.
“Toby, sweetheart, please stop. Sit nice and be quiet,” his desperately mortified-looking mother urged.
Maggie, who kept stopping to glower at the boy, eyed Toby as he said, “No. Fuck off!”
His mother drew in a breath, looking ready to cry.
“Toby, is it?” Maggie suddenly leaned away from our table to theirs.
The mother went beetroot at the attention. Craig murmured at Maggie to sit back and was defiantly ignored.
“Yeah!” Toby replied, crossing his arms over his chest as if to say, “What’s it to you?”
“Have you ever heard of The Bed Brute, Toby?”
Toby shook his head. “What’s that?”
“It’s not a that. It’s a who.” Maggie said. “A monster, to be exact.”
“A monster?” Toby leaned toward her now, sounding intrigued.
“Yup.” She nodded, her expression deadpan. “The Bed Brute has a problem with children who are rude to their parents. He doesn’t like it, Toby.”
Toby’s expression fell.
“He especially doesn’t like children who say bad words to their parents. And if a child is rude a lot and says bad words a lot, The Bed Brute finds out. And do you know what he does, Toby?”
Toby shook his head, eyes wide.
“He waits for them to go to sleep and then he comes out from under their bed and snatches them away into the night. So if I were you, Toby, I wouldn’t be rude or say bad words to your mummy anymore.”
Toby abruptly burst into loud, terrified sobs.
Maggie gave the boy’s mum a wide smile. “You’re welcome.”
The horrified mother could barely speak in her fury as they sought to comfort her son, gather her other two children, and demand the check from the waiter.
Craig and I exchanged tight-lipped looks as the family scampered out of the restaurant . . .
And then we burst into our own horrified laughter.
“What?” Maggie chuckled, shrugging.
“You can’t say that to a child.” Craig shook his head, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.
“What? I bet it works! The little shit won’t be telling his mum to fuck off anytime soon. Rain thinks it was brilliant, don’t you?”
I struggled to breathe, still not believing I’d actually witnessed what I’d just witnessed. “I think,” I giggled, “I think it was part brilliant, part awful. You do realize that child won’t sleep for weeks now.”
“Ach, so? We coddle kids too much these days. They’re turning into little arseholes. I should know—it started with my generation.”
We laughed again, my stomach starting to hurt a little, and I decided I might quite possibly have my own girl crush on Maggie. She was so wonderfully honest and real in a way I wasn’t brave enough to be. It just wasn’t who I was. That didn’t mean I couldn’t admire someone who could be like that though.
“Wait until Mum hears that one,” Craig teased as he scooped up a bite of his almost forgotten lasagna.
“Oh, don’t.” Maggie suddenly looked unsure. “You know she’ll think it was rude and I’ll get an hour-long lecture.”
“Maybe you need an hour-long lecture.”
“I get plenty of those at university. No lectures at home, please.”
“Fine. But no more traumatizing children.”
“I make no such promises.”
* * *
In the end I was having so much fun with Craig and Maggie that I decided to hang out with them for a little while longer. Craig didn’t need to be at work for a few more hours so we decided to go to Old Town. After wandering around in and out of shops, joking around, we stopped in at The World’s End, a pub on the Royal Mile.
I insisted on buying the first round—a wine for myself, and a beer for both Maggie and Craig. While I was waiting for the drinks, they found a table nearby.
I’d only been standing there a minute when I felt a strong arm wrap around my waist. I leaned back into Craig’s familiar heat as he pressed a warm and rather possessive kiss to the side of my neck.
“Need a hand?” he murmured.
I tried not to shiver and failed. “Sure,” I said softly, hating when he made me all hot and bothered in public. Mostly hating how easily he made me all hot and bothered in public.
He grabbed the two beers when they were ready and I carried my wine over to the table where Maggie was sitting.
She was grinning from ear to ear at us.
“What?” I smiled in bemusement.
“Him.” She pointed at Craig. “Possessive fucker. Don’t think he’s a gentleman, Rain. He only went up to help you because those three fit-as-fuck guys were checking you out. Still are.”
I followed her gaze to three guys sitting at a table across from the bar. They grinned at me and I looked quickly at Craig. Sure enough he was glowering at the men.
“This is brilliant!” Maggie clapped her hands in glee.
Craig snapped his attention to her. “If I didn’t love you so much, I’d kill you.”
“Aw.” She reached for him, pulling him down beside her and snuggling into him. “You can’t stay mad at me. I’m only joking!”