She felt a rush of panic and confusion, then denial. That couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t. Surely you couldn’t fall in love so quickly. But she knew that it was true. She loved him. Loved him with every frantic beat of her heart.
Her breath caught. But if that was true...
Gazing across the table at Serena, she felt her throat contract. She seemed so certain, and she and Davey knew Arlo better than anyone. But could Serena be right? Could Arlo have fallen in love with her too?
That question kept popping into her head during the rest of the day, but thinking it was one thing. Asking it...
Part of her wanted to. Another part—the part that didn’t want to rock the boat—feared the consequences of demanding more when everything was going so well, and she was still dithering later that day, as the Rolls-Royce convertible rumbled back over the wet cobbles on the causeway.
‘So, do you want to eat something?’ he asked.
‘I don’t think so.’ She thought for a moment. ‘Actually, what I’d really like is a bath.’
Dipping his head, he kissed her softly on the mouth. ‘Great minds think alike.’
* * *
It was lovely to have so much endless and guilt-free hot water on tap, Frankie thought as she lay back in the water, gazing through the spirals of steam to where Arlo lounged, his arms resting along the rim of the bath.
Looking at the heavy muscles bunching, she felt her pulse accelerate. It had always been easy to admire his solidness. But now she found it just as easy to admit that she loved everything about him that wasn’t visible. In fact, she loved everything about him.
Only now that it was easy to admit that to herself, she could feel herself wanting to tell Arlo.
Striving for calm, she picked up the soap and began rubbing it between her hands. ‘Thank you for taking me to Stanhope Park. I had a really nice time.’
‘Well, you were a huge hit. Davey thinks you’re wonderful, and Serena is raving about you too. They’ve invited us over on Saturday for lunch.’
His grey eyes rested on her face and, thinking back to her conversation with Serena, Frankie felt her stomach flip over. ‘They’re both lovely. And they loved your speech.’ She hesitated. ‘I loved it too. I thought it was beautiful. But—’
He stared at her steadily. ‘But what?’
‘I don’t know how you could say all that stuff about love and not want it for yourself.’
Sitting forward, he scooped up some water and dribbled it over her bare breasts.
‘I thought we’d talked about that,’ he said after a long silence.
‘We talked about your parents. But how do you know it would be the same for you? I mean it’s not the same for Davey and Serena, and if you met your “for ever” person everything might feel different.’
His face stilled and she felt her heart start to thud against her ribs.
‘I’m not the marrying kind—’
‘How do you know? How can you know? You’ve never been married.’ Her fingers bit into the soap. ‘You talk about data and facts, but you’re not basing your opinion on fact.’
There was another im
measurably long pause, and then he said coolly, ‘Actually, that’s exactly what I’m doing. You see, I have been married.’
She stared at him, mute with shock.
When? For how long? Who was she?
He flicked her a glance, hearing her questions even though she hadn’t asked them. ‘Ten years ago, for just under three months. Her name was Harriet and she was someone I met at university.’
Her heart was still thumping and she counted the thuds, trying to steady herself. ‘What happened?’
‘I didn’t love her. I told her. She left. It was not my finest moment.’ His face was bleak. ‘I wanted to love her. I wanted to have what my parents had. I wanted to believe. But it was a disaster. All I did was end up hurting her.’ Reaching out, he prised the soap from her fingers, his hands covering hers. ‘And that’s why we can never be more than this. I don’t want to hurt you, Frankie. I can’t risk that.’