She had really enjoyed herself—and yet, truthfully, she had preferred lunch yesterday, when it had been just the four of them. In fact, what she liked best of all was just lying on the sofa with Arlo in the library at the Hall...
Now that she thought about it, she’d only really started going out a lot at secondary school—and mostly that had been a kind of pushback against Harry and Amelie’s glittering success.
And after the accident, her partying had been a way to fight the loneliness and the guilt and had ended up being her career. Now she couldn’t imagine living like that. Only she was going to have to return—and sooner rather than later.
Blanking her mind to that unwelcome thought, she said quickly, ‘I had a great time at the shoot as well.’
‘I’m sorry I couldn’t come down, but Bertie had me up before dawn with his teeth.’
Frankie glanced over at the small blond boy clutching at Serena. She had met Bertie yesterday, and he had been like a jumping jack. Now, though, there were smudges under his eyes and he seemed listless and quiet.
‘Would you like me to take him for you?’ Frankie asked as Serena attempted to pick up her coffee cup.
Stifling a yawn, Serena shook her head. ‘He won’t go to anyone when he’s feeling like this—’
‘Except his favourite godfather!’
Watching Bertie’s face split into a huge, gap-toothed smile, Frankie felt a sharp nip of pleasure as Arlo reached forward and lifted him into his arms.
‘I’m just going to grab some food,’ he said, leaning in to kiss Serena on both cheeks. ‘Do either of you want anything?’
Serena shuddered. ‘No, thank you. I can still taste that last tequila.’
Arlo made a tutting sound. ‘Frankie? Any preferences?’
‘Surprise me,’ she said softly.
His gaze locked with hers and she felt the air between them snap like an elastic band.
‘I’ll do my best.’
Watching him walk away, Serena sighed. ‘He’s so good with Bertie. I suppose he would be—I mean, he practically raised Johnny by himself.’ She rested her elbows on the tablecloth. ‘But never mind that now. What I want to know is how did you two meet?’
Frankie felt her mouth open and close as she tried to remember what she and Arlo had agreed, but before she could answer Serena waved her hands excitedly.
‘No—no, wait a minute. Let me guess. Your car got a puncture and he pulled over to help? Or maybe you were lost—?’
‘No, it was nothing like that.’ Frankie shook her head. ‘I know Johnny from London, and he introduced me to Arlo.’ That was almost true. ‘We hit it off and he asked me to stay.’ That was also almost true.
To her astonishment, Serena looked delighted. ‘Oh, I’m so happy you said that. It sounds so normal. I knew you were different from the others,’ she said triumphantly.
Frankie felt something twist beneath her ribs. Not that long ago she’d found it hard to imagine anyone wanting to work with Arlo, let alone share his bed. Now, though, it hurt to imagine his body overlapping another woman’s...
Leaning in conspiratorially, Serena lowered her voice. ‘I was watching the two of you together and you can’t keep your eyes off each other. I told Davey you must be the one—’
What? She stared up at Serena in shock and confusion. ‘No, no... I don’t think... That’s not...’
Serena touched her hand. ‘It’s okay. I’m not going to say anything. I know Arlo’s a very private person,’ she said gently. ‘But I know love when I see it.’
Love? No, that was wrong. That wasn’t what was happening here. She and Arlo didn’t love one another.
Her head started to spin. Around her, the room seemed to be blurring at the edges.
No, they didn’t.
But she loved him.