She tiptoed down the corridor and had her hand on the doorknob about to rejoin Robbie when she thought, What if he’s not finished changing yet and he’s naked?
Cold and hot flushed through her all at once.
She listened at the door, but didn’t hear anything. But the thought of Robbie naked had started a whole new chain of thought. Would he expect her to have changed her mind about sleeping with him, since she’d invited him in? He was obviously experienced with women. He might expect her to be sophisticated, someone who’d had lovers; after all, she’d known exactly how a man could climb up to her bedroom.
Or worse. What if he knew she wasn’t? What if he’d been able to tell, by kissing her, that she was utterly inexperienced?
She knocked lightly on the door, heart in her mouth, and when there was no answer, opened it and peered in. Robbie had turned off the overhead light and turned on the desk light near her bed, filling the room with cosy shadows. He sat on the floor next to her bookcase. He was wearing a very rumpled white T-shirt and undershorts. Cautiously, she entered the room.
‘I like the PJs,’ he said.
They were flannelette, with tiny forget-me-nots on them; she’d had them since she was in school and they were a little too small around the bust. Emily entered the room, hugging herself, and decided that in this situation, with a strange, beautiful man half-naked in her bedroom, her best weapon was to be brisk.
‘I’m not going to sleep with you,’ she said.
‘That’s not why I gave you the compliment. You really do look adorable.’
‘I’m still not going to sleep with you.’
‘That’s all right.’ He turned his attention back to the books. ‘Have you really read all of these?’
‘Yes. Several times.’
He pulled her histology textbook off the shelf and began to leaf through it. Apparently she was completely safe. Perversely, the realisation made her frown.
‘Aren’t you disappointed that I’m not going to sleep with you?’ she asked.
He got up and came over to her. Her room seemed very small all of a sudden. When he kissed her, it was with so much passion and desire that she had to put her hand against the wall to steady herself.
‘I’m very disappointed,’ he said. ‘But it’s your choice.’
Robbie returned to the bookcase and sat cross-legged on the floor, perusing the shelves.
Emily stood there for a long moment, her hand on her lips. He wasn’t looking at her, but she could see rather a lot of him: his arms and legs, lean and muscular and covered with dark hair. The sole of his bare foot was presented to her – the skin there was darker than the skin on his legs, probably from walking around without shoes – and something about the underside of his toes, the way they curled into soft pads, was unbearably vulnerable and naked.
There was no pressure to sleep with him. Only temptation.
She straightened her shoulders. ‘You can sleep on the floor,’ she told him, taking a blanket and a pillow off her bed. She spread the blanket out on the floor, right next to her bed. There was nowhere else to spread it.
‘It should be better than a park, anyway,’ she said.
‘Much better. Thank you.’
He was looking at her now. He made no move to lie down on the blanket.
‘Well,’ she said. ‘It’s getting late, and I have a tutorial tomorrow.’
‘Yes. It’s late.’
How on earth was she going to sleep next to him? Knowing she could reach her hand down and touch him?
She needed a distraction, something to stop her from listening to his breathing.
‘Oh,’ she said. ‘You might like this.’
She had to kneel quite close to him to pull out the portable record player and the LP, and even closer to plug it into the wall socket. She put on the record, lowered the needle, and retreated to her bed before the first soft notes of the piano began.
Robbie recognised it immediately. ‘This is it. That music I heard yesterday. Something variations?’
‘Goldberg. It’s Bach.’
Quietly, listening to the music, Robbie lay down on the blanket. Emily arranged herself under her own and she reached over to turn off the light. In the darkness, the music filled the room, but she could still feel him beside her. Listening fiercely, with the same concentration he had given to her when he kissed her.
When she ventured her hand over the side of the bed, he found it and clasped it in his own. He held it until the record ended, and afterwards.
Emily awoke to see Robbie gazing at her in the morning light that filtered through the curtains. It was such a seamless transition from her dream that for a moment she wasn’t sure she was awake. But in her dream he’d been in bed with her, and in reality, he was still lying on the blanket on the floor.
‘Morning,’ he said to her, in a voice full of sleep and warmth and sexiness. He was lying on his side, his head propped up on his arm. It would be so easy to stretch out her hand to him, lift her own blanket and invite him in next to her.
In her dreams, his hands had been on her skin, unbuttoning her pyjamas, his lips pressing kisses in the hollow between her breasts.
She sat up. ‘Did you sleep well?’
‘Not particularly. It seemed like a waste of time.’
He’d been watching her while she slept? Could he see what had been going on inside her dreams? Had she said anything in her sleep?
‘You’re leaving today,’ she said.
‘My train leaves at eight thirty.’
Her clock said quarter to seven. ‘I suppose . . . I suppose we have enough time to listen to the other side of that record. It ends with the same aria it began with. It’s a hello, and then a goodbye.’
The word caused an unexpected lump in her throat.
‘Come with me,’ he said.
‘What? On the boat to Italy?’
He grimaced. ‘No, I doubt there’s room, unfortunately, unless you can sail.’
‘I can’t sail.’
‘I meant to Lowestoft. We don’t sail until tomorrow morning. I have to check in with the others today but I have the rest of the day free – we could spend some more time together.’
‘I don’t think I—’
He sat up and took her hand, the same hand he’d been holding as she fell asleep. ‘We might never see each other again, Emily. I can try to come back to England but I don’t know when that will be. You might have met someone else by then.’
‘I’m not looking for anyone.’
‘You weren’t looking for me, but you found me. I can’t bear the thought that I might come back to find you with another man.’
‘This is all a bit . . . quick, isn’t it?’
‘Looking at you makes me feel happier than I’ve been in years, maybe ever. I’ve been thinking about it all night and it’s been driving me crazy. You feel it too, don’t you? Just a little bit?’
‘I . . .’ She whispered it. ‘Yes.’
He seized her other hand. ‘Then come with me. Just for a day – you can get a train back tomorrow. I just want to spend more time with you, another twenty-four hours. We have to see if this means anything.’
‘Even if it does mean anything, you’re still leaving.’
‘I know,’ he said. ‘I know. It’s crazy. It’s ridiculous.’
‘It can’t be real,’ she said. ‘Things like this don’t happen. I’m attracted to you, that’s all.’