Mac wanted to disagree. He wanted to do it so badly that the words got all clumped up in his throat and almost choked him. He had to content himself with nodding, which was probably the safest response anyway.
‘Anything I can do? Make the coffee? Or how about some toast—I could make that, if you like?’
Bella hovered uncertainly in the doorway and Mac’s feelings underwent yet another rapid change. Tenderness swamped him as he pointed to the bread bin. Bella’s composure was legendary. Even when they’d been students, she had always appeared to be totally in control. He couldn’t remember her looking so out of her depth before, so that all he wanted to do was to put her at ease.
‘Seeing as you’ve volunteered, you can be on toast duty. There’s no toaster, I’m afraid. You have to do it the old-fashioned way under the grill.’ He lit the grill for her. ‘Butter’s in the fridge and there’s marmalade in that cupboard over there.’ He pointed everything out then headed to the bedroom. ‘I’ll have a shower while you’re doing that if it’s OK with you?’
Bella nodded as she took a loaf out of the bread bin. Picking up the bread knife, she started to cut it into slices, the tip of her pink tongue poking out between her lips. Mac turned away, not proof against any more temptations so early in the day. He didn’t want to think about her tongue and how it would feel stroking his...
There was plenty of hot water for a shower but he turned the dial to cold instead. Stepping under the icy spray, he shivered violently. If there was one thing he loathed more than anything else it was a cold shower but he didn’t deserve a hot one, not after the way he’d been behaving.
Lusting after Bella simply wasn’t on! Quite apart from the fact that it would ruin whatever friendship they had, he couldn’t do it to Tim. Tim may have kicked his drug habit but, like any addict, he was very vulnerable. Mac couldn’t bear to imagine the harm it could cause if he and Bella had an affair, not that it was on the cards, of course. However, the fact that he was even thinking about Bella in such terms was a warning in itself. Now that she had forfeited her married status, it didn’t mean that he was free to make a play for her. No, to all intents and purposes nothing had changed. It was still Bella and Tim.
* * *
Bella had their breakfast ready by the time Mac reappeared. He was wearing a pair of navy chinos with a blue-and-white striped shirt, and it was a relief to see him safely covered up. Maybe he had been decent enough before but the T-shirt and shorts he had worn to sleep in hadn’t left very much to the imagination. To her mind, there’d been a rather disturbing amount of leanly muscular body on show.
Heat flowed under her skin as she hurriedly placed the toast on the table. She added the coffee pot along with the milk jug and sugar bowl, determined not to allow her mind to get hijacked by any more such foolish ideas. She had seen men wearing a lot less than Mac had worn that morning in the course of her work so it was stupid to start acting like some sort of...inexperienced virgin!
‘I could grow used to this.’ Mac grinned as he sat down and reached for the coffee pot. He filled both of the mugs, adding milk and several spoons of sugar to his. ‘It’s a real treat to have my breakfast made for me.’
‘It’s the least I can do,’ Bella murmured, sitting down opposite him. Her knees bumped against his and she hastily drew her legs back out of the way, steadfastly ignoring the odd tingling sensation that seemed to be spreading from the point where their knees had touched.
She was bound to feel aware of him, she reasoned, adding a dash of milk to her coffee. After all, it wasn’t as though she had made a habit of spending the night with a man, was it? She had never had an affair, had never even indulged in any one-night stands like so many of her contemporaries at university had done. She had only ever slept with Tim, in fact, so spending the night with Mac was a whole new experience for her.
The thought unsettled her even more. It seemed to imply that she’d had an ulterior motive for spending the night on the boat. It wasn’t true, of course; it had been necessity that had forced her to stay, the need to rest and recoup her strength. The past year had been extremely hard. Between the stress of the divorce and the move to Dalverston, it was little wonder that it had felt as though she had reached rock-bottom last night. However, she felt much better this morning, less anxious and more like her old self. Spending the night here with Mac had worked wonders and it was just a shame that she couldn’t do it again.
Bella bit into her toast, more surprised by that thought than she could say. Bearing in mind how confused Mac made her feel, she should be trying to avoid him, surely? And yet there was no denying that if he had offered to let her stay again tonight and the night after that, she would have accepted with alacrity. Being with Mac might be unsettling but in a good way.