Turning, she went over to the drinks trolley and poured a little brandy into a couple of crystal glasses. Although she rarely drank spirits, she felt in need of some Dutch courage to see her through the next few minutes. Walking over to one of the huge black leather sofas, she sat down, placing the drinks on the glass-and-steel coffee table. She had rented the apartment fully furnished and hadn’t made any changes to it. It was merely a place to eat and sleep when she got back from work, yet all of a sudden she found herself wondering what Mac would make of it. Having experienced the welcoming warmth of his boat, she couldn’t imagine that it would appeal to him on any level.
For some reason she found the idea upsetting but she refused to dwell on it. It wasn’t her taste in furnishings that Mac was interested in but her honesty! Anger rippled through her as she picked up a glass and took a sip of the brandy. She had done nothing wrong and the sooner he accepted that the better.
‘So, seeing as you’ve seen fit to come here to talk to me, I suggest you get on with it.’ Bella stared at him over the rim of the glass, wanting to make it clear that she didn’t intend to allow this to drag on. She had been genuinely upset when she had got home but she’d had time to calm down now and she had no intention of getting upset again, no matter what he thought. She knew she was telling the truth and that was what mattered, wasn’t it?
She clamped down on the tiny flicker of doubt, knowing how quickly it could turn into something much bigger. Mac came and sat down opposite her, although he didn’t make any attempt to pick up his glass. He stared down at the floor for a moment and her heart surged when she saw how grim he looked when he finally raised his head.
‘Why would Tim lie to me, though? That’s what I don’t understand.’ He pinned her with a look of such intensity that she was hard-pressed not to look away, but somehow she managed to hold his gaze.
‘You’ll have to ask him that.’
‘But doesn’t it make you angry that he’s blaming you for everything that happened?’ he retorted.
‘Yes, it does.’ Bella managed to suppress a shiver when she heard the anger in his voice. Was he angry because Tim had lied to him or because he didn’t believe her? She had no idea but she couldn’t afford to let it worry her, certainly couldn’t allow it to unleash all the emotions that were churning around inside her.
‘Then how can you sit there so calmly? Surely, you want to do something to address the situation, Bella.’
‘What do you suggest? That I contact everyone I know and tell them that Tim is lying?’ She gave a bitter little laugh. ‘Maybe some people will believe me, but not very many, I’m afraid. Most will take Tim’s side simply because he’s always been far more outgoing than me. I have a tendency to keep myself to myself, and that doesn’t help if you’re trying to get people on your side. I mean, even you aren’t sure who to believe, are you, Mac? And you know me better than anyone else does.’
MAC FELT HIS blood pressure rocket skywards. Bella thought that he knew her better than anyone else? Coming on top of everything that had happened recently, it was almost too much to take in and yet he couldn’t pretend that he didn’t experience a rush of pleasure at the idea. Knowing Bella, inside and out, was his dearest wish.
‘Which is why I want to get to the bottom of this.’ He cleared his throat when he realised how uptight he sounded. Until he was sure who was telling the truth, he needed to remain impartial. The thought of how easily he could be swayed by all the emotions rampaging around inside him was sobering. Mac deliberately cleared his head of everything else while he focused on the reason why he had come to see her.
‘So you’re just going to leave things the way they are and not try to defend yourself?’
‘Basically, yes.’ She sighed. ‘I can’t see any point in making a fuss, if I’m honest. Tim obviously has his reasons for blaming me and, quite frankly, I don’t intend to end up having a public slanging match with him to clear my name. I know what really happened and that’s what matters most of all.’
‘So what you’re saying is that you don’t care what anyone else thinks,’ Mac said slowly. He shook his head. ‘That doesn’t seem fair to me. I mean, why should everyone believe you’re to blame when it wasn’t your fault?’
* * *
‘It’s just the way things are.’ Bella shrugged, trying not to get too hung up on the thought that Mac must care if he was so keen to straighten things out. She’d been down that route last night and she wasn’t about to make the same mistake again. Maybe Mac did care but out of a sense of justice: it wasn’t personal.