‘Thanks.’

Mac stayed where he was until she had disappeared into the en-suite bathroom. Getting out of bed, he gathered up his clothes and made his way to the bathroom. There was a heavy feeling in his heart, a suspicion that he had upset her, and he hated to think that his clumsiness had caused her any pain, but what should he do? Sit her down and explain how awkward he felt about encroaching on Tim’s territory?


Although Bella had claimed that there was no chance of her and Tim getting back together, she could change her mind. He had seen it happen to other couples, watched as time had softened the bad memories and brought the good ones into focus. He wouldn’t want to stand in the way of that happening. Neither would he want to be left with a broken heart if it did. If Bella did rediscover her love for Tim then how would it affect him?

Once again the fear of finding himself rejected reared its ugly head. As Mac got dressed, he tried his best to rationalise it away. He was a grown man, after all, not a scared seven-year-old child, and if anything happened he would deal with it. However, no matter how he tried to reason the fear away, it wouldn’t budge. In all those dark places he didn’t visit very often, he knew that losing Bella would be far worse than anything that had happened to him before. Once he had allowed himself to fall in love with her, his heart would no longer be his. It would belong exclusively to her.

* * *

Bella had the coffee ready by the time Mac appeared. She loaded everything on to a tray and carried it through to the sitting room. He was standing by the window, ostensibly enjoying the view, but she sensed that his thoughts were far removed from the charms of the moonlit scene. Was he afraid that he had allowed his judgement to be swayed by passion? Was he worried in case she had used sex as a means to convince him of her innocence? That thought stung more than any other could have done. The only reason she had slept with him was because she had wanted to!

She plonked the tray on the table with a thud that made him swing round and she felt her heart scrunch up in her chest when she saw the strain on his face. Whatever thoughts he was harbouring obviously weren’t pleasant ones. Picking up the pot, she poured coffee into the mugs, wishing that some passing genie would spirit her away. She wasn’t up to this! She couldn’t face the thought of explaining why she had slept with him when it was obvious that her reasons were a world removed from his. Oh, so maybe he had wanted her; she’d seen definite proof of that! However, it meant nothing if he now regretted what they had done.

Bella’s hand shook as she put the pot back on the tray. She couldn’t believe how painful it was to know that Mac wished tonight had never happened. It felt like another rejection, just like the way Tim had rejected her when he’d had that affair. What was wrong with her? Was it her inability to show her emotions that drove men away?

That was what Tim had said during one of those terrible rows they’d had. He had accused her of being so cold that she had driven him into the arms of another woman. He had even blamed her coldness for his drug addiction and, although Bella knew that he had been trying to excuse his behaviour by blaming her, the words had stuck in her mind. Now they rose to the surface again to taunt her.

She was incapable of showing her true emotions because there was something missing from her make-up, some vital element she was lacking. No wonder Mac was having second thoughts about what had happened tonight. After all, what man would want to get involved with someone like her? Someone who wasn’t a real woman.

* * *

Mac drank his coffee as quickly as he could. It was scalding hot but, he gulped it down anyway, uncaring if it burnt his tongue. He needed to get away and the sooner the better, preferably. He had never gone in for the wham, bam, thank you, ma’am routine; he’d had far too much respect for the women he had slept with to treat them that way. However, he would have given his right arm to simply cut and run without offering up any explanations. If he started to explain to Bella why he wanted to leave so desperately, who knew what he’d end up admitting? The thought of laying his soul bare gave him hot and cold chills and he stood up abruptly. He had to leave. Right now, this very second. No matter what Bella thought of him!

‘I have to go.’

He headed for the door, hating himself for leaving her like this, yet unable to do anything about it. He knew that he was within a hair’s breadth of falling in love with her and the thought scared him witless. It was all very well telling himself that he could cope with anything that happened, but could he if it involved losing Bella? Could he honestly see himself carrying on if he loved and subsequently lost her? Just the thought made his head spin, round and round, faster and faster, until it felt as though his thoughts were swirling on a merry-go-round. Losing Bella would be the one thing he couldn’t handle, the thing that would bring him down, and he couldn’t take that risk.

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