It was the hardest thing Bella had ever done. She had never done anything like this before, never delved into emotional issues, and it scared her to do it now when it was so important. Whatever Mac told her would affect the rest of her life and she wasn’t sure if she could handle the thought.

She stood up abruptly, suddenly too afraid to sit there and listen to what he had to say. If Mac didn’t want her then there was nothing she could do about it. She had to accept his decision and not make a scene, certainly not make a fool of herself by begging him to reconsider! Tears stung her eyes as she went to push past him but he was too quick for her. Reaching out, he drew her to a halt, his arms closing around her so that she couldn’t move, couldn’t escape him or the truth.

‘Bella, stop! I know you’re scared because I’m scared too, but you can’t run away. I won’t let you.’ Bending, he pressed a kiss to her lips and she felt the shudder that passed through his body and into hers. Raising his head, he looked steadily at her. ‘We both need to be brave if we’re going to make this work. I love you and I want to spend my life with you. I think...hope...that you feel the same. Do you, my darling? Do you love me enough to live with me from now to eternity because I warn you that’s what I want. Nothing less.’

Bella could feel her heart thumping. This was it. Whatever she said now would determine her future. Did she want to be with Mac for ever? Did she want to live with him and spend each and every day making him happy? Of course she did!

Reaching up, she drew his head down and kissed him, letting her lips answer his question. There was a moment when he held back, a tiny beat of time when he seemed to hesitate as though he wasn’t sure that what was happening was real, and then he was kissing her back, kissing her with a hunger he didn’t attempt to hide. They were both trembling when they broke apart, both shaken by the depth of their feelings for each other. Mac cupped her cheek and she could hear the love resonating in his voice.

‘I didn’t know it was possible to feel this way, Bella, to want someone this much.’

‘Me neither.’ Turning her head, she pressed a kiss against his palm and felt him shudder. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to tell him how she felt, to lay bare her emotions completely and totally. ‘I want you so much that it hurts, Mac. I want to spend my life with you and spend every single second of every minute loving you. Even then it won’t be enough. Nothing would be when I feel this way.’

‘And you’re sure? Sure that you want me and not Tim? After all, you agreed to meet him—’

‘Yes, I did.’ She laid her fingertips against his lips to silence him. ‘And the reason I agreed was because of how I feel about you. I wanted to draw a line under past events and, if possible, make my peace with Tim. I want the future—our future, together—to be perfect and not tainted by anything that’s happened in the past.’

‘Oh, my love!’

He kissed her again, hunger replaced by a bone-melting tenderness that brought tears to her eyes. He smiled as he wiped them away with his fingertips. ‘Don’t cry, sweetheart. Although I have to confess that I feel very much like shedding a tear or two myself.’

‘Just not right for your macho image,’ she teased, smiling up at him through her tears.

‘Definitely not. I should really be beating my chest right now, shouldn’t I?’ He grinned back at her. ‘I mean, I’ve just won the woman I love and I should be celebrating before dragging you back to my cave.’

‘Hmm. Let’s not get too carried away by the macho theme.’ She laughed up at him. ‘I’m a modern woman, after all, and I value my independence.’

‘And so you should. I don’t want you to change, Bella. I want you to stay exactly the same as you’ve always been.’

‘I don’t think that’s possible,’ she said quietly. ‘I’ve changed a lot in the past few weeks and changed for the better too. I now understand my feelings and I’m not so afraid to show them, thanks to you. And, hopefully, I shall get even better at it as time passes too.’

‘I’ve always thought you were perfect from the moment we met.’

His voice grated and Bella’s eyes filled with tears once more because it was obvious that he was telling her the truth. Mac loved her exactly how she was and it was marvellous to know that he didn’t want her to change. Reaching up, she kissed him, showing him without the need for words how much she loved him and how much she needed him. He’d said she was perfect but to her mind he was perfect too!