As they scanned their surroundings, he caught sight of his shorts floating at the edge of the pool. He fished them out and wrung as much water as he could out of them. He was stepping into them when Emily pointed to the right of the waterfall.
‘Look,’ she said, ‘that incline there seems to have some natural gradients—we should be able to climb up it.’
‘It’s the most plausible way out,’ he agreed, not seeing any other way.
He’d barely finished speaking before Emily darted over to it. She didn’t even pause when she reached it.
Open-mouthed, his heart seeming to stop, he watched with a combination of horror and admiration as she began to scale the incline, her bare feet white against the rock.
Where did she get this fearlessness from?
And did he follow in her wake or wait at the base to catch her if she should fall...? Not that she showed any sign of falling; her movements were focused and assured.
From his vantage point he had an excellent view of her bottom and couldn’t help the half-smile that twitched on his lips.
‘Come on, slow-coach,’ she called down to him, pausing for a moment. ‘After a couple of feet it’s more scrambling than climbing. Honestly, it’s fine.’
She’d said similar words right before he’d jumped. Despite himself, and all the protection he placed around himself, he’d believed her. He’d trusted her. He still did.
He trusted her completely.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, he placed a hand on a ridge and carefully began to climb.
He refused to look down until he made it to the top, which came a lot more quickly than he’d expected.
‘Do you have no fear?’ he asked, catching his breath. Who needed to work out in a gym? A morning with Emily Richardson provided enough exercise and adrenaline to last a month.
‘Of course I do. I just don’t feel the need to do a full risk assessment first.’ Emily flashed him a half-grin. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a die-hard thrill-seeker or anything, but when the opportunity comes to experience something new or different I want to take it.’
It was just another part of herself that she’d suppressed in recent times. Well, no more.
She wrapped her sarong around her waist and slipped her feet into her flip-flops, all the while wishing they didn’t have to leave this spot. Not yet.
But the time was inching closer.
In a few short hours Pascha would be leaving the island. Leaving her.
The thought made her throat close and her heart constrict.
She didn’t want him to go. Not without her.
His pace was slower than the long strides he usually took. With his hand clasping hers firmly, hope began to stir.
She hadn’t been with a man for more years than she could count. It was for a whole host of reasons that she’d avoided relationships and one of them—probably the most minor reason of the lot—was because she’d been waiting to find a man who made her heart beat faster just to think of him; a man who made her go figuratively weak at the knees.
Pascha did all that. He made her feel more than she’d ever felt in her life.
He wasn’t the monster she’d thought him at the beginning. He was just a man, a mortal with his own demons to conquer, trying hard to make amends for a past it hurt her heart to think about.
In his office, she’d imagined sex with him would be perfunctory and proper. How she wished she’d been right. Maybe then the need within her would have been extinguished with disappointment, not quadrupled and morphed into something so huge her brain struggled to comprehend it.
But, what her brain struggled to recognise, her heart knew.
Her heart knew she was falling in love with him...
‘When we get back to the lodge we’ll learn if there’s a boat available to take us back to Puerto Rico,’ Pascha said, breaking through her dumbfounded thoughts. ‘If there is, you will need to pack.’
‘I’m coming with you?’ That little bit of hope stirred a little stronger.
He gave a rueful smile. ‘I have no good reason to keep you here, not any more. I know you won’t say anything about the Plushenko deal.’
Stunned at this unexpected development, Emily stopped walking. ‘Thank you.’
‘I will speak to Zlatan, my lawyer, as soon as we return to the lodge and get the money transferred into your father’s bank account. I will also have an official letter drawn up exonerating him of any wrong-doing and leaving the door open for him to return to his job if and when he feels able to.’
‘Have you had the case investigated?’ she asked hopefully.
‘I do not believe your father took that money deliberately. We still need to trace exactly where it went and make moves to retrieve it but that’s nothing for you to worry about.’