‘We need to make a move soon,’ Pascha said, trying to ignore the new insistent jabbing in the pit of his stomach. However much his conscience might be turning on him, he couldn’t let Emily stay. The risk was too great. ‘We have a flight slot to fill.’
‘You’re taking me abroad?’
‘I expected you to leave me in a dungeon somewhere.’
‘That’s a very tempting thought.’
She opened the door with a scowl. ‘You can come in, but only because I don’t want my dad finding you out here.’
Emily took a deep breath and admitted Pascha into her room.
He made no comment, just stood there taking it all in.
To her chagrin, she was embarrassed for him to see it. She’d done her best, but comparing it to the sterility of his office made her see all the flaws. It was as tidy and as organised as she’d been able to manage but it was hard cramming an entire life into a childhood bedroom.
She thought with longing of her cosy flat, could only hope her short-term tenants were treating it with respect.
She pushed the thought aside. It could be months before she was able to move back. Torturing herself wouldn’t change her circumstances.
‘It’s going to take me a while to get my things together,’ she said, mentally shaking herself. ‘Feel free to take a seat.’
‘And where am I supposed to sit?’ he asked. The small armchair in the corner was piled high with old clothes she planned to recycle into something new.
‘On the floor?’ she suggested with faux sweetness, yanking open the wardrobe door, glad she could hide her flaming cheeks.
Her room wasn’t messy but it was filled with so much stuff. A lifetime’s worth. If she didn’t need to keep James’s room free for the times he came to stay, she would appropriate it.
She would rather rip her own heart out than use her mother’s small craft study. How many hours had they spent together in that room, working together, her mother teaching her how to create her own clothes? Too many to count.
Ignoring her suggestion, Pascha gathered the pile of clothes and placed it on the floor atop a neat stack of magazines, which promptly fell down under the weight. He raised an eyebrow then gingerly took a seat.
‘Seeing as you’re shunting me off abroad, what kind of weather should I pack for?’
She pulled a face.
He leaned forwards slightly, resting his elbows on his thighs and exposing the tops of his golden forearms. ‘You don’t like the heat?’
‘It makes my skin itch.’ Disconcerted that a tiny glimpse of his arms made her blood feel thick and sluggish, she opened a drawer, gathered an armful of underwear and dumped it unceremoniously into the suitcase. Feeling Pascha’s eyes watch her every move was even more disturbing, making her feel dishevelled and strangely hot.
Wanting to get out of the close confines of her bedroom as soon as possible, she packed quickly, throwing armfuls of garments into the case.
‘I need to get changed,’ she said, once she was satisfied she had enough suitable clothing for a week in the sun.
Pascha eyed her coolly before inclining his head and turning his chair so his back was to her.
In any other circumstance he would have left the room and given her the privacy she needed. In this circumstance, he could not.
He tried to tune out the sound of a zip being pulled down, the rustle of clothes being shed.
Determinedly, he focused his mind to running over the day’s stock prices. Anything other than think about what was happening behind him where Emily was undressing...
He swallowed, trying to bring moisture into a mouth that had run dry.
He would not allow his thoughts to stray into such inappropriate territory.
Emily was leaving the country with him unwillingly, through circumstances neither of them could have wished for. That she was a single female should not mean anything.
All the same, the air trapped in his lungs didn’t expel until she said, ‘I’m decent.’
He twisted his chair back around.
She’d changed into a long, floating black dress with thin sleeves and was placing the business outfit she’d worn onto a coat hanger.
‘So you do know to hang clothes properly,’ he said as she hooked it into her wardrobe.
Her dark-brown eyes caught his and narrowed. ‘These belonged to my mother. She did the occasional temping work.’
Belonged...? ‘Your mother is...?’
‘Dead. Yes.’ The way her gaze fixed on him, it was as if she held him personally responsible for her loss. But there was something else there too, a flash of misery, quickly hidden but sharp for all its briefness.
‘I’m sorry.’ He truly meant it, too.