Ashleigh gave a covert swallow and met his eyes with as much equanimity as she could muster. ‘All right. If you must.’


Another little silence coiled around them.

Ashleigh didn’t know where to look. For some strange reason, she wanted to do exactly what she’d just forbidden him to do.

She wanted to feast her eyes on his form.

She wanted to run her gaze over all the hot spots of his body, the hot spots she had set alight with her hands and mouth in the past.

She could almost hear the sound of his grunting pleasure in the silence throbbing between them, could almost feel the weight of him on her smaller frame as he pinned her beneath him.

She could almost feel the pulse of his spilling body between her legs, the essence of himself he had released at the moment of ecstasy, the full force of his desire tugging at her flesh both inside and out.

She forced herself to meet his coal-black gaze, her stomach instantly unravelling as she felt the heat coming off him towards her in searing scorching waves.

‘I promise not to touch, kiss or even look if you promise to refrain from doing the same,’ he stated.

I can do that, she thought. I can be strong.

I have to be strong.

‘Not a problem,’ she answered evenly. ‘I have no interest in complicating things by revisiting our past relationship.’

‘Fine. We’ll start Monday at ten.’ He took his hands out of his pockets and reached for a set of keys in the drawer of the desk and held them out to her like a lure.

‘These are the keys to the house in case you get here before me,’ he said.

She slowly reached out her opened palm and he dropped them into it.

‘See? No touching.’ He grinned down at her disarmingly.

She put the keys in her bag and straightened the strap on her shoulder to avoid his wry look. ‘So far,’ she muttered and turned towards the door.


She took an unsteady breath and turned back to face him. ‘Yes?’

He held out the blood-red rose he’d picked for her earlier, the soft petals deprived of water for so long, already starting to wilt in thirst.

‘You forgot this,’ he said.

She found herself taking the four steps back to him to get her faded bloom, her fingers so meticulously avoiding his that she encountered a sharp thorn on the stem of the rose instead.

‘Ouch!’ She looked at the bright blood on her fingertip and began rummaging in her bag for a tissue, but before she could locate one Jake’s hand came over hers and brought it slowly but inexorably up to his mouth.

She sucked in a tight little breath as he supped at the tiny pool of blood on her fingertip, her legs weakening as his eyes meshed with hers.

‘Y-you promised…no t-touching…’ she reminded him breathlessly but, for some inexplicable reason, didn’t pull her finger out of his mouth.

She felt the slight rasp of his salving tongue, felt too the full thrust of her desire as it burst between her legs in hot liquid longing.

‘I know.’ He released her hand and stepped back from her. ‘But you’ll forgive me this once, won’t you?’

She didn’t answer.

Instead she turned on her heel and flew out the door and out of the house as if all the ghosts contained within were after her blood.

And not just one tiny little pin drop of it…


LACHLAN flew out of the crèche playroom to greet her. ‘Mummy! Guess what I did today?’

Ashleigh pressed a soft kiss to the top of his dark head and held him close for longer than normal, breathing in his small child smell. ‘What did you do, my precious?’

He tugged on her hand and pulled her towards the painting room. ‘I drewed a picture,’ he announced proudly.

Ashleigh smiled and for once didn’t correct his infant grammar. He would be four in a couple of months—plenty of time ahead to teach him. For now she wanted to treasure each and every moment of his toddlerhood.

It would all too soon be over.

‘See?’ He pressed a paint-splattered rectangle of paper into her hands.

She looked down at the stick-like figures he’d painted. ‘Who’s this?’ she asked, bending down so she was on a level with him.

His chocolate-brown eyes met hers. ‘That’s Granny and Grandad.’

‘And this one?’ She pointed to another figure, who appeared to be doing some sort of dance.

‘That’s Auntie Mia,’ he said.

I should have guessed that, Ashleigh thought wryly. Mia was the Forrester fitness fanatic and was never still for a moment.

‘And this one?’ She knew who it was without asking. The dog-like drawing beside the blonde-haired human figure was a dead give-away but she wanted to extend his pleasure in showing off his work.