‘Working in the office, as usual.’
‘I should probably arrange to go to Paris soon. I still need to finish things at Achat.’
‘If you feel well enough,’ he said, sounding uninterested. ‘I don’t see a problem with that.’
Margo stared at him, her heart sinking right down to her toes. She didn’t want this. She’d come down this morning wanting to try to make things better, and she’d only made them worse.
‘Leo, you gave me a tour of the villa, but I haven’t seen the rest of the estate or the olive groves. Do you think you’d have time today to show me?’
There. That was her peace offering—her attempt at building some kind of bridge. She just hoped Leo would take the first step onto its flimsy surface.
He gazed at her, his eyes narrowed, and then gave a brief nod and folded up his newspaper. ‘I suppose... I’ll come back to the villa after lunch.’
* * *
Margo spent as much time getting ready for her tour of the olive groves as if it were a first date. Not that she’d had many of those. Both her short-lived and frankly disappointing relationships prior to Leo had made her wonder if she was even capable of a real, loving relationship. She certainly didn’t have a lot of experience of them.
It was cold out, at just a little less than two weeks before Christmas, and Margo struggled to fit into her jeans. She couldn’t zip them all the way up, and the button was a lost cause. She wore a tunic top of aquamarine cashmere that fell nearly to her knees and fitted snugly round her bump while hiding the undone zip and buttons.
She left her hair loose, which she rarely did, and put on a bit of eyeliner and lipstick. She didn’t necessarily want to look as if she was trying too hard, but she definitely wanted Leo to notice.
Unfortunately he didn’t say a word when she met him in the foyer, and Margo suppressed the flicker of disappointment she felt at his silence. Had she really expected him to compliment her? She was wearing jeans, for heaven’s sake. Still, she noticed that Leo seemed terser than usual as they headed out into the bright, frosty afternoon.
‘There isn’t actually all that much to see in the olive groves at this time of year,’ he remarked as they walked along the gravel road that went past his office and led to a pair of wrought-iron gates. ‘The trees are bare, and they won’t begin to bud until March.’
‘I still want to see,’ Margo said, trying to keep her tone upbeat. ‘This is my home now, after all. I don’t know the first thing about olive trees or oil or any of it.’
‘You don’t need to learn.’
So he really was rebuffing her.
‘I want to learn, Leo. You told me you wanted me to be a part of things. That’s what I’m trying to do.’
He stared at her, as inscrutable as ever, and she decided to try a different tack.
‘Tell me about your childhood. Did you grow up playing hide-and-seek in these groves?’
They’d stepped through the gates and were now walking among the trees, the trunks twisted and gnarled, the branches stark and bare.
‘A bit,’ Leo answered. ‘I grew up here, certainly.’
‘Did you like it?’ she asked, for she sensed more than reticence in Leo’s reply, and wondered at his memories.
‘I loved the olive trees,’ he said after a moment. ‘The white waxy blossoms, the dusty scent in summer, the nuttiness of the oil...’ He shook his head. ‘I probably sound ridiculous, but I love it all. I always have.’
So why, Margo wondered, did he sound so regretful? So bitter?
‘It’s a good thing you’re in the olive oil business,’ she said, and Leo gave her a rather tight smile.
‘Why,’ Margo asked after a moment, as they walked between the bare trees, ‘do I feel as if you’re not telling me everything?’
‘What do you mean?’
She shrugged, half afraid to press, yet wanting to know more about him. Wanting to keep building this bridge, flimsy as it seemed. ‘When you talk about the trees, the business, you sound...tense.’ She hesitated and then added, ‘Almost angry.’
Leo was silent for a long moment, and the only sound was the wind soughing through the trees and making the branches rattle. ‘I suppose,’ he said finally, ‘that’s because I am. Or was, at least. I think I’m getting over it. I hope so, anyway.’
Leo’s face gave nothing away, and yet Margo knew instinctively this was a big admission for him to make. ‘Why, Leo?’ she asked quietly. ‘What happened?’
He sighed, shrugging and shaking his head at the same time. ‘Just complicated family politics.’