She really, really needed to polish up on her one-night stand etiquette.

And a one-night stand was all it was—all it could ever be. She had to be sensible about this... This was sex. Nothing more. They had acted on impulse, had used each other’s bodies for brief, intense pleasure. It wasn’t anything more—could never be anything more...

Rowan placed the balls of her hands into her eyes and pushed. It was okay, she told herself. She was allowed to have sex with a single man. The world hadn’t stopped spinning. Wasn’t free choice high on her list of values? She hadn’t agreed to anything more than one night, to a casual hook-up, a night of pleasure.

It didn’t change anything... In a couple of weeks her parents would be back. She’d say hello and how are you doing, make nice, and then she’d borrow that money from Seb and fly away. Because that was what she did best: she flew, caught trains, ox-carts, buses... That was how she lived her life. She didn’t stay in one place, in one house, couldn’t imagine a steady life with one man.

Staying still, coming face to face and heart to heart with a man terrified her. Mostly because she’d been disappointing people all her life and she’d have to love a man very much to stay still. The thought of losing her freedom—so hard earned—caused a cold, hard ball of something icky to form in her stomach.

She should leave, go back to her own room...take some time to regain her equilibrium.

‘God, you look like someone shot your favourite dog,’ Seb said from the doorway of the en-suite bathroom.

Rowan’s eyes shot up and met his. Earlier they’d been warm with desire, laughter. Now they were cool and flat, and his expression was guarded and remote. Ah, so she wasn’t the only one in the room having second—or third—thoughts.

Good to know.

‘Ah... I was just...’ Rowan placed her hands on her hips and looked around.


Since she was clear across the room and two feet from the door, what was the point in lying? ‘Yeah...’

Was it her imagination or did she see his face harden? It was hard to tell in the dim light spilling from the bathroom.

‘No cuddling required? After-dinner pillow-talk?’

Oh, that was sarcastic, and it blew any of her few remaining warm and fuzzies away. The problem was that there was a part of her that would have loved a cuddle, a gentle hand down her back, listening to his heartbeat under her ear, drifting off to the sound of him breathing next to her...

Because she felt weak and vulnerable—girly—she gave herself a mental slap and straightened her spine.

‘Do you need pillow-talk and cuddling?’ Rowan demanded, equally facetious.

‘Of course I don’t,’ Seb ground out, walking naked back into the room.

There was no point in feeling embarrassed, Rowan realised, since she’d explored most, if not all of that luscious body. He had a swimmer’s build, broad shoulders, slim hips, muscular thighs.

Rowan felt she should say something to dissipate the heavy, soggy blanket of emotional tension in the room. ‘Look, Seb, you don’t need to get all weirded out by this... I’m not going to get all hearts and flowers over you.’

‘Oh, goody.’

Sarcastic again. He did it so well. ‘For someone who is anti-commitment, and who doesn’t do emotional connections, I would’ve thought that me leaving and getting out of your face would be the perfect scenario for you.’

‘Yep, you’d think,’ Seb said, in that bland voice that made her itch to smack him.

Rowan threw up her hands. ‘How can we be so great in bed but so pathetically useless at actual talking?’

‘Beats me.’

‘You’re ticked because your big brain is running at warp speed, trying to rationalise this, trying to intellectualise what just happened. You’re frustrated because you don’t understand how you can have mind-blowing sex with a woman you’re not sure you like and who has driven you nuts your entire life.’

‘I am not doing anything of the sort!’ Seb retorted.

But Rowan caught the flicker of guilt in his eyes. Of course he was. She sighed. It was what Seb did. When something caught him off guard he put his extraordinary intellect to work and tried to figure it out on a cerebral level. Hadn’t she watched him do exactly that growing up? She and Callie would wail and whine when things went wrong. Seb and her brother Peter would ignore the emotion and look for the cause and effect.

Men are from Mars, indeed...

‘Your brain is going to explode. Attraction and lust can’t be measured, analysed, categorised. It just is—like some things just are,’ Rowan said softly. ‘It was just sex, Seb, not quantum physics.’