‘Yep, for tomorrow.’ Rowan flashed him a grin. ‘Not here, though. The mummy wanted it at her house, but she didn’t want to take the time out from her business to organise the details. So she’s paying me an insane amount to set out snacks, organise a magician and a Slip and Slide and to make party bags.’ Rowan looked at her watch. ‘And Patch and Annie are helping me because I need to get to the bar later.’

As he’d said—a twister. He’d barely seen her this past week. She’d dashed in and out of the house like a woman possessed. He’d tried to get her to stop for a glass of wine, a meal, a conversation. She’d brushed him off, saying that she didn’t have time to do anything, and it had annoyed the crap out of him. He’d never been put in the position of running after someone, waiting for someone to give him a minute of their time, and it wasn’t fun. Was this how his previous girlfriends felt? Was this a touch of karma?

Karma? Jeez, he sounded like a hippy girl... Get a grip, dude! You’re just freakin’ miserable and, frankly, ticked off because you’re horny.

He switched gears fast. ‘And your netsukes? Have you done any research yet?’

Rowan pulled a face. ‘Not really. I’ve been so busy...’

‘You have a shedload of money tied up in those statues and you’re messing around with children’s parties?’

Rowan’s shoulders stiffened as she sent him a cool look. ‘I thought that if I could earn some money I could get back to London and take them to the experts there. That would save me the hassle of trawling the net.’

The reluctance in her voice as she said ‘trawling the net’ had him shaking his head. ‘You don’t know where to start, do you?’

Rowan wouldn’t meet his eyes. ‘Not really.’

‘And you couldn’t ask me for help? Ro, what do I do for a living?’

Annie’s and Patch’s eyes played ping-pong as they bounced off their faces.

‘It’s just that you are busy...’

‘That’s an asinine excuse! You just didn’t want to ask for help—again! I thought we’d talked about your stupid independent streak?’

Rowan launched a sweet at his chest. ‘Don’t you dare call me stupid!’

Seb snatched the sweet out of the air. ‘I never said you were stupid. I said you had a stupid independent streak!’

Patch sighed and looked at Annie. ‘I feel like I’ve been transported back to their childhood. This could go on for a while, so what do you say to leaving them to argue and coming to have a glass of wine at my place?’

And that reminded him... When was his father going to move out of the cottage and back into his own house? Seb opened his mouth to ask, then snapped it closed again. Finish one argument first.

He waited for Patch and Annie to leave—Patch’s hand was very low on Annie’s back...definitely something happening there—and then banged his bottle down on the counter. He looked at Rowan, who was still packing bags, and rubbed his hands across his face. It annoyed the pants off him that she was living in his house and yet he hardly saw her, that she was so damn close—across the hall from him—yet might as well be in China in terms of being available. He wanted to spend time with her, get to know her, but she was never in the bloody building!

And that felt strange—very bizarre. He’d never actively wanted to seek out a woman’s company before, had never wanted to deepen the connection between him and his lovers.

Yet here he was, wanting to spend time with a woman he wasn’t sleeping with. It didn’t make any sense.

Look at her, Seb thought. Sexiness on steroids. She wore her hair up in a high ponytail and a tank top revealed the curves of the tops of her breasts. It skimmed her long, slim torso and ended an inch above the waistband of her white cotton shorts. Endless slim legs ended in bare feet tipped with fire-red nails. Rowan turned away, bent over to pick up a sweet that had fallen to the floor, and he saw the thin string of the top of her thong, a little red heart on the cross of the white T.

His saliva disappeared as his eyes slid over the rounded curve of her ass, the knobs of her spine under that thin shirt. The band of her bra, the slim column of her neck.

He took two steps to reach her, and his arm banded around her waist as he hauled her back against him, his hand low on her stomach, pushing her into his throbbing erection.

Rowan spun round and her hips slammed into his. Her eyes were on his mouth as her hands went up to his neck and she mashed her chest against his. Then her mouth slammed against his and she yanked him into a kiss that set his blood on fire.

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