‘Thanks for reminding me,’ Rowan grumbled. ‘And I’m not broke. I’m financially constrained. Asset-rich and cash-poor. We don’t have to buy—we could just look.’
Seb mimed putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger and Rowan laughed.
They sat and sipped their drinks in a comfortable silence before Seb asked, ‘By the way, what happened to the boat party you were organising?’
‘Ah, the sixteen-year-old birthday girl changed her mind. Now she wants to go to a Justin Bieber concert instead.’
‘I’m getting party enquiries all the time, but I don’t want to take on anything I can’t deliver in the next week or so. You said that my parents should be home on Sunday—four days from now—and I have to be in London by the following weekend to meet Grayson, so there’s no point in trying to get too involved. Pity, because it’s good money.’
‘So you’ll be gone in a week or so?’ Seb asked in a very even voice that hid all the emotion in his voice.
‘That’s the plan,’ Rowan said lightly as her heart contracted violently. A week? Was that all they had? Where had the last two weeks gone? She wanted them back, dammit.
‘God...’ Seb muttered into his drink.
It would be another goodbye and the hardest one that she’d ever have to say. Harder even than that first one, when she’d run away to find herself, to find out what made sense to her. When had he become so important? So hard to leave?
‘Did you go next door this afternoon?’ Seb asked, changing the subject.
She shrugged. ‘It’s just a house. They haven’t changed much.’
‘Your parents don’t do change.’
‘But I do, and maybe now I can look at them differently.’ Rowan took a sip of wine and looked thoughtful. ‘I did a great deal of thinking this afternoon, so maybe it was a good thing that you got tied up at work.’
‘I want to hear about it, but maybe we should order first.’ Seb beckoned the waitress over, asked for two gourmet burgers and another round of drinks. When the waitress had left, he gestured to Rowan with his glass. ‘Talk.’
‘How come you just expect me to spill my guts but you don’t?’
‘Because you’re the emotional one and I’m not,’ Seb replied.
Except that she was beginning to realise that Seb was far more emotional than anyone knew. He just had years of hiding it.
‘I’m starting to think that Fate had a hand in me coming home—that it’s telling me that I need to pull my head out of the sand and start dealing with all those old hurts and grievances. If I hadn’t bought those netsukes, run out of cash and been flagged by Oz immigration I wouldn’t be here.’
‘Having amazing sex with your arch enemy?’ Seb interjected.
‘Having amazing sex with my old friend,’ Rowan corrected, and saw the flare of appreciation, of attraction...fondness?...in his eyes. No emotion, my ass.
‘I need to see my parents, deal with my issues around my mother, reconcile with them—her. Mostly her.’ Rowan sighed. ‘Maybe I’m finally starting to understand that we are very different people. I wasn’t the daughter she needed and she didn’t understand what I needed—especially that night I got arrested—but...but my childhood is over. I need to find a new “normal” with them.’
Seb folded his arms and placed them on the table. He linked his fingers in hers and stared down at their hands. ‘I never understood why you ran. You were always a fighter. You always came out of the corner ready to fight.’
Rowan nibbled her lip. ‘I got knocked down one too many times, resulting in emotional concussion.’
‘That’s a new one... Who knocked you down?’
‘My parents—my mum especially. Peter, Joe Clark...’
‘Your dipstick ex? What did he do...exactly? Apart from frame you?’
‘When did you realise he had?’
‘I think I’ve probably always known. What else did he do?’
Rowan blew out her breath and held his eye. It was time she told him—time she told someone the whole truth of that evening.
‘I fell in love with him. He was kind and sweet and said all the right things to get me into bed. I kept him waiting because...you know...he was my first, and I wanted to make sure he was the right one. Someone who really loved me and not someone who was using me... Ha-ha, what a joke!’
Seb’s face hardened. ‘So he took your virginity...?’
‘Yeah, we made love three hours before we got to the club. The policeman knew the drugs weren’t mine—he even admitted it to me—but they were on me and he had to arrest me. Joe told me while he was laughing at me for getting arrested that he’d just wanted to bag and bed “the virgin rebel”. That’s what he called me.’