Who was this woman? Had he ever really known her? Had he been so blinded by the fact that she was there every day that he thought she was marvellous for that alone? No, he’d seen her interact with Peter—loving, kind, affectionate.
His heart clenched for Rowan as she stood back and straightened her shoulders. ‘You’re both looking well.’
‘How long have you been home?’ Her father took her hand, held it tight. ‘It’s so good to see you. You look beautiful—so grown-up.’
Rowan smiled. ‘Seb and I are going to a party. I arrived about two weeks ago...I needed to come home unexpectedly. Seb’s been helping me out.’
Heidi lifted her eyebrows and pursed her lips at Seb’s hand, resting on her hip. ‘Seems like he’s been doing more than helping you out. Strange, since you could never stand each other before.’
Seb started to speak, but Rowan gripped the hand on her hip and he got the message. Shut up, dude.
‘I’ve grown up, Mum.’
Heidi looked her up and down. ‘Your skirts certainly haven’t.’
‘Mum! Nine years away and all you can do is gripe about my clothes?’ Rowan snapped.
‘Well, I think you look gorgeous, Ro.’ Stan jumped into the conversational bloodbath. ‘Absolutely terrific.’
‘Well...’ Heidi folded her arms. ‘I’m tired, and you two are going to be late for wherever you are going. Maybe you should be on your way.’
‘Heidi!’ Stan protested, and Seb’s temper simmered.
‘We’ll see her again,’ Heidi said. ‘Tomorrow. Maybe.’
Stan sent Rowan an apologetic look and Rowan stepped into his arms and gave him a longer hug. A hug Seb was pleased to see that he returned. He kissed her head before they stepped apart. ‘I’ll see you in the morning, Ro. It’s good to have you back, darling.’
Rowan nodded and held onto Seb’s hand with a death grip. ‘See you then, Dad. And it’s good to be back. Night, Mum.’
‘Goodnight, Rowan. Sebastian.’
Seb pulled Rowan back to the car and opened the passenger door for her, helped her in. When he was back in his seat he placed his hand on the back of her neck. ‘You okay, Ro?’
‘Sure.’ Rowan shrugged, her eyes on her parents, who were walking into their house. ‘Situation normal. My mum cool and uninterested; my dad the buffer between the two of us.’
‘She called me Sebastian. She’s never called me that.’
Rowan managed a smile. ‘It’s because you’re sleeping with me. She thinks you can do better.’
‘Then she’s an idiot.’ Seb dropped his hand and started the engine. ‘I need a drink. A couple of them.’
‘Me too. Lead me into temptation, Sebastian.’
‘Buzz off, Brat,’ Seb shot back, but he kept his hand on her knee the whole way up the coast to the cocktail party.
* * *
In Seb’s bedroom, much later that evening, Rowan slipped off her dangly silver earrings and dropped them onto Seb’s credenza, next to his wallet and keys. ‘Jeez, who would’ve thought I would run into Joe this evening at the cocktail party? I mean, heck, this is a big city. What were the chances?’
‘Fairly good, I’d say, since he’s reputed to be one of the most up-and-coming young businessmen in the city and it was a Chamber of Commerce function.’
‘Up and coming dipstick, more like it,’ Rowan muttered. ‘Thanks, by the way.’
Seb shrugged off his jacket and Rowan could see the residual annoyance in his eyes. She knew that Seb had wanted to clock Joe, but he’d just cut him off at the knees with one burning look when he’d tried to engage them—her—in conversation.
‘For sticking close...for not letting him near me.’
‘My absolute pleasure,’ Seb muttered, taking a step towards her. ‘Why are we talking about him and why aren’t you kissing me?’
‘An epic fail on my part,’ Rowan admitted, putting her hands on his waist.
‘Damn straight,’ Seb replied.
Rowan lifted her mouth to his, touching those surprisingly soft lips that could kiss her so tenderly but could also utter soft, deadly words that could strip hide. But he was only tender, only affectionate with her. He tasted of the whisky he’d sipped earlier, and as he opened his mouth to allow her to explore further she sensed a change in him.
This wasn’t just about sex and pleasure any more, about maximising the moment. This kiss and the lovemaking that would follow were about making memories, capturing tastes and feelings that would sustain them when they separated.