Rowan wrinkled her nose as she opened the bacon. ‘Well, they definitely aren’t stolen. I found out that much. The four netsukes stolen from that gallery aren’t anything like the ones I have, except for the subject matter.’
‘Well, that’s a relief.’ Seb leaned back in his chair. ‘So, what’s the next step?’
Rowan pushed her hair behind her ears. ‘I spoke to Grayson again, and he’s scheduled a trip to London in ten days. If I can meet him in London he’ll look at them and make me an offer.’
Seb fought to keep the dismay off his face and out of his voice. Ten days. She’d be out of his life in ten days. No, that didn’t sound right.
Rowan carried on speaking and he forced himself to concentrate.
‘I’ve some money to contribute to the airfare back to London, but—’ she picked up a dishcloth and pulled it through her fingers in agitation ‘—I’d have to pay you the balance when I get to London, after Grayson has paid me. Is that okay with you?’
Seb managed to nod. Nothing was okay about this situation. Wanting to get closer to her, not wanting her to go, imagining her in his bed, in his life, for many more days, weeks—years, a lifetime... Dammit!
Seb watched her fry the bacon and thought it was deeply ironic that he’d been so on guard with his previous girlfriends, constantly batting off their attempts to get closer, and yet Rowan had pulled him in without making any effort at all.
He wanted to be with her and it was all self-imposed; he wanted to be with her, spend time with her, purely because he thought she was so damn wonderful. By not putting any pressure on him she’d untied the knots—the fear and concern over commitment—little by little by herself.
Was this what love felt like? He didn’t think so. Who fell in love in two weeks? That was crazy! But he had had to admit that he was ass-deep in something. Something beyond lust, beyond attraction.
You just need some time alone to think this through, to be logical and practical, he insisted to himself. When she gave him some time to catch his breath he’d work it through, put the various components of what he was thinking into their proper boxes and he’d understand.
He needed to understand.
Seb tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling. She had to go. She would run because she needed to be free...
His heart wanted to flop at her feet and beg her to stay.
His brain told him he’d be okay—that things would go back to normal, that he’d plug the holes she’d made. Eventually. Maybe.
‘Hey, you lovebirds! Stop snogging!’
Seb jumped at Callie’s yell and saw his sister leaning across the sink, her face to the open window. ‘You guys want pancakes? And, Dad, is she going be my new mummee?’
Rowan’s eyes brimmed with mirth as she turned to look at him and his breath caught in his throat.
‘Your sister—so shy, so bashful. She really should learn to put herself forward more.’
* * *
Rowan, her head reeling, carried the dinner dishes from the formal dining room to the kitchen and placed them on the counter for Seb to pack them into the dishwasher.
She’d had coffee with her father the morning after they’d returned home and then she’d waited two days for the invitation to dinner that her father had assured her was forthcoming. When it had never materialised, she’d bitten the bullet, called her dad and asked whether they’d like to have Sunday brunch with her and Seb.
It had been an unmitigated disaster.
Rowan felt Seb’s arms around her waist, felt his solid frame against her chest, and the tears that she’d ruthlessly suppressed floated up her throat. ‘I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry,’ she said, her voice wobbly.
‘At which part?’ Seb asked, his lips just above her ear. ‘There were many highlights. Your lack of a formal education, the fact that you are no better than a vagrant, your criminal past...’
‘I’d heard all those before.’ Rowan pushed her hair out of her eyes. ‘What I didn’t know was that they are putting the house on the market and moving to the UK to be closer to Peter when he goes there. I thought that Peter was planning to remain in Bahrain. Did you know that he was moving? He’s your friend.’
Seb’s arms dropped as she wiggled out of them. ‘We don’t talk that often, Ro. A bi-annual call to catch up—that’s it. So, no, I didn’t know about his move to the UK.’
‘And his girlfriend? Did you know that she’s six months pregnant?’ Rowan heard the shrill demand in her voice and knew that she was not going to be unable to keep back the tide of emotion that was threatening to engulf her.