‘You wouldn’t be.’

‘Of course I would, Seb! I’m great for a fling but I’d drive you mad long-term. I can’t stick to anything. I’ll waft from job to job, get involved in one project and then go off at a tangent to explore something else. I’d pick up stray people and stray animals and bring them home. I’d fill your home with crazy objects that you’d hate and colourful fabrics that would hurt your eyes. I’d turn this place upside down! Drive you nuts.’

‘Just leave the War Room alone.’

Rowan didn’t hear him, so intent on listing every reason why she couldn’t stay. ‘And I’d feel hemmed-in, constrained. I’d feel frustrated and then I’d get bitchy—and then I’d start planning trips and then I’d get depressed because I’d know that I couldn’t leave you like—’

‘Like my mother did.’

Seb’s eyes had hardened and Rowan swallowed. Dammit, why had she compared her leaving to his mother’s? If he could survive that, it would be easy to wave her goodbye.

Just tell me that you love me, Rowan silently begged him, that this is something more than just sex and I’ll be prepared to take the risk. Tell me that I am important to you, that I mean...something. Throw me a bone here, Seb. Persuade me to stay.

Seb didn’t say a damn word.

Rowan scrubbed her hands over her face. ‘I’m going to get some air. This is going nowhere.’

‘Good idea. But while you’re out there think of this.’ Seb dropped the orange, placed sticky fingers and hands onto her face and held her head still while he ransacked her mouth.

Tongues clashed and collided—frustration and fury combined with lust and confusion. His hand on her butt pushed her into him, so that she could feel the long, solid, pulsing length of him against her stomach, and under her hands his heart thumped and rolled.

Seb yanked his mouth away from hers and looked at her with wild eyes. ‘Yeah, think of that, Rowan. And then tell me you can just walk away from it.’

Rowan held her fingers to her lips, still tasting him there as he stormed out of the kitchen. She heard him thunder up the stairs and the door to his bedroom slam shut.

She would think about that—of course she would!—but she knew that thousand-degree kisses and fantastic sex wasn’t enough long-term. Because falling in love with him properly would kill her if he didn’t feel anything more than fierce attraction for her. She didn’t know if she could pick up the pieces of her life again when he told her that he was tired of her, that it wasn’t working, that he’d had enough.

She’d been the second best child, the not-up-to-par daughter, and she wasn’t prepared to be the almost-good-enough-but-not-quite, good-for-the-short-term lover.

She wasn’t prepared to play guessing games with her heart.


Rowan, not knowing where else to go, slipped through the gate into her parents’ garden and headed to the north-east corner, to the mini-orchard, overgrown and neglected. In this place,

between the peach and apricot trees, she and Callie had played, out of sight of both houses. It was a place where they could pretend, talk, wish, dream. Well, Callie had talked and she had dreamt.

God, she wished Callie was here. Callie would help her sort through her confusion.


Rowan spun around and hastily brushed the tears off her face. Her mum stood in front of her, looking deeply uncomfortable. Rowan held up her hands in defeat. ‘Mum. What now? Why are you here?’

‘I saw you streaking across the lawn, knew where you were going.’ Heidi ran her hand through her still-black hair. ‘Your father just tore into me, said that I was cruel to you.’

Yeah. Well. Duh.

‘He thought I’d told you about Peter, about selling, moving. He thinks that we correspond regularly.’

Rowan tipped her head. ‘Why did you let him think that?’

Heidi shrugged. ‘I wanted to avoid an argument. I don’t like arguing, conflict, trouble.’

‘And I was trouble from the day I was born,’ Rowan said bitterly.

Heidi didn’t argue and Rowan cursed as pain slashed through her.

‘Just go, Mum. I can’t deal with you now.’

‘When you were so sick, when you nearly died, I thought I would die too.’

Heidi’s voice cracked and Rowan thought that she’d never heard her mum’s voice so saturated with emotion.

‘I was so scared... I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard and so much. I loved you with every fibre in my being and the thought of losing you was too much for me to bear.’

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