What the heck...?

‘When you recovered I suppose I...I retreated from you. I vowed to protect you, but I didn’t think I could go through that again so I pulled back.’

Heidi must have seen something on Rowan’s face because her lips twisted.

‘I’m not good with emotion like you are, Rowan. I can’t embrace it. I’m steadier when it’s at a distance, when I am in control. Peter didn’t demand that from me. You did.’

‘So you pushed me away?’ Rowan said, her voice flat.

Heidi nodded. ‘People like us—me, your father, Peter, even Seb—we’re intellectuals. We are brain-based not feelings-based. You were—are—all feelings. All the time. You need to touch, taste, experience.’

That was true, Rowan admitted.

Heidi nodded. ‘I know you think I was cruel, encouraging you to go overseas, but I knew that you needed to. To taste, experience. Though I did think you’d come home in a year or two, settle down into a degree, get it out of your system.’

‘Don’t start,’ Rowan warned her.

‘I didn’t think it would take you nine years to come home.’ Heidi twisted her hands together. ‘It’s easier when you’re not here. I can push the guilt away. But looking at you, so beautiful...’

‘Mum.’ Rowan placed her hand over her mouth.

Heidi straightened her shoulders and tossed her head. ‘As for this...thing...with Seb...’

Oh, jeez, she really didn’t want her mum commentating on her love-life. ‘Mum, I don’t feel like I want to hear—’

Heidi interrupted her. ‘You need to leave. Because the two of you—’

Rowan growled in frustration. Stop. Maybe she did want to hear what she had to say. ‘What, Mum?’

‘The two of you spark off each other,’ Heidi said, flustered. ‘Anybody with half a brain can see that. But you’re going to hurt each other. You are too different, worlds apart. It’s not built for long-term... Love isn’t enough.’

We’re not in love, Rowan wanted to tell her. Not quite. Not yet.

Heidi kicked a branch at her foot. ‘I suppose we’ll have to get this area cleared if we want to sell.’

‘Mum! We were talking about Seb and I! Tell me why you think we could never work.’

‘Because you are too irrational, too impulsive for him to live with long-term, and his inability to be spontaneous would drive you mad. He wants someone steady and settled and you want someone exciting and unstructured. You’d kill each other.’

‘So you don’t believe in the theory that opposites attract? That love can conquer all?’

Heidi shook her head. ‘It doesn’t—not in real life. In books and in the movies, maybe, but this is your life—his life—and it’s not a movie and it’s not a book. Save yourselves the heartache, Rowan. I know you and I know Seb. This will blow up in your faces. You’ll get hurt. And, believe it or not, I actually think you’ve been hurt enough.’

Rowan, reeling from having such an intense conversation with her mother, sucked in her breath. ‘Why are you telling me this now?’

‘Because I have failed you in so many ways, so many times. I should’ve tried to understand you better, loved you more, held you more. Drawn you closer instead of pushing you away. I failed you. But—’ Heidi’s voice cracked. ‘But if I can save you some heartache, some pain, maybe you can start to forgive me. Maybe I can start to forgive myself.’

Heidi wrapped her arms around her middle and Rowan saw that her eyes were wet. She couldn’t believe that her mother, who never cried, was crying over her.

She was nearly out of earshot when Rowan finally forced the word through her own tear-clogged throat. ‘Mum?’

Heidi turned.

‘I’m often in London. I have a house that I’m renovating there. Maybe we can meet, just you and I? Have tea, some time together. Maybe we can find a way back to each other?’

Heidi took a long time to answer and Rowan thought that she’d lost her. Again.

‘I’d like that, Ro. I’d really like that.’

* * *

Rowan was relieved that Seb’s bedroom was empty when she reached it. She immediately went to the spare room, dragged her backpack out of the cupboard and hauled it back to his room.

Somehow her clothes had found their way into his walk-in closet. Panties in his sock drawer, shorts next to his T-shirts. When had they migrated there? Who’d placed them there? Seb...? Seb had put the washing away. Hell, she’d been so busy bartending and arranging parties that she’d never got around to doing much laundry anyway. Seb had just done it quietly, with no fuss.

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