‘Seb, are you there?’
‘Do you know where my parents are? I did try them but they aren’t answering their phone.’
‘They went to London and rented out the house while they were gone to some visiting researchers from Beijing. They are due back in...’ Seb tried to remember. ‘Two—three—weeks’ time.’
‘You’ve got to be kidding me! My parents went overseas and the world didn’t stop turning? How is that possible?’
‘That surprised me, too,’ Seb admitted.
‘And is Callie still on that buying trip?’
Another long silence. ‘In that case...tag—you’re it. I need a favour.’
From him? He looked at his watch and was surprised to find that it was still ticking. Why hadn’t time stood still? He’d presumed it would—along with nuns being found ice skating in hell—since Rowan was asking for his help.
‘I thought you’d rather drip hot wax in your eye than ever ask me for anything again.’
‘Can you blame me? You could’ve just bailed me out of jail, jerk-face.’
And...hello, there it was: the tone of voice that had irritated him throughout his youth and into his twenties. Cool, mocking...nails-on-a-chalkboard irritating.
‘Your parents didn’t want me to—they were trying to teach you a lesson. And might I point out that calling me names is not a good way to induce me to do anything for you, Rowan?’
Seb heard her mutter a swear word and he grinned. Oh, he did like having her at his mercy.
‘What do you want, Brat?’
Brat—his childhood name for her. Callie, so blonde, had called her Black Beauty, or BB for short, on account of her jet-black hair and eyes teamed with creamy white skin. She’d been a knockout, looks-wise, since the day she’d been born. Pity she had the personality of a rabid honey badger.
Brat suited her a lot better, and had the added bonus of annoying the hell out of her.
‘When is Callie due back?’
He knew why she was asking: she’d rather eat nails than accept help from him. Since his sister travelled extensively as a buyer for a fashion store, her being in the country was not always guaranteed. ‘End of the month.’
‘And Peter—your brother—is still in Bahrain,’ Seb added, his tone super pointed as he reached for a shirt and pulled it off its hanger.
‘I know that. I’m not completely estranged from my family!’ Rowan rose to take the bait. ‘But I didn’t know that my folks were planning a trip. They never go anywhere.’
‘They made the decision to go quite quickly.’ Seb walked back into his bedroom and stared at the black and white sketches of desert scenes above his rumpled bed. ‘So, now that you definitely know that I’m all you’ve got, do you want to tell me what the problem is?’
She sucked in a deep breath. ‘I need to get back to London and I was wondering whether you’d loan...’
When pigs flew!
‘No. I’m not lending you money.’
‘Then buy me a ticket...’
‘Ah, let me think about that for a sec? Mmm...no, I won’t buy you a ticket to London either.’
‘You are such a sadistic jerk.’
‘But I will pay for a ticket for you to get your bony butt back home to Cape Town.’
Frustration cracked over the line as he listened to the background noise of the airport. ‘Seb, I can’t.’
Hello? Rowan sounding contrite and beaten...? He’d thought he’d never live to see the day. He didn’t attempt to snap the top button of his jeans; it required too much processing power. Rowan was home and calling him. And sounding reasonable. Good God.
He knew it wouldn’t last—knew that within ten minutes of being in each other’s company they’d want to kill each other. They were oil and water, sun and snow, fire and ice.
Seb instinctively looked towards the window and saw his calm, ordered, structured life mischievously flipping him off before waving goodbye and belting out of the window.
Free spirits...why was he plagued with them?
‘Make a decision, B.’
She ignored his shortening of the name he’d called her growing up. A sure sign that she was running out of energy to argue.
‘My mobile is dead, I have about a hundred pounds to my name and I don’t know anyone in Johannesburg. Guess I’m going to get my butt on a plane ho... to Cape Town.’
‘Good. Hang on a sec.’ Seb walked over to the laptop that stood on a desk in the corner of his room and tapped the keyboard, pulling up flights. He scanned the screen.
‘First flight I can get you on comes in at six tonight. Your ticket will be at the SAA counter. I’ll meet you in the airport bar,’ Seb told her.