They all lied to themselves, but it was easier that way.
Now she was back, and they couldn’t lie and she couldn’t pretend. They had to see each other as they now were—not the way they wished they could be. It was going to suck like rotten lemons.
Rowan hauled in a deep breath... She had two, maybe three weeks to wrap her head around seeing her parents, to gird herself against their inevitable disappointment. Two weeks to find a place to stay and a job that would keep her in cereal and coffee and earn her enough money to tide her over until she sold her netsukes.
She just had to get past Seb—whom she’d never been able to talk her away around, through or over. He’d never responded to her charm, had seen through her lies, and had never trusted her for a second.
He’d always been far too smart for his own good.
The image of Seb as she’d last seen him popped into her head. Navy eyes the colour of deep denim, really tall, curly blond hair that he grew long and pulled back into a bushy tail with a leather thong, and that ultra-stupid soul patch.
Yet he’d still turned female heads. Something about him had always caught their attention. It was not only his good looks—and, while she wished otherwise, she had to admit that even at his most geeky he was a good-looking SOB—he had that I-prefer-my-own-company vibe that had woman salivating.
Live next door to him and see how you like him then, Rowan had always wanted to yell. He’s bossy and rude, patronising and supercilious, and frequently makes me want to poke him with a stick.
Rowan draped her leg over her knee and turned her head at deep-throated male laughter. Behind her a group of guys stood in a rough circle and she caught the eye of the best-looking of the bunch, who radiated confidence.
‘Hey,’ Good-looking said, in full flirt mode. ‘New in town?’
I’m tired, sweaty, grumpy and I suspect that I may be way too old for you.
Good-looking looked from her to the waiter standing next to him. ‘Can I buy you a drink? What would you like?’
A hundred pounds would be useful, Rowan thought. Two hundred would be better...
‘Thanks. A glass of white wine? Anything dry,’ she responded. Why not? If he wanted to buy her a drink, she could live with it. Besides, she badly needed the restorative powers of fermented grape juice.
He turned, placed the order with the waiter, and when Rowan looked again she saw that he wasn’t quite so young, not quite so cocky. Tall, dark and handsome. And, since she was bored waiting for Seb, she might as well have a quick flirt. Nothing picked a girl up and out of the doldrums quicker than a little conversation with a man with appreciation in his eyes.
She thought flirting was a fine way to pass the time...
Rowan pushed a hand through her hair and looked at the luggage at their feet. ‘Sports tour? Hmm, let me guess...rugby?’ Rowan pointed to the bags on the floor with their identical logos. ‘Under twenty-one rugby sevens tournament?’
‘Ah... They are under twenty-one...I’m not.’
Rowan smiled slowly. ‘Me neither. I’m Rowan.’
She was about to put her hand out for him to shake when a voice spoke from behind her.
‘Isn’t it about time you used your powers for good instead of evil?’
Rowan closed her eyes as the words, words not fit to speak aloud, jumped into her head. Knowing that she couldn’t keep her eyes shut for ever, she took a deep breath and slowly turned around.
He was leaning against the stone pillar directly behind her, those dark blue eyes cool. His lower jaw was covered in golden stubble and his mouth was knife-blade-thin.
That hadn’t changed.
A lot else had. She squinted... Tall, blond, built. Broad shoulders, slim hips and long, long legs. He was a big slab of muscled male flesh. When his mouth pulled up ever so slightly at the corners she felt a slow, seductive throb deep in her womb... Oh, dear. Was that lust? It couldn’t be lust. That was crazy. It had just been a long trip, and she hadn’t eaten much, and she was feeling a little light-headed... It was life catching up with her.
Mr Good-looking was quickly forgotten as she looked at Seb. She’d known a lot of good-looking men, and some devastatingly handsome men, but pure lust had never affected her before... Was that why her blood was chasing her heart around her body? Where had the saliva in her mouth disappeared to? And—oh, dear—why was her heart now between her legs and pulsing madly?
Rowan pushed a long curl out of her eyes and, unable to meet his eyes just yet, stared at his broad chest. Her gaze travelled down his faded jeans to his expensive trainers. Pathetic creature to get hot and flustered over someone she’d never even liked.