And her hands lifted, fingers wide as she put her palms to his scalp and pulled him closer still. Her mouth opened beneath his and she kissed him with the same sort of desperation he was drowning in.
And for a moment, just a moment, he was sorry she hadn’t asked for more.
This was it, wasn’t it—the searing attraction, the need for that deep indulgence? Despite everything it was still at the centre of it all. Nothing less, nothing more.
Ana’s breath took for ever to regulate, and only moments after it had, she shifted in his arms, woke him, roused him again. Determined this time, to get it right and see it to the end. Because at the back of her mind the clock was ticking—Africa was all they had. When they said goodbye to the heat, they said goodbye to each other.
And she knew she had the strength to do that. This past year had shown her she had the strength to handle anything—even him.
She was glad he knew. Had never thought she’d feel that, but his sensitivity had surprised her. She’d appreciated the comfort of his arms as she’d cried. And she’d seen the hurt in him too—somehow that had helped soothe her own. She wasn’t alone in her sadness for the baby any more—he felt it; he understood something of it. And that was enough to make it that little bit more bearable.
They spent the day swimming, sleeping. Not talking of anything but commonplaces, playing bao, keeping it light. And yet they turned to each other even more frequently than before. The passion fast, hungry and still never enough.
The tiny island was exquisite and offered every comfort, yet with the luxury came other facilities—phone, fax, email. In the late afternoon she watched him take his PDA over to the office. Yes. Real life was going to have to intrude—they couldn’t avoid the future for ever. She went to their banda, giving him the space to get his messages in private. She didn’t want to know, didn’t want to become involved in his life back in London. The separation was looming and it was best to start distancing now. But when he walked in twenty minutes later his expression was too grim for her to ignore. ‘Bad news?’
He pressed a button and tossed the gadget onto the table by the bed. ‘Dad reckons he’s getting married again.’
‘No way. Who to?’ Ana gaped.
‘What with Mum going for the fourth last year, they’re just a joke.’ He flopped back on the bed and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. ‘I can’t believe it. And it’s happening Saturday. This Saturday.’ He groaned. ‘So soon—why the hell is he in such a rush?’
The giggle just bubbled from her. ‘Like father, like son, I guess.’
‘What?’ He lifted his head up and then grinned—sort of. ‘Oh, yeah. But that’s not–’
‘Yeah.’ Not real. She watched him clearly struggle with the news. ‘Does it really matter, Seb?’
‘I can understand them having lovers—fine,’ he said, throwing his arms wide on the bed. ‘Have as many as they want. But what’s with all the weddings?’
‘You don’t think it’s kind of romantic?’
‘No. It’s desperate.’
‘Look, you haven’t been ring-bearer too many times over.’ He sat up. ‘It’s tacky.’
‘So it’s all frills and fifty bridesmaids?’
‘Ugh,’ he groaned again, but eventually it turned into a laugh. ‘Depends. No two are ever the same.’
‘Have you met this bride?’
‘Briefly.’ He shook his head. ‘I didn’t think it was serious. But I guess he was one behind Mum on the wedding count so he had to catchup.’
‘No. Allocation of assets, experiences—they’ve got to make sure they have exactly the same.’
‘But there was only one of you. How did they go about sharing you?’
He looked at her, shrugged in a helpless, resigned kind of way. And instead of answering, he asked, ‘Ana…?’
She knew what he wanted. And she gave it.
When she woke late the next morning she found he was already dressed and looking distant.
‘You’d better pack your bag, Ana. We’re leaving at lunchtime.’
So that explained why he’d barely let her rest through the night. Why he’d woken her time and time again with his incredible caresses. The hour had chimed.
Mentally, he’d already left, his mind miles away as he stared out over the water—clearly not seeing the beauty of it, judging by the size of the frown on his face. Was his problem still his father? She didn’t ask; Africa was at an end and she needed to withdraw, too—to handle it with maturity. It was the contract they’d agreed.