Liss kept pace with him to the car, pressed him right on the button. ‘You’re not close?’
He really regretted mentioning her. ‘Not really.’
Not at all. It might have all fallen apart that day in his last year of school, when he’d come home early on a study break. His mother had come downstairs in a hurry. And then that guy had appeared—walking slowly, and so damn arrogantly down the stairs. She’d said he was there to talk about finances for one of her charities. And that needed to happen upstairs where the bedrooms were? What did they think he was, stupid?
He was conscious of Liss’s intense scrutiny as he loaded her bag into the boot of the car. Finally he felt compelled to fill the silence she was making so obvious. So he shrugged again. ‘You know. Mothers.’
He started the car. Hoped this bit of the conversation was over.
‘No.’ Liss shook her head. ‘I wasn’t close to either of my parents. We had a succession of nannies and then it was boarding school.’
James glanced at her, interest piqued. That must have been weird. Up until he’d discovered his mum’s affair, life had been pretty sweet in his home, whereas Liss had always had it crazy. ‘What about your sister?’
Her smile was soft. ‘We’re close. Different, but close. Kitty might be older but she’s more vulnerable—she always has her nose in a book and her head in the clouds.’
Clearly Liss thought she was the more streetwise. James grinned. ‘So you kept an eye out for her, huh?’
So who kept an eye out for Liss, then? ‘What about your brothers?’
‘I’m not that close to them either.’
‘Why is that?’ Thinking about it he’d never heard Alex say much about his youngest sister. All he’d said was that she was unmanageable and he needed her off the island while the succession was sorted out. It struck James that Liss wasn’t really that unmanageable at all. And as to the question as to who was more vulnerable—James thought maybe he should reserve judgment.
‘Just different I guess.’ She shrugged. ‘I have some really great friends though.’
Did she? Really?
‘What about your dad?’ Liss turned the spotlight back on him. ‘Are you close to him?’
James pressed a little harder on the accelerator. His mother had put a barrier between him and his father.
In some ways he found that even more unforgivable. To tell, or not to tell? He’d been burdened with that dilemma for too long—until the day he’d found out he was just as stupid as his dad.
‘More so in recent years.’ Now he had more in common with his dad than he’d ever wanted. Learnt the hard way not to be so scathing of his father’s blindness, and had developed some empathy.
He had to pull over then to let her out. He hoisted the case out of the boot and set it down for her. ‘Have fun with all those toes.’
She flicked her fingers and he watched her go in. Her hair swung side to side in the simple ponytail as she wheeled her case behind her. If she was wearing make-up he couldn’t tell. But, hell, she was beautiful.
He didn’t go to work. He sat at a café, had three coffees and brooded, staring out the windows at the passers-by. He carefully avoided all the glossy mags stacked at the end of the counter. Having the moment his lover betrayed him with another man caught on film and printed in every magazine there was had put him off them. It wasn’t an experience he wanted to repeat. Besides, he didn’t want to see the all-glam Princess Elissa in them today; he’d rather see her as she was at this moment—fresh and relaxed.
When he pulled up at the house a couple of hours later they were all sitting on the veranda outside, legs outstretched—drying toenails presumably. He smothered the chuckle. It was quite a sight.
‘Liss, your boyfriend-bodyguard-boss is here.’
Liss rolled her eyes. ‘Couple of weeks this time, girls.’ And smiled away the chorus of disappointment.
The drive home was quick, she quietly chatted, told him a little about a couple of the girls. It wasn’t until they were in the lift that he looked down and noticed her feet. Every toe was painted a different colour—an array of shimmer, gloss and matte.
‘Like the rainbow look.’ He winked.
She laughed. ‘They wanted to see what they were like on so they could choose.’
He dropped to his knees. ‘I like that one best.’ He tweaked the crimson-tipped fourth toe on her left foot.
Hell, even her toes were beautiful.
‘Twist of Temptation. Good choice,’ she said lightly and moved her foot away.