‘Juice?’ he offered instead.
‘That would be great.’ She bit her lower lip. ‘But don’t let me stop you enjoying a drink.’
‘I don’t drink alcohol. My birth mother was an addict—I’ve no intention of making the same mistake.’ Why he’d said it, he didn’t really know. To shock her? To see if he could shake that perfect façade again?
Her eyes widened. ‘I’m sorry about your mother,’ she said softly.
‘I’m addicted to travel instead,’ he joked lightly, wanting to step back from that too personal admission.
‘And work?’ she noted.
‘One and the same.’ He smiled. ‘My brothers lay into me all the time about being a workaholic. But George is such a party animal anyone would look like a workaholic compared to him.’ He glanced at her. ‘And you’re addicted to the internet?’
‘True,’ she admitted. ‘But some addictions are worse than others.’
‘Maybe.’ He shrugged as he went to the small discreet bar fridge and found the juice options. ‘All can be damaging.’
‘But some can help people build great things.’
‘And others can destroy.’ He poured two glasses of juice.
‘So what about balance, then?’ she asked.
‘Impossible—we all know that.’
‘So you’re all or nothing?’ she teased.
‘I think so.’
He was all gorgeous. Stephanie took the glass he offered and went outside to sit in one of the wicker chairs. The sun was starting its slow descent, casting a gorgeous red-orange glow over the treetops and the smooth water. She’d barely had a chance to take a sip of her drink when she heard a vehicle pulling up.
‘Give me a second…’ He walked round the corner of the deck.
For a crazy moment she thought she might give him anything he asked for.
She collapsed back into the comfortable cushions as he walked from view. She so had to get a grip on herself. She did not run away with handsome men. Did not do whatever they suggested with no regard to anyone else. Her mum did that, but not Stephanie.
So she had to get out of here while she still could.
But then he reappeared, wheeling a sleek trolley towards her, looking so fine in that white shirt and those navy trousers and with that edgy look back in his eyes.
‘Silver service?’ she asked, taking in the gleaming dishes. Quality simply dripped from every aspect of the place.
‘You’d expect anything less?’
No. She wouldn’t. And she imagined there’d be some unbelievably rich concoction on the trolley that she wasn’t sure she could stomach.
He lifted the lids with a flourish and she found she was wrong. Her mouth watered when she saw the vibrant, juicy slices of fruit on the nearest tray.
‘I get sick of plastic plane food when I’m travelling. And restaurant food can get too rich. Sometimes simple is perfect, right?’
He glanced at her.
She nodded in mute agreement. The platters were beautiful—fruits, cheeses, sliced meats, vegetables, creamy dips. Fresh and real and delicious.
‘Finger food. You might have to take off your gloves,’ he said.
Or she could recline, as in Roman times, and be fed grapes by a handsome attendant… And where had that thought come from?
‘I wasn’t lying about my nails.’ Reluctantly she peeled off one glove, then the other.
‘I never said you were.’ He picked up her hand and looked down at her broken and chipped nails. ‘You get nervous?’
He rubbed his thumb over her palm, stopping her from instinctively curling her fingers into a fist. She tried to quell the shiver that ran through her. And she tried to banish the image of him touching her in other more intimate places.
She’d hardly had any in her life, and all of a sudden it was all she could think of. All she wanted.
‘It’s just a habit. I know it’s gross.’ She tugged her hand free, embarrassed that he’d seen how bad her nails were, and reached for a cooling slice of melon. ‘I get false ones put on… but they come off… I just didn’t have time to get them redone before this meeting.’
‘Because you were so busy on your blog?’
She glanced at him and saw he wasn’t being sarcastic. ‘I’m always trying out the products, writing the content. Dreaming up yet more content.’
‘It must be hard to come up with lots of content all the time.’
She paused, not taking a bite of the melon. Did he suspect her? Did he know the truth? That she got as much as possible from her old schoolfriends. The trouble was, the busier they got the less they sent to her. She lived vicariously as they texted her pictures from their parties at the coolest new venues. And all the meals she posted about on her blog? Texted to her by Tara, or some of the other friends who’d stuck by her since school.