He didn’t even make it out of the terminal before his curiosity—his need—got the better of him. He pulled out his tablet and hooked into the WiFi, flicked to her blog. She hadn’t uploaded anything new since she’d met him, so he watched her most recent performance again.
Now he understood why she was so brittle. And he couldn’t believe that her fans couldn’t see it—that behind that perky demeanour and the bright smile of her most recent posting there was sadness. There was worry in those revealing eyes.
Steffi Leigh was a part of Stephanie, but only one part. On screen she was one-dimensional, but there was so much more to her.
He’d been wrong in what he’d said to her. She wanted adventures. She wanted to travel. That was why she’d been so excited when his PA had made initial overtures about her blog. Because she wasn’t able to leave. Because she was caring for her brother and doing everything she could to stay afloat.
No wonder she’d looked so enchanted by the beauty of the forest and had been so enthusiastic and open in her enjoyment of that restaurant. When was the last time she’d eaten out?
And she’d been using all that make-up to cover up the sadness. Forcing herself to be ‘Steffi Leigh’ because it had become more than a fun blog with her schoolfriends—it had become a job. It had become a source of income and a possible springboard to something more.
He was flooded with the urge to scoop her up and carry her off for a billion more adventures. He’d take her to a different restaurant every night. Show her all the sights he loved. Share everything with her.
Except that was the last thing she wanted from him. And that was why he’d lashed out at her in the apartment.
Because he knew she’d only gone to the Green Veranda with him because she’d been desperate to sell the blog. She’d not wanted to say no to him. And, while she’d enjoyed the surroundings, he could no longer believe that she’d enjoyed him.
He’d thought she’d opened up to him. But she hadn’t. She hadn’t told him the most important thing of all. She’d let him use her because she’d thought she had to. And he was still so angry, so hurt about that. But he wanted her to be set free so she wouldn’t ever have to pretend with anyone else.
She wouldn’t accept help from him personally—he got that. But in business…? Maybe he had a chance.
IN FROZEN SILENCE Stephanie stared at the email.
Jack had made an offer for her blog. It was there in black and white. With no reference to the few days they’d shared together.
She phoned Tara. ‘I’ve had an email from Jack Wolfe.’
‘Is it a decent amount?’
‘You know about the offer?’ Steph frowned. Why didn’t Tara sound surprised?
‘I… I think he’d be crazy not to want to take the blog over.’
‘Tara, what aren’t you telling me?’ Then she got it. ‘You’ve spoken with him again? How could you do that?’ Panic rose within her—what secrets had her friend told him this time?
‘How could you not?’
Because he hadn’t got in touch. Until now. And now it was a sparsely worded three-sentence offer to buy her blog for a ridiculous amount of money.
‘It wasn’t right to contact him. It was only ever about business.’
‘Right. That’s why you slept with him.’
‘I didn’t want him to make an offer from pity. I didn’t want to be a charity case.’ And that was exactly what she’d become.
‘Steffi, stop undervaluing yourself. That’s not why he’s offering to buy the blog.’
Of course it was. He didn’t need the blog. This offer was only because of what he’d seen. Because of what he thought he knew.
‘Have you accepted it?’ Tara asked.
‘What do you think?’ Stephanie muttered. She’d turned him down, of course. In a sparsely worded two-sentence email.
‘I’m sorry.’ Tara sighed. ‘I didn’t realise you’d be so hurt. You want me to come round?’
‘No, I’m fine. Truly. I’m sorry for getting upset.’
‘It’s okay to get upset,’ Tara said softly. ‘I’m sorry it’s all been such a mess.’
Steph hung up the phone and wiped away yet another stupid tear. She shouldn’t be this hurt. She’d known him for only a smidgeon more than forty-eight hours. This was infatuation. Pathetic.
But it was the possibility… the promise. The potential of what they’d had.
And the passion.
That could never be replicated. And a lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to exhaust it. He was seared on her heart. And she was every bit as much of a fool as her mum.