Of course she’d been angry with them, as well as with Daniel. She loved him, he loved her, they wanted to be together and they were being kept apart because of a stupid feud. At eighteen, it had been all about her and what she wanted, and to hell with anyone else.
Ashamed of herself, Alex lifted her hand and gently touched Daniel’s jaw. “Why did you let me leave, Dan? Why did you let me go?”
“You needed to go and I needed to stay.” Daniel lifted his hand to rub the back of his neck. “Grandmother wanted me to stay, to learn about The Silver C. It was going to be mine someday and I needed to learn the ropes. I assumed that leaving with you meant risking the land, my job, my inheritance.”
Alex jerked back, angry. “She said that?”
“No, you’re not listening. I said I assumed that. The truth was, I didn’t want to leave Royal. I felt safe there—welcomed, protected.”
“And I asked you to leave it, to risk it.”
“In hindsight, I know that I used my assumption of my grandmother disinheriting me and her displeasure as an excuse, but I couldn’t tell you that I—”
“That you loved The Silver C more than you loved me.”
Daniel started to deny her words but then stopped talking and shook his head. “I don’t know, Lex. Maybe. All I know for sure was that I didn’t want to leave. But neither did I want to let you go. I was so hurt, confused, unable to tell you what I was feeling.”
“And I wanted you to make the grand gesture, to prove that you loved me,” Alex admitted hoarsely.
“Stephanie did that, all the time. If I did x, I loved her. If I did y, I didn’t. As a child I was constantly reassuring her of how much I loved her, tying myself up in a knot trying to please her. After I went to live with Grandmother, I swore I’d never allow anyone to use love as a weapon against me again.”
And by linking his love to his actions, she’d done precisely that. Ironically, the one thing she needed was the very thing her couldn’t give her. What a mess.
Alex closed her eyes, trying to keep the tears away. “We were so young, Dan, dealing with feelings far beyond our comfort zone.”
“And a raging attraction. It was like God gave the keys to a Formula 1 car to an eight-year-old. We were bound to crash and burn.”
Alex touched her stomach and gave him a wry grin. “And it’s happening again.”
Daniel pushed his hand under hers so that his palm lay across her stomach. He placed his lips against her temple before drawing back. “The one thing I know we can handle is our attraction to each other. We can be friends and lovers, Lex. Trust me on this.”
He sounded so sure, but Alex was still convinced that that toxic combination had the potential to blow up and rip them apart. Alex made the mistake of looking into those eyes—more umber than chocolate tonight—and saw need and desire swirling within those dark depths. She felt herself yielding, relinquishing her grip on common sense.
I’m exposing myself—I know that I am—but Daniel needs me.
And God knew, Alex needed him. Because here, right now, Daniel was silently telling her that he chose her, that he wanted her in his arms, in his bed.
No, he more than wanted her—he craved her.
As she did him.
Alex leaned forward and stroked the pad of her thumb over his lower lip. “Take me to bed, Dan.”
She heard his sigh of relief and then his body tensed again. “Are you sure? You said this wasn’t a good idea.”
She lifted her shoulders and let them drop. “It isn’t. We haven’t found a long-term solution, and we should do that, but not tonight, not right now.”
Daniel followed her to her feet and loosely held her hips. “What do you want us to do tonight, Lex?”
“I want you to love me, Dan. As only you can.”
Instead of entering the house, Daniel led Alex down the deck and into the master bedroom, through the open sliding doors.
At the foot of the bed, he stopped and cupped her face in his hands, his thumbs tenderly stroking her cheekbones. In this dark room containing shadows and secrets, Daniel realized that right here, right now, for as long as it may last, they were about to reignite their love affair.