Our steps echo through the massive foyer as he leads me inside and into the massive kitchen. I shake my head as I look around. “Do I even want to know how much you’re paying to rent this place?”

He takes my purse and sets it on the marble breakfast bar. “It doesn’t matter.”

I’m not sure if his evasion makes me feel better or worse, but I struggle to ignore the niggling in my gut that’s trying to ring the alarm at the inequity between us. We’re not at the point where it matters yet. If we get there, I’ll figure out a way to move forward and maintain my independence. “Show me around?”

He quirks a brow. “To be clear, that’s not code for fuck me on the kitchen table?”

I cackle and wink at him. “Not this time.”

He blows out a breath. “Okay, the tour it is.”

I have to walk quickly to keep up with Marston’s long strides as he takes me through the living room with its wooden beam ceilings and massive stone fireplace, then up a gorgeous, winding staircase that overlooks the living room below. The sight reminds me so much of the room where we first kissed that my stomach pitches, but Marston isn’t so affected. He strides toward a dark hall, and the overhead lights flick on as he enters. Fancy.

“There are five bedrooms,” he says. “All have en suites, but mine has the best view.”

Marston opens a door and waves me inside. Unlike in the hall, he uses the switch on the wall to control these lights, but a sigh slips from my lips when I catch sight of the wall of windows and the view of the lake beyond. The Orchid sits on the opposite side of the lake, the landscaping lights around it giving it a beautiful and regal air.

The bed and breakfast where we first made love had a view of the lake. I wonder if Marston remembers that. Remembers the way his hands shook as he positioned himself over me the first time and how scared he was that he’d hurt me. How it felt like our souls were connected that night . . . until the pounding on the door tore our love in half.

I press my hand to my chest and swallow hard.

“Are you okay?”

I nod to the view. “It’s beautiful.”

He studies me for a long beat, as if he’s trying to decide if he should share something with me. “I’m glad you like it,” he says softly.

My brain is going a hundred miles an hour. What would’ve happened if I hadn’t spent that night with him? Has he truly forgiven me for the way I acted afterward? Could he be happy here if he could live in a place like this? Would I ever feel truly independent if I was married to someone who brought so much wealth to the table? Would he be willing to live a simpler life if I wasn’t comfortable with taking so much?

“What’s going on in that mind of yours?” he asks softly.

I shake my head. “Too much,” I admit.

“Can I help?”

I don’t want to ruin tonight by digging into those questions, so I unzip my dress and let it fall to the floor, relishing the heat that flashes in his eyes. “In fact, you can.”

* * *

Marston

“I can’t believe I finished that entire thing,” Brinley says, pushing away her empty plate where a small puddle of syrup is all that’s left of the French toast I had delivered for her this morning.

I shrug. “You said you were craving French toast, and I aim to please.” The corner of my mouth twitches in a smirk. “Anyway, I shouldn’t be the only one who got to eat my fill of something sweet.”

Her cheeks blaze, and I wish I could take a picture of her like this. She’s wearing nothing but her panties and one of my T-shirts. Her face is free of makeup, and her hair’s piled on top of her head in a messy bun. Her expression is relaxed and happy, and if I had my way, I’d put that look on her face every fucking morning for the rest of her life.

She stands and stretches her arms over her head, giving me a view of her soft thighs and the black triangle of lace between her legs. I took my time kissing and touching her there last night, but I still want more.

“You keep looking at me like that, and you’re going to make me late to work.” She glances at the clock on the stove and groans. “I can’t believe it’s after seven and I still need to run home and shower.”

Not bothering to stand, I wrap my arms around her waist and pull her to me, sliding the borrowed shirt up before nuzzling my face against her stomach. “You’d like the shower here,” I say, running kisses across her abdomen. She shivers and slides her fingers into my hair. I fucking love when she does that. It reminds me of being between her legs, of the hungry whimpers and pleas as I licked and sucked. “And I need to fuck you again before I leave.”

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