When she still doesn’t respond, I put my hand on her back. She jerks up, wrenching away from me. Her eyes are wet and furious and wounded.
“Get out,” she hisses.
“Get. Out!” she shouts, louder this time, gathering the last of the pages in her arms and placing them gently on the bed.
I nudge the floor with the tip of my foot, murmuring, “It’s my castle.”
And that pushes her over the edge.
She shoves me, harder than I expect. Her cheeks are high with color, her hair mussed, and her eyes wild. I’d be as hard as a steel rod right now, if I weren’t so concerned that I’d truly hurt her.
“Sarah, come on . . .”
When I don’t move fast enough, she shoves my chest again.
“Get out of my room, you mean, childish son of a bitch!”
I’m about to reply with some flippant comment, but before I can, her breath catches, breaking on a hiccup, and I realize with horror that she’s trying very hard not to burst into tears.
I reach out. “I’m—”
Sarah throws her hand up, looking away and closing her eyes.
“Just go, Henry. Please.”
And since it’s the least I can do, I leave.
I WAKE UP LATE THE next day, at least late for me—my eyes are puffy and my chest is sore. Heavy. I don’t leave my room until I know he’s off the property. I hear the helicopter come in for his date with Cordelia—mountain climbing or ice fishing or herding cattle or something equally ridiculous. After the helicopter has departed, I head to Penelope’s room with my poor, damaged book. She hovers over it like it’s a baby bird with a broken wing, cooing that it’ll be good as new in no time and touching it so gently. Because she’s a good sister.
She really doesn’t care about Sense and Sensibility, but she cares about me. She knows how much this book means to me—even if it doesn’t mean much to her.
Unlike a certain handsome, heartless prince who shall not be named.
I don’t think about the gentle brush of his lips against mine before it all turned bad. I refuse to remember the simmering in his dark green eyes while he looked at me like no man has ever looked at me before—like I was something precious, a treasure that he wanted more than his next breath. And I definitely don’t focus on that wonderful, thrilling feeling that spread in my lower stomach. Filled with desire and excitement and joy.
I block that all out and focus on my poor, battered book. It’s simpler that way.
We ask one of the crew members for tape and repair the damage as best we can. Then Penny spends the rest of the day in hair and makeup and then in her “hot seat” one-on-one interview while I spend it walking around the castle grounds. And I think about leaving, going back to my flat and my job . . . and my life.
I mean, really, what the hell am I doing here?
But, it’s entirely possible Mother will force Penny to come home if I do. She’s having so much fun and she’s actually learning a few things about television production—making friends with the crew, developing contacts. So, for the time being anyway, I’m stuck like a mouse in a trap. In a castle.
I take a sandwich to my room for dinner and watch the news instead of reading. By sunset, I’m exhausted and fall asleep early.
Late that night, there’s a knock on my bedroom door. And I hate the thrill that zings through me, hate the delicious swoop of my stomach and uptick in my pulse as I walk to answer it. Because my body knows who’s on the other side. And it—traitorous thing that it is—can’t wait to drink in the sight of him, feel the strength of his presence, smell the warmth of his skin. My blood urges my heart to forgive and forget—it says I’m being silly, that the still sore wound in my chest is only a scratch.
I inhale when my hand touches the doorknob—bracing for the overwhelming sensual onslaught that is Henry Pembrook.
He looks tired. And sad. And my wound throbs more painfully.
His usually dancing green eyes are dull and guarded. The blond stubble on his chin, which typically gives him an irresistible roguish allure, now seems almost war-weary. I pull the top of my robe tighter and secure the knot on the belt, as if that might protect me from his charm.
“What do you want?”
Thick, long lashes blink innocently—he knows what he’s doing.
“It’s bedtime. I’d like to sleep. Or we can chat if you prefer? I could play something soft for you on the guitar . . . or you could hum while I try to drift off and I won’t complain once, I swear.”
There’s a heartbreakingly hopeful note in his voice as he recounts what has become our nightly routine. And I want to open the door to him. And my arms. The way I would embrace a lad who’s so sorry he broke my favorite toy.
But I don’t—I can’t. It’s self-preservation. Henry is no mere lad—and his thoughtlessness is capable of shattering so much more than a toy.
I adjust my glasses because it makes me feel intelligent and strong.
“You’re not sleeping here, Henry.”
He shifts gears and changes tactics. Smirking devilishly. Persuasively. He braces his hand on the door jamb, leaning in. “Come on, Sarah. It was an accident—I’ve already said I’m sorry. Why are you making such a fuss about it?”
This is good. This is what I need. His flippancy and derision. It shores up my anger, and anger builds a stronger wall than hurt.
His eyes scan my puckered mouth, tight jaw and hard, unyielding eyes. He pushes a hand through his hair, tugging at the strands.