She knew that he had a point—a really valid point. She knew she should apologise, ask for forgiveness for being thoughtless, but the words were stuck in her throat. Why did she feel that if she apologised she would also be apologising for her lifestyle? For being impulsive, freedom-seeking, for being who she was?
She was at fault and she knew that she should admit it—just go up those steps and say sorry. Wake him up if she had to... But saying I’m sorry had become incredibly difficult for her. Maybe it was because she hadn’t had anybody in her life for so long to say sorry to—or was it because she’d apologised constantly as a child and a teenager for her high spirits and impulsive behaviour? Back then her apology had always been followed by more lectures, more disappointment, more opportunities to throw her indiscretions back in her face.
By seventeen she’d stopped saying sorry—mostly because nobody had heard her any more. They certainly hadn’t believed she was remorseful, and no one except for Callie—God, she loved that woman—had ever attempted to understand why she felt the need to push the barriers, to taste, touch, experience life.
Geez, she sounded like a whiny, childish...victim. Damn, she sounded like a victim? Did she subconsciously see herself that way? As a casualty of her parents’ narrow-minded world view, Joe’s deception?
Maybe she did.
And she didn’t like it.
So, she could sit on these stairs and think about how misunderstood she was, justify why she should brush this incident under the carpet, but then she’d feel guilty and dreadful—especially since it was pure pride standing in the way of her saying sorry.
Seb would probably give her another lecture on thoughtlessness and selfishness, but she was a big girl. She’d take it, say goodnight and go back to her own room. She could do this—she had to do this! If only to prove to him that she had grown up...
Rowan dragged herself up the stairs, hesitated outside Seb’s door. When she saw the sliver of light under the door she gently knocked. She heard his ‘Come in’ and when she entered saw that he was in bed, a computer on his knees. His face was blank when he looked at her.
Rowan put her hands behind her back and gripped the doorframe behind her. ‘Sorry. That was selfish and thoughtless of me.’
Seb’s face remained inscrutable while he closed his computer and placed it on the bedside table. Rowan shifted from foot to foot while she waited for him to say something.
‘Okay. Come here.’
Rowan stepped closer to the bed and wondered what else was coming. When he just looked at her, a small smile on his face, she frowned. ‘That’s it? No more lectures?’
Seb smiled slightly as he pulled the covers back and shifted across the bed. ‘Nope. Hop in.’
Rowan plucked at her T-shirt and shook her head. ‘Seb, I can’t. I smell of beer and booze. I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a shower and head back to my room.’
‘Take a shower and head back here,’ Seb said.
His face and voice were calm. Steady. God, she loved his steady.
His bed...it was tempting. So tempting. But so...girlfriendy. ‘I—I shouldn’t.’
‘You really should. Come on, Ro, the world won’t stop if you simply sleep in the same bed as me. Besides, I never got to buy those condoms, so you’re safe from me...tonight.’
Those eyes were dreamy again. That hard body was relaxed, his face sleepy. He was as tired as she was and she knew that it would now take a cattle prod to get her to go back to her room. ‘Okay, I’ll just take a quick shower.’
‘Mmm, okay. Hurry up,’ Seb murmured, his head on the pillow and his eyes closed.
Rowan kept his sleepy face in her mind as she rushed through the shower and brushing her teeth. When she came back into the room, dressed in the T-shirt Seb had been wearing earlier, he was fast asleep. She slid under the covers next to him and felt his arm slide around her waist. She snapped the light off and Seb snuggled closer. She felt his lips in her hair.
‘You scared me, Ro. Don’t do it again, okay?’ he whispered.
‘I’ll try not to,’ Rowan whispered back into the darkness. And she would try—but she couldn’t guarantee it.
* * *
Five days later it was early morning and Rowan sat in the cushioned area of Seb’s bay window. She stared over the hedge to the windows of her old bedroom, with Seb’s gentle breathing the soundtrack to her thoughts.
She still hadn’t gone home—still hadn’t managed to slip through the gate and walk around her mum’s prize rose garden, or sit on the bench outside, where her father had always used to read the Sunday papers in the winter sun.