She shrugged again. ‘I don’t know. It felt like the least I could do. I mean, you did save my life.’ She glanced away. ‘And I’m not working at the moment.’
What did that mean? He knew almost nothing about the mechanics of social media, but what little he did know suggested that it was a twenty-four-seven, three-hundred-and-sixty-five-days-a-year kind of gig.
Not that it was any of his business... And yet he found himself wondering what it was she wasn’t telling him.
Watching her pinch her lip again, he tamped down the urge to reach over and pull her hand away and then cover her mouth with his.
His jaw clenched, and suddenly he needed her to agree. ‘Look, Frankie, I know we got off on the wrong foot, but this storm is going to be kicking around for a couple of days and that means we’re going to be—’
‘Stuck with each other?’ Her eyes met his. ‘Not if I stay in my room, like you told me to.’
‘I shouldn’t have said that either. I was just—’
Just scared. Scared of what would happen if they came within touching distance of one another. Scared that he would give in to that same desperate, urgent desire that had swept him away as effortlessly as one of those towering grey waves outside.
‘Just being a boorish oaf.’
There was a pause.
‘Is it just transcribing?’ she asked.
He felt a jolt of surprise. ‘You’ve done this before?’
Her eyes slid away from his, and he had that same feeling as before—as if she was holding back.
‘My older brother and sister both did dissertations. They paid me to type them up.’
He nodded. ‘Okay, well, there’s a bit of an overlap between my notes on the web and the ones I had to write by hand, but I can talk you through that. It would help, too, if you could answer the phone. Take messages if I’m on the other line.’
There was a pause. He could almost see her working through the pros and cons.
She sighed. ‘Okay. I’ll do it. But just so we’re clear, I’m working with you, not for you.’ Lifting her chin, she let her hair fell back from her face so that he could see the curve of her jawline. ‘I’m not having you bark orders at me—’
He held up his hands in appeasement.
‘There will be no barking. Although I can’t speak for Nero.’
A reluctant smile pulled at the corners of her mouth, softening her face, and suddenly it was difficult to find enough breath to fill his lungs. If she kept smiling like that then maybe the dog kennel might be the safest place for him.
‘Good. That’s sorted. Take a seat.’ He gestured towards the other desk. ‘And we can get started.’
* * *
The morning passed with almost hallucinatory speed. One moment Frankie was walking across the room to the other desk, and the next Arlo was pushing back his chair and telling her it was lunchtime.
Gazing round the beautiful dining room, with its cream panelling, carved wood fireplace and oil paintings, she felt her heartbeat accelerate. Mostly, if she was at home, lunch would be a sandwich eaten at her desk—and then only if she could be bothered to make one. More often than n
ot it was just a bowl of cereal.
This, though, was a sit-down three-course meal, with cutlery and napkins and side plates...
Arlo was staring at her, his face arranged in one of those unreadable expressions.
‘Everything’s fine.’ She glanced down at her starter: a tartlet of smoked roe, tomato, and marjoram.
‘It’s just that when you said, “Let’s grab some lunch”, I was expecting something a little more basic.’