The details of the dining room were blurring around her in the silence. She shivered. And it didn’t matter if some of those facts stayed hidden, they were still true. They would always be true.
‘Like what?’ he asked.
He was staring at her in silence and, momentarily trapped in his gaze, she held her breath. Should she tell him the truth? That he was right. That nothing was random. That there was always a reason, always something or someone responsible—
Pushing back her chair, she stood up. ‘Look, Mr Milburn, interesting as this conversation is, I thought we had work to do.’
‘It’s Arlo—and we do,’ he said calmly. ‘That’s why I wanted to talk to you about what happened in the drawing room. To reassure you. You see, I don’t believe in mixing business with pleasure. It never ends well.’
Frankie blinked. She took a deep breath. Just for a moment she had almost liked him. She’d even thought he liked her. And all because of one stupid, unthinking kiss.
But that kiss hadn’t changed anything. It certainly hadn’t changed him. He was still the same rude, arrogant man who had turfed her out of bed.
‘That’s sweet of you.’ Angling her chin up, she smiled thinly. ‘But you don’t need to worry on my account. I’ve practically forgotten it ever happened.’
LEANING BACK IN HIS CHAIR, Arlo extended his arm over his back, grimacing as he stretched out his neck. A pulse of frustration beat down his spine. They were back in his office, and as a gust of wind shook the house he stared out of the window to where the waves were flinging up foam.
Usually, he found it easy to work. But not today, he thought, glancing down at the cursor blinking reproachfully at the top of the blank page on his computer screen. Today he’d struggled to find one word that could hold his attention long enough for him to forget that Frankie was in the room.
His eyes narrowed on the halo of auburn curls that was just visible over the piles of books on the other desk. It was unconscionable to let a woman—this woman—distract him from work. Work that was, after all, the only reason she was here in his office. Although now he was finding it hard to remember why he had ever thought that was a good idea...
Shifting back in his seat, so that he could no longer see the top of her head, he watched his screen go black.
been lying when he’d told Frankie that he was on a break from women. A long break, as it happened—maybe too long. But it was through choice rather than lack of opportunity. He’d deliberately let the expeditions, the lecturing, the research, take precedence over his love life.
It was easier that way...less painful.
Love was for fools. Or maybe it made people into fools. Either way, he’d decided a long time ago that it was too unpredictable to make it the basis of any relationship other than a familial one.
Of course, familial love was no less painful. But at least it played by the rules. It was logical. Naturally, a mother might love and support her child, a father his son, a boy his brother. It was hardwired into their DNA.
Love between a couple was different: dangerous. It didn’t matter if it was based on duty or desire, it lacked any real scientific foundation. Lust, on the other hand, was the engine in the juggernaut of life. It was a simple compulsive force—like gravity. Potent. Persuasive. Undeniable.
Thinking back to the uppity put-down Frankie had thrown at him after lunch, he felt anger coil up inside him like a snake. He had felt like running after her and shaking her. Or, better still, kissing her. Kissing her until she melted into him as she had done that morning.
‘I’ve practically forgotten it ever happened.’
Who was she trying to kid?
Unclenching his jaw, he shifted forward.
‘Could you please stop fidgeting?’ Frankie’s voice floated up from behind the desk. ‘Some of us are trying to work.’
A rush of heat tightened his muscles. ‘Are you talking to me?’
She sighed audibly. ‘Well, I’m not talking to Nero.’
As the dog lifted its head from the floor Arlo hesitated and then, pushing back his chair, stood up and walked across the room.
‘It wouldn’t matter if you were. You see, unlike you, he prefers it when people bark.’
‘And I prefer it when people are straight with me.’ Her eyes narrowed. ‘I thought you wanted my help.’