Her head was throbbing and there was a metallic taste in her mouth, and she felt a nauseous rush of déjà vu. Clutching the arm of the sofa, she opened her eyes and steadied herself.
That had been her first memory after the accident that had killed her entire family. Eyes closed, her head hurting inexplicably. She hadn’t understood at first. She had felt as if she was dreaming, only then she’d opened her eyes and realised the nightmare was real.
‘Sorry I took so long. How are you feeling?’
Arlo was back. She gazed up at him, frowning. ‘Fine. It’s really not that bad.’
‘I’ll just spray some antiseptic on—’
He was being so nice, and his touch was gentle in a way that made her throat ache more than her head.
‘What happened here?’ he asked.
His fingers had stilled against her head, and she knew that he had found the thin line of puckered skin.
According to the French media it was a miracle she had survived the crash. Afterwards, when she’d seen photographs of the plane, it had been hard to believe she had not just survived but walked away with just one tiny reminder of what had happened that night in France.
Only one visible reminder, anyway.
Balling the handkerchief in her hand, she shrugged. ‘I was in an accident. A couple of years ago.’
She couldn’t see his expression, so she didn’t know what he was thinking, but she did know she wanted to stay in control of this particular conversation.
‘I banged my head. It left me with a healthy respect for safety belts and this scar.’
That was true. Not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But she had never told anyone that except at the inquest, and that had been an experience that had taught her not to expect justice even from those charged with dispensing it.
‘So we have something else in common,’ she said lightly. Looking up into his face, she widened her eyes. ‘Oh, but you’re hurt too.’
‘What? This?’ Reaching up, he touched the dark bruise at the bridge of his nose. ‘It’s nothing.’ He smiled. ‘It’s hardly going to mar my good looks, is it?’
‘You are good-looking.’
His forehead creased into a frown. ‘Maybe I need to take a closer look at that bump...’
She bit into her lip and he held her gaze.
‘It’s okay. Johnny’s my brother. I know what beauty looks like.’
Conventional beauty, she thought. Or perhaps it would be better named conformist beauty.
Johnny was Michelangelo’s David. All perfect lines and symmetry. And yet for some reason she couldn’t quite picture his face anymore.
Her heart smacked against her ribs.
e was nothing symmetrical about Arlo. He was a rough draft, formed by a more urgent hand. An Easter Island profile chipped in bone, not rock. A man who corrected the course of everything in his path.
Glancing up, she felt a jolt of electricity crackle up her spine as their eyes met.
‘Beauty is God’s handwriting. It’s not legible to everyone.’
There was a long pause, and then his eyes fixed on her face. ‘But it is legible to you?’
Her heart thudded hard. She felt something stir inside her, as if there was a storm building there...
‘Doctor’s daughter,’ she said, breaking the taut silence. ‘So, Arlo, tell me—what made you want to go to Antarctica?’