His chest tightened. He hadn’t expected her to do so, but she had impressed him yesterday. She’d worked hard, listened, and asked questions where necessary. In another life he might have given her a real job, or he might even have—
He stopped mid-thought, but it made no difference. His body was already answering the question.
Gritting his teeth, he stared past her to where the waves were tumbling against the rocks. He had to get a grip. Frankie might not be the flaky little chancer he’d thought she was, but she was not his type.
For starters she was already involved in some way with Johnny, but even if she wasn’t, she was only twenty-one—little more than a kid.
Except she hadn’t kissed like a kid.
She’d kissed like a woman.
His shoulders tensed as he remembered the soft, breathy moans she’d made as his tongue had parted her lips. He’d wanted her, and he was pretty sure she had wanted him at that moment. But he’d tried living in the moment before, blindly trusting to what Frankie called ‘planetary forces’, and it had been an out-and-out disaster.
Only it was a lot easier to think that when Frankie wasn’t actually standing in front of him, looking ridiculously swamped and yet frustratingly sexy in one of his old jackets.
Conscious of her gaze and needing to do something to shift the restless energy inside him, he swung the sheep down from his shoulders onto the grass. As it trotted away without a backward glance, he unwrapped his sweater from around his waist and pulled it over his head.
Heart beating fast, he glanced up at the sky. For the first time since he’d returned home there was a tiny patch of blue. By tomorrow, aside from the battered-looking gorse bushes, it would be as if the storm had never happened. The causeway would open. Life would go back to normal. Some parts of it, anyway.
He cleared his throat. ‘By the way, you were right about Johnny. He did leave a message—two, actually—but they only came through yesterday evening. He said you needed to have some fun.’
But why? he wondered. She was young and beautiful, and she lived in London. Surely fun was at her fingertips.
Johnny had also said Frankie needed some TLC, but he didn’t want to think about that. Not when the only kind of tender loving care he could think of offering her involved both of them naked and in his bed.
He looked down at her, not prompting, just waiting. She shrugged. ‘Johnny’s a good friend. He worries about me but I just needed a few days away from London. I feel fine now.’
She had chosen her words carefully but the sharp stab of relief he felt at hearing her describe Johnny as a friend was forgotten when he looked down at her.
Her mouth curved up at the corners, but there was something forced about the smile and he felt a prickle of guilt spread out across his skin. Unless TLC stood for total loss of control, he’d massively under-delivered.
‘How could I not feel fine when I’m surrounded by all this?’
Now her smile seemed real, and some of the tension seemed to have left her face.
‘You like it?’
She frowned at the surprise in his voice. ‘Of course. It’s beautiful. All nature’s beautiful. It’s so calming and uncomplicated.’
Smiling, he shook his head. ‘Not all nature, I can assure you.’
‘Are you talking about Antarctica?’
As she looked over at him, he saw a flicker of curiosity in her blue eyes.
‘What’s it like?’
It was a question he’d been asked so many times, but for some reason he wanted to give her more than just a generic answer.
‘It’s exhausting. Terrifying. Intoxicating. And heartbreakingly beautiful. A lot of the time it feels like a dream.’ He tilted his face upwards, towards the sky. ‘Everything is so extreme out there. The sky is bigger, the wind is stronger, the cold is like nothing you’ve ever felt, and the sea is this beautiful endlessly changing blue...’
She looked over at him and he felt his heartbeat stumble.
Not as blue or as beautiful as Frankie’s eyes.
Forcing his gaze away from her face, he stared down at the jagged rocks. ‘There are icebergs there that are the size of countries. And the air...it has texture. You feel like you could scoop it up in your hands.’