Frowning, she smoothed over where she had jerked the lip pencil upwards. She took a breath. Maybe that was why, for one fleeting, truly idiotic moment, she had thought he was going to invite her to stay longer. Not that she would have accepted, of course. That would be utterly insane. Her flat, her job, her life was in London.
This was a lovely place to visit, and okay, she and Arlo weren’t at each other’s throats anymore, but he was still a stranger.
A stranger she had kissed...
Refocusing with an effort, she glanced down at her cream cashmere jumper and dark red silk skirt, then lower to her high-heeled red shoes, trying to see herself as Arlo would.
But, really, what was the point?
Her pulse stilled. If there was one thing she’d learned about Arlo Milburn it was that it didn’t pay to second-guess him.
* * *
He was already waiting for her in the dining room, standing by the fireplace looking down at the flames, one arm resting on the overmantel. Her breath seemed to spontaneously combust in her throat as he looked up at her, his grey eyes narrowing admiringly.
‘You look beautiful.’
He was looking at her steadily, with total attention, and she felt her face and hands grow warm. ‘I thought I’d make a bit of an effort.’ She smiled, feeling suddenly shy. ‘You look great too,’ she added, her eyes skimming his dark trousers and a shirt that was so flawlessly white his upper body looked as if it was made of Arctic ice.
She wasn’t just being polite. He really did look great. Both his trousers and shirt were cut beautifully and emphasised his muscular thighs and the wideness of his shoulders.
‘Usually I wear this when I win something.’ He didn’t smile back. ‘So it seemed appropriate.’
She frowned. ‘What have you won?’
‘Dinner with you, obviously,’ he said quietly.
His words tingled like snowflakes against her skin. But of course, he was just being nice because she was leaving.
She smiled. ‘Some people would probably see that as the consolation prize.’
He held out his hand. ‘Not people worth knowing.’
He led her to her seat, and as she waited for him to sit down, she gazed around the room. She had spent such a short time here, but already everything felt so familiar...
Arlo felt so familiar.
Glancing over, she felt her throat constrict. He was changing before her eyes. That tense, angry man whose dark eyes had spilled scorn on her was now reaching over to fill her wine glass.
The food was superb again. Guinea fowl with leeks and morels followed a starter of roasted scallops with sea herbs, and to finish there was a white chocolate mousse with lemon sorbet. And although she’d been expecting the conversation to be a little stop-start, it wasn’t at all. In fact, he was surprisingly good company. Intelligent, with that dry sense of humour she had glimpsed before, and happy to talk about practically anything.
Her pulse dipped. But no doubt he was just making an effort because it was her last night.
She laid down her spoon. ‘That was wonderful, but I truly couldn’t eat another thing.’
‘Really?’ He frowned. ‘Only there’s another two courses—’
She glanced up just in time to see the smile leaving his lips. ‘Very funny.’
‘Don’t you mean hashtag can’t stop laughing?’ he said softly.
Now she was laughing and shaking her head. Then she groaned. ‘Please don’t make me laugh...it hurts too much.’
‘Sorry.’ He leaned back, studying her. ‘You know, when Johnny and I ate too much when we were younger my dad used to take us up to the rumpus room and make us run races.’
‘Is that the long room with all the little leaded windows?’
He nodded. ‘The windows are like that so you can play ball games up there without smashing the glass. We used to play everything. Rugby, tennis...’ His grey eyes met hers. ‘Cricket?’