His hand touched her hip bone and he ran his finger lightly along the curve of her bottom. ‘Not as beautiful as you.’
Her eyes met his. ‘So, do you have anything planned for today?’ She wriggled away from his hand, laughing. ‘Aside from that.’
‘No, nothing. I’m entirely at your disposal.’
She breathed out shakily. In one way it was a relief to feel that stab of hunger, to be reminded that this was all about sex. But it was starting to scare her how much she needed him.
And it was a need. A requirement like air or water.
She couldn’t imagine life without him. Only at some point she was not only going to have to imagine it, but experience it for real.
She couldn’t stay here for ever. Her life was in London and that wasn’t going to change, however good the sex or however momentarily kind Arlo was, and there was no point in imagining anything more permanent.
‘Let me see what time it is,’ she said, needing to move away from the heat of his body, or at least to prove that she could.
Leaning past him, she grabbed his watch.
‘Oh, sorry.’ She reached down for the card that she’d knocked to the floor. Unthinkingly, she glanced at it. It was an invitation to a wedding anniversary party.
‘Who’s Davey and Serena?’
‘My cousin and his wife. It’s their tenth wedding anniversary.’
Arlo’s voice was clipped and, glancing up, she saw that the easy intimacy of moments earlier had faded. Now he looked guarded, wary.
‘That’s wonderful. And they’re having a party.’ She gave him a small stiff smile. ‘Don’t worry—I’m not angling for a plus-one. I’ll be long gone by—’ She broke off, her eyes widening as she read the date. ‘But it’s today.’ Looking up, she frowned. ‘I don’t understand. Why didn’t you say something?’
‘Why would I? I’m not attending.’
Even without the sudden coolness in his voice she would have sensed that as far as Arlo was concerned this particular topic of conversation was over.
‘But why? It’s a special occasion.’ Her stomach clenched. ‘It’s not anything to do with me, is it?’
He frowned. ‘I’m sorry to break this to you, Frankie, but very little in my life is anything to do with you.’ His eyes were hard now. ‘We’re not overthinking this. That’s what we agreed, remember?’
Frankie stared at him, mute with shock, feeling a chill slide over her skin at the starkness of his words. ‘I remember.’
‘Good.’ He rolled off the bed and stalked past her naked. ‘And, just so we’re clear, I’m not going to be running my social diary past you any time soon.’
‘I’m not expecting you to. I just thought it had to be me...the reason you aren’t going. I mean, what other reason could there be?’ she persisted. ‘It’s not as if you’re doing anything else...and it’s your cousin’s anniversary party.’
Pulling on his trousers, he shook his head. ‘My reasons are my business, and this conversation is over.’
She held her breath, hanging on to her temper. ‘Why are you being like this? I was just trying to be nice.’ Turning, fists clenching, she took a step towards him. ‘What is the matter? I don’t understand—’
‘Then let me make it plain.’ There was no emotion in his voice. ‘What I do, where I go or don’t go, is nothing to do with you. And that goes for my family too.’
She stared at him, her anger fading, giving way to a savage, wrenching pain that made tears choke up in her throat.
‘You’re right. It isn’t my business. Nor is it my family. I think I just forgot that for a moment.’ She balled her hands, trying to contain all the chaos and emotion inside her. ‘I was thinking about my family and how I’d give anything just to see them again—’
The room swam.
She held up a defensive hand. ‘It’s fine. I don’t need you to comfort me. I can deal with it on my own.’
‘Please—Please!’ He took a step closer. ‘Please don’t cry. I never want to make you cry.’