‘Are there really palm trees?’ she asked quickly.
She didn’t care if there were or not, but she could feel Arlo’s eyes on her face and felt suddenly self-conscious.
‘Loads. Would you like to see them?’
‘Of course.’ She was momentarily distracted as, smiling stiffly, Arlo got up and walked over to the window.
‘You would? Because that’s why I’m calling. I’ve bought you a ticket to LA. You’ll fly out on Saturday.’
She blinked. But Arlo wasn’t in LA.
‘Frankie! Are you still there? Did you hear what I said?’
‘Yes, I did. That’s amazing.’ She forced a note of excitement into her voice. ‘But you shouldn’t have—’
‘Yes, I should,’ he said firmly. ‘And Arlo thinks so too.’
‘He does?’ Her heart began hammering inside her chest.
‘Yeah, he thinks you need a proper holiday. And besides, he’s going to be in Svalbard at the end of the month.’
Her stomach felt as if it was filled with ice. She felt stunned, stupid, small.
Turning her head, she stared across the room to where Arlo was gazing at the sea. There was tension in his body and she knew he was seeing a different blue sea—one dotted with sharp-toothed icebergs.
‘It’s addictive,’ he’d said.
She’d thought he’d been talking figuratively. But how could she compete with such beauty and majesty?
‘Look, I know it’s short notice, Frankie, but I also know I let you down.’
Johnny’s voice broke into her thoughts and she gazed down into her cooling cup of coffee. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said quietly.
‘It does to me. So please let me make it up to you. Come to LA.’
She sucked in a steadying breath. ‘I’d love to.’
As she hung up Arlo turned to face her, and the cool distance in his eyes left her in no doubt as to how he was really feeling.
In his head, he was already there on the ice. Maybe he’d never left. No wonder he couldn’t promise anything in the way of commitment.
‘So you’re off to LA.’
It was a statement, not a question, but she still nodded.
‘It’s for the best, Frankie.’
‘For whom?’ She stood up abruptly and walked towards him.
‘For you, of course. You’re twenty-one. You have your whole life ahead of you, and that life isn’t going to start here—’
He didn’t say those words, but they both heard them. But he hadn’t heard what she had to say. What she needed him to hear...to know.
She was done with hiding the truth. It hadn’t stopped her losing everyone she loved and needed before, but it might stop her losing the man she loved and needed now.
She moved to his side. ‘But what if I told you I loved you? Would that change anything?’