* * *
‘Come on, then.’
Patting the sofa, beside him, Arlo breathed out unevenly as Nero jumped up onto the velvet cushions. He didn’t normally let the lurcher up on the furniture, but there was something comforting about the dog’s warm fur against his hand.
His throat tightened. Not that he deserved to be comforted after how he’d acted.
Picturing Frankie’s stunned, pale face, he tensed his fingers against Nero’s head. He had been so blazingly certain, so smugly convinced that he was in control...that he had got it all worked out.
Now all his assumptions seemed at best naive and at worst inhuman.
She had told him she loved him and the stark honesty of her words had unmanned him. Coward that he was, he had thought she would leave that unspoken, so that he could keep on pretending that he didn’t know how she felt.
How he felt.
He gritted his teeth.
So many times out on the ice he had been faced with a crossroads—a moment in his journey when a decision had to be made. A choice that could mean either life or death. And each time he’d made a choice.
It was what he did. He spoke about it at schools. In lecture theatres at universities. The great explorer Arlo Milburn, talking about risk...about how every step in any direction was ultimately a leap of faith.
But he hadn’t made that leap for Frankie. He loved her and he had let her leave, and this time tomorrow she would be on her way to LA.
And in a week’s time he would be out on the ice, living the life he’d told her he wanted. A life he had chosen over her. A life that suited someone like him—someone who found the prospect of having a woman who loved him too risky. A life where risk was confined to sub-zero temperatures and blizzards.
In other words, not a life worth living.
* * *
There. It was done. Finally she was packed.
Letting out a breath, Frankie got to her feet and stared down at her plush new suitcase. She had dithered about taking it, but in the end it had seemed churlish not to—and anyway her old suitcase was ruined.
She glanced at the clock by her bed. The taxi would be here in a minute, but that was fine. She just had to get her coat and then she would be ready to go.
She was going to get to the airport hours before she needed to, but that was what she’d decided to do last night, after she’d finally finished crying. She had cried a lot. About the accident and her family and about Arlo. At one point she had thought she might never stop crying, but at one minute past midnight she had run out of tears.
And that was when she’d made up her mind that today was going to be the first day of her new life.
Obviously, she wasn’t going to just forget all her problems. But there was no future in living in the past and she wanted to start living again.
That was what Arlo had given her. He had helped her take that first step. More than anything she had wanted him to join her on the rest of her journey, only that wasn’t to be.
But she wasn’t just going to mark time and blog, like she had after the accident. She was going to go out into the world and live her life. Do some travelling. Make some new friends—real friends. Reconnect with old ones. Learn a new skill.
The intercom buzzed and, shrugging on her coat, she took the handle of her suitcase and glanced slowly around the flat. Maybe when she came back she would finally make this into a home.
She always used the famous black London cabs for work. The cabbies were always fun to talk to, and it looked cool arriving at events in one. Now, she found the familiar beetle shape of the car comforting.
As she buckled up, the cabbie turned round. ‘It’s Heathrow, isn’t it?’
Frankie nodded. ‘Yes, please.’
‘Going somewhere nice, are you?’