She stared at him, a beat of panic pulsing over her skin. Maybe not for him. He could just lie back and enjoy the aftermath of release. But feeling calm and happy carried a different risk for her.
‘I’m not overthinking,’ she lied.
She let her hair fall forward to hide her face. It wasn’t a complete lie, more a half-truth. But she wasn’t ready to tell him the whole truth.
‘Frankie, look at me.’
His voice was impossible to ignore. Lifting her head, she met his gaze.
‘Look, I haven’t had a day off in a long time and you need a break,’ he said. ‘We’re just going to spend it together.’
Her heart missed a beat.
Could she? Should she?
But she’d already answered both those questions by coming back. And Arlo wasn’t offering something solid or permanent—something that could be lost or broken. It wasn’t a contract of commitment. What they had, what they both wanted, was purely physical. So why not let it run its course?
‘I’d like that.’
‘I’d like that too,’ he said, his dark eyes locking with hers.
She felt her body start to melt. It was lucky, she thought, that she didn’t have feelings for Arlo. To love a man who made you feel this way would be terrifying.
But then his head dipped, and he pulled her against him, and she stopped thinking and surrendered to a wave of want and need and heat...
* * *
Frankie had been slightly worried about facing Constance again, but as it turned out Frankie was not the only person who had returned to the island. Throughout the day more and more staff kept arriving.
Arlo seemed amused by her astonishment. ‘What did you think? That Constance did everything on her own?’
She had. But now she thought about it, it seemed ridiculously obvious that that would be impossible. The house was vast, and then there were the gardens, and the island itself...
‘There are twelve people working here full-time.’
‘What? Even when you’re not here?’
He nodded. ‘Most of the staff have been here for at least a decade. They’re like family.’
Frankie smiled, but inside she felt that familiar ache of loss and envy at the word family. Only she had no right to envy the very thing she had helped destroy, she thought, as Arlo introduced her to Constance’s team of indoor staff.
‘You can meet everyone else later,’ he said as they left the kitchen. ‘This way.’
He touched her lightly on the back and she felt a flicker of heat low in her belly. ‘Where are we going?’
‘Nero needs a run. I thought we could go down to the beach.’ His dark gaze rested on her face. ‘Work up an appetite.’
It was glorious outside.
The sky was an almost Mediterranean blue, and the tide was out, and to her amazement the beach was sandy. Arlo rolled his eyes as she pulled off her boots and socks, but then he did the same.
‘Oh, it’s freezing!’ She gasped as the sea swirled over her bare feet. But only for a moment. Then it was still cold, but in a good way. ‘It’s so beautiful,’ she said, gazing down the beach. ‘It actually
makes my heart beat faster.’
Arlo picked up a stick and hurled it a ridiculous distance down the beach. ‘Are you sure that isn’t me?’
Reaching down herself, she flicked some cold water at him and then started to run. He caught her easily, pulling her against him so that she felt suddenly breathless with his nearness.