Font Size:  

‘But you were drinking a toast to your new life.’

‘New pastimes, new occupations to run alongside Bond Steel, not a whole raft of personal involvements I know can only end in disaster.’

‘A whole raft?’

For a moment she thought he was trying not to smile— and not in a nasty way, or a point-scoring way. ‘You know what I mean.’ She sounded edgy, and she was. She was determined he wouldn’t turn this back into some sort of emotional ping-pong. She was going to stick to the facts whatever he threw at her.

‘So, tell me about these changes.’

‘I’m not even sure about them myself yet.’ She couldn’t see a hint of a smile on his face now, and was reassured enough to ask, ‘Would you like that drink now?’

‘Before I go?’

He was gently teasing her, Lisa realised, careful to remain unmoved. ‘Yes. Champagne all right for you?’ She glanced at the shelf where all her crystal glasses were lined up in rows.

‘Lalique?’ Tino murmured, but, in case she thought he was impressed, he added wryly, ‘Are they dusty?’

‘I doubt it.’ Lisa smiled a little too now, but she still wasn’t quite sure she was ready for his humour. ‘Vera looks after me too well for anything in here to be dusty.’ She knew what he was getting at. They both had so much, so many material things, but they had no one special to share any of it with.

‘So, come on,’ he pressed, ‘I’m waiting to hear about these changes to your life—’

‘Like I said, I’m not sure, Tino.’

‘I think we’d better drink a general toast,’ he suggested dryly.

Pouring the champagne, Lisa was careful not to touch his hand when she gave him the glass.’

‘To us,’ he said.

‘To us,’ Lisa echoed, staring at him over the rim of her glass. ‘Won’t you sit down?’

She pointed to the sofa where he assumed she had been making herself comfortable when he’d arrived. There was a cosy throw to wrap around her pyjamas flung over the back of it, and a pair of ridiculous fluffy slippers sticking out underneath. And now he saw that her feet were bare, and that her toenails looked like perfect pink shells…

Putting his glass down on the table, he looked at her… He could see she wanted to say something. ‘Lisa?’ he prompted. ‘What is it?’

‘About the flowers—’

When he had first arrived at the apartment, and she had tried to apologise, he had been ungracious. His head had been filled with memories of the hurt and anger he had felt when she’d walked into her room at Villa Aphrodite and made a mockery of his gift. But now it was different, now they were both calmer… and the least he owed her was a chance to explain. He held her gaze, willing her to go on.

‘The flowers were special, Tino, very special, and so was the thought behind them. I can’t believe I didn’t realise they were your gift to me.’

The way she was looking at him now, with her eyes so wide and troubled, touched something deep inside him, and feelings welled up from some hidden place so that he wanted to go to her and hold her in his arms.

‘I couldn’t believe you would do something like that for me, that anyone would.’

She made a helpless gesture, as if she was hunting for the right words with the same lack of success he had run up against when he had first arrived. ‘Won’t you sit down with me?’ he suggested gently.

She came to then, and stared at him with sharper focus. ‘No—I’d better not. And, Tino, that toast we made—’ She frowned as she looked at her glass. ‘When I said, ‘‘to us’’, of course I meant ‘‘to us’’ independently.’

‘Of course.’ He kept his expression neutral. ‘Us. Independently,’ he added dryly.

This awkwardness between them was new. They could rage at each other, or deal analytically with each other across a boardroom table quite comfortably, but this tiptoeing around each other was like starting over, working through something very carefully to find out if it could be safe…

‘I can’t bear to be hurt, Tino.’

The frank confession made him doubly alert. She was looking at him, totally oblivious to the fact that she had her arms wrapped around her waist in a defensive gesture.

Articles you may like