Heat flames my cheeks. ‘It was a one-night-stand, Ethan. By definition, we’re done.’
He nods thoughtfully. ‘And that’s what you want?’
‘Get out of my house, you little whore!’
The way she spun around, her face puce, her hair black.
‘Did you think you could bring her here and I wouldn’t know? Jesus, Jeremy. Did you think I didn’t smell her on the sheets? Our children will be home in ten minutes! Get her out of my house!’
I feel like I’m going to vomit. The horror of that lazy afternoon, of being woken up by my fiancé’s wife, by the realisation that I’d bought his story hook, line and sink-me-sinker, tears through me. I’d looked at Jeremy and seen all my dreams, and he was actually a walking nightmare.
How easy it had been to believe his lies!
‘I’m staying with my brother’s family while my place is being renovated.’
It had been his family! His kids’ drawings all over the fridge. His wife’s photo on the landing. How foolish I was.
I told myself I’d never be so stupid again. That I would never be so caught up in a man that I forgot common sense and rational thought.
I don’t want a relationship.
I don’t even want sex.
It was only Ethan too-good-to-resist Ash that made me forget that.
For one night.
‘Yeah.’ I nod, but it’s weak with uncertainty. ‘Look, Ethan...’ I sigh almost apologetically and a small part of my brain wonders how often Ethan Ash gets rejected. ‘I’m not looking for a relationship. The other night was great, but it was just sex. Really, really good sex...’
He nods, a droll expression on his face. ‘That’s why this is perfect.’
‘I don’t want a relationship either.’
He sips his drink, keeping his eyes latched to mine the whole time. He replaces it on the table without breaking eye contact.
‘I just want to fuck you.’
A lightning bolt of anticipation flashes down my spine. It is so tempting. And, hell, I want what he says he wants. I want to rip my clothes off and beg him to take me right there, on the manicured lawn and beneath the sultry grey sky.
But can we do that? Can we really just fuck without getting our emotions, all of ourselves, involved? I don’t know if I have what it takes for that.
‘It’s too complicated.’ I hear the prim rejection, and somewhere a part of me is glad that I have at least a degree of common sense.
‘There’s nothing complicated about what we feel,’ he contradicts.
I shake my head. ‘I can’t get involved.’
‘Why not?’ His eyes narrow speculatively and he’s tense suddenly. ‘Are you with someone else?’
My heart turns over at the very idea. I shake my head, but the memories of my affair are too strong inside me. Being cast as ‘the other woman’ without my knowledge and without my consent. It is a wound I will probably always carry. It doesn’t matter to Jeremy’s wife that I had no fucking clue he was married. That he was a dad. I slept with her husband. I got engaged to the father of her children.
I broke up a family.
Guilt colours my cheeks and I feel the warning sting of tears out of nowhere. I push them back.
‘Look...’ He sighs again. ‘I don’t know if you heard about it—I mean, it was all over the news at the time. I broke up with my girlfriend a few months back.’
His eyes show torment when they meet mine: a torment that is matched by my swirling gut.
I tilt my head to the side, trying to remember. My Poldark knowledge is exceptional, so too my knowledge of Westeros family trees, but real-world drama...?
‘It was completely messed up.’ He shakes his head, as if dismissing tormenting thoughts of his own. ‘The night I met you I’d just found out she got engaged.’
‘And you were pissed?’ I murmur.
It’s not a question, but he answers anyway. ‘That’s an understatement. I wanted to tear the world apart.’
Something strange shifts inside me. ‘How long were you together?’
He is quiet, and my experience with Jeremy reminds me that this is a sign of secrecy. That he’s hiding something from me.