‘I wanted to prove to you we can be together, despite our time apart.’ He stroked the backs of his fingers down her cheek, a sense of satisfaction rushing through him when she closed her eyes briefly, those lovely long lashes lying on her pale skin.
When she opened her eyes and looked up at him the green of her eyes was so vivid, so bright he was dragged into her soul, into her heart. He knew then that her feelings for him hadn’t changed. She’d told him more than once she loved him until one day, unable to tolerate it any longer, he’d thrown it back at her before walking out on his new marriage. He’d done it to save her pain, to save her heartache, but instead he’d created more. Now was a time to be honest, to tell her he did want to be in his child’s life, in her life, but he knew that he couldn’t allow himself to love her, not in the way she wanted. He owed it to her, to his child, to be honest.
‘And that’s all?’ The hope in those whispered words tugged at his conscience like a gale-force wind rushing in off stormy seas, but he couldn’t yield to it, couldn’t let it affect him. Not when his childhood had taught him that those he loved always left him, making him lock his heart away. He didn’t deserve the happy ever after Lisa craved so much.
‘We had a good marriage, Lisa. We had passion—lots of it.’ He lowered his head and brushed his lips over hers; the soft sigh of desire she made only heightened his own, his need for her. ‘I warned you I didn’t go in for love and romance. You knew that before we married.’
‘I just thought…’ she said softly, the words dying on her lips as her eyes met his.
More than anything he wanted to kiss her again, to claim her as his once more, to show her that even while he couldn’t say words of love to her he desired her, wanted her in the most primal way a man could want a woman.
He shook his head. ‘Don’t overthink things, Lisa. We married because we couldn’t get enough of one another and now we will remain married because of our child. A child created with desire and passion so strong that neither of us could deny it then—or now.’
* * *
Lisa’s heart thumped so hard in her chest that she was sure it was echoing around the cosy cottage he’d presented her as a Christmas gift. Did he know that he was playing to her childhood insecurities by doing that? Did he know that in this house was all she’d ever wanted? Even the handsome man to live happily ever after with?
‘So this is all because I am carrying your child?’ The words sprang from her before she had time to think, time to work out this bizarre situation. The passion in the air around them evaporated and she was glad of that. Just now, kissing him under the mistletoe had been a mistake, one that had very nearly made her forget everything.
‘In part, yes, but also to show I can be in your life—in our child’s life.’ He touched her face again, sparking up the intense heat of passion. She wouldn’t be able to resist him, she knew that without any doubt, and before she ended up exactly where she’d vowed never to be again—in his bed—she wanted to clear things between them.
‘Is that to show you or me?’ A spark of defiance raced through her.
He frowned slightly, but the darkness of his eyes remained full of desire. ‘I deserve that.’
The moment of honesty almost fooled her, but she had her own honest moment to deal with first. ‘I never knew about your brother, the headlines. I wouldn’t have added to it all on the same day if I had.’
He sighed. ‘I just couldn’t think straight. So much was happening, so fast.’
A wave of sympathy curled through her. He’d had more than most men to deal with in recent weeks and she knew better than most what the past could do, how it could haunt you, colour your views and follow you through your life.
‘I have always wanted children, one day, although I am only too aware you don’t feel the same. I could never subject a child to the kind of childhood either of us experienced, but the fact is that I am pregnant and you made me feel that it was all my fault. We both drank too much wine, Max, both allowed ourselves to forget all we’d agreed on about being professional.’
‘More than a little wine.’ He smiled and her relief must have shown on her face. ‘Do you forgive me?’
He pressed his lips lightly on hers, testing her reaction.
‘Give me one good reason why I should,’ she teased, thankful the mood had lightened, the heady passion returning. All it took was one light kiss, one gentle touch, one desire-filled look and she was lost.
‘Because it’s Christmas Eve.’ He said the words between light kisses and she closed her eyes to the sensation of fire on her skin.