A Contract for His Runaway Bride - Page 28

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‘We knew each other physically, but not emotionally.’

Lincoln moved so that he was looking out at the moonlit view, his forehead creased in a frown. ‘I’m not saying you were totally to blame for our breakup,’ he said. ‘I didn’t like how you went about it, that’s all.’

His grip on his wine glass was so tight, she was worried it might break.

‘You should’ve told me you weren’t happy,’ he added.

‘But that’s my point. We never talked about things. We never got that far. You were always busy chasing your next big deal, becoming more and more successful, as if that was the only thing that really mattered to you. I was nothing more than an ornament to you. A plaything you enjoyed having at your disposal. I was never your equal.’

He put his glass on the balustrade too, as if he too was worried it might shatter under his grip. He turned to look at her, his expression still in shadow. ‘Why did you feel you couldn’t talk to me?’

The quality of his tone had changed—become softer, less defensive, more concerned.

Elodie blew out a soft breath. ‘I don’t know...’ She gave a little shrug and continued, ‘Maybe because I didn’t think you would understand how important having a career was to me. I got the impression you wanted me to be a homemaker, like your adoptive mother, not a career woman. It scared me because that’s what happened to my mum. She gave up everything to take care of Elspeth when she got sick. Then my dad left when we were six and poor Mum was left with nothing. No career, no money and no support other than the pittance he sent only because he was legally required to, not because he wanted to. No wonder she turned into a nervous wreck who never seemed to notice she had two children, not just one. I didn’t just lose my dad when he left—I lost my mother too.’

There was a silence.

Lincoln reached out with one of his hands to brush a loose tendril of hair away from her face. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t realise how hard that must’ve been for you. I knew your father was a bit of a lost cause, but I didn’t know you felt pushed aside by your mother as well.’

Elodie grimaced. ‘It’s not really her fault. She did her best, and Elspeth was so sick a couple of times that losing her was a very real possibility. I learned to get attention in other ways—not always sensible ways, mind you...but, hey, it worked until it didn’t.’

Lincoln’s hand moved to capture one of hers, his fingers warm and gentle as he cradled it as if it was a baby bird. ‘I guess none of us get out of childhood without a few issues, but it must have been terrifying to think you might lose your twin. You’re still close, yes?’

Elodie smiled a little wistfully. ‘Yes, she’s amazing—especially now she’s in love. She’s really blossomed. Mack’s been wonderful for her and she for him.’ Her smile faded and she added, ‘But I guess now Mack will be her go-to person, not me.’

Lincoln began an idle stroking over the back of her hand with his thumb, his gaze still trained on hers. ‘I’m sure she’ll always have a special place in her life for you.’

‘Are you close to your siblings? And your father?’

He looked down at their joined hands for a moment, a slight frown pulling at his brow. ‘I’m probably not as attentive a son and big brother as I should be. I’m always busy with work and travelling and so on.’ He looked back at her and gave a rueful smile. ‘Sylvia is always nagging me to make more time for family gatherings, but it’s not the same without Mum.’

There was a thread of sadness in his tone that made her realise how deeply he still missed his adoptive mother. And now he had to face the prospect of losing his biological mother. Was it any wonder he would do anything—including marrying her—to make Nina’s last days as peaceful and happy as possible?

Elodie found herself moving closer to him, one of her hands going to rest against his chest, the other reaching up to stroke the side of his lean jaw. ‘Oh, Lincoln, I’m so sorry you lost her. And now you have to face losing Nina too.’

Lincoln settled his hands on her hips, his expression cast in grave lines. ‘The thing that gets me is not knowing for sure when it will be. She looks fine at the moment—you’d hardly think anything was wrong. And yet on another day she can go down quickly and need to be in bed all day.’

‘But you said the doctors told you no more than three or four months?’

He let out a serrated sigh. ‘That was what they said the last time I spoke to them. It’s not a long time, is it?’

‘No, but I read this saying once: even the dying are still living. It’s important that Nina gets to do all the things she wants to do. I meant what I said about designing a new wardrobe of clothes for her. I was mentally preparing sketches during dinner. I can’t wait to get started.’

Lincoln smiled and lifted one of his hands to brush her cheek with his fingers. ‘She’s quite taken with you. I knew she would be.’

Elodie chewed at her lip for a moment. ‘I can’t help feeling a bit compromised, though. I mean, pretending we’re madly in love when we can barely stand the sight of each other...’

He eased up her chin and locked gazes with her, his expression serious. ‘Do you hate me that much?’

The problem was that she didn’t hate him at all. She had the opposite problem—she was madly, deeply, crazily in love with him. Had she ever not been in love with him? She had tried to deny it, hide it, disguise it, but while it was possible to hide it from him, she couldn’t hide it from herself. And hadn’t Nina noticed it too? The older woman had intuitively sensed the feelings Elodie was keeping under lock and key for fear of being rejected.

Elodie gazed into the darkness of his eyes and tried to ignore the fluttering of her pulse. Tried to ignore the sensual pull of his body, the magnetic energy that drew her even closer until her hips were flush against his. ‘No... I don’t hate you...’ Her voice came as a whisper, as soft as the night breeze currently playing with the tendrils of her hair.

He framed her face in his hands, his gaze still trained on hers. ‘It would be easier if you did, you know...’ His voice was as rough as the stone balustrade that held their wine glasses.


Tags: Melanie Milburne Billionaire Romance
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