Lincoln worked at restoring order to the kitchen for the next forty minutes. Elodie hadn’t been wrong when she’d called herself a messy cook—it looked as if she had used every pot and utensil. He was used to good food—his housekeeper was an excellent cook, who always prepared nutritious and interesting meals. But seeing the effort Elodie had gone to over dinner—especially after experiencing the shock of Morag’s medical episode—deeply impressed him.
He was learning more and more about her upbringing, and he realised now how little he had understood her in the past. No wonder she had looked done in and gone to bed early. She had been triggered by his housekeeper’s sudden collapse—no doubt because of all the times she had witnessed her twin suffering an attack of anaphylaxis.
What could be more terrifying to a small child than to see her twin sister desperately ill? He hadn’t realised how pushed aside she had felt by her mother’s overprotectiveness of Elspeth. Of course any parent would struggle to balance the needs of their children under such difficult circumstances. But Elodie had hinted at the way she had fought to be noticed—by seeking attention by negative means. Hadn’t she done that during their previous relationship? Hadn’t her constant bickering over inconsequential things been a continuation of that pattern of behaviour?
Lincoln finally made it upstairs, only to find Elodie soundly asleep. She was curled up in a ball like a sleeping kitten, her hair a red-gold cloud splayed across the pillow. He pulled the covers up a little more and then leaned down to press a light-as-air kiss to the top of her head. She made a soft murmur and burrowed deeper into the mattress, her eyes remaining closed, her dark lashes like miniature fans resting softly against her cheeks.
He stood looking at her for a long moment, and felt something in his chest tightening, straining, like a silk thread pulling against his heart. This subtle shift in their relationship was bringing up other issues he wasn’t sure he wanted to face.
But the timeline was set.
He had insisted it was non-negotiable.
Damn it, it was non-negotiable.
And yet something about being with Elodie now made it harder for him to imagine going back to his playboy lifestyle. Or was it because he didn’t like thinking about her with someone else? He hadn’t considered himself the green-eyed monster type, but thinking about her with someone else tied his gut into knots. Strangely, he had found himself confessing to her how eaten with jealousy he had been that night they’d run into each other in Soho—even though he had rigorously denied it before.
Showing any hint of vulnerability was normally anathema to him. He didn’t do it in his professional life. He didn’t do it in his personal life.
He didn’t do it, period.
So why was he even tempted to do it now?