‘Hey, Saskia.’ As children he and his sister had been close, in recent years less so. Because whilst Saskia hadn’t sided with their parents, neither had she sided with Leo.
‘Roxy, this is Saskia. Saskia, this is Roxy.’
The two women exchanged greetings and then Saskia gestured to the house. ‘I came out to warn you. Jemima has already had a couple of cocktails and she is on the warpath. Says your date is toast.’ She sighed. ‘Try not to judge her. This is all Mum’s fault—she’s convinced Jem that you’re perfect for each other.’
Leo sighed. ‘Great.’ He pulled up a smile. ‘Thanks for the warning, Sas.’
‘No problem. I’d better go back before they notice I’m gone.’
He turned to Roxy. ‘I’m sorry about this. If you want to back out, I’d understand.’
‘No. It’s not your fault. Or Jemima’s, from the sound of it. So let’s do this.’
He held out his hand, and after a second’s hesitation, she placed her hand in his. The feeling of warmth , the easy intimacy intoxicatingly familiar. Even as he reminded himself this wasn’t real. Bottom line was his heart had been broken once over Roxy; he’d be all sorts of a fool to risk breaking it again. Four years ago, she’d rejected him. Four hours ago, she’d suggested he date Jemima.
As they entered the reception room, Diana descended on them, ‘Leo, darling…and…’ She allowed a calculated hint of surprise to enter her voice. ‘And…Rosemary.’
‘It’s Roxy, Mum.’
Next to him Roxy smiled. ‘It doesn’t matter. It’s lovely to see you again, Mrs Harding.’
‘Yes.’ The doubt was palpable in the air, but before Leo could reply, Jemima strode towards them.
‘Leo, it is so good to see you again. It’s been too long, and I so want to catch up. You don’t mind, do you, Rosie?’
‘Not in the slightest. I see Leo all the time—and I’m sure he’s dying to catch up.’
Jemima blinked and inwardly Leo applauded Roxy’s assurance, looked behind him as Jemima dragged him away and saw Saskia come forward to talk to Roxy.
‘I’m so proud of you,’ Jemima gushed.
‘Really? You weren’t proud when I left Starkes.’
Jemima opened her eyes wide. ‘Don’t be naïve, Leo. Don’t you know a woman loves a successful man.’
He did know that. The knowledge reinforced by the behaviour of his girlfriend and friends when he’d abandoned the family business. Then Roxy too had rejected him. That was fact. Yet…unlike Jemima, now that he was successful, Roxy wasn’t trying to date him. She was only here at Leo’s insistence. Plus, Roxy had always been supportive of his ideas. Leo’s head began to whirl. If Roxy had believed he would succeed, then why had she rejected him? Perhaps he should have asked that four years ago instead of letting his hurt pride get in the way of the question. He stared across the room at Roxy, wanted to stride over and ask her now. But first—
‘Dinner is served,’ Diana Harding trilled.
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