Closure. Roxy wanted closure. Irrational disappointment seared him, burned deeper because Roxy didn’t believe his proposal had been genuine. Yet he understood. His heart twisted when he imagined Roxy as a child, missing her parents, adrift in a care system that had failed her, taught her that pity led to distorted love. As he looked at her bathed in firelight, so beautiful, her green eyes pensive with a glimmer of sadness, he wanted to hold her, tell her… Tell her what? Emotions jumbled inside him. Was he really willing to put his heart on the line? Too risky. Plus, Roxy would believe it was pity talking. So instead, he said, ‘I’m glad we had this conversation too. And I’d like to keep talking.’
He nodded. ‘There is so much I didn’t know. I knew you had been in care, but not how bad it was.’ Roxy hadn’t lied but had given the impression she’d been OK, with a good set of carers. ‘Would you tell me now what happened after you left your first carers?’ He raised his hands. ‘No pity. I swear it.’
She hesitated and then said, ‘I went completely off the rails. I was devastated. I believed I’d done something wrong. There was no way I would or could trust the next set of carers or the next.’ Her slim shoulders lifted in a shrug. ‘I ended up in a care home. It was pretty grim, but it was better for me. I got my act together, managed to get some qualifications and I got a job in a shop. Then I was spotted by a modelling agent and everything changed. I was lucky.’
‘You made your luck,’ he said. ‘If you hadn’t got your act together, you wouldn’t have had the discipline and ethos to be a professional model. I know even if you hadn’t been spotted, you’d have made it. Just like you’ve made it after the accident stopped your modelling career.’
‘Thank you.’ Roxy smiled at him, and his heart beat faster. ‘Now your turn. There’s so much I didn’t know about you as well. Especially your family.’
Leo tensed, but Roxy had shared so much with him. Time to reciprocate. ‘You met my family. They don’t do emotion; they do duty and responsibility. I always felt as though love was earnt depending on success. James and Saskia thrived on that—I didn’t. I never made the grade, literally and figuratively. I loathed boarding school. I wasn’t interested in becoming a marketing director at Starkes. I wanted to design things. I didn’t fit in. I failed them.’
‘And so you never felt loved. It’s a rubbish feeling. I know. Thank you for telling me. And thank you for listening without pity.’
Moving closer, she dropped the lightest of kisses on his cheek. Her glorious hair tickled his jaw and Leo held back a groan. He turned and brushed her lips with his. The taste of cocoa and Roxy more intoxicating than the most expensive of champagne.
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