The sharpness of her voice jolted him, a jolt he needed. Because his mind and body had gone into overdrive at the sight of her. The urge to sweep her into his arms, to drink in her beauty, to check if she were OK. The last time he’d seen Roxy, she’d been in a hospital bed, swathed in bandages. The air drenched with the scent of flowers; he’d filled her room with her favourites. He’d entered with such high hopes, buoyed by the knowledge that Roxy was on the road to recovery. He’d launched into his proposal full of joy and confidence in their future together. First, he’d reassured her that he’d look after her whilst she got better and then forever. Outlined their life together, their happy-ever-after. He’d talked of his plans once the Hardingo succeeded—a lovely house, the family they would have. Then he had got down on one knee and proposed.
And she had rejected him. ‘It wouldn’t work, Leo. I know you mean well, but it’s an unrealistic dream, pie in the sky.’
The words had echoed his parents’ and they had slain him, each one a bullet that reopened the wound they had made. Roxy didn’t believe in him. Anger and hurt roiled through him even as he’d asked, ‘Why wouldn’t it work? How can you say that?’
‘Because it’s true. Everything you just said, it’s not real. Life doesn’t work out like that. I know it doesn’t.’ He could have sworn a tear glistened in her eye. ‘It’s a fool’s dream and I won’t buy into it.’
Any more than his parents had. The words were the knockout punch and he knew he must have imagined the tear. His pride wouldn’t allow him to question or beg. She’d made her choice.
And thrived on it, he thought now as he looked at her, tried to recall her question. She’d asked what she was doing here.
He raised his eyebrows. ‘I’m hoping you’re here to save the day with some Dolci desserts. I called Dolci in because I wanted to help Ava out.’ Her father had invested in the Hardingo, and Ava, Leo and Roxy had been friends back in their modelling days. ‘I know Dolci is having a hard time.’
‘I understand why you called Dolci in. But why me specifically?’
‘Because I did some research. Your strawberry cheesecake won a prestigious award. An eminent food critic said it “explodes in sensory delight. Light and dense, smooth and crumbly, a combination that ignites every taste bud. An experience not to be missed”.’
A smile lit her face and he had to brace against the impact. ‘It was pretty good cheesecake.’
‘Exactly. And I want the best for my launch party.’ The words were true, though not the whole truth. He wanted Roxy to see that she had been wrong, that he had made it. Not that he’d tell her that. ‘It’s nothing personal.’ He’d swear he could feel his nose extending. ‘So will you do it?’
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