“Jada, making you my wife is what I’ve wanted for the past five years, my ring on your finger, cemented in each other’s lives. Being yours, you being mine, has been my longest dream, my deepest wish.”
Zac listened to Felipe’s vows, his eyes drifting from his sister to his exquisite, temporary lover. They’d spent two nights together and they had been, bar none, the best nights of his life. For the first time in a long time, probably the first time, he lost and found himself in her. He adored her scent, loved stroking her smooth skin, tasting the honey between her legs, the spice of her mouth. Her touch made him feel like a man, strong, powerful, a goddamn warrior. When he was holding Karo, loving her—hell, even looking at her— made him feel like the best version of himself. Like he could move mountains, part seas, consider a relationship, be a father.
Sitting in the first row under the wild fig tree, Zac shifted on his chair and stared past Jada and Felipe to the lazy river behind them. Abruptly deciding he was only feeling sentimenal because he’d been submerged in romance this past week. His baby sister was ecstatic and her and Felipe’s love of life, and each other, was bound to rub off on the most cynical of their guest, him. When he returned to Buenos Aires, got back into the rhythm of work and life, he’d be able to shake off the “what if’s” and “maybes.”
Maybe he could be a husband and father…
What if he took a chance…?
Zac gritted his teeth and, deliberately, refused to look in Karo’s direction. In the morning, they’d have to say goodbye to her but here he was weaving dreams. He couldn’t believe that he was even thinking like this, wanting this—thing—with Karo to grow legs. Their lives on different continents precluded anything from happening between them in the future. They’d met less than a week ago and even if theirs was the great inter-continental love story—it wasn’t— he couldn’t ask her to uproot her life in the UK to move to Argentina. And while he had businesses in England and Europe, he couldn’t live in the UK full time.
Zac rubbed a hand over his face, wondering why he was contemplating a future together. There was nothing between them but good, great, sex. But his innate honesty had him scoffing at that justification, they were more than two bodies colliding in the night. In-between bouts of lovemaking and instead of sleeping they spoke about everything and anything. He told her how hard it was to build his company and raise a child, she told him about her son, who was the human equivalent of a category five hurricane. She told him how much she adored her aunt and uncle, he confessed that he worried Jada and Felipe were too young to marry.
She hated bananas and loved horror movies, he confessed that he collected vintage cars and loved old movies. He, the Argentinian, couldn’t tango. She could.
He felt at ease with her and he found himself telling her things he’d never shared with anyone before. He loved her body, it was a wonderland, but her mind was even more intriguing. She was both independent and intractable, sweet, strong, and a little savage. She knew what she wanted, loved her son with every cell in her body, and had the dirtiest laugh he’d ever heard. Karo didn’t bore him and, terrifyingly, Zac knew she never would.
And tomorrow he’d have to say goodbye. Forever.
“I now pronounce you man and wife, you may kiss your bride.”
It took Zac a minute to hear the clapping, to realize that everyone else was on their feet and that the bride and the groom were walking back down the aisle as a unit, joined in the most sacred of institutions. He admired their commitment, their faith in their love, and their future.
He hoped they lasted, he did. A love like theirs required a person to be brave and to be bold.
He was both in business but when it came to his personal life? Not a chance.
He’d end it tonight, Zac decided. Although he wanted another night with Karo, it wasn’t wise. If he waited until tomorrow, if he spent another night loving her, he might start looking for reasons to make this work, to keep her in his life.
He didn’t want a partner, another child to raise, to be confined and contained. He’d promised himself freedom, to do as he wanted, when he wanted. This was his time to spoil himself.
So why didn’t that scenario sound as attractive as it did a week ago?
Around five the next morning, Karo stood on the balcony of her private villa, watching the light of dawn creep over the horizon. In two hours she’d be catching the first of three flights out of Kagiso and, later this morning, she’d catch a flight back to the UK. Tomorrow sometime, she’d be able to cuddle her boy.
She couldn’t wait. Being Max’s mom was all she needed, all she wanted to be.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being with you, sleeping with you. Thank you but I feel it's best this ends, now, tonight.”
Zac’s words, coming at the end of a fantastic evening, had sideswiped her. Oh, she knew that there was no chance of their brief liaison extending beyond her time in South Africa, but she’d expected him to kiss her goodbye tomorrow—later on today—after a last, lovely night together.
Karo gripped the balcony and dropped her head, scrunching her eyes closed, her heart whimpering. Despite knowing that Zac wasn’t a long-term guy, someone who wasn’t into commitment, she’d, so stupidly, fallen for him.
No, she’d fallen in love with him. She’d caught feelings, a huge, overbearing load of them.
Placing her elbows on the railing, Karo held her head in her arms, cursing the tears rolling down her cheeks. Zac was everything she wanted in a man—strong, determined, intelligent— and she knew he’d be a great dad to her son and a fantastic partner and lover. He was…God, the other piece of her soul, the puzzle piece she’d been missing.
And yes, despite only knowing him for a week, she was in love with him, utterly, ridiculously, comprehensively. Stepping into his arms felt like how she did when she walked into her cottage at home, secure, safe, protected. He was strength and sexiness, laughter, and love, the place where her heart felt most at home. And if he asked, she’d move continents, galaxies to be with him.
But he’d never ask and she’d never beg. And even if he was interested in having any sort of relationship with her—and, judging by his this-was-fun-but-I’m-done conversation last night, he didn’t— she wasn’t interested in a long-distance relationship, having him drop into, and out of, their lives. She deserved better, so did Max.
Karo brushed her tears away and squared her shoulders. She could drive herself nuts wondering and wishing, turning over scenarios in her head. But the truth was that Zac didn’t want what she did. He was attracted to her but there was a chasm between lust and love.
And Zac had no interest in building a bridge.
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