His bid for a bride(10)

By: Carole Mortimer

It was the warmth of those arms, being cradled against the solid hardness of a human chest, that was Skye’s complete undoing. The sob caught at the back of her throat, choking her, her body racked by those sobs as she gave into her feelings of complete desolation.

‘It’s all right, Skye,’ Falkner murmured, his hands moving comfortingly up and down her spine as he held her close against him. ‘I’m here. I’ll be here for as long as you need me. Skye, don’t…’he groaned with aching concern as his words only made her cry all the harder.

Seconds ago she had been overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness, emptiness, but as Falkner’s words penetrated the pain that consumed her, the warmth of his arms protecting her, she knew she wasn’t completely alone, that he meant what he said: he would be there for her for as long as she needed him.

But with that realization came the knowledge of the danger that awaited her there, a danger she had no idea, at this moment when she needed him so much, how to cope with; it would be all too easy to just let Falkner take over, to stay with him and never leave. And, loving him as she did, she knew she couldn’t do that.

She pulled back slightly, brushing the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. ‘I’m all right now,’ she dismissed, not quite able to meet the penetration of his searching blue gaze. ‘It was just—for a moment—I’m all right now,’ she repeated determinedly, pulling fully out of his arms to sit back against the door. As far away from Falkner as was possible in the close confines of the car.

‘Sure?’ he prompted gently.

She swallowed hard. If he was going to carry on being kind to her like this she knew she wouldn’t be able to cope. ‘Of course I’m sure,’ she told him tartly. ‘Let’s go, Falkner,’ she snapped as she sensed his continued gaze on her, her jaw clenched determinedly as she refused to return that gaze.

‘Okay,’ he finally accepted tersely, turning on the ignition to manoeuvre the car back into the flow of traffic. ‘Skye, we’re going to arrive in a few minutes, and—’

So there would be someone else there.

‘Don’t worry, Falkner,’ she cut in coldly. ‘I’ll promise I’ll try to be as unobtrusive as possible for the next couple of days. In fact, if you just show me to a bedroom, I can stay there until—until after Friday,’ she continued determinedly. ‘No one need even know I’m staying with you. You—’

‘Skye—shut up,’ he cut in harshly, his hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. ‘I don’t care who knows you’re there. I don’t care if you choose to walk around the house stark naked!’ he added grimly. ‘Am I making myself clear?’

‘Very.’ Her mouth twisted into the semblance of a smile at his obvious anger at her suggestion it might be better for him if he just hid her away somewhere. ‘But I think I’ll forgo the “walking around the house stark naked” bit, if you don’t mind!’

‘Pity.’ He shrugged. ‘It might have been—diverting,’ he drawled. ‘Although perhaps impractical with my housekeeper living in the house,’ he dismissed briskly, turning the car down the long gravel driveway that led to his house.

His housekeeper…

Skye gave him a searching glance, her confusion such that she didn’t know how to reply to his first statement. No doubt Falkner was just trying to divert her attention onto something less traumatic than the next couple of days—and no doubt he had succeeded.

The thought of her ever feeling confident enough around Falkner to stroll around his home naked was enough to confuse anyone!

‘You were saying something about when we arrive?’ she reminded him stiltedly.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ he dismissed tersely as he parked the car outside the house. ‘We can talk about that later too.’

There seemed to be an awful lot of things they were going to talk about later…?

But Skye put all that from her mind as Falkner got out of the car to come round and open her door for her, supporting her arm as she stepped down, nevertheless the movement causing pain to her ribs.

Falkner looked at her ruefully as she finally stood on the gravel driveway beside him. ‘You look as if you’ve gone ten rounds with Lennox Lewis,’ he drawled in answer to her questioning look.

She grimaced. ‘Believe me, parts of me feel as if I’ve gone ten rounds with Lennox Lewis!’

Falkner laughed softly, his hand on her elbow as they walked up the stone steps to the front door.