Authors: Sara Craven
He stared at her, raw hunger in his eyes, harsh colour burning along his cheekbones.
He said huskily, 'But we might be—later.' And cancelled the order.
An hour had passed before Chellie stirred in his arms, her body sated, her heart full.
She said, 'So you weren't just a figment of my imagination after all. I did wonder.'
'I'm total reality,' Ash returned drowsily. 'Give me a few minutes, and I'll prove it to you all over again.'
She kissed his naked shoulder. 'Do you know, I was actually nervous? Isn't that ridiculous?'
'No,' he said. 'I was nervous too.'
'Under pressure?' There was a smile in her voice. 'What happened to the cheroots?'
'I've given up smoking. All part of the reformation. If I'm going to be a family man, I want to live to enjoy it.'
'Oh,' she said. She paused. 'Is that what you're planning?'
'It was,' he said slowly. 'But now I'm beginning to wonder all over again if I'm being very unfair.'
Chellie sat up and glared at him. 'You gave back a small fortune and went to all this trouble to find me—and you're having second thoughts?' She shook her head. 'I don't believe it. Unless you've decided you don't want me after all.'
'I hardly believe it myself, but I'm trying to be unselfish.' He looked into her eyes. 'Chellie, you have a God-given talent as a singer. I saw suddenly how they reacted to you this evening. You were tearing the heart out of them. And it made me think—how can I take her away from this? Is marriage to me any kind of fair exchange?'
He shook his head. 'Dear God, you've just escaped from your father. Do you really want to replace him with a husband before you've had time to breathe? What the hell have I got to offer in return?'
He took her face gently between his hands. 'I want you to have your chance, Chellie. The life you said you wanted.'
'You're the life I want.' She smiled back at him, her eyes warm and tender, a lump gathering in her throat 'If you still want me. Singing is secondary. Although I suppose it could be handy as you're temporarily out of work. And spending everything you've got on expensive hotel suites and ladies to go with them.'
'Don't tell Dad I've no job,' he said. 'He thinks I'm his partner in his new brokerage and boat charter business, and is paying me accordingly. Why did you think I packed in the security game? I'd had enough of the high-risk activities and never staying anywhere more than a few days. I wanted a life too.'
He dropped a kiss on her hair. 'You see—you really were my last assignment.'
'So, where do we go from here?' She spread her fingers across his chest.
'How about a crash course in getting to know each other—no secrets—no half-truths? Just the two of us, talking and loving. And alone.'
'It sounds perfect,' she said. 'What did you have in mind?'
'Dad's looking at this new boat and wants me to give it a trial in the Bahamas. I—I hoped you might come with me.'
She sighed happily. 'It sounds like heaven. And I've been learning to cook too.'
'I'm seriously impressed.' There was tender laughter in his voice. 'But I meant everything I said about your singing. I want you to be free to follow your star. It would be wrong to tie you down.'
'I could be a working wife,' she said. 'At least until the babies come. Then I can sing them lullabies.'
'Ah, darling,' he said. And found her mouth with his.
'We do have one remaining problem,' he resumed, some time later. 'Your father. He's not going to be happy about this.'
'The more you let people go, the more they want to come back to you,' Chellie said softly. 'He hasn't learned that yet, but I have hopes.'
'I have hopes too,' he said. 'And dreams. And you're at the centre of each one of them.'
She drew him down to her and kissed him. . 'And we're going to make all our dreams come true, my love,' she whispered. 'You and I—together.' She smiled. 'And now you can order the champagne.'
But Ash's arms were already tightening round her. 'Later,' he said.