She sat there in the car watching the rain come down relentlessly, asking herself why on earth had she ventured out on such a miserable night? Was she that desperate to find out if the rumors were true? From where she sat, she couldn’t tell if anyone was home. There were no lights in the windows. The rain didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon. She couldn’t sit here all night waiting for it to stop but she didn’t relish the idea of getting soaked either.
It was starting to feel a bit cold in the car now. She reached for her jacket and pulled it on. Should she call to see if he was at home or just start the engine and drive away?
As she debated what she ought to do, the passenger door suddenly opened, startling her. Ronan pushed his head in. “What on earth are you doing out here in the rain?” he demanded.
“I-I came to see you.”
“I saw when you drove up about twenty minutes ago. Why didn’t you ring the bell?”
“I was waiting for the rain to stop”
“By the looks of it, it isn’t going to end anytime soon.”
“I don’t have an umbrella.”
“I have one.” He withdrew his head and shut the door. In a flash he was opening her door. “Let’s go,” he said, holding the umbrella so that when she got out she would be sheltered.
Grabbing her handbag and keys, she got out of the car and closed the door. She huddled close to him as they made their way up the courtyard which led to the front entrance of the sprawling manor. After he closed and leaned the umbrella against the wall in the closet, they entered the spacious drawing-room with the fire crackling in the fireplace.
She walked over to it and stood there warming her hands. She could feel him watching her. He hadn’t offered to take her jacket. Perhaps, he wasn’t expecting her to stay long. She took it off. It wasn’t soaked so she placed it in a chair nearby and then returned to warming her hands.
“What was so urgent that you had to see me tonight?” he asked, folding his arms.
Taking a deep breath, she turned to face him. Her heart was pounding as she began to think that she should have waited until tomorrow or the weekend to come and see him. Well, she was here now and he was waiting for an answer. “Are the rumors true?”
He frowned. “What rumors?”
“The ones about Arabella and you.”
“Arabella and me? What have you been hearing about us?”
“That you’re planning to ask her to marry you.”
He laughed caustically. “Arabella and me? Don’t be ridiculous.”
Her mouth tightened. “What’s so ridiculous about that?” she demanded. “And don’t laugh at me. I hate when you do that. Sometimes you treat me like a child and I hate it, Ronan.”
He sobered. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t laughing at you. I was laughing at the idea of Arabella and me getting married when we can’t even stand each other. And as far as treating you like a child, I don’t mean to. It’s just that you’re so young…”
“I’m not that young,” she replied. “I’m twenty.”
“And I’m thirty-nine, so that makes you very young to me.”
“So, there’s no possibility of us becoming more than in-laws?”
His expression became guarded. “You should be dating someone closer to your age,” he said quietly.
“Maybe I should be but I’m not. Ronan…”
“Tiana, we shouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
“Why not? You aren’t dating anyone and neither am I. Why can’t we date each other? And please, I don’t want to hear any more about our age difference.”
“It looks like it’s going to be another one of those stormy nights so you’ll have to spend the night.”
It hurt that he had changed the subject. Her mouth tightened and she quickly pulled on her jacket. “Thank you but no. I’m not going to spend the night here.”
“Tiana, you can’t seriously be thinking of driving home in that weather.”
“I’m not a child. I can take care of myself. Goodbye!” She turned to march out of the room when in a matter of seconds he was in front of her, barring her way. “Please get out of my way.”
He caught her by the shoulders, his expression thunderous. “You said you’re not a child, so stop acting like one and be sensible. It’s gotten worse out there. The visibility is poor. You can’t drive in that. Spend the night and you can leave first thing in the morning. The storm should pass by then.”
It made sense to stay there and it was the safest thing to do. “Fine, I’ll stay.” She struggled and he released her. She removed her jacket again.
“Let me take your jacket,” he said. “Have you had anything to eat?”
“Thank you.” She gave him her jacket. “No. I haven’t had anything to eat.”
“I’ll fix you something. I’ll be right back.” He left the room.
She went over to the window and looked out. It was really bad out there. The rain was coming down in buckets and she could hear the wind howling. It would have been foolish and dangerous trying to drive in such conditions. Why did she leave her flat to come here tonight? It could have waited until tomorrow or the weekend. She came all this way and for what? Only to be told again that they couldn’t be in a relationship because of the age difference. Damn him. She wished she wasn’t madly in love with him. At least she had found out what she wanted to know–the rumors about Arabella and him weren’t true.
He returned to tell her that he had fixed her some dinner and it was in the kitchen. She followed him into the big and cozy room where a plate of hot food was waiting for her. She pulled out the chair and sat down as he put a hot toddy in front of her. “You may join me in the study when you’re finished,” he said.
He inclined his head and left.
Dinner was Thai Pineapple Fried Rice and it was absolutely delicious. Ronan was an excellent cook. She wished she could cook like this. Maybe she should ask him to teach her. She smiled at the thought. The two of them in the kitchen, him trying to teach her and getting impatient like when he taught her how to drive.
When she was finished, she washed the dirty plate and fork. She took the hot toddy with her to the study. He was standing at the window, looking out but turned when she entered. “Have a seat,” he said, indicating the accent chair nearby.
“Thank you for dinner,” she said as she sat down. “It was delicious.”
“Maybe you can teach me how to be a better cook.”
“I’m not sure if that would be a good idea,” he said, leaning against the window seat with his arms folded.
“Remember how we fought like a cat and dog when I was teaching you how to drive?”
“Yes, but that was three years ago. I’m sure we won’t get into any fights in the kitchen.”
He didn’t look convinced. “I’ll think about it.”
“All right.” She sipped the hot toddy as her eyes traveled over the bookshelves filled with books. Perhaps, she should see what interesting books he had that she could borrow.
They talked for a while and then it was time to go to bed. She was to sleep in one of the guest rooms. And he lent her a pajama shirt. He had a spare toothbrush when he gave her. After she brushed her teeth, she changed into the pajama shirt. It was a nice, spacious room with a comfy looking queen-sized bed. She could hear the rain hitting against the windows. After she read her Bible and said her prayers, she went to look for him to say goodnight.
She found him in the study, sitting behind the desk, with his foot propped up on the desk, reading a magazine. He didn’t glance up so she walked over to him. “I just wanted to say goodnight.”
He looked then and for a brief moment, his eyes traveled over her, settled on her legs which were showing beneath the pajama shirt before they returned to her face. “Goodnight,” he replied abruptly before he resumed his reading.
Grimacing, she turned on her heel and left the room.
Alone, he closed the magazine and tossed it on top of the desk. Dragging his fingers through his hair, he swung his feet to the ground and stood up. He turned off the light and left the study. He went into the living-room and over to the bar where he poured himself a shot of whiskey.
Why on earth did she have to come here tonight, of all nights when the weather was so bad that she had to stay over? How was he going to get any sleep now with her sleeping just down the hall wearing very little under that pajama shirt which looked a darn sight better on her than it ever did on him? Damn her. He poured himself another shot. It was after midnight by the time he went to bed and he lay there for a long time, listening to the rain, the wind and the thunder and thinking about her in that pajama shirt.
Source: Cookie and Kate;