Siobhan Kerr awoke with a start, her heart pounding.
Was that a knock at the door? She ran a hand through her untidy hair and floundered to sit up on the ancient settee. However, she found the house silent. Great. Now, as well as being miserable, she must be hearing things.
Sighing, she collapsed back into the deep cushions. Hiding in the Gatehouse, her childhood home, had seemed like the best plan. Siobhan had skulked there for three days. The place never changed, that was its lure—its promise of keeping her safe.
The front room was warm and bright. The smell of roses lingered, even in the depths of winter. Overlaying that, the scent of pine resin drifted from the large spruce standing in the corner. Silver tinsel and ornaments loosely decorated the thick branches of the Christmas tree. Some of the little trinkets and carved figures had been in her family for generations. Siobhan’s heart slowed as she glanced over the room’s smooth, white walls and the patterned rugs covering old tiles. She always bolted home when she screwed up her life.
Her fiasco with Mark? Just another in a long, long line.
A dying fire cracked and spat in the huge fireplace and, above it, the large plain mirror reflected the cabinet that held her mother’s best china and the myriad photographs of her family. She’d thought her wedding photograph would take its place in that cabinet. She was wrong.
Mark had presented her with her Christmas present a few days early this year—he left her for his ex.
“I love Annabel and she loves me, Siobhan. I never had that from you. Never. You couldn’t even say it.” His expression twisted and for a moment, she caught a flicker of regret. Guilt gnawed at her. “You need to look at yourself and wonder why you just crashed and burned with yet another man.”
His words still stabbed. She thought they’d been okay, not exactly happy but…settled. Wincing, Siobhan scrubbed at her face. She wanted to sort out why she’d become so very bad at sharing her life with someone. She still had no clue—
“Yet another lazy day.”
Siobhan started, her heart hammering. It took her a second to realise that the tall, dark man wasn’t her former fiancé. Worse than that—this man owned the Bellingham Estate and the Gatehouse.
He leaned against the doorframe. She stared, her heart in her throat. He hadn’t changed. Not one bit. Her mouth kicked into gear. “Just barge in, Ethan, why don’t you!”
“Are you ever going to get dressed?” She watched Ethan Jacoby as he crossed the room. He dropped onto a faded armchair and smirked at her.
His gaze slid meaningfully down her body. The predatory glint to his eyes had her pulling at her pyjama shirt. His look had made her aware of the open buttons, which exposed her tingling skin. Had he always made her this nervous? She couldn’t remember. She hadn’t seen him since Mark proposed.
Siobhan swallowed, her mouth unexpectedly dry. “Everyone’s out.” She drew her legs up onto the settee, needing to protect herself from the unexpected heat in his gaze. Then up went her usual barrier…sarcasm. “My parents have gone last minute shopping. Should have known you’d turn up, Ethan. Come to gloat?”
He didn’t answer her question. Instead, with a sly smile that had her teeth on edge, he asked, “Are you saying that we’re alone?”
Her heart missed a beat. What was wrong with her today? Through the years, Ethan had obviously decided that harassing her over her love life had become his favourite pastime. He always appeared when yet another relationship performed a spectacular nosedive. Unfortunately, she faced him as a problem when she did bolt for home. His being sinfully attractive didn’t help and the fact that he never followed through with his hot promises…
Where had that thought come from? She’d known Ethan forever. Her father worked for him as his Estate Manager, after all. Siobhan pushed the silly idea of an attraction to Ethan out of her head. That smacked of craziness. What had happened to her supposed grief for an almost two-year relationship and finding out why all of her relationships ended in disaster? She should be doing that…not contemplating another one. And this was Ethan. Her friend. She didn’t think of him that way.