They stopped an hour later beside a narrow stream. Liam got out and stretched his legs, she sat with the car door open admiring the landscape. ‘It’s at times like this,’ he said, ‘that I count my blessings.’
Rachel frowned. ‘What do you mean?’ What sort of blessings was he talking about? This wasn’t the Liam she knew, the hard-hitting businessman with a brain as sharp as a razor. That man would never stop to admire a view, he would not even see it. He was accustomed to driving from one meeting to another, flying from one country to another. How could he be counting his blessings here? Unless he was talking about their situation. The fact that they were miles from anywhere and she was completely at his mercy.
‘I’ve tried city life,’ he said, almost more to himself than to her. ‘For a short spell I lived in London. But I couldn’t imagine myself living there permanently. I guess it’s because of where I was brought up. We had a cottage by a lake, I used to go fishing with my father.’
‘And you’re telling me this because?’ prompted Rachel.
‘Because you must be wondering why I like it here.’
‘I have to confess that you surprise me. I really can’t imagine you staying in that cottage on your own. Ever.’
‘There are lots of things about me you don’t know.’
And perhaps it was as well that she didn’t. ‘Have you ever brought your girlfriend here?’
He shook his head and just for a moment his mind drifted.
Rachel guessed he was thinking about her, missing her, looking forward to her return.
‘She wouldn’t like it,’ he said. ‘It’s too lonely. She likes people.’
‘It doesn’t sound to me as though you’re suited.’
His dark brows rose. ‘Then you don’t know me as well as you think you do. There are two sides to every coin. I’m not averse to cities and nightlife, but everything in moderation. How about you? What are your preferences?’
‘I’ve never even thought about it,’ she said. ‘I like where I live. It’s a busy place but not overcrowded.’
‘Do you go out clubbing?’
She flashed her eyes impatiently. ‘Of course not. I don’t see him outside office hours.’
‘Do you have a boyfriend?’
‘Would I be here with you of I had? How would I have explained it?’
‘So why haven’t you? Got a boyfriend I mean. You’re a very attractive woman, Rachel. Most women in their early thirties are settled down with children.’
‘I am not most women.’ She was annoyed by his attitude. Of course she wanted to be married, she wanted a family, but it hadn’t happened. There had been only one man she loved enough to want to marry - and he was standing right here. No longer her lover but her jailor.
‘You’re still waiting for Mr Right?’
‘I’m not waiting for anyone,’ she flashed. ‘I’m getting on with my life. At least I was until you decided to kidnap me.’
‘That’s a very strong word.’
‘So what else would you call it?’
‘An invitation,’ he said.
‘You invited me here, is that what you’re saying?’ Her eyes challenged him to deny it. He really did think he could get away with what he had done. He didn’t accept that his actions could be seen as criminal.
‘Did I carry you fighting into my helicopter? No! Have you made any attempts to escape since you came here? No!’
‘That’s not fair,’ she cried. ‘How can I run away with a sprained ankle? Which incidentally is hurting like hell. I bet you didn’t think of that when you made your plans this morning?’
‘Actually, yes, I did,’ he said much to her surprise.
He opened his car boot. ‘Voila!’
The cool box!
Damn! She had hoped to catch him out. She had wanted to make him feel guilty. It would never work, not on a man like Liam.
‘But I have an even better idea.’ Without waiting to explain he lifted her out of the car and carried her a few yards to where a cluster of boulders edged the stream. He sat her down, took the protective cuff off her ankle, allowing her to put her feet into the cold running water.
It was sheer heaven. Bliss. It soothed like nothing else could.
‘It is good?’
He was smiling, pleased with himself, and for just a moment she wanted to kiss him. But only for a miniscule moment. He might have done the right thing now but it was his fault she was in this predicament. ‘It helps,’ she admitted.
‘Then we will stay here a while.’ Liam lowered himself on to one of the adjoining rocks and they sat there looking at the water as it continued its journey.
Rachel wished that he hadn’t sat so close. Her awareness increased by the second and she didn’t see how she could be angry with him and yet feel sexual hunger at the same time. It made no sense.
She closed her eyes and tried to will herself into a different frame of mind, but although she couldn’t see him she could feel him. He was looking at her. Watching her speculatively. Probably wondering what she was thinking. And when she felt his fingertips brush back her hair where the breeze had blown it across her face she could do nothing to stop him. In fact it was Liam himself who suddenly sprang to his feet. ‘Time to move on.’