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Just To Be With You (Page 61)

The power flickered a couple of times during their impromptu photo shoot and before she and the kids and the puppy left, Kelly said, “Looks like the power might finally go. There are some lanterns just down the stairs if you end up needing them.”

* * *

They’d only just finished washing the dishes when the lights did indeed go out. Ian had already brought the lanterns up and when he turned them on, the room was bathed in a soft glow that made everything seem even more unreal that it already was.

“You were so great with those kids.” Tatiana moved into his arms as though it was the place she was meant to be. “You were concentrating just as hard on those Legos as you do in your meetings dealing with millions of dollars.”

“Building a spaceship is serious business.”

She laughed as she laid her cheek against his chest. There was no music playing in the room, but the sound of the rain hitting the roof had enough of a beat for them to dance to in the kitchen.

“I’ve had a really good time here with you, Ian.”

“So have I.”

And as they danced by the lantern’s light on the old wood floor with the rain falling outside, Ian knew he’d never been this happy in all his life. No amount of money, no amount of power or wealth had ever given him what this beautiful woman always gave so effortlessly, so endlessly.

But even as they danced, he could hear the rain starting to slow.

He pulled her closer, held her tighter, wishing that the rain could just keep falling, that the fog would continue to shroud them forever, that the wind would always blow hard enough to keep airplanes out of the sky.

Here in the storm, on the island everything had been so simple. He’d been a man falling head over heels for a beautiful woman with a heart so pure, so sweet, that it humbled him…and made him see everything with new eyes.

Even—as their dance transformed from sweet to sinful in the span of one kiss and he drew her across the room past the Legos and old movies to the bed—love.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Tatiana woke from their late-morning, post-sex nap to the shine of bright sun pouring in the windows. But when she reached out for Ian, his side of the bed was empty. Rolling over, she found him sitting in the chair at the foot of the bed by the window, staring out into the beautiful day and looking utterly grim.

Her chest clenched even as her heart felt fuller than it ever had. She hadn’t known it was possible to love someone so much, so deeply, that she could almost swear she could feel his emotions roll through her.

Pushing the covers off, she moved naked onto his lap. He’d pulled on his jeans, but his chest was bare. When he automatically put his arms around her to draw her closer, she leaned into his warmth, his strength.

She didn’t say anything, just listened to the steady beat of his heart and breathed him in. He already knew what was in her heart. Today, she guessed, he would finally tell her what was in his.

“When we leave this room today,” he finally said, “when we walk into the sunshine, when we get back on the plane, everything is going to be different.”

She couldn’t deny that everything was about to change. She’d heard the rain ease off when they’d been dancing together earlier. And the way he’d just made love to her, so sweetly, so reverently…hadn’t she known that he’d been touching her as if he was afraid that it was the last time?

So many times since they’d landed on the island and she’d promised not to speak about what had happened on Thursday or Friday, she’d barely been able to keep from blurting out everything she was feeling. But now, with their entire future hanging in the balance, she couldn’t find a single word. All she could do was bury her face in his neck and press her hand flat over Ian’s chest to count the beats of his heart.

“I don’t want this to be the end for us, Tatiana. I can’t imagine going through a day without seeing your smile, without touching you and having you in my bed, without laughing with you.”

Tatiana knew she should have been over the moon, should have been jumping for joy. But Ian didn’t look happy about what he was saying to her. On the contrary, he looked as grim now as he had when she’d woken up.

And she could see how conflicted he was still, as he brushed a hand over her hair, looked into her eyes, and said, “I love you.”

Tatiana was certain her heart stopped beating and her lungs stopped pumping as the three words she’d been dreaming of hearing Ian say echoed in the room. It should have been because everything was perfect. She’d assumed that if he ever confessed his love to her, it would be a perfect moment she’d want to capture so that she could replay it over and over forever.

But no matter how much she wished she could fool herself into believing everything was perfect, she couldn’t. Especially not when he lifted his hands to her face and held her gently, as if he was worried she might break under the pressure.

“I love you,” he said again, “and I can’t make any promises right now, but—” He paused, a muscle jumping in his cheek. “I want to try.”

His I love you, she realized, had come so much easier than this, than the I want to try that he’d nearly had to yank out of his own throat.

“I want to try, Tatiana,” he said again. “I want to try to love you the way you should be loved.”

She already knew just how he’d do it. How he’d try to work fewer hours for her. How he’d try to put up with her Hollywood events. How he’d try to be the man he thought she wanted and needed him to be.

And she also knew that no matter how many times she told him she didn’t need him to do any of those things, he would never believe she meant it when she said that all she needed was for him to be himself.

All that would ultimately happen was that he’d end up being completely, totally miserable. And so would she. Only this time she would be the guilty one, because she would know that she could have stopped him from making all those mistakes.

By leaving.

Now. Today. Before they walked out of this room, before they stood in the sunshine, before they got back on his plane heading for the real world.

Untangling her limbs from his and moving off his lap was one of the hardest things she’d ever done, but she couldn’t keep touching him and say what she knew she had to say. Couldn’t be that close to him and do what she knew she needed to do.

“I know it should be enough,” she said softly, speaking as much to herself as to him. “I know all my dreams should be coming true. But—” She reached blindly behind her for the bedcover to draw over her bare shoulders. “—I love you too much to ever want loving me to be that difficult, or for you to think you have to try to become something you’re not.”

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