“I’ll have one of everything,” Bella said, looking over the menu placed on the table. “And then a doggy bag for later.”
Liam stretched his legs out in front of him, and then grinned. “Can’t go wrong there.”
Bella continued to peruse her choices, making a little clicking sound as she did. It was rather… adorable. She was rather adorable. Her color was nearly back to normal and her eyes, when she peeked at him over the menu when she thought he wasn’t looking, were bright instead of dull.
Now, if that was due to this outing or what had transpired in her hotel room, he wasn’t sure. He was disappointed, but not in her. He shouldn’t have have pushed things. He should have settled for a kiss, not his hands down her pants and his mouth on her very full breasts.
Jesus. He needed to concentrate on less erotic things. “Made up your mind?”
“I think so.”
“Give me your order and I’ll take it the counter straightaway.”
Without missing a beat, she listed no less than five different menu items she wanted to try, along with a glass of water.
She wrinkled her nose. “Not unless it’s decaffeinated and iced.”
“Sorry, no. But I can take care of the rest.”
He placed their order, paid, and then rejoined her at the table. “It’ll be ready in a bit.”
She smiled and raised her brows at him. “Okay.”
“I thought we could use some fresh air,” he said.
“My flight is next Sunday.”
“Yes. I wasn’t sure what you’d say and I wasn’t sure if I could visit Daisy,” she said, taking a paper napkin and unfolding it. “I know she’d love to see me, and I’d love to see her, but she’d be all happy and in love.”
“While you’re forced to marry a man who doesn’t even know your favorite flower,” he supplied.
“It was my decision, and calla lilies.”
He stored that bit of information back for later. He would buy her flowers, as many as he could for their wedding day. Perhaps in purple. “Why did you change your hair color?”
“It’s my natural color.” Her gaze shifted. “I didn’t want to have to worry about the upkeep and all the chemicals.”
“Do you like it?”
Her golden eyes met his. “It doesn’t matter what I like. It stopped being about me three months ago.”
“Either way, you look beautiful.”
“Thank you. I prefer being a blonde like my momma, but it’s not a big deal.” She smiled tightly. Wasn’t a big deal his arse. He wanted to press her for more, to get to the bottom of why she would be so cautious, but she forestalled him with a question. “What abut you?”
“Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”
A black eyebrow arched. “Do you look like your mom or dad?”
“Spitting image of my mother, much to my father’s dismay.” Too pretty. Like a lass.
“She must be a beautiful woman,” Bella said. “What about your sister?”
“She looks like her father,” he said.
“You don’t have the same one?”
“No,” he said cheerfully. Bridget’s father was actually a nice bloke. But he was married, now, with a whole other family. And as much as he included Bridget, it wasn’t what she wanted. Liam’s father certainly wasn’t what she’d deserved either.
“I guess our families have more in common than I thought,” she said.
He very much doubted that. “About the wedding,” he began, wanting to nail down the date.
If he didn’t, he was sure she would get on that plane Sunday, tell her parents she’d changed her mind, and then he’d only see her during holidays. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want custody agreements and trade-offs. He didn’t want her on the other side of the bloody ocean where she would email him images of ultrasounds and doctor appointment results. Where he would have no control over when she’d give birth and more likely than not, he wouldn’t even witness his child being born.
“I think it could be a lovely ceremony. There’s a church on my estate, and we could hire a local vicar to marry us,” he said, and her eyes lit up a little.
“That might be nice,” she said, as if she understood he was trying to compromise. That he was trying to make her happy. “Do you have any pictures?”
“Not on me, I’m afraid. I never thought to take any.” Her face fell. “But I could take you there. Today.”
“You can?” Her voice went higher.
A new girl from behind the counter brought their food round and set it on the table. “I most certainly can. I’m on holiday.”
Bella laughed and tucked in to her food. She glanced up at him when she noticed he hadn’t started eating. “Hurry up. I want to go now.”
His estate was two hours north of Edinburgh, near the infamous town of Inverness. Bella rode on the passenger side, alternating between varying shades of green and white.
“Just a few minutes more, love,” he said, shifting into third so he could pass a tractor.
“If I didn’t know I was in a foreign country, I’d think I was at home,” she said, rolling down the window. A gust of cold air blasted the interior, but damned if he cared. She was trying for God’s sake. Had been since they left.
“Perhaps you’ll come to think of it as your home,” he said.
“Home is where the heart is.” Then she grew silent.
A telling little phrase, that. “I heard that many a future duchess fell in love with Wintersea as soon as she saw it. The flags flying over the turrets, the drawbridge, the outer bailey. It’s truly magnificent.”
“So last two centuries ago.”
She giggled. “I’ll be sure to keep up with the latest trends in castle décor. I wouldn’t want to embarrass you at the next duke function.”
The turrets came into view, and he heard her gasp his name.
“You live in a castle?”
Hadn’t she realized? What other type of dwelling would have a moat and a drawbridge? “Only when I have to—mostly I divide my time between London and Edinburgh.”
He turned onto a gravel road. Trees with leaves of every color lined each side, providing a sort of frame for the castle.
“What do you think?” he asked as he parked near the entrance. They both got out, and he walked around his car to stand beside her.