“I’m disappointed.” He discreetly adjusted himself. “Upset implies that I’m angry.”
She laced her fingers with his. “This is hard.”
You have no idea, he thought wryly.
“We’ve been intimate before, but I can’t … not even with Dr. Grahame saying it was okay for us. I need a little time.” Bowing her head, she pulled his hand into her lap. She touched his knuckles, one at a time, and then traced the circle of his wedding band. “I’m not upholding my end of our vows very well, am I?”
“I’d rather we sleep together because you want to, than because you feel it’s a marital duty.”
A tear fell on his hand. “I feel so stupid again.”
This time, he pulled her into his lap and held her there. “You are not stupid.”
She sniffed. “Then what am I?”
She snorted. “Well, duh.”
“I’ve read it can make one highly emotional.” He’d started reading up on pregnancies, not just so he could know what to expect, but so he could be as prepared as possible for what she might need—emotionally and physically. He didn’t know any other way to do it.
“You don’t have to read it; you’re living with a highly emotional woman.”
She sounded so forlorn that he hugged her tighter to him. “Stop being so hard on yourself. We’ll get us sorted.” One day. He’d wait patiently for her to feel comfortable around him again. But being patient didn’t mean he wouldn’t try to help her get comfortable faster. “In the meantime, I’d like another kiss.”
Her head tipped up, nearly crashing into his chin. “I’m a sniffly mess.”
“I find sniffly messes to be extremely hot.”
She laughed so hard that she fell backwards, and he had to catch her before she dove into the brook. “You are such a liar, Liam Stewart. But I love you for it.”
He cocked his head to the side.
“I mean, I like you for it.” Her gaze skittered away. “You know what I meant.”
He did know what she meant. He knew her tender heart better than she thought. Bella would have never married him if she hadn’t felt something.
She wasn’t desperate like he was.
“Bella,” he said softly, but she wouldn’t look at him. Instead, she got up from his lap and started packing up their supplies.
“I can’t wait to eat all that fish. Maybe we can have some hushpuppies with it. Does your cook know how to make that?”
“Probably not,” she said, answering her own question. “I can do it. You’ll like them, Liam.”
“I’m sure I will.”
“It’s mostly butter and cornmeal. What’s not to like?” she said with a forced cheerfulness that made his chest ache.
He rubbed the back of his neck, and then got up to help her.
No, she would never be as cold and calculating as he had become in the past year.
And they both knew it.
Over the next few days, Bella finally felt well enough to explore more than just the grounds of Wintersea. Liam jumped at the chance to get her out of the house. He practically dressed her himself, and carried her all the way to the car.
“Never did get to carry you over the threshold,” he said, placing her in the passenger side of the Range Rover. “And we can’t have that.” He kissed her hand, and she almost melted into the leather seat. “I took the liberty and had the cook pack a snack for you as well as some bottles of water.”
Yep, she was a total puddle. “That was sweet of you.”
Flashing her a smile, he closed her door and jogged around the front. Once he got inside and started up the truck, he said, “I hope you don’t mind if I take you to Inverness.”
“Isn’t that where the Loch Ness Monster lives?” she asked, giddy. “Maybe we’ll be the ones to finally see her.”
“You believe in that?”
“I don’t not believe,” she said cheerfully. “Anything is possible in this world.”
“The two of us certainly proves that theory,” he said, downshifting.
“I think it proves that God has a sense of humor.”
She laughed at the resignation in his voice because she knew he didn’t mean it like that. Pretty soon, he joined in.
And she thought it was a very good beginning to their honeymoon.
They spent the first part of the day exploring the town, the shops, and they frequently stopped so she could rest. He made sure to keep her water bottle filled and her stomach happy by feeding her. He made her feel completely silly, but in the best possible of ways.
He was kind and considerate.
A woman turned to look at him with a sort of you-go-girl smile on her face. Bella gave her a friendly smirk and then gazed at her husband. At his close-cropped dark hair, at his sexy, obsidian-colored eyes, and the way his lean muscles filled out his stylish clothes.
Her husband was sexy and handsome, and he only had eyes for her. It was as if no other woman existed, but her, while they walked hand in hand and explored Inverness.
The weather cooperated as well, turning unseasonably warm without a hint of rain as they explored old ruins and the shoreline of the loch. It was as if Mother Nature knew she and Liam needed one day of pure joy.
By the time they headed back home, sans picture of Nessie, she could barely keep her eyes open.
“Sleep, Bella. I promise there’s nothing more exciting than sheep trying to cross the road at inopportune moments,” he said.
“But it’s the first day of our honeymoon,” she protested, her mouth cracking on a yawn. “We’re supposed to go all night.”
His warm hand covered hers. “Is that an invitation to your bed?”
Her pulse sped up. Suddenly, she wasn’t so sleepy. “Are you kicking me out of yours?”
“Absolutely not. I want you to be in my bed.” His voice dropped lower. “I want to be in you.”
A rush of air left her. Her chest heaved like a heroine in an old romance novel, and warmth spread through her, straight from where she throbbed. She felt alive. Sexy.
She wanted to seduce her husband. She wanted the intimacy she associated with sex. She wanted to be touched by him, wanted to be loved, even if just physically, for a little while.
“How much longer?” she asked.
“Eight minutes, give or take.”