Whereas her family had had the money, but not the inclination. Her father would have dismissed the funfair as a waste of time, and her mother... Well, funfairs and candy floss didn't go with perfect manicures, designer outfits and expensive hairdos.
'But you don't need to spend a fortune to have fun. We used to poke about in the rock pools, and in the evening if Mum had a night off we'd sit on the cliffs with our fish and chips and watch the sun setting—not that it ever sets properly over the sea on the east coast,' he added, his eyes crinkling at the corners. 'Except at Hunstanton, in Norfolk—it's the only east coast resort that actually faces west.'
Such a simple thing: watching the sun setting and the moon rising. It triggered a memory, an image that had delighted her when she'd been younger. 'I remember reading this book when I was a teenager.' A romance novel she'd borrowed from their cook and read in her attic hidey-hole. 'It was set somewhere in Australia or New Zealand, I think, and when the moon rose it looked as if stairs were coming out of the sea and there were people dancing in the moonlight.' And she'd loved the idea of it.
'Stairs out of the sea in the moonlight?' He looked intrigued. 'We won't get that at Southend—and it'll be about another five hours until the moon's out—but we can do the dancing bit.'
Before she'd quite grasped his intention, he'd spun her into his arms.
'You're quite safe. Fred's chaperoning us,' he said, nodding at the bear.
And then he was waltzing with her on the sand. Humming 'Moon River'.
She closed her eyes, and suddenly it was no longer a late afternoon in April on the English coast. She was dancing in the moonlight, hearing the waves swish softly against the shore, being whirled with the other dancers on the staircase out of the sea.
Jake was actually doing proper ballroom dancing steps. Steps that she'd learned grudgingly as a teenager—and only because Charlie had been forced into having lessons and had begged her and Seb to go, too, to make it more bearable for him. She'd had to dance with greasy middle-aged men who'd leered at her, or boys her own age whose skin had been covered in spots. She'd hated every second of it and she'd only stuck it out for her brother's sake.
But this—this was different. The man holding her right now was only a couple of years older than she was. His cheek, pressed against hers, was freshly shaven, soft and perfectly smooth. His hair was clean and positively invited her to thread her fingers through it.
When he began to sing the words instead of just humming the tune, she was completely lost. Spellbound. She could have been dancing under the moonlight in that far-off land: she didn't even hear the scream of the seagulls or the music pumping out from the children's funfair.
All she was aware of was Jake.
And when he sang the last couple of words, holding her closer, she couldn't help turning her face slightly, so her cheek slid against his. He moved at the same time, and then their mouths were touching. Lightly. Tentatively. One small kiss. And another. And another. And then her mouth was opening beneath his, letting him deepen the kiss. Intense. Sweet. Hot. His mouth tasted slightly salty from the sea breeze that had whipped tiny droplets of salt water onto their skin. And she wanted to taste more of his skin, to find out how soft the skin was along his collar-bones, how responsive his body was to hers.
When the kiss ended, they both stood staring at each other. Jake looked as shocked as she felt. And as lost. Part of her wanted to fling herself into his arms and kiss the worries from his face—let him kiss the worries from her heart, too.
But Vicky Radley leaned on nobody. She was her own woman, and that was the way it was going to stay. 'We shouldn't have done that,' she said, hoping she sounded cool and professional—though she had a nasty feeling that she was hyperventilating.
He said nothing.
Wasn't he going to help her out here? 'I—I'm not looking for a relationship.'
His smile was grim. 'You're an Hon. and I'm a pleb. Don't worry, I already know I'm way out of your league.'
She shook her head. 'That's not what I meant. Class isn't important.'
Oh, for goodness' sake! She could understand why Charlie hated being a baron when people reacted to you like this. 'It's who you are that counts, the way you behave towards others. It doesn't matter where you come from.'
Why no relationships? She swallowed hard. 'I told you. I want to be a head of department. I want to be a professor. And I can't do that if I...if I'm not focused. If I let someone distract me.'
'I wouldn't distract you.'
Yes, he would. He'd already distracted her far too much. 'I don't have room in my life for a relationship.'
His gaze was still fixed on her mouth, as if he could still taste the kiss they'd just shared. 'Neither do I. I spend most of my free time raising funds for the unit.'