This Man Confessed (Page 172)

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‘Yeah,’ I say slowly, my brow scrunched up, my eyes undoubtedly inquisitive.

‘Well…’ he sighs. ‘What the hell would I do if the babies asked me to go in for one of those open days these schools have?’

‘Open day?’

‘You know, when daddies stand up and tell their kid’s class mates that they’re a fireman or a copper.’

I squeeze my lips together, desperate not to laugh at him when it’s clearly a worry.

‘What would I say?’ he asks seriously.

‘You’d tell them you’re The Sex Lord of The Manor.’ It’s no good. I’m laughing. God love this man. My fast disappearing hipbone is grasped and my laughter increases. ‘Stop!’

‘Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, lady.’

‘Please stop!’

I’m released and recovering from my bout of hysteria when I catch his concerned expression. He really is worried. ‘You would tell them that you own a hotel, just like we’d tell the babies.’ I can’t believe I’m trying to give him an out. This, obviously, has always been a concern, but I never pushed it because I know what that big country estate means to him.

He rolls onto his back, and I quickly resume position and sit myself on him. He grasps the tops of my thighs and looks up at me. ‘I don’t want it anymore.’ He’s really adamant.

‘But it was Carmichael’s baby. You wouldn’t sell it when your mum and dad demanded it, so why now?’

‘Because I have you three.’

‘You’ll always have us three, anyway.’ He’s not making sense.

‘I want you three and nothing to complicate that. I don’t want to lie to our babies about my job. I would never allow them to spend any time there, which means my time with you and the babies would be limited. The Manor is an obstruction. I don’t want any obstructions. I have a history, baby, and The Manor should be part of it.’

I feel untold relief and the smile invading my face is proof of that. ‘So I get you all day every day?’

He shrugs sheepishly. ‘If you’ll have me.’

I dive on him, smothering him all over his wonderfully handsome face. But I’m quickly sitting up again when I think of something. ‘What about John and Mario? And Sarah? What about Sarah?’ I have no loyalty to the woman, despite my compassion, but I don’t want her attempting suicide again. However, John and Mario I love.

‘I’ve spoken to them. Sarah’s taking up an opportunity is the US and John and Mario are more than ready for retirement.’

‘Oh,’ I say acceptingly, but I suspect they’ve all picked up a tidy little sum for their services to The Manor, no matter what capacity in which they served. ‘And will the members re-new under the new owners?’

He laughs. ‘Yes, if they like playing golf.’

‘Golf?’

‘The grounds are being converted into an eighteen hole golf course.’

‘Wow. What about the sports facilities?’ I ask.

‘They’re all staying. It’ll be pretty impressive. Not much different to my set up, except the private suites really will be hotel rooms and the communal room will serve as a conference room for businesses.’

I can imagine it will be impressive. ‘So that’s it, then?’

‘That’s it. Now, I need to get you ready for the rest of your day.’ He goes to sit up, but I pin him back down.

‘I need to freshen up my mark.’ I point to his pec, where my perfect circle has nearly disappeared, then I look down at my own barely visible bruise. ‘And you need to work on mine, too.’

‘We’ll do it later, baby.’ I’m lifted and placed on my feet. ‘Go take a shower.’ He slaps my bum, sending me on my way. I wander off without complaint and with a stupid smile on my face. No Manor, no Sarah, and Jesse all to myself… and the babies.

* * *

After soaking myself under the lovely hot water and shaving everywhere, I dry my hair roughly and start rummaging through the wardrobe for something to wear.

‘I’ve picked something,’ he says from behind me, and I turn to see him wearing a pair of loose swimming shorts, holding up a short lace sundress.

‘It’s a bit short, isn’t it?’ I observe, running my eyes up and down the delicate piece of clothing, with tiny straps and a floaty skirt.

‘I’ll make an exception.’ he shrugs and unzips it before holding it at my feet. By that little statement, I assume we’re not going anywhere public. I watch him kneel for me to step into the dress, and he secures me before standing back and clasping his chin in his hand thoughtfully. ‘Cute.’ He nods in approval and takes my hand, leading me to the double doors that lead to the veranda.

‘I need shoes.’

‘We’re paddling.’ He dismisses my concern and leads on, walking around the veranda and over the grass until we’re at the gate that leads down to the beach. ‘Can we paddle on our backs?’ I ask cheekily, and he stops, looking down at me with amused eyes.

‘Pregnancy does wonderful things to you, Mrs Ward.’

I know my forehead has just wrinkled. ‘I always want you this much.’

‘I know you do. You’re missing something.’ he says, producing a calla lily from behind his back and tucking it behind my ear. ‘Much better.’

I reach up and feel the fresh flower, smiling up at him a little bemused, but far too contented to enquire further. He winks, kisses my cheek and leads on, turning when we get to the sleepers to ensure I take them carefully. ‘Watch that piece of splintered wood.’ he says, pointing to a jagged edge on one of the sleepers. ‘Careful,’

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