Her eyes misted over as she looked back at him and squeezed his hand. “You’re a good man, William Pemberton. Better than I realized.”
“We barely knew each other before Saturday night,” he observed, keeping his voice light, but the compliment struck him right in the heart. If he was a good man it was because of his brother’s support and his father’s patience. He tried to remember that every day and let it guide his actions. His days of making messes were over. Now he tried to clean them up. Be someone his family could depend on. That person he was before could never be resurrected. He looked at Gabi, so forbidden to him, so beautiful. She could make him forget for a few moments, and that was dangerous.
“We should probably get back,” she said quietly after a few minutes of silence. The air was soft and the world around them seemed colored in muted pinks and periwinkle as the sun slid closer to the horizon. It was the time of day for whispered secrets and hidden smiles, forbidden touches and soft sighs. That in between time when possibilities were waiting to be plucked like fruit from the tree, and romance bloomed around every corner.
Their gazes held, and for the space of a held breath, they drifted close together. His heart pounded as his gaze dropped to her ripe lips. And then William broke the spell and stood abruptly.
“You’re right. We should get back. I want to start drafting a proposal and also work on travel arrangements.”
Gabi’s face shifted back to impersonal and friendly, thank goodness. He wasn’t sure he had the strength to resist her if she’d pushed their…intimacy. Is that what it was? This feeling that kept coming over him? She felt it, too, didn’t she? All the more reason to keep his distance now and get her back to Italy as soon as feasible.
“Of course,” she answered, also rising. She started back along the rows of the lemon trees, toward the château towering in the distance.
Maybe it had been a mistake bringing her here. William had only been thinking of privacy and seclusion. He hadn’t thought of the unintended consequences of being here together, yet alone.
They could be friendly. And friends. But anything more was impossible. He could never betray Stephen that way. Even if his brother wasn’t in love with Gabi, it would be wrong, wouldn’t it? Besides, if a runaway bride was a PR nightmare for Aurora, imagine what would follow if William suddenly showed up with her on his arm?