“Tess … ” She stopped cold at the breath of a whisper, her heart slamming into her ribs so hard she thought it would fall out right there on the table and flop around. She turned slowly—so slowly.
She opened her mouth to scream at him for ambushing her, but she realized just in time that he was as stunned as she was.
And he was beautiful. More beautiful than he had been when he was nineteen. More beautiful than he was the night he’d left her. Yet nothing about him had changed.
His hair was still a mass of long mahogany-red waves past his shoulders. Bunches of hair at his temples had been braided into tiny plaits fastened behind his head. His earrings were medium-sized gold hoops. His stark art deco sun tattoo still spread its rays down along his neck, chin, and jaw. His shirt was blousy white linen floating untucked over oxblood leathers, the ties at the neck hanging loose. His wrist tattoos were on full display. Then she looked at his hands.
He was wearing his wedding ring.
She blinked and looked down at her own left hand. There they were: the circuit board wrist tattoo that matched his and the diamond he’d presented to her in an elaborate, public proposal. Because why do it privately when you could put on a show?
She looked back up at him, knowing all her heartbreak and joy and sorrow and love for him were written all over her face—and it was reflected in his.
“This is exactly what I wanted to avoid,” Sebastian drawled with great irritation. “If some people had picked up her phone!”
She should’ve picked up the phone.
Tess didn’t move—couldn’t—but Étienne could and did, skirting his chair and striding toward her with that look, the pirate king, the one who wouldn’t be denied.
She sighed when he slid his big hands around her face, tilted it back, and brought her up to him for a kiss that scorched her soul.
It was magical. He was magical.
She closed her eyes and opened her mouth, feeling his tongue, so familiar, so talented. Tasting him as he had always tasted with an undernote of Dr. Pepper. She whimpered into his mouth when the pressure lightened, but he only tilted his head and went after her at a different angle. Sensation shot downward, and she moaned softly, ready to spend the next few hours feeling his bare chest against her naked breast, his legs twined with hers, his body inside hers, stroking her and assuaging this ache for him she’d never been able to contain.
“GET A FUCKING ROOM!” Sebastian roared, standing and pounding the table. “You two drive me fucking insane!”
They parted. Slowly. So slowly.
“I did not sleep with her,” he whispered, dropping his forehead on hers, his chest heaving.
“I know.” That surprised him, and she was strangely gratified.
“Mon cœur,” he breathed.
“I love you, too,” she whispered back, equally out of breath. Then she gulped. “But love isn’t enough.”
He drew away from her, dropped his head back, gripped the back of her chair so hard it creaked. His chest heaved.
But somebody began to clap. A golf clap. Hushed. Mocking.
Someone else joined in. Then someone else.
Her heart was breaking—again—but she couldn’t hide her smile. Nor, it seemed, could he.
“Étienne!” Sebastian snapped. “Get your ass in this seat right now. Tess, siddown. Somebody has to be the adult in the room. As per usual.”
“We need to talk,” Étienne murmured, looking at her with those heartbreaking—heartbroken—ice blue eyes.
She nodded. “I know.”
“To a therapist! I do have other things to do, you know!”
Étienne tossed Sebastian a bland smile over his shoulder. “Keep it up. You know we like to put on a show.”
Sebastian snarled but sat, and somebody began to chuckle.
He turned back to her. “You drew those for me?”
Tess, as in love as she had been at seventeen, could only nod. “I draw everything for you.”