ANOTHER wave crashed on the rocks and drenched them. They didn’t move, they were too wrapped up in each another.
“I’m so, so sorry,” he said. “I would have told you; I was waiting for the right time, when everything was over, when it was all resolved and Anna was back again.
“Please,” he urged as she turned her face away, salt spray dripping from her hair.
Tenderly, he took a hand to brush it away from her eyes.
“Please believe me. I wasn’t treating you like a child. I had only half the information, I wanted to check it out properly. I knew you’d be devastated, knew you’d have questions.
“What’s more, I’ve seen plenty of people going through situations like yours, dealing with loved ones who have disappeared and I know that even the strongest people only have so much strength. Then one small thing tips them over, just because it’s all too much.
“You needed to be strong in order to find Anna. You needed to have all your reserves ready so you could trek through the jungle on a horse, so you could spend a night in the jungle. I needed to keep you strong.
“What Warren did was history, it couldn’t be changed. You may think I did wrong and I apologise from the depth of my being for that. But I stand by my reasons that you had too much on your plate and I didn’t have all the facts and for that reason it was right to wait.
“I’ve actually finally had a report faxed to me from the police in England, it’s at the hotel now. It tells the whole sorry story of what Warren was up to. Now is the right time for you to know, not yesterday, or the day before or the day I heard it. Now, when Anna’s safe, when Otto Weber is securely behind bars.”
His tone softened.
“Now, when I can tell you the truth – that I’ve fallen in love with you, Bryony. Whether you love me or loathe me I have to tell you, because there’s a right time for everything and now is the right time for me to say those words because I simply can’t hold back. I love you.”
* * * *
Bryony peered at him in the half light, his hand warm on her cheek, the ocean ebbing and flowing, the street with all its crush of people and colours and throbbing noise.
But she was aware of nothing other than the man in front of her, standing firm, like an oak tree, strong, nurturing, passionate, unbending in his need to do what was right and what he was compelled to do.
Mark, with his serious, deep eyes; with his firm lovely body, Mark, with his principles running through him like the granite running through the rocks they stood on.
In an uncertain world which swirled and rolled like the ocean around her, there was Mark, standing up for what he believed in whilst showing her the inner core of softness, warmth, hot blood, male need and longing.
For her. All for her.
Finally, her breath short, her pulses ticking, and her heart melting, Bryony managed to find a tiny smile.
Perhaps everything wasn’t lost, after all.
193 Five minutes ago, totally alone, she’d wondered if she’d ever smile again.
“Mark, I . . . I’m sorry too. I’m sorry I was so quick to condemn you. I was hurting so, so much.”
“You don’t have to hurt any more.” He cupped her face in his hands. He bent down so she could feel the warmth of his skin on her cheek.
He brought his lips to hers and in an instant she could hear nothing else but his urgent, needful breath of life, she could feel nothing but the pressure of his hands on her shoulders, the salty sweetness of his lips, and instead of hard stone underfoot she felt as if she had been raised up and was floating on the night air.
Her stomach flipped like a dolphin in the sea and she wrapped him in her arms, heard his soft, insistent moan and was lost, totally, and utterly, deliriously and deliciously.
He pulled away.
“Forgive me?” It was part question and part statement.
“If you forgive me for ranting at you.”
“I’m a different man, Bryony, I’m not
Warren . . . “
She put her hand to his lips.
“I know. I know that now. That’s history.
That’s forgotten. This is us.”
He smiled, then bent down, swept her up in his arms and carried her over the rocks towards the land, towards the light.
Towards the music, towards life, towards love; towards the future.