“Are you trying to get me drunk, sir?”
He laughed as he refilled first hers then his own flute. “No, that wasn’t my thought. It just seems wrong to waste this lovely champagne, but now that you mention it…”
He is actually flirting with me. With a boldness Tess hadn’t felt in a long time, she smiled over the top of her glass and took a drink.
He stretched out again, putting his arm along the back of the bench, not quite touching her. Classic, yet smooth.
Neither one said anything. They simply sat drinking their champagne and listening to the sound of laughter drift up from the kitchens. Everything was hanging in the balance. A word or gesture would take them both in new directions. Delightfully awkward. Wonderfully tense.
Leo broke the silence. “Tess, I’ve been thinking.”
Her heart pounded, but she somehow managed, “Oh?”
She barely heard over the rushing in her ears.
“Well, you actually,” he qualified, “may want to consider working on the small dining room next.”
She blinked several times, trying to comprehend the turn in conversation. The house? He wants to talk about Aescton Court?
“Do you mean the one where the buffet was tonight?” She couldn’t have said how she managed to fake the interest in her voice.
“Yes. The one with the abundance of hideous wallpaper.” His gaze met hers directly for the first time in a while. “I have long wondered if there is—or was—something under that paper on the long wall. It does seem the perfect place for a mural of some sort.” As he spoke, he gently stroked her shoulder and studied her face.
Tess wondered if he was trying to convey how much he wanted her—or some equally passionate thing. It dawned on her that for Leo, sharing his beloved Aescton Court was an act of trust equal to a breathless confession of desire. He was putting the only family jewels he cared about in her hands. For herself, she wanted the chance to make this place even more beautiful, just as much as she wanted him. She hoped he knew that.