‘So, you’re here for one night,’ she said, ‘and you’re going to spend it sitting there, drinking yourself into oblivion.’
Lifting his glass to toast her, Stefan replied, ‘Looks like it.’ And drained it.
‘And this is somehow all my fault, I take it. That you’re behaving like an idiot. Even though I had absolutely no idea about your little notch-post game with Mika.’
‘What about her?’
‘Josses, Luna, are you really that clueless? She has a crush on you.’
‘She has a crush on you,’ he insisted, rolling his eyes, ‘and I am just as capable of being jealous of a woman as I am of a man.’
‘What I don’t understand is why you’re jealous at all!’ Luna exclaimed. ‘For you to be jealous, you’d have to seriously believe that I was somehow tempted by Mika or Dagmar. That it wasn’t just Mika playing that stupid game the two of you play.’
‘It’s been a long time since we’ve played that game. Since I’ve played it. I’m not that man anymore.’
‘Well, thank fuck for that,’ Luna said. ‘And me, what kind of woman do you think I am? Do you think I’m interested in anyone but you?’ Stefan opened his mouth, but Luna cut him off. ‘And let me just tell you – the only right answer is no. No, Luna, I don’t. So you’d better say it,’ she warned him. ‘You’d better say you don’t for a second believe that I was tempted by either of them!’
He studied his hands for a moment, then placed his empty tumbler on the table beside him. ‘No,’ he said quietly. ‘I don’t think you were.’
Luna prepared to exhale a sigh of relief, only for him to continue, ‘But here’s what I do think. I think that after two long months apart, when I was suffering the fires of hell, and you were suffering too, and now another two months when I am working my ass off down at Arborage, dealing with Helen’s craziness and Augusta’s intransigence, when I am alone in my bed in London, and missing the hell out of you, I think part of you took secret pleasure in getting on the phone with me every night, telling me about your adventures with Mika, and how well appreciated you are by your lovely boss, and what a wonderful time you are having up in Shetland now. No, you weren’t tempted, but I think a small part of you enjoyed the possibility of me thinking that you were. Me, seven hundred miles away, unable to do a thing about it.’
Luna stared at him, open-mouthed. Then shut her mouth. Then said, ‘I refute that. I categorically refute it.’
It was as if he didn’t even hear her, because he went on, ‘And the problem is, what this makes me want to do.’ He clenched his fists, eyes transfixed by them like they weren’t his; didn’t belong to him. ‘It makes me want to punish you. To punish you, Luna.’
Silence. Her staring at him; him staring down at his fists. From somewhere far away, she heard her voice saying, ‘Maybe you should.’
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Kait Jagger lives on a farm in Lancashire, England with her husband, four children, one dog and one cat. Like Luna Gregory, the lead character of the Lord and Master trilogy, she makes her living as a personal assistant.