Anitawokerefreshedand alert and lying in Rory’s arms. A dozen emotions slapped her over the face. Astonishment. Happiness. Panic was the predominant one, but there were others too. Fear slithered into prominence. Was this a dream? Anxiety stepped up next because Rory’s grandmother terrified her, and she’d hate a repeat experience of her teenage trauma.
She lay there, listening to Rory’s even breaths, loath to move because she felt so comfortable.
“I’m awake,” Rory murmured, his lips curving in a sweet smile. “What time is it?”
“Breakfast time.” Her stomach backed this up with a loud grumble.
“I could eat,” Rory said. “Why don’t I shower in my room, and I’ll meet you back here in half an hour? Is that long enough for you?”
Anita snorted. “I have my morning routine down pat. I trained with children, shuttling them to school and other activities. My skills are unsurpassed.”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to test you.” Rory pulled on his discarded clothes.
“Thirty minutes,” Anita said. “Don’t be late.”
Anita powered into action as soon as the door clicked shut, and Rory’s quick knock came as she was applying her coral-colored lipstick. She picked up her handbag and opened the door.
“What’s on today?” Rory asked when they fell into step, their bodies touching casually, which appeased Anita’s feline.
“They usually slide the program under the door, but I didn’t see one. We can check while we’re having breakfast. The compere usually comes in and does his spiel each morning.”
“Not many people around.”
Anita glanced up and down the corridor and didn’t spot a soul. “Maybe we’ve missed something important.”
Rory shrugged. “Too bad. I’m where I want to be. Nothing else matters.”
His casual yet telling words resonated with her. Now that they’d made love and spent time together, positivity filled her. When doubts surfaced in quiet moments, she tried to send them winging on their way. Rory’s grandmother… She shoved the niggle away and focused on the now.
When they approached the dining room, a meaty bacon and sausage aroma filled the air, along with that of freshly baked bread. The hum of voices, the clatter of plates, and the clink of silverware indicated others were eating breakfast.
“I can’t remember feeling so hungry,” Anita said.
Rory reached for her hand and squeezed it. He kept his hold as they walked into the dining room. He led her straight to the buffet line and handed her a plate before taking one for himself.
Anita turned to waves and wide grins from Suzie and Edwina. They pointed at the empty seats at their table in an invitation to sit with them.
“Do you mind if we sit with my friends?” she asked.
Rory grinned. “I’d like that.”
She searched his face. “You mean it.”
“I do. I have questions about Middlemarch. Let’s see if you exaggerated or if their answers tally with yours. You might be telling me fibs.” His lips quivered with restrained merriment, so she didn’t take umbrage.
“Middlemarch is a country town. It’s close to the city of Dunedin, but it’s isolated too. We have wilderness and mountains. It’s very different from your Highlands but equally beautiful. For me, it’s the people who make Middlemarch. The residents work together, and we have a solid community.” Anita placed three rashers of bacon, a black pudding, and a sausage on her plate.
“Scrambled eggs?” Rory asked.
With laden plates, they headed to the table where Edwina and Suzie were already halfway through their breakfasts.
“You’re later than usual,” Suzie said with an arch grin. Her green eyes twinkled while her dark eyebrows waggled like a comedian’s.
“We slept late,” Rory said without cracking a smile.