Coming Home for Christmas
Her throat closed with emotions, regret and sorrow and guilt. She had to clear them away to speak. “Why…why didn’t you try to have me legally declared dead?”
“Because I didn’t want to.” The raw emotion in his voice seared through her.
His name. That was all she could manage through the tangle of emotions.
He gazed down at her, his expression almost…tortured.
One moment he was skewering her with his furious expression; the next he threw his arms around her, yanked her toward him and lowered his mouth to hers.
Shock held her motionless for only a moment. Then the sheer delicious glory of being in his arms again overwhelmed her. She wrapped her arms around him and returned his kiss with all the pent-up longing she had held inside her these long years of being alone.
The heat that had always been between them flared, wild and unrestrained. His mouth was hard on hers, fierce, demanding. Delicious. There was no trace of tenderness, only anger and loss, betrayal and sorrow and desire, all twisted together.
When he finally yanked his mouth away and released her as if she had scorched him, she stumbled backward, her knees drained of all strength. Her soul felt drained, too.
“Does that answer your question?” he asked, his voice raspy and low. “I never stopped hoping you would come back. Even when I was ninety-nine percent certain you were dead, that tiny one percent of hope wanted desperately to be wrong.”
He released a heavy breath and she watched in fascination as he tucked away any trace of emotion, becoming self-contained and expressionless once more.
“Do what you want to the house. Paint or don’t paint. I don’t care. This place means nothing to me anymore. The kids and I have moved on and are happy in our new house. I just want this one sold and out of my life.”
Like her. She meant nothing to him either, that wild, heated kiss notwithstanding. She did her best to blink back tears but was afraid he still saw them.
“I don’t know how much I can do in only one day but I’ll…I’ll try.”
He looked as if he wanted to argue but finally gave her one more long look and headed out the door.
After he left, Elizabeth touched her lips, the long-familiar taste lingering there. Oh, how she had missed him.
She still loved him.
Had never stopped.
She collapsed onto the sagging sofa, unable to contain all the emotions raging through her. She loved Luke and wanted what was best for him. That could never be her. Not then and especially not now, with all her baggage.
She might not be able to be part of his life or their children’s lives, but she could do one small thing for them. She could freshen up this house a little bit, make it more attractive to prospective buyers.
It was a small gift, but one she wanted desperately to give them.