When the door closed behind her, Ted looked irritably at Katherine. "What the hell did she mean by that?"
"I thought the logic sounded pretty clear," Katherine said, but she was frowning at the odd tension she'd heard in Julie's voice. "My dad's a little superstitious, and so am I. Although the word curse seemed a little strong."
"I'm not talking about that. What did she mean when she said our marriage isn't over and you know that?"
During the last weeks, Katherine had watched Julie courageously confront the FBI and the rest of the world, openly expressing her faith in Zack Benedict's innocence, even though he'd rejected her love and hurt her terribly in Colorado. During that same time, Katherine had managed to put herself in Ted's presence a dozen times while they both coached Julie's students' athletic games, but in dealing with him, she'd carefully hidden her deeper feelings and tried only to overcome his hostility. Originally, she'd convinced herself that the best way to handle Ted and accomplish her goal was with a slow, cautious, step-by-step strategy, not an open admission of feelings. Now as she looked at the man she loved, she faced the fact that it was fear of being hurt, of being made to feel like a fool, and of having her hopes shattered once and for all that had been dictating all her actions. She knew he was seeing another woman regularly and that he'd been seeing even more of her since Katherine had returned to Keaton, and it was belatedly obvious to her now that all she'd really accomplished with him was a sort of armed truce; his feelings toward her hadn't changed, she'd simply forced him with her constant presence to mask his contempt behind a coolly polite facade.
She was afraid she was running out of time, afraid she'd lose her nerve if she didn't tell him now, and afraid she was going to make a fatal blunder because she was so desperate and so nervous that she was going to unload everything on him at once.
"Are you thinking about your answer or studying the shape of my nose," he demanded irritably.
To her horror, Katherine felt her knees begin to shake and her palms perspire, but she lifted her eyes to his cool blue ones and said bravely, "Julie thinks our marriage isn't over because I'm still in love with you."
"Where would she get an asinine idea like that."
"From me," Katherine said shakily. "I told her that."
Ted's brows snapped together and he raked her with a contemptuous glance that made her flinch. "You told her you're still in love with me?"
"Yes. I told her everything, including what a pitiful excuse for a wife I was and about how—how I lost our baby."
Even now, years later, the mention of the baby she'd deliberately destroyed made Ted so furious that he had to fight the urge to slap her, and his own pent-up fury staggered him. "Don't ever mention the baby to me or anyone else again, or so help me God, I'll—"
"You'll what?" Katherine cried brokenly. "You'll hate me? You can't hate me more than I hate myself for what happened. You'll divorce me? You already did that to me. You'll refuse to believe it was an accident?" she continued hysterically. "Well, it was an accident! The horse I was riding went lame—"
"Damn you, shut up!" Ted said, grabbing her arms in a bruising grip and starting to shove her aside to leave, but Katherine ignored the pain of his grip and flattened herself against the door so he couldn't. "I can't!" she cried. "I have to make you understand. I've spent three years trying to forget what I did to us, three years looking for some way to atone for all the things I was and don't want to be."
"I don't want to hear any more of this!" He tried to yank her forward and out of his way, but she pressed against the door, ignoring the bite of his fingers into her flesh.
"What the hell do you want from me?" he demanded, unable to budge her without resorting to serious brute force.
"I want you to believe me when I tell you it was an accident," she wept.
Ted fought to ignore the impact of her words and the effect of her beautiful, tear-streaked face, but in all the time he'd known her, he'd never seen her reduced to tears. She'd been spoiled, proud, and willful, but never, ever had she shed a single tear. Even so, he might have been able to resist her if she hadn't lifted her wet eyes to his at that moment and whispered achingly, "We've both been crying inside over the way our marriage ended for all these years, at least hold me and let's finish it now."
Against his will, his hands loosened their grip on her arms, she pressed her face against his chest, and suddenly his arms were going around her, holding her to him as she cried, and the sweet ache he felt at having her body pressed to his again was almost his undoing. Struggling to keep his voice flat and emotionless, he warned her, "It's over, Katherine. We're over."
"Then let me say the things I came back to Keaton to say to you, so we can end it as friends, not enemies." His hand stopped moving down her back and Katherine held her breath, half expecting him to refuse, but when he remained silent, she lifted her gaze to his and began, "Can you possibly find it in your heart to believe there's at least a fifty/fifty chance I didn't deliberately try to lose our baby?" Before he could refuse, she said with painful honestly, "If you think back, you'll realize I never would have had the courage to risk my own life for anything. I was such a coward, I was afraid of blood, spiders, snakes—"
Ted was older now and wiser, too; he suddenly recognized the compelling logic in her statement, but more than that, he saw truth in her eyes, and the fury and disgust he'd nurtured all these years began to disintegrate, leaving him feeling incredibly relieved. "You were even afraid of moths."
Katherine nodded, watching the animosity finally fade from his face for the first time in years. "I'm sorrier than I can ever say for the reckless, selfish stupidity that lost us our baby. I'm sorry for the mess I made out of our marriage, for the nightmare I made out of your life the entire time we lived together—"
"It wasn't quite as bad as that," he said reluctantly, "at least not the entire time."
"Don't pretend for my sake. I'm all grown up now, I've learned to face the truth and deal with it. And the truth is I was a pitiful excuse for a wife. Besides acting like a spoiled, irrational, demanding child bride, I was completely useless. I didn't cook, I didn't clean, and when you wouldn't give me my own way, I didn't sleep with you. For years, I've needed to admit that to you and to tell you the truth—our marriage didn't fail, you didn't fail—I failed."