Even though he'd kidnapped her.

And sent her away from Colorado after telling her she didn't know the difference between sex and love.

Zack was so lost in his thoughts that it took a moment before he recognized what was happening on the television set, and his jaw tightened as he saw himself being shoved into the wall and handcuffed by the Federales. Everybody was screaming and shouting, and whoever was taking the film kept swinging the camera around, trying to follow the voice of a woman who was screaming about someone being hurt.

Then he leaned forward, watching in disbelief as Julie tried to get past the police, screaming, "Don't hurt him!" He saw Richardson catch her arms, yanking her back, and he saw that she was crying, watching whatever they were doing to Zack.

The camera's view switched back to Zack and Hadley, and after several seconds, Zack realized Hadley had just taken possession of the wedding ring he'd had in his pocket. The camera tracked Hadley, following him to Julie, who held her hand out in response to whatever Hadley said to her, and when she looked down at her hand, she started crying hysterically, clutching the ring to her chest.

Zack half-rose out of his chair at the sight of her tormented features, then he forced himself to sit back down and watch what he knew was coming next. It happened just as he remembered it … the Federales shoving him forward, then Hadley making them stop when he was almost beside Julie. Whoever took the film had grown bolder and moved in for a closer shot because even the sound was clearer. Not that Zack needed to hear it. What Hadley said next was permanently branded into Zack's brain. "Miss Mathison, I have been very rude. I haven't thanked you yet for your cooperation. If you hadn't helped us set this whole scheme up. Benedict might never have been caught."

Zack remembered the cold shock that had roared through him, and he saw himself on film, looking at her in an agony of fury, before he jerked his arms, trying to force them to take him out of there…

And then all hell broke loose on the film, just as it had in that airport. Suddenly he was on his knees, being clubbed… Except there was another uproar going on—Zack saw it just to the right edge of the film, and he got up, walking closer to the television set to see it clearly: Julie had evidently gone wild when they started beating him, and she was attacking Hadley, sobbing and clawing at his face, beating on his chest, and when Richardson pulled her off, she landed two ferocious kicks in Hadley's groin. She fainted then, and Richardson started shouting for a doctor while they dragged Zack out of the airport.

His heart beginning to hammer in deep, aching beats, Zack rewound the film, only this time he didn't take his eyes off her face, and what he saw made his stomach clench. His hand shook as he took the letter from the envelope and unfolded it.

Dear Mom and Dad, and dear Carl and Ted,

By the time you read this letter, you'll know that I've left to join Zack. I don't expect you to condone what I'm doing or to forgive me, but I want to explain it to you so that maybe you'll at least be able to understand someday.

I love him.

I want so much to give you more and better reasons than just that one, and I've tried to think of them, but there don't seem to be any. Maybe it's because that's all that really matters…

After I leave, all of you are going to hear more things about Zack, awful rumors and vicious conjecture from reporters and police and people who never even knew him. I wish so much you could have known him. Since that isn't possible, I'm leaving something for you, something from him that will show you a glimpse of the man he really is. It's a copy of a letter, a very personal letter, from him to me. A small part of the letter will be blocked out, not because there was something there that would have changed your opinion, but because it refers to someone else and a very special favor that person did for us both. When you read Zack's letter, I think you'll know that the man who wrote it will love and protect me in every way he can. We'll be married as soon as we're together…

Zack leaned back and closed his eyes, caught between torment and tenderness over what he had seen and read. He saw her agonized face when he was being put into chains and he heard her soft voice during their only phone call: "I love you so much… I can't stop loving you… Save your prayers for later, darling. You're going to wear your knees out when I get there as it is, … praying I let you get some sleep at night, praying I stop giving you babies…" He had figured out weeks ago that she'd lied about being pregnant, but he'd thought it was to force him into her trap.

Everything else had been the truth…

Julie in Colorado, tripping him in the snow … lying in his arms at night, giving herself to him with an unselfish ardor that had driven him crazy with desire and the need to please her as she pleased him … Julie with her glowing eyes, musical laughter, her prim vocabulary, and jaunty smile.

He could still feel her lying in his arms that last night, her fingers spreading over his heart when she told him she loved him … still see her eyes darken with sympathy when he told her that stupid story about a teacher refusing to dance with him… "I would never have turned you down, Zack."… He remembered the way her entire face had lit up when she talked about watching grown women learn to read…

"Oh, Zack… It's like holding a miracle in your hand!"

If she hadn't conceived that insane idea of visiting his treacherous grandmother, Zack realized she probably wouldn't have broken under the pressure of Tony Austin's death. Richardson had said she'd handled the first blow without losing her resolve. She'd broken under the second one.

She had been real. And she had been his. She had loved him when he had nothing to offer her except a life in hiding with a fugitive. She had clutched that wedding ring to her chest and wept as if her heart was breaking…

She had done and been all those things. It hit him suddenly that Richardson had not said Julie was still in love with him, but only that she was guilt-stricken now over Mexico City. Other things began to occur to him, too: Richardson had apparently spent enough time with her in the past three months to fall in love with her. She had only known Zack for a week, and he, on the other hand, had turned her life into a living hell. Paralyzed with a mixture of urgency and fear, Zack slowly stood up.

Chapter 75

Matt and Meredith exchanged smiles profound pleasure as Zack strode into the living room carrying a suitcase. Leaning back against the sofa, Matt stretched his legs out and studied the blue suit Zack was wearing with a knowing grin. "No one wears a suit to a California party, Zack. It just isn't done."

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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