‘It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Tim,’ she said quietly. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mac stiffen and experienced a momentary qualm. She had sworn that she wouldn’t try to justify her actions, but she needed to make Mac understand how impossible the situation had been. ‘I agonised over it for months but in the end I realised that I didn’t have a choice. It was the only thing I could think of that might bring him to his senses.’

‘Wouldn’t it have been better if you’d stayed and encouraged him to get help?’ Mac suggested and she flinched when she heard the cynicism in his voice.

‘I tried that, but Tim refused to listen to anything I said. He insisted that he didn’t have a problem and that I was making a fuss about nothing.’ She shrugged, recalling the vicious arguments they’d had. The drugs had changed Tim from the man she had married into someone she had barely recognised. ‘He couldn’t see that he was addicted to the painkillers and needed help.’

‘So you upped and left him?’

Mac regarded her from beneath lowered lids. It was hard to tell what he was thinking, although she could guess. Mac believed that she should have stayed with Tim no matter what, but he hadn’t been there, had he? He hadn’t witnessed the rows, the lies, the empty, meaningless promises to stop taking the drugs.

‘Yes. I hoped that it would shock him into admitting that he had a problem and it worked too. He went into rehab a couple of weeks later.’

‘I see. So why didn’t you go back once he was clean?’ Mac’s brows rose. ‘Tim told me that he begged you to go back to him but you refused. If you loved him then surely that would have been the right thing to do?’

‘It wasn’t that simple,’ Bella said quietly. She stared down at her hands, wondering if she should tell him about Tim’s affair. Would she have gone back if she hadn’t found out about it or had it been the excuse she had needed? Her feelings for Tim had reached rock-bottom by then; the thought of trying to make their marriage work had filled her with dread. The truth of the matter was that she had no longer loved him, always assuming that she had loved him in the first place, which she now doubted.

‘No? It seems pretty straightforward to me.’ Mac’s tone was harsh. ‘What about all those promises you made when you got married? Were they just so many empty words at the end of the day?’

‘Of course not!’ Bella said angrily, hating the fact he seemed determined to blame her for everything. ‘I meant every word I said, but it needs two people to uphold a promise, although Tim obviously didn’t see it that way.’

‘What do you mean?’ Mac shot back. ‘It was you who left him.’

‘Forget it. It doesn’t matter.’

Bella picked up her coffee mug, feeling infinitely weary. No matter what she said, Mac would continue to blame her. Even if she told him about Tim’s affair, there was no way of knowing if he would believe her. The thought that he might think she was lying about that to save face was more than she could bear. It would be better to say nothing than take that risk.

They finished their coffee in silence. Bella put her mug on the table and rose to her feet. It was gone ten p.m. and time she went home, even though the prospect of going back to the apartment wasn’t appealing. ‘I’d better go. Thank you for the coffee and everything.’

‘Do you know how to get back?’ Mac asked gruffly.

‘I’ll use the satnav.’ She bent and picked up her bag, swaying a little as exhaustion suddenly caught up with her. It had been a long day and add to that the ongoing guilt she felt about the divorce and it was little wonder that she felt so drained.

‘Sit down.’ Mac eased her back down onto the couch. Taking the bag off her, he placed it on the table then crouched down in front of her. ‘There’s no way that you can drive yourself home in this state. You’ll have to stay here tonight.’

‘Oh, but I couldn’t possibly,’ Bella began but he ignored her. Standing up, he crossed the cabin and opened a door at the far end to reveal a tiny bedroom complete with double bed.

‘You can sleep in here,’ he informed her brusquely. Picking up one of the oil lamps, he placed it on the shelf next to the bed, turning down the wick so that the room was bathed in a soft golden glow. ‘The sheets are clean and you should be comfortable enough. Bathroom’s through there,’ he continued, pointing to a door leading off from the bedroom. ‘It’s only basic but there’s everything you’ll need.’

‘But where are you going to sleep?’ Bella protested, more tempted than she cared to admit. Maybe it was foolish but the thought of staying on the boat was the most wonderful thing she could think of. She felt safe here—safe, secure, protected: all the things she hadn’t felt in ages.

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