His smile was enigmatic. “Let’s not muddy the waters, then. I promise to give you the money for Kenny as long as you have a conversation with Kirsten.” He reached across the table and took one of her hands in both of his. When he rubbed his thumb across her wrist, it was all she could do not to jerk away in a panic.

 “Steady, Lucy.” His grip tightened. “I think deep in your heart you know the truth. But you’re afraid to face it. I understand that. Maybe it will take time. So for tonight, I’m not expecting you to make any sweeping declarations. I’m only asking if you’ll be my lover again. One night. For closure. Unless you change your mind and decide you want more.”


 “Why would I do that?” she asked faintly, remembering all the evenings she had cried herself to sleep.

 “You’ll have to figure it out for yourself,” he said. That same thumb rubbed back and forth across her knuckles.

 She seized on one inescapable truth. “But I don’t have anything with me to stay overnight,” she said, grasping at straws. “And neither do you.”

 “I brought a bag,” he replied calmly. “And I ordered a few items for a female companion. I believe you’ll find I’ve thought of everything you need to be comfortable.”

 “And you don’t think this is at all creepy?” With her free hand she picked up her water glass, intending to take a sip. But her fingers shook so much she set it back down immediately.

 Jeff released her, his expression sober. “You’re the one who came to see me, not the other way around. If you want me to take you home, all you have to do is say so. But I’m hoping you’ll give us this one night to see if the spark is still there.”

 “Why are you doing this?” she whispered. He was breaking her heart all over again, and she was so damned afraid to trust him. Even worse, she was afraid to trust herself.

 Jeff summoned the waiter and dealt with the check. Moments later, the transaction was complete. Jeff stood and held out his hand. “I need your decision, Lucy.” He was tall and sexy and clear-eyed in his resolve. “Shall we go, or shall we stay? It’s up to you. It always has been.”

                       Twelve

 Jeff’s heartbeat thundered in his chest. He wasn’t usually much of a gambler, but he was betting on a future that, at the moment, didn’t exist.

 It was a thousand years before Lucy slid her small hand into his bigger one. “Yes,” she said. The word was barely audible.

 He led her among the crowded tables and out into the hotel foyer. After tucking her into an elegant wingback chair, he brushed a finger across her cheek. “Stay here. I won’t be long.”

 Perhaps the desk clerk thought him a tad weird. Jeff could barely register for glancing back over his shoulder to see if Lucy had bolted. But all was well. She had her phone in her hand and was apparently checking messages.

 When he had the key, he went back for her. “Ready?”

 Her face was pale when she looked up at him. But she smiled and rose to her feet. “Yes.”

 They shared an elevator with three other people. On the seventh floor, Jeff took Lucy’s arm and steered her off. “This way,” he said gruffly as he located their room number on the brass placard. They were at the end of the hall, far from the noise of the elevator and the ice machine.

 He’d booked a suite. Inside the pleasantly neutral sitting room, he took off his jacket and tie. “Would you like more wine?” he asked.

 Lucy hovered by the door. “No. Why do you want me to go talk to Kirsten?” Her eyes were huge...perhaps revealing distress over the shambles of their past.

 He leaned against the arm of the sofa. “She was your friend from childhood. You and I had dated less than a year. As angry as I was with you, on some level I understood.”

 “Why were you angry with me?” she asked, her expression bewildered. “You were the one who cheated.”

 He didn’t rise to the bait. “It’s been two years, Lucy. Two long, frustrating years when you and I should have been starting our life together. Surely you’ve had time enough to figure it out by now.”

 “You didn’t come after me.” Her voice was small, the tone wounded.

 Ah...there it was. The evidence of his own stupidity. “You’re right about that. I let my pride get in the way. When you wouldn’t take my calls, I wanted to make you grovel. But as it turns out, that was an abysmally arrogant and unproductive attitude on my part. I’m sorry I didn’t follow you back to Austin. I should have. Maybe one good knock-down, drag-out fight would have cleared the air.”

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