A tear slid down Derek’s cheek and he wiped it away as Jocelyn’s words sank in. He couldn’t go on living this half-life. He was still alive and he had to live.
Even though he’d tried not to let it happen his heart had expanded and Evelyn had wormed her way in. He loved the way she was with his daughter. She said she didn’t want kids, but he understood her fear. Evelyn had lost so much in her life—it was why she ran.
They were the same.
He loved her and he couldn’t lose her. He’d convince her to stay. If she wouldn’t he’d leave Wolf’s Harbor—he would. He would follow her anywhere. He had to grieve. He had to forgive himself. He had to heal and move on.
He had to stop Evelyn from getting on that plane before it was too late.
“I’ve got to go, Jocelyn. Thanks.”
Jocelyn nodded and smiled. “Tell her I’m sorry.”
Derek nodded and left the exam room. He grabbed his jacket and checked his watch. He was hoping he would make it before the Sitka flight left.
He ran out of the clinic and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Joe Yazzie’s cab pull up on the other side of the street.
Evelyn got out and stood there. She crossed the street. His heart skipped a beat.
“What’re you doing here?” Derek asked, stunned. “I thought you were going to Sitka.”
“I was, but…” She was trembling. “I lost my family once and I blamed myself for that loss.”
“You punished yourself,” he said gently.
Tears welled in her eyes. “Yes.”
“You don’t need to punish yourself. It wasn’t your fault. Jocelyn explained.”
“She did?” Evelyn asked quizzically.
“You were a child, Evelyn. You didn’t kill your father. A truck did.”
She nodded. “I hardened my heart to love. I was so afraid of being hurt, of hurting someone or being left alone again. Having no feelings was easier. I thought so, but it’s not. I love you. I love Mo. I thought I didn’t deserve you both because I ruined so many lives. But I didn’t ruin them. I was ruining just one—my own. I don’t want to be bitter or emotionless anymore. I want to feel again.”
Derek cut off her babbling by closing the gap between them and cupping her face, kissing her. Her arms, shaking, came around him and she melted into him.
“I love you too, Evelyn.”
She beamed up at him. “You do?”
“For so long I thought I couldn’t love again. I thought you only got one love. But my heart has expanded and you’re firmly in there. I can’t lose you, Evelyn. Even if it means I have to leave here and go where you need to go, I will. You brought me back to life.”
Tears slid down her cheeks. “You brought me back to life too.”
They kissed again.
“What?” she asked.
“You said you were going there.”
Evelyn grinned and then kissed him. “We’re not going anywhere. I just came home and I want to stay here—if you think the clinic can use me.”
Derek picked her up and spun her around, set her back down. “I love you, Evelyn Saunders, and I never thought I would feel this way again. You’ve brightened my life. You breathed life into me and Mo again. I was just existing. I wasn’t alive. I was numb to it all. But you’ve given me purpose. I love you.”
He kissed her again and wrapped his arms tightly around her, holding her tight.
He was finally awake.
He was alive again.
And although he would never forget Vivian, he felt as if he could feel, breathe and live again. For the first time in a long, long time.
He was whole once more.
One year later
EVELYN STOOD IN front of the construction site, staring up at the hospital that was being erected in Wolf’s Harbor. Since she’d taken on the position as permanent OB/GYN there, Juneau General Hospital and the state of Alaska had invested funds to make Wolf’s Harbor Community Health Center a reality.
Evelyn had to go to Juneau and teach classes a few times a year, but that was no problem for her. Or at least it hadn’t been until last month.
She touched her round belly. Soon she’d have to stop traveling to Juneau and back, but there was another OB/GYN who’d come to work permanently at the clinic and would be taking over Evelyn’s position while she was on maternity leave.
Tim Vance had also signed up to stay on permanently as another general practitioner, which meant Derek wasn’t tied down so much.
More staff were being hired, and the small hospital was on schedule to open by the end of the month.
“What’re you staring at?” Derek asked, coming to stand beside her.