For so long, he had been punishing himself, and he hadn’t even known it. While he had continued to meet with his childhood friends, Nicholas realized that those meetings in itself were far and between. He had only shown up if either work or a major milestone was involved, such as when Devon and Sean had gotten married.
And he had been the same with his staff, Nicholas brooded, without realizing it as well.
He watched his wife circulate among his employees, laughing and chatting with them, and it was if as she was the one who had known them her entire life. He heard her congratulate the head gardener for finally finding the courage to ask his dream girl out, someone who apparently worked as one of the cleaners over at Devon’s ranch. He watched her move on to another table, and this time she was speaking with his head cook, who was in turn thanking Tabitha for the herbal remedy she had personally brewed for her son’s cough.
Just watching her, seeing her dole out smiles like she had never tasted hardship, was more than enough to take his breath away.
Compared to how she had looked the first time he saw her, Tabitha had filled up quite nicely, no doubt due to Thomas and Nicholas alternately doing their best to get her to eat. While neither of them had spoken about it out loud, he had a feeling the older man was paranoid about his wife’s seeming frailty and what could happen if she ever fell sick.
He looked at her, and he could only think of one damn thing.
She was so damn beautiful, he had long stopped counting the number of times he only had to look at his wife, and she would have his heart banging against his chest.
Standing at the opposite of the garden, he saw her suddenly stiffen and begin looking around searchingly. A moment later, her gaze locked with his, and he saw the way she patently relaxed, in a way that made it seem like she didn’t feel right until she saw him.
He raised a brow. Missed me?
She made a face. You’re so full of yourself. But then her lips curved. Although you’re right as always. Shaking her head, Tabitha mouthed, I miss you, husband.
Inclining his head, Nicholas mouthed with mock gravity, I miss you, too, wife.
The first few notes of live music suddenly struck, and his surprised gaze whipped towards its direction. So that was why there had been a makeshift stage set up, Nicholas realized. Tabitha had actually invited his favorite band, and in moments, she was standing right in front of him, her cheeks once again a becoming shade of rose.
“Did I manage to surprise you again?” she asked with an excited grin.
“You did,” he acknowledged. “And as a reward—” He took hold of her hand. “May I have this dance, wife?”
The word seemed to have caught her in surprise, causing Tabitha to literally squeal out loud, and Nicholas laughed.
Bee realized then what she had inadvertently let slip and was instantly mortified. “I’m sorry! I was just—oh!”
She found herself being literally whirled into the grassy dance floor, and in the next moment, he had her bent backwards in a graceful dip. A breathless, choked laugh escaped Bee, and Nicholas smirked at the sound.
Oh, dear God, how can this exquisite man be her husband again?
Nicholas’ lips twitched at the now familiar dazed look on Tabitha’s face. “That pedestal you have me on seems to be getting alarmingly higher,” he murmured with sardonic humor. “I have a feeling it’s going to be hell when I inevitably fall from it.”
Being the loyal creature she was, his wife simply laughed. “That’s never going to happen.”
‘Because you’re perfect’ were the silently implied words to end the argument, and a wry expression crossed Nicholas’ handsome face as he swirled and whirled her around.
So damn sweet, he thought.
But at the same time, she was also so damn naïve, he just knew it was going to be the death of him one day.
“Are you happy?”
Her sudden question quickly drew his attention back to her, and Nicholas frowned at the wistful note in her voice. “Of course I’m happy. Why would you even ask?”
“I just think it would be better if Danny were here with us,” Bee confessed.
Nicholas managed to keep his face expressionless at the mention of his son’s name. “When was the last time you spoke to him?”
“Yesterday. He knew about today’s surprise, and I’ve tried my best to convince him that we really want him home with us, but—” She gave him an apologetic look. “He’s so annoyingly pigheaded. He really thinks he’s going to be a third wheel between us.”
“Has he mentioned when he plans on coming back?” Nicholas asked with deceptive casualness.
She shook her head. “Have you tried asking him? He says he was able to speak to you yesterday, too.”