He stayed in the chair next to her bed, keeping a silent vigil as he tried to figure the best way to apologize and convince her—
Tabitha started to stir, and he straightened in his seat. Her eyes slowly fluttered open, and he tensed.
Bee hurt everywhere, and it took a while for her eyes to focus, and her mind to accept that she was not dreaming.
It really was Nicholas, and he was looking at her…
Like he cared.
Stop that, Bee!
This man had never been really her husband, had never really wanted someone like her, and it was time she stopped acting and thinking like it wasn’t so.
“Tabitha.” His deep, gravelly voice had Bee reluctantly lifting her head. “I’m sorry this happened. It’s my fault—”
The vehement shake of her head cut his words short. “Please don’t think that.” Bee was dismayed. “It’s not your fault—”
“But it is.” Forcing himself to continue meeting her gaze, he told her in no uncertain terms what he had done to Horace and why the man’s subsequent downfall could’ve made him feel he had nothing to lose in attacking her.
Afterwards, he waited for Tabitha to condemn him for being careless and witholding things from him, but instead, she simply shook her head, her gaze filled with dismay…for him.
“I still don’t think it’s your fault.”
And that was that. She had almost died because of him, and she was worried about how he felt. She was just that kind of girl, Nicholas thought painfully, and a part of him had always known that. The part that subconsciously, from the beginning, Joe, Daniel, and just about everyone else was right about her.
Tabitha was a good person, the kind that would always find it easy to forgive and forget.
But would she also be the kind, Nicholas wondered tensely, to give him a second chance?
Bee knew the exact moment when everything about Horace was forgotten, and it was time to speak about their other…issues. It was in the way he was looking at her now, the way he slowly reached for her hand, and when his fingers curled over hers, it just suddenly happened, and she couldn’t stop it.
The tears fell, and she hurt. So badly.
Because it had just occurred to her that this might be the last time she’d ever feel his touch again.
“I want to stay married to you, Tabitha.”
Bee could only shake her head, the tears falling faster. Dutiful and honorable as always, she thought painfully. But she couldn’t have him living a lie for the rest of his life just because of her and the baby.
“Please.” Nicholas had never begged in his entire life, but it turned out to be a lot easier than he imagined, when everything that mattered was at stake. “Just give me a second chance—”
“Please just stop,” Bee whispered brokenly. “You never wanted to marry me, Nicholas—”
“But I do now,” he gritted out.
“You’re just saying that because you feel guilty about what happened,” she cried out.
“No!” His grip on her hand tightened. “I’m saying it because it’s true. And you’re right, I didn’t want to marry you at the start, but I wanted you. From the very start, I wanted you, dammit. And the longer you were with me, it became something more. Something else entirely—”
“And yet you left,” she choked out, “when I told you I’m pregnant.”
“And you were gone for so long—”
“I’m sorry,” he said rawly. “The moment you told me you were pregnant, it just hit me then that I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. That I had to make a choice, and I needed to get away and think. I spent the days looking for Daniel—”
Bee didn’t understand what he was saying. “Look for him?”
“He might have been calling you every day, but he was lying about his phone calls to me. He was hiding from me, Tabitha, and not even my best investigators could find him. The whole time I was gone, I was just trying to track him down. I wanted to talk to him—”
Because he wanted to know, Bee couldn’t help thinking, why his son could be so stupid.
Nicholas, seeing the look on Tabitha’s face, said sharply, “It’s not what you’re thinking.” And when she only looked at him, he said savagely, “I’m not lying, dammit. And if you want the whole fucking truth – I didn’t really know at the start why I needed to see him. I just felt I had to, and it was only when I found him, and we started talking – when I heard his reason for choosing you—” He brought her hand to his lips. “I realized Daniel was right. You were what I needed. And I still need you. I will always need you. Because I—”
“Please!” The word came out in a sob, Bee tearing her hand out of his hold when she realized what he had been about to say. “Please just don’t say that. Please d-don’t lie—”