“I’m sorry,” she sobbed.

“Then stop looking at me like that—”

“S-Slade, please—”

“You’re right,” he snarled. “I would never have wanted to see you beg. Because that’s me being nice and nothing else—”

“But—”

“But what?” he demanded roughly. “But you love me? You think you’re different? Special? Because I’m fucking nice to you? Because I care for you?’

“Yes!”

“And if I told you I cared for Penny, too, what then?”

Her heart stopped beating.

“Didn’t you even wonder why Penny lasted far longer than all the others did? Did you really think you were that different? I cared for her, too—”

And her heart started to break.

“Do you get it now?” Slade asked bitterly. “You’re just like the rest of them—”

“Slade—”

“Just forget it,” he said tightly. “Because whatever you think you have to say – I’ve already heard it, and my answer won’t—”

She threw herself at him, catching him by surprise, and her mouth covered his before he could push him away.

God.

Her tears seeped into their kiss, and goddammit, but it was still everything he needed, even if he now knew it wasn’t for him.

And then he felt her pulling away, and he had to clench his fists against the urge to yank her back.

She looked at him, hoping for a sign that he had softened, but instead Slade’s handsome face remained cold and distant, and it hurt. God, it hurt so, so much.

“Please, Slade,” she whispered brokenly. “Maybe…you’re right. Maybe there’s nothing else for me to say that someone else hasn’t already told you. Maybe there was really nothing different with how you treated me, and maybe the way you started caring for me was how you also started caring for h-her…but…that kiss—” Her voice caught. “That kiss…you have to know it’s not like anything else. And that’s what makes us different. I just need you to give us a chance—”

But he only stared at her.

“Slade, please.”

And when his lips finally moved—

“You leave me no choice.”

The words were enough to kill her.

You leave me no choice.

The words he had used on Penny, and now on her, too.

Because, she thought numbly, maybe it was just as he said.

The tears rushed down her face as she watched him walk away, and she couldn’t even make herself call his name out. Because now…now…he, too, had left her no choice, and she could only believe him when he said…

She was wrong. And he was right.

She didn’t love him, had never loved him, and could never love a man who could so easily break her heart.

Kady turned away and walked barefoot to her mother’s hotel. The door opened the moment she knocked—

“Kady, dear God.” Catherine quickly pulled her daughter inside her room. “What happened? It’s him, isn’t it? What did he do? Did he hurt—”

“He broke up with me because he couldn’t love me back.” She tried to make light of it, but her voice cracked in the end, and when she looked at Catherine, she saw that her mother’s face had also started to crack.

“Mother?”

“Stupid girl.” Catherine’s voice shook. “What are you looking so surprised for? Your father and I may never see eye to eye with you, but you’re our child.”

Kady’s hands flew to her mouth.

“Of course I’d hurt, too,” Catherine said almost defiantly, “seeing my own baby hurt—”

“Mom.”

And then she was flying to her mother’s arms.

“Oh, baby.” Catherine’s own tears fell as her baby girl cried in her arms.

“Mom.”

“I’m here, baby. Always.”

Chapter Nineteen

It Must Have Been Love

* * *

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” ~ Steve Jobs

* * *

Slade had only been driving for ten minutes when his blurry gaze left him no choice but to pull over. God. He closed his eyes, but it was no use. He couldn’t get her out of his mind. Couldn’t forget the way she had looked at him, the way she had cried in silence as he turned his back on her.

Pain slammed into him, and a massive shudder wracked his body.

I’m sorry, baby.

A short distance away from where Slade was slumped over his truck’s steering wheel, a certain redhead was walking down the same street, listening and humming along to Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love ,when she suddenly halted in her tracks.

She squinted, thinking the truck seemed familiar, and she moved forward to take a closer look at its license plate.

REDWOOD

Her eyes widened in recognition. Slade Wyndham was the only one with a personalized plate in the entire town, and she remembered the priest from England ribbing the cafe owner about it, saying with mock alarm that the other man must cure himself of his vanity before it was too late for salvation.

Coming up to the driver’s side, Anah knocked gently on the window. “Mr. Wyndham? Are you alright?” A moment later, she heard the door unlock, and Anah stepped back as the cafe owner came out.


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