As part of my "School's Out" promotion, I'll be posting excerpts throughout the next three days. Saturday, I'll draw to give away two downloads of What Mattered Most. To be entered, all you have to do is leave a comment on any excerpt post!
She looked for answers during the remainder of dinner, but didn’t find any. Listening to the men talk about hot rods, she poked at her food. She wanted the evening over, but didn’t want Caitlin to go either.
The inevitable couldn’t be postponed, though. Finally, with Dennis claiming exhaustion, Caitlin stood to hug Lanie. “You don’t have to walk us out. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Sure.” Unease gathered in her stomach, but Lanie forced a smile. As John walked them to the door, she rose and began stacking plates.
“I’ll get those.” Laughter tinged John’s voice, and she startled, unaware until he spoke that he’d returned to the room. She was suddenly, achingly aware of being alone with him.
“What is so funny?” she snapped.
He set the plates on the counter and returned for a pair of goblets. “Your cousin and your boss. He’s still hot for her, and she has no clue.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You didn’t catch it?” He shot a glance over his shoulder at her, a grin quirking at his mouth. “Hell, Lanie, she accidentally nudged his leg under the table. I thought he’d come out of his skin.”
“And you would notice that.”
He lifted the platters. “Actually, I was thinking how much I missed having you tease me under
the table. How much I miss you, period.”
His words left her speechless. In the bassinet, the baby stirred with a soft cough. Lanie watched John lean over him, adjusting the blanket. The affection on his face was all too real, everything she’d dreamed of seeing on his face when he looked at their son. The emotion, the conversation, the enforced closeness was all too much.
The anger snapped to life. “What are you doing?”
He straightened to look at her. Wariness took over his navy gaze. “What do you mean?”
Lanie waved a hand at the table, the living room, the bassinet. “This. Cooking. The whole perfect-daddy thing. The desk sergeant’s job. What are you doing?”
He swallowed, the muscles in his throat moving in a convulsive thrust. “Honey, I—”
“Don’t you dare call me that.” When he reached for her, she shoved him away, the exhausting effort barely moving him. She flung out her hands again, and the jerky motion toppled a goblet. Water flowed across the table, but neither of them moved. “Do you think my letting you stay changes anything?”
He stared at her, his face pale and gaunt, and she hated him for staying, for not leaving when he’d had the chance to go with Beth. She leaned closer, teeth clenched to prevent her from screaming at him, her voice a raw whisper instead. “It doesn’t matter what you do. Nothing changes what you did.”
Water dribbled onto the floor, a muffled splatter rising as it hit the carpet. He shook his head. “Don’t you think I know that? I’m trying to show you—”
“No.” She shook her head, pain shooting along the incision, digging deep into her senses.
“I know I hurt you. I’m sorry.”
“Hurt me?” The anger flared, drowning the pain, drowning everything but the overwhelming urge to strike back. “You ruined my life. You ruined everything! I wish I’d never met you, that I’d never gotten…”
The awful words died in her throat, and she stared at him, his blue eyes blazing in his pale face. He swallowed again. “I’m sorry for a lot of things, Lanie, but I can’t be sorry about that baby. Not about having him.”
She backed away, shaking her head. Why was he saying this now? Why not when it would have mattered? She forced a whisper past numb lips. “I hate you, O’Reilly.”
Instead of fleeing as she wanted, she took the stairs with maddening slowness, feeling his gaze on her the whole way. In the bedroom, she remembered the sleeping baby and restrained the urge to slam the door. The empty closet mocked her, and she fought the racking sobs attacking her body. Curled up on the bed, she wrapped her arms around a pillow and stared out at the waves.
Light glittered along a silver pool on her nightstand. Reaching out, she tangled her fingers in the silver chain and lifted the infinity pendant. It dangled from her hand, light reflecting along the links and the stylized swoop. She wrapped her hand around the pendant and drew it close, the edges cutting into her palm.