Page 53

He comforted me.

Held me.

Told me none of this was my fault.

He accepted my reasoning, no matter how faulty it may have been at the tender age of twenty. He told me he understood and it was forgiven. I watched him cry tears for a baby that was never meant to be for us, the man wallowing in his own pool of grief, and yet he was most concerned about making sure I was okay.

Hawke told me he wanted to move forward, whatever that may mean.

He absolved me and was ready for us to give this another shot. The minute he gave me that cheesy grin, stuck his hand out for me to shake, and said, “Hi. My name is Hawke. Nice to meet you,” I made the immediate and absolute decision that I wasn’t going to bring any more hurt down upon either of us. I decided in that moment that I was letting all of my hurt go, just the way he was.

That meant I was not going to throw in his face and start an argument about his own abandonment of me after I reached out to him via phone and email. I couldn’t do that to him, not after I just dropped on his shoulders a baby created of love never meant to be and watched him reel from the misery of unfairness that he was just learning about. I just didn’t have it in me to dredge up more crap that only served to rake against us like barbed wire.

He said it was time to go forward, and thus I jumped on that progressive train.

I decided it was time to leave the past behind me.

Knowing Hawke the way I do, I was well aware that it wouldn’t do any good to put my clothes on. He said he wasn’t done with me, and that meant we’d remain naked until the next morning. So I grabbed another towel out of a small pantry closet that sat to the left of his vanity and wrapped it around me, securing the end into the top just between my breasts.

Dying of thirst and a little hungry, I headed down the stairs toward his kitchen, intent on finding something to alleviate both needs. Three steps from the bottom, I call out, “I’m starving, Hawke. I’m raiding your fridge, okay?”

He doesn’t answer me, and as I reach the bottom landing, my body turns left to the living room rather than right toward the kitchen. Just as I round the wall separating the staircase from the living room, where the entryway sits on the other side, I’m struck stupid by Hawke standing there in his towel, with another woman.

With her fingers in the edge of the towel.

And a sexy look on her face.

And Hawke making no move to dislodge said fingers or wipe said look off her face.

Tall, lithe, silky auburn hair, and creamy smooth skin. She’s gorgeous and she’s staring at Hawke and he’s staring at her, and I just hate her. And I’m not feeling too kindly toward him either.

We all have bodily reactions that come at embarrassing times. We don’t want these things to happen, but our bodies betray us. It could be the often amusing but sometimes awkward situation of a gurgling belch after drinking something fizzy to the completely dreaded sound of flatulence from an upset tummy. Hawke and I’ve seen pretty much everything there is with each other, but I guarantee you he has never heard the sound that involuntarily rises out of me.

Like a screaming eagle. Or maybe a banshee. Definitely something full of outrage and hurt, I make a screeching sound that I had no idea existed. Hawke turns to me with a shocked look on his face. The woman’s hand drops away from his waist and her jaw hangs wide open to see me standing there.

“Move forward my ass,” I screech again, and it’s so loud and abrasive my own teeth hurt from it. I spin away and head for the stairs, intent on dressing and getting the hell out of here.

But Hawke’s words stop me dead cold. “Don’t move another step, Vale, or so help me God, I will chase you down.”

Indecision rules, and even though I cast a glance back over my shoulder, I take a half a step toward the staircase. Hawke’s eyes narrow at me and he warns, “Go ahead, Vale. Make a break for it, but I will catch you, and you’ll end up right back down here, so you might as well just stay put.”

“You’ve got a lot of nerve—” I start to hiss at him, but he catches me off guard.

Scratching his hand through his hair and shooting me a sheepish look, he says, “Vale. This is Michelle. We sort of see each other casually when our schedules allow.”

He’s introducing me to her?

He’s fucking introducing me to his piece of tail he keeps on the side?

“And what?” I ask with a sneer, my eyes never leaving his. “You thought you’d have both of us tonight?”

Hawke ignores me and turns to Michelle. He gives her an apologetic look, which causes my rage to go nuclear. “Michelle. This is Vale.”

He says this while pointing toward me, almost as an afterthought.

“Hi,” Michelle says with a conciliatory smile, giving me an awkward wave from the other side of Hawke. I want to gouge her eyes out, but she’ll have to stand in line; I’d like to get a crack at Hawke’s first.

Then Michelle spins toward Hawke, her eyes going wide. “Wait a minute…did you say Vale? As in the Vale?”

Her voice is awestruck, as if she’s witnessing a miracle. Hawke nods with a slight smile.

She knows about me?

I mean…how?

No way Hawke would ever tell another woman about what we had, and more important, how I destroyed it. His ego would never let him share that.

“Well, this was terrible timing,” Michelle says with a short laugh, and Hawke actually chuckles.

I’m back to wanting to gouge their eyes out.

“What are you doing here?” Hawke asks with his head tilted.

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