Read Marking Time Online

Authors: Marie Force

Tags: #romance, #family saga, #nashville, #contemporary romance, #new england, #second chances, #starting over, #trilogy, #vermont, #newport, #sexy romance, #summer beach read

Marking Time (27 page)

BOOK: Marking Time
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Buddy held out his hand. “You, too, brother. Don’t be a stranger.”

Reid shook Buddy’s hand and walked to the elevator with a tight feeling in his chest. Kate would kill him if she ever found out about what he’d just done.

 

The next afternoon, Reid called Kate from the air to tell her he’d be home in twenty minutes. As he shot the final approach to the runway, his heart melted when he saw her riding Thunder down the dirt road to the hangar. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been met by anyone after a trip, and he couldn’t get the plane down fast enough.

She pushed open the doors to the hangar for him, and he taxied the plane into the building. By the time he cut the engines, jumped down from the plane, and locked up the hangar, she was back on Thunder waiting for him.

“Hey, baby, this is a nice surprise.” He tossed his briefcase and overnight bag into the Mercedes and walked over to pet the horse. “I go out of town for one night, and you’re already making time with my best buddy?” The horse nuzzled Reid’s cheek.

“He likes me better than you. He told me so.”

“He’s got good taste in women.”

Thunder whinnied, and they laughed.

“I swear to God he’s human.” Kate reached down to Reid. “Ride with me?”

“I’d love to.”

She took her foot out of the stirrup so he could swing himself up behind her. When he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her neck, she sighed with pleasure.

“I missed you,” she said. “You’ve spoiled me. I can’t sleep alone anymore.”

He groaned. “I missed you, too.”

She tilted her head back to kiss him, and the passion flared between them despite the awkward position and the movement of the horse.

“I want you,” he whispered in her ear, sending a shiver through her.

She urged Thunder into a gallop. “Let’s go home.”

 

C
hapter 24

T
he morning after Aidan told her about Sarah and Colin, Clare woke up with a sick feeling that had nothing to do with her pneumonia. The fight they’d had weeks earlier came back to haunt her when she remembered the awful words she’d hurled at him. It’s easy to say what you would do when you’ve never been a parent. She winced.
I can’t believe he ever spoke to me again
.

Watching him sleep next to her, she was filled with love for him. How could this have happened so fast? Not all that long ago, she’d wondered how she would ever live without Jack, and now she couldn’t imagine life without Aidan.

She knew it was time to tell him about what’d happened to her, but she’d moved so far beyond it since she’d been in Stowe that it made her ill to think of revisiting it, even briefly and even if Aidan deserved to know. The possibility he might look at her differently after he heard her story was terrifying. The last thing she wanted was anyone’s pity, especially Aidan’s. She knew she was probably selling him short, but she just couldn’t talk about all that, not now when she was standing on the precipice of a whole new life with him.
I can’t
.
I can’t spoil this by letting that horror touch it
.

She reached over to stroke his hair, and a green eye fluttered open.

He smiled.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“I’m glad you did. Feel better?” He rested a hand on her forehead. “You’re still warm, but the fever might come and go for a few more days yet.”

“I feel better, but not perfect. My head is pounding and my chest still hurts.”

“We’ll take it easy today.”

“I’m keeping you from your work.”

“I have a great client right now. Not only is she very, very cute, but she’s also very understanding.”

“Who is she, and where can I find her?”

His eyes lit up with delight. “Jealous?”

“Don’t flatter yourself, O’Malley.”

He cracked up. “Whew. Things are getting back to normal. What a relief.”

“Aidan?”

He turned to look at her. “Yeah?”

“I’m sorry for what I said that day about you never being a parent. That was an awful thing to say.”

“It’s okay. You didn’t know.”

“It was awful, and I’m sorry.”

“I asked for it by criticizing you. Don’t worry about it.”

“How do you feel after talking about it last night?”

“I’m glad you know.” He reached for her hand. “It’s always a gamble to tell that story because I don’t want to be defined by what I’ve lost. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s one of the reasons I like being in Stowe. No one here knows, so I don’t have to suffer through the sympathetic looks I get when I’m at home in Chatham or when I see Sarah’s family in Boston. To them I’ll always be the guy who lost his wife and kid.”

“I do know what you mean, and if I ever look at you that way, I’m sorry in advance.”

He kissed her hand.

“You know, that first day we met, I saw it in your eyes,” she said. “It was so odd, but I could tell you’d had some kind of terrible loss. I never imagined how terrible, but I saw it just the same.”

“Are you going to tell me why I see the same thing when I look at you?”

His question startled her. “Someday maybe, but right now I just want to enjoy this. Is that okay?” she asked, but she could see the disappointment on his face.

“Sure.” He leaned over to kiss her before he got up. “Bea called yesterday while you were sleeping. She wants to come by to see you today if you feel up to it.”

“That’d be great,” Clare said as she watched him pull on jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt.

“I’ll make us some breakfast,” he said on his way to the stairs.

Clare felt like she’d somehow failed him. He had bared his soul to her, but she hadn’t been able to do the same for him and wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to.

 

Bea came over after lunch, and they visited in Aidan’s den. He built up the fire in the woodstove for them before he went out to the garage to work on a vintage Porsche he was restoring.

“I’m so glad to see you up and about,” Bea said.

“Thanks for coming. And thanks for the books.”

“My pleasure. We’re reading this one for book club next week, if you feel up to coming.”

“I hope I can. I got the check you sent. I told you I didn’t want you to pay me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I had to pay you. So are you feeling better?”

“Yes, finally.”

“You gave us quite a scare.”

“I can’t believe how fast I went from having a cold to having pneumonia. Thank goodness Aidan knew what to do.”

Bea raised an amused eyebrow. “You two seem pretty cozy.”

“I love him,” Clare confessed. “He’s amazing.”

Bea clapped her hands with delight. “I knew it! I knew you two would be perfect for each other. What did I tell you?”

Clare chuckled. “You were right.”

“That’s wonderful, Clare. You both deserve it after all you’ve been through.”

“He told me about his wife and son. It’s so sad.”

“I know. Have you told him what happened to you?”

“Not yet.”

“What’re you waiting for?”

Clare wasn’t sure exactly why the idea of sharing her past with Aidan was so frightening. But Bea was right. He deserved to know. Now she just had to work up the courage to revisit her painful past one more time.

 

In the garage, Aidan turned on the kerosene heater and propped open the hood of the old car to peer in at the banged-up engine. He’d found the car in a scrap metal yard a year ago and was slowly bringing it back to life.

He was coming back to life, too. With each day he spent with Clare, he could feel it happening a little more. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d hoped for anything, but his relationship with her had helped him see he’d been just getting by since he lost Sarah, not really living. Now he wanted more again—he wanted a life with Clare and her girls but not with secrets between them. Even though he understood her reasons better than most people would, he was frustrated by her refusal to level with him. He knew she trusted him—but apparently not enough to tell him her story.

Banging his fist on the workbench in aggravation, he remembered all of a sudden that Maggie had called for her when she was in the shower. He walked into the house through the kitchen, and came up short when he heard her talking to Bea in the den.

“I want to tell him,” Clare was saying. “I do. But am I wrong to want this time with him without making that part of it?”

“No, sweetie, you’re not wrong. It’s a terrible thing, an ugly thing, and I can see why you wouldn’t want to pollute something beautiful with something ugly. But you can’t keep it from him forever. It’s part of who you are now, whether you want it to be or not. What if he heard it from someone else before you could tell him?”

Aidan almost stopped breathing when he realized Clare had already told Bea. Hurt radiated through him.

“Who would tell him?” Clare asked. “The girls would never mention it. They hate talking about it almost as much as I do.”

“You’re sure of that?”

“Positive.”

Aidan moved around a bit so they’d know he was in the house and then poked his head into the den. “Hey, I forgot to tell you Maggie called when you were in the shower.”

Her smile warmed his heart. It told him everything she felt for him, and it was a balm on the hurt.

“Thanks, I’ll give her a call in a bit.”

Bea got up. “I need to get back to the store. I left my niece in charge for an hour, but we’ve been busy this week, so she’s probably ready for some relief.”

“I’m glad you came, Bea. I should feel good enough to work if you need me during the Winter Festival. Kate and Maggie are supposed to be up that weekend.”

“Don’t worry about working. Just come by to visit with the girls.” She kissed Clare’s cheek.

Aidan walked Bea out and then came back to check on Clare. “Need anything?”

She held out her hand to him. “Just one thing.”

He took her hand and sat down next to her. “What’s that?”

“You,” she said, leaning in to kiss him.

He took her in his arms and kissed her until he was crazy with wanting her.

She moaned. “
Aidan
.”

He lay back on the sofa and without breaking the kiss, dragged her with him so she was on top of him. Running his hands over her ribs, he caressed her breasts through her shirt, making her gasp. “Do you want me to stop?” he managed to ask.

She leaned down to kiss him again. “No.”

He slipped his hands under her shirt and found warm, soft skin.

She raised herself up to give him access.

“Oh, God, Clare,” he sighed against her neck, his hands full of soft breast. But then, like cold water had been thrown on him, he remembered what’d happened to her and that he needed to be careful with her. He was afraid he’d frighten her if she knew how badly he wanted her.

She let out a whimper when he removed his hands from her breasts and smoothed her shirt back down. “What?” she whispered.

“I don’t want this to happen on the sofa.” He kissed her forehead, her nose, and then her lips while resisting the urge to plunder. “And I should probably buy you dinner first, no?”

Laughing, she looked down at him. “I love you. I love you so much.”

“I’m very glad you do,” he said, but deep inside he hurt because she didn’t love him enough to tell him her secrets.

 

While Aidan grilled steaks on the deck, Clare called Maggie back. The girl was full of news about school, her friends, and the twins. She was looking forward to the upcoming weekend in Vermont. Clare planned to meet Jack in Boston a week from Friday to pick her up.

“Will Aidan be there?” Maggie asked.

“Yep.” Clare wondered if her daughter had developed a crush on Aidan.

“Is he your boyfriend?”

“I think so.” Knowing this was new territory for Maggie, she knew she had to ask. “Is that okay with you?”

“Yeah. He’s nice.”

“He is.” Clare looked out the window to where he stood on the deck lost in thought. “Listen, baby, I’ve got to run. Give me a call tomorrow?”

“Will you still be at Aidan’s?”

“Yes, for now. The dust at Uncle Tony’s house isn’t good for me after having pneumonia. Aidan’s going to be stripping the floors next, which is really dusty.”

“Makes sense. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Aidan came in with the steaks. “Everything okay with Maggie?”

“She’s great, full of news, as always.”

He smiled. “She’s adorable.”

Clare followed him into the kitchen to help set the table. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Do you ever think about having other children?”

He turned to her. “No.”

“Never?”

He shook his head. “Why?”

She bit her bottom lip. “Well, I was just thinking if you had your heart set on having children someday, maybe you’d want to be with someone younger.”

Aidan walked over to put his hands on her shoulders. “I have my heart set on you,” he said, kissing her lightly.

“But if you changed your mind about having kids—”

“I’m not going to. I could never stand to go through that again.”

“It wouldn’t be like that again, Aidan. You have to know that.”

“I don’t want kids. I want you. If all I ever had was you and your girls, I’d be perfectly satisfied.”

“I have to go home to Rhode Island before much longer, you know.”

“I know.”

“What’ll we do then?”

“Why don’t we take it a day at a time and see what happens?”

She nodded, and they sat down to eat.

“Can I ask
you
something?” Aidan said.

“Of course.”

“What was your husband like?”

Clare hadn’t expected that question. She put her fork down and sat back in her chair. “He’s a good guy. I think you’d like him, actually. I know he’d like you. Jill looks
just
like him.”

“I remember you saying that once before. What does he do?”

“He’s an architect who’d totally
love
this house.”

“How’d you meet him?”

“I was working on Block Island as a bartender. He came in one night, we started talking, and one thing led to another. We spent a week together while he was there on vacation. We were pretty much together from that point on, and we were married six months later.”

BOOK: Marking Time
8.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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