Silverware tinkled in the dimly lit dining room of Twenty, an upscale restaurant located inside a classy boutique hotel. Eden Larson smiled over the top of her glass of water at Kent Huston. So intelligent and kind. His blue eyes were filled with intent tonight, and she had known what he had planned from the moment he suggested this place for dinner.
The piano player’s voice rose above the music as he sang “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Kent had spoken that very phrase to her often in the year they’d been dating.
“Warm enough?” he asked.
“It’s a perfect night.”
“In every way,” he agreed. “I want to—”
“Kent.” She reached across the linen tablecloth and took his hand. “I need to tell you something.”
Before he asked her to marry him, he needed to know what baggage she carried. She’d intended to tell him before now—long before. But every time she tried, the pain closed her throat. She wasn’t ready to talk about it then, and maybe she wasn’t ready now, but he deserved to know.
Kent smiled. “Are you finally going to tell me what brought you to town? I don’t really care, Eden. I’m just thankful you’re here. I love you.”
She wetted her lips. It didn’t matter that he said he didn’t care. She owed it to him to tell him about her past and the demons that had driven her here to Wabash, Indiana. “Kent . . .” The sense of a presence behind her made her pause.
“Eden,” a man said.
Her heart seized in her chest. She’d recognize the deep timbre anywhere. It haunted her dreams and its accusing tones punctuated her nightmares. The deep vibrancy of that voice impressed a woman before she ever saw him.
She turned slowly in her upholstered chair and stared up at Clay Larson, who stood under the crystal chandelier that was the centerpiece of the intimate dining room. “Clay.”
How could he be here? He hadn’t changed a bit. His hair was still just as black and curly. His dark blue eyes were just as arresting. And her pulse galloped the way it had the first time she’d set eyes on him.
“I need to talk to you,” he said, stepping toward her. “It’s important.”
Oh, she should have told Kent before now. This was the wrong way for him to discover her past. He was beginning to frown as he glanced from her to Clay, whose broad shoulders and vibrant presence loomed over their table. It was going to come out now. All of it. Her pretend life vanished into mist. What had made her think she could escape the past?
“Who are you?” Kent said. “And what right do you have to interrupt a private conversation?”
“The right of a husband,” Clay said, his gaze holding her.
“Ex-husband,” she managed to say past the tightness of her throat.
“No, Eden. Husband.” He held up a sheaf of papers in his right hand.
“What are those?”
“I never signed the divorce papers,” he said quietly, just to her. “You’re still married to me.”
She heard Kent gasp in the silence as the song in the background came to an end. “That’s impossible.” She stared at Clay, unable to take in what he’d said. “We were divorced over five years ago.”
“You sent the papers over five years ago,” he corrected. “I just never signed them.”
She stared at the blank signature line he showed her. Why had she never followed up? Because she’d been too busy running. “But why?”
He shook his head. “I had my reasons. Right now, there’s something more important to discuss.”
“What could be more important?” she asked. Fingers clutched her arm and she turned her head and stared into Kent’s face. “I . . . I’m so sorry, Kent. I was just about to tell you.”
“Tell me that you’re married?” Kent’s eyes held confusion and hurt. “I don’t understand.”
She shook her head. “I’m divorced. Or at least I thought I was. I haven’t seen Clay in five years.”
Kent’s frown smoothed out. “I think you’d better leave,” he said to Clay. He scooted back in his chair.
She laid a hand on his arm. “Let me handle this,” she said. Anger was beginning to replace her stupor and shock. “Why are you here, Clay?”
“Would you like to step outside so we can continue this in private?” Clay asked, glancing around the room.
Heat flamed in her cheeks when she saw the interested stares from the two nearby tables. “Just go away. We can talk tomorrow.”
His firm lips flattened but he stayed where he was. “I’ve found Brianna, Eden. She’s alive.”
She struggled to breathe. She searched his face for the hint of a lie but saw only implacable certainty. She shook her head. “That’s impossible. She’s dead.”
Beside her, Kent jerked, his eyes wide. She half rose.
“I never believed it,” Clay said. “Her body was never found so I kept looking. She’s alive, Eden.”
She wanted to believe him, but it was impossible. Had his grief made him delusional? Clay was the most logical, practical man she’d ever met. But what he was saying couldn’t be true. Their daughter couldn't be alive. Could she?
Labels: Lonestar Angel