“Am I? I don’t think so. And I don’t think you think so either. And I can prove it to you.”
As he took a quick step forward, he could see her sway, part of her wanting to yield, part of her wanting to run. He’d never seen so much panic in another’s eyes. It gave his conscience a nasty yank, but it didn’t stop him. He was, after all, no saint.
The moment his head dipped down, hers ducked too, causing his nose to collide with the top of her head. The sudden swimming pain of it caused him to hesitate, but not to retreat. His grip on her tightened even as her palms were levering against his chest. Her hands pushing. Her fingers clinging.
“Kyle, don’t.” There was so much anguish in her tone. A gentleman would have relented but she already knew he wasn’t a gentleman.
“Robyn, don’t be afraid,” he said into the soft spill of her hair. “Don’t be ashamed of what you’re feeling.”
“Kyle, please . . .”
“He’s gone, Robyn. You can’t bring him back. You can’t keep hanging on.”
“I don’t want to let go.” And at that moment, she did just that, releasing all the pent up emotions, all the festering grief. She leaned into the soft, faded fleece of his Pistons sweatshirt and sobbed like a baby with a broken heart.
Instantly, his arms were around her, all thoughts of passion overwhelmed by those of care. It was then it hit him and hit him hard. When had he fallen in love with the grieving Robyn Lee? As if he needed any more complications in his life!
“It’s all right, honey. Cry it out.”
“I don’t want to cry it out. I don’t want to get over it. I don’t want to let it go. Don’t you understand? He was all I had, all I ever wanted! What have I got now? An empty house. Empty dreams that will never come true; his children I’ll never have, a future with him that we’ll never share. I don’t have anything of my own. Even my business, even the dream I always had for myself, he gave to me. There’s nothing for me except Gene. There never will be.”
His hands began a firm massage of her tight shoulders. She felt good, fragile but good. And very quietly, he told her, “You have me.”
“You?” If she hadn’t been so lost to her own pain, she might have felt the way her harshness shocked through him.
“Hey, I’m not perfect, Robyn, but I’m here for you.”
She wrestled back out of his embrace, her eyes drenched with sorrow and a savage anger. “You’re not here for me. You’re here for you.”
“You’re wrong,” he argued. “If you’d just for one minute climb out of that hole in the ground you’ve pulled in after yourself, you’d see how wrong you are.”
“Am I? How big of you to come here preaching to me about leaving the past behind. What a prime example you are. Maybe you should check the position of your own glass house before you start pitching stones in my direction.”
He went still as she ranted on, provoked beyond rational thought or compassionate considerations.
“If you’re so noble and so perfect, why are you hiding behind a camera at your sister’s wedding? Huh? If you’re so big and brave and ready to give advice on how to take on the world, why can’t you take care of yourself? I can’t depend on you, Kyle. You don’t even trust yourself.”
She couldn’t have done more damage if she’d crammed his soul down into a Cuisinart and flipped it to puree. She took all the tender sentiments that had been growing, wooing and warm, and froze them solid. Instinct and self-preservation saved him from suffering at her hands, from betraying how horribly her words hurt him. He was lucky. He wasn’t so far gone that he couldn’t pull out of it. He might be singed, but at least he wouldn’t crash and burn. Not over this hard and hopelessly angry woman. What had he ever seen in her that he’d wanted, anyway? And he switched from compassion to a chill attack in his own defense.
“Well, excuse me, Ms. Lee. I should have guessed that you wouldn’t want my help. You’re doing just fine wallowing around in your pathetic little dreams. Forgive me for pointing out that there just might be something in life out there that could equal your husband’s perfect memory. Go ahead and suck your satisfaction off other people’s happiness if that’s what you want to do. Me, I’m just a cameraman. I see things through a lens, but at least I know how to bring it into focus. You seem to like your world in fuzzy fantasy. I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing, Cinderella. Call me after midnight sometime when the ball’s over.”
He grabbed up his coat and stalked out, leaving her behind with her huge tear-bruised eyes and pale face. To her foolish dreams and hopes that he could never fulfill.
Because under all his bitter bite and bluster, he knew she was right.
He wasn’t the kind of man she could depend upon.