What Lies Beneath(9)By: Andrea Laurence
“You know,” she said thoughtfully, “there’s a part of me missing, and that bothers me. But from what I’ve heard, I think maybe it’s better this way. Better if I don’t remember and just start fresh.”
Her words resonated with him. Alex had said this could be a second chance for their relationship. But could he offer it? This woman had betrayed him, abused his trust and threw away what they had together. Did the fact that she didn’t remember doing any of it make a difference? He wasn’t sure. “You always have a choice.”
Cynthia’s brow furrowed, a line deepening between her eyebrows in concern. Her last dose of Botox must’ve worn off during her hospital stay. It was refreshing to see her express real emotions, even if it cost her a few wrinkles over time. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“At any moment your memory could come back. When that happens, you always have the choice of continuing to be the person you want to be instead of going back to your old ways. You can make a fresh start.”
She nodded, continuing to watch her hands and seemingly building up the courage to ask more questions. “I know you didn’t like me, but were you at least physically attracted to me before the accident?”
“You were a beautiful woman.”
“You’re dodging the question,” she said, her gaze meeting his. Her irritation brought a red blush to her cheeks that chased away some of the yellow discoloration from her bruises. She was so full of emotion now. Her skin flushed with anger and embarrassment, her eyes teared up with confusion and sadness. It was such a welcome change from the ice princess he knew.
It made him wonder what she would be like to make love to. Will’s groin tightened, and he pushed the thought out of his mind. He was leaving, and he’d never find out the answer to that question, so it was better he didn’t think about it. “I’m not. You were beautiful. Every guy at Yale wanted you, including me.”
“That picture in the hall…”
“Our engagement portrait?”
“Yes. I don’t look much like that now. I doubt I ever will again.” There was another new expression on her face, a vulnerability that Will wasn’t certain he’d ever seen before. Cynthia was many things, but she rarely showed weakness. The woman sitting beside him had a fragility about her that made him want to comfort her. He’d never felt that urge before. And he certainly shouldn’t feel that way about Cynthia, of all people.
Unable to fight the need, he reached out and ran a thumb over her cheek. The swelling was almost entirely gone now. “Before, you were like a statue in a museum. Perfect, but cold.” The tips of his fingers tingled as they glided over her soft, ivory skin. “I think flaws give character, and you’re much prettier now. On the inside, too.”
Cynthia brought her hand up to cover his where it rested on her cheek. “Thank you for saying that, even if it isn’t true.” Wrapping her fingers around his hand, she pulled it down into her lap, where she held it tightly. “I don’t know everything I did to you, but I can only imagine. I’m sorry. Do you think you could ever forgive me for the things I did in the past?”
Tears gathered in Cynthia’s eyes, and it made his chest ache to see her upset. The way she clutched his hand was like a silent plea. The guilt of crimes she couldn’t remember was eating her up. She wasn’t asking him to love her again. Or to stay. Just to forgive her.
Seeing her like this, spending time with her the past few weeks, had roused new and different feelings for her. Feelings that if left unchecked could lead him to getting hurt again. He couldn’t allow that, even if every part of his body urged him to take the chance. But maybe he could offer her absolution. And then, in time, perhaps more.
“Maybe what we both need is a clean slate. To put everything behind us and start over.”
Cynthia’s eyes widened in surprise. “Start over?”
“Yes. Both of us just need to let go of the past and move forward. You can stop worrying about what you’ve done and who you were and just focus on what you want for your future. And maybe I can stop punishing us both for things we can’t change.”
“What does that mean for you and me?”
That was a good question. One he wasn’t really ready to answer, but he’d do the best he could. “It means we start over, too. We’re strangers, really. We have no reason to trust each other, much less love one another. What, if anything, happens between us will take time to determine.”
“And what about this?” Cynthia held up her hand, her large engagement ring on display.