The texas renegade reurns(8)

By: Charlene Sands



 “And now you know who you are. So what’s next?”

 “I try to make amends with everyone I hurt. I try to pick up the pieces.”

 A waiter in tuxedo tails and white gloves took their plates away. Another waiter came by to scrape crumbs off the table and replace the cutlery.

 “I want to move past this, Cara.”

 Easy for him to say.

 “I’m asking only one thing from you.”

 Coffee was poured from a silver pot and domed dessert dishes were placed on the table, one for her, one for Alex. On Alex’s nod, the waiter walked away, leaving them alone. Cara didn’t want dessert. She didn’t want to be here with Alex. Memories rushed in and carved out another slice of her heart.

 Alex leaned over the table to pick up the dome and reveal her dessert. Her eyes lowered to a square wedge of rich chocolate brownie garnished with fresh whole raspberry mounds.

 My favorite.

 This time white frosting written on the dessert didn’t ask, Marry Me? like before. But at this point in her life, the question scribed on the brownie meant almost as much: Another Chance?

 Her lips quivered. She put her head down.

 Alex reached over the table to take her hand, and the melting force of his warmth wasn’t something she could fend off right now. “Before you say anything, remember how much we loved each other. Remember the happiness. And laughter. Cara, do you remember how we celebrated our engagement after I put the ring on your finger?”

 Cara’s lips lifted as her gaze shifted toward the river. How could she forget? It was one of those memories that would stay with her until her days on earth were numbered. It was a memory she wouldn’t share with another soul. A snapshot moment she would always cherish.

 With moonlight guiding them and hands entwined, they’d christened the quiet waters with their naked bodies, diving into the river and coming up with big grins, the heat of their love cloaking them from frigid temperatures. They’d splashed around, silly with joy, and laughed until their bellies ached.

 “I remember,” Cara said, her voice sounding whimsical to her ears. “It was the best.”

 “Yes, it was.”

 Their eyes locked and they stared at each other. But Cara wasn’t going to be a fool again. Sweet memories only made the loss of their love harder to bear. It only reminded her of what could have been if Alex hadn’t been deceitful. His little plan had backfired. She couldn’t eat the brownie or stay here another second. She wasn’t in the mood for decadence. She wasn’t in the mood for forgiveness. Cara released his hand and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Alex. I can’t give you what you want tonight.”

 His mouth puckered as he nodded. “I understand.”

 Do you really? She doubted he knew how much pain he’d caused.

 “Will you take me home now?”

 “Of course.”

 He rounded the table and pulled out her chair. As she stood, he took her hand. Steady on her feet, she looked into his eyes. They could be cold at times, like when Alex was determined to close a big deal, and she’d always wondered about his drive and determination. Now she knew exactly where those traits had come from. He was his father’s son. Any man who’d send his only son to another country to assume a false persona and spy on a rival had to be ruthless. But in Alex’s eyes tonight, she found only warmth and apology. He wasn’t happy with her decision to leave so early, but true to his promise, he agreed to take her home.

 Kudos to Alex.

 She’d give him that much. But the one thing she wouldn’t give him, the one thing she wasn’t ready to share with him, could very well change everything between them.

 Cara carried his child.





        Two

 Cara entered her cottage on Windsor Farms and tossed her purse down on the sofa. Her hand touched her stomach reflectively. Turmoil wasn’t good for the baby. And she’d certainly had that today with Alex showing up at her office. Was it seeing Alex and hearing about his kidnapping that churned inside her? Or was it a case of morning sickness hitting her in the evening? She didn’t know. She’d never been pregnant before.

 How could she label the queasiness that gripped her stomach?

 The history on her computer screen would alert anyone checking that she’d been boning up on symptoms of pregnancy. Only a short while ago she’d discovered she was carrying Alex’s child and since then, she’d kept her eyes and ears open to anyone who mentioned “baby.”

 Leaning against the top of the sofa with one hand, she spread her fingers wide across her belly with the other. According to her cell phone app, the baby was the size of a strawberry. That put a smile on her face. Imagine that? Protective instincts kicked in for her little strawberry and her tummy gushed with warmth. She’d do anything to keep her child safe, including keeping him away from his father until she was certain she knew what kind of man Alex del Toro really was.

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