Authors: Mary Eason
stared at them too stunned for words. She adored them, but there was no way she could accept their generous offer.
She bit her lip trying to keep back the tears as she reached for each of their hands. She couldn’t tell them the truth. The fear she carried every day. Kate knew in her heart that Josh was dead.
Yet late at night when she was alone, her thoughts reeled with the terrifying possibilities. What if her child inherited her father’s mental illness?
Matt’s her father now. He won’t let that happen.
She swallowed the fear and looked toward the future. “You know I love you guys, right? I just can’t accept such a generous gift from you. It’s too much. This place has been your life, I could never—”
shook his head. “Yes, you can. We’ve given this a lot of thought, and we can’t think of anyone we’d rather have carry on the business. You’re smart. We want you to have it.”
“Amy.” Kate turned to the woman, hoping to make her understand.
“Herman’s right. We weren’t sure until you and Matt were married that you were going stick around our small town after the baby was born, but now, well, we know this is an answer from God.”
Kate couldn’t speak. She was moved by their love. She could only shake her head and wonder how on earth she would ever be able to live up to all their expectations.
was staring at his computer, his mind miles away thinking on the woman that just yesterday had become his wife.
Kate believed he’d spent the entire night working.
He hadn’t. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, he’d collapsed on the sofa just a few short hours before she'd awakened him. He wondered what she'd say if she knew, his sleeplessness had everything to do with her.
Kate was his wife.
She was being so careful not to give anyone
even the smallest hint that there was anything between them but friendship, yet nothing could be further from the truth for him.
He wasn’t sure when his feelings had changed. N
ot that it mattered though, because he’d made a promise to Kate. He wouldn’t let her know just how wrong she was about this friendship of theirs.
broke into his unhappy thoughts. Denny's call a welcome release.
“I can’t believe you let your bride of less than twenty-four hours go in to work today.
You’re slipping, my friend.”
“Shut up, Denny.” He’d
explained it carefully, made sure Denny understood all the reasons behind their marriage, but his friend hadn’t bought it. “You know Kate and I are just friends—”
-huh, you keep right on telling yourself that and maybe you’ll believe it’s the truth. She says the same thing, by the way.”
“What did Kate tell you?” The question slipped out before he considered how desperate it sounded. Matt realized he’d just walked into one of Denny’s carefully laid traps.
“I’m hanging up now. I have better things to do.”
Matt slammed the receiver down to the annoying sound of his friend’s undaunted laughter.
“I was thinking we could go to
Denver this weekend. Shop for the nursery before the baby comes. We could leave Friday morning and be back Saturday night. Plenty of time before the service on Sunday. I know you don’t want to miss church.”
Their relationship felt so right
that it was hard to keep from telling her the things that were in his heart. He needed to be patient.
Some things were worth waiting for.
“Amy and Herman will be
okay on their own. I was thinking we could have dinner, maybe even go to a movie if you’d like?” Matt said while trying to gage her reaction. “Unless you think we should leave Sammy’s old room the way it is since we’re having a boy.”
a girl,” Kate argued. She'd been touting this claim for weeks now. He suspected that would be the one thing to get her to agree.
“I’ll ask Amy and Herman about it tomorrow. I have lots of ideas for our daughter’s room.”
Matt wasn’t sure how he managed to keep the satisfied grin off his face when she glanced up at him. Somehow, he’d been strong.
The spacious two-bedroom suite at one of Denver’s more exclusive hotels was like nothing Kate had ever seen before. When Matt suggested the trip, she hadn’t considered they’d be spending the night.
“You like it?” he asked.
Kate turned and threw her arms around him. “I like it a lot. I’ve never been anywhere quite as fancy as this before. Thank you.”
held her close just a minute longer, his chin resting against the top of her soft hair. He could smell the perfume of her shampoo and he closed his eyes, breathing in the scent of Kate, before she pulled out of his arms.
All the humor left her as she watched him with that same hesitant
expression he’d seen before in the past few weeks.
He tried to smile through her rejection, but it was hard. Silently
, he cursed himself for all the things he promised he wouldn’t want from her. If he kept this up, he’d lose her for good. Kate didn’t want his love.
Okay, we have dinner reservations at seven so if we’re going to do some shopping, then we’d better get a move on.”
Through the long hours of decisions on just the right color for the baby’s room, which type of border was best, and what comforter was right for the crib, it was all Matt could do not to scream his love to her at least a dozen times.
Over dinner, he was finally able to relax. “You’re falling asleep in your dessert, woman,” he told her, before reaching over to brush aside a crumb from her lips. That didn’t invoke her usual on edge reaction whenever he did something she considered too intimate.
She yawned, nodded her head in agreement, before resting her cheek against her hand.
“You’re right, I’m pooped. Shopping's not all it’s cracked up to be.”
Matt laughed. “Well, since we’ve done everything today, I think we should just take it easy tomorrow.”
He glanced up just in time to see that twinkle in Kate’s green eyes that always warned him she was about to give him a hard time. “Oh yeah? What’d you have in mind? Sleeping in, or maybe, breakfast in bed?”
He lowered his glance from hers, his mind silently considering the possibilities she so innocently opened up.
“Sleeping late for sure, and then we could order room service before catching a movie?”
Matt couldn’t help but wonder what had caused the light to leave her
eyes. Small patches of color touched her face, and he wished he knew what had Kate so flustered.
As much as she loved being with Matt, Kate was relieved when she could finally close the door to her room, crawl into the king-size bed alone, and cry herself to sleep.
She’d been holding back tears for most of the day. Everything about this trip only seemed to emphasize what was missing from their marriage. Every moment they spent together, every touch, every awkward kiss, and every innocent
glance. Everything about being with Matt only made her that much more aware of him.
The man she was in love with.
The one person in the world she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. The man who could offer her only friendship.
Kate turned on her side and tried to muffle her sobs, praying he wouldn’t hear.
She loved him. God had brought them together and she would never leave him. Surely, God would give her the strength to control the love she felt for him.
She would do her best to help him accept God’s love in his life again. Nothing else mattered. Not even the emptiness she felt inside from loving someone who couldn’t give his heart in return.
woke suddenly. She sat up in bed, her heart pounding in her ears. It was that same familiar nightmare.
No matter how much she tried to forget the night that had almost cost her life, she couldn’t. She was out of bed and opening the door before she realized exactly what she was doing. Kate had only been in Matt’s room once, but now she didn’t care. She needed his comfort. She knocked softly then slowly opened it.
“Matt?” Kate whispered into the darkness
as she waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim room. She managed another tentative step and saw him sit up in bed to push the covers away. “What is it? Are you okay?”
“No, no, I’m not.” She stopped. All of her needs seemed to disappear at the sight of him.
“Is it the baby?” he asked when he reached her side.
Even in the darkness, Kate could sense the tension building
in her. He wore only pajama bottoms. She turned away, embarrassed at the sight of his bare chest.
“No, it’s not the baby
. I…I had a bad dream.” She was shivering and couldn’t control the trembling. “I don’t want to be alone.”
He put his arm around her. “You’re cold.
Come get into bed where it’s warm.”
She allowed him to lead her to bed and watched as he pulled the blankets over her.
Kate lay back against the warmth where his body had imprinted the sheets. She watched him lean close, his hand touching her shoulder. He pulled the covers back and got in next to her drawing her into his arms.
“Relax, everything is
okay. Do you want to talk about it?” he whispered against her ear.
For the life of
her, she couldn’t think of relaxing or talking. The nightmare was gone. She was only conscious of Matt. She realized how foolish she’d been in coming to him. She'd broken every boundary they'd so carefully placed between their friendship and...
Her heart was pounding, reminding her of things that were impossible. “I should go back to my room. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come here.”
He released her when she pulled away.
, wait. Don’t go,” Matt said, as she sat up and pushed the bedding back. “Come back under the covers where it’s warm. I won’t touch you again. Try and go back to sleep, okay?” He waited as she got back into the bed. “I would never do anything to hurt you. You know that, don’t you?”
She didn’t answer.
Matt blew out a breath. “Kate, I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t attracted to you. You’re so beautiful in ways you don’t even realize, but I would never hurt you, ever. I just wanted to comfort you. Let me be there for you, Kate in this one small way.” He was startled when she laughed bitterly.
“No, that’s not true. I’m not pretty. You don’t have to pretend. Josh made sure of it
“What are you talking about? You
“No, Josh made sure no other man would want me. I’m not beautiful, I’m ugly. Ask Denny, he’s seen the scar. You don’t know, but I do.”
“Are you telling me that Josh hurt you, physically? That he scarred you in some way?” Her shuddering reaction was all the answer he needed. “It’s important that we trust each other because we’ve both been hurt before. Will you trust me enough to show me what you’re talking about?”
No, I can’t, it’s horrible. I can’t show you. I can never show you.”
“Kate, there is absolutely nothing you could show me that would ever make me turn away from you. Please trust me, love.”
Slowly she turned the lamp on and then pushed the covers back. Sitting up, she turned her back to him as she lifted her top. The ugly red scar ran the length of the small of her back.
Matt put his hands on her waist and lowered the bottoms just enough to see the scar fully. He
traced his fingers along the raised skin of the scar. She shivered then jerk away from him.
She turned back to face him, her gaze full of fear and uncertainty. They faced each other across the space.
He reached for her hand and tugged her close
. “You are more beautiful than ever, and nothing, certainly not something inflicted on you by someone so uncaring, will ever change my mind.”
single sob escaped and then she was crying and she couldn't seem to stop. Matt held her in his arms. “I know you don’t want to be alone. I know you dreamed of him and you were frightened. It’s okay. Go back to sleep. I’m here and I won’t let anything bad ever happen to you again.”
She didn’t answer, but she didn’t
want to leave him again.
“I’m a little concerned with your blood pressure reading. It’s just a tad higher than I’d like to see.” Denny glanced over at his patient and tried to calm her uneasiness by patting her arm gently.
Nothing to be too concerned about. I’m just going to run a few tests. I’d still like to see you back in the office the first part of next week.”