Standing on The Edge Of Goodbye (6 page)

Kate
appeared wounded by his confession. “There’s evidence of God everywhere. How can you say you don’t believe? Can’t you see God’s presence in everything that makes up our world and our lives.              

“And even if you refuse to acknowledge the truth, think about the promise that God gave assuring us that someday we will see our loved ones again.
Everything you’ve told me about your past makes me believe you are a Christian, even if you doubt that now. You’ll see Sammy again some day, just as I know I’ll see my grandmother. Sammy may be gone from your life right now but he’s at peace with God.”

He turned away
and fought to calm the threatening storm inside his heart.

“You’re wrong. This is all there is. There is no God.”

A single tear slid down her cheek.

“Maybe believing in God gets you through the tough days
, but I realize now that God is just a fairy tale created to help people hang on and overcome the difficulties that life throws at them. God is nothing more than a crutch for people to lean on instead of facing life head on.”

Kate brushed away
the tears. Matt watched as a stubborn anger replaced the pity she’d felt for him minutes earlier.

“You’re so wrong
and I don’t think even you believe what you’re telling me. You’ve been hurt. You suffered, but you’re not the only one. Many people lose someone they love, and they don’t give up on God or on life. You certainly don’t have the corner on grief, Matt.”

If he lost his temper
now, he’d lose the chance to have a relationship. Matt willed the anger away. Then the truth hit him.

“Are you talking about your own life?”
Her reaction told him he'd been dead on. “What are you running away from?” He knew he’d hit a nerve when she looked away.

“Sorry, Kate, but some things are easy to read, especially for a former cop.”

Kate made no attempt to answer.

“You don’t want to talk about it
—”

It was as if a damn had broken inside of her and the words came rushing out.
“I
can’t
talk about it. I can’t. It’s too embarrassing. It’s…it’s…too horrible to talk about. I can’t even think about it.” She sat rigid, gazing at the floor.

“Yes, you can. I told you all those terrible things about myself. You’ve seen what a twisted person I am. Nothing you can tell me will even come close to my sins. You can trust me with the truth.”

“Even if you discover I’m not a good person." She waited but he couldn't find an answer for that. "I’ve done things that I’m so ashamed of…” Her voice trailed away in a tight whisper. “I’ve been away from God as well.” Kate got to her feet and started to move away from him.

“Sit down, Kate.
Please.”

She sank onto the love seat and he
clasped her hand.

Matt
wished he could help her say the words.

If You want me to believe You exist anymore, help me find the right words to say to her,
now.


We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. I’m living proof of that. It’s just part of human nature.”

“No, you don’t understand.” She ignored Matt’s attempt at consolation. “I’ve done some very bad things. Things I can never take back.”

He struggled to control his need to take her in his arms and hold her close. “I know how hard it is to trust again. I promise you can trust me to keep your secrets.”

She smiled at little.
“It’s hard. I’m afraid to trust people anymore. I know there are good people in the world, but once you’ve seen the bad side of human nature, well.”

“Who hurt you?” Matt asked and gathered her close.
He could feel her shuddering response. “Was it the baby’s father? Why didn’t you leave? Surely your grandmother would have helped you if you’d only asked?”                            

With a
shaky sob, she pushed him away and got to her feet, putting distance between them. 

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you that.”

“You think I’m weak
because I didn’t leave him. You have no idea what it was like to live with someone who you’re afraid will one day—” She stopped.

He had no right to judge her. He’d lived the past three years blaming Caroline for his son’s death.
He’d never really accepted his own role in that tragedy. “I’m sorry. You’re right I don’t know what it must have been like for you. I certainly have no right to condemn you.” He drew in a deep breath and tried to right his mistakes. “Please tell me what happened. I promise I won’t judge.”

For a moment, seeing her silhouetted against the fading afternoon light, he believed she wouldn’t.
When she finally spoke, he almost didn’t catch the words. Her voice was barely a whisper.

“Josh was so sweet
and gentle at first. I’d never really been around guys all that much. I guess I was pretty naive. Moving to a city like Austin and being on my own for the first time, well, it was quit a culture shock. I was there on scholarship and I studied and worked as much as possible. I was very lonely.

“I met Josh my first year of law school and I was so amazed at how different he was from the other guys. We ended up spending all of our free time together.” Kate glanced back at Matt before going on.
“I fell hard for him. No one ever made me feel that way before. I was in love with him, and I thought he felt the same way. It hurt just to be away from him. I believed this was what love was supposed to feel like. I was wrong.”

She pleated the lace curtains, unaware that she was trembling “We married soon after we met and I moved in
to his apartment. I was so inexperienced back then. I thought if we loved each other everything had to work out.”

Her gaze slid back to his. There was no mistaking the bitterness in her voice as she sp
oke of her husband.

Matt knew bitterness too well.

“Now I think that maybe he wasn’t capable of loving anyone. Josh never talked about his parents—ever. But I got the impression that they were very cold, very unemotional people who hurt him deeply. It wasn’t long before the abuse started. I tried to leave him, several times, but he always found me and he told me he’d kill me before he'd let me go. I believed him. Every single threat.”

Matt
could see all her pain and fear. He wished he could take it all away. He hated that someone had hurt her, taken away her innocence. He felt nothing but rage for the man.

“But you did leave him. You were divorced?” Matt realized he’d slipped up. He’d all but confessed to checking up on her.

“How did you…you’ve been checking up on me?”

He bowed his head, knowing what her next words would be.

“You had no right. That had nothing to do with you.”

He got to his feet and went to her
. She tensed when he got close. “You showed up at my house alone and pregnant. It was obvious you were running from something. Call it a cop's instinct.”

Anger sparked in her eyes for a moment then evaporated. “We were divorced. At least I filed.
But it was a nightmare getting free of him. I even started using my grandmother’s maiden name so that he couldn’t find me or come after her.”

Matt remembered she’d
told him that before. Was it possible that Kate still believed her husband was alive?

“He’s dead, Kate. You know that, don’t you?”

The fear in her eyes assured him that for her, Josh Pennington would never be dead. Her voice shook as she spoke. “The body was burned beyond recognition. They identified Josh from the half-burnt ID found in the wreckage. You see he had no medical history, no dental records that could be found.” Kate turned to face him. “Matt, he could have planted the ID. He could have—“

He reached for her hand. “He’s dead. I know it’s hard to believe that nightmare is over, but it is. “

She rubbed her forehead in frustration. “It’s just that I’ve lived in fear for so long. It’s hard to have hope.”

His heart went out to her. “I’m sorry. I can’t imagine
what you've had to endure but you are a good person and I promise you’re safe. I’m not going to let anything happen to you ever again.”

Her eyes clouded with tears. “I’m not.” She sho
ok her head. “I’m not a good person. Everything that happened that night was my own fault, including the accident with the other car that ended an innocent man’s life. He died so that I could be free of Josh."

"Kate it wasn't your fault. I read the report. Josh ran his car headlong into the oncoming vehicle. He wanted to die and he wanted to take you with him. If anyone's at fault, it's Josh."

She was silent for a moment and then she said, "Until I came here I wasn’t sure I wanted our baby. I wasn’t sure I could love the child after the way Josh hurt me. That’s the hardest part of living with our own mistakes, isn’t it? Learning to forgive ourselves for them?”

Kate
's eyes shimmered with tears. Matt was almost envious of her strength and her faith.

For the first time he saw Rachel in her.
“Forget what I told you. You believe whatever you want and don’t let Josh, or me, or anyone else, try to shake your faith.”

She brushed away one last tear with a careless hand before answering. “Oh, don’t worry. I
do not intend to lose my faith. I also believe you’re a good person and somewhere deep in your heart you still believe in God and I plan to prove that to you.”

He admired her stubborn beliefs. It surprised him to see her challenging him when just a few weeks earlier she could barely stand to be in the same room.

“Oh, you think you can do that? So far, nothing and no one has changed my mind, and that includes your grandmother.”

“I happen to love a challenge.”

Matt was tempted to give her just that. With difficulty, he managed to pull his straying thoughts back to what she was saying.

“Personally, I think you’ll be a piece of cake.”

Matt reached up to touch her face and his thoughts sobered.

“So, does this mean we’ll be friends after all, Miss Alexander? Even after all those terrible
things, you’ve just found out. You think you’re still up for that?” He was trying his best to sound flippant. He didn’t want her to know how important her answer was.

Denny had told him Kate needed him. He was wrong. At this moment, Matt needed her more than he’d ever needed another human being in his life.
He held his breath, waiting.              

“Yes, I think I’m up for that challenge
and you know why? Because you, Mr. Stevens, definitely need me.”

Matt stood there, lost in her smile. His
glanced out the window and the darkening skies. He hadn’t realized they’d been talking for hours.

“I should be going. I had no idea it was so late. Come, walk me to the door.” Matt
clasped her hand and walked the short distance to the apartment’s door.

“It just so happens that I know tomorrow is your day off. And before you say a word I’ve already cleared
this with Denny. I have to go to Denver, and I would like you to come with me.” Matt sensed her hesitation.

She was ready to refuse.

“Just think about it. I’ll be in front of the diner at seven in the morning if you want to come. No more drama, I promise. We’ll have some fun instead.”

Chapter Six

 

Kate wrestled most of the night before finally giving up on sleep around three in the morning.
You can’t save people who don’t want to be saved
. Hadn’t surviving Josh taught her anything? But Matt wasn’t anything at all like Josh. Grandma Rachel had loved him and believed in him.

It was for that reason Kate liked him.
The kindness that Matt claimed he didn’t possess, but had shown her grandmother, made her want to help him. He hadn’t lost his belief in God. He’d only lost his way back.

At a few minutes before seven, Kate gave in to her heart’s desire and went outside to wait
for Matt.

 

****

 

Matt couldn’t keep from smiling when he saw Kate sitting on the bench outside the diner.

The purpose of this trip was little more than a sham. Nothing that couldn’t be accomplished through email or a phone call.
There was no real reason other than his own foolish desire to spend more time alone with Kate.

Somehow
, he managed to put the brakes on his smile. Amy would be watching them and probably have that smug,
I told you so
grin of hers plastered all over her face. Still, it was hard to keep from returning Kate’s smile when he got out of the truck and came to her.

“I was afraid you’d change your mind after yesterday.
I’m glad you didn’t.”

H
e opened her door and she got in. She was dressed in jeans but today she’d chosen a sweater the same color as her eyes, a startling contrast to her blond hair.

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