How unfair could life be? Grace Dawe bit the inside of her lip so hard it brought tears to her eyes. She’d been telling herself for days—ever since she learned Brendan O’Rourke had landed back in St. John’s—she could cope with seeing him. She’d resolved that she wouldn’t avoid her usual haunts on his account, wouldn’t change her habits. And now here she stood in Fitzgerald’s facing him and wishing she could fall through the floor.
He had no right to look so good—better in fact than he had when they parted in a storm of tears and bitter recriminations eight years ago, a break that had shredded her heart.
She’d put that heart back together in the intervening years—or thought she had. Yet here she stood with it bleeding in her chest.
Because those intervening years had been kind to him, very kind. No longer the boy with whom she fell so wildly in love, he’d become the man she’d foreseen, his long, lanky legs clothed in a pair of faded jeans, shoulders encased in a worn leather jacket that looked soft as butter, his reddish-brown hair—full of wave—tumbling over his brow as it always had. The beard was new, but it became him. The lean cheeks, marked by long dimples when he smiled, remained the same, as did those hazel eyes, bright with intelligence and a spark of devilry, set under level brows.
Oh, heaven help her, she still wanted him. And she couldn’t let him see it. She absolutely could not let him see.
She sought desperately for something to say.
Brendan spoke before she could. “Is that true?”
Oh, and that voice—warm and deep, flavored by the accent he hadn’t lost in all his time away. She remembered that all too well vibrating in her ear, heating her blood, skittering across her soul.
“Not quite. I broke it off the night before. We’d not yet reached the church.”
“Nobody told me.”
His eyes hadn’t flickered from hers, and his regard did strange things to her insides. She tried to free herself from his gaze and failed.
“Why should anybody think to tell you, Brendan O’Rourke? You were busy dashing around the world. And,” she added deliberately, “it’s not as if it mattered to you, whether or not I got married.”
He flushed. She couldn’t tell whether it was with anger or some other emotion. He broke eye contact with her at last and took a long draught of ale.
Grace reeled. She felt like she’d been struck in the face.
She didn’t need this. She didn’t need him. She had to walk away.