Tim sat gazing at Veronica. He couldn’t believe he’d just admitted so much to her, but he felt compelled. He wanted her. He always had. Moving back had given him hope. He’d never imagined she’d be single, but he hoped she would be. When he thought she was married it was easy. Easy to avoid her. Easy to ignore the way he felt.
But she wasn’t married. She was single.
And he wasn’t going to lose her again.
“Say something, V.”
She looked up at him with tear filled eyes that ripped Tim’s heart from his chest. He didn’t know what those tears meant, but in his experience, tears were not usually a good thing.
“What can I say, Tim? I’ve dreamt of hearing you say that for eleven years. But my life is different now. It’s not just me. I have to think about Charlie. He’s the only thing that matters to me. Keeping him safe. Taking care of him. Protecting him. I can’t lose Charlie the way I lost his dad, the way I lost you.”
“You didn’t lose me,” Tim said vehemently, pushing up from his seat to approach her. He didn’t think he could sit there another second without touching her, without pulling her into his arms. “You didn’t lose me,” he forced out, even though he knew it was the truth. He left. She didn’t go with him. He never kept in touch. She moved on.
“I did, Tim. I wish I hadn’t, but I did. I know you. You won’t stay here. Not forever. You’ll be here for a few years and you’ll be ready to move on. I can’t do that. Not to Charlie. I can’t get involved with you if it means hurting Charlie one day. He already adores you as his teacher, I can’t cross that line.”
Tim fisted his hands at his sides to keep himself from yanking her into his arms and showing her exactly what she’d be missing if she didn’t give him a chance. That wouldn’t work with Veronica. She was never the sort of woman who let her emotions rule her. It was something he’d always admired about her, but something that he hated right then. He wanted her to be weak like he was, to feel her way through, not to be so logical.
But then she wouldn’t be his Veronica.
“I’m not going anywhere, V. I don’t know how to prove that to you, but I’m not going anywhere. I bought a house, I’m not renting. The big Victorian on the edge of town, the one-”
“I always wanted to buy,” she interrupted.
Tim nodded. “It was the only place I wanted to be. It’s too big for me, but I hoped I’d be able to fill it with a family. Our family. I had other opportunities, but I want to be here. This is home. Because it’s where you are. And Charlie. I already love him. I know I shouldn’t say that, but I do. He’s a part of you and I can’t help but love him. The same way I-”
“Don’t!” Veronica shouted. “Don’t say it. You don’t mean it, Tim. Don’t say things like that.”
Tears streamed down her cheeks. A flush crept up her neck and met the tears halfway down, pink streaks marring her perfect skin. Tim hated seeing her cry, but loved how beautiful she was. Her blue eyes seemed brighter with the pink in her cheeks. Her green sweater tugged tight across her breasts as she heaved for a breath. He could tell she was struggling with emotions she’d kept bottled up far too long, and he ached to see her release them.
“I’m not lying to you Veronica. Ever since I finished school I’ve been calling Mr. Stevens, asking about openings. I’ve been trying to get back here for years, but he was just as leery as you. He wouldn’t hire me only to have me run off. It took me seven years to convince him I was serious about a job here. About making my life here. I’m a patient man, V. And I will wait the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes, for you to realize every word I’m telling you is the truth.”
Veronica gawked at him, astonishment clear on her face. He waited for her to say something, anything, but she just stared at him. After a few seconds she stood and gathered her things and walked toward the door.
“Wait!” Tim called after her. “Say something.”
She didn’t face him, but she paused. After a moment her soft voice met his ears. “I can’t, Tim. I can’t risk it again. Charlie’s dad… I couldn’t make it work with him. He drove off the road when his girlfriend was giving him a blowjob. That’s how he died, with her head in his lap, her mouth wrapped around him. If I’d been a better wife he wouldn’t have been out there looking for someone else.”
“Don’t you dare blame yourself,” Tim ground out. “If he was stupid enough to not see how amazing you are, it’s his own damn fault. But don’t put that on yourself.”
“How can I not? Don’t you see? I wished he was you. Every day of our marriage I wished he was you. That you’d never left. That you’d kept in touch. That you’d come back to me. And he knew it. He knew I’d never love him the way I loved you. So he sought comfort from someone else. And he paid for it. My son has to grow up without his father because I was too in love with you to let him in. How is it not my fault?”
Tim lunged at her, no longer able to keep his hands off her. His fingers threaded into her hair and his lips came down on hers in an attempt to silence her. She squeaked when their lips met, then tensed, but within seconds she melted against him the way she always had. Tim traced her lips with his tongue and she opened for him, giving him his first taste of paradise in too many years. She was soft and warm and sweet, just like he remembered her. She was just as addicting as she’d always been, each little swipe of her tongue making him want more and more.
Tim pressed his body against hers, aching to feel every last bit of her. She felt like home, like the last piece of his life was falling into place. He poured everything he had into his kiss, every memory, every fantasy, every dream. He needed her to feel just how much he loved her, and to believe she deserved it. He wanted to heal her pain, and his, with their kiss. For both of them to finally be happy. For both of them to be loved.
When they finally broke apart Veronica was breathing heavy, her chest heaving against his. Her eyes were bright and shimmering. “Wow,” she said quietly, glancing down. “That was every bit as amazing as I remember.”
“You’re amazing,” Tim said. “And I will spend my life convincing you of that.”
“I just don’t know, Tim. It all feels…”
“Right,” he supplied for her.
She smiled. “It does. It shouldn’t, but it does.”
“Then let’s give it a shot. You and me and Charlie. And the big Victorian. Together.”
“Together,” Veronica said quietly.
They nodded, and sealed their agreement with another kiss.