Rick hated the venom he saw in her eyes, the hatred he knew she always associated with him. For a second he thought there was a glimmer of something else, something beautiful, but it passed quickly.
He knew a little about her life from Aaron, but not enough. It would never be enough because he’d missed out on years with her. Years he could never get back.
“What about you? Ever been close to being married?”
Her eyes snapped up to his, almost as though she forgot he was there. “No. I’ve never been close.”
He stifled his urge to smile. She’d never moved on either. Maybe she still cared for him, still loved him as Aaron assured him she did. Rick wasn’t foolish enough to believe her brother had all the answers, but he definitely had more than Rick had.
“How’ve you been?”
He wanted to kick himself. It’d been years and that was the best thing he’d come up with. If he stayed away another few years he was going to have to work on his conversational skills.
“I’m great,” Tara said. Her voice was too bright, her eyes staring into his, daring him to call her on her lie.
Rick clamped his mouth shut. He had no right to question her, no right to call her on it. They both knew she wasn’t going to tell him anything, making whatever hope had begun to blossom within him wither and die.
“Good, Tara. I’m happy for you. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. For you to be happy.”
She laughed mirthlessly, throwing her head back and staring up at the cloudless sky. Darkness was settling in thick around them and a chill was coating the air, but Rick could only focus on the curve of her neck, the lines in her throat, the jut of her chin when she faced him again.
“Is that really what you wanted Rick? Because to me it seemed as though you wanted to get me into bed and then walk away. My happiness never entered your mind because I was just a prop for a night. Someone to fill the empty spot in your bed. Someone to ignore the next day. Someone who never mattered. So why would my happiness mean anything to you?”
Rick couldn’t have hurt more if she’d punched him. He tried to take a breath and found his throat seized with her harsh words. He wanted to correct her, to tell her the truth, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t speak, and he couldn’t betray the trust he’d held all those years ago. It wasn’t fair to him and it wasn’t fair to her, but Rick made a promise. And even if it ripped his heart out, he was going to keep that promise.
So he stood there as Tara shook her head at him. Her icy glare shot through his heart. “Same old Rick, I see. Nothing to say.” Then Tara turned on her heels and bolted to her car. Rick didn’t move until her taillights disappeared in the darkness.