She didn’t know what she was doing in his house. She just wanted to be inside it again. Take in his scent and remember. Running her fingertips across his shirt that was flung over the back of a chair brought an ache to her heart.
She’d had it all, she thought.
It had been the best of times. Period. The best that life had to offer.
Love. Happiness. Joy.
A joy that filled her very soul, brimming over and making her whole again.
The life that dreams are made of. She’d had it all in her grasp. Her second chance, so different this time around.
And yet ...
She’d lost it all in the blink of an eye.
She’d let it slip away like fine-grained sand swirling through the small opening in an hourglass because she was too much of a coward to allow herself to trust.
She knew deep in her heart and soul that given the option, she would jump at the chance to do it all over again. Just for the sheer joy of being.
The happiness she’d felt in the safe haven of his arms was Heaven itself. She’d walk the same path a million times if need be, even knowing that in the end she’d lose her heart.
She started as she heard the squeak of hinges, held her breath as she watched the knob turn. She had nowhere to go, caught like a thief in his house.
Caleb halted his entrance into the room when he spied Harleigh standing there. His heart sank deep into his soul. He didn’t like that trapped-animal look that crossed her features.
He dropped his hand from the knob, closing the door behind him with a light push.
“What are you doing here, Harleigh?”
Right now, what she wanted to do was bring him close to her and touch him. The compulsion to do just that had her taking a step forward before she could stop her feet from moving. She longed to run her fingertips along his jawline. Longed to kiss his closed eyelids, to feel the texture of all that dark hair, so thick and full it made her fingers tingle.
But she couldn’t tell him that.
He raised an eyebrow when she didn’t answer.
“I just wanted to see you, that’s all.”
There was still residual anger in those pearl gray eyes, she noticed. But at least his tone of voice wasn’t so hard it would crack a block of ice.
She knew it would be futile to begin any kind of explanation of her past. If she couldn’t explain it to herself, how could she explain it to anyone else?
“Is that all?”
“All?” What more could there be? she wondered. Wasn’t being here enough?
“So you didn’t enter my house without invitation for any other reason?” He heard the accusation in his voice and wanted to give himself a swift kick in the backside. Hadn’t he been on the lookout for her anyway?
His condemnation hit and sliced, cut deeper. Bruised by his direct insult, she breathed deep, drew herself up and put on a brave front, hard as it was. It was going to take everything she had to get over this obstacle in her path.
“I wanted to clear the air a bit ... you know, try to explain some things to you.”
This was what he wanted, wasn’t it? What he’d carried on like a crazed lunatic about? And now that Harleigh was here, ready to bare all, suddenly he wasn’t so sure he wanted to know about her past. About her life with Stewart Pennington III.
“Maybe we better sit down for this.” He trembled inside and his knees had suddenly grown so weak, he doubted he could make it much further than the sofa.
Reluctantly, Harleigh took the chair opposite where he was sitting. As hesitant as she felt, she wanted to look him square in the eye and tell him what he wanted to know.
“I’m not sure where to start, what exactly it is you want to know about my past. I’ve already told you bits and pieces.”
“The shoulder, Harleigh. Tell me about the back of your shoulder.”
God, give me strength, she prayed. She closed her eyes against the avalanche of nausea that racked her body and the pain that hurt her in places she thought long dead. She licked her dry lips.
“Stewart was ...” Her voice cracked as she started to talk. She cleared her throat, felt tears burning the back of her eyes. Tears, that even now were clogging her breath but she gathered her strength and went on.
Caleb sat back and waited, chewing on a thumbnail while Harleigh composed herself and related the horrifying details of her abusive past. He saw her struggle, wanted to stop her, say to hell with it, that it didn’t matter anymore. But his need to know overrode that objection.
Now, hearing of the humiliation and degradation she’d been subjected to made him forget he was a doctor. For the first time in his medical career, he wanted to take a life, not save one. Wanting to kill Stewart Pennington tugged on his sense of honor with sharp talons, his need for justice, his desire to make things right.
It took all his strength to stay seated and listen to a story so horrific it made his blood run cold.