Terms of Surrender(10)

By: Shirley Rogers

"You're telling me." As they arrived at the back of the house, he opened the door, then followed her inside. "After college, I tried to convince him to make some changes on the farm, newly developed techniques that would have increased production, but he wouldn't listen to me." After that, David had been convinced that he and his father would never have been able to work side by side.

Tanya hadn't known that. Edward had never mentioned David's ideas concerning the farm. She wondered if he would have stayed if his father had listened to him. David's honest admission caused Tanya to stop and think. Though he spoke without emotion, she could see the sadness in his eyes. His resentment toward her was understandable. Even expected. Which was going to make working with him even more difficult.

"I remember the two of you quarreling," she admitted softly as she paused just outside the door of the study. "I'd always hoped you could mend things between you." Looking up, she met his gaze. "Despite how you got along, your father did care about you."

He didn't reply, which disheartened her. Perhaps her own grief would have been easier to handle if she could have shared her feelings with David. But she hadn't dared to talk to him after the reading of the will.

He'd been angry. She didn't blame him. Nothing she could have said would have changed the way he felt. He resented her, and he didn't want to be her friend. Despite her attraction to him, she had to accept that he was merely tolerating her presence. Not that she didn't hold her own anger toward him. His accusations of her being intimate with his father had been uncalled for. That he could even think such a thing told her how callous he'd become.

Sighing heavily, she went into the study. Nothing was the same without Edward. The next year promised to be not only physically, but mentally draining. How was she going to get through this on her own?

Tanya's steps faltered as she walked into the room. Tears crested in her eyes at the lingering scent of Edward's pipe tobacco. Oh, God. She couldn't handle this. Not now. She desperately needed to be alone. At least until she pulled herself together.

As she wavered, David came to her aid, grabbing her by the shoulders and offering her support. "Are you all right?" he asked, scrutinizing her features.

"I'm fine," she insisted. But she wasn't. Tears ran unchecked down her cheeks. She sniffed, then was mortified when even more tears followed.

"You don't look it," he replied, his tone short as he took in her ashen face. "What's wrong?" He longed to pull her against him and hold her, but considering their earlier disagreements, he wasn't sure she wanted anything from him.

She shook her head. How could she talk about how very much she missed Edward? David hadn't shown any anguish over his father's death. If he was grieving at all, she couldn't tell. Whatever he was feeling, whatever was going on inside him, he didn't want to share it with her.

"Tanya, what is it?" he pressed, searching her eyes, wishing she'd talk to him.

"It's nothing." Desperately, she brushed at the tears, trying her best to wipe them away.

He frowned, then used his thumb to brush away another tear. "It's not nothing."

His tender touch caused her to still. Her heart ached for him to hold her, but instead, she pulled away. "It was, uh, it was just the scent of your father's pipe tobacco as I came into the room. It just threw me." Taking a deep breath, she felt a little more in control.

He hadn't even noticed the smell of tobacco in the room, much less connected it with his father. Yet, it had brought Tanya to tears. "You're shaking all over."

"I'm okay, now. Really."

"Really?" The color had drained from her face, and she looked as though she was about to faint. Dark circles were prominent beneath her eyes. His father's death had hit her hard. "Why don't we leave going over the accounts until tomorrow?" he suggested. "You look like you could use a break."

"I'm okay," she said again, but knew that she wasn't. If she didn't get away soon, she was going to start blubbering and make a spectacle of herself. "I know this is something that shouldn't be put off."

"It can wait."

Tanya hesitated. The past few days had been stressful, and she hadn't been sleeping well. The dreams she'd been having were becoming more and more intense. There was the face of someone, a girl, she thought, but she couldn't be sure. When she got up each morning, she felt exhausted, as if she'd just gone to bed. Added to that, she had the pressure of handling her grief and dealing with David. It was becoming too much.

But she didn't dare show any weakness around David. He already didn't think she could manage the plantation. "All right. How about if I bring up the files on the computer and leave you to look them over?" she suggested, thinking that would give her a chance to escape to her room and gather herself together.

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