More Than a Convenient Marriage?(7)

By: Dani Collins

  “Going down isn’t good enough, Adara.”

  His vulgarity was bad enough, but it almost sounded like a critique and she resented that. She tried hard to please him and could tell that he liked what she did, so why did he have to be so disparaging about it?

  Unbearably hurt, she kicked toward shore, barely turning her head to defend, “I was pregnant. What else could I do?”

  How he reacted to that news she didn’t care. She just wanted to be away from him, but as her toes found cold, thick sand, she halted. Leaving the water suddenly seemed a horribly exposing thing to do. How stupid to think she could become a new person by shedding a few stitches of clothing. She was the same old worthless Adara who couldn’t even keep a baby in her womb.

  The sun seared across her shoulders. Her wet hair hung in her eyes and she kept her arms folded tightly across her chest, trying to hold in the agony.

  She felt ridiculous, climbing down to this silly beach that was impossible to leave, revealing things that were intensely personal to her and wouldn’t matter at all to him.

  “What did you say?” He was too close. She flinched, feeling the sharpness of his voice like the tip of a flicking whip.

  “You heard me,” she managed to say even though her throat was clogging. She clenched her eyes shut, silently begging him to do what he always did. Say nothing and give her space. She didn’t want to do this. She never, ever wanted to do this again.

  “You were pregnant?” His voice moved in front of her.

  She turned her head to the side, hating him for cutting off her escape to the beach, hating herself for lacking the courage to take it when she’d had the chance.

  Keeping her eyes tightly closed, she dug her fingers into her arms, her whole body aching with tension. “It doesn’t matter,” she insisted through her teeth. “It’s over and I just want a divorce.”

  Gideon was distantly aware of the sea trying to pull him out with the tide. His entire being was numb enough that he had to concentrate on keeping his feet rooted as he stared at Adara. She was a knot of torment. For the first time he could see her suffering and it made his heart clench. When had she started to care about the miscarriages? The last one had been called into him from across the globe, his offer to come home dismissed as unnecessary.

  “Tell me—”

  “What is there to tell, Gideon?” Her eyes opening into pits of hopeless fury. Her face creased with sharp lines of grief. “It was the same as every other one. I did the test and held my breath, terrified to so much as bump my hip on the edge of my desk. And just when I let myself believe this time might be different, the backache started and the spotting appeared and then it was twenty-four hours of medieval torture until I was spat out in hell with nothing to show for it. At least I didn’t have the humiliation of being assaulted by the people in white coats this time.”

  She took a step to the side, thinking to circle him and leave the water, but he shifted into her path, his hand reaching to stop her. His expression was appalled. “What do you mean about being assaulted?”

  She cringed from his touch, her recoil like a knee into his belly. Gideon clenched his abdominal muscles and curled his fingers into his palm, forcing his hand to his side under the water even though he wanted to grip her with all his strength and squeeze the answers out of her. She couldn’t possibly be saying what he thought she was saying.

  “What people in white coats?” he demanded, but the words sounded far away. “Are you telling me you didn’t go to the hospital?” Intense, fearful dread hollowed out his chest as he watched her mask fear and compunction with a defiant thrust of her chin.

  “Do you know what they do to you after you’ve had a miscarriage? No, you don’t. But I do and I’m sick of it. So, no, I didn’t go,” she declared with bitter rebelliousness.

  Horror washed through him in freezing waves.

  “We need to get you to a doctor.” He flew his gaze to the cliff, terror tightening in him. What the hell had he been thinking, letting her descend to this impossible place?

  “It was three weeks ago, Gideon. If it was going to kill me, it would have by now.”

  “It could have,” he retorted, helplessness making him brutal. “You could have bled to death.”

  She shrugged that off with false bravado, eyes glossy and red. “At the time that looked like a—what’s the expression you used? A viable option?”

  It was a vicious slap that he deserved. While he’d been contemplating an affair, she’d been losing the battle to keep their baby. Again. And she’d been filled with such dejection she’d refused medical care and courted death.

  The fact she’d let herself brush elbows with the Grim Reaper made him so agitated, he clipped out a string of foul Greek curses. “Don’t talk like that. Damn it, you should have told me.”

  “Why?” she lashed out in uncharacteristic confrontation. “Do you think I enjoy telling you what a failure I am? It’s not like you care. You just go back to work while I sit there screaming inside.” She struck a fist onto the surface of the water. “I hate it. I can’t go on like this. I won’t. I want a divorce.”

  She splashed clumsily from the surf, her wet underpants see-through, her staggered steps so uncoordinated and indicative of her distress it made him want to reach out for her, but he was rooted in the water, aghast.

  He cared. Maybe he’d never told her, but each lost baby had scored his heart. This one, knowing he could have walked into the penthouse and found both of them dead, lanced him with such deep horror he could barely acknowledge it.

  She was the one who had appeared not to care. The fact she’d been so distraught she hadn’t sought medical attention told him how far past the end of her rope she had been, but she’d never let him see any of that.

  He followed her on heavy feet, pausing where they’d left their clothes.

  She gave him a stark look, her gaze filling with apprehension as she took in that he was completely naked. Her fingers hurried to button her blouse.

  Hell. He wasn’t trying to come on to her.

  “Adara.” A throb of tender empathy caught in him like a barbed hook. He reached out to cup her neck, her hair a weight on his wrist.

  She stiffened, but he didn’t let her pull away. He carefully took her shoulder in his opposite hand and made her face him, for once driven by a need deeper than sexual to touch her.

  “I’m sorry,” he said with deep sincerity. “Sorry we lost another baby, sorry you felt you couldn’t tell me. I do care. You’ve always been stoic about it and I’ve followed your lead. How could I know it was devastating you like this if you didn’t say?”

  She shivered despite the heat. Her blink released a single tear from the corner of her eye. Her plump mouth trembled with vulnerability, and a need to comfort overwhelmed him.

  Gideon gathered her in. She seemed so delicate and breakable. He touched his mouth to hers, wanting to reassure, to console.

  It wasn’t meant to be a pass, but she felt so good. The kiss was a soft press of a juicy fruit to the mouth of a starved man. He couldn’t help opening his lips on hers, sliding his tongue along the seam then pressing in for a deep lick of her personal flavor. Involuntarily, his arms tightened while greed swelled in him. Everything in him expanded in one hard kick. His erection pulled to attention in a rush of heat, fed by the erotically familiar scent of his wife.

  The feathery touch of her hands whispered from his ribs to his shoulder blades. A needy sob emanated from her throat, encouraging him.

  Here. Now. His brain shorted into the most basic thoughts as his carnal instincts took over. He skimmed his hand to the wet underpants covering her backside, starting to slide them down even as he deepened the kiss and began to ease them both to the sand.

  Adara’s knees softened for one heartbeat, almost succumbing, then she broke away from their kiss with a ragged moan, stumbling backward a few steps as she shoved from him with near violence. Her flush of arousal dissolved into a bewildered glare of accusation and betrayal.

  That wounded look bludgeoned him like a club.

  Without speaking, face white, she gathered her things and moved to the bottom of the rope where she tried to force her wet legs into her denim shorts.

  Gideon pinched the bridge of his nose, ears rushing with the blood still pumping hotly through his system, deeply aware that the distance had been closed until he’d forgotten that he was trying to comfort, not seduce. But the sexual attraction between them was something he couldn’t help. He wished he could. The fact that he couldn’t entirely control his hunger for her bothered him no end.

  His thoughts were dark as they returned to the hotel, a fresh sweat on his salted skin as they came through the front doors, with not a word exchanged since the beach. The life he’d created with Adara, so easy on the surface, had grown choppy, teaming with undercurrents. She’d stirred up more emotion in him with this bolt to Greece than he’d suffered in years and he didn’t like it.

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