A Distant Summer
Kristina. You were glad to see me. Maybe a little uncertain but glad just the same. Now, are you going to tell me that was a lie?”
    “No, that was honest, Tucker. And so is this: I don’t want you to stay. Right now you’re disillusioned with your career, with life in general, but it won’t last forever. In a few weeks you’ll be ready to give your first love — medicine — another chance. You’ll go back to Denver or to some other place, and you’ll rebuild your practice because being a doctor is important to you. This….” Kris indicated their surroundings with a gesture of her hand. “This is important to me. I’m happy here, and I don’t want you to change that.”
    “Am I really that much of a threat to your peace of mind?” He touched her cheek with a questing fingertip. “How can you think I would ever hurt you? I only want a chance to love you.”
    She didn’t flinch or even look away at the words, but her heart pounded a painful reminder against her ribs. Tucker had no idea of how threatened she was by his very nearness. If he stayed, she would be risking much more than a little hurt. She stood to lose everything.
    She was already half in love with him, and a few days, a night in his arms would steal her heart completely. Once he possessed her love, it would be only a matter of time before he asked for a commitment, and then she would have to tell him about the baby.
    And what if someone else told him? The possibility made her pale. Too many people in this town knew the circumstances that had brought her to Maple Ridge. What if someone mentioned her long-ago pregnancy to Tucker?
    No, that wouldn’t happen. That the idea had even occurred to her was a measure of her anxiety. In this close-knit community there was an unwritten code of loyalty, a deep respect for another person’s privacy. No one would willingly violate her trust. If Tucker learned the truth, it would be because she told him.
    Turning, she took a step away from him, knowing that when he knew what she had done, he would hate her. And she couldn’t bear that. It had been better before, a thousand times better when she hadn’t known where he was or what his life was like. She had been secure in the knowledge that what he didn’t know couldn’t hurt him, that she alone bore the responsibilities and the regrets.
    She sensed his presence, felt the warmth of his body behind her, and wished she could take refuge in his strength.
    “Trust me, Kris. Just a little.”
    His whisper mingled with the soothing touch of his hands on her shoulders, and for a moment she weakened. “I have an extra bedroom. You can stay tonight, as my guest. But tomorrow ...”
    He looked as if he might object, but then his lips formed a determined smile, and only the shadows in his eyes betrayed his inner perplexity. “Won’t it cause some ... talk if I spend the night in your house?”
    Her mouth curved ever so lightly. “Not nearly as much as if you didn’t.”
    “I can see I have a lot to learn about life in a small town.”
    “Yes. Well, I have to get this story written before I can leave the office. Why don’t I give you the house key and you can make yourself at home?” She moved to the desk and wrote her address on a piece of notepaper before she rummaged in her purse and produced the key. “I’m sorry I can’t be a more gracious hostess, but—”
    “Let’s don’t muddy the water with polite insincerities,” he interrupted with a sudden cool edge on his voice as he took the address and the key from her shaky fingers. “Finish your story. I’ll find something to do.” He walked to the doorway and stopped. “And if I’m not there when you get home, check the mailbox for the key, and don’t bother to wait up.”
    Kris stared after him, listening to the sound of his footsteps in the hall. She heard him say something indistinguishable and recognized Ruth’s voice answering. Kristina sank onto the worn cushion of her office chair and

Similar Books

The Automatic Detective

A. Lee Martinez

Forced to Kill

Andrew Peterson

The Bridegroom

Joan Johnston

Flash of Death

Cindy Dees

Under Shifting Glass

Nicky Singer