December Heat

December Heat by Joanie MacNeil

Book: December Heat by Joanie MacNeil Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joanie MacNeil
spider?”
    She shrugged. “What would it matter?”
    “Don’t talk rubbish.”
    She tried to push him away as he approached her again.
    “What the hell?” He realized she’d been crying. He sat beside her on the log and put his arm around her.
    “What is it?”
    She shook her head.
    “Are you upset about what I said, about that kiss?”
    She looked at him through glistening eyes and shook her head again. Tears tumbled down her cheeks and she tried to both smile and wipe them away at the same time.
    “No, it’s not that. Not you. It’s me. I thought I’d got past this stage. That’s what’s so annoying. Just when I think everything is fine and I can move ahead, I take a step backwards. I...I’m...in spite of everything, I’m just finding it hard to let go and move on.”
    “It will be like that for a while,” he cautioned. “You learn to roll with the punches. You said it yourself. Some days are better than others.”
    “I...I suppose so.” She sniffed. “It’s not like I want to forget Mark, just put him to rest.”
    “It will happen, Nic. It just takes time.”
    “You sound like you’ve been there, done that.”
    “Yeah. In my line of work, more often than I care to remember.”
    His other arm reached over and his fingers brushed away the tears that formed tiny droplets beneath her lashes. She leaned into him, firing up his protective streak, and his arm tightened around her. Above the earthiness of the bush he smelled the sweetness of her perfume, and the warm scent of woman. It blended with nature’s spicy potpourri, mingled with the warmth of the day.
    “I get so cranky with myself for being like this. Angry with Mark for dying and leaving me. Angry with myself. It just happens, I know. Mark’s gone, he’s never coming back, and behaving like this isn’t going to resolve anything.”
    He held her a little bit tighter.
    “I don’t know what brought it on. It came out of nowhere. There are things I have to sort through....” She looked up at him. “I feel a kind of relief over Mark’s death. There’s a certain amount of guilt in there too, yet I miss him like crazy. It just overwhelms me. I don’t know how I should feel.”
    “It’s all part of grieving. There’s nothing unusual about feeling this way over the death of a loved one. It’s a common enough emotion, not necessarily triggered by any particular thing.”
    He felt the tremble through her body as she tried to hold back her tears. His own heart went out to her. Nic’s words had echoed some of his own emotions over Mark’s death. Jake also carried the added burden that he found it hard to resist the thought that Nic was free...if he wanted to pursue her.... The feel of her in his arms, the memory of the taste of her...if Nic gave the word, he wouldn’t be able to hold back.
    “Maybe my being here, turning up out of the blue has something to do with it.”
    A sigh escaped her, as if she were fed up with herself and her emotions. “I don’t know, Jake. There were times I felt this way before you arrived. Maybe your presence reinforces it. Maybe not.”
    She sat upright and eased away from him. Jake loosened his grasp and fumbled with the water bottles, handing one to her. He felt a strong sense of loss with the coolness that settled where warm body had been.
    The tears had all but gone and an inner strength he’d begun to recognize and admire, crept over her face. She took a deep breath. But it was still a little shaky and he knew she fought hard to maintain her resolve.
    “I needed to get away, needed the workout. I felt the walls closing in, that’s why I took off. Did you really come looking for me?” She helped herself to the water and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand before giving the bottle back to him.
    “I wondered where you were,” he said softly. “At first I thought you might have been upset...about this morning. Then when you didn’t come back, I thought something had happened to you. I

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