Going Back
and Daphne could have
brushed it off with a laugh. But not in front of Brad. Not in front
of the one man who knew from experience the extent of Daphne’s
utter failure as a sex partner.
    “Excuse me,” she muttered, spinning
on her heel and storming out of the kitchen. She hated herself for
overreacting to Paul’s teasing, but she couldn’t bear to be in the
same room as Brad. She couldn’t bear the possibility that her eyes
might accidentally meet his, and she’d see cruel laughter in his
gaze, remembrance and mockery. She couldn’t bear it.
    So, once again, she ran away.
     
     
     

Chapter Five
     
    GUILT, BRAD CONCLUDED, was a
peculiar affliction. Just when you were beginning to believe that
it could be in permanent remission, it reared up again in a more
virulent form.
    Right now, he was feeling doubly
guilty: guilty for what he’d done to Daphne eight years ago, and
guilty for having thought that he no longer had any reason to feel
guilty. Just because he and Daphne had managed to spend a few more
or less amicable days in each other’s company while they looked at
houses didn’t mean Daphne had recovered from their disastrous
interlude in his fraternity house bedroom. Just because Brad had
felt extraordinarily comfortable with Daphne when she’d sought him
out at the party last night—just because talking to her about his
parents had boosted his spirits so much—didn’t mean Daphne had
forgiven him for his past actions.
    He steered off the interstate at
the Verona exit and braked to a stop at the end of the ramp.
According to the directions Andrea had given him, Daphne’s house
was only a few minutes’ drive from the exit. A few minutes wasn’t
nearly enough time for Brad to figure out what he’d say to Daphne
when he saw her—assuming he did see her. Given the unseasonably
balmy weather that afternoon, she could be out for the day,
enjoying the great outdoors in the park she had driven past the
first time he’d visited her office. Or she could be working;
realtors sometimes met with clients or hosted “Open Houses” on
Sundays. Or she could be out on a date with that boyfriend of
hers.
    That idiot boyfriend of hers, Brad
amended, indignant on Daphne’s behalf. The guy had the audacity to
take her to a party, claim in front of witnesses that he was madly
in love with her, and then make a crack about her performance in
bed! Admittedly, what he’d said had been complimentary, but it had
obviously embarrassed the hell out of Daphne. Teasing like that
might be okay coming from a friend, but not from a
lover.
    Brad recognized that Daphne had
been more than just embarrassed by her boyfriend’s joke. The
instant her gaze had intersected with Brad’s across the kitchen,
her cheeks had turned crimson and she’d fled from the
room.
    It was all Brad’s
fault, entirely his fault for having once made her feel inadequate
in bed. He’d been the one who’d been inadequate, and she shouldn’t
ever, ever be
embarrassed about her part in what had happened—or hadn’t happened.
That was what he’d come to Verona to tell her—if only he could
figure out a way to put it into words without embarrassing them
both even more.
    A driver in a car behind him on the
exit ramp honked his horn, jolting Brad’s attention back to the
road. He glanced at the GPS the rental agency had included with the
car, turned right, and headed north toward Bloomfield
Avenue.
    Daphne’s house sat on a small lot
at the end of a winding side street. An ancient maple tree stood
squarely on the front lawn, casting a massive shadow over the
sloping roof of the house. In another era, the L-shaped
brick-and-redwood ranch house, with its broad picture window and
its attached two-car garage, might have been considered a modest
middle-class dwelling. But nowadays, in this neighborhood, Brad
estimated its worth at half of a million dollars. Despite all the
house-hunting he’d done in the past week, he still found it
hilarious that he and

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