sweetheart, don’t be angry,” he pleaded, sounding as if
he was about to burst into tears.
Amazingly, Carol wasn’t upset. It was almost as if she was
standing offstage and watching a scene play out between two strangers. Almost as
if she was a nonparticipant. What she should be doing was ranting and raving,
giving in to hysteria and dissolving in tears. Instead, a calm settled over her,
a sense that this wasn’t really happening, that everything would soon be set
right. Eddie loved her and needed her. He’d always loved her, as she had loved
It took her a moment longer to realize that he was still
speaking. “Mark suggested it wasn’t a good idea for us to marry now, and I have
to say that I agree with him. I’m starting a new life.”
She blinked as the words came at her like sharp needle points.
“A new life without me? ”
“There’s no need to take it personally. I’m a professional
athlete, and I have certain obligations to my career and my team,” he
said—echoing the words of his agent, Carol was sure. “Certain…sacrifices.” He
appeared to have trouble remembering the next line of his speech. She strongly
suspected he’d memorized and repeated it for Mark before confronting her. That
sounded like something Mark would have him do.
Flustered, Eddie shook his head and asked, “Are you OK?”
“Fine. Wonderful.” She felt light-headed and realized the color
must have drained from her cheeks for him to have noticed. “You’ll want this
back.” She slipped the diamond engagement ring from her finger and handed it to
He looked stricken, staring at the diamond in the palm of his
hand. “I…I still love you and all, but it’s…well, difficult, you see, me going
into the pros and all. And…well…”
“It’s OK, Eddie.” It hurt to listen to him search for reasons
to tell her that he didn’t want her in his life any longer. He was headed for
the big time, and she was just a cheerleader. An ex-cheerleader now. As far as
Eddie was concerned, a wife would be an encumbrance in his new life.
“OK? Really? You’re not mad, sweetheart?” How relieved he
“Mad?” she repeated, as if surprised he would ask such a thing.
“Not in the least.” She brushed his cheek with her lips. “Good luck,” she said
Her response appeared to stun him. She suspected he’d been
anticipating a knock-down-drag-out confrontation, even though he’d opted to tell
her in a public place.
Apparently Mark had prepared Eddie to expect yelling, cursing,
hysteria and tears. To be fair, her complete lack of emotion came as a shock to
her as much as it did to Eddie.
“Mark thinks I have a good chance of making second-string
quarterback,” he explained hurriedly, looking to her for encouragement and
approval, the way he always had.
“I hope you do.” She realized she actually meant it.
Suddenly he looked uncertain. “We can still be friends, can’t
we? I’d like to call you now and again, if that’d be all right.”
“Friends,” she repeated, and laughed softly. Right. Eddie would
do as Mark dictated and break the engagement, but he would still look to her for
emotional support. Because what Mark didn’t understand was the vital role she
played in Eddie’s life. Eddie needed her.
In time Mark would know how much Eddie relied on her, and then
Eddie would be back with his tail between his legs. It was only a matter of
time, but until then she wouldn’t make it easy for him.
“No, Eddie, I don’t think it would be a good idea if you
phoned. If you want to break the engagement, then whatever we shared is over.
Completely. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better call my parents and do what I
can to cancel the wedding.”
The least of Eddie’s crimes was that he’d put her family
through needless expense, allowing them to plan and pay for a wedding he fully
intended to cancel. Right then and there, she decided she would pay them back
every penny, even if it took