Matt Brewer returns home from his latest covert assignment determined to fix his personal life and bond with the autistic son he barely knows. But his ex-wife’s wary response to his untimely visit proves this mission might be one he can’t win.
A decade of starts and stops has left Jessie Brewer hanging on by a frazzled, single-parent thread, and when Matt arrives during a critical point in their son’s homeschooling and horse therapy progress, she worries their success will be dismantled by Matt’s traditional, stubborn ways. Could their mutual love for a gifted son lead them to a new beginning?
“No.” Her eyes welled again and she finally turned to him, jabbing her finger in his direction. “You don’t get to come in here,” she said with another jab. “Way past the eleventh hour. And do this.”
“Don’t you see that I can’t—” she said, unable to finish as she swallowed past an emotional lump in her throat. She turned from him and wiped at her watering eyes.
“I didn’t mean to…Jess—don’t.”
She lifted her gaze to see him toss his gloves on the counter before crossing the space between them. She pushed her hand up like a stop sign, halting him from putting his arms around her as she took a step back. “Don’t. Matt. I don’t need a hug. Or you being sweet and understanding. Or you being here at all. You don’t get to do that.”
“You don’t get to come back and have a conversation we should have had years ago. It doesn’t work that way.”
“I didn’t realize there was a protocol,” he said. “Maybe you could explain it.”
“I mean it! Stop!” She wiped hard at her infernal tears with both hands. “Quit being so…so nice.”
“Look.” That sharp, emotional lump expanded in her throat. “We’re okay now.” The words sounded strangled. Barely audible. Completely untrue. “Separate paths. It’s what we decided.” She looked down from that piercing blue gaze. “It’s better this way. I don’t want to dredge up the past anymore. I don’t want to argue. I can’t go back to that.”
He stepped forward, cupping her cheek with a palm to pull her gaze to his. “I didn’t come here tonight to argue, or win a conversation we never finished. I’m not out to hurt you, Jess. In any way. I’m only trying to figure out what happened in our marriage so we can figure out what’s happening right now. Between us.” His thumb stroked her cheek. “Because something’s happening here. I’m not imagining it.” He paused. “Am I?”
She looked down.
“But something’s also holding you back,” he said. “Is it McLeod? Some kind of loyalty you feel—”
“No.” She let out a breath, teary, stuffed up and too exhausted to step away again. “No, it’s not Cole. It’s you.” Another sniffle and she looked down to the space between them, unwilling to let him see how much his nearness affected her. “And it’s me. And…and the hundred reasons why we shouldn’t be here like this. I didn’t go through the last two years of hell, Matt, just to pick up where we left off.” Her voice clogged with emotion, making continuing impossible. She shook her head.
He pulled her gaze up to his again, his thumb stroking her cheek. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
She looked down. Closed her eyes tightly. Wished he’d just leave so she could sort this out on her own. Everything was easier on her own. “Then please go.”
Callie spent the first three decades of her life in Portland, Oregon before picking up everything and moving to the South for much needed sunshine and a change of pace.
When she's not reading or penning contemporary romance and young adult novels, she's absorbed in all things supernatural, fantasy, sci-fi, anime, and of course, romance. She's also very devoted to her numerous adopted animals