A few minutes later in Margo’s office, Larson sat in the chair across from his wife while she was on the phone. He took the time of her distraction to study the woman before him. The time had only intensified the features he remembered so vividly. She had developed a strength in her that lent to her animation, while it took nothing away from her visible beauty. Her features were gentle, her voice strong as she spoke into the phone, giving the other party a stern warning that she expected her shipments in a timely fashion or cancel her contract altogether. Her assistant tapped lightly on the open door and waited while Margo concluded her conversation.
Margo looked up and silently questioned the young woman, her eyes holding a bit of warmth in their hazel depths.
“Mr. Andrews is ready to leave Margo; you said you wished to speak to him?”
She rose fluidly from the chair, nodding as she turned her eyes toward him. “I’ll just be a moment,” she said, leaving the office and him behind to stare at the desk and all the little trinkets and things on it. Not clutter, but organized and unique. The thing that caught his eye and gave him hope was the silver framed portrait of them on their honeymoon at the beach. He had the same print on his own desk in his office. He looked out the window facing the front of the store and watched as the author spoke to her. She smiled, warmly, touching his arm gently, accepting two books from him. Her arms went around him then and he hugged her. Jealousy in its’ most finite form slammed into the pit of his stomach and he looked away, surprised that his hands were clenched into fists. Questions he had no right to ask came flooding through his brain and he fought the urge to run out there and deck the novelist.
Margo returned, pausing to close the office door. She put the books on the desk in front of Larson. He looked up questioning, and reached for them.
“He signed them for Lexie; I heard she loved his books.”
“Where on earth did you hear that?”
“I haven’t been completely out of her life you know,” she said gently, “I’ve been aware of a lot of things. About both of you”
He fought hard to remember how to breathe as the full implication of her words came into focus. All this time, and not a word, but she knew things she shouldn’t. How, who, why, questions and more questions that needed answers and yet, he was afraid. Afraid that if he spoke too many, if he pushed too hard, she’d be gone again, and it would all be as if he dreamed. A dream that he had lived so many times before, where just as he was about to hold her she’d disappear in a misty cloud and leave him alone again.
Steeling himself for that possibility, he looked into her eyes and said the only thing he could think of that would not be too much of a risk.
“We need to talk,” he started, and then laughed awkwardly, as she had spoken the same words across from him.
She smiled and nodded, “I already cleared the afternoon with Darcy. We can go somewhere, talk.”
He realized she was offering a small token of compromise. To go to her home, that would be too risky, in her mind. Neither would the strong woman before him give up any semblance of control or advantage by following him to a hotel room, but a neutral area, that would be even ground for both parties.
He nodded, knowing it was the best solution. However, the thought of losing her again gave him pause to reflect that while he loved his job, his house, his life in Boston, he loved this woman before him even more, and at that moment, he would move Heaven and Earth to get his family back together.
He shakily agreed and stood, willing to follow her anywhere.
They walked to a nearby park, and under a large oak tree, they sat at a picnic table. Margo handed Larson a bottle of water, opening the top of her own before she spoke.
“Did you look for me?”
“At first, but after awhile I realized that with your family’s background you could be anywhere, under any name. I stopped searching, because every time I came back without you, it was too much to bear.”
“There were things you didn’t know, Larson. Things I should have told you.”
“About your grandfather? I knew all about him. I learned the history, and decided that you should be the one to make your own decisions. I never doubted that you loved me. I just had to do the right thing by our daughter, and be the best father I could be, until I found you again.”
“I don’t know if I deserve that, with the way I just disappeared, but thank you. I really can’t believe you’re sitting right across from me!”
“It’s getting chilly. I guess I should find a hotel, I think we need some more time to think.”
While he was sitting across from her, after all this time, she couldn’t help but think that saying goodbye again would be her final undoing. Though she was scared out of her mind, she knew that she had to reveal her presence in his life, however small, with the gifts that she had sent their daughter over the years.
Margo fought to still her shaking hands as she drove the few short blocks back to her condominium. The surreal exchange, the embrace, the kiss, all seemed dreamlike. Yet here she was, leading the man of her dreams, her husband, to her home. The questions that piled into her already crowded and oversensitive brain were numerous. The thought of voicing even a few of them gave her pause. Still, two questions seemed most likely to be asked and answered with the least amount of risk. Why was he in Seneca and where was their daughter?
She led him into the house. Coolness enveloped them and she noticed the deafening quiet. Her living room seemed small and confining with him standing there, next to the fireplace.
“Sit,” she gestured toward the sofa, her eyes glancing around at all the little things around the living room. Not messy, just things, and the collection of DVDs on her entertainment center caught her eye. There on top, open was the DVD that Nikki had brought her of Lexie. Nervously she bit her lip, casually moving toward the television. Absently she began putting the DVDs away in the drawer underneath, hoping that the motion did not raise his suspicions. She was not quite ready to reveal who her little bird was that had given her the details of their lives.
“Would you like some tea?” she asked when she was done, and started to go into the kitchen.
“Sure,” he murmured his voice soft and gentle, like velvet soothing her shattered nerves. She took a deep breath willing the tension to leave her body. She could do this. Just boil water and pour into a teapot…not that difficult to do. She busied herself filling the kettle when his voice came through her thoughts again from directly behind her.
“So, do you own this place?” he asked, leaning against the counter that separated the living room and kitchen.
Margo nodded, not trusting her voice. He was just too close, she thought.
“The store, that’s yours as well?”
“Oh yes,” she answered, “I own them both”
China cups rattled a bit in her hand. Carefully she placed them on the counter next to the stove and searched for the tea tray. Was he really making small talk, she thought, trying desperately to breath in a normal fashion, her heart hammering in her ears?
She must have spoken aloud, for she heard his voice over the roaring in her ears and the beginning sounds of the teakettle on the stove.
“I’m peppering you with questions to stop me from doing what I want to do. Have wanted to do since I walked in the door of your shop two hours ago?”
She watched, holding her breath as he closed the space between them. His arms went around her and his hands brought her to him close. So close, she could hear his heart thudding in unison in a rhythm that matched her own. Slowly, just short of teasingly, he brought his head down to hers, his lips a shadow of a space apart from hers. He was giving her a last chance to run, to stop the next logical step, the ultimate act on which only dreams had given her reprieve in the past years of their separation. She needed answers, she needed to know things, she wanted to know what they were doing, but she needed him more. Just as that kiss in the bookstore gave promise to her that he still cared, she answered this kiss with the passion that had lain dormant inside her for so long. She was done with questions, done with self-recrimination and reproach. Done with fear. The time was at hand to end this hungering need, and she reached up the last inch and surrendered.
He gave and she took. He increased the pressure of his mouth and she knotted her fists in his hair and pulled him closer. A moan escaped, and he couldn’t tell if it was one or the other that had spoken, and he drew apart from her to study the face he still held in his hands. His life, and his beloved, lay safe in the depths of his arms. Needs that had gone unmet for so many years now came flooding to the surface and won out over all else. He drew back further; satisfaction came seeing the look of alarm spring to her eyes. He leaned forward bringing his head near her ear, reaching out one hand he turned off the burner under the teakettle with a flick of his wrist. His voice, velvet edged and strong husked against her ear, “I’m thirsty, but not for tea.” Then he claimed her lips again end all thoughts ceased.
He swung her up into his arms, the last conscious thought was he was not going to love her in a kitchen, but rather make her his again in a bed. Instinctively he carried her out the doorway and down the narrow hallway, pausing at the open door of her bedroom. Claiming her lips again, he lowered her to the bed in front of the window. Unhindered by sunshine streaming in through the blinds, he reached up to unbutton the first few buttons of his shirt. She reached up, taking the job over herself, her fingers moving quickly down the column of buttons that covered him. Free at last she let her hands smooth through the fabric and touched him, making his eyes close at that gentle yet heady act. He pulled her hair loose from the clip that held it in place, and pushed his fingers through the ebony tresses. Then just as he thought his control was intact again, her lips brushed against the skin at the base of his throat. Madness true and harsh took over as he brought her body up to his and took her mouth. Just this side of violence, the pent up desire that coursed through his veins that only she could answer, won over all else.
There was no mistaking his arousal when he brought her against the length of his body. His hands divested himself and her quickly, needing that contact of skin against skin to sooth the ache that circled like fire inside him.
“So long,” he whispered lovingly, as he moved his body against hers, reveling in the satin feel of her length. The sensitized tips of her breasts brushed against his chest and he closed his eyes, feeling her tremble, trembling himself. She was older, but her body still answered his as though no time had passed. “Too long,” he said, putting himself between her legs, resting on his arms, hovering just above her. “Open your eyes,” he urged, “Watch me come home to you.” With a shudder and a stifled groan his body found rest in her, sheathing himself in her warmth, a moan of contentment brought from her as their union was made complete with a final thrust of his hips. Reveling in that completion for a moment, he realized her arms lifted, her hands holding his arms, urging him further, deeper inside her. She rose up then, meeting his glance, urging him to take her completely, to make her his own again.
The emotions spiraling in his stomach took root and moved him rhythmically, and so the dance began. Each searching for that glorious moment of fulfillment. When he had held back all he could, when he knew she was on the edge with him, he let go with a cry of her name sending her over with him. Encouraging her to take him, to take all he had to give her, only her, and finally, spent, he rested just next to her, his breathing fast and furious, his heart thudding somewhere outside his chest. Home.
She had dozed for a moment. Lying in his arms, the afternoon creeping slowly away leaving a dusky shadow over her room. His hand made caressing movements along her thigh, lovingly stroking her skin.
“Why are you here? In Seneca? Not that I’m complaining of course”
He chuckled, the sound echoing beneath her cheek, her head pillowed on his chest.
“Believe it or not, I was here on business.”
“That store across from yours, “A Time Forgotten”? The woman that owns it, I have some questions. I think that she can help a client of mine.”
“That’s right,” Larson sighed, pulling her just a little closer.
“What on earth could Gail have to do with a client in Boston? Does it have to do with her disappearance?”
Larson’s hand stilled its motion and he brought her head around to look into her eyes. “What do you mean her disappearance? How long has she been missing?”