Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(48) by Susan Mallery
He leaned forward. “She’s seventeen. Going to college. God, she’s pretty and smart. And just about grown up. I can never be her father. All that time is over. But I still like knowing she’s okay.”
Penny wanted to bolt. It hurt to breathe and she couldn’t think. Each word was a blow. He loved this girl so much. She could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. He loved Lindsey and yet he hadn’t cared when she, Penny, had lost their baby. He’d barely acknowledged its passing.
“Is she the reason you didn’t want children with me?” she asked, barely able to keep her voice from shaking.
“Partly. I felt guilty.” He shrugged. “I know that sounds crazy, but I couldn’t help thinking it was wrong to have another child I could keep when I’d had to give up Lindsey.”
“Because she was the one who mattered,” she whispered.
Penny did her best to keep breathing. “You knew I wanted children, Cal. Yet you never told me this. You never bothered to explain what was going on. Everything you did was for Lindsey. But what about our marriage? Didn’t that matter?”
“I’m sorry. I know it was wrong to keep everything a secret.”
That wasn’t her point. And he hadn’t answered the question.
“I thought I could do it,” he said earnestly. “I thought I could have more children. Then you got pregnant and at first it was great. But then I thought about us being a family and I couldn’t stop thinking about giving up Lindsey. I didn’t know how to reconcile what I’d done with the life we were planning. I never meant to hurt you.”
“But you did. You changed the rules.” She stood. “You were happy when I lost the baby, weren’t you?”
He rose. “No! Never. I wanted us to have children.”
“No, you didn’t. When I wanted to try again, you told me you’d changed your mind. You said you didn’t want a family. But that’s not true, is it? You did want a family, but only if Lindsey could be your daughter. No other child was going to be good enough.”
“Penny. Stop. It’s not about being good enough. It was about my guilt.”
His words didn’t make any sense. Then her breath caught and she realized she was crying. She brushed away the tears. “I have to know everything. Just tell me it all now. I don’t want any more secrets.”
“There aren’t any.”
“Did you even love me? When I left, when I threatened to leave, I was trying to get your attention. I wanted you to wake up and notice that our marriage was dying. But you weren’t even shocked. You let me go without saying a word. I remember thinking you were relieved. Did you love me at all?”
She had to know. Maybe it was wrong. Maybe she would regret it later. But for now, the information was essential.
Cal shoved his hands into his pockets and hung his head. “I’m not sure I knew how I felt,” he began.
“Oh, please. At least have the decency to tell me the truth.”
He looked at her. “I didn’t love you the way I should have. You’re right. I was torn between what we had and what I wanted to have with Lindsey. That’s why I let you go.”
Her body began to shake so hard she thought she might collapse. This wasn’t happening. All those years they’d been dating and then married, she’d loved him. Loved him completely, and with such hope for their future. She’d trusted him with her heart, her life, her very being.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I cared about you.”
“I’ll be sure to hold on to that.”
She grabbed her purse and started for the door. He reached for her arm. “Don’t run out like this.”
She jerked free. “How should I run out? You’ve just told me that our marriage meant nothing. You weren’t willing to have children with me because you couldn’t get over giving up your first child. Tell me, Cal. Are Lindsey’s parents so horrible? Is she abused in any way?”
“What? No. They’re great.”
“So there isn’t any reason for your guilt, except selfishness. You don’t care about what was best for your daughter, you never cared about me. You only cared about what you felt. I don’t know what kind of game you were playing, but I’m sorry it took me so long to leave. I can’t believe how much time I wasted.”
Was still wasting. To think she’d made love with him, had wanted him. That she’d started to think maybe he was one of the good guys.
“You don’t understand,” he told her.
“I think I do. You couldn’t forgive yourself for giving up your child, even though it was the best thing for her. You’d rather live in guilt than have a real life, which is your choice. Only you pulled me in with lies and promises you had no intention of keeping. It was a game. I gave you everything I had and you were just playing.”
“You’re wrong,” he said.
“No, I’m not. You’re a fool, Cal. You missed out on something great with me. I don’t know if you’re afraid to love or just plain stupid. All I can say is I was lucky to get away from you.”
WALKER SAT alone in a corner of Reid’s bar and enjoyed the rowdy crowd. Since returning to Seattle, he’d found life too quiet. The military was a noisy place and after fifteen years, he’d grown used to the sounds of war.
He’d spent the day on the Internet, looking for class lists of graduates in the Seattle area. So far he’d managed to place Ben at two different high schools for two years, which meant he had more work to do.
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