As I pulled into the parking lot of the Wyndwatch Golf Club, I could see why Casey loved it so much. Wyndwatch was a private club, but he’d played there often, having acquired the necessary connections through various long-term members. It was a beautiful place, and I could see, just by perusing the well-dressed men and women strolling toward the clubhouse and others approaching the first tee, that the course was patronized by the wealthy. Casey liked that, too.
Casey had two passions—golf and wealth—not necessarily in that order.
I was somewhere in his life, but could definitely not be described as a passion. Basically, I was his to control and to use. End of story.
Well, not truly the end . . . yet. A few more moments, and I could happily get on with my life. We had been married six months; three and one half of those months had been hell. And the honeymoon hadn’t exactly been the best time of my life, either. It still completely astounded me that I could have so misjudged the man. Having always considered myself an excellent judge of character, it had taken me too long to admit that I had chosen poorly when it came to Casey. The man of my dreams became the permanent demon of my nightmares—nightmares that became haunting all day, every day, every night.
I’d been plotting potential opportunities for escape for weeks. And then the unexpected happened—
With a golf club poised to strike the next drive and the sky supposedly clear, a lightning bolt struck him down. A freak accident. That single, deadly bolt had been the unexpected advent to a horrendous storm that immediately followed.
The director of the local funeral home came personally to express his condolences. “Allow me to look after all the details, Mrs. Lachet,” he’d said.
“You need only come to the home to make a choice of caskets.”
“You choose,” I had said. “Make it flimsy.”
I will never forget the look on that man’s face. It was a terrible thing to have said, but I didn’t feel badly. Guilt had been my constant companion for too long—guilt that I should never have shouldered because there was nothing in my marriage worthy of saving and, therefore, I had no business feeling guilty over a relationship that never should’ve been. And why I took on the burden of being the one at fault for everything bad that happened between us, I will never know.
My newly freed and rational self added, completely without guilt, “And when you order the flowers from me, please have them attach a thank-you note.”
He paused for the space of a heartbeat before choosing the most pleasant of any number of interpretations. “Oh, that is so lovely,” he said. “You wish to thank him for the lovely life you had together; albeit ever so short.”
Wrong. But how could I expect him to get it? So I replied, “Something like that.”
I pulled myself out of these unsettling musings of the past, locked my car, and started walking. My shoulder bag seemed very heavy. A physiological trick, obviously, as the only extras I was carrying were two pieces of dry bread and one small glass vial.
I stopped briefly to ask directions to the fifteenth hole and continued my walk. It was a lovely place, indeed. Wild flowers bloomed gaily in the taller grass, so I walked along the edge of the fairway. I’m not a golfer, but when you live with someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes golf, you pick up the jargon . . . like fairways and rough and bunkers and such.
Somewhere, someone was shouting behind me, but I didn’t pay any attention. I was thirstily drinking in the vibrant colors of early summer and smelling the warm scents of earth and freshly mown grass.
When I got to the first green, I veered left, as directed. It would soon be over. Within moments, I would have my life back, and would start to rebuild it anew. I did not know what I was going to do first, but I was going to do something soon. Tomorrow, perhaps. No—today!
A fast-moving projectile whizzed by my right ear, and I stopped walking. Actually, I came to a startled halt that almost sent me on my backside. I should’ve thought about the golfers around me, but my mind had been elsewhere. My thoughts had been centered on Casey, and not my surroundings.
“What the living hell are you doing?”
I turned my head. A man was running at me from the same direction in which the ball had come.
“I almost hit you!” he screamed.
“You should be more careful,” I offered.
He opened his mouth to say something, but seemed to reconsider. Actually, he appeared a little bit stunned by my admonition.
“Lady,” he said finally, “this hole is a dog leg. I couldn’t see you until you stepped into the path of my ball.”
“There was no harm done,” I pointed out. “Therefore, there’s no need for you to be angry.”
“I have every reason to be angry! You could’ve been seriously hurt! How do you think that would have made me feel?”
I looked directly into the darkest blue eyes I had ever seen. “I’m sorry; I wasn’t thinking. I have something else on my mind.”
“You shouldn’t be strolling around out here, then. This is no place for a Sunday promenade when you would rather gaze at the flowers than watch for golf balls that are coming at you at one hundred and twenty miles per hour!”
“Really? One hundred and twenty?” I echoed.
He looked exasperated, so I changed my tactics. “I said I was sorry.”
He raked long fingers through his dark hair. He needed a haircut. He had a completely perplexed look on his face as his gaze moved down the length of my body until he reached my leather loafers.
“They aren’t Gucci,” I muttered when his gaze remained fixed.
He looked at me then, staring straight into my eyes. “I was thinking how tiny your feet are. I wouldn’t know Gucci from Keds.” And then he got mad all over again. “What the devil are you doing out here, anyway?”
“I’m taking my husband’s ashes to the fifteenth tee. It was his favorite on this course.”
His face turned white and his gaze turned sympathetic. “I’m sorry! I—”
“That’s all right. I’ll pay more attention now,” I said quietly.
He stared at me for a moment. I felt unsettled—awkward—as if I had never had a man look at me before. Well, in a way, I hadn’t . . . not a man who looked like this one, at any rate.
“I’ll take you over there,” he said. “Wait here for a moment.”
He didn’t give me any choice. I could’ve ignored him and walked on as he went to talk to his buddies, but strangely, I didn’t want to walk on. I wanted to wait for him.
He didn’t speak long with the other men, and when he returned to me, he pivoted on his right foot, placing his left hand beneath my elbow. His hand was large and warm; his fingers were very strong.
“My name’s Chance,” he said. “Chance Webber.”
I looked askance. “Chance?”
He smiled and nodded. “I’m the seventh of seven children. Getting pregnant later in life can be risky, so Mom decided to have some fun with my name.”
I smiled. My foot slipped and I turned my head away from him to watch where I was walking. My leather-soled shoes were not the best for walking the grassy knolls.
Chance pulled me to a stop before crossing the next fairway and, after looking all around, nudged me forward once he decided it was safe.
“Was there no one who could come with you to complete this task?” he asked quietly. “It seems an awfully solemn thing to do all alone.”
“Solemn?” I felt laughter, unexpected and forceful, bubbling up in the back of my throat. But I did not laugh. That would’ve been rude. After all, how was he to know? “I’ve completed the other eleven tasks on my own,” I replied. “I thought I could manage this last one.”
He stopped walking and blinked at me, stunned. “Eleven?”
“Yep. Twelve different golf courses, you see.”
“You mean—you divided him up?” Chance asked.
“And you’ve taken some of his ashes to each course?”
“That’s right,” I said.
“Wow. You really must’ve loved him.”
“I despised him, really,” I said flatly, and looked around. “Is this the fifteenth?”
Chance continued to stare at me. He was confused, but I didn’t feel up to helping him sort it all out. It was none of his business, anyway. “There’s a pond with a few ducks somewhere on this hole. That’s where I want to go,” I said.
Chance shifted his weight, his arms folding across a very wide chest. “A pond with some ducks?”
“Yes. Isn’t that correct?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s correct. We have a pond on this hole, and there are a few ducks there.”
I smiled, grateful. “Wonderful. Do I turn left or right?”
“Left—toward the green.”
“Thanks for your help.” I started to walk past, but his hand reached out and grasped my elbow.
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m very sure.”
“I hope you don’t mind me saying this. . . .”
“Cristina,” I finished for him.
“Cristina,” he continued, “but this whole thing seems very bizarre to me.”
“Not to me,” I said, abruptly snatching my arm from his loose grip and marching toward the green.
“You’ve been to eleven different golf courses and scattered his ashes around all his favorite places? That seems like a very loving gesture to me. Then you say you despise him. Doesn’t that sound a bit bizarre to you, Cristina?”
“Mr. Webber,” I sighed. “I really don’t think this is any of your business. I appreciate your getting me here, but I’d like to get on with it and leave. So, if you will excuse me—”
“Wait!” He grabbed my elbow again.
I was beginning to have a sense of déjà vu. Manhandling was something else Casey had enjoyed. But then I saw the reason for his shout and quick grip.
“Let these people play through,” he ordered.
“Yes, sir!” I said smartly.
He frowned at me, but then he did something very unexpected. Something that brought a sweet richness to the moment that followed. He smiled and murmured, “I’m sorry.”
That smile, and his hushed tone, made my heart ooze a warmth that I’d never felt before. Even when I’d thought I was madly in love with Casey, I had never felt this kind of warmth.
We stood to the side of the fairway until the next foursome had finished putting out the hole.
“We can go now,” he said.
“You don’t have to stay with me, Chance,” I said. “I appreciate what you’ve done, but I’ll be out of here in a moment.”
“I think I’d best be your lookout,” he teased. “Otherwise, you’re going to get hit—I can see it coming.”
I shrugged my shoulders and moved toward the pond. It really didn’t matter that he was there. I’d already made peace with myself for what I was doing. It had the stench of revenge about it, but the fact was, every step I had taken to bring closure to my marriage was simply a symbolic means of overcoming the casualty I had allowed myself to become these past few months. The moment I made the decision to do what I had been doing these past weeks, I gave up my status of “victim.” Just shook it off as if it had been a physical thing, a chain around my neck. And I felt better. I was feeling better every day. I was on my way to starting a new life.
I moved to the edge of the pond that was just off the edge of the green. The grass was so manicured it could’ve been velvet.
I could never understand the attraction of the game, though. Why would anyone want to hit and chase a tiny ball around all this distance and face the challenges not put there by nature, but by some fiend with a devilish sense of humor? It was quite beyond me.
I removed the last glass vial and the pieces of bread from my bag. There were two ducks—mallards, I presumed—gliding across the surface of the water. As I started breaking the bread into large chunks, they moved toward me and I smiled. One was very bold and, as he got closer, I threw out my first offering, my means of apology.
Then I heard a heavy sigh from my companion, who was standing at my side.
“Cristina, it wasn’t my understanding that we came here to feed the damn ducks. As I recall, you had a much more serious purpose.”
“Oh, this is the most important part of my visit. You see, my husband hit a duck here by this pond with one of his longer drives. He was still laughing when he arrived home. Not because he’d hit a particularly wonderful shot, mind you. He was laughing that the poor duck keeled over and died. I can’t make up for that, but perhaps a little treat will account for something with these fellows.”
I threw the last of the bread to the ducks and studied the vial in my hand for a moment. Then I removed the top and hurled the glass container, with its contents of ashes, into the center of the pond. “That’s the end of him,” I said. It was quietly spoken but jubilant, reflecting my relief.
“You’ve done that eleven other times?” Chance questioned.
“Not always just like that,” I replied. “If Casey had bragged about never hitting the bunker on a particular hole, I took some of his ashes and sprinkled the sand in that bunker. Where he had bragged he had never been in the rough, I fed more of his ashes to the wildflowers.” I turned my head and looked at him. “Do you get the picture?”
He did. It was obvious.
“Seems sort of ruthless,” he offered after a moment.
“So was my marriage,” I said quietly. “So was my marriage. I’m done with it. He’s gone and, now that I’ve had my bit of metaphorical revenge, he is completely out of my life. I can move on.”
“He must have been a real bastard,” Chance said.
I thought about that for a moment and decided there were no words I could repeat that would aptly describe the kind of man Casey had been. “Thank you for your help, Chance,” I said, offering my hand to shake his. He took it, but held on.
“I’ll walk you up to the clubhouse.”
“You must want to get back to your friends?”
“They’ll wait. I said I wouldn’t be long, and they’re paying good money to have me play this round with them, so I know they’ll wait.”
“They pay you?”
“I’m the hired help, Cristina. The club pro. They pay me to play and give advice on their problems with the game.”
“That must be the best of all worlds for someone who loves this stupid game—to be paid to play.”
Chance arched a dark brow and shot me a severe, mocking frown. “Stupid game? My dear woman, we have to talk.”
I shook my head. The last thing I needed, or wanted, was a discussion about golf. I had heard about little else for far too long. “I don’t think so.” And I walked away.
Chance Webber followed me most of the way back, and for that, I was not at all grateful. I had told him too much—shared too much—and I didn’t know why I’d done that.
Determined that I’d forget Chance as quickly as I would forget Casey, I got in my car and drove away.
The first thing I did was give Casey’s clothes to the needy and throw out anything else I did not feel would be of use to anyone. I sold our home and furnishings, and bought a small, two-bedroom apartment in a quiet, pretty neighborhood. I furnished it the way I wanted it furnished. I purchased a new computer, and set out to get a small business going from my home. I was not a wealthy woman, but there was enough money to keep me going until I could establish myself as a qualified graphics designer. That’s the one thing Casey had not been able to destroy—my confidence in my artistic talent.
Within two months, nothing around me was familiar or painful. Everything was bright and new and pretty. My living room was filled with large, green plants, and there were flowers on the balcony. I had made contacts for work, and was doing a test job that might lead to a nice contract. I was happy and proud and not ashamed to feel that way. Life was good.
And then the telephone rang one evening.
“It’s Chance Webber.”
My heart thumped with dismay. “Yes?” There was a momentary silence after my cool greeting.
“Have I called at a bad time?” he asked.
“Well then when would be a good time for me to call back?”
I didn’t think there would be a good time, but I couldn’t bring myself to be rude to him. “I’m very busy these days, Chance. I’m starting a new business—”
“And a new life, Cristina?”
“And I feel like part of the past?”
I cleared my throat. “Yes,” I said more firmly.
“I’d rather be a part of the future, Cristina. Whatever that might be, or wherever it might lead. I thought we could perhaps talk over coffee or a drink?”
Suddenly a vile suspicion slapped me upside the head. “How did you find me?”
“The men who were my golf partners the day we met knew your husband. One of them was Sean Cooper. His wife sold you the apartment you’re living in now.”
Chance was honest, at least . . . but he’d also made me angry. “I really resent this intrusion!” I said at last.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “It wasn’t my intention to intrude. I need a partner for a hoe-down, and I thought of you.”
To this day, I don’t know what I thought of when he said that, but he’d made me laugh. “A hoe-down?”
I could hear the smile in his voice, too. “I don’t hoe-down, Chance.”
“Have you tried?” he wanted to know.
Again, I hated myself, but I had to be honest: “No.”
“It’s fun, Cristina.”
“Somehow, I don’t see you as a hoe-down sort of man,” I said.
“How do you see me?”
In fact, I hadn’t thought about him, let alone considered whether he liked to dance country or ballet. “I don’t know,” I said.
“Care to find out?”
I sighed, my deep breath into the phone echoed back in my own ears. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, Chance. I’m not ready for new relationships.”
“Can you honestly say you’re not ready for a night of dancing and fun?” he asked.
“Persistent, aren’t you?”
I laughed out loud. “I guess an evening out would be a nice change.”
“Good!” Chance exclaimed.
“Just one evening,” I insisted.
“Did I suggest more?” he countered.
I was a bit stunned by that, but his light-hearted attitude was infectious. “I guess that put me in my place,” I said, laughing.
“That wasn’t my intent.” He was suddenly serious. “We’re both adults. We’re both free . . . I thought I would let you know that,” he added. “If we want more and we agree, well—”
“Yes,” I said. “Well.”
“Well then we’ll see,” Chance said.
“I’ll pick you up Saturday evening at seven o’clock. We’ll have dinner first. How does that sound?”
“Very nice. I live at—oh, you know where I live.”
“I don’t, actually,” he confessed. “I had to bribe Sean with a free golf lesson to get your phone number. He went through his wife’s planner to find it.”
“An hour, or a half an hour lesson?”
I was impressed again. If there was one thing I knew, it was that golf lessons from a pro did not come cheap. “You were determined to find me.”
“Yes, I was, Cristina.”
“I guess I just don’t understand why.”
“I don’t either, Cristina—not completely. But my gut tells me it’s not a bad thing. I was intrigued the day we met. Something about you hit a soft spot deep inside me. How is that for a confession? Does that make it okay?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“I’m not dangerous, and I don’t have any ulterior motives. I simply want to see you again. A start. A fair shot. That’s all I ask. Unless, of course, you aren’t at all interested in getting to know me,” he said.
I hesitated. I didn’t know what I wanted. I was curious about him, too, but I didn’t want to get involved with another man. Life was just fine. I had learned to like my own company again, and I didn’t want any complications now that I had the possibilities of making a go of my little business. “It isn’t that I’m not interested in getting to know you,” I said. “I just don’t want any complications in my life right now, Chance.”
“Fair enough!” he said jovially. “No complications. Just dinner and dancing.”
“All right.” I gave Chance my address.
“Saturday at seven. I’ll be there.”
“Yes,” I whispered again, and wondered what the hell I had just done to the new life I had so carefully begun to construct.
Chance arrived on time, looking very much like a cowboy—hat, boots, and all! I wore jeans and a denim shirt, but my loafers would have to do for dancing.
“You look wonderful,” he said.
“Not western enough, if I’m to judge by you.”
He smiled. “Anything goes. This is just for fun.”
“Why can’t I equate a golf pro as a western dancer?”
“It seems out of character, you mean?” He shrugged his shoulders and hooked his thumbs into the back pockets of his snug-fitting jeans. “This is for charity tonight. But I do enjoy dancing once in awhile. Keeps me fit.”
It certainly did! I couldn’t help it, and my gaze wandered from his eyes; he was, indeed, fit!
When I looked back at his eyes, he was grinning, but he didn’t say a word. Not a single word. I swallowed, feeling awkward. “Need I remind you I don’t dance?”
“Not a problem. I’ll teach you. Shall we go?”
Chance stepped away from the door and waited until I’d locked up. I fumbled with the key, because suddenly, I was preoccupied. His comment about teaching me to dance sent a vivid picture to my mind’s eye and made me feel edgy.
As we walked down the hall, side by side, he said, “I’ve made reservations at Tony’s, but if you don’t like Italian food, we can go elsewhere.”
“I love Italian.”
Dinner was wonderful. I was too nervous to eat very much, I must admit. This dating business was more difficult than I’d remembered. Obviously, I have a short memory! I hadn’t been married all that long. More than once, I wondered what I was doing there, with him, with anyone.
But Chance was an interesting conversationalist, and I found myself enjoying that. He didn’t mention golf even once. I shouldn’t have been surprised; given my behavior the first day we met, he was most likely afraid that I would have him cremated so I could strew his ashes hither and yon.
“That was a mysterious sort of smile,” he observed.
I looked away, but I was still mentally chuckling over what he must have thought that day. “I was just thinking. I suppose I’m surprised you called me. I would’ve thought you’d think me a mad woman after our first meeting, and would have run in the other direction!”
“I don’t think you’re mad at all. Did you feel better after doing what you did?”
“Yes,” I admitted.
“That’s all that matters, then. We all have times we need to be rid of our demons.”
“Do you have demons, Chance?”
He grinned. “Not that I’ve noticed.”
“That’s good. I’m glad.”
There was a long, painful pause; several moments ticked slowly by while he just stared at me. “Are you?” he asked at last.
“Am I what?”
“Glad I don’t have demons?”
“I suppose I am. You seem like a very nice man.”
He laughed! Tipped back his head and guffawed.
“What’s so funny?” I snapped.
“Nothing!” He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “What makes you think I’m a nice man?”
“Now you’re fishing for compliments.”
He shook his head. “No—I’m not.”
“Well, I think I’ll take it back anyway. Perhaps you’re not as nice as I thought.”
“Let me tell you something, Cristina—none of us are nice when it comes right down to it.”
I straightened my back and peered at him with what I hoped was a severe and stern countenance. “Should I be worried?”
“Not in the least. Shall we go?” He stood and pulled back my chair as I rose.
The dance was fun. Chance taught me easily—not because of any natural talent on my part, but because he was, quite simply, very good. We laughed at every mistake I made, but somehow, with him, I was not embarrassed or afraid I would make a complete fool of myself. And that was a very different mental place for me to be; with Casey I seemed to be in a perpetual state of embarrassment because he had a knack for making me feel completely stupid. It was something he enjoyed. If he’d had a goal to bring about my complete and utter downfall, in terms of undermining my confidence, Casey achieved that within the first month we were married.
But Chance was different. He was a perfect gentleman all evening. He introduced me to several of his friends, and perhaps I was fooling myself, but he seemed to take pride in each introduction—as if he really liked having me there beside him. Mind you, I had once felt that way with Casey, too, and look where that had landed me!
When we returned to my apartment, I struggled with whether I should invite him in, but decided against that idea as Chance unlocked the apartment door for me. When he returned my keys to me, I smiled and thanked him for a nice evening.
“Did you have fun?” he asked. “You seemed to.”
“It was fun. More fun than I had thought it would be, to tell you the truth.”
“Good! Perhaps we could do it again?”
“Yes; I think I’d like that.” What was I saying? But as I opened the door, I realized I wanted to do it again.
“Well, have a good night,” he said.
I turned to face him, a little bit leery of what was to come next. I need not have worried, and my feminine pride received a sharp blow when, instead of having to fend off a good-night kiss, Chance Webber extended his hand!
“Thank you for joining me tonight, Cristina,” he said. “I’ll call you in a few days if that’s all right?”
Stunned, I slipped my hand into his. “Fine,” I said softly.
I watched him walk away from me and had a good laugh at my own expense.
He’d shaken my hand. . . .
The more I thought about it over the next few days, the angrier I became. It was crazy for me to be angry, really. Had he tried to kiss me, I would have been, should have been, angry! I eventually decided my anger should be pointed at myself. I just could not understand why one man in one evening could leave me so completely confused and confounded. Unable to sort it out, I thought it best to say no to another evening with him.
When Chance called, I was determined; my mind was made up.
“How about dinner and a movie?” he asked.
“Fine,” I said. I hung up the phone and slapped myself on the forehead.
We dated often after that. Sometimes just dinner, or dinner and a walk along the beach. He was good company, and we laughed together a lot. But Chance was driving me absolutely crazy as every night he returned me to my door and shook my hand.
Over the next few months, my graphics business began to flourish. I began to really believe in myself again. I realized that I could make my own living and, with Chance never far away, my confidence in myself as woman returned; the bruises were healing well.
“Hi!” Chance said one Monday evening when I picked up the phone.
“Hi, yourself.” I loved the way just hearing his voice could make me smile.
“Would you like to go out Friday night?”
“What did you have in mind?” I asked.
“You may not like this one,” he said. “If you say no, I’ll understand.”
My smile faded. “This sounds rather dire, Mr. Webber.”
“Dinner and a dance at Wyndwatch.”
Oh, no! No! I was not going to go to that damned golf course!
“I’ll understand if you’d rather not go, Cristina,” he said quietly. “But may I remind you, I will be right there beside you?”
“I really don’t want to go there, Chance.”
“That’s okay,” he said easily and I believed him.
“Too many people there knew Casey,” I tried to explain.
“I said it’s okay. We’ll do something Saturday night.”
“You have to go to this thing?”
“It’s more business for me than anything else.”
“And it would be nice if you had a partner?” I was talking myself into going, for heaven’s sake!
“No guilt, love. Not with me.”
I felt my face flush, the warmth spreading from my throat to my hairline, and I was very glad he was not there to see it. Never, ever, had he used an endearment with me, and never had I expected it to be said in such a sincere and loving tone. “I’ll go,” I found myself saying. And this time, I did not smack myself in the head.
To my everlasting surprise, I enjoyed that evening at Wyndwatch. The buffet was filled with wonderful food, and the people Chance chose for us to join were gracious to a fault. Two of the women even expressed similar sentiments in that they were happy Chance was seeing me. They both felt he deserved a good woman.
As we were leaving the clubhouse, I found myself saying, “If you take me to my door and shake hands with me again, we’re through.”
He stopped walking and turned to face me. “What did you say?”
I looked up at his handsome face. “You heard me, Chance.”
“I must order you champagne more often.”
“It isn’t the champagne talking. You have never tried to kiss me, Chance. It’s driving me quite mad.”
Chance grinned. “Sorry. You think you’re ready?”
“I. . . .” I blinked. “I thought I was, until you looked at me like that.”
“That’s my hungry look,” he said. He reached for my hand and gently dragged me in his wake.
We stopped at his car long enough for him to retrieve a golf club from the trunk and then we were walking toward a line of elms.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“You’ll see, Cristina.”
Once on the other side of the row of trees, he stopped and put the club in my hand. “This is the practice area. I’m going to show you how to use this thing.”
I shook my head. “Oh, no! I don’t want anything to do with this stupid game!”
He turned me until he was standing behind me. I felt his arms go around me. A small white ball dropped in front of me, and Chance placed his hands over mine on the grip of the club.
“This is silly,” I murmured, as my heart raced and my entire body grew overly warm. “I can’t see a thing out here. It’s too dark.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
“We’ll lose the ball,” I warned.
“I don’t care about the damned ball, either. I’m going to teach you the heart of the game, my love,” he whispered in my ear.
I shivered and he drew me back, snug against his warmth.
“The heart of the game,” he breathed. “I love you, Cristina. I’ve loved you from the first day we met.”
I leaned my head back on his shoulder. “I was a crazy woman.”
“It sure took you long enough to touch me,” I admonished lightly.
“I was afraid you weren’t ready.”
I eased my hands from beneath his, turned, and put my arms around his neck. “With you I have felt very different from when. . . .” I hesitated, not wanting to relive any old memories. “I’m not afraid. I have never been afraid of you, Chance.”
He smiled and I heard the club drop to the ground with a soft thud. “That’s good,” he whispered, smiling as his lips moved toward mine. “Let me teach you the heart of another game, my love; a gentle game of shared emotion and respect.”
I did not have much time to respond, as his mouth was very close. But I managed to whisper, “Yes,” before I felt the gentle press of his lips against mine.