“Jesus, Allyson, I thought something terrible had happened to you.” Suddenly, he reached for her and pulled her into his strong arms. The tight embrace made her body go rigid. Guilt was already forcing her body to tense up while he tried to comfort her. Comfort her even though she had just lied to him.
Tears pricked the back of her eyes, but she held on to him. If she pulled away now, he’d know for sure that something was wrong.
After their argument in the dining room, she had raced upstairs to go change into something comfortable before she headed outside to clear her head. It was probably silly to run off in the dark and stay outside for so long, but she had needed to calm down. Needed time to figure out her next step.
His hand smoothed over her hair and he tucked her head under his chin. The heat of his solid, muscular body was usually enough to soothe her fears. But this wasn’t something her husband could save her from. She had gotten herself into this tangled mess.
“I tried calling you, but you didn’t answer,” he murmured.
He had probably called while she had been on the phone. Begging frantically to finally get the truth. Yet she hadn’t gotten the truth. Nobody would give it to her. Not over the phone anyway. Anxiety kept her on the phone as she bargained and cajoled. That was likely why she had been away for so long without realizing it. She thought she would be in New York tomorrow to finally get the answers she had been searching for. But the snowstorm had destroyed those plans.
“I just got carried away chatting with everyone on the phone.” Another not-quite-lie that still tasted bitter in her mouth. She squeezed her eyes shut, but the tears still slid down her face. All she had wanted was to be in New York tomorrow. Be in New York so she could finally stop keeping the truth from Dane.
“Let’s head back inside,” he said. “Chef Durand and Mrs. McKenzie have been looking for you.”
“Okay.” As he released her from his embrace, she brushed her tears aside.
Dane took her hand in his and headed back up the beach. The firm grip of his hand holding hers made her shiver. No matter how bad she felt, there was always a part of her that Dane could reach.
They walked together in silence until they arrived at the villa.
“I found her,” Dane said as they stepped into the living room.
Allyson lowered her head, hoping that her husband wouldn’t see that she had just been crying.
Within several moments Mrs. McKenzie appeared in the living room, relief washing over her face. “Thank goodness you’re safe,” she said. “I’ll alert Chef Durand.” She scurried out of the room, leaving Dane and Allyson alone.
“I’m going to call a cab for Mrs. McKenzie and Chef Durand,” her husband said. “I won’t be long. Do you want to stay downstairs?”
She shook her head. “No, I’d rather go upstairs. Maybe watch some TV before I turn in for the night.”
While Dane called the cab, she walked upstairs to their bedroom. Allyson stepped into the adjoining bathroom and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were red from crying; her face was tear-streaked. Dane probably hadn’t noticed in the dark outside. She turned on the tap to splash cold water on her face. After drying her face, she looked back into the mirror. Her face was still a bit flushed, but at least now she looked presentable.
Suddenly she heard approaching footsteps. Trying to look casual, she grabbed a hairbrush from her bag and started brushing her hair.
“Chef Durand and Mrs. McKenzie shared a cab home.” Dane’s voice. Such a deep, rich baritone. The sound of it slid across her skin like a caress.
He was so caring. So concerned about the wellbeing of the people around him. Which was why her heart ached so much in this moment. Dane was the last person she ever wanted to keep the truth from, and yet here she was, keeping a secret that he had every right to know. But telling him now wouldn’t be right. Somehow, she was going to have to find the strength to wait. Even if it was tearing her up inside.
Still brushing her hair, she stepped out of the bathroom. “It was nice of them to come on such short notice. Especially during the holiday season. They must be so busy.”
“They are, which is why I’m going to double their Christmas bonuses this year,” he said. “They’ve more than earned it.”