“It reminds me of our wedding,” he said. “Anything nautical-themed reminds me of the day we got married.”
Dane nodded, his eyes focusing on the tree. “Do you remember the day we met?”
“How could I forget?” She smiled. “I’d never been so nervous on a job interview in my life. My hands were shaking so much. Not just because I wanted the job so badly, but because you were so handsome. And so smart. Plus, I’d read all about you.”
He turned to her. “You looked me up?”
“Didn’t have to,” she said with a laugh. “I used to read the gossip rags, you know.”
“Ah. Well, you can’t believe everything you read.” He paused for a moment. “Didn’t you almost spill coffee on me?”
Her cheeks flushed at the embarrassing memory. “Yes. You didn’t have an assistant, so you handed me the coffee yourself. Your hand touched mine and I nearly knocked over the coffee cup. Honestly, I thought I wouldn’t get the job after that.” She laughed.
“I probably fell a little in love with you when you almost drenched me with hot coffee,” he said.
She gasped, her eyes widening. “You didn’t.”
“I did,” he said. “But I had to put my feelings aside. You were the best candidate for the job and I had to hire you. Even if it meant we couldn’t be together.”
“But we’re together now.”
He stared at the tree again, and lightly touched one of the seashell ornaments. “The sea will always remind me of you. Of the time we spent in Rhode Island—”
“Lying to your parents,” she pointed out.
“Lying, and secretly wishing it was all true,” he said. “And then it did come true. By the sea.”
She blinked. It wasn’t like him to be so openly romantic. Returning to the villa must have brought back so many memories for him. But while Dane wanted to hold on to memories from the past, she wanted to make new memories. New memories with their new family.
“I’ll never forget how you looked that day,” he continued. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.”
Warmth spread through her. He always knew how to make her feel like the most gorgeous woman in the world.
“It was a beautiful day,” she agreed. “But we didn’t have family with us that day.”
“Do you regret that?” he asked. “Do you regret not having family at our wedding?”
“No,” she said. “Not at all. Because I thought we’d have plenty of time for family later.”
“We still have time for family.” He approached her and reached for her hand. “As long as we’re together.”
“Our wedding will always be one of the best days of my life,” she said.
He frowned. “Only one of? Not the best?”
She hesitated. How could she tell him? Allyson lowered her eyes. “On the day we got married, I couldn’t believe it was possible to be that happy. Our wedding was like a dream.”
“Why can’t it be like that now?” he asked. “This past year, no matter how many times I think I’ve lost you, Allyson, you’ve come back to me. All I want is for you to come back. To not be so distracted. To be present with me now. Why can’t you come back to me?”
SHE STILL WASN’T LOOKING at him. Even though he held her hands in his, her eyes were trained on the floor.
“Allyson, look at me,” he said. “Please.”
“I’m trying,” she said in a shaky voice. It sounded like she was on the verge of tears. He’d give anything in the world to ease whatever pain she was choosing to go through. “Really I am.”
“I don’t want to push you,” he said. “But now that I know you’re keeping something from me, I want you to tell me the truth.”
Decorating the tree hadn’t brought him closer to her. If anything, it had driven them further apart. Reminded him that there was this wall between them and that his wife was keeping something from him. Allyson didn’t trust him enough to tell him her secret. Knowing that hurt more than anything.
“I know it’s hard for you to be patient. It must be so hard for you to understand, but I promise I will tell you,” she said.