Author: Robyn Carr

“Cameron, please, I tried to warn you about expectations. Please, don’t make this worse. I don’t want you to think I just used you.”

“You certainly didn’t do that. You could have. I would have welcomed that, but no—you weren’t ready. Now I understand why.” He laughed without humor. “God, I’ve made a classic fool of myself.” He took a breath. “Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to check back with you later—much later. See where you are. Maybe you’ll be free. Maybe not. But I’m out of this triangle.”

“It’s not—”

“It is,” he said. “I could handle what I thought I was up against. I didn’t know you were in love with someone else.” He took his foot off the brake and coasted forward. When he stopped in front of Paul, he jumped out, went to the passenger side of the SUV and opened the door for Vanni. He then went into the back, pulled out her small suitcase and the stroller, taking them to Paul. “Hey, buddy,” he said. “Make yourself useful.”

“Sure,” Paul said, taking them to the front door.

Cameron got Mattie out of the car seat and before passing him to Vanessa, took a long slow moment to put a little kiss on his head. Then as he passed the baby to Vanni, he placed a soft kiss on her lips. Against them he said, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out better.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” she whispered back.

“Here’s your good boy,” Cameron said, passing the baby.

“I had a lovely time,” she said softly. “Thank you for everything.”

He couldn’t resist. He touched her hair, gazed into her eyes. Out of Paul’s earshot he said, “I hope I get a chance to show you I’m a better deal. I can be there for you through all this crap. I’d never let you down, never leave you to wonder how I felt. Never.” He took a breath. “I hope the son of a bitch disappoints you.”

She laughed hollowly. “I’m sure that’s exactly what’s going to happen.” She held her son against her chest and put her palm against his cheek. “Thank you for being so understanding. You’ve been very decent.”

He laughed. “That wasn’t my original idea.” He became serious. “You know my number, in case you’re ever ready to move on. I mean, really move on.”

Paul stood near the front door with Vanessa’s suitcase in one hand and the stroller in the other, watching as they said goodbye. It was sheer torture. The soft kiss, the whispers, the hand against his face. It was all so sweet, so tender. Oh God, he thought. I’ve lost her forever. Again.

When Cameron got back in his car and drove away, Vanessa walked briskly up to the front door. Paul stood there wearing a hangdog look and rather than making her long for him, it set her on edge. Everything in her life would be different right now if he’d leveled with her from the start, if he’d made himself clear—he was committed elsewhere and she was merely a good friend. He opened the door for her and she walked right past him. “Hello, Paul. Have a nice weekend?”

“Not so much. You?”

“Lovely, thanks.”

“I need to talk to you. It’s important.”

“What can be so important?” she asked, breezing through the foyer. “Hi, Dad,” she called as she passed by him en route to her bedroom. Paul followed her with her luggage and the stroller.

“If you could just give me a few minutes. I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have waited,” she said, laying little Matt in the crib, busying herself with his diaper. “You could have just as easily returned my calls. Or maybe made a few calls of your own.” She looked at him and said, “You keep saying we have things to talk about, then I don’t hear from you.”

“That’s what I have to talk about. I want to explain. Vanni, please.”

She looked at him and saw that he was miserable and she didn’t care. She hoped he was in agony. “All right. Go ahead.”

He looked nervously over both shoulders. “Can we go someplace?”


He leaned toward her. “Because it’s tremendously personal. How’s that?”

“Would you like to close the door?” she asked, lifting one mocking eyebrow.

“No, I wouldn’t like to close the door!” He took a breath. Don’t get mad at her, he told himself. She was just acting on instinct. Just trying to have a life after all that death. He couldn’t get mad about that. He of all people. “Maybe we could go for a ride?”

“I don’t think so. I’m just back from a long ride. Let me change the baby. Then if you want to, we can walk outside. Will that do?”

“I guess it’ll have to,” he said in a definite pout. And then he slowly got sucked into touching the baby’s head, smiling into his face and making him smile back. The diaper came off and Mattie sent up a stream of urine that appeared four feet high, which Paul ducked and Vanessa covered quickly, making them both laugh. “All right,” Paul said. “We’ll just take a walk outside. Is he good? Not hungry?”

“He’s been fed,” she said. “I’ll just put him in his bouncy seat out by Dad, if it’s okay with him.”

“Okay. Thanks.” He backed away a little, slipping his fingers into his back pockets. He had to keep doing that because he wanted to touch her so much, and this would be a bad, bad time. The look on her face indicated she was maybe inches from wanting to belt him.

A little while later, the baby settled in his seat beside Walt’s chair, Vanessa and Paul walked out on the deck behind the house and down the stairs toward the stable. “Is this something you’d like to share with Matt?” she asked. “Or is this just for me?”

He sighed in frustration. “Just for you,” he said miserably. He tried to grab her hand, but she pulled it away. “Listen, I’m not sure you know how I feel about you.…”

“Sure I do. You’ve made it clear. You have a situation in Grants Pass, a woman, and you’re not in touch much. It’s obvious how you feel.”

“Are you kidding me? Because…” He stopped walking. She stopped walking. “I care about you a lot.”

“Yes, I know. I appreciate all your concern. You’ve been very good to me and Mattie. You’ve been a very good friend to Matt.”

“This is not just about Matt. I thought we were close.”

“I guess we are,” she said with a shrug. “Like brother and sister?”

“Vanni, I have some things to explain.…”

“So you keep saying. Think you’ll get it out this time?”

He ground his teeth in frustration. “There’s a reason I’ve been hanging back a little bit. Why I’ve been so distracted. I wanted to wait until I figured some things out, until I knew it wasn’t too soon after Matt for you…but it’s starting to look like I might already be too late.”

They got as far as the corral and she leaned her back against the fence, her elbows on the top rail, heel on the bottom rail, facing him.

“Can I start at the beginning? Will you listen?”

“By all means, take your time,” she invited with a wave of her hand.

“Way before you came to Virgin River, way before I ran into you at Jack’s, long before anything happened to Matt, I was seeing this woman sometimes.…”

She averted her eyes in spite of herself. They’d gotten this far before—he’d found a woman. Still, it just wasn’t easy hearing that he had a woman in his life, though it was completely reasonable.

“I met her a long time ago. We had one night together,” he said. He shrugged. “Not even a whole night. I called her a couple more times because…Because,” he finished. “It was casual. Not my finest hour.”

“You did something wrong?” she asked.

“At the time, I sure didn’t think so. Vanni, I slept with her a few times, all right? We had an understanding. You know how it is…”

“I don’t, as a matter of fact. I’ve actually never had that kind of understanding. But you men—”

“Aw, come on! You probably had more sex over the weekend than I had last year!”

“Is that right?” she asked, lifting her chin defiantly. In fact, at that precise moment, Vanni regretted that she couldn’t allow herself to do that. Men seemed to be able to do it so easily—make love when there isn’t love, see it for what it was.

“I don’t even care,” he said in frustration. “That’s not even the point. What I have to explain is not that I had sex last year, when you were married, pregnant and my best friend was alive, but that I had sex a couple of months ago. After I went home, after the baby, I was pretty screwed up. Losing Matt was killing me, I didn’t want to leave you, staying with you was eating me alive, and…”

He looked down, took a breath and continued, “I tried blowing off some steam with my brothers and the construction crews. But where I made my fatal mistake was I called this woman who I never had anything with but sex and asked if we could talk. Have dinner and talk. I was messed up, Vanni. I needed to tell someone what it was like, burying my best friend, helping his baby get born. I was in a lot of pain, guilty, needy. I shouldn’t have called her.”

“I guess it wasn’t just talk.…”

“’Course not,” he said. “She tells me she’s pregnant. From that.”

She felt that icy-cold wave of dread pass through her gut. Just when she thought it couldn’t get worse. “Well, my God,” she said in a breath.

“At least I finally have your attention,” he said. “I wasn’t kidding when I said it was important. And personal.”

She pushed herself off the fence. Anger shook her inside, but she tried to keep her expression passive. “You have some issues. Tell me, Paul—what does a woman have to do to get that much of you?”

He hung his head and shook it. “You won’t be impressed,” he said. “She was seductive, available, I didn’t care…I’m not proud of that. And I apologized, but my apology isn’t going to change anything.”

“So, you’ll be getting married I suppose?”

“No, we won’t. When I left here last week and told you I’d call—I got home to this hysterical message from her and I went to her…”

“Well, I guess you had to.…It’s not as though there are consequences now.”

“Vanni, I didn’t sleep with her. I’ll never sleep with her again. I went to make sure she didn’t do anything to herself, to the baby. I went to talk her down. That’s what tied me up—the reason I didn’t call. This woman and I—we don’t have anything together except this. I didn’t even talk to her last year from October to February. But if she is having a baby and if it is my baby, I have to take care of her. Them. I have to. You understand that, don’t you?”

“If?” Vanni asked.

“She said she was on the pill. I wore a condom. Seems like there’s still an outside chance this could be a mistake. Probably not, but who knows? It’s early. I wanted to wait until I knew for sure before…”

“God, you men just can’t keep it in your pants, can you?” she said in disgust.

“Well, you can damn sure believe it’s behind locked doors now! You think I didn’t learn an important lesson there? Now I want you to tell me something, Vanni. You and the doctor? Is that a done deal? Do you love him?”

“Not that it’s your business, Paul,” she said indignantly. “He cares for me very much.”