We’ve got a slightly longer excerpt today – but when you reach the end of Caroline’s first chapter we think you’ll see why. Have your hankies at the ready, ladies! From Heartache to Forever is published in September.
‘Ah, Beth, just the person. I’ve got a favour to ask you.’
Her heart sank. Again?
‘How did I know that was coming, right at the end of my shift?’
She turned towards James with a wry smile and then everything ground to a halt, because the man standing beside the ED’s clinical lead was painfully, gut-wrenchingly familiar.
His strangely piercing ice blue eyes locked on hers, his mouth opening as if to speak, but James was still talking, oblivious to the tension running between them.
‘Beth, this is Ryan McKenna, our new locum consultant. Ryan, this is—’
Her name was a gentle murmur, his eyes softening as he took a step forward and gathered her up against his chest in a hug so warm, so welcome that it brought tears to her eyes.
He let her go long before she was ready, stared down into her eyes and feathered a kiss on her cheek.
‘OK. So I’m guessing you two know each other already, or this is love at first sight,’ James said drily, and Ryan laughed a little off kilter, taking a step back and giving her some much-needed space to drag herself together.
‘Yeah, we know each other,’ Ryan said, his voice oddly gruff. ‘We—er—we worked together, before I went abroad. Best scrub nurse I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.’
There was a whole world left unsaid, but James just nodded, still unaware of the turmoil going on under his nose.
‘Well, it’s good to know you got on, we rely on team work. Beth, I was going to ask you if you could be a star and give Ryan the once-over of the department and then take him for a coffee? They really need me in Resus, and I’m sure you’d like to catch up?’
‘What, now?’ she asked, feeling a flicker of something that could have been panic.
‘If you can spare the time. I’d be really grateful and they do need me.’
She met Ryan’s eyes, one eyebrow raised a fraction. ‘Are you OK with this?’ he murmured.
As if James had left her with a choice…
‘It’s fine, Ry. I don’t have to be anywhere,’ she said quietly, surrendering to the inevitable, and she turned back to James. ‘Go. You’re right, they could really use you. Sam’s tearing his hair out and Livvy’s rushed off her feet. We’ll be fine.’
He nodded, his face relieved. ‘Thanks, Beth. You’re a star. And while you’re at it, if you could convince him to apply for the permanent post, you’ll have my undying gratitude.’
Her heart thudded, the flicker threatening to turn into a full-on panic attack.
‘I thought the application window was closed?’
‘It’s been extended. So—if you could twist his arm?’
He was smiling, but his meaning was clear, and they were desperate for another consultant, but simply seeing Ryan again had sent her emotions into freefall and her hard-won status quo felt suddenly threatened. A locum post was one thing, but she didn’t know if she could cope with him here on a permanent basis, not when she was finally putting her life and her heart back together after the last two agonising years.
Not that it, or she, would ever be the same again…
Anyway, it wasn’t relevant, because he was committed to Medicine For All, the aid organisation he’d been working with for the past two years, and she knew how strongly he felt about that. He’d walked away from Katie because she didn’t understand, so there was no way he’d be looking for a permanent job and he obviously hadn’t been clear enough with James.
‘Leave it with me,’ she said, which wasn’t a yes but it was the best she could do, because she was oddly torn between wanting to run away and wanting to talk to him, to find out how he was.
Because something had changed him, she could see that at a glance. He was thinner, his face slightly drawn, shadows lurking in the back of his eyes. The same shadows that lurked in hers after all that had happened between them? Or other shadows, from the things he’d seen in those two years? Both, probably.
‘Sure?’ James asked, maybe finally picking up on the tension running between them, and she nodded.
‘I’m sure. Go. Leave it to me.’
‘Thank you. I know you’ll do your best. I’ll see you on Monday, Ryan. I’m really pleased you’ve agreed to join us.’
‘So am I. I’ll look forward to working with you.’
They shook hands and she watched James go, then Ryan turned back to her with a wry smile that touched her heart.
‘Forget the guided tour. Is there somewhere quiet we can go and get a coffee?’
She felt a wave of relief and nodded. ‘Yes. There’s a café that opens onto the park. We can sit outside.’
The café was busy, but they found a little bistro table bathed in April sunshine and tucked out of the way so they could talk without being overheard, and he settled opposite her and met her eyes, his searching.
‘So, how are you?’
Her heart thumped. ‘Oh—you know.’ She tried to smile. ‘Getting there, bit by bit. You?’
That wry, sad smile again, flickering for an instant and then gone. ‘I’m OK.’
She wasn’t sure she believed him, but there was something else…
‘So, how come you’re here, in Yoxburgh? Is that deliberate?’ she asked, needing to know if he’d sought her out or just stumbled on her by accident, but he nodded slowly.
‘Yoxburgh? Yes, sort of. I needed a job, there was one here, and I know it’s a lovely place. But I didn’t know you were here, if that’s what you’re asking, not until I saw you.’
‘Would you have applied if you’d known?’
He shrugged. ‘Not without talking to you first to see if you were OK with it.’
‘Why? If you needed a job—’
‘There are plenty of jobs.’
‘But not here.’
‘No. Not here, and I wanted to be here, but now—well, that depends.’
Her heart hiccupped. ‘On?’
‘You, of course. If you’re working in the ED, we’ll probably be working together. I’m OK with that, we worked well together before, but us—you and me—that’s different. Much more complicated, and the last thing I want is to make things difficult for you, so I need to know if you’re going to be OK with me being underfoot all the time?’
‘Just so long as you don’t expect to pick up where we left off. Well, not that, obviously, but—you know. Before…’
He frowned, his eyes raw. ‘I don’t expect anything, Beth. The way we left things, I’ve got no right to expect anything. For all I know you might be back with Rick.’
‘Rick?’ It startled a laugh out of her because after everything that had happened Rick was so far off her radar it was almost funny. ‘No way. He was a lying cheat, why would I be back with him, any more than you’d be back with Katie?’
He gave a startled laugh. ‘OK, I can see that, but—someone?’
‘No. It’s just me, and I’m happy that way. You?’
He laughed again. ‘Me? I haven’t had time to breathe, never mind get involved with anyone. Anyway, people get expectations and then it all gets messy.’
‘Not everyone’s like Katie.’
‘No. They’re not.’ He studied her, his eyes stroking tenderly over her face. She could almost feel their touch, but then he closed them and shook his head with a little laugh. ‘I can’t believe you’re in the ED. What brought that on? I thought Theatre was your life.’
‘You can talk. I thought surgery was yourlife.’
He shrugged. ‘People change. I was facing a lifetime of increasing specialisation, and I didn’t want to spend every day doing the same thing over and over again until I’d perfected it. I wanted a change, and MFA provided me with that, and over the course of my time with them I realised I like trauma work. I like the variety, the pace, but you…’
‘I wanted a change, too.’ Needed a change, because everywhere she’d looked there’d been reminders of what she’d lost, and she’d found working in Theatre with anyone but him just plain wrong. ‘So, when did you get back?’
‘Two weeks ago. I’ve been back a few times on leave, picked up a bit of locum work here and there to refill the coffers and keep my registration up to date, but this time it’s for good.’
She felt her eyes widen, and her heart thumped. ‘Really?’
His smile was sad. ‘Yes, really. I’ve seen enough horror, lost some good friends, seen way too many dead chil—’
She flinched, and he gave a quiet groan.
‘Sorry. I didn’t…’
‘It’s OK,’ she lied. ‘And I can only begin to imagine what it must have been like. So, was it after you lost your friends you decided to come back?’
He gave a wry laugh. ‘No. Oddly, that was when I decided to stay on longer, to carry on the work they were doing because it was so necessary, but there’ll always be others waiting to take my place and it was time to come home because I’m just as needed here in many ways. My grandparents are frail and my mother’s shouldering the whole burden on her own, and it just seemed like it was time. Time to move on with my life, to get back to the day job, as it were. Back to the future.’
He’d said it was time to move on with his life, but he was the one who didn’t do relationships. Not after Katie had tried to get pregnant to stop him going away.
But what if he’d changed now, got MFA out of his system and was ready to settle down? It sounded like it, and maybe he wanted to try again with her? Maybe a bit more seriously this time—although it could hardly have been more serious than the way it had turned out. But if he did?
She wasn’t sure she was ready for that, not yet. She was still working through life day by day, hour by hour, step by step. She stared down into her coffee, stirring the froth mindlessly.
‘So that’s me,’ he murmured. ‘How about you? Are you happy here, in Yoxburgh?’
Happy? She could hardly remember what that felt like.
‘As happy as I can be anywhere,’ she said honestly. ‘It’s a lovely place, and that weekend we spent here—it was really special, the walks, the feel of the sea air—we said then what an amazing place it would be to live, and then a job came up here and I thought, why not? I was sick of working in an inner city, the noise and the dirt and the chaos, and I wanted to get away from all the reminders. I just needed peace.’
Peace to heal, to reconcile herself, to learn to live again, and where better than here, where it all began—
She sucked in a breath and looked up again. ‘So how come you applied for the locum job?’
He shrugged. ‘Same reason, I guess. I loved it here, the peace, the tranquillity of the coast and the countryside, and I needed that, after all I’ve seen. And there were the memories. I know we were only here for a weekend, but it was hugely significant.’
He looked away, his brow creased in a thoughtful frown, then he looked back and met her eyes. ‘If I’d known you were pregnant, Beth, I wouldn’t have gone away—not then, at least. I would have found a way out of it, delayed it or something. Not that it would have changed anything, but at least I could have been there for you. And I did try when I knew, but you didn’t seem to want me there, and I couldn’t really do anything anyway, nothing constructive, so I left and I tried to airbrush you out of my life, out of my thoughts, but I couldn’t. I realised that, the moment I got back when all I could think about was seeing you again, making sure you were all right.’
He’d tried to airbrush her out of his thoughts? And failed? Well, that made two of them. Even so…
‘Why didn’t you act on it? You’ve been back two weeks and you haven’t contacted me.’
‘You’ve changed your phone number.’
She felt a twinge of guilt. ‘I know. I’m sorry, I suppose I should have told you. But you could have found me if you’d really wanted to. You know enough people.’
He nodded. ‘You’re right, and I was going to as soon as I knew what I was doing, where I was going to be, but whatever, I’ve found you now, I’m here, I’m back for good, and at least I know you’re all right. Well, as all right as you can be, I guess.’
Their eyes locked, his heavy with understanding, and she felt her heart quiver.
‘I’ve missed you,’ she said, the admission wrung from her without her consent, and he smiled sadly.
‘I’ve missed you, too. I didn’t realise how much, until I saw you again. All that airbrushing just didn’t work.’
Her eyes welled, and she blinked the tears away.
‘Ry, I’m not the person I was. I’ve changed.’
‘I’m sure you have. So have I. Don’t worry, I don’t expect anything, Beth, but it is good to see you again and I’m so sorry I let you down. I wish I could undo it.’
She nodded, looking away from those all-seeing eyes, turning her attention back to the froth on her coffee. She poked the last bit of froth with the spoon, then looked up again.
‘So if you really are done with MFA, are you going for the permanent post? James was groaning the other day about the calibre of the applicants so they’ve obviously had to extend the closing date, and it sounds like he wants you to apply.’
He looked thoughtful. ‘That depends.’
‘You, again, of course.’ He shrugged again. ‘I don’t want to do something that you don’t want, Beth. If you don’t want me here, I won’t apply, especially since we’ll be working together. I know I’ve accepted the locum job, but if that’s an issue, too, I can always pull out. I haven’t signed anything yet.’
She frowned at him. ‘But you’ve said you’ll do it! You’d never go back on your word.’
‘I would if it would hurt you. The last thing I want is to hurt you again.’
She shook her head. ‘You didn’t hurt me, not like Rick hurt me. You didn’t lie and cheat and sleep with my best friend and then pretend it was over when it wasn’t. Your only failing was your commitment to Medicine For All, but I got that. I understood, and I admired you for it.’
‘I know, but I’m not Katie, and you’re not Rick, and you’ve never hurt me. And you were there for me when it mattered, and you stayed until it was over. That meant so much.’
‘I could have stayed longer. Shouldhave stayed longer.’
‘No. I didn’t want you to, Ryan. You needed to go back, to fulfil your commitments, and I needed to be on my own. You were right, you couldn’t do anything constructive to help me, and there were people in other parts of the world who really did need you. Don’t feel guilty.’
‘But I do.’
‘Well, don’t. I don’t need your guilt, I’ve got enough burdens. You did the right thing.’
She straightened up and smiled at him, pushing back the shadows. ‘Why don’t I give you that guided tour James was talking about, and introduce you to some of the others? And then you can decide if you want to apply.’
‘You don’t mind? I might get it. You have to be sure.’
She shrugged. ‘Ryan, we’re in desperate need of another consultant and I can’t stand in the way of that, but I can’t promise you a future with me, not in any way, so if you’re thinking of applying because of that—’
‘I’m not. I’ve told you, I don’t expect anything from you.’
‘Good. Let’s go and do this, then.’
The department was much as expected—modern, well equipped, but ridiculously busy, and he could see why he was needed.
And they had a permanent post going. It would be a great job, a perfect place to settle down—with Beth?
No. She’d warned him off, said she’d changed, and so had he, and yet he’d still felt his heart slam against his chest at the sight of her, felt a surge of something utterly unexpected when he’d pulled her into his arms and hugged her.
Of course not. He didn’t do love, not any more, and anyway, it wouldn’t work. She wanted other things from life, things he didn’t want, things that didn’t include him, but they could still be friends. They could work on that, and it was still a great hospital in a beautiful part of England. What more could a man want? And anyway, it was only a temporary post at the moment. It wasn’t like he was committed. If they couldn’t work together, he could always leave it at that and move on.
He met her soft grey-green eyes, so bad at hiding her feelings, and he could tell she wanted to get away.
‘Yes. Thank you, Beth. I need to get on, anyway, I’ve got to find somewhere to live by Monday. Any idea who to ask?’
‘Hang on, Livvy Henderson might know.’ She stuck her head back into Resus. ‘Livvy, do you know if anyone’s moved into the house you were renting? Ryan’s looking for somewhere.’
‘Ah, no, Ben’s got a new tenant.’ She flashed him a smile. ‘Sorry I can’t help. I hope you find something, Ryan.’
‘I’m sure I will. Never mind. Thanks.’ He turned back to Beth. ‘So—any other ideas?’
‘Baldwins? They’ve got a few properties near me advertised to let. Might be worth asking them. They’ve got an office on the High Street. It depends what you want.’
He laughed, thinking of some of the places he’d slept in over the past two years, and shook his head. ‘I’m not fussy. Just so long as it has a garden. I need to be able to get outside. And somewhere to park would be handy.’
‘Go and see them. I’m sure they’ll have something.’
He nodded. ‘I will. Thank you. I was thinking I’d check into a hotel and maybe look at some places tomorrow.’
Something flickered in her eyes and then was gone, as if she’d changed her mind. ‘Good idea,’ she said, but nothing more, and he wondered what she’d been going to say. Whatever, she’d thought better of it, and he realised he had some serious work to do to rebuild their friendship.
Baby steps, he thought, and then felt a stab of pain.
‘Right. Well, I’ll see you on Monday.’
The eyes flickered again, and he could see the moment she changed her mind. ‘Give me a call, tell me how you get on.’
‘I don’t have your number, remember.’ And nobody changed their number unless they wanted to hide, so from whom? Rick? Him? Or from the others, the well-meaning friends who hadn’t quite known what to say to her? He could understand that. He’d blocked quite a few numbers.
He pulled out his phone and found her entry. ‘OK, give it to me?’ Then he rang her, and heard her phone buzz in her pocket.
‘OK. I’ll let you know how I get on with—Baldwins?’
‘Yup. Good luck.’
Was it those words, or was it just that the fates had finished playing Russian roulette with him?
Whatever, the agent showed him a whole bunch of stuff, none of which appealed, and then said, very carefully, ‘There is something else. It was for sale but it didn’t shift, so the owner got tenants in and they’ve done a runner and left it in a state, but he’s disabled and can’t afford to pay someone to sort it out, so if you didn’t mind rolling up your sleeves I’m sure I could negotiate a discount. It’s a great place, or it could be. It’s a three-bed bungalow on Ferry Lane, overlooking the marshes and the harbour, and you can see the boats on the river in the distance.’
The river? He could feel his pulse pick up. ‘Does it have a drive?’
‘Oh, yes, and a double garage and a big garden. They had a dog so the house smells a bit, but with a good clean and a tidy-up…’
‘Can I see it?’ he asked, impatient now, because it sounded perfect, doggy or not, and he’d grown up with dogs.
The agent glanced at his watch. ‘I can’t take you today, I’m on my own here, and I’m out of the office until eleven tomorrow, but I can give you the key. I take it you’re trustworthy?’
Ryan laughed. ‘I think so. After all, what can I do to it that the tenants haven’t? Apart from clean it?’
‘Good point. Here. And take my card and give me a call.’
‘I will. Thanks.’
He hefted the key in his hand, slid it into his pocket and headed back to the car, cruising slowly along the clifftop before turning onto Ferry Lane and checking out the numbers. And there it was, a tired-looking bungalow set back at the top of a long concrete drive with weeds growing in the cracks.
Uninspiring, to say the least, and it didn’t get better as he went up the drive, but as he got out of the car he caught sight of the view and felt peace steal over him.
He slid the key into the lock, went through the front door and was confronted by multi-coloured chaos.
The agent was right, it did smell of dog, the kitchen and bathroom were filthy and the garden was a jungle, but every time he looked out of a window and saw the river in the distance his heart beat a little faster.
It might be awful now, but with a good scrub, the carpets cleaned and the grass cut, it would be transformed. Oh, and about a vat and a half of white paint to cover the lurid walls and calm it all down. All he had to do was roll up his sleeves and get stuck in.
He pulled out his phone and rang the agent.
‘I’ll take it,’ he said, and the man laughed.
‘I thought you might. Your eyes lit up when I mentioned the river.’
‘Yup.’ He laughed. ‘So, where do we go from here? It’s just that I am in quite a hurry, I start work on Monday. Is there any danger we can sort it by then?’
‘Yes, we can do it today. We’re open until seven tonight. If you come in at six, that’ll give me time to get it all sorted.’
So he rang Beth, although he hadn’t meant to, and told her about it.
‘Where is it?’
‘Just up Ferry Lane on the left. It’s number eleven.’
‘Are you still there?’
‘Can I come? I’m only round the corner and I have to see this.’
He laughed. ‘Sure. You’ll be shocked, it’s pretty dire, but I’ll get my bodyweight in cleaning materials and paint and it’ll be fine.’
‘It can’t be that bad.’
He just laughed again, and went outside to wait for her.
‘Oh, my word…’
‘Yeah. Great, isn’t it? You’ve got to love the shocking pink. But look.’
He wrapped her shoulders in his warm, firm hands and turned her gently towards the window, and she felt her breath catch. ‘Oh—you can see the river! It’s where we walked that day—’
The day he’d lifted her off the stile and into his arms and kissed her, and she’d fallen a little bit in love with him. The day it had all begun…
‘I know,’ he murmured, his voice a little gruff. ‘It’s beautiful down there, and the thought of having it on my doorstep, being able to look at it all the time, is just amazing.’ He dropped his hands and stepped away from her, but she could still feel the echo of his fingers, the warmth that had radiated off his body.
‘Come and see the rest. He said it’s got three bedrooms but I only got as far as the first one and gave up.’
She could see why. The place was dirty and untidy, as if the tenants had picked up their things and walked away without a backward glance, and there was a pervading odour of dog. There was a lot to do before it was a home.
They walked through it, examining all the rooms, finding the third bedroom at the opposite end to the other two, tucked away beyond the kitchen with a patio door to the garden. It even had an en suite shower room.
‘So will you make this your bedroom?’
He shook his head. ‘No. I’ll use it as a study because of the door to the garden. Do you know what, the house is actually in pretty good condition under all the dirt. I don’t think it’ll take a lot to turn it around.’
She eyed the grubby carpets, the faded curtains, the filthy bathroom. ‘If you say so.’
‘It’s only dirt. I’ll get on it in the morning. I’ve got to go down to the office now to sign something, then I need to eat and find a bed for the night. Any suggestions?’
Why? Why did she say it? She had no idea, but without her consent her mouth opened.
‘I’ve got a spare room, and a casserole in the slow cooker that’s enough for three meals so that should do us, so we can eat after you’ve done the paperwork and then come back here and make a start if you like? I’m on early tomorrow but I can help you now, and again after my shift. Bear in mind it’s Friday tomorrow, so you’ve only got three days before you start work and I guess you’ve got other stuff to do first. Like find some furniture, for starters.’
He laughed. ‘Furniture would be handy.’ His smile faded as he searched her eyes, his own unreadable. ‘Beth, are you sure? That’s a lot to ask.’
Sure? She wasn’t in the slightest bit sure, but it seemed the sensible thing to do, the most practical, and she was nothing if not practical.
‘I’m sure,’ she lied. ‘And anyway, you didn’t ask, I offered.’
She just hoped it wasn’t a huge mistake.
It was just as well she’d agreed to help, because the house was worse than he’d thought.
After they’d eaten he changed into jeans, rolled up his sleeves and they went straight back to tackle the mess, armed with the contents of her cleaning cupboard. She hit the kitchen while he tore up the bedroom carpets, and by the time he’d done that it looked a whole lot better. Then he studied the sitting room carpet.
Was it salvageable? Doubtful, but with a clean…
He turned back the corner to see what was underneath, and blinked. Seriously? An original wood block floor? He pulled back more, then more, and started to laugh because it was so unexpected and wonderful.
‘Hey, come and see this,’ he called, and Beth went into the sitting room, clad in shocking pink rubber gloves that matched the awful walls, a streak of dirt on her cheek, and his heart crashed against his ribs.
How could she look so sexy?
‘Wow! That’s amazing. It’s gorgeous!’
It wasn’t alone. He dragged his eyes off her, looking way more appealing than she had any right to look with dirt on her face and her hair all sweaty, and studied the floor. ‘Well, I don’t know about gorgeous, but it knocks spots off the carpet and it’ll save me money. I wonder if the hall’s the same?’
It was, so was the dining room, and he was stunned.
‘It’s incredible. I love it. I think you’re right, a bit of polish and it will be gorgeous. Right, let’s go. It’s late, you’re working tomorrow and I could kill for a cup of tea.’
‘Me, too. It might wash the dust out of my throat.’
He chuckled, and her eyes softened with her smile. Without thinking, he pulled her into his arms and hugged her, burying his face in her hair and breathing in dust and bleach and something else, something familiar that made his heart ache.
‘Thank you. Thank you so much for all you’ve done. You’ve been amazing and I wouldn’t have got nearly as far without you.’
She eased away, leaving him feeling a little awkward and a bit bereft. ‘Yeah, you would, because you wouldn’t have stopped. Right, time to go.’
‘Tea or coffee?’
‘Tea would be lovely, thank you. Want a hand?’
‘No, you’re fine. Go and relax, I won’t be long.’
Relax? He was too wired for that, and stiffening up nicely after all the heaving and bending. He was going to hurt in the morning. Ah, well. At least they’d made a start.
He flexed his shoulders and strolled over to the shelves in the corner of her sitting room beside the fireplace, where a silver trinket box had caught his eye. It was a heart, he discovered, smooth and rounded, incredibly simple but somehow beautiful, and crying out to be touched.
He picked it up, and it settled neatly into the palm of his hand as if it belonged there, the metal cool against his palm, the surface so smooth it felt like silk. There was something written on it, he realised, and he traced it with his fingertip, his heart starting to pound as he read the tiny inscription.
A date. A date he recognised, a date he could never forget because it was carved on his heart, too.
He heard her footsteps behind him.
‘Tea,’ she said, her voice sounding far away, the clink of the mugs as she put them down oddly loud in the silence. He turned slowly towards her, the heart still nestled in the palm of his hand.
‘What’s this?’ he asked gruffly, knowing the answer, and her smile nearly broke his heart.
Her face blurred, and he bent his head and lifted the tiny urn to his lips, his eyes squeezed tightly shut to trap the tears inside.
‘You kept them,’ he said, when he could speak.
‘Of course. I didn’t know what else to do. You weren’t there by the time I picked them up, and I didn’t want to stay where we were because of all the reminders and I knew if they were there I’d feel tied, so I had to keep her with me until we could decide together what to do.’
He looked up, blinking so he could see her face, and her smile cracked.
He reached out his free arm and pulled her against his side, and she laid her hand over the delicate little urn in his hand, her fingers curling round over his as she rested her head on his shoulder.
‘Grace didn’t suffer, Ry. At least we know that.’
He nodded, and she lifted the little heart gently out of his hand, kissed it and put it back on the shelf, next to a pretty cardboard box. She touched it fleetingly.
‘That’s her memory box,’ she said softly. ‘The midwives gave it to me in the hospital. Would you like to see it?’
He shook his head, mentally backing away from it, unable to face it. ‘No. Not tonight. I’m too tired, Beth. I think I might head up to bed. I’ve got another long day tomorrow and you’re working.’
Her smile was understanding, as if she’d seen straight through him.
‘When you’re ready,’ she said gently, but he’d spent two long years running away from it and he wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready for what he knew must be in that memory box.
Time to stop running? Maybe, but not now. Not tonight.