Click on image to enlarge.
by Karen Toller Whittenburg
Description: Their love was meant to last a lifetime -- but tragedy tore them apart. Amanda and Dane Maxwell had a marriage made in heaven until their infant son died and grief turned them into strangers. When Amanda decided divorce was all that remained for them, Dane was left with only one choice. He must win back the woman he loved before she was lost to him forever. Contemporary Romance by Karen Toller Whittenburg; originally published by Dell Candlelight Ecstasy
eBook Publisher: Belgrave House, 1984
eBookwise Release Date: July 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [221 KB]
Reading time: 143-200 min.
Even in the clutter of noise around her, Amanda heard him laugh. That rich, throaty, baritone laugh that still made her heart catch and teased her lips into a smile. She looked up from arranging the trays of hors d'oeuvres, her gaze skimming over the faces of her guests to find him.
Dane Maxwell stood by the fireplace, as he always did at these parties. It was his favorite spot in the entire house, and he insisted it was her duty as hostess to circulate while he kept the party alive in the corner.
He seemed to be doing a good job of that tonight, she thought. The group around him was obviously entranced with what he was saying. He lifted his hand to emphasize a point and Amanda focused her attention on the lithe movement.
She'd always been fascinated by his hands. Large, graceful hands that symbolized so much of the man. Hands that could sketch the intricate details of an idea and create a skyscraper; then, with the same consummate skill, those hands could trace the contours of her body and create pleasure.
She followed his movements as he absently rubbed the back of his neck. He needed a haircut. The thick, wheat-gold hair at his nape touched the collar of his black evening jacket with sharp contrast.
In many ways, she thought, Dane was her contrast. Her features were delicately feminine, sketched with a subtle reserve and inherent privacy that contrasted with the ready warmth of her smile. The rugged lines of his face held a refinement usually lacking in such masculine features, a certain hint of gentle strength that contrasted with the latent power of his body, a body that contrasted with hers in the most intimate of ways. The texture of his skin was like rough velvet against her own satin softness and it was as if her curves had been designed to conform to his shape.
His hair was the color of sunlight, hers was dark as midnight. His eyes were a rich, earthy brown while hers were as blue as a sapphire sky. He stayed tan all year because of the hours he spent in the sun, but her complexion remained creamy no matter how much time she spent outdoors.
He was determination; she was acquiescence.
Her gaze lowered to his wide shoulders and she admired the smooth fit of the evening clothes and his virile physique that complemented them. He was careful about keeping in shape. Although he never said much about it, it was obvious in his enjoyment of vigorous activities, in the way he lobbed a tennis ball across the court or swam the length of the pool. It was obvious in the way he hoisted the sails of the sloop and then sat back to breathe deeply of the salt-scented air.
Amanda had often thought Dane was a throwback to the ancestors whose name he bore, had even teased him about the Viking warrior stance he affected at times. But she'd always loved that particular trait, envied his ability to square his shoulders and face life with intrepid challenge.
If only she could possess a measure of his courage.
Letting the useless thought crumble, she watched him conclude his story. The group around him broke into laughter and again, she heard the husky tones of his amusement. He glanced in her direction and she was suddenly trapped by his eyes, held motionless as the laughter died on his lips and his smile faded into the restless curve of his mouth.
Amanda looked down at the display of food on the table before her, but all she could see was the dark indifference of his eyes.
It was time she faced facts and stopped crediting him with feelings he didn't have. The lack of emotion in his expression didn't stem from acceptance of what had happened. He simply didn't care.
"Another successful May Day celebration, Amanda."
As if she'd been rearranging the food trays, Amanda made a last adjustment, and then turned to her guest and good friend with a smile. "Thanks, Meg. I couldn't have managed without your help."
"Oh, come on. You don't have to be the gracious hostess with me. I'm painfully aware of the help I haven't been this year." Meg laughed easily. "But my own guilty relief that I don't have to clean up when the party is over eases the pain somewhat. At least, all of our friends know better than to accept an invitation to our house."
With a disbelieving shake of her head, Amanda ran a quizzical gaze over Meg's slender, picture-perfect appearance. It was hard to believe that a woman who could manage five boisterous sons and a husband who always seemed to be searching for his glasses could panic at the thought of giving a party.
"You don't fool me," Amanda said, absently brushing at the short tendrils of hair at her temple. "I've enjoyed some memorable evenings at your home."
"Of course they're memorable, Amanda. Just like old I Love Lucy reruns." Meg's amused tone of voice belied her serious expression. "For example, I'm sure you remember the party I gave when you and Dane returned from your honeymoon. I mixed the date with little Jerry's birthday party and the caterer delivered one hundred and fifty ice-cream clowns instead of the finger sandwiches I thought I'd ordered. You have to admit that was a party no one will forget."
Amanda couldn't help laughing, and her eyes sought Dane's in an impulsive wish to share the memory. But he wasn't looking at her. And even if he had been, she thought he probably no longer remembered.
With a practiced smile that concealed her thoughts, she turned her attention back to Meg. "It was a wonderful party. And besides, just think of all the stories you'll be able to tell your grandchildren someday."
"God forbid! I absolutely refuse to be a grandmother! It's bad enough being a mother --" She stopped abruptly and Amanda saw the sudden apology that shadowed her friend's eyes. "Oh, Amanda, I didn't mean that. You know I would never want to --"
"You don't have to explain," Amanda interrupted, deliberately misunderstanding in order to keep the conversation from an uncomfortable subject. "I know you wouldn't change one single thing about your wild life, even if you could."
"No. No, of course, I wouldn't." A frown of indecision creased the lovely lines of Meg's face. "Amanda, I hope you know...." She paused, obviously searching for the right words. "I've told you this before, but I really am so very sorry about the baby. You've done so well these past six months that I almost forget sometimes how hard it must be for you."
Amanda put her hand over Meg's arm in a not-too-subtle hint, knowing she couldn't endure another expression of sympathy, not even from her dearest friend. "If you don't mind, Meg, would you go over and keep Tom Coleman company? It looks like his wife has left him to fend for himself again while she flirts with my husband. Good thing Dane isn't susceptible to redheads, isn't it?"
"Dane has never been susceptible to any woman except you," Meg commented, her voice resuming its former light tone as she looked toward Dane's corner of the room, then back to Amanda. "You're really very lucky, you know."
Amanda nodded her agreement and watched her friend cross the room. As she smoothed the satin sheen of her dark blue evening dress, her gaze drifted slowly, inevitably, back to her husband.
Meg had meant the words to convey comfort, but they settled in her heart with ominous weight.
Lucky Mandy, Dane used to tease her. Lucky at cards, lucky at love. How many times had he told her she'd been lucky to marry him in a weak moment when his resistance was low?
But his eyes had always betrayed the lie to his teasing, telling her that he'd been the lucky one.
The sun always shines for you, Amanda, he'd said in more serious moments. Share it with me.
Someone jostled against her and the memory of his words slipped behind a polite exchange of small talk, only to resurface as soon as the guest left her side. She stared thoughtfully at Dane, watching him with a familiar ache of emptiness as she recalled their sunshine days.
She had believed in luck back then, believed that the dreams they shared were destined for reality.
With a bittersweet smile she remembered how lucky she'd felt the first time he'd asked her for a date. As a full-time college student and part-time intern in interior design at the architectural firm where he worked, she had admired him from afar. Young, ambitious, and so very handsome, Dane exhibited a charming resistance to all feminine lures and had thus become the fairy-tale fantasy of most of the women in the building. He was a mysterious, elusive man who obviously loved women, but who played the game of romance with consummate skill and humor, keeping his thoughts and feelings to himself.
His quiet self-sufficiency had been a challenge Amanda accepted with youthful confidence. The first overtures of friendship had been hers, but gradually she grew to depend on him, on his understanding, his tenderness, and the easy curve of his smile. She had lost her heart to that smile, and when he proposed she'd felt incredibly, wondrously lucky.
But luck was now a memory.
Dane no longer smiled, and the sun didn't shine for her anymore.
As if conscious of her regard, he shifted and, even if it was unintentional, effectively turned his back to her.
With a sigh, Amanda checked the watery contents of the ice bucket, lifted it in her arms, and started toward the kitchen, pausing now and then to speak with the people she passed.
Alone for the first time during the evening, she leaned against the kitchen's center island and relaxed her composure. She eased the arch of one slim brow with her fingertip, grateful that for a few minutes at least, she didn't have to pretend. It was becoming too much of a habit to hide her thoughts and feelings behind that mask. Too easy to assume the role of the perfectly happy hostess, loving wife, or caring friend. And she was none of those things anymore. She must stop the emotionless masquerade soon, before she lost the ability to distinguish reality from the image she projected.
She would have liked to tell her friends that she wasn't lucky at all. It was a lie, a lie that concealed the empty core of her failure, a lie that allowed her to pretend nothing had changed, that Dane still loved her.
But she couldn't lie to herself. Her marriage had been over for some time now. All that remained was for her to admit it. Dane was waiting for her to make the first move. She sensed it in the careful way he watched her and in the way he chose every word he said to her. So why was she waiting?
Pressing her palms hard against the marble countertop, Amanda let her gaze wander over the room. Shiny copper pans hung in a gleaming row along the wall. A red-brick fireplace curved out from the corner, its black, swing-out kettle a reminiscence of kitchens from long ago. The fireplace had been Dane's idea, his contribution to the otherwise modern kitchen, which was supposed to have been her sole responsibility to design.
"You'll love it, Amanda," he'd promised her as he'd ruthlessly sketched his idea onto the house plans, rearranging her own careful drawings to make room. "Just think of all the marshmallows you can burn to a crisp ... right in the comfort of our kitchen."
She had been unimpressed until the room took shape and she had seen how the fireplace added a unique and homey touch. On the day they'd moved into the house, Dane had presented her with a moving day gift -- an extra-long metal skewer with a wooden handle, carved with the words
MANDY'S MOLTEN MARSHMALLOWS.
Closing her eyes, she could almost hear the sounds of her long forgotten laughter blending with his. An echo of the sheer joy she'd felt just in loving him.
Pivoting abruptly, she carried the ice bucket to the refrigerator and methodically began to refill it with ice. This kind of longing would get her nowhere. Dane, who had once been friend, companion, and lover, had become a stranger, a constant reminder of all she'd had ... and lost.
She knew only that it had happened, not how or when.
For weeks after the baby died she'd lived in a void, everything existing on a superficial level. She had survived each day simply because nothing could penetrate her outer composure. But now the memories were pushing against her wall of defense from the inside, creating a pressure that would crush her if she didn't yield.
And yielding meant she must face facts and make decisions. Decisions like moving from this house with all its reminders of once-upon-a-time. Decisions like leaving Dane.
Her hand trembled at the thought, but Amanda forced it to stop. She had accepted the death of her child and she would learn to accept the death of her marriage. It wasn't fair to continue a relationship that offered so little to both of them. She wanted more than a man who stayed with her out of a sense of responsibility. She deserved better and, in all honesty, so did Dane. Circumstances had irrevocably changed her from the carefree, innocent young woman with whom he had once fallen in love. Even if she thought there might be a chance to regain his love, she couldn't be that person again.
It was over. For better or for worse.
"Is everything all right?"
Amanda turned to face her husband.
He stood just inside the doorway, and she had the sudden impression that he'd been there for some time.
How odd, she thought. Once she would have known the instant he'd entered the room, no matter how many people were around, and now they were completely alone, only a few feet apart, and she hadn't even realized he was so near.
The seconds passed in cool silence as she looked at him. As if painting a portrait, her gaze stroked every familiar line in his face, even the tiny scar beside his left eyebrow. One day soon she wouldn't be able to look up and see him standing in the doorway, but her memory would hold his image and save it for a time when it was no longer painful to recall.
"Everything is fine," she answered, knowing it was both the truth and a lie.
Dane nodded and his lips formed that polite, plastic smile that she hated. "I should have known better than to ask. You always have everything under control, don't you, Amanda?"
For the first time in months she didn't force herself to match his artificial expression. The indifference in his voice hurt and she was tired of pretending to herself that it didn't. "Is there a problem?" she asked. "I just came in here to get some ice."
"The Hendersons are leaving now. I thought you'd want to say good night."
"Of course." She replaced the lid of the ice bucket and handed it to Dane. "Would you mind?"
He took the container from her hands and followed her from the room. For a split-second as she walked through the doorway she wondered how he would react if she turned and flung herself into his arms, begged him to love her again. She frowned at the ridiculous idea, knowing that more than likely he would drop the ice bucket in astonishment and then, in that awful, polite voice, he'd ask if she wanted him to get more ice.
"Oh, there you are, Amanda," Terri Henderson called from the entryway. "We have to leave, but I wanted to tell you what a lovely evening we've had. May Day Revels. Such a good idea for a party. Thanks so much for inviting us. See you soon." The brunette walked to the front door, but her husband lingered to touch Amanda's hand.
"You're a charming hostess, Amanda," he said. "I hope you and that lucky husband of yours throw a May Day party every spring for years to come." With a wink he squeezed her hand and then followed his wife from the house.
The one word stayed in her mind as Amanda returned to her guests.
The season of beginnings. A year ago she'd carried the beginning of a new life inside her, a precious secret shared only with her husband. Why hadn't she realized then that beginnings also meant endings? Why had she ignored the warning signs and convinced herself that Dane was as happy as she?
"Great party, Amanda." Another guest touched her arm, gave a brief kiss to her cheek, before leaving.
She hoped she made the proper response, but the thoughts persisted and made her only vaguely conscious of saying good night to the departing guests.
This year she carried the challenge to make a new beginning with her life. And next year? Maybe next year, if she were lucky, someone would invite her to a May Day party. Next year the beginnings and the endings would be over. Everything would be all right again.
Closing the front door for the last time, she sagged against its solid oak strength for a minute before pushing upright and walking into the living room.
Dane had taken off his jacket and loosened his tie, but he still stood beside the rock fireplace. He glanced up when she entered the room and then resumed his pensive study of the hearth. Amanda made a visual survey of the party's aftereffects, the crumpled napkins, the empty wineglasses scattered around the room, the table almost bereft of food. An aura of gaiety still lingered in the air like a concerto's final chord, faint and fading.
Without conscious intent, Amanda began to restore order. For her, the ritual of cleaning was as much a part of the party as the preparations. It helped her relax and unwind. Tonight, though, it seemed mechanical, just something to occupy her hands while she waited.
"Thank you, Amanda. I think everyone had a good time. I know I did."
It was what he always said after a party but, somehow, hearing him say the expected words helped ease her tension.
"I noticed what a good time you had," she said, her voice searching for the light, teasing tone that had once come so naturally. "You seemed to keep the guests in your corner entertained."
Dane watched her as she moved quietly about the room, his expression unrevealing. "I don't know why we bother to pay a cleaning woman. You never leave anything for her to do."
He always said that, too, at the end of a party.
"I'm only straightening things up." She repeated her standard answer and expected it to echo in the cavern of emptiness between them. Dear God! When had they grown so far apart that they couldn't think of anything original to say to each other?
Amanda stopped in mid-motion and set the tray down before turning to face him. "Dane, I...." She faltered, not knowing how to form the right words. But as she met his eyes she knew there weren't any right words.
There was only one way to say it and Amanda gathered her courage. "Dane, I'm leaving you."
Like a pebble dropped into a pool, her words fell between them and she felt the shock ripple through her to collect in her throat. In a matter of seconds she wished she hadn't said it, wished she had said it differently, wished there wasn't a reason to say it at all and finally, repeated it. "I'm leaving you."
For one shattering second, thick lashes shadowed his eyes, but he gave no other indication of surprise. "Leaving me," he said in a stiff, impassive voice. "Does this mean you want a divorce?"
Somehow Amanda kept from flinching at the word. Divorce. Leave it to Dane to put a name to this aching nonentity within her. "I.... Yes." She almost strangled on the admission before she steadied. "Yes, I guess that is what I mean."
"You guess?" The corner of his mouth lifted with incisive question. "Haven't you already seen an attorney?"
An attorney. A nameless authority who would draw up legal documents to sever their relationship in a few strokes of black ink. She blanched at the prospect. "No, of course not. I hadn't even thought about contacting an attorney."
"You'll have to do that, Amanda. That is the first step in getting a divorce, you know. You hire an attorney to represent you. Then you discuss the settlement with him. Who gets the house, who gets the car, that sort of thing. Your attorney will draw up a petition for the court and send me a copy, which I will then discuss with my attorney. If I agree to the settlement, bingo, we have a quiet, agreeable divorce. If I disagree, we'll battle about it in court and a judge will decide how to disburse our joint possessions."
Amanda was appalled at his emotionless recital. How could he be so calm, so matter-of-fact? She wanted him to drop the impersonal tone and tell her how he really felt ... or was he telling her in the cool indifference of the words? "Dane, I...I...."
"Oh, and you'll need to state your reasons for wanting a divorce." He shrugged slightly. "A mere formality, of course, but the law requires that you have grounds. Would I be too inquisitive if I asked what grounds you plan to give, Amanda?"
"Grounds?" she echoed stupidly.
"Why?" He rubbed his jaw impatiently. "Why do you want a divorce?"
She looked away from his enigmatic gaze and then forced herself to look back. She knew why, but how could she tell him?
It was the silence. The stilted silence between two people who had shared love and commitment and who now had nothing to say. They had lost the ability, the reason, to communicate with each other and it seemed ironic that he should even ask her to explain why.
Raking his fingers through his hair, he released an audible sigh. "Would you like me to list some possibilities?" he asked, the words heavily underlined with his exasperation. "You could try incompatibility. I believe that's often given as grounds for divorce. Or perhaps, in our case, it should be 'irreconcilable differences.' "
"Don't." she protested. "Don't make this difficult."
"Do you find this difficult, Amanda? It doesn't have to be." A note of hesitancy crept into his voice. "We could try talking about other alternatives, I suppose."
Her thoughts hit the idea and skittered away. Didn't he realize that there were no alternatives? He didn't love her anymore. Any lingering doubts she might have harbored had vanished at his practical acceptance of her decision.
There were no alternatives.
She lifted her chin in hopes it would bolster her resolve. "Talking won't change anything."
"It might. Maybe we should consider a separation. It would give you a little more time to sort things out."
Separation? A slow, agonizing uncertainty? She couldn't do that. He had already given her time to sort things out. It wasn't fair to play on his sense of responsibility for her. "I -- I think it's best my way," she stated flatly.
His lips pressed together in an emotionless smile. "All right, Amanda. We'll do it your way. When do you plan to make this momentous move?"
She stiffened at the bitter edge in his words and drew her pride around her like a cloak. "I don't know. Is it important? I -- I guess I can leave any time you want me to."
Dane narrowed his eyes in sudden piercing anger. "I could wring your lovely neck for that. That and about a thousand other things!" He turned and his hand hit the rock of the fireplace with a resounding slap. The subsequent silence vibrated against the walls and beat mercilessly in her ears
A tremor began at her nape and worked downward, leaving her shaky and unsure of herself. She wondered at his unexpected anger. Did he feel guilty because he'd stopped loving her? Was there some underlying resentment that they had to have this confrontation at all? Dane hated arguments and always avoided them....
She must stop thinking of him that way. Always and forever didn't exist for the two of them anymore. Always was past and forever was only a few days away.
Her heart pounded out the seconds, gradually slowing as she focused on his hand.
His fingers splayed over the surface of the rock to form a contrast of light against dark, a parallel between two separate strengths.
Dane had pulled each of those stones from the ground himself.
Amanda had lost count of the hours they'd spent searching for rocks of just the right shape and color. Some had come away from their mother earth with little or no persuasion, but others had resisted his efforts to uproot them.
She had been amazed and touched by his determination and where she would have given up and chosen a different stone, he had worked tirelessly to get the one he wanted. And now all the stones were welded into a wall of conjunctive strength, much like the wall of hidden emotions that separated her from him.
"When?" He spoke without turning toward her, his voice muffled by the fireplace.
"Soon," she answered, pulling her attention to the reality at hand. "A few days, maybe a week. Does it matter?"
He shook his head and swung to face her. All trace of anger was gone. She saw only the polite concern of a stranger. "You can have the house. I'll move out."
"I can't stay here, Dane. Surely you understand?"
He just looked at her, his eyes reminding her of dark, winter nights. "What are you going to do?"
She hesitated, weighing what she wanted to say. Above all else, she had to be positive he felt no misplaced responsibility for her once she walked out the door. "I don't have any definite plans yet. I suppose a place to live is the first priority and then, maybe a short vacation. I've always wanted to see what the big attraction is in Texas, you know."
"I remember," he said softly. "We didn't make it that far, did we?"
Memories of shared vacations crowded through her mind. Was she really standing here, talking about taking a trip without him? "I suppose I should talk to an attorney as soon as possible." The composure of her voice astonished her almost as much as the words she said. "Jerry is an attorney. Maybe he would...." She paused awkwardly. "But that might not be a good idea, since Meg and I are such close friends."
"I'm going to ask Jerry to represent me," Dane put in smoothly, as if it had been decided long ago. "I'll ask him not to discuss the divorce with Meg, if you want."
"Oh, no. I'm sure he'll be diplomatic about the whole thing. I guess I'll find someone else, then. To represent me, I mean," Amanda said, and wanted to scream with outrage. They were speaking of divorce, the end of almost six years of caring and touching and loving each other, as if it were no more than a simple errand.
All of a sudden she hated him. Hated him for making her fall in love with him, for giving her everything and then taking it away. Hated him because he could stand there without a trace of regret, coolly accepting what she could never accept.
"It's settled then." Strangely enough her voice didn't betray her anger, her deep regret. "I'll get in touch with an attorney as soon as I've found a place to stay."
"Fine, it's settled."
She met his eyes in reluctant agreement, her vehement reaction dying beneath a flicker of disappointment. The tiny candle flame of hope that he wouldn't allow her to leave quietly snuffed out.
"I think I'll go to bed." She walked to the doorway, wondering if she should tell him she was sorry or that she had truly loved him once. But he knew that already, so she just stopped and looked back over her shoulder. "It was a good party, wasn't it?"
"The best," he answered, feeling his throat constrict painfully as Amanda lifted her chin and walked regally from the room. He raked his fingers through his hair, jerked the tie from around his neck and tossed it aside, scanned the untidiness of the room, wondered where he'd left his wine glass.
He needed a drink.
Action followed the thought and he poured a shot of bourbon into a fresh glass, drank it down in a single swallow. The liquor burned through the tightness in his throat and he poured himself another, only then realizing how his hands shook.
What had she done to him? If she'd stayed another minute, another second, he'd have lost control, maybe even followed through on his threat to wring her neck. His fingers curled tightly around the delicate, crystal glass, and he had to force them to relax.
Whom was he trying to kid? If he'd touched her, there would have been no threat. The feel of her smooth skin beneath his hand would have been his undoing and he would have crushed her in his arms and punished her with kisses until she yielded to his will.
Once he wouldn't have hesitated.
Once he wouldn't have doubted his right to touch her.
And once she would have yielded.
He stopped the useless thoughts. Once was gone. Over. Finished. She was leaving. And he would forget.
Dane took another swallow of bourbon and felt his whirling thoughts slow and settle in his mind. It was best this way, he told himself. A divorce. A quick, clean break with the past.
I'm leaving you
The memory of her softly spoken words twisted inside him like a knife blade. But the wound wasn't fresh. Amanda had left him a long time ago. He didn't know when or how or even why, but it had happened. So slowly that he hadn't realized it until too late, she had drawn away from him, shut him out of her life by degrees and left him waiting helplessly for the finale.
He'd been expecting her to do something to change the situation. He'd even been aware of her struggle to reach a decision, but still he felt as if his whole world had collapsed at his feet.
And she had stood there, so calm and composed, with no desire to talk to him or to work things out. She had just stood there, as if leaving him were the easiest thing she would ever do. He hadn't realized until that moment just how far apart they'd grown.
I'm leaving you
Well, he could survive without her.
He caught sight of his reflection in the window. The offset lighting gave back a distorted image, and he closed his eyes against what he saw there. But shutting out the visual image only made the inner one more clear.
He was afraid.
A derisive sound tore from his throat. He, Dane Cameron Maxwell, survivor of all challenges fate had thrown his way, was afraid that he couldn't survive without Amanda.
So why was he letting her leave? The whisper came faint but persistent from his heart. Had he grown so soft that he didn't have the courage to fight for what he wanted?
Considered the idea, he let his mind replay the conversation with Amanda. Was it his imagination or had he seen a flicker of disappointment in her eyes tonight? Was there an ember of love for him hiding behind that cool indifference?
Determination flowed through him in a sudden, exhilarating wave and the fragile glass in his hand shattered under the pressure. He was hardly aware of the splintering glass, thinking only that he would make her love him again.
"All right, Amanda," he whispered to the silent night. "I'll do things your way ... for now. If you want a divorce, we'll go through the motions of getting one, but I'm not going to make it easy for you."
Picking up a napkin from the table, he dabbed at the cuts on his hand and studied the rock fireplace.
He'd built that wall himself, stone by stone. And if it took every ounce of strength he possessed, he'd tear apart the wall Amanda had built between them.
Stone by stone if necessary, but one way or another, he would win her back.