“You owe me,” Kevin teased, watching her closely for a reaction.
Guilt appeared first, followed by resignation. She placed her cool hand on his arm. “Would you settle for a thank you? That seems to be all I ever say to you, but I don’t have much else to offer.” She looked so tired, defeated even, as though the rigid strength he’d glimpsed earlier was all used up. What had happened? More than ever, he wanted to pull her into his arms and try to coax some of it back. What was it about her that drew him to her? That made her look beautiful, even next to Nicole, and cause Kevin to miss her when she wasn’t around? Why was his heart suddenly racing like a teenager?
“‘Thank you’ works,” he said, his voice husky.
The corners of her mouth lifted slightly before wilting. She dropped her hand and clasped her fingers together. “Before I lose my nerve, I, uh—need to ask you something.”
When she said nothing more, Kevin prodded, “Yes?”
“I was, uh, just wondering if—” Her lips clamped shut as though she couldn’t force herself to say the words. Her fingers fidgeted, and she couldn’t stand still. It was almost comical watching her fight whatever inner battle was going on in her mind.
“Out with it, Emma,” Kevin said as he fought back a smile.
Her eyes met his for a brief moment before looking down at the floor. “Is that job offer still on the table?” she said in a rush, still looking at her feet.
Anxiety flared in Kevin’s gut for a moment, then quieted almost as quickly. Not only was Emma intelligent and confident, but she was strong and good. She’d do fine.
“Yes,” he said firmly. “The offer is definitely still on the table.”
Hopeful eyes turned up to his—eyes brimming with moisture. She threw her arms around Kevin and hugged him tight. For a few shocked moments, he stood there, wondering what to do. Then he wrapped his arms around her the way he’d wanted to do earlier. As she sniffled into his shirt, he rested his chin on her head. Her hair smelled lightly of cherry blossoms, and her body felt soft and strong at the same time. He didn’t want her to pull away.
But she did eventually. Her eyes were bright with a mixture of defeat and relief. Kevin knew it had cost her a lot to ask him that, yet she’d done it. And he knew exactly who she’d done it for.
A USA Today bestselling author, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.
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