“I was here a couple of years ago, but only for a day or two,” Anne told Zac, looking away. She had booked a room out of Oak Creek both times she’d dared come back. The thought of staying at The Mayor’s Inn had been too painful. She couldn’t even look at that hotel without feeling sick to her stomach.
And she’d avoided everyone—particularly Zac—as much as possible. Just in case his words about not coming back were still true. She tried to swallow the panic that threatened to overwhelm her. Maybe he still felt that way now, even though he hadn’t said anything at the hospital.
“There.” He pointed at her. “That look that just came into your eyes. I saw it at the hospital. It’s like you’re afraid of me, Annie.” He took a step closer and she instinctively one back. One of his eyebrows shot up, letting her know she’d proved his point. “Do you think I’m going to hurt you?”
“No.” Not physically. She’d never worried that he’d hurt her that way, despite having five inches and probably fifty pounds—all muscle—on her.
But he was right. She couldn’t continue living in Oak Creek with them ignoring everything that had happened that night. What had been said. What had been done. Maybe she would’ve tried to, and to avoid Zac forever, if he hadn’t ended up in her ER.
But the truth was, there weren’t enough bushes in this town for her to jump into. She was going to run into Zac. A lot.
Sometimes all you could do was face the past.
She pulled a breath in. “I’m not scared of you. I mean, I know you would never hurt me physically. For crying out loud, you wrecked your motorcycle rather than hit a dog.” She’d meant for her laugh to seem breezy, but it just sounded stilted. “But yeah, I mean, we can’t pretend like that night never happened. The stuff we did. Stuff you…we said.”
His eyes narrowed. “That night we spent together after Becky died.”
“Yeah. That night.” As if they’d had another. “The bottom line is, I can’t leave here, Zac. No matter what you said then, or even if you feel the same way now.”
He shook his head, brows furrowing. “I don’t expect you to leave. You’re obviously a respected doctor, more than competent. Why would you think I wanted you to leave?”
Some of the tension she’d been carrying since his arrival in the ER began to ease. He was right. Something said in grief and anger six years ago didn’t necessarily hold true all this time later. She was silly for thinking it did. “Okay, well, it’s good to know you don’t feel the same as you did back then.”
He took a single predatory step closer, and she tensed again. “I said something that night to make you think you needed to leave?”
She stared at him, her mouth flopping open like some sort of fish. “You don’t remember what you said?”
Those words would be engrained in her memory forever.
Get out and don’t come back.
He rubbed his forehead. “That whole night is fuzzy for me.”
I can’t even bear to look at you. You just betrayed the only person in this town who ever wanted you here.
Tossing her naked into the hallway before flinging her clothes at her.
“What do you remember?” She forced the words past a throat that seemed to have dried up.
His hand moved to the back of his neck. “Honestly, not much at all. It’s sort of a blur.”
She retreated a step from him again. That night had been the most important night of her life. The best. The worst. It had changed the very fabric of her being.
And it was sort of a blur for him.