A Christmas Night to Remember(11)

‘I’ll do no such thing.’ How dared he criticise her grandmother like this? ‘And my father and grandfather’s actions have absolutely nothing to do with this situation.’

‘It isn’t a situation, Dee,’ Zeke said grimly. ‘It’s our marriage and, regardless of what you say, their unfaithfulness has a huge bearing on how you see it and me. Did you ever expect us to make old bones together? Did you? Deep, deep inside, in your subconscious? Because I don’t think you did. I never have. But that didn’t matter because I intended to prove you wrong and I wasn’t going anywhere. I’m still not.’

He was confusing her, muddling everything up, and it wasn’t fair. She had prepared herself for the inevitable over the past torturous weeks, steeling her heart against any hope, and she couldn’t go back to the terrible time just after the accident when she hadn’t known what to do. That had been worse than after she’d realised leaving Zeke was the only way she could retain her dignity and who she was in the future. She couldn’t watch him slowly fall out of love with her as their life together went wrong. Their work and colleagues, their friends—everything was tied up in a world in which she had no part now. The very thing that had joined them was now the gulf forcing them apart. The ultimate irony.

‘I just know I can’t do this any more, Zeke,’ she said wearily. ‘Us, our marriage. I can’t.’

The entrance doors to the hotel opened as she finished speaking and a young Japanese couple came in with two small and clearly very excited children, gabbling away in their own tongue. The little girls were so cute in their matching red coats and hats that in spite of how she was feeling Melody had to smile as she caught their mother’s eye.

‘It’s the snow,’ the young woman called across in perfect English. ‘They so wanted snow at Christmas, so Santa and the reindeers could land their sleigh here and feel at home.’

‘That’s very important,’ Melody agreed, glancing at the little tots as she added, ‘And don’t forget to leave some carrots for those reindeers, will you? They get very tired delivering so many presents in one night.’

The children giggled; whether they understood her or not Melody wasn’t sure, but as she turned back to Zeke he was watching her with unfathomable eyes.

‘And what about the family we said we’d have one day?’ he said quietly. ‘Where do children fit into this future of yours?’

She looked down at her hands, letting the heavy wings of soft strawberry-blond hair hide her face from him. ‘They—they don’t,’ she whispered, knowing if she didn’t have babies with Zeke she wouldn’t have them with anyone. Just the thought of another man touching her was unthinkable. She was Zeke’s and she’d always be his—body and soul—even though she couldn’t be with him.

‘I see.’ His voice was low and tight. ‘So you’ve made the decision on my behalf. How kind. And am I allowed to protest at losing the chance of fatherhood?’

‘You don’t have to lose it. You could have children with someone else.’ She still didn’t look at him.

‘If it wasn’t for the fact we’re in a public place I’d tell you exactly what I think of that little gem,’ he ground out with hot, fuming fury. ‘Do you seriously imagine anyone else could take your place? Do you? Hasn’t anything I’ve said in the past meant something? I fell in love with you. I don’t want anyone but you. Not ever. Listen to what I’m saying, damn it.’

She had never seen him so angry when she made the mistake of glancing up. His face was that of a stranger—a dangerous, outraged stranger—as black as thunder, and his words were underlined with the same furious energy.

Her heart threatened to give way but somehow she kept her voice steady when she said, ‘This is what I was trying to avoid by not seeing you. I don’t want to fight with you, Zeke, but I mean what I say and you won’t change my mind. If you want to forget about lunch and leave now that’s fine.’

She watched him slowly rein in his anger, his self-control formidable. She had seen it before, this ability to master his emotions, and it was almost scary. After a few moments he was able to smile slowly, and you would have to know him very well indeed to recognise it wasn’t a real smile. But she did know him well.

‘I’m here and I’m staying,’ he drawled lazily.

And Melody had the feeling he wasn’t only talking about lunch.

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