Bringing Maddie Home - Page 28

“That’s right.” He wasn’t bothering to sound apologetic.

“You didn’t think we’d want to know our daughter was alive?”

“The decision to come home or not was Nell’s. I gave her my word I’d let her make it.”

Her father’s gaze swung back to her. “Maddie. Goddamn it, your name is Maddie,” he said fiercely.

“I haven’t been Maddie in a very long time. My memory of her is still shaky. Incomplete. I’ve asked Colin—Captain McAllister—to call me Nell.”

“In this house you’re Maddie.”

She nodded, because what else could she do?

Her mother’s shock seemed to have been renewed. “You don’t remember us at all?”

“My memories are scattered. Once Colin told me who I was, I went on the internet and looked at pictures of you. I recognized you then, from those memories. I think I was very frightened the night I left home, maybe even before I was attacked. Even after all these years, I was afraid to come back, to reveal myself. My silence may seem cruel to you, but...” She couldn’t go on.

Colin chose that moment to enclose her hand in his, the clasp warm and strong, the comfort and support she so desperately needed. This was the first time they’d touched, bare skin to bare skin. It felt so right that relief and something more powerful flooded her.

Both her parents looked at their clasped hands. Her mother’s eyes widened and her father’s disapproval was obvious.

“I assume you have your bags in the car.”

Colin’s grip tightened.

“No.” She tried very hard to sound regretful. “I don’t mean to hurt you, but... This is a big step for me. I’m hoping to spend time with you, but I’m not ready to come home as if I am Maddie unchanged. I’ve taken a leave from my job, long enough that I thought it best to find an apartment.” She was careful not to look at Colin.

“That’s ridiculous!” Marc exclaimed. “This is your home! You have a bedroom upstairs.” His voice softened. “We haven’t changed a thing.”

For the first time, she had to blink hard to hold back tears. “I’d really like to see it. Another time, though. I just arrived today, and I guess I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.”

This silence was not a comfortable one. She was beginning to wonder if her parents’ odd reaction to her was only the result of shock.

“Can you tell me about Felix?” she asked tentatively. “He’s not home, is he?”

“Do you remember him?” her father asked.

She gave a flicker of a smile. “The same way. Fleeting memories. But they’re all good ones.” Suddenly afraid of how that sounded, she hurried on. “May I see a picture of him?”

“Certainly.” Her mother rose, the movement seeming stiff, and turned to the fireplace. Several framed photos held pride of place on the mantel. “This is the most recent.” She brought one in a silver frame to Nell. “We keep yours there, too. We’ve never lost hope.”

Nell’s vision blurred and she bent her head. Yes, she had hurt her mother, at least, and yet she couldn’t seem to take her at face value. This scene still felt wrong, the undercurrents tugging at her.

She accepted the framed photo and gazed down at it. A handsome young man looked back at her, although she could see in him the skinny boy she remembered. He resembled their father and not Helen at all, with his dark hair and brown eyes. Wearing graduation robes, he was laughing, the hat with tassel in one hand.

“Where did he go to school?” she asked.

“Willamette.” Marc said it with pride. “He’s still there, in law school.”

They talked more about him, their voices gradually relaxing as if Felix were a comfortable subject for them. He was halfway through law school. His—her—parents hoped he would come home to central Oregon to practice. To Bend, if not to Angel Butte.

“I don’t think he has entirely decided what kind of law to pursue,” Helen said. “Of course, your father had hoped he would be interested in taking over the resort, but it seems that won’t come to be.”

Nell handed the picture to Colin, who released her hand to take it. He studied it as carefully as she had, then set it on the coffee table.

“I don’t suppose you made it to college,” Marc observed.

Nell’s chin rose at what she interpreted as a dismissive tone. “Actually, I did. I have a degree in psychology with a minor in English from the University of Washington.”


Another drawn-out pause was more than she could take. She shot to her feet without any forethought. “I’m really tired from the drive. Can we get together tomorrow? Mom—” Why was it so hard to say a word that should come naturally? “Maybe we can have lunch tomorrow.”

Tags: Janice Kay Johnson Billionaire Romance
Source: Copyright 2016 - 2023