Bringing Maddie Home - Page 62

His frown deepened. “Does it happen only when you try to remember certain things?”

Nell bit her lip. “I think so. Not school or friends or Felix. Not even my parents,” she admitted. She stared at him, wide-eyed. “Oh, my God. You don’t know what a relief that is. It never was them.”

“You did remember their faces.”

“Yes!” Her ebullience didn’t last long. “I can’t picture Beck at all, if that was his name. When I try, I get filled with this...this horrible pressure that makes me think my head is going to explode. The minute Emily mentioned him, I had this ominous feeling and I didn’t want to talk about him.”

“Because he hurt you?” His jaw flexed. “Or because you saw someone hurt him.”

She stared at him, hating this sensation of dread, hating whatever blocked her from remembering.

At whatever he saw on her face, Colin half rose to his feet, then closed his eyes and sat again. “Okay, that’s it,” he said, voice raw. “No more, I promise. Thank you for trying, Nell. We’re not doing this again tonight.” The strength of his concern for her made her tremble.

“It’s okay. Really.” Seeing his expression, she reached for his hand. “I came back to Angel Butte to remember. I have to keep trying. So I want you to tell me what else you found in the backpack. If any of it was important.”

His expression closed. “I wanted you to have a good time tonight.”

“I will, once we get this over with.”

They conducted a silent battle, gazes clashing. At length his breath gusted out. “Fine. There was a framed picture of a woman and a boy, maybe nine, ten years old.”

“What did they look like?”

“Dark hair, brown eyes.”

“Can I...can I see it?” Inside she recoiled. I don’t want to. Please don’t make me.

“Damn it, Nell!” Colin said explosively.

“Please.” She would not listen to the fear.

He groaned. “Maybe. Probably.” After a moment he continued. “A couple of other odd things. He had a key card from your dad’s resort. Looked like he or someone else was taking snapshots there, too. There was one of two men at your dad’s airfield.”

“That...sounds like something I would have done.”


“I think...” This didn’t make her head hurt. “I went through a sort of Nancy Drew phase. Why do I remember this?” There wasn’t any answer to that question. “I had a camera, not a good one, but I remember sneaking around spying on guests. If he’d caught me, my father would have killed me.” Appalled, she stopped.

Colin’s expression remained gentle. “You don’t mean that literally.”

“No, but...”

He shook his head. “You know that’s not what happened, don’t you?”

Nell sucked in a deep breath. “Yes.” She couldn’t picture any more of that evening than ever, but...she knew. “Yes. It was someone else.”

“Okay.” He smiled at her. “Now we’re going to let this go.”

He was careful to keep conversation light while they finished eating. When he asked if she wanted dessert and she declined, he took care of the bill. Then they walked out, hand in hand, going to the open window by the rink, where rental skates were handed out.

After they’d both donned theirs, Colin produced fleece hats from his parka pockets. She snatched the navy blue one so he had to wear the white one with a small pom-pom, laughing at his expression.

Either he’d lied about never having ice-skated, or he was right that expertise at Nordic skiing translated well, because he moved with reasonable assurance on the blades. The rink wasn’t huge—nowhere near the size of the indoor one in Seattle where she’d skated before. But she loved this, with the black arch of sky above them, the smell of snow and pine needles in the air, the sparkle from strings of white lights the only illumination except for the golden windows of the resort and restaurant.

Nell didn’t let herself think about anything except this moment. Her mind muted the voices and laughs of the other people on the rink with them. Mostly she heard the scrape of blades on ice. Felt the comfort of that big gloved hand holding hers, even as she half wished for skin-to-skin contact. Colin laughed when he faltered, pretended he was going to fall, coaxed her into showing him how to skate backward. He kept her on her feet when she tried a leap.

Inevitably, his blade caught on a rough spot and he went down. He tried to let go of her first, but she didn’t let him. Which meant she crashed to the ice next to him, their legs tangled, both laughing as they slid to thump against a snowbank.

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