Neither one of them said anything. He simply pulled her into his arms, and within minutes, they were both asleep.
The next morning after breakfast, Dena joined Jeff in his father’s office to go over the notes he had on her stalker. He knew he was overlooking something key, and he wouldn’t feel at ease until he figured out what.
“I need you to go over this list,” he said, handing her the paper with the people he thought he could rule out. “I don’t think the guy is on here, but look over this and see if there’s a name I’m missing. Or if it triggers something.”
She scanned the list, her forehead wrinkled and her lips pressed together. “The thing is, it could be anybody: someone’s uncle’s cousin’s son-in-law.”
“Right, but you recognized the voice.”
“I think I recognized the voice.”
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I think the best thing to do is bring in the police. They have resources I don’t.”
“Fine. I’ll do it. When we get back home.”
His head shot up from the computer screen. “What?”
“If it’ll bring back the easy-going Jeff of last night or the Jeff who actually smiled while he made breakfast? I’ll do it.” Her own smile faltered for a brief moment. “It’s almost like you’re more at home in Colorado.”
“No. That’s not it. I wasn’t like this before you showed up. It helps, having you here,” he confessed. “Keeps the past at bay.”
“You never talked much about your childhood,” she whispered.
“It’s not a topic I enjoy.” He remembered coming home from school and finding his mother drunk and passed out. His father was never home, preferring to work instead of coming home to a kid and an alcoholic wife.
“I’m a good listener,” she said. “I’m sure being here has brought back memories. Maybe it would help to talk about it.”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s probably about the same as how the house felt to you … after.”
Her breath caught as if she hadn’t expected his discussion of her to be so blunt. “I wasn’t … I didn’t …”
“We’ve got to talk about it sometime.”
“I know.” She looked down and brushed her hands against the papers in her lap. “I just wasn’t expecting it to be quite so soon.”
“It’s been years.”
“I know,” she whispered.
“My childhood was mostly horrible. I hope you can’t say the same for our life together.”
Her head shot up. “You know that’s not the case.”
He needed the truth. After all they’d been through, all they’d meant to each other, surely she owed him that much. “Then why did you leave me?” he asked.“For a hundred reasons at the time, and now it’s hard to remember just one.”
“Why did you leave me, Dena?” he asked again.
She closed her eyes tight. He knew it wasn’t a time she wanted to relive, but if they were to have any hope of anything in the future, they had to be honest. “I thought,” she started and then stopped. “I thought you hated me.”
“How could I have hated you for what happened?” he asked, pained to think she honestly felt that. “It was a miscarriage. Nothing you did caused it, and nothing you could have done would have prevented it.”
“You can’t say that. You don’t know.”
“Then tell me. Tell me why you’ve carried the guilt for this all these years.”
“That day, the day it happened, I didn’t feel her move. I realized it about the time you made it home from your office.” She paused, bit her lip, and looked away.
Jeff didn’t say anything. He simply waited, knowing his silence would persuade her more than words.
“I was thinking about how long it’d been since we’d played. Since we’d been in the playroom,” she said. “I wanted you to take me there. I thought we could discuss it over lunch. So instead of seeing if I could feel her move, I made sandwiches. Don’t you see?” She looked him square in the face. “I decided sex was more important. If I’d just checked it out, maybe she wouldn’t—”
“Stop.” He knew where she was going, and he couldn’t let her think it anymore.
She took a deep shuddering breath and glanced out the window.
“You’ve thought all these years it was somehow your fault because you didn’t check for movement? You think you could have prevented it?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “Dena, look at me. You didn’t do anything wrong. By the time you realized what was happening, she was already gone.”
“You don’t know that, and even if it’s true, if I’d been paying closer attention—”
“It wouldn’t have changed anything. It was nothing you did. Nothing.” His voice was soft but firm. “I was living with you, remember? You did everything right. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“It’s so much easier to blame myself.”
“That’s because you want there to be a reason for everything, and in the absence of finding one, you make one up. The fact is, sometimes there’s not a reason. Sometimes things just are what they are.”
She blinked tears away. A faint glimmer of hope danced in her eyes, showing him how much she wanted to believe his words.
“Every time I saw you after it happened,” she said, “I’d remember how I’d pushed my concerns away and I’d hate myself more.”
“I thought you blamed me.”
“You?” She wrinkled her forehead. “Why would I have blamed you?”
“Because of the way I acted when I found out you were pregnant.” He frowned, remembering his reaction at finding the pregnancy test in the scattered garbage.
“You were surprised, and it wasn’t something we’d planned. I didn’t expect you to turn cartwheels.”
“And then, when you suggested that maybe you should move out, I thought it was because you couldn’t stand to be around me.”
“Only because it reminded me of my guilt,” she replied softly.
Silence fell over the room as each of them thought through the other’s words.