Second Chance with the Single Mom(10)

By: Annie Claydon


THERE HAD BEEN a time when Raina’s touch would have made everything all right. Instead, Alistair opted for standing under the shower for half an hour, trying to wash off the smell of the river.

An impenetrable barrier stood between them now. Raina had brought him such happiness, and when she’d left he’d felt nothing but pain and grief. Turning to his work as a way out had only reinforced his belief that he could never be the husband and father he wanted to be.

Alistair scrubbed his body with a towel and put on clean clothes. Somehow a trace of the river still remained, but if he ignored it then it would probably go away. His eyes still stung a little, and he blinked as he picked up the slip of paper that Raina had left.

Raina Elliot... He noticed that she was using her maiden name now. That wasn’t much of a surprise, particularly since her niece’s surname was Elliot too. If nothing else it sent a message for the little girl who was now her daughter.

‘Raina Duvall. You like it...?’

He’d whispered the words in her ear as they’d danced together on their wedding night, and she’d smiled up at him.

‘I love it. What else do you think I married you for?’

He’d known then that there had been many other things. Love had just about covered it. True love. Devoted love. Making love...

And when he’d given his name to her, he’d suddenly begun to like it a lot more. Up until then it had just been something he’d inherited from his father, along with a chunk of DNA and a propensity to spend all his energies at work.

But Raina had taken the name and made it hers. She had been a creature of warm summer days who’d left the taste of cool raindrops on his lips. Her ability to occasionally thunder and roar had all been a part of her free spirit, and when the storm had passed, everything would be washed clean. Raina had shown her feelings in a way that he’d never been able to, and that was what had broken them apart.

That, and Alistair’s failure. He hadn’t known his father all that well, but his mother had always told him that he was a lot like him. Being like his father meant he’d be a good provider, Alistair had grown up in a comfortable, affluent home. It also meant that his family would always take second place to his work. Alistair could barely recall one childhood memory that included his father.

When Raina had unexpectedly become pregnant, Alistair had tried to tell himself that he just wasn’t ready, as if somehow the passage of time might change his nature. The truth of it was that he was more like his father than he wanted to admit, driven and wrapped up with his work. He’d been busy at work, his phone switched off, on the day that Raina had lost their baby. If there was one thing in his life that Alistair could go back and change, it would be that. Raina had gone through all that agony alone.

The thing he wouldn’t change was letting her go. There was someone out there who could be a father for the children Raina wanted so badly, and it was only right that Alistair should step aside, however much it hurt.

He picked up his phone, tapping her number into the contacts list. He’d always thought that Raina would become a mother in less tragic circumstances. But the love he’d seen on her face when she’d shown him the photographs of her little girl told Alistair that she wouldn’t be bound by regrets.

That probably included him as well. And wanting to hear her voice, wanting to feel her cool fingers washing him clean, wasn’t the way to go. She’d asked him to text and that was what he’d do. He typed in a message telling her that he was home, and his phone pinged almost immediately.

You okay?

No, not really. The aches and pains in his body were nothing. The ache in his heart wouldn’t go away.

Yes. Fine, thanks.

That was the end of it. Alistair sent the text and then realised that he had a question of his own.

You delivered the application?

Yes. Heidi said she’d give it straight to Gabriel.

Good. Gabriel would probably have read it by now, and Alistair should give him a call.

Thanks. We’ll be in touch.

Thank you. Again.

That didn’t really require an answer. Alistair closed the text screen and dialled Gabriel’s number.

* * *

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