The Maverick's Thanksgiving Baby(9)

By: Brenda Harlen

Good luck! her cousin replied.

Maggie was afraid she was going to need it.

Since she had her phone in hand, she decided to check her email from work. There wasn’t anything urgent, but responding to the messages helped her kill some more time.

She knew that she was stalling, thinking about anything but the imminent conversation with Jesse. Now that there were less than twenty minutes before their scheduled meeting, she should be focused on that, thinking about what she was going to say, how to share her news.

She’d hoped to take her cue from him—but the few words that they’d exchanged at Traub Stables hadn’t given her a hint about what he was thinking. His gaze had been shuttered, but the coolness of his tone had been a strong indication that he was finished with her. It wasn’t even that he was over her—it was as if they’d never been.

Maybe she shouldn’t have come back. Maybe this was a monumental mistake. It was obvious that he felt nothing for her—maybe he never had. Maybe the magic of that night had only ever existed in her imagination.

But she didn’t really believe that. She certainly hadn’t imagined the numerous phone calls, text messages and emails they’d exchanged every single day for the first couple of weeks. And during those early weeks, he’d seemed eager for her to come back to Rust Creek Falls, as anxious to be with her again as she was to be with him.

She’d originally planned to return in the middle of August, but only two days before her scheduled trip one of the senior partners had asked for her help with an emergency injunction for an important client threatened by a hostile takeover. Of course, that injunction had only been the first step in a long process of corporate restructuring, and Maggie had been tapped for assistance every step of the way.

She’d enjoyed the challenge and the work and knew it had been good for her career. Unfortunately, it had consumed almost every waking minute and had signaled the beginning of the end of her relationship with Jesse. Four months was a long time to be apart, and he’d obviously moved on.

She rubbed a hand over her chest, where her heart was beating dully against her breastbone. The possibility that their passionate lovemaking could have been so readily forgotten cut her to the quick. Maybe it was irrational and unreasonable, but she’d started to fall in love with him that night. Even when she’d said goodbye to him the next day, she didn’t think it was the end of their relationship but only the beginning.

Of course, her emotions were her responsibility. He’d never made her any promises; he’d certainly never said that he was in love with her. But the way he’d kissed her and touched her and loved her—with his body if not his heart—she’d been certain there was something special between them, something more than a one-night affair. She didn’t think she’d imagined that, but even if the connection had been real, it was obviously gone now, and the pain of that loss made her eyes fill with tears.

Blinking them away, she pulled from the curb and headed toward The Shooting Star.

Jesse’s house was a beautiful if modest two-story with white siding, a wide front porch and lots of windows flanked by deep green shutters.

His truck in the driveway confirmed that he was home, and he opened the door before she even had a chance to knock.

“You’re punctual,” he said, stepping back so that she could enter.

“I appreciate you making the time to see me.”

He shrugged. “You said it was important.”

“It is,” she confirmed.

She continued to stand just inside the door, looking at him, wanting to memorize all the little details she was afraid she might have forgotten over the past four months.

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