“You can leave your bag in there,” Sophie said after she’d led Wyatt quickly through a large living room that opened to an airy kitchen.
He’d caught brief flashes of vibrant colors, large arched windows and soft, stylish furnishings before she’d hooked a left down a wide hallway with a floor covered in travertine tile the color of egg shells and walls painted a rich terracotta. Tall ceilings and the slow rotation of ceiling fans stirred the air and helped what he figured was a central air-conditioning unit cut both the heat and the humidity.
As instructed, he tossed his go-bag on the floor of what he assumed was a guest bedroom then joined her across the hall in a tiled bathroom. She was busy setting first aid supplies on the vanity.
“Sit,” she ordered, pointing absently to the closed lid on the toilet.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said smartly.
That brought her head up. Red flamed in her cheeks. “Oh, God, I’m ordering you around like you’re one of my students. I’m sorry,” she added as he sat. “I’m just …”
“Upset?” he suggested to put her at ease. “A little shocky from the fiasco at the airport? Exhausted maybe? Have you even slept since the girl was taken, sugar?”
Her shoulders sagged and for the first time Wyatt could see just how big a toll the abduction had taken on her.
“I grant you absolution,” he said with a soft smile. “So order away Teacher Lady if it makes you feel better. And I promise to be a good southern boy and grin and bear it.”
Her deep breath and the slow smile that followed told him he’d managed to ease some of her tension. “Like you were a good boy in my Spanish class?”
“Hey,” he protested, “I was a very good boy. I never missed a class.”
She snorted and ripped open a package of antiseptic cleansing wipes. “You never missed an opportunity to give me grief, either.”
“Darlin’,” he said as she started dabbing at the blood on his forehead, “I missed a lot of opportunities with you.”
One in particular, he thought with regret.
When her hand momentarily stilled, he wondered if she was thinking about that day, too. That sweet sunny Sunday when things had gotten out of hand between them.
The bathroom became very quiet. And very small. He’d been trying hard not to think about where she was standing – which was directly in front of him, her breasts at eye level, her scent surrounding him; the hand she’d used to hold his head still so she could clean him up was an intimate and tactile reminder of everything female about her.
Her right leg was wedged between his thighs where his hands, clenched into tight fists, rested. A fractional shift forward and his hands could be encircling her waist, his breath could be warming her nipples.
He closed his eyes, willed himself to get it the hell together. Not happening. He was angry. Angry that he was here. Angry that the one thing he’d wanted for most of his adult life was within his grasp and he still had no right to take it. Couldn’t take it.
Neither could he stop himself from asking the question that had been burning in his gut since she’d called him. “Sophie, why can’t you reach Hugh?” A husband left his a wife a contingency plan for emergencies. “Where the hell is he?”
She expelled a fractured breath, as if she, too, had to struggle to come back to a reality that existed far outside the confines of this moment. With renewed vigor, she went back to work cleaning the blood off his face.
“Hugh is where he always is,” she said, her tone thick with resentment. “Off in some third world corner of the globe protecting some high ranking official from a coup or training someone how to do it or something equally as dangerous.”
Her face grim, she continued working on his head. “Why do head wounds have to bleed so much?” she muttered rhetorically. “It’s just a tiny little cut.”
“I told you, sugar, I’m fine,” he reminded her then winced when she took out some of her frustration at Hugh by scrubbing a little harder.
“Take off your shirt,” she ordered, apparently satisfied that she’d done what she could on the head wound. “I want to look at your arm.”
He slowly worked the buttons then shrugged out of his shirt, wondering at the wisdom of getting half naked in front of her.
What? Like you think she’ll attack you?
The troubled look on her face dashed those hopes and, thank God, the distinct possibility of a major hard on. She glanced at him then quickly looked away.
“What?” he asked, sensing she had something on her mind that had nothing to do with close quarters and his stupid fantasies.
“Hugh’s changed, Wyatt,” she said, sounding sad and resigned. “I’m not sure you’d know him anymore much less like him.”
He was still processing the acrimony in her words when she dropped her next bomb.
“We’ve been divorced for almost two years now.”
It took several heartbeats for Wyatt to process what she’d just said. Several heartbeats where he couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Could barely breathe.
Divorced. Sophie and Hugh were divorced.
He didn’t know what to say. Wasn’t sure he knew what to feel. Shock. Disbelief. Sorrow.
He hoped to hell she couldn’t see his heart jumping beneath his chest as he sat there. The sharp sting of alcohol leaching into the open wound in the back of his arm was the only proof that he wasn’t experiencing some kind of out of body experience.
“Hugh’s changed … I’m not sure you’d know him anymore much less like him … Divorced … almost two years.”
Yeah, the kind of work they did could change a man, could take over his soul if he wasn’t careful. But for Hugh to let himself lose a woman like Sophie? Jesus. What the hell had happened?
Still reeling, Wyatt let himself glance up at her. All he saw on her face was concentration as she worked on his arm. At least that’s all she let him see.
“This could probably use a stitch or two,” she said, frowning, “but I think we can make do with a butterfly.”
He couldn’t take his eyes off her face. He didn’t know what he was searching for. A broken heart? Regret? Relief? Joy? Anything to give him a clue how she felt.
He got nothing. She gave absolutely nothing away.
“All set.” She backed away from him. “And none too soon. I just heard the back door. That means Hope is here, probably Carmen, too. Maybe you could … um … put a fresh shirt on before they see you?” she suggested, gathering up his bloody shirt.
“Yeah. Sure,” he mumbled absently and like an automaton stood then squeezed past her and out of the small bathroom. He walked across the hall to the bedroom where he’d stashed his go bag, closed the door behind him and leaned heavily against it.
“Jesus.” He scrubbed the heel of his hand over his bare chest.
Sophie was single.
Which meant … hell, he didn’t know what it meant. For the time being he didn’t need to know, he reminded himself, pushing away from the door in self-disgust. He didn’t need to think about it. Couldn’t think straight about it if he tried.
The clock was ticking here. A child’s life was at stake and for the moment, the best hope that child had of coming home alive was him.