This life--breakfast around the table together, with the view out over the water, and the whole town on their side--could have been hers. But she'd turned her back on it completely.
Trying to think of something, anything to say, she asked, "How's the knitting going?" She was surprised by Jordan's crooked smile. What a smart, pretty girl she was and so lucky to have such a great brother.
"It's going okay."
Calvin's face lit up with pride. "She's almost finished a scarf."
"Wow," Sarah said casually, not wanting to make too big a deal out of it, but wanting Jordan to know how impressed she was. "That's awesome. I'd love to see it when you're done." And then she took a bite of her pancake. "Oh my God. This is amazing." She licked her lips again, closed her eyes as she took another bite. Her mouth was half full as she said, "I've never had pancakes this good."
Calvin was smiling at her when she opened her eyes, but his eyes were full of heat.
And the love he'd professed less than an hour before.
Jordan finished her last bite, slid off her seat, put her plate into the dishwasher, then walked out of the kitchen, leaving them alone. Wanting to look anywhere but at Calvin, Sarah swept her glance around what she could see of his kitchen, living room, and dining room.
His home was classic Adirondack with two stories, a large screened-in front porch, and a shingled front. The windows were framed in red, and the rails of the stairs and the porch were glossy logs.
"You have a beautiful house."
It was the perfect home in the perfect setting--one she could have been living in all this time if she'd only stayed.
"I dreamed about building this place for a long time. William Sullivan, and Jean and Henry Kane--they all helped me make it a reality."
Calvin had always said he was going to build his own house one day. He'd done it, creating a real home for himself and his sister--so different from the cramped, dingy trailer he had grown up in.
She lifted her gaze to tell him this, and that's when she realized he hadn't taken his eyes off her for one single second. The edge of darkness, the throb of heat--and love--in his gaze, ran little bolts of electricity down her spine. At which point Sarah's heartbeat kicked up so hard and fast she dropped her fork, the tines clanging on the edge of her plate.
"Whatever you're thinking, whatever you're feeling," Calvin said in a gentle voice, "it's going to be okay. I promise it will."
He could see that she was on the verge of running from him again, trying to recover the distance they'd erased in his bed with the sunrise shining in on them. Which she confirmed by saying, "You were amazing last night. Thank you for being there. Not just for me, but for my mother and grandmother too."
"You don't have to thank me for anything, sweetheart. Not one single thing."
He saw the flare of pleasure in her eyes at the endearment, along with the way it quickly morphed into panic. "What happened this morning--" She paused. "It was incredible, but--"
He put a finger over her lips. "Don't overthink it."
She laid her hand over his, resting it there for a moment before moving it away so that she could speak. "We have to think about it. About what we're doing. About the fact that it can't possibly work."
Watching her pull away from him again, feeling it in her every word, every panicked glance--someone else might have seen proof of everything he'd thought was true. That nothing had really changed from when they were kids. That she wasn't going to stick through the hard stuff this time either.
But Calvin knew better. Knew that there was one big difference this time around: He wasn't going to make the mistake he'd made ten years ago. Because the second time around, he simply refused to lose faith in her.
His life had never been easy. Hell, in those early days, weeks, years after losing his parents, he hadn't known how things were going to work out. All he'd known was that if he lost faith in his ability to take care of his sister and himself, then he would have been lost altogether.
Now, he had to believe he and Sarah would work things out too. Had to believe that together they'd find their way back to love. To a bigger, better, stronger love than they'd had before.
Because not believing it--and having to let her go again--would destroy him.
That was why he was going to believe--and let himself love her the way he always had, fully, completely, body, heart, and soul--every single second, from here forward.
"Let's take it hour by hour, sweetheart. Day by day."
Hope flared in her eyes again before she tamped down on it. "But everything that happened between us--"
"Is all in the past now. We don't have to go back there again."
From their blowup in the bar, to the words they'd hurled at each other in the boathouse, and then that moment he'd pulled her into his arms on the carousel, when she'd sobbed out her pain against his chest and they'd both honestly apologized to each other--at long last, they were finished with having to go back to eighteen. Back to a place where neither of them had been anywhere near mature enough to know how to love the other person right.
"But I thought we agreed that you have wide-open skies and I have flashing city lights? That isn't changing, Calvin."
"I may have the open spaces of this town, but I also have an empty space inside of me that no amount of blue sky could ever fill. Only you can do that." He put his hand on her cheek. "When I'm with you, I don't feel empty anymore."
"And you make me feel warm again," she whispered. Then her eyes opened wide with alarm, as if she had only just realized what she'd said.
Yanking herself back from his touch, she said, "It's still a mistake. No matter how much I wish it weren't." Her blue eyes were sad, resigned. "Being with you again was beautiful. And even though I should, I can't make myself wish it didn't happen." She slid off her stool, picked up her plate, and held it up like a shield between them. "But none of that changes the fact that making love is still a mistake we can never repeat."
Dorothy and Helen were sitting on the porch of Lakeside Stitch & Knit when Calvin dropped Sarah off on the way to Jordan's school.
Sarah thought she saw Dorothy's eyes widen a bit, but fortunately she was far more interested in how Olive was doing than the state of Sarah's love life. Inviting them inside the store, Sarah worked to get ready for customers as she filled them in on her grandmother's situation.
That first day she'd had to take charge of the store, she'd been so lost, had been in so far over her head. A week later, she was pleased to realize that she would be well able to take on another day here, start to finish.
The only problem was, she couldn't concentrate. Could barely think about anything but the slow slide of Calvin's hands and mouth across her body. Could barely focus on anything but that sweet emotion in his eyes as they finally came back together. And she couldn't stop remembering how many times this morning she'd called their lovemaking a mistake.
As if saying it over and over could somehow make it true.
"You're a good girl, taking over the store for your mother and grandmother."
Sarah looked up from a box of unspun alpaca hanks that she was unloading onto the shelves. She needed to shake off her morning with Calvin if she was going to get through the day. But it wasn't like shaking off a bad business deal so she could make another pitch to another client. This was her life--her heart--she was trying to shake off.
Dorothy put a hand on her arm. "I know how exhausted you must be. I was just saying I know how pleased Olive and Denise both are, knowing you're here keeping the ship afloat."
The warmth of the woman's touch helped melt the ice that Sarah had forced herself to swallow down in Calvin's kitchen. "It's not exactly a hardship, you know, hanging out with knitters all day."
Her grandmother's friend laughed. "My, how things have changed. And how quickly. You should have seen your face at that first Monday night knitting group."
; Sarah was surprised by her own grin, but then Helen said, "Tell us about Calvin," and Sarah felt a telltale flush move across her cheeks.
"He was great last night."
She flushed as she realized just how many obvious shades there were to last night--things that went beyond a trip to the hospital in an ambulance and a friend's couch to sleep on. And she knew better than to hope that these women would let it go. They were knitters. They could execute complicated stitches that made Sarah's head spin just to look at the pattern. And they could read a blush like a book.
As expected, they both leaned in. "Do tell."
"He stayed with us in the hospital and took care of me and Mom."
Both women smiled knowing smiles. "I always wondered what he was waiting for," Dorothy said. "Why he wasn't married yet."
Helen nodded. "Now we know."
Sarah's mouth fell open. "No. He--I--We--" She forced herself to shut her mouth before she made even more of a fool of herself.