Can't Take My Eyes Off of You (Summer Lake 2) - Page 38

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Surrounded by her friends, warmth flooded Christie. Summer Lake was beautiful, but that wasn't the only reason she'd fallen in love with this town. She'd fallen for the community almost as quickly as she'd fallen for the natural surroundings.

But she'd fallen even faster for Liam. Her body was so attuned to him that she could feel his presence before she saw him coming down the stairs.

He was smiling as Denise called out a greeting, and Sarah shot Christie a surprised glance. Christie had almost forgotten that he hadn't smiled when he first came here. It was still one of her greatest pleasures to tug a grin or, even better, a full-blown laugh out of him.

A few moments later, he was standing behind her and his arms were around her waist, pulling her against him, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

Christie almost laughed at the way Calvin's eyes just about popped out of his head. Sarah and Denise simply looked pleased.

"Now that everyone's here, why don't we--" The words dried up in Christie's throat as Henry walked in the door...followed by Susan.

A burst of anger came so swiftly that Christie's hands actually fisted. It was only when she felt Liam tense behind her and pull her more tightly to him that she snapped out of her haze.

Henry was smiling as he asked, "Can you use a couple extra pairs of hands?"

Christie hoped the smile she gave Henry wasn't as shaky as it felt. "Absolutely. Thanks for coming."

It was a relief to bury herself in details, to get everyone off and running. Sarah, bless her heart, ran interference with Susan, so that Christie didn't have to deal with the woman face-to-face. The problem was, she couldn't keep her distance forever. One day she was going to have to figure out how to sit down at a dinner table with Liam's mother...and not throw a drink in her face.

When everyone else was out putting up tents and moving the tapping equipment into the spots she'd marked on her map, Liam reached for her hand. "Come here, sweetheart."

It still gave her the shivers every time he called her that. And every time he said I love you, it felt brand new, as though she was hearing it, feeling it, for the very first time in her life.

"You're tired." He kissed her eyelids, first one, then the other, and she let herself sink against him. Just for a moment, and then she'd get back out there and take care of everything that needed to be done.

He pressed a soft kiss to her mouth before saying, "Everything is going according to plan. The festival is going to be a hit."

After what she'd been through to get it off the ground, she should be ecstatic. "I hope so."

"I know you have a lot of work to do, but I want to show you something first." Liam led her by the hand out the front door of the inn and over to the gazebo.

She looked across the lake, over to the sugar bush, then back at the inn. She didn't get it at first, but then as he wrapped his arms around her again, her back to his front, and she felt his strength, his steady heartbeat, finally she saw it.

In the span of the few short weeks they'd known each other, the trees had gone from bare to budding to bright green leaves. The roses that had been hiding during the freezing days were almost ready to show off their pinks and whites and reds in the sunlight.

"It's going to be summer soon," he said, making sure that she didn't miss the miracles taking place right before her eyes. "As soon as the water's warm enough, I'm going to take you sailing. And when we tip over, we're going to get right back in."

She knew what he was trying to tell her: I'm going to stay.

"I love you," she said softly as she turned in his arms and slid her hands around his neck.

And as they stood there, forehead to forehead, in the place so many brides and grooms had stood before, Christie understood just how boundless and how wonderfully sweet love could be.

*

Henry couldn't take his eyes off Liam and Christie. "Remember the day we stood in that gazebo?"

Susan looked up with surprise from the table that she was trimming with fabric and followed his gaze to the gazebo, where Liam and Christie were holding each other. "Our wedding was one of the best days of my life."

Henry took in the wistful expression on his wife's face, her clear longing for what had once been. He longed for it too, had been trying for days to find a way back to that place they'd been so many years before. But Susan had returned from Lakeside Stitch and Knit on Monday night distant and out of sorts, and he hadn't been able to push past her walls yet. Seeing Christie and Liam so obviously in love gave him hope to try again. One more time.

"Mine too," he said, putting the staple gun he was holding on the table. He took Susan's hands in his. They were cold and, if he wasn't mistaken, trembling. "Susie." Her eyes widened at the nickname he hadn't used in far too long. "I love you."

"I love you too." The words were right, but her voice was desperate. "So, so much."

"Tell me what's wrong. Let me help fix it."

*

Oh God. She couldn't keep her hands from tensing in his. This was her chance to tell him the truth. To confess everything, to lay bare her soul and hopefully wash it clean.

Henry had been trying so hard to reconnect, doing sweet things for her all week. Picking fresh flowers for the vase in the center of the kitchen table. Coming home with her favorite bread from the bakery.

If she told him about her affair, he'd pull away.

No, worse than that. He'd hate her.

She moved closer, loving the way his arms wrapped around her. She couldn't give this up, couldn't give him up. She just couldn't.

"I was just thinking about Wesley," she finally said. It was true; she'd been thinking all day that her youngest son should have been here, helping along with everyone else. That Wesley should never have run away in the first place. That he should have been brave enough to face them--and to remember that they all loved him, no matter what, no matter whom he loved. "I wish he'd come home."

Henry was silent for a long moment, and she got the distinct sense that he knew she wasn't saying everything she had to say. "I wish he was here too. He belongs here. With his family. His friends." She felt him shift, knew he was looking back toward Liam and Christie. "But it looks like there's going to be a wedding after all, doesn't it?"

Tears pricked her eyes. She was so glad her eldest son had found the love he deserved. And she prayed that nothing would come between Liam and Christie, that neither of them would ever experience this fear of losing the truest love they'd ever known...

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

The morning of the festival was full of sun and bright blue skies. The wind was still, the birds were chirping, and the flowers were blooming.

Everything was perfect.

At ten a.m. when the festival opened, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that it was a huge success. People had come from all around New York state to celebrate a new ritual of spring at Summer Lake.

Christie had worked toward this day for months. She was glad to see what fun everyone was having, both young and old, as they learned to tap the maple trees. Mr. Radin was conspicuously absent, of course, but she wouldn't have expected anything else.

But instead of basking in her success, she felt her gut churn. Because all the while, as she kept an eye on the festival proceedings and dealt with a handful of issues throughout the morning, she couldn't push away her memory of watching Liam sleep last night, the hard lines of his beautiful face softening as he relaxed into her arms.

She'd never loved anyone the way she loved him. And she simply couldn't stand beside him every day, couldn't lie with him in her arms every night, and know that his mother's secret continued to tear him apart.

Confident that everything was under control, she was glad for a few minutes to walk away from the crowds. Somehow, she needed to figure out how to take a full breath into her clenched and tight lungs. She was doing just that when she felt a buzzing along her spine and saw Susan coming toward her.

The breath Christie had been taking exploded in

her chest. You promised him you wouldn't say anything.

Susan gave her a wobbly smile as she approached, but Christie couldn't smile back. Twenty years. That's how long it had been since Liam had caught his mother in a compromising position with another man. That's how long his relationship with his father had been fractured. That's how long he'd been eaten up inside by his promise.

"I'm so glad the weather is cooperating for your festival," Susan said.

Not trusting her voice, Christie simply nodded her agreement.

Liam's mother looked tired, more worn than Christie could remember seeing her. With anyone else, she would have asked if everything was all right, if she could help. But she didn't dare say those words to Susan. Not when she knew others might follow, harsh words that weren't her place to say.

"You're angry with me, aren't you, Christie?"


Tags: Bella Andre Summer Lake Romance
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