The Goodbye Bride

By: Denise Hunter



She’d heard Beau leave fifteen minutes ago, and her nerves were wired waiting for Zac to come down. As she slid the omelets onto plates, she heard his footfalls on the steps. A moment later he entered the kitchen, stopping short when he caught sight of her at the stove.

He wore a black T-shirt that hugged his muscular torso and a pair of fitted jeans. His hair was still damp from his shower, his goatee trimmed tighter than it had been last night.

“How are you feeling?” His remote gray eyes erased any warmth his words may have engendered.

“Better now that the meds have kicked in. Thanks for checking in on me last night.”

“How’s your vision?”

“Still a little blurry. It comes and goes.” She held up the plates. “Hope you’re hungry.”

“You should be resting.” If his tone weren’t so gruff, she might think he still cared. But no. He only wanted her out of his life as quickly as possible.

The backs of her eyes stung. She swallowed hard as she set the plates on the prep table where they usually ate.

Used to eat.

After he retrieved some juice they dug in quietly, tension weaving around them like a sticky spiderweb. His stool couldn’t be farther away. He hadn’t even looked at her after that first glimpse of her at the stove.

How could he not love her anymore? After all they’d meant to each other? It seemed impossible. Her feelings were real. How could she have been in love with another man, ready to pledge her life to him, just yesterday?

A part of her was curious about this man she’d been engaged to. But another part just wanted to erase the past seven months so she could be back where she belonged—with Zac.

“Has anything come back to you?” he asked.

The hope in his voice deflated her. As much as she wanted him to remember his love for her—that’s how much he wanted her to remember that they’d parted ways.

He’d moved on without her. He really didn’t love her. Maybe he—oh dear—maybe he was dating someone else. Maybe he was in love with someone else.

Her appetite was suddenly gone. She pushed her egg around the plate with her fork.

“Lucy?”

“Um, no. I don’t remember anything else.” She cleared the emotion from her throat. “Beau seemed a bit cross this morning.”

“He’s—distracted. He just got engaged.”

“To Paige?”

“What? No. Her name’s Eden. She’s from away. Came to Summer Harbor last Thanksgiving.”

“Oh.” A lot had changed since she’d left. Riley was gone, Beau was with someone else, and Zac was completely over her.

He didn’t say anything for a minute. “Listen, I’m going to shut down the restaurant today. Get online and figure this out. Sooner we can get you back to your old life the better.”

She pinned him with a look, but he kept eating, eyes on his plate.

“Better for whom?” she said. “I don’t even remember that life.”

“Being back in your normal surroundings, your regular routine, will help.”

“I don’t even know where I lived.”

“We’re going to figure all that out.” He shoved a bite into his mouth.

Lucy studied him. His evasive eyes, his stiff shoulders, his detached demeanor. She thought of Beau’s reaction to her. Not at all consistent with his usual warm, friendly nature.

Maybe her brain wasn’t operating at full speed, but something was wrong. “What’s going on, Zac?”

His eyes came up, meeting hers for a long-drawn-out moment.

“Why are you being like this? So . . . distant and angry. And Beau . . . he didn’t even say hello to me.”

Zac dropped his fork onto his plate and got up, his stool scraping across the ceramic tile. He scraped his plate off and set it in the sink. “Things didn’t end well between us, that’s all.”

“What happened?”

Zac grabbed a rag and began wiping down the counter. “You left, that’s what happened.”

“What do you mean I left?”

“Out of the blue. Just like that. No explanation.”

Her mind rejected his words. The air left her lungs. “No.”

“Ayuh. I went away for a weekend. When I came back, you were gone. Your apartment was empty, your things were gone.” His voice was tight. “You didn’t even leave a note, changed your number. I had no idea where you went. You left the ring, though, thanks for that.”

She shook her head. “No. I wouldn’t do such a thing.” She loved Zac. It was the kind of love you lived for. The kind you died for. Surely he knew that.

“Something happened. Something more than that. What aren’t you telling me?”

He fixed her with a look. “I’m telling you everything I know. It’s precious little—believe me, I’m aware.”

The food congealed in her stomach. She pushed her plate back.

His hand moved across the stove top, working fast. His words were measured, careful. “When I couldn’t get hold of you, I figured you were done. We were done. I called the florist and the photographer and the bakery and every guest on our wedding list and told them the wedding was off.”

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