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Using haughtiness to muster her courage, she seized Jake by one rock-hard arm, and dragged him into the church.
“What are you doing here?” she snapped, whirling on him. She could guess. This had been one of the strangest days of her life, and she couldn’t blame Jake for being confused. She was confused. But he should know better than to cause a stir for any reason.
He tried to come toward her, and she stepped back, watching him carefully to make sure he didn’t try to pounce. Though she had gotten better under his tutelage, she couldn’t match his litheness and speed in a dress.
“Stay there,” she warned, chest heaving.
He held up his hands and stepped back again, a muscle twitching in his jaw. “Lanie. I’m really sorry. I had to talk to you. I didn’t know that this was what the boy was planning – ”
“Well, he called and invited anyone from the hospital who had taken care of Ben and gotten to know him. When you said that he had been kidnapped…I didn’t even consider that he might have been missing because of this. This plan.” He looked grudgingly impressed.
She flung out her arms. “This. The whole thing was an underhanded plot to turn Ben into his dad.”
Jake’s warm skin was paler than usual, and he gazed out the colourful stained-glass windows. Rainbows played on the lines around his eyes and over the tension of his shoulders.
The fight went out of her at his lost expression. “I’m sorry, Jake. I’m sorry for worrying you.”
“I’m worried now. I didn’t know this would be a wedding.” He sounded helpless. “I thought you guys were just friends. Platonic, and all that. That’s what you kept saying.”
“Things change.” She lifted her chin.
“Lanie. This is crazy. This morning, we finished a job, and now you’re wearing a wedding dress.”
Her head spun. If Jake suspected that Lanie wasn’t quite sure who Ben was, yet didn’t quite want to find out, he would draw all of the wrong conclusions about why she was doing this. She kept her mouth shut, watching him.
“Only last month you were sleeping with me, and now you’re marrying someone? And so much has been going on. Your boy…Oh, Lanie. I hadn’t seen him until that day in the hospital, the last time I spoke to you. I can’t believe how much he looks like – you.”
She narrowed her eyes. Had he been about to say something else? “He looks more like his father.”
Jake kept his eyes on her. “I want to be there for you both. All three of you. Ben has been through so much, and I don’t want to see him hurt. What’s the rush? Why can’t you wait, maybe a year, maybe two, get to know each other?”
Lanie sighed. She never knew he had been thinking any of this. In her mind, it had just been sex between the two of them. Training. Plotting. Nothing more. It hadn’t been romantic in any sense. She hadn’t even considered them to be dating. So, she hadn’t thought much of letting him fade from her life. But if he had been carrying a torch for her this entire time, she could understand why this would be a shock for him.
“Jake. I’m sorry if I ever did anything to make you believe that we had a future together?”
He rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “I’m not saying I want to be with you, Lanie. Of course, I would never get between you two. I’m just worried, that’s all. I don’t want him getting hurt. Either of you.”
“I really care about him. He wants to get married. I’m going to marry him.”
He turned back to her. “Really care? He wants to get married?” he parroted.
“Yes, I care about him.” She lifted her chin.
“But not love.”
She stiffened. After staring at him for a minute, she turned. “Leave. You say you care about us. Let me be happy with Ben. It’s not going to happen with you and me. If he wants me, I’m staying.”
“Lanie – ”
“Goodbye, Jake. All the best”
She kept her back to him, but he kept talking, chipping away at her resolve with each word. “Lanie, I told you. I’m not trying to steal you away. But Ben deserves someone who loves him. He deserves to be told that every day.”
But I owe you my whole, empty, meaningless life. You don’t get to waste your life on me.
She whirled around, arms crossed. Her dressed fanned out around her. “Are you in love with him, McGuiness?”
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~ Romans 15:13