Chapter Eighteen – Revelations
by Amber Leigh Williams
Candy had promised herself she’d leave as soon as the power was back on and Mitch was his healthy, hearty self again, but she lingered. Her rental car was being repaired. After hours spent on the phone with his insurance company, Mitch’s tow truck had been hauled away. The snow was melting. Yet it became increasingly difficult for her to pack up what she’d pulled out of her suitcase, the pieces of clothing mingling with his in piles on the floor, usually where she’d discarded them at the onset of sex. Once Mitch got his stamina back, they went several rounds throughout the house.
If she were honest with herself—and the longer she spent with Mitch, the more she was forced to confront her feelings—it wasn’t the lovemaking that kept her around. It was the unity that had grown out of their relationship. Despite the short time they’d spent together, being with him felt natural. Even the time engaged in their prickly brand of banter.
No, it wasn’t just sexual. And if she were really being honest with herself, it never had been. She’d fallen for him. After all her resolutions and reservations and years of being alone, Candy Wright had found love in the unlikeliest place imaginable. With the unlikeliest man.
Still, reality had to intrude at some point. She had a home and a career hundreds of miles away.
Turning toward him, she studied his face in the afternoon light shining through the undraped windowpane across the bedroom. He’d crashed hard after their latest tussle. Their lovemaking had been tender, slow, drawn out with such care it had shattered her heart. She feathered her hand lightly over his stubbled cheek, and a soft smile touched her lips when he sighed in his sleep.
Though she’d thought of little else all morning, she hadn’t known how to broach the subject of her return to New York. Usually, she didn’t have a problem putting an end to a relationship. And though this would only be a temporary end—she hoped—she didn’t want to wipe the soft look from his eyes. The look she’d basked under since their return from the clinic.
How she was going to live without that look… She didn’t want to think about it.
Unable to settle down, she rose as quietly as she could from the bed and stepped carefully over Major on her way out. Candy wrapped a white silk robe around her waist, glad she’d had the foresight to pack it for the trip south. She thought about going into the kitchen for some hot chocolate but decided against it when she found herself at the door to his office.
The first steps had to be taken. Preparation. As she stepped around the jamb and cracked the door behind her, she hoped Mitch would continue sleeping without her beside him.
Ignoring the pang of guilt at planning the initial stages of her return without his knowledge, she sat down in front of the spiffy-looking desktop and hit the button to engage the monitor. First up, she would see if there were any more flight delays out of the Atlanta airport. With the inclement weather moving northwest, air travel was getting back to relative normalcy in the south.
Releasing a heavy breath, she scanned the flights from Atlanta to New York. Which one? Several flew out that evening. She wouldn’t even consider leaving so soon. Biting her lip, she read the list for tomorrow.
The screen blurred. She blinked, surprised at the tears in her eyes and the ache in her chest.
She wasn’t ready to take this finite step.... Not without talking to Mitch first. She would be up front with him, no matter his reaction. Then she would book a flight and give them plenty of time to say their goodbyes.
Candy cleared her throat, swiped the tears from her cheeks, and opened her email inbox. There were several messages from clients with projects slated for completion after the holidays. She couldn’t ignore them forever.
As she reached up to turn off the monitor, the fax machine to her right whirred to life. She jumped and knocked her elbow against the desk.
A single sheet of paper spat from the printer, overshot the paper tray, and fluttered to the floor.
Reaching down to retrieve it, the letterhead caught her eye.
The name pierced her memory. So did the corporate logo beneath it. Her eyes flew over the words underneath the heading….
I’ve been trying to reach you for days. Do they no longer have phone service wherever it is you have chosen to bury yourself these past few years? Your mother is requesting your presence here at home on New Year’s Day. I’ve told her not to get her hopes up as you never answer any of our summonses for the holidays or any other occasion and that you have distanced yourself irreversibly from this family. However, if you could be so kind as to drop her a line, I’m sure she would be most grateful.
Michael Crawford Jr.
She stared at the signature, her heart pounding against her breastbone. After several long minutes, she crumpled the paper in her hand.
Crawford. How had she not seen it? Mitch had been lying to her the whole time. Mitch Johnson was Michael Crawford III, her childhood friend. He’d made her explain to him who her mother was, where she’d worked, the demise of what little family she had…. And he hadn’t said a word. Not It’s me, Michael or I’m sorry. Nothing.
She whirled toward the doorway. By God, she shook with wrath, trembling and chilled to the bone. “I know who you are.”
His eyes narrowed. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
She held up the fax and waved it in front of his face. “I know who you are, Michael Crawford III!”