Chapter Twelve

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He was gone less than an hour. Arms loaded with bags of groceries and goodies, he retreated to the kitchen and organized his purchases as quietly as possible. After several minutes he located it - the perfect vase for the bouquet he scored from the florist around the corner from the market. Blue bloomsto match her bruising, he thought with a grin. He placed the flowers on the largest tray he could find, along with a collection of silly items he hoped would raise her spirits.

It was still early and he was thankful that the villa was quiet. Though he'd been unable to fall asleep after her unexpected phone call, he was hopeful that she had. They'd spoken just a dozen or so words since the call. Nolan had taken advantage of the lingering darkness to move from her bed and return to his own.

It hadn't been easy.

Lying beside Mary Grace, he felt truly like himself for the first time in a long time. Years in fact. They hadn't kissed or really even touched, aside from the few seconds her hand gripped his. She'd joked about him taking advantage of her during those last moments she'd been coherent, before the pain medicine had whisked her away to a more peaceful realm. But he wasn't looking for sex--not at that moment. He longed for those treasured times locked away behind closed doors, talking til the wee hours or simply falling asleep in each other's arms. Feeling the warmth of her foot against his. The tickle of her hair against his fingertips as his hand brushed across her pillow. The security of knowing that there in his most vulnerable state, she was right beside him, as though not an unhappy day had passed between them. What he was feeling went beyond the physical. He wanted his wife back. The partner he'd started the journey with. His one-time best friend.

The thought of Mary Grace returning to New York and Leslie Covington was something he just couldn't stand to face.

*****

The sun bounced off the water, forcing bright light into her new bedroom. Her ankle pain was intense and she was ready for relief. She opened her eyes and zeroed in on the beautiful floral arrangement on her bedside table. Unfortunately it provided only a few seconds of happy diversion, her ankle now throbbing. Thankfully she'd made it through the night without issue. She was, however, ready to partake in another round of pain medication. Of course, she'd need some breakfast first. A check of the clock confirmed what her stomach already knew. She strained her ears, hoping for the merry sounds of frittata-making in the kitchen down the hall. But all was quiet and she decided that everyone was still asleep.

Carefully she sat up and slowly re-positioned her injured leg. That's when she spied an eclectic collection of items piled on a tray beside the flowers. A smile filled her face as she settled the tray on her lap, eager to inspect each one. What on earth? How and where did he find all of this? It was a random assortment - everything from Gummy Bears to a light-up yo-yo to a small package of metal Jacks. There were several puzzle books - crosswords, Sudoku, and the like. A bright pink plastic whistle. A tiny bottle of Jack Daniels. A wooden paddle ball toy. Breath mints. A laser pointer. A stress ball. Crayons and a coloring book of horses. A deck of cards featuring the image of a British Boy Band. A miniature Magic Eight Ball. Two trashy tabloids written in Greek. A container of tiny, plastic sea creatures. A copy of USA Today and a Pez dispenser in the shape of Spongebob Squarepants.

How does he do it?

Immediately she was transported back to her thirtieth birthday and the surprise party he'd thrown for her. He'd arranged a group of thirty friends to meet up at her favorite restaurant, each bearing thirty tiny wrapped gifts of a similar nature. After nearly an hour of nonstop unwrapping she'd given up, unable to make a dent in the nine hundred gifts. It had been one of the best birthdays she'd ever celebrated. Nolan had been charming and attentive and made her feel like the only woman in the world. She could still see him, leaning against the door frame of the private room at the famed steakhouse, watching her interact with their friends. He caught her eye and smiled, his expression filled with love and pride.

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