Chapter Eighteen

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Jay's cell phone danced on the coffee table, giving him a start.

"I'm here." He answered.

"You never called me back."

"I'm sorry."

"You find her?" Rob asked.

"Yeah. She's here."

"What the hell happened?"

"I don't know. She was pretty upset when she got here and in absolutely no condition to talk. I put her right into a hot shower. She should be out in a few minutes."

"So you don't know where she's been?"

"From the look of her? Walking around in the rain for God knows how long."

"What time did she come in?"

"Just a few minutes after I talked to you. I was actually on the phone with 911 when I heard her swipe her card key."

"Well I'm glad she's safe."

"Me too." Jay sighed.

"Call me back if you need me. For anything."

"I will. And thanks, Rob."

Two soft raps sounded and Jay stood with a yawn. He opened the door and nodded silently as Twigg delivered an elegant silver tray with Irish coffee for two. Though she hadn't made a request, he wanted to have something warm waiting for her. Something that might help her relax. Twigg quietly excused himself, leaving Jay alone with his thoughts.

"Is that coffee?" She asked softly.

"The Irish variety, if you're interested." He answered.

She stood in the doorway of the bedroom wearing his robe and a hollow expression. He wanted to take her into his arms and disappear, loving her until she came back to him. But a distressing look still loomed in her eyes. He knew there was one thing she needed above all: an understanding, nonjudgmental shoulder to lean on.

"Would you like it out here? Or I can move the tray to the bedroom if you like?"

"Out here's fine." She joined him on the sofa and watched as broke the seals on two tiny bottles of Bailey's. He poured the creamy liqueur into a steamy glass mug and placed it lovingly in her hands.

"Here you are." He smiled.

"Thank you." She nodded, blowing tiny waves in the hot liquid.

They sat quietly for several moments, sipping their drinks and wondering what each would say.

"I know it's customary to start at the beginning." She ran her finger around the rim of her glass.

"Look, Claire, we don't have to talk about this right now if you don't feel like it. I'm sure you're exhausted. In fact, I know you are because I can see it in your eyes." He rested a hand on her shoulder. "You're here and you're safe and that's all I need to know."

"I got a phone call this afternoon, Jay. One I wasn't expecting."

"Is it your father? Is he okay?"

"No, it wasn't that. My father is fine."

"Is it Hamish? Molly?" He questioned.

"No." She shook her head, swallowing hard. "It was a ghost from Christmas past." She found the courage to look into his eyes.

"I don't understand." He responded, feeling his heartbeat increase.

"The man I was involved with. The one who proposed to me last Christmas."

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