Chapter Twenty-Three

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"Sam, I'd like for you to meet my best friend, Sarah," Emma swept past me in a cloud of coconut perfume and put her hand on the brunette's shoulder. "And this is Sarah's wife, Laura. She's Caleb and Colin's sister."

It was then that I noticed Sarah had a baby swaddled in a cloth papoose around her chest. I nodded with relief, but was still too nervous to take anything but a shallow breath. I took a few steps toward a desk and set my purse on it, unable to hold anything because my muscles felt weak.

"And this is Christopher, their son. He's four months old."

"Hi," I said again, softly, unable to rip my eyes from Colin's. "Happy Birthday."

"Pumpkin," Colin said, standing up as if in slow motion. He took a few steps toward me .

I grinned wildly and my heart thrashed in my chest.

"So this is the surprise you've been promising, is that correct, Emma?" Why wasn't Colin smiling when he spoke?

"Yes." Emma clapped her hands. "Well. How about we let Sam and Colin have some time alone together, and the rest of us can go down to that new ice cream shop next door?"

Colin came closer and stood, his hands stuffed in his pockets. I was breathing through my mouth, hard. Had I done the wrong thing by coming here? Was he mad? He didn't look ecstatic to see me. I watched him roll his bottom lip between his teeth.

I barely noticed how everyone gathered sweaters, purses and baby gear and scrambled out of the room. Finally, Colin and I were alone.

"Jesus, Samantha. I was afraid I'd never see you again." He came closer, opened his arms and embraced me. I exhaled and pressed my nose into the skin of his neck.

He stroked my hair, then leaned back to look at me. It seemed like the lines on his forehead were a deeper, and his eyes, a bit darker. Still, he was gorgeous.

He kissed me on the forehead and although I wanted to seize his lips, I broke away to swallow a lump in my throat. It was time for me to apologize and hope for the best.

"I'm sorry. I should have returned your calls. I feel like an ass. I got scared. And when you didn't show up for the fashion show, I assumed you weren't interested and I didn't want to give you another chance."

He pushed out a breath. "No, I'm sorry for that. I should have handled that better. I was so frantic about my sister and the baby. No sooner had I sent you those flowers that I got the call from my family. Caleb and I managed to charter a flight and we worried the entire way home. But all I could think of was Laura, and her anxiety and little Christopher. I was beside myself, especially after what happened with Caleb. The thought that I wasn't there for her when something happened nearly killed me."

"Please don't apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. You're an amazing brother." I pressed my forehead to his chest. He had the same chocolate-spice scent and I inhaled several times, reveling in his essence. "I didn't even think about your sister and her pregnancy. Even though you'd told me about her. It was totally my fault."

"No one imagined she was at risk. Otherwise we wouldn't have gone to London. But hey." He worked his fingers in my hair. "I'm glad I get on that plane to London."

He cleared his throat and I lifted my head. He kissed me, a kiss that spelled both relief and something deeper. Something like a I-haven't-forgotten-you-not-for-one minute kiss. It was sweet and not carnal.

I wobbled in my tall heels. Fortunately, he was holding onto me with strong arms.

"Thank you for the bilberries," I murmured. "They were delicious. I didn't know you'd sent them because I'd asked my staff to not tell me if you tried to contact me."

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