Winning Back His Wife(6)

By: Melissa McClone

Make it stop. Please, Cullen. Make it...

The fear dissipated. The pain dulled. The boulder was lifted off her. By Cullen? He used to take such good care of her, whether she wanted him to or not. If only he could have loved her....

Floating. Sarah felt as if she were a helium-filled balloon let loose and allowed to float away in the sky. Up, up toward the fluffy white clouds. But she didn’t want to go yet. Not until... “Cull...”

“I’m right here, Sarah.” His warm breath fanned her cheek. “I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”


The word echoed through her fuzzy brain.


They’d promised to love, honor and cherish each other until death do them part. But Cullen had withdrawn from her, putting his heart into his all-consuming work and nothing into her. He’d seemed so stable and supportive, but he wasn’t as open as she’d originally thought, and he’d held back emotionally. Still, they’d shared some wonderful times and adventures together. A year living in Seattle. Climbing, laughing, loving.

But none of that had mattered in the end. She’d brought up divorce, expecting at least to discuss their marriage. Instead, he’d said okay to a divorce, confirming her fear that he regretted his hasty decision to marry her. Not only had he been willing to let her go without a fight, but he’d been the first one to leave.

That was why she couldn’t believe Cullen was promising to stay now. Maybe not today, but tomorrow or the next day or the day after he would be gone, leaving her with only memories and a gold wedding band.

The knowledge hurt, a deep, heart-wrenching pain, worse than any physical pain she’d endured.

I’m not going anywhere.

A part of her wished Cullen would remain at her side. A part of her wished marriage vows were more than words exchanged in front of an Elvis impersonator. A part of her wished love...lasted.

But Sarah knew better. She knew the truth.

Nothing ever lasted. No one ever stayed. Even when they promised they would.


CULLEN LOST TRACK of time sitting in Sarah’s hospital room. His friends returned to Hood Hamlet after driving his truck to Seattle so he’d have transportation. They supported him via text and phone calls. His family offered to come, but he told them no. They didn’t need more grief in their lives, and that was all they would find here, in spite of Sarah’s progress.

This small room, four walls with an attached bathroom, had become his world except for trips to the cafeteria and a few hours spent each night at a hotel. And his world revolved around the woman asleep in the hospital bed.

He rubbed his chin. Stubble raked his fingertips.

Maybe that was why this felt so strange. He was married to Sarah, but she’d stopped being his wife nearly a year ago. In Hood Hamlet she hadn’t existed. At least not to anyone he knew. Not until her accident.

He rose from his chair, wishing he could be anywhere but here. Not even the familiar artificial lighting and antiseptic smells brought him comfort. He’d spent more time at hospitals than anywhere else the past six years—longer if he counted his four years at medical school. But nothing could quiet the unease tying his stomach in figure-eight knots.

His anxiety made no sense.

Sarah’s condition wasn’t as serious as her initial prognosis had indicated. Antibiotics had cured an unexpected infection and fever. The nasogastric tube had been removed from her nose. Her cuts had scabbed over. The incisions from her surgeries were healing. Even her closed-head injury had been relatively minor, with no swelling or bleeding.

Surely that had to mean...something. Time to settle matters between them? Cullen wanted to close this chapter in his life.

The woman lying in the hospital bed looked nothing like the beautiful, vibrant climber he’d met at the Red Rock Rendezvous—an annual rock-climbing festival near Las Vegas—and married two days later. He wanted this injured Sarah to replace the image he carried in his heart—make that his head. Her long chestnut-colored hair, clear green eyes, dazzling smile and infectious laughter had been imprinted on his brain along with memories of hot kisses and passionate nights. She was like one of those adrenaline-rushing, stomach-in-your-throat, let-me-off-now carnival rides. The kind of ride that looked exciting and fun from a distance, but once on, made you wonder what you’d been thinking when you handed over your ticket.

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