A Little Dare(8)

By: Brenda Jackson


most?”

When AJ’s laughter floated in from the outside, Shelly

slowly walked over to the window and looked into the yard below. The boy was watching a uniformed officer give a

police dog a bath. This was the first time she had heard AJ laugh in months, and the sheer look of enjoyment on his

face at that moment was priceless. She turned back around to face Dare, knowing she had to let him know how she felt.

“When I found out I was pregnant there was no question in my mind that I wouldn’t tell you, Dare. In fact, I had been

anxiously waiting all that night for the perfect time to do so.





And then as soon as we were alone, you dropped the bomb on me.”

She inhaled deeply before continuing. “For six long years I assumed that I had a definite place in your heart. I had

actually thought that I was the most important thing to you, but in less than five minutes you proved I was wrong. Five minutes was all it took for you to wash six years down the drain when you told me you wanted your freedom.”

She stared down at the hardwood floor for a moment

before meeting his gaze again. “Although you didn’t love me anymore, I still wanted our child. I knew that telling you about my pregnancy would cause you to forfeit your dream and do what you felt was the honorable thing—spend the rest of your life in a marriage you didn’t want.”

She quickly averted her face so he wouldn’t see her tears. She didn’t want him to know how much he had hurt her ten years ago. She didn’t want him to see that the scars hadn’t healed; she doubted they ever would.

“Shelly?”

The tone that called her name was soft, gentle and tender. So tender that she glanced up at him, finding it difficult to

meet his dark, piercing gaze, though she met it anyway.

She fought the tremble in her voice when she said, “What?”

“That night, I never said I didn’t love you,” he said, his voice





low, a near-whisper. “How could you have possibly thought that?”

She shook her head sadly and turned more fully toward

him, not believing he had asked the question. “How could I not think it, Dare?”

Her response made him raise a thick eyebrow. Yes, how could she not think it? He had broken off with her that night, never thinking she would assume that he had never loved her or that she hadn’t meant everything to him. Now he

could see how she could have felt that way.

He inhaled deeply and rubbed a hand over his face,

wondering how he could explain things to her when he really didn’t understand himself. He knew he had to try anyway. “It seems I handled things very poorly that night,” he said.

Shelly chuckled softly and shrugged her shoulders. “It

depends on what you mean by poorly. I think that you

accomplished what you set out to do, Dare. You got rid of a girlfriend who stood between you and your career plans.”

“That wasn’t it, Shelly.”

“Then tell me what was it,” she said, trying to hold on to the anger she was beginning to feel all over again.

For a few moments he didn’t say anything, then he spoke. “I loved you, Shelly, and the magnitude of what I felt for you





began to frighten me because I knew what you and

everyone else expected of me. But a part of me knew that although I loved you, I wasn’t ready to take the big step and settle down with the responsibility of a wife. I also knew

there was no way I could ask you to wait for me any longer. We had already dated six years and everyone—my family, your family and this whole damn town—expected us to get married. It was time. We had both finished college and I

had served a sufficient amount of time in the marines, and you were about to embark on a career in nursing. There

was no way I could ask you to wait around and twiddle your thumbs while I worked as an agent. It wouldn’t have been fair. You deserved more. You deserved better. So I thought the best thing to do was to give you your freedom.”

Shelly dipped her chin, no longer able to look into his eyes. Moments later she lifted her gaze to meet his. “So, I’m not the only one who made a decision about us that night.”

Dare inhaled deeply, realizing she was right. Just as she’d done, he had made a decision about them. A few moments later he said. “I wish I had handled things differently, Shelly. Although I loved you, I wasn’t ready to become the husband I knew you wanted.”