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Authors: Alexandra O'Hurley

Tags: #Romance, #Healing Hearts 1

Falling for Him (8 page)

BOOK: Falling for Him
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A kiss.
One he’d been willing to give and still hadn’t accepted. Her lips quivered with the intense need to feel his mouth on hers.

“So what brings you out today? Doing some writing?”

“A little. Mostly job hunting.”

His brows rose as he looked over her face. “What about your career as an author? You aren’t giving up, are you?”

She smiled slightly at his comment and the worry which had filled his voice. “No, but, as my mother constantly reminds me, I must have a backup plan. She’s terrified that I won’t be able to take care of myself once she and Daddy are gone.”

“Will you?”

His question struck her, not so much for the asking of it, but for the fact he seemingly didn’t automatically assume she couldn’t from the tone of his voice. “Yes, I can.”

“Good enough. It might be good for you to get out and do something on your own. A job could give you a sense of purpose.” He smiled as he added another packet of sugar to his cup. “Do you think the surgery could help you make that happen more smoothly?”

Talk about a smooth segue. She rolled her eyes inwardly at his comment, and she assumed his banal tone was an attempt to hide his desire for her to agree.

“Pressuring me isn’t going to make it happen, you know?”

“I don’t want to pressure you. I don’t. I just want a better life for you.”

“What’s so wrong with my life that it needs to be fixed?”

“I just want to give back the life I stole from you.”

The breath was knocked from her lungs for a moment as his words swelled over her. The words Jenny had spoken at the club filtered back into her brain.
You realize his attention is only misplaced blame, right?
He blamed himself for her accident? She felt slightly lightheaded at his admission, knowing she had to have heard him wrong. “What you
from me?”

“I saw the accident as my fault for many years. Even though I can logically see now that I wasn’t, I can’t help the need I feel to make things right now that I have the ability to do so. I feel it’s my responsibility to make you better.”

She could barely breathe. “How did you ever think any of it was your fault?”

“I shouldn’t have chased you. If I hadn’t, you would’ve never fallen.”

She gazed at him for a long moment, still in shock from his guilt. There was no way he could think he was to blame, but his guileless stare said the absolute opposite. “Liam, it was an accident. There’s no one responsible for it. It just … happened.”

“I was older. I should’ve known better. I should’ve run faster. I should’ve caught you.” He took a drink from his cup and looked away from her, his eyes glazing over. “There are so many things I
have done that day, but didn’t.”


Liam saw the glistening of tears swell within her eyes, but he wasn’t sure if he imagined it when they were gone a second later. She looked stunning, her long hair swept up, the riot of curls still tumbling about her head. He wanted to reach out and tuck one of them behind her ear, graze her cheek with his fingers to test if it was as soft as he imagined. The look on her face stopped him.

She was angry for some reason. She was also lovelier than he could ever remember her being. Her eyes were bright and glittering, her shoulders squared. It was a much better look than the passive wallflower she tried to pass herself off as most days.

Yet, he hadn’t meant to dredge up any painful memories, but it had just come forth from some unknown well within him. Old demons died hard.

“It wasn’t your fault. You’re under no obligation to
me, Liam.”

“Eight years of college and three years of residency beg to differ.”

The stunned look that crossed her face rattled him a bit. “You went to medical school … because of me?”

“I wanted to make sure I did it right. I can’t trust another to do what I should.”

Olivia began gathering up all of her belongings, her hands moving fast, stuffing items into her bag in a wild manner.

“Wait, what’s wrong? What did I say?”

“That has got to be the biggest pity party you’ve been stuck in for the past twenty years. I don’t need you to fix me. I’m perfectly fine just the way I am.”

“Pity? You think this is pity? I made a mistake and want to rectify it. That’s taking responsibility.”

“That accident made me into the person I am today. If that’s a mistake, then you can kiss my ass.”

“Damn it, Olivia, you know that isn’t what I meant at all. I just want to help you be all you can. I see hints of an amazing woman inside that’s screaming to be let out.” Liam pushed a hand through his hair. Two women pissed in one day along with two public arguments. He was batting a thousand, for sure. “Why can’t you let me help you?”

“I’m sorry you’ve felt this guilt all these years, I really am, but I won’t let you exorcise your demons by pushing me into a surgery I don’t think I want to have.”

“Don’t want or are you
to have?”

Her fingers stopped as his words hung in the air.

“Olivia, it seems to me you’re trying to use every excuse under the sun to not have this surgery. You keep saying your life is just fine as it is, but all I see is sadness on your face when I look at you. Could it be once you have it, you don’t know what to do with yourself?”

She turned her gaze to him, and he glimpsed the fear he had suspected for a millisecond before she hid it away from him. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I don’t? I just walked away from a woman who everyone expected me to marry, including her. I’ve lived the last twenty years learning how to fix your back and you won’t let me do it. I’m at a crossroads in my life. I have no idea what will come down the path next, but life has this odd way of happening as it should.”

“You just broke up with Jenny?”

“I did.” Was that a little happiness he saw in her face at his admission?


“Two seconds before I walked in here.”

He couldn’t stop himself any longer. He reached out and tucked the stray curl behind her ear, slowly caressing her cheek as he did. The longing he saw in her eyes floored him and made him yearn to be able to hold her in his arms, smell the warm fragrance of her rioting curls, her curves pressing into his body. The look they shared told him she wanted him as much as he did her. He grasped her hand, pulling it to his lips and placing a soft kiss on the back of her hand.

Her eyes grew large as she watched him touch her. “I can’t believe you became a doctor because of me.”

“Personal demons or not, I’ve helped a lot of people over the years and will hopefully help a lot more. There are worse directions I could have gone with the guilt I’ve held on to.” He threaded her fingers in his, loving how well they fit.

“It wasn’t your fault,” she whispered.

He closed his eyes, trying to let go of the pain, but he knew with certainty it wouldn’t happen. He opened his eyes and smiled at her. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you mad before.”

“I’ve always shied away … from everyone. I’ve never really felt comfortable letting anyone see the real me.”

“The real you is lovely. I wish I’d seen more of her over the years.”

“You were gone a long time, and now all you seem to do is work. Not sure you’d have even seen me had I come out of my shell.”

“Touché.” He would remedy that now. He was going to spend a lot more time with her.

“You know, it’s been rather nice not hiding. It’s … I don’t know—”


Her smile made his heart flatline for a second. “Yes, that’s it exactly. Empowering. I’m supposed to be the wordsmith, not you.”

“I have my moments.” His gaze roamed over her porcelain skin, her cheeks a rosy pink, the healthy blush of life captivating, hinting at the spirit within her. She really was a beautiful woman when she wasn’t trying to hide in the shadows. He wondered what fiery passions she still hid within her and if he was man enough to unlock them.

He thought back a few moments, to before he’d come into the café. He’d told himself he needed to steer clear of this female, get his thoughts straight, and figure out what he really wanted. “Have dinner with me tonight.”

Liam wasn’t sure if his mouth and his brain were connected any more. When he was close to her, things sprung out that he wasn’t sure he should be saying. Especially when she reacted so strongly to his requests.

Instantly, the hint of what she could be vanished and the awkward female returned. She pulled her hands from his and leaned back in her seat. “Dinner?”

“Yes, dinner. A date.”

Her eyes widened as she looked at him. “I told you I don’t need your pity.”

“Pity? I’m not asking you to dinner out of pity.”

“Then why are you?”

“Because my eyes have been opened recently.”


“I’d always kept you in a box in my mind, the little girl you’d once been. Seeing the hints of the real you has made me realize I don’t know you well enough. I’d like the chance if you’d let me.”

A blush crept into her cheeks. “I don’t know if I’d be good company for you.”

“You’ve done just fine here. I’ve rather enjoyed our stimulating conversation.”

Olivia looked up at him, and he could almost see the wheels moving in her mind. She was silent for several heartbeats and the lengthening pause made him break out in a sweat awaiting her answer.

“You just broke up with your girlfriend. I won’t jump into the void.” She rose and gathered the last of her belongings.

“I would never treat you like that. I thought we knew each other better?”

“As you just stated, you don’t really know me at all, Liam. Nor I, you.”

“I know you’re attracted to me and it’s fairly obvious I’m attracted to you. Why can’t you let us see where this goes?”

“Not like this. Not right after you broke it off with Jenny.” Olivia slung her bag over her shoulder and turned from him. “You need to get over all that. You need time.”

As he watched her leave, frustration spread through him. He knew she had a point. No woman wanted to feel like she was a man’s rebound and he needed time to figure things out. But the attraction he felt couldn’t be denied, and she most definitely wasn’t his rebound. She’d walled herself up and needed those walls ripped down. He knew he wanted to be the man to do it, even if she was kicking and screaming the whole way.

Chapter 7

Olivia sat looking at the blank screen before her. The words just wouldn’t come; her mind was still stuck in the café. His face and words had haunted her for two days. Had she made an enormous mistake? She’d had a crush on Liam for as long as she could remember, but even so, she wouldn’t go under those circumstances.

She minimized the big sheet of stark white and opened up her messaging program. Luckily for her, her beta reader and fellow author Jess was online.

“Liam asked me out.” The words slowly appeared on the screen as she typed the message.

A few seconds later, a response appeared. “Are you serious? Yay! But wait, what about the girlfriend?”

“It was seconds after breaking up with Ms. Perfect.”

“Okay, less than yay. But it was still an invite. Shows he’s interested.”

“Jess, he’s a pig. I’m no rebound date.”

“Did you ever think he had finally seen who he wanted to be with and went for it?”

Olivia paused, looking the words of the last message over twice, letting them sink into her brain. “No, I’m a book nerd and he’s a surgeon. We come from two different worlds. Get your head out of a romance novel.”

“No, you don’t come from different worlds. He’s known you forever. Don’t be so quick to judge. You never know, Ollie. Why would he chance ruining a relationship with a close family friend unless he was truly interested?”

“That’s just another reason supporting my decision. If it didn’t go well, it would make it awkward for our parents. They’ve been friends forever. It wouldn’t be fair to risk it.”

Olivia paused as she waited for Jess to respond, to tell her she was absolutely right in making the decision she did. She needed the validation to make it hurt less that she’d turned down her chance at spending time with him.

“Stop making excuses why it can’t happen. It sounds just like the reasons you’re giving for not having the surgery.”

It was not the response she’d expected, but it wasn’t all that surprising. Jess wasn’t known to pull punches. The truth in the statement stung. “Stop being so bluntly honest.”

“It’s why you love me.”

“I need to get the next chapter started. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Don’t run from the truth. You deserve some happiness. If there is a next time, don’t say no. Go to dinner. Drink some wine. Kiss a man. It’ll do wonders for you.”

She brought her fingers to the keyboard to respond but the spot with the blinking cursor remained empty. She did deserve some happiness. Jess was right, as usual. But how could she have slid into the spot just abandoned by Jenny?

It just didn’t feel right.

* * * *

The following morning, Olivia looked over the screen as she finished the final line of her too-short résumé. It was a complete joke; she’d never worked a day in her life unless she counted babysitting Dame Dawson’s terrible terriers for two weeks each year when the woman flew back to merry old England to see her horrid son. No one was going to hire Olivia without experience.

Perhaps her mother was right; a teaching position instilling grammatical rules into children might be her only option. At least she’d have the summers off to write.

School had already started for the year, but she opened the local school system’s website and began reading through their requirements. An hour later and she’d navigated the system and applied. Then she began on the next chapter in her novel.

A knock sounded and she turned around to see her mother at the door, a large bouquet of red roses in one hand, a letter in another. “These both just came for you.”

“Roses? For me?” Olivia stood and walked to the door, taking the flowers and setting them on her desk. She reached in for the card, pulling it from between the fragrant petals. A strong hand had written her name in dark, stiff letters.

BOOK: Falling for Him
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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