The square gift was surprisingly heavy. Dan tugged the ribbon free, peeled off the paper and opened the box. Inside was a brass apple paperweight. Engraved on the crest were two linked hearts and the words, "Two Hearts That Beat As One."
Dan looked up. Lorraine's cheeks were pink. The words were from a song they'd danced to as newlyweds. "Corny, huh?" she asked.
Shame, like a rusty blade, carved a ragged crater where he'd once had a heart. She had entrusted him with her heart, her children, her livelihood. She'd given herself unsparingly and without reservation or question. She was the most beautiful woman alive, the most precious creature who'd ever breathed.
And he had defiled her love and trust with lies.
She deserved more. She deserved better. She deserved. . .the truth.
His throat grew tight with the paralyzing thought. A numbing fog wrapped around his brain and filtered out all but the terrifying concept. He had to tell her.
He couldn't go on like this. He couldn't live each day, each hour, each minute waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, if Tom didn't regain his memory first, Dan would lose his mind. The idea whirled around in his head and left him pathetically void of anything but the tormenting thought of losing Lorraine—and her love.
"You don't like it." She lowered her eyes.
He placed a knuckle under her chin and raised it until her eyes met his. "I love it."
"Really." He couldn't tell her right now. He would tell her tomorrow. He'd find somewhere for the children to go for the day and he'd tell her then. While they were alone. With plenty of time to talk. . .and what. . .?
All he knew for sure was that he couldn't survive any more days and nights like these.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. Leaning to place the gift and wrappings on the floor, he pulled her into his arms and lay back. She turned and plunged the room into darkness. She ran her palms across his chest and down his belly. He caught her hands in one of his and brought them to his lips.
"Tom?" she asked.
He let go of her hands and covered her lips with his fingers. "Sh-h-."
If only he could hear her say his name one time.
For fourteen years in the throes of passion while he pleasured her with his body, loved her with his heart and soul, gave her his seed and children, she'd cried his brother's name.
He knew his lack of response puzzled her. He was always ready for her touch, eager for their lovemaking. But tonight he just wanted to hold her. "I love you, Lorraine," he whispered. "Don't ever forget how much I love you."
She snuggled her head under his chin. Moonlight seeped through the half-closed mini-blinds and cast silver bars across her slender, bare legs and feet. Her wonderful fresh jasmine scent stabbed him with sorrow. With reverent fingers, he stroked her thick, silken hair and knew when she fell asleep. Sleep, my love. You need your rest.
He needed to have her close now. While she still needed him, still loved him, still thought her life was secure and happy. Sleep, my sweet, Lorraine. Tomorrow I'm going to tell you something that will hurt you more than anything you've ever known. Tomorrow I'm going to break your heart.