He knew the second he said the words, he’d hurt her. And he hadn’t meant to. At least he didn’t think he did. “I should clarify. I thought it would be awkward for both of us to have to make small talk and act like that summer never happened.”
Her shoulders seemed to relax. “You mean like we’re doing now?”
“Yes, exactly like this.”
Her chest rose as she took a deep breath. “Maybe we both placed too much stock in what happened over the course of three short months. It was the wrong time to start any kind of relationship. You were leaving.”
One brow went up. “And yet I’m not the one who actually left, was I?”
He might have left St. Lucia, but he wasn’t the one who left the relationship. That had been all Patty. Thank God he hadn’t given her the ring he’d bought a week before he left for college. He’d meant to pop the question before he caught his flight out. But the timing had never seemed right, and there was a niggling fear that she might turn him down. That it had all been too quick.
Evidently he’d been right.
Patty must have understood the meaning behind his words, because she touched his hand. “We were both so young back then. There were too many…variables.” She took a step back and smiled. “And look at you now. A thoracic surgeon. We both bounced back pretty well, I’d say.”
“Yes, we did.” The words slid from his lips slowly. She might have bounced back right away, but he had spent the six months after she dumped him struggling in school. He’d almost washed out, actually. But then he’d buckled down and decided he was going to make something of himself, if for no other reason than to get back at her.
Not that she ever would have known. But Dax and his self-esteem knew. And he did not want to wind up like his dad, a drunk who barely made ends meet. Who barely knew who the members of his own family were. His dad was long gone, now, dead from cirrhosis before Dax graduated from medical school, but his legacy was still there. It was one of the reasons that Dax didn’t drink.
Patty seemed to realize what she was supposed to be doing. “Well, let’s take that tour that HR wanted me to give you. What would you like to see first?”
Before they went anywhere, he needed to make sure of one thing. But he wasn’t quite sure how to say what was swirling through his head. Especially since the curve of her hips…the long length of her neck were reminding him of things he probably should forget. Probably needed to forget. So maybe the question in the back of his throat was as much for him as it was for her.
“Is my being on St. Victoria going to be too hard, Patty?”
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