“Now tell me what the hell’s going on?” AJ demanded, having dragged Anna into one of the bedrooms on the first floor and slammed the door behind him. Fury made his muscles clench. But ,worse, that same sense of betrayal was spiraling through him again. Just as when he’d returned from Switzerland and found her gone, with Papa supplying a story that rivaled a soap opera.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Anna replied.
For a second, he thought she was being facetious. But he saw the same confusion he felt mirrored in her eyes, too. That strange dissonance he’d felt since he’d seen her again.
He bit out a curse, feeling as if the very ground under him was being pulled away. Taking a deep breath, he steadied his voice. “Why didn’t you tell me that Granny almost died?”
Anger flared in her gaze. “Of course I did. It was two weeks after I left. Your mobile carrier kept saying your number couldn’t be reached.”
“I was drunk out of my mind. Vikram had to drag me home and then I had the longest hangover. I—I lost my phone somewhere in the night’s pub crawl.”
Her eyes widened. “I was so desperate to get a hold of you that I...” Her chest rose and fell, tears shimmering in her eyes.
“That you what, Anna?” he said. But AJ knew what was coming. It felt as if the missing pieces of the melody that had haunted him were slowly falling into place. And the score that emerged in his head was full of lies and dips and betrayals. But not Anna’s.
“I called Seema didi. I begged her to let you know. I... That one night, in the cold, clinical waiting room, I have never felt more lonely, more terrified.”
“That’s when you cashed the check.” Another piece falling into place.
“Yes. They needed to operate immediately. I didn’t think you’d hold it against me if I used it to save her life, AJ.”
He growled. “Of course I don’t care.”
She studied him as he paced the room with increasing fury. “It was such a huge amount but I only ever used what I needed. I have the entire amount again. You can have it back. I don’t need it. I never wanted it in the first place.”
“I don’t want your money back,” he snarled at her.
“And I don’t want to be beholden to you. I don’t…” She came close to him, reluctance and resolve vying for dominance in every step. “Why did it bother you so much that I took the money?”
“That afternoon when you cashed the check, Papa told me of the transaction. Of how you’d acted outraged when he’d offered it, but that in the end, you had taken it. That in the end, you were the same as…”
He shoved a rough hand through his hair, unable to meet her gaze and knowing that he wasn’t giving her the full answer. AJ was ashamed that he’d let old wounds distort his future. “I thought you were done with the marriage. That all you wanted anymore out of me was my money.”
Anna raised her hand and clasped his jaw, one lone tear making a path over her cheek. “I wanted you, just you.”
She pressed her face against the nook of his neck and shoulders, like she always did. Her words felt like benedictions he didn’t deserve. “I wanted you by my side while Granny was fighting for life. I wanted you to hold me, distract me, tell me she will come out of it all right. Command her to feel better like you do, as if you own the world. I needed your wit and your ability to make me laugh and your tight hugs and I…needed your kiss like I needed breath. All I ever wanted was you, AJ.”
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