Silas placed his wineglass down and reached for Janelle’s hand, placing his large one over hers. “I was determined that if my marriage was in ashes, I had to have something to show for it. My career became my life’s blood. It’s what fed me during that first lean year when Mr. Gibson retired five years ago and I was trying to redefine the restaurant. It’s why I was so angry with you. If you had waited a little bit longer for him to retire and hand over the restaurant to me. . .”
“It was tough. I’d lost my wife and the reason why I was trying to become a success.” He watched a smile spread across her beautiful features as he continued. “And then I got a lucky break. A TV producer came to eat at the restaurant and tasted my food. He thought I would be shoo-in for his chef-competition show, so I made an audition tape, and well, the rest, as they say, is history.”
Once he won the season, Silas had been rewarded with a thirty-minute show of his own, which became an overnight success. It led to him opening another restaurant, and then another, all of which fans flocked to. Then came the cookbooks, line of cookware and magazines branded in his name.
“I’m very proud of you, Silas. I always have been. No one would have expected either of us to achieve what we have, given our backgrounds, but we did.” She wished she could have told him as much sooner, but since he’d refused her earlier attempts to reconcile, she’d never been able to.
“Thank you. And though it may not seem like it, I’m proud of you too.”
“You’ve never said so.”
“How could I?” Silas stated. “You’ve been off gallivanting all over the world and the few times I tried to contact you, you didn’t respond. It seemed you were no more eager than I was to get a divorce. For me, staying separated allowed me to focus on my business, my brand and building an empire.
Janelle frowned and sat up straight. “What are you talking about? After I left and landed in New York, I called that once and you gave me a hard time. And after that, you ignored me.”
“What did you expect? I was angry at you for leaving me.” Silas sighed. “C’mon, I thought we were going to be honest.”
“We are. And I’m telling you I never heard from you before today.”
“You’re going to sit here and act like you not once got the messages I left for you with your agent? I had nowhere to find you, given you’d thrown the phone I’d bought for you back at me, so I called Brad.” During the last awful fight they had before Janelle walked out on him, she’d thrown her iPhone at him and it had shattered on the concrete floor. “I also wrote you a letter and sent it to your agency.”
“What? When?” Her eyes grew large, and Silas began to realize she had no idea what he was talking about.
“I made a last-ditch attempt and wrote you last year when Mr. Gibson had been diagnosed with stage four cancer, and after a heart-to-heart, I realized I’d made a mistake and was a fool to let you go. I poured out my soul to you and sent the letter to your agent at the agency, but when I never heard back from you, even after Mr. Gibson died, I assumed you were well and truly done with me and happy in your new life. So I didn’t bother you again.”
“Ohmigod!” Janelle’s hand flew to her mouth. “I had no idea. When I learned Mr. Gibson passed away a month ago from an old friend, I was devastated. I couldn’t believe you hadn’t reached out to me. I thought perhaps you were getting back at me for leaving.”
“How could you think that?” Silas asked. “I would never have done that to you. You were like a daughter to him.”
Janelle flew out of her chair and began pacing the room. “I—I don’t know. This is so unbelievable. And I thought Brad was a friend. I listen to him, take his advice. I never questioned him, but he had to have known. Your calls and letters, he must have seen them. I can’t believe this. I thought I could trust him. That he was looking out for my best interests. But he wasn’t. He was just using me to fatten his pocketbook, while I…” Her voice trailed off, and Silas wondered what it was she’d been about to say.
He rose to his feet and came toward her, but her back was to him as if she was ashamed, so he clutched her arm and spun her around to face him. “What would you have done if you’d known I wanted you back, Janelle?”
He didn’t understand why he wanted to know. Just that he did.
It wouldn’t give them back the six years they’d lost, but it might heal him, because all this time, he’d thought she’d rejected him. That somehow the love he’d known she felt for him had suddenly evaporated when she went to Paris, but perhaps it hadn’t. Perhaps it had been circumstances and meddling by her agent.
Janelle shook her head. “I can’t do this. Please let me go.”
“Why, Janelle? Don’t you think it’s time you stop running away and face what’s right here in front of you? Finish what you were going to say.”
Tears escaped her doe-shaped eyes and ran down her cheeks. “I lost the man I loved.”
Silas reached up and wiped her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. “You didn’t lose me, Janelle. I’m right here. So maybe you should ask the question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to.”
She stared at him in confusion for several minutes. “Why didn’t you ever divorce me?”
She nodded. “Don’t you think we could both use some?” Her mouth quirked.
“Because I couldn’t bear to close the door on us. I guess I hoped one day you’d come back to me.”
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