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The Sheriff's Wife

Written by Anna DeStefano

Chapter Twenty

"Wh-what?" Amelia asked. Dillon wanted to believe the look his wife was giving him was one of hope. "We’ve already been down this road."

"I know." Trying to shift his lower body beneath the absurdly small table, he banged his shin against one of its legs. "I know you’ve tried to get me to understand what you need. And I’ve been too stubborn to listen. I even understand why you think it’s too late to go back and change things."

His wife raised an eyebrow as he paused for her to respond. "If you’re waiting for me to disagree with you, don’t. I’ve tried to tell you a hundred different ways that I haven’t returned to teaching because I feel like I’m missing something at home. I’m here because—"

"I know." He sighed. "You’re here because you’re good at what you do. Damn good. And you missed helping these kids. You missed making the kind of difference you do in their lives. I get that now, Ame. And I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of you."

The tears clouding her eyes killed him.

"I get exactly how big a mistake I’ve made, walking away from what we had without giving you a chance," he continued. "That’s what I wanted to talk with you about last night. But then I went and messed that up, too, by pushing you into doing something you told me you weren’t ready for. I’ve been such a jerk. I had no reason to doubt your commitment to our family. I swear, I never meant to hurt you. I was just… It was this thing with me and my family—"

"I know all about you and your family, Dillon." She wiped her eyes. "I understand why you want something different for Tyler. I’ve known from the start how important me staying home with our son is for you. But somewhere along the way, I realized I needed to be doing more with my life. And my needs aren’t going to magically change, any more than yours are. That’s why—"

"Please," he begged over the resignation creeping into her voice. "Please, Ame. Let me try and make this up to you. Let me try to make this right for you and Tyler again."

She was shaking her head. Dillon’s heart sank.

"You can’t do this for me and Tyler," she said. "It would never work that way."

"Ame—"

"No. Let me finish."

She stood and settled daintily into the chair beside him. She took his hand and smoothed her fingers across his in a gesture of comfort they hadn’t shared for far too long. When she looked up at him, a fragile kind of hope was shining in her eyes. The kind he’d seen once before, when she’d first asked him to understand why she wanted to return to teaching. When he’d first let her down.

"Don’t want our marriage back for me or Tyler, Dillon," she said. "You have your own needs, just like I do. If me teaching, and our relationship changing to accommodate that, isn’t something you can be happy with, then don’t ask me to try again. We can’t work as a family if one of us is pretending to be something we’re not. I’ll love you, Dillon, for the rest of my life. But I can’t change who I am and what’s important to me. And you shouldn’t have to, either."

"I don’t want you to change." Dillon forced himself to focus past her declaration of love, and his need to hear her repeat it. "I can’t promise the impossible. I’ll still be hardheaded and stubborn at times, you can count on it. But not about this. You were right when you said I was expecting you to fit into my vision of the perfect wife. But now I know I had perfection in my arms all along, and I want you just the way you are."

He brushed at the tears still sliding from her eyes, drowning in the happiness radiating from her smile.

"Amelia Reed," he said as he whispered a kiss across her lips, "I’m nothing without you. I can’t be the man I need to be, the father I need to be, or this town’s sheriff for that matter, without you in my life."

Her laugh warmed him. Her hug as she launched into his lap was the promise of tomorrow he hadn’t thought he deserved.

"Well then, Sheriff Reed," she said, taking his mouth in a soft, lingering kiss. "I think it’s time for you to come back home to your family, where you belong."

The End

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About the author

My day revolves around the men in my life: my talented, techie husband...

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Anna DeStefano

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