When he hadn’t come home several hours later, Hannah became concerned. She’d unpacked and systematically arranged the kitchen to her liking. That took what remained of the morning. Once she was finished, she made herself lunch, then wandered into the living room, holding the sandwich in her hand. Pausing at the window, she looked out, hoping, praying she’d find some sign of Riley. Her pulse accelerated when she noted his car was parked at the curb, but then she remembered he’d returned the truck to the rental agency and was apparently with one of his friends.

Discouraged, she went back to the kitchen and finished her glass of milk. The sandwich had lost its appeal, and she dumped it in the garbage. Looking around her, she went into the bedrooms, making up the beds.

It was well past dark when Hannah finished straightening up their little house. She surveyed her efforts, standing in the middle of the living room, hands on her hips. The transformation was a little short of amazing. What had seemed like a barren shell of walls and empty space now resembled a home.

Her brother’s photograph rested on the fireplace mantel along with one she found of Riley. She guessed that it had been taken several years earlier, soon after he’d enlisted in the Navy. She’d stumbled upon it while unpacking a box of books and spent several moments studying the intense young face staring back at her. She hoped to gain an insight into her husband, but she’d found the photograph as difficult to read as the man.

It had taken a good deal of effort to arrange the furniture the way she wanted, and she was likely to incur her husband’s displeasure for having worked so hard, but that wasn’t anything new. What did he expect her to do while he was away hours on end? Twiddle her thumbs?

After stacking the empty boxes in the patio off the kitchen, Hannah fixed herself a bowl of clam chowder for dinner. She soaked in a hot bath once she finished the dishes.

Riley’s disappearance was beginning to irk her. The least he could do was phone – only they didn’t have one, not yet. She was concerned, but hadn’t wanted to admit as much. The urge to contact her father was compelling. Not because she was willing to admit she’d made a mistake – which she was strongly beginning to believe – but so that she could hear the sound of his voice. In his own quiet manner, George Raymond would lend her encouragement, which she needed so badly just then. But again they had no phone. Hannah had rarely felt more cut off from those she loved, or more alone.

By ten, she made her way into her bedroom, weary to the bone, both mentally and physically. The urge to weep was nearly overwhelming. Her marriage couldn’t be going any worse.

Hannah stirred at the sound of Riley crashing around the house. Checking her clock radio, she noted that it was nearly three in the morning. Tossing aside her blankets, she leaped out of bed and rushed down the hallway to discover Riley awkwardly straightening a kitchen chair he’d knocked to the floor. He seemed to be having trouble keeping his balance.

"Riley." She was so pleased to see him, so excited, she ran directly into his arms. "Thank God you’re home…" She hugged his middle, pressing her flushed face to his chest and squeezing tightly. The hours he’d been away had seemed like an eternity.

Although she’d labored most of the day, setting their house to order in an effort to put him out of her mind, it hadn’t worked. She’d been worried. All evening her mind had played tricks on her, listing the places he might have gone, the people he could be with, until everything had crashed together in regret and confusion.

Apparently she’d caught Riley by surprise, and he stumbled backward until he collided with the kitchen counter. His arms supported Hannah, and when she looked up at him, fearing he might be hurt, he caught her chin with his hand. His eyes clouded for an instant as if he were surprised to find her in his home, then without warning, without giving her any indication of what he intended, his mouth came crashing down on hers.

The kiss was hard, almost brutal as he lifted her from the floor. The hand at the back of her head held her prisoner, although she didn’t struggle. He’d taken her so completely by surprise that for a moment she was numb with shock. This was a Riley she didn’t know. One that frightened her with his fierce, hungry demand.

"Riley," she said, pulling her mouth free. "No…"

He answered her by kissing her again, dragging his mouth back to hers. Gone was the gentleness she’d always found in him, the tender concern. Instead she was met with desperate need. He tasted of restless passion. Against her will, against her pride, Hannah felt herself responding. Her hands clawed at his shirt as she clung tightly to him.

Riley moved his hands to her face, covering her ears as he worked his mouth from one side of her lips to the other. She wanted to protest, but the instant she opened her mouth, his tongue was there, boldly claiming the right to taste, to possess any part of her that he wished. The few times Riley had kissed her in this manner, he’d gently stroked the inside of her mouth. Now he used his tongue ruthlessly, sweeping it in and out from between her lips, plunging, probing, swirling it over her own, over and over until she was so weak she would have slumped to the floor without his support.

"No more," she said forcefully, pushing against him, needing to be free. Free of the warm, delicious sensations he was capable of making her feel. Free of the endless hours of worry and regret. Free of the past that clung like tentacles around her heart.

Riley’s breathing was labored as he buried his face in the curve of her neck, kissing her there while his hands roved at will down her back and over her buttocks.

Again, Hannah made the effort to free herself. "You’re drunk!"

She felt his smile against the hollow of her throat. "You mean it took you this long to figure it out?" he asked with a weary laugh. "You really are an innocent, aren’t you?"

"May I remind you I was an innocent until I met you!" she cried, backing away from him. In his present mood, he might drag her into his bed and have his way with her and not even realize what he was doing.

"Don’t look so worried," he said with a slurred laugh, reaching for her. "You’re safe. Even if I wanted to make love to you, I’m so drunk, I doubt I could do anything about it." He laughed once more, but there was no humor in the sound. No humor and no amusement.

With some effort she managed to untangle his arms from her. In her eagerness to right the wrong she’d committed against him, she hadn’t even noticed his condition.

"I’m not your precious Jerry," he said with a sneer. "But you can pretend. That’s what you did that night in Seattle, isn’t it? Pretend I was him." He waved his index finger back and forth in front of her face. "You didn’t think I’d figure it out, did you?"

"Stop it," she cried, tears blurring her eyes.

"Well, go ahead and pretend all you want, my sweet. I don’t mind playing a few pretending games myself. But ask yourself this, who shall I pretend you are? Judy, perhaps?"

Hannah felt sick to her stomach, nauseous and dizzy both at once. Unable to listen to another word, she turned and rushed into the bedroom, slamming the door. Not sure if she could trust him to leave her alone, she shoved the chair across the carpet and propped it under the handle.

He must have heard her efforts because he paused outside her door and gave a slurred, sick-sounding laugh. "Don’t worry, my sweet. You’re safe for tonight."

Riley woke the following morning with a compound headache. His temple throbbed like a giant piston firing inside his head. The pain was complicated by the sounds of Hannah in the kitchen. From all the racket she was making, it sounded like ten women instead of one.

Holding his head between his hands, he staggered out of his bedroom. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, grimacing at the sound of his own voice.

Hannah turned around and glared at him as though he were the devil incarnate. When she did deign to answer, she did so with a lofty tilt of her chin, as though speaking to him were beneath her. "I’m cooking breakfast."

"At this ungodly hour?"

"It’s after nine." She set the cast-iron skillet down on the burner with enough force to break it in two. "But for those who choose to… to carouse to the wee hours of the morning, nine must indeed be an ungodly hour."

"Indeed," he echoed. If his head wasn’t hurting so damn much, Riley might have been able to enjoy her tirade. Unable to understand why she was so angry, he watched as she slapped a piece of bacon in the pan, then jabbed it with a fork as though it needed to be killed before frying.

"Did you want something?" she demanded, when he continued to stand in his underwear in the middle of the kitchen.

"Peace and quiet," he suggested hopefully. "I don’t suppose that would be so much to ask, would it?"

"Not in the least." With a flair for the dramatic, she turned off the stove, removed the pan and tossed the fork into the sink. Jerking the apron free from her waist, she hurled that at him, hitting him full in the face. By the time he’d managed to remove it, Hannah had walked out the front door, slamming it with enough force to shake the windows.

"Hannah!" he shouted, storming after her. He stopped abruptly when he reached the porch, realizing he couldn’t very well traipse after her in his skivvies.

"Get back here right this minute," he ordered, pointing his finger at the ground.

She tossed him a defiant, mocking look and continued down the sidewalk. A suffragette couldn’t have stepped with any more conviction than his wife, Riley noted wryly.

His first instinct was to let her go. If she was going to behave like a shrew, then to hell with her. His head was spinning, his ears rang and frankly he wasn’t in any mood to deal with her temper tantrums.

As he was walking back to his bedroom, intent on ignoring Hannah and her outburst, it struck him how unusual it was for the sweet, gentle-natured Hannah to rage at him or anyone.

Holding his hands to his head, he tried to remember what he’d said to her to get her so irritated. Briefly he remembered their encounter from the night before. She’d shocked him by the eager way in which she’d raced into his arms and hugged him. They’d kissed, and the need he felt for her had all but consumed him. Then she’d pulled away from him just as she had every time he’d touched her since that night in Seattle, and he’d gotten angry with her. What had he said? Riley couldn’t remember, not for the life of him.

He released a swearword and reached for his pants, urgently jerking them up his long legs. He couldn’t let her traipse down the street alone. Hell, she hadn’t even taken a sweater with her. In her condition, she might harm herself and the baby if she were to catch a chill.

Riley grabbed a jacket on his way out the door, jogging after her, furious with her and outraged at himself for letting her leave the house.

It amazed him how far she’d gotten by the time he reached her. She didn’t slow her pace until his steps matched hers, and even then she continued walking, ignoring him.

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