Exiting the elevator in the lobby of Mercy General Hospital, Max Montgomery glanced up and did a double-take. The woman leaving the coffee shop looked exactly like his ex-wife.
As petite as Kate, wearing blue jeans and a little flowered top that was her style, with thick, shoulder-length sable-colored hair that swung when she moved, she had to be Kate.
He shook his head, telling himself that was nuts. His wife had left Pine Ward, Pennsylvania, almost eight years ago and he hadn't seen her since. She'd divorced him through lawyers. Hadn't answered the letters he'd sent to her parents' home. Hadn't even returned to visit as far as he knew. Not even at holidays. That couldn't be her.
He made his way to the glass exit doors and they automatically parted, but curiosity turned him around before he could step out.
The woman now stood in front of the elevator he'd exited, her back to him.
Sensation vibrated through him, the radar he'd always had with her. He'd always known when she was within twenty feet. Always known when she was about to walk into the room. Always known. It had to be her. The radar never failed.
He took a few cautious steps toward her, but stopped. Even if it was her, why would she want to see him? What would he say? Sorry i screwed up our marriage, but i'm sober now?
Actually, that wasn't such a bad idea. Of all the people on his twelve-step list, people he needed to make amends with, he'd contacted everyone but her. The person who most deserved his apology.
If it wasn't her, he'd simply apologize for the mistake.
Either way, he'd be apologizing. No big deal.
He sucked in a breath, crossed the small space between them and tapped her shoulder.
His heart stopped then sped up again. It was her.
His mind flew to the day he'd met her at a pool party at a friend's house. She'd worn a green bikini that matched her eyes. But though her looks had been what caught his attention, it was her personality that had hooked his heart. Sweet. Fearless. Funny. In one short conversation, she'd made him forget every other woman he knew. And now she was here. In front of him.
His heart stumbled. His knees weakened.
But when she realized who'd tapped her, the happily surprised expression on her face crumbled and was replaced by something Max could only describe as a look of horror.
A lump of emotion lodged in his throat. More of their life together flashed through his brain. The way they'd talked till dawn the night of the pool party. The first time they'd kissed. The first time they'd made love. Their wedding day.
He'd thrown it all away for the contents of a bottle.
He cleared his throat. "Kate."
She motioned with her coffee. "I...um...I need to get this up to my mom."
This time when his heart upended it was with fear for her. "Your mom is here? As a patient?"
"No. No. She's fine." She glanced around nervously. "Daddy had a stroke."
Was that any better? "Oh, my God. I'm sorry."
"He's okay." She looked to the right again. "The stroke was reasonably mild. Prognosis is good." She tried to smile. "I've really gotta go."
It was the worst moment of his life. Eight years ago, she would have turned to him in this kind of tragedy. Today, she couldn't stand to be around him. In some respects, he didn't blame her. But he'd changed. He'd been in Alcoholics Anonymous for seven years. He was sober. And he did realize what he'd lost. But more than that, apologizing, admitting his faults, was part of his twelve-step...