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Just To Be With You (Page 62)

She could see how surprised he was by her response, and worse, how hurt. Especially when he stood to reach for her and she instinctively shrank back.

“I wasn’t looking for you, Tatiana. I didn’t see you coming. I didn’t expect you to burst into my life and turn it upside down. But I’m not sorry that you did, that you have. These past few days with you have been the best of my life, but everything has happened so fast between us that I still can’t see yet how things are going to work in the real world. I want to try to see if they can.”

So much of her wanted that, too. But she knew better. “Can’t you see? It’s exactly what you did with your ex-wife. You tried to make a relationship work around your job and what she wanted from you. It didn’t work, and I love you too much to let you make those mistakes again.”

“You were the one who first said you’re nothing like my ex,” he argued. “And neither are the two of us when we’re together. Not even close.”

“All along, you’ve been worried that you would hurt me, that I’d end up crushed and you’d end up guilty. Are you telling me that all of those worries are gone now?” When he didn’t immediately reply, her heart sank even lower than it had already fallen. She asked in a soft voice, “Or was I right to feel that those worries, those fears, were still lying in wait beneath everything we’ve shared here on this island, in this room? They are the real reasons why you don’t want to make me any promises, aren’t they? Not because it’s all happened so fast.”

She’d thought the hardest thing she’d ever done was to leave his arms a few minutes ago, but when his continued silence and bleak expression gave her his answer, Tatiana now knew it was much, much harder not to move back into his arms to give him comfort.

But love, Tatiana had always known, would be all or nothing for her. It was why she’d waited so long to sleep with a man—until she was certain that he was the one. She would never be happy, truly happy, with halfway. And neither would Ian. After more than a week in close quarters with him, she knew that he never moved forward with a business deal unless he was absolutely, positively sure that it was the right move to make. At which point he never looked back. He would never try to win a client or take over an industry. He would simply do it without ever second-guessing himself.

Love—and forever—would be no different for him.

“I love you, Tatiana. Why can’t knowing that be enough for now?”

His words tore at her resolve, but it didn’t change the fact that enough couldn’t ever be. Not for either of them.

“During the storm,” she said in as steady a voice as she could manage, “there were moments when you forgot to be on guard, when you forgot about your fear of hurting me or letting me down, and we were close. So close. Those moments showed me what it’s like to have all of you. Or nearly all, at least. I can’t go backward when what I really want, what I really need, is for those moments to grow and build into minutes, hours, weeks, years. And I know now that I was unfair to you when I told you I would wait, that I would just keep holding on until you came around. I thought I could, I swear I did, and maybe I could have if we hadn’t been caught in the storm.” Her eyeballs ached from the pressure of all the tears threatening to fall. “But now that I know just how much there could be, how much love can be, I also know that anything less would break me apart.”

“The last thing I’d ever want is to break you, sweetheart.”

“I know.” His endearment hit her straight in the center of her heart, just as it had every time he’d said it to her before. And, oh, how she longed to be back in his arms, even as she said, “So that’s why I’m leaving before you do.”

“Tatiana—”

The guilt etched into the beautiful lines of his face made her forget to keep her distance for a moment as she took his hand in hers. “You never asked me to fall in love with you. You never promised me anything. You warned me that you weren’t ready to love anyone, that you didn’t think you’d ever be ready. But I was, so I chose not to listen, and to love you with everything I am. I don’t regret it, not any of it. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for anything that happened between us.” Every single part of her ached as she looked into his dark eyes. “Being here with you on the island has been the perfect fairy tale. But you were right when you told me fairy tales aren’t real. We both have real lives, great ones full of family and work and friends that we love. I don’t want you to give all of that up. Not for me, or anyone else. I want you to have it all, Ian, and I want to have it all, too. Amazing, fulfilling careers along with love that’s big enough and strong enough not just to deal with, but to celebrate, in all of the messiness of real life.”

That was when she made herself draw back from him, made herself force a smile and say, “Speaking of messy, I’m going to go hop in the shower so that we can get out of here before the weather changes again.”

And before her tears began to fall again…

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

By now, they both needed to get back to Seattle—Ian to close the deal with Flynn and Tatiana to begin production on her new movie—so the trip to Alaska was shelved for another day. During the flight, she made notes on her script while he worked on his laptop. He offered her something to drink and she politely declined it. He asked if she needed to do another read-through and she said she thought she finally had it under control thanks to his earlier help.

The flight back was as smooth as the trip there had been rough, which should have been great news…and yet…Ian found himself wishing that they’d hit rough air again so that he could have another chance to hold Tatiana’s hands and be close to her.

With every mile they covered, as the distance between them grew bigger and bigger, Ian knew that all he would need to do to make her change her mind about leaving him was to pull her back into his arms and kiss her. One kiss and she’d feel, she’d remember, what was between them—how extraordinary it was. And then she’d come back to him and give him the chance he’d all but begged for, and he wouldn’t have to face the thought of a night without her in his arms.

But how could he do that when he knew she’d done exactly the right thing by getting out before he eventually destroyed the light inside her?

Finally, the plane landed, but once they’d both unbuckled and stood, Tatiana stayed standing before him. “Ian—” Her mouth trembled and she pressed her lips together for a moment before continuing. “Before we get off the plane and the real world swallows us up, can I ask you a few last questions?” She laughed a little then, but he could hear how shaken she was beneath it. “Really, I mean it this time. These will be my last ones.”

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