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Wanting What She Can't Have

By:Yvonne Lindsay

Wanting What She Can't Have
Yvonne Lindsay


Alexis watched him from the doorway to the winery. Late afternoon sun  slanted through the windows at the end of the room, illuminating tiny  dust motes that floated on air redolent with the scent of fermented  grapes. But she was oblivious to the artistic beauty of the setting-her  focus solely on the man who worked on, unaware of her presence.

He'd changed. God, how he'd changed. He was thinner, gaunt even, and  his signature well-groomed appearance had given way to a self-executed  haircut, a stretched and faded T-shirt and torn jeans. His face  obviously hadn't seen a razor in several days. But then grief was bound  to do that to a man-to diminish the importance of the everyday tasks  he'd done automatically and replace them with indifference.

How could she help a man who was clearly long past any interest in helping himself?

The weight of what she'd agreed to do felt heavy and uncomfortable on  her shoulders. She, the one who always willingly stepped up to the plate  when everything went pear-shaped, was now thinking that perhaps this  time she'd bitten off more than she could chew.

Straightening her shoulders, she shook off her doubts. Bree had turned  to her in her time of need-had written a letter that begged Alexis to  take care of her husband and the child she'd been on the verge of  delivering should something happen to her, as if she'd known what lay  ahead. While her best friend had died before Alexis could give her that  promise, in her heart she knew she couldn't refuse-couldn't walk away.  Even if keeping that promise meant putting her heart back in firing  range from the man she'd been magnetically drawn to from the moment  she'd first met him.

Raoul stilled in his actions. His attention shifted from the table of  wine samples before him, his pen dropping from his hand to the clipboard  covered in hand-scrawled notes that lay on the stark white tablecloth.  He lifted his head and turned toward her, his face registering a brief  flash of surprise together with something else she couldn't quite put  her finger on. It was gone in an instant, replaced by a tight mask of  aloofness.

"Alexis," he said, accompanied by a tight nod.

"I came as soon as I heard. I'm sorry it took so long. I..." Her voice  trailed away. How did you tell a man that it had taken almost a year to  hear about the birth of his daughter and the death of the love of his  life because you'd severed ties with his wife, your best friend since  kindergarten, when it became too painful to see her happiness with him?  That you'd "forgotten" to give her your new email address or the number  to the cell phone you bought when your work started requiring more  international travel because you couldn't bear to hear any more about  how perfect they were together? Because you had coveted him for  yourself?

Because you still did.

She took a deep breath and swallowed against the lump of raw grief that swelled in her throat.

"I've been traveling for a while, ever since my business..." The words  died at the expression on his face. Clearly Raoul could not care less  about the success she'd been enjoying ever since her clothing line  finally started taking off. "Bree's letter caught up with me at my  father's house. It must have been following me around the world for the  past year."

"Bree's letter?"

"To tell me about her pregnancy."

Should she tell him also that Bree had begged her to watch out for her  husband and her, at that time, as yet unborn child? That she'd somehow  known that the aortic aneurysm she'd kept secret from her family would  take her life in childbirth? One look at his face confirmed he hadn't  known of his wife's correspondence to her.

"So, you're back."

Finally. The unspoken word hung on the air between them, both an accusation and an acknowledgment at the same time.

"My mother was ill. I made it back a few weeks before she died at Christmas."

"I'm sorry."

The platitude fell automatically from his lips but she sensed his  shields go up even stronger. He didn't want to know, not really. Not  when he was still locked tight in his own sorrow, his own grief.

"I only got Bree's letter last week and rang her mom straightaway. I'm here to help with Ruby."                       


"The child already has a carer, her grandmother."

"Yes, but Catherine needs surgery, Raoul. She can't keep putting her  knee replacement off, especially now that Ruby is getting more active."

"I told her to find a nanny if she needed to."

"And I understand you rejected every résumé she presented to you. That  you wouldn't even agree to interview any of the applicants."

He shrugged. "They weren't good enough."

Alexis felt her temper begin to rise. Catherine had been beside herself  with worry over what to do. The osteoarthritis in her knee caused  constant pain and made looking after a small child more difficult every  day. She needed the surgery as soon as possible, but that meant Ruby  absolutely had to have a new caretaker. By refusing to look at the  résumés, Raoul was ignoring his responsibilities-to his daughter, to her  grandmother and to Bree's memory. He looked at her again, harder this  time. What on earth was going on behind those hazel eyes of his?

"And what about me? Am I good enough?"

"No," he answered emphatically. "Definitely not."

She pushed aside the hurt his blunt refusal triggered.

"Why? You know I'm qualified-I have experience caring for little ones."

"You're a dressmaker now, though, aren't you? Hardly what the child needs."

Wow, he was really on form with the insults, wasn't he, she thought.  Dressmaker? Well, yes, she still made some of her signature designs but  for the most part she outsourced the work now. She'd trained as a nanny  when she'd left school, and had completed a full year intensive academic  and practical experience program because her parents had been opposed  to her trying to make a career following her artistic talent alone. But  three years ago, when her last contract had finished, she'd realized it  was time to follow her dream. That dream was now coming to fruition with  her clothing label being distributed to high-end boutiques around the  country and in various hot spots around the world. But Raoul didn't care  about any of that.

"I've arranged cover for my business," she said, sending a silent  prayer of thanks to her half sister, Tamsyn, for stepping into the  breach. "Catherine's already hired me, Raoul."

"I'm unhiring you."

Alexis sighed. Bree's mom had said he might be difficult. She hadn't been kidding.

"Don't you think it's better that Ruby be cared for by someone who knew  her mother, who knows her family, rather than by a total stranger?"

"I don't care."

His words struck at her heart but she knew them for a lie. The truth was he cared too much.

"Catherine is packing Ruby's things up now and bringing them over. She  thought it best if she settled here from tonight rather than having me  pick up Ruby in the morning."

Raoul's face visibly paled. "I said no, dammit! No to you as her nanny, and definitely no to either of you living here."

"Her surgery is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Ruby can't stay at  her grandmother's house any longer. She needs to be home, with you."

Raoul pushed shaking fingers through hair cut close to his  scalp-shorter than she'd ever seen it before. His hand dropped back down  again and she watched as he gathered himself together, his fingers  curling into tight fists as if he was holding on by a thread.

"Just keep her away from me."

Alexis blinked in shock. Catherine had said Raoul had little to do with  his nine-month-old daughter aside from meeting the financial  requirements of her care. But despite the warning, Alexis couldn't come  to terms with what she'd been told. Ruby had been born out of love  between two wonderful people who'd had the world at their feet when  they'd married only two and a half years ago. She'd attended their  wedding herself. Seen with her own eyes how much they'd adored one  another and, to her shame, had been stricken with envy. That Raoul  virtually ignored Ruby's existence was so terribly sad. Did he blame the  little girl for her mother's death? Or could he just not bear the  constant reminder of how he had lost the love he and Bree had shared?                       


Alexis forced herself to nod in response to his demand and started back  up the unsealed lane from the winery toward the house-a large  multiroomed masterpiece that sprawled across the top of the hill.  Catherine had already given her a key along with a hefty supply of  groceries and baby products. She'd need to put everything away before  Catherine arrived with Ruby.