Against the Heart(34)By: Kat Martin
Frosted glass wall sconces dimly lit the passage as he walked along, original, not part of a remodel of the residential wing done a few years back, before the last owner moved out and left the area.
The four bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs on this side of the building weren’t fancy but they were livable while he worked on the rest of the lodge. The master suite had been updated, but it wasn’t the way he wanted it yet. Eventually, he would rebuild this section as well, bring it all up to the four-star standard he’d had in mind when he had purchased the property.
Dylan paused at the door to Emily’s room, quietly turned the knob and eased it open. His daughter lay beneath the quilt that his housekeeper, Winifred Henry, had made for her as a Christmas gift, princesses and unicorns embroidered in puffy little pink and white squares, all hand-stitched to fit her youth-size four-poster bed.
His gaze went to the child. Emily had the same dark hair and blue eyes that marked her a Brodie, but her complexion was as pale as her mother’s. Unlike Mariah’s perfect patrician features, Emily’s mouth was a little too wide, her small nose freckled across the bridge.
She was awake, he saw, her eyes fixed on the antique rocker near the window. It was just her size, fashioned of oak and intricately carved. She loved the old chair that had been in the lodge when he bought it.
Emily never sat in it, but she was fascinated by the way the wind made it rock on its own. Dylan found it slightly eerie, the way it moved back and forth as if some invisible occupant sat in the little chair. She was watching it now, her lips curved in the faintest of smiles. She mumbled something he couldn’t quite hear and Dylan’s chest clamped down.
It hurt to watch his little girl, see her in the make-believe world she now lived in, forming silent phrases, nothing he could actually hear.
Emily hadn’t spoken a single audible phrase since her mother had abandoned her three years ago. Not a meaningful word since the night Mariah Brodie had run off with another man.
Dylan’s hand unconsciously fisted. Maybe he hadn’t been the husband Mariah wanted. Maybe he’d been too wrapped up in trying to make a life in the harsh Alaskan wilderness he loved. Maybe he hadn’t paid her enough attention.
Maybe he just hadn’t loved her enough.
Guilt slipped through him. He never should have married her. He should have known she would never be able to adjust to the life he lived here. Still, it didn’t excuse her cruel abandonment of their daughter. An abandonment Emily had not been able to cope with.
Dylan forced himself to walk into the bedroom. Emily’s eyes swung to his, but she didn’t smile, just stared at him in that penetrating way that made his stomach churn.
“Em, honey, are you okay?” She didn’t answer, as he knew she wouldn’t. “It’s just the wind. The lodge is old. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Emily’s gaze went to the window, where a lone pine branch shifted restlessly against the sill. Ignoring him as if he weren’t there, she snuggled back into her pillow and closed her eyes. She blamed him for the loss of her mother, he knew. It was the only explanation for why she had withdrawn from him so completely.
Tucking the quilt a little closer beneath her chin, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. The wind picked up as he walked out of the bedroom and eased the door closed. Emily was his to watch over and protect, his to care for and comfort. But he had lost his daughter three years ago.
When he had driven her mother away.
Lane Bishop stepped off the Alaska Airlines flight at the Ketchikan International Airport. When she had finally agreed to make the trip from L.A., she’d been surprised to discover that the journey—two and half hours to Seattle, then two hours on to Ketchikan—was shorter than a flight to New York.
Alaska had always seemed so far away, so remote. And yet she had always wanted to see it.
Of course, she had never imagined she would accept Dylan Brodie’s offer and take a job helping him remodel the old fishing lodge he had purchased in the middle of God-only-knew-where, Alaska—even if it was a challenge she found hard to resist.
As the owner of Modern Design, an interior design studio in Beverly Hills, Lane had done a number of log homes, ski chalets, and exclusive rural getaways for the rich and famous. But a nineteen-thirties fishing lodge, old and handcrafted, on a bay in the Inland Passage pushed every hot button she had.
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