It was a defense. Mitch Donovan was hired by her father-in-law about a year after Maya and Stu’s wedding, and since she’d had no complaints about the guard he replaced, she didn’t understand why she needed someone new. The head of the Evans security team introduced her to him on a day Stu traveled for work. Mr. Donovan would be available whenever she or the younger Mr. Evans wanted to step out, and here were his pager and cell numbers. Mitch had been reluctant to shake her hand, which she’d found offensive until it happened, at which point she was overwhelmed by a sense of grief so acute her knees buckled. Mitch grasped her elbow to steady her, support she quickly shrugged off in her embarrassment.
“It’s just... you remind me of someone,” she blurted after a lengthy, uncomfortable pause. And he did. Something about his eyes, and a sheen of vitality she associated with a family she used to socialize with back in North Carolina, the Blakes. The likeness was superficial, but it made her horribly homesick, and if possible, even sadder over her empty, soul-sucking marriage.
Maya realized everyone was waiting for her to explain her strange greeting, or maybe they simply hoped she’d resolve the awkwardness she’d created. Sweat bloomed on her forehead and she became aware of the shallow, insufficient breaths she took, which she worried were too loud. She felt unanchored and bizarre and very much hoped she didn’t look it. She checked Mitch’s expression. It did not encourage her.
Her lack of composure was obvious. Worse, she felt like Mitch had shone a spotlight on her most private fears, ones she preferred to pretend she didn’t have and most definitely wanted to keep hidden.
Her marriage was disappointing and unlikely to improve. Her absorbing career was no more than a convenient place to hide. And if she couldn’t achieve happiness with an M.D. under her belt and marriage to a beautiful, wealthy man, something was very, very wrong with her.
And there it was, dang it, the path to the ultimate no-no of all her memories: Aiden. It was Mitch’s fault for bringing him to mind, she decided, since he looked at her in the same penetrating way and exhibited the same physical markers. Aiden symbolized all her missteps up to now, his name synonymous with the more unpleasant consequences of her running away – from him and North Carolina and all the possibly destructive super-secrets he wore like a cloying aftershave. With just a glance in Mitch’s direction, Maya saw starkly the unhappiness of her future as Mrs. Evans, understood too well what she didn’t and never would have with Stu.
She despised Aiden – or at least, she wanted to – for stealing her peace of mind so thoroughly after her wedding, she’d never regained it. That awful dance at the reception, where every second felt like an accusation. His recriminations, issued without actual speech, were like an internal battering ram ripping through her insides from the center of her liver. This marriage is a lie you cannot turn into truth. I’m the one you wanted. You’ve made a terrible mistake. When Mitch Donovan shook her hand, his touch was a direct transmission line to the whole, miserable litany.
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