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Abigail has been separated from her husband for almost two years. After a marriage that brought her only insecurity, she seeks a life now of peace and independence with their six-year-old daughter. Thomas wants to put their marriage back together, because he liked the wife he used to have, but she never wants to be that person again.
She might need his help with their daughter and start to enjoy his company again, but she just can't trust him with her heart. Even when she discovers that her heart still wants him for a husband.
She looked perfectly respectable for dinner and the symphony for a work function—and nothing like the plain, shy girl she used to be—so she grabbed her purse and headed to the living room.
“Ooh!” Mia squealed at her arrival. “Mommy looks beautiful!”
“Thank you, sweetie.” Abigail ran her hands down her skirt absently, feeling suddenly self-conscious at Thomas’s steady gaze. His face showed no expression, but she knew he missed no detail of her appearance.
“Just in time,” Thomas said, glancing at his watch. “Seven o’clock. I didn’t know you took such long showers.”
Abigail felt her cheeks burning, but she managed not to react in any other way. There was absolutely no way Thomas could know what she’d been thinking about in the shower. “Thanks for coming over early to sit with Mia while I got ready,” she said, pleased when her voice sounded natural.
“I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but it will be late since we’re going to Dalton.” She glanced outside and saw headlights turning into the driveway of her little bungalow. “That’s Jim. He’s picking me up, and then we’ll pick up the Seymours.”
“I see.” Thomas’s voice was strange, but she didn’t know why.
“All right,” Abigail said in a rush, feeling anxious and self-conscious and at loose ends. “You be good, Mia. Obey your Daddy and go to bed when he says. Eight o’clock.” She said the words with a certain significance to remind Thomas of the girl’s bedtime. “And you can read until nine.”
“I know, Mommy.”
“There are snacks in the kitchen,” Abigail went on. “And I’ll have my phone on vibrate the whole time, so just call me any time if you need me.”
“I know, Abigail,” Thomas said, his mouth twitching up a little.
“Okay.” She glanced down at herself to make sure she had everything she needed. Then she told Mia, “I’ll give you your goodnight kiss now, since you’ll be asleep when I get back.”
She leaned down to kiss Mia, and she was about to leave when Mia said, “You didn’t give Baxter his kiss!”
Abigail hurried back over, flustered by the way Thomas’s eyes never left her face. She kissed Baxter. “All right. You be good and have fun.”
Then she kissed Mia again. “Mommy loves you.”
“I love you, Mommy.”
Rushed and thoughtless, Abigail moved to give Thomas a quick kiss on the lips in sequence. “I’ll be back after midnight probably.”
With a last wave, she left the living room. As she was reaching for the handle of the front door, she heard Mia’s giggle rippling out from the other room.
She paused, wondering what had prompted her daughter to laugh like that.
Then Abigail realized.
She’d just kissed Thomas. On the lips. Without even thinking about it.
With a gasp, Abigail whirled around and took a few steps back, with some sort of half-formed notion to try to explain.
But she caught sight of Thomas and Mia on the couch.
Mia was shaking with merriment, her hands covering her mouth. And Thomas had one finger to his lips as he smiled at his daughter, in the universal signal to keep quiet.
Overwhelmed with confusion, Abigail fled.
It was no big deal. She’d just been in a rush and hadn’t been thinking. Mia probably thought it was funny. She couldn’t let it bother her now.
It had been a really long time since kissing Thomas had been natural.
Noelle handwrote her first romance novel in a spiral-bound notebook when she was twelve, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She has lived in eight different states and currently resides in Virginia, where she teaches English, reads any book she can get her hands on, and offers tribute to a very spoiled cocker spaniel.
She loves travel, art, history, and ice cream. After spending far too many years of her life in graduate school, she has decided to reorient her priorities and focus on writing contemporary romances.
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