Matt – Flashback
“I want to show you something,” Matt told her.
Shay’s eyes landed on the hand he stretched out to her, and then looked up from under her lashes at him with eyes that took his breath away each time he saw them.
She looked absolutely beautiful in the dress Rowan had chosen for her. The pale green looked lovely with her ivory skin, and the short, flowing skirt showed off her legs. The square neckline framed her delicate shoulders, and Matt quickly tore his gaze away.
He was relieved to see that Shay hadn’t noticed.
She slowly extended her own hand and placed it in his with a smile.
His fingers folded over the soft skin of her hand and held aside giant, protruding leaves for her with his other hand as he led her through the dense garden.
“Where are we going?” she asked, laughing in delight as he pulled her along.
“You’ll see!” he called back.
They crossed a wooden bridge that extended over a clear rippling pond. Shay peered over the edge at the bright orange and white fish circling below. They stepped down onto a stone path and followed it until they reached a low trimmed hedge that surrounded a beautiful flowering plant.
Matt stepped aside and turned to see her reaction.
Shay lifted a hand to her lips and stared in awe at the flower ahead of her. She took a few steps closer until she was leaning over the hedge, and she brushed her fingers against the plum petals that faded to white at the tips.
“They don’t grow anywhere else in the world except here on this island,” Matt said. He was sure a flush rose to his cheeks as he added sheepishly, “I can’t remember the name though.”
“Oh, Matt. They’re beautiful,” Shay whispered. Her eyes sparkled as she looked up at him.
A smile stretched across Matt’s face. “I thought you’d like it. If you want, I can have one of the servants arrange a vase for you to keep some of them in your room.”
Shay suddenly threw her arms around his neck, and Matt stumbled back in surprise, frozen momentarily in her embrace. “I’d love that!”
He cautiously lifted his arms to hug her back. Her tiny, warm body fit snugly against his, and he wanted to keep her there forever. The feel of her silky hair against his cheek was enough to make his chest ache. “I’m glad.”
“Thank you,” Shay murmured into his shoulder.
Shay pulled back and turned to look at the flowers again, crossing her arms over her chest as she admired them with a slightly tilted head. “They really are beautiful.”
“Hmm?” she asked without turning back to look at him. Matt hesitated, and she glanced back over her shoulder. A troubled look crossed her face. “What’s wrong?”
He didn’t understand how she could be so concerned for him after everything he’d done to her. God help me, I love her, Matt thought. He swallowed. “Do you think . . . you could ever love me?”
She winced. “Matt—”
“If Jack weren’t in the picture . . . If we had met and dated like a normal human couple . . . Do you think you could have loved me?”
He expected a flat out no, but Shay’s mouth opened as if she were going to speak, and then closed again as she found no words. She cast a glance down at the ground and tightened the arms around her chest. “I don’t know,” she whispered.
“I just wish,” he said, “that I could be good enough for you.”
Shay’s head shot up, shaking fervently from side to side. “Oh, no, Matt! Don’t say that!”
“But it’s true. You deserve someone brave, someone who will fight for what he believes in,” Matt told her. “There aren’t many things in this world that I would fight for, but you . . . you’re one of them. And I wish that I could make you happy, and I wish that I could give you everything you want and more, but I can’t. And you deserve better.”
“Matt . . .” she said, and he glanced over at her pitifully. “If Jack weren’t in the picture . . . If we had met and dated like a normal human couple . . . I would love you . . . just the way you are.”
He examined her face closely for a moment, from the way her eyes seemed to glisten with tears that hadn’t quite formed to the way her mouth spoke each word slowly and precisely.
Her words were true, and for him, that was enough.
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