palmGenevieve shook her head, pushing out a frustrated breath through her pursed lips. “Wow…” she lifted an incredulous gaze to the two solemn-faced men before her after Jonathan drifted off in speech. “That is a very heartbreaking story.” Her eyes lifted over his shoulder to the two sisters still sitting on the porch. “And to think, you could’ve found her eight years ago if you’d come to the island.”

“It didn’t occur to us at the time,” Marcus answered wryly, glancing over to where his wife and sister-in-law sat in companionable silence, or at least that was what it looked like from his point of view. Their identical stances, their narrow shoulders faced him, their gazes cast in front of them as if frozen in time.

Jonathan shook his head. “I didn’t dare believe she would survive the storm.” He heaved a sigh, lowering his gaze to his feet. “I failed to find her and just gave up.”

Genevieve’s brow furrowed at his broad shoulders bowed in defeat. His voice, though still unfamiliar, had a hint of resignation and she bit her bottom lip, wondering if he was giving up on Ameya now. She winced, correcting her friend’s real name in her mind. Her eyes shifted back to Ameya—Hannah sitting with her twin sister and shook her head. “It never occurred to me that anyone was looking for her…” she whispered, her throat tightening as her eyes stung. She blinked, gripping the edge of the counter.

As if she could hear them talking about her, Ameya shifted her gaze behind her and both Marcus and Genevieve stiffened, though their gazes never left her. Then she averted her eyes back to stare in front of her. Except this time, Tampa’s head turned to her and Marcus could see his wife’s brows lift in silent response.

They watched as Tampa slowly and carefully rose to her feet, placing a supporting hand on her swollen stomach as she waddled toward the door. Marcus was by the wall in seconds and held out a hand toward her. She waved him off and brushed past him toward Jonathan who was still staring at his feet. “Quit moping, Jon. She wants to talk to you.”

Jonathan’s eyes flew up to Tampa’s face before lifting to Marcus’. With a furtive nod of silent encouragement from his brother-in-law, the tall man stepped around Tampa and started for the door, in hesitant and measured steps.

Genevieve shook her head as she watched Jonathan slowly approach Ameya who was still sitting on the porch floor. She could only imagine what her friend was thinking but hoped the woman would give this reserved, penitent man a chance to explain. Dragging her eyes away to give the couple privacy, she turned to the uncanny pair before her with a gentle smile. “Would you like something to drink, Ms—?”

Tampa lifted her eyes to Genevieve and the perturbed lines on her brow smoothened instantly. “Please call me Tampa. You must be Gene, my sister’s friend and neighbor…” She stepped over to her side of the counter and rested her hands there, beaming at Genevieve. “Do you mind telling me about this Ameya?”

Genevieve blinked, taken aback by this woman with Ameya’s face. She then grinned, deciding that she liked the bold, assertive woman and nodded. “Sure, what do you want to know?”

Silence engulfed the space between them and Jonathan uncurled his fingers in one swift move, his throat drying with every moment stretched without a word from Hannah. He stood there, staring at her stiff back facing him and forced himself to stay where he was, even though everything in him wanted to close the distance between them and sweep her in his arms.

Then she released a haggard, shaky breath and everything in Jonathan’s mind fled, leaving a deep sense of uncertainty within him. Suddenly he felt as though he was twenty-one years ago, facing her back in the courtyard of their college campus, rehearsing a way to get her attention again.

“I don’t remember you.”

Jonathan blinked rapidly, pushing his nostalgic memories in the back of his mind. He swallowed hard at the empty feeling at the pit of his stomach. He knew she didn’t and couldn’t picture him in his mind. Had heard it all from both Warren and Francis that Hannah had suffered from amnesia and couldn’t recall her life before the storm. All of him mourned that nothing he could do or say could bring back that familiar glint in her eyes whenever she gazed up at him. “I know…” he croaked, frowning at the beaten wooden floor beneath his feet.

She shifted her shoulders and peered up at him with those brown eyes of hers, her lips pursed in thought. “How long?” Her brow furrowed deeply. “I mean, how long did you know it was me…?” She shook her head and pushed out a frustrated breath, swiftly turning away from him. “I can’t do this.”

Jonathan blinked at her, feeling his whole body tense up. What did she mean?

Ameya lifted a hand and pushed it through her braided hair. “She wanted me to let you speak but I’m… afraid of what you’ll say. What this will mean.” She laughed bitterly. “After all these years, not knowing anything about my past and suddenly, you…”

At the break of her voice, Jonathan found the courage to step forward. He took the spot Tampa had once occupied and pulled his legs in front of him, letting it hang over the porch ledge. “Ask me anything you want…” he encouraged gently.

Ameya jerked her glare to his face, blinking at his profile. Her eyes traced his strong jaw line, his straight pert nose and chiseled features. She shook her head incredulously, not understanding how she’d never noticed the uncanny resemblance of this man to her son. Her eyes stung with pent-up tears and she dragged her eyes away. “I don’t have any questions… not right now.”

Jonathan nodded slowly. “Should I explain?”

“Can you?”

He smiled wryly. “I can try.”

“Go for it then. You’ve nothing to lose.”

Unfortunately, I do. Jonathan felt his heart skip a beat at the sorrowful thought of Hannah not wanting to hear him, or worse, refusing to believe him. He closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “We were in Martinique. On a mission trip. You were only a few months pregnant when we arrived there and we were happy.” He dared to smile, recalling her gentle adoring smile before going off to the villagers, her stethoscope and doctor’s bag in tow. “Everyone loved you, wished you’d stay there forever… It wasn’t until your eighth month that we decided we’d head back to Houston. To the family.” His smile waned. “There was a storm that came in unexpectedly…”

Ameya’s brow furrowed as her body shivered inadvertently and she lifted her gaze to the darkening sky as the sun had already begun its slow descent behind the mountains. She drew in her lips and held her breath as she listened to Jonathan’s solemn voice recant a past she couldn’t recognize.

“You wanted to see about the villagers, I wanted us to go to the embassy to wait out the storm…” He frowned, hating the helplessness in his tone and the slight bitterness that she didn’t listen to him then, ignoring his blatant pleas to stay with him. He swallowed hard against the lump lodged in his throat.

Her eyes shifted to his face and she frowned deeper. “You’re saying that I purposely left you?”

Jonathan’s eyes jerked to hers and the rest of his words hung on his tongue at the look on her face. A look of pain and betrayal. Disbelief. He bit the inside of his cheek, realizing the truth after all these years. “No… I didn’t come after you.” He lowered his eyes to her right hand splayed on the wooden floor beside his own, and swallowed hard. “I shouldn’t have just sat there and waited for you to return. I should’ve gone with you. I should’ve stayed with you until you were ready to return.”

“Nonsense.”

He quickly looked up at her, losing a breath at the look of regret in her eyes.

“If I’m anything like I was eight years ago… I probably made it hard for you to change my mind or come with me.” She shook her head, looking away from him. “It’s hard to believe it, that I was married.”

Was. Jonathan pushed back the painful pangs in his chest, keeping his eyes on her. Eight years had passed and whether he wanted to admit it or not, this woman wasn’t Hannah. Sure she was as bullheaded and bold as his wife, but this woman had something he could not recognize. Eight years of living as a single woman, with a different dream that didn’t include him.

“Tomas,” she spoke up, tugging his attention back to her. Ameya turned to face him, her eyes full of regret. “He’s your son.”

The corner of his lips lifted as he pictured the beautiful son they’d created together. “I know…” His smile widened as his gray eyes swept over her face. “Thank you.”

Ameya bit the inside of her cheek to keep the tears from falling at the look of gratitude and relief that crossed his handsome face. She felt her body warm under his gray gaze and managed to nod. “He’s my treasure…” her voice broke as a tear slid down her cheek.

Jonathan’s fingers twitched, wanting desperately to pull her into his arms but he was afraid that she would turn away and worse, close her heart to him. “I know…”

Sniffing, Ameya blinked back amid the tears to look up at him. “Do you…” she drew in a breath and mustered up what was left of her courage. “…want to meet him?”

Having been holding his breath, Jonathan choked against the air caught in his throat as he gaped at the woman he loved. The tears gathered in his eyes as he pulled a smile. “I would like that…”

<<Part 32 || Part 34>>

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