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When Dreams Come True
By Margaret Daley
Steeple HillCopyright © 2006 Margaret Daley
All right reserved.
"Mommy! There's a man here to see ya!" Mandy Witherspoon yelled.
With a shake of her head, Zoey Witherspoon dried her hands on a towel. "Mom, I don't know how many times I've told that child never to open the door to a stranger. Will she ever learn to listen?"
Emma Bradford laughed. "You should have seen you at that age. You want me to see who it is?"
"No, I will, then have a word with my daughter. It's a good thing we live in a safe, small town."Already headed toward the kitchen door, Zoey glanced at the clock over the desk and realized how late the hour was. Who would be visiting right before the children's bedtime?
When Zoey stepped into the foyer and saw a tall, thin man through the screen, she held back the scream that demanded release. She blinked. Her eyes had to be playing tricks on her. But when she focused on the man again, she realized the impossible had occurred.
The pounding of her heart threatened to squeeze the air from her lungs. Slowly she moved toward the front door, past her daughter. "Mandy, go help your grandmother clean up."
The sound of her daughter racing toward the kitchen faded, and all Zoey heard was the thundering beat of her heart pulsating in her ears. She opened the screen door to get a better look at the man on her front porch.
Her eyes slidclosed. It can't be Dane. Zoey braced herself with a deep, fortifying breath and opened her eyes to stare at the man who had returned from the dead. She took the few steps separating them and laid her hand on his chest to feel the strong beat of his heart against her palm, to assess what she was seeing was real — very real. Then without a word, she threw herself into his embrace.
He kissed the top of her head, then her forehead and finally her lips. A brief, searing touch of their mouths that left Zoey even more shaken. The warmth of his body emphasized how alive her husband was.
Finally pulling away and looking up into the face that had haunted her dreams for the past two-and-a-half years, she whispered her husband's name, "Dane."
"They told me you were dead. I —" No other words came to mind. Releasing the doorknob that she'd clutched so tightly to keep herself upright, she stepped back to allow him into the house.
"They were wrong." One corner of his mouth lifted in a self-mocking grin that didn't stay long.
Tears welled into her eyes at the sight of him. He was thin, almost gaunt. His face was clean shaven, but she could tell that he'd worn a beard until recently. His black hair was cut short and sprinkled with strands of gray now, even though he was only thirty-eight. Before he had left on his last assignment he had never had any gray. But the most startling difference in her husband was his eyes. When she looked into them, she saw nothing of the man she'd known and loved. For a brief moment she'd glimpsed a vulnerability in his eyes that he would never have allowed to show in the past. A shiver flashed down her spine as she realized he was a stranger to her.
Standing in the middle of her foyer in her home in Sweetwater, she swallowed several times, feeling as lost as he had been to her. "What happened, Dane?" she asked, her words thick with the tears she was frantic to keep bottled inside. She'd fallen apart once before — when she'd heard the news of his death. It had taken so long to claw her way out of the emotional abyss she'd wallowed in. She vowed then she would never put herself in that position again. She had more than herself to think about.
"As you know, the plane crashed over the Amazon. I was lucky. I was thrown from the plane when it hit the trees. The Xinga tribe saw the fire from the crash, found me unconscious and nursed me back to health." A shutter dropped over his features. "I didn't know who I was until recently."
The thought of what he must have gone through threatened to overwhelm her. She again touched his arm, weaved her fingers through his as though that link would solidify her dream of her husband returning to her and the children. He still stood in the foyer. This was no vision, but reality. "You had amnesia?"
Dane sidestepped away from her touch and turned into the living room. He sought a chair and sat as though he physically couldn't stand any longer. "Yes. For a long time I only had glimpses of my life, but nothing to help me piece together who I was."
"How about the other two people in the plane?" She sat across from him, her own weariness after a long day at work catching up with her.
"From what the Xingas told me, because I was thrown from the plane, I was saved. The pilot and Bob Patterson weren't. There was little left of the plane, only bits and pieces that had broken off from the main body before it caught on fire." He released a heavy sigh. "I know you have a lot of questions, but I'd rather not go into the details right now."
"But, Dane —"
"Please," he cut in, his blue eyes continuing to convey that vulnerability she never would have associated with her husband. "I realize when I left we were talking about separating, but I hope I can stay here for a while. I need..." His voice trailed off into silence.
"Of course," she said to fill the awkwardness that had descended. There would be time later to discuss what had happened between them right before he'd gone on his last assignment, to talk about what he had gone through the past two-and-a-half years. "Blake has grown a lot. He's going to be tall like you. In fact, he's the spitting image of you."
"Oh, that's too bad," Dane said with a lopsided grin that she'd often thought of as cocky, but not now.
"And Mandy will be so excited when she realizes that it was you in the foyer." Zoey paused to catch her breath. "She just didn't recognize you. She was so young when you... disappeared."
A soft expression entered his eyes. "She looks like you. She's beautiful."
Zoey peered away. There was so much she needed to tell him, so much she needed to understand. "There's something else."
He straightened, one brow arching. "We have another daughter, Tara. She was born seven months after you —" Zoey paused for a few seconds, having almost said died " — left."
The wonder in his voice tore at Zoey's defenses. Tears burned her eyes. She'd shed so many that first year Dane had been gone. How could there possibly be any left?
"Yes, that's one of the reasons I came back to Sweetwater." And the fact I hated living in Dallas, lost in the crowd of people with no family there as support. She remembered the struggle to pull herself together after Dane had disappeared. For years her life had revolved around him until she wasn't even sure there had been a Zoey Witherspoon, a person independent from her husband. She didn't want to get tangled up in that kind of pain ever again.
"So much has changed. I can't believe I have three..." Silence snatched the rest of his sentence.
Zoey waited for Dane to continue. She needed him to tell her more, to share with her what he was feeling, thinking. He surged to his feet and began to pace as though he were an animal confined to a small cage and checking out his domain.
That was the Dane she was used to — the man who shut her out of his life, who kept secrets from her because of his job in the DEA, who was driven by a restless energy. Please, Heavenly Father, help me to be strong.
Zoey leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands together. "Does your boss know you're alive?"
Shocked by his answer, Zoey asked in a voice laden with budding anger, "Why didn't Carl let me know you were?"
"I told him not to. I wanted to be the one to tell you face to face. I didn't think it was something that should be handled over the phone or by a stranger appearing at your door. Too impersonal."
"What are your plans, Dane?"
He stopped his pacing, tension coming off him in waves. "Would you believe I don't have any plans at the moment?"
That was hard to believe because her husband had always been so focused. "How about your job at the DEA?"
He raked his hand through his short hair. "I don't know. Carl told me to take some time off and we'd talk when I've fully recovered. He encouraged me to get reacquainted with my family."
Excerpted from When Dreams Come True by Margaret Daley Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Daley. Excerpted by permission.
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