Nora’s eyes darted to the scar.
“Yeah, that was from the fight.” Eli muttered a curse. “We tore that bar up fighting and my face met the glass on a mirror.”
Over her. Nora couldn’t imagine the fact that halfway around the world those two men had been fighting over her.
“I told him if he didn’t come clean with you, then I would.” Eli raked his hands through his hair and met her gaze. “I hated the thought of you being hurt, Nora, but I also knew you deserved to know. He swore he’d tell you, and when he came home on leave I assumed he was going to. By the time he came back, my tour was nearly up and he told me not to say anything. That he was writing you a letter because he couldn’t do it face-to-face.”
Nora bit her lip, trying to keep her emotions under control.
A tear slipped down his cheek. The image of this big strong man, a man who’d fought in a war, a man who cared for wounded and dying, was crying…for her, for them.
“I’ve decided to leave at the end of dad’s medical leave,” he went on, swiping the tear as if it meant nothing. “There’s a job I’ve been waiting to hear on in Atlanta and I just found out I got it.”
The very last thread of hope in Nora died. She hadn’t even realized she’d come here with the minuscule light left in her heart, but now that it had been doused with his words, she felt even more empty than before.
“Um… That’s great,” she told him. “Congratulations.”
He nodded, his eyes not quite meeting hers. “Thanks.”
She stared at him, waiting for him to say something, to say he was joking and he didn’t mean to hurt her…anything. He remained silent.
Nora wrung her hands together before turning toward the chair by the door to get her coat. She needed to get out of here, needed distance and needed to realize that her life with Eli was officially over. There was no third chance and this second chance had been blown to pieces so small only slivers remained.
Just as she reached for her scarf, Eli’s strong hands gripped her shoulders.
“Fight for us, damn it.” His words were thick with emotion and she knew if she turned she’d see those tears back in his eyes. “If this is what you want, fight.”
Nora dropped her head into her hands and sobbed as Eli pulled her back against his hard chest. His hands came around to rest on her stomach.
“I know I hurt you, Nora. I know you feel betrayed, but I swear on my life, I did it out of love.” His fingers spread over her belly as the baby started moving. “But you hurt me, too, when you said I was capable of infidelity. You know, deep down, that I’m not. I could never even look at another woman when you are all that I’ve ever wanted.”
Along with the warmth of being surrounded by Eli’s powerful touch, his words fueled her with a promise that maybe this second chance wasn’t dead. Maybe they both had to fight.
“I don’t think you’d be unfaithful,” she whispered between sniffs. “I was hurting so bad I wanted you to hurt, too.”
“I love you.” He took her shoulders and turned her around. Sure enough, tears swam in his eyes. “There’s no fancy way to say it. I love you because I want to give everything to you. I want to take care of you. Love isn’t about what you get in return, but what you give, and there was no way I was going to give you more heartache than you’d already experienced.”
He was wrong—there was a fancy way to say I love you and he’d just delivered it in a nicely wrapped package.
Nora’s fingertips trailed over the scar. “You let everyone think you got this overseas.”
Hand hovering over his face, she smiled. “But you got it because of me.”
Taking her hand, he kissed her palm and laid it back over the scar. “And I’d do it all again. I’d fight for you every day of my life, Nora. You can’t possibly know the love I feel for you. You can’t even fathom how my heart was so empty when I was away from you for all those years because I can’t even find words to describe it.”