Seventeen years ago, Lily had the perfect life -- loving parents and grandparents, a best friend and a boy she thought loved her. An explosion and a disastrous decision blew it all away.
She endures her estranged husband's brutality in order to protect her six children and paraplegic grandmother, hiding her bruises and terror as best she can. Her family will be safe, even if it means shrinking their world into a very small space.
Alex has been trying to figure Lily out since he returned to town. His teaching job has not only allowed him to get to know her kids as he floats from school to school teaching them music, it's given him a reason to reconnect with Lily.
However, the new persona he created is all she sees. In her eyes, the boy he was has ceased to exist. Will Alex's love save or destroy her family?
"I'm sorry, Lily."
She searched his face, and he didn't buckle under her scrutiny. There was something about those eyes, something that grabbed her and wouldn't let go. Something that made her feel safe and weak all at once.
"For what exactly? For my marrying the wrong man or for having the power to make me tell you things I refuse to tell anyone else?"
"Both, I guess."
"You are a puzzle, Alex Anderson."
"Not at all. My agenda is clear."
She shivered. Her breath came in gasps as he leaned closer to her, and her heart beat out of control.
"Aren't you going to ask me what that agenda is?"
"I'm not sure I want to know," she whispered.
He surprised her by sitting up straight and offering her a wide smile. "You make very good tea."
"You think I'm a coward?" She stared at her hands. There were tears in her voice, and she felt ashamed.
"Oh, no, Lily." He put his glass down on the island, stood, and moved to stand in front of her. Sliding his hands along the side of her face, she felt his warmth flowing into her. Putting pressure on her chin with the pads of his thumbs, he raised her eyes to his. "You're the bravest woman I've ever known."
She scoffed. "You don't have a clue what kind of woman I am."
"You're wrong." The sudden pain in his eyes shocked her to her very core, and the need to comfort him was jarring. His voice when he continued was gentle, quiet, and intense. "I know you. I always have."
With those words, he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, soft, non-threatening, comforting and strengthening. Her eyes followed him as he picked up his glass, walked to the sink, rinsed it out, then headed to the door. As he opened the door, he slipped the lock on the doorknob.
"Get some rest. I'll see you Monday." With that, he closed the door behind him.
Lily remained frozen in her chair despite a devastating urge to run after him and beg him to stay. What was it about this man that made her feel so secure? By all rights and purposes, she'd only really met him this afternoon. He was a virtual stranger.
And why didn't she send him away? After all, once he found out all the truths in her life, he'd leave anyway.