Jayden shook his head. Sorrow threatened to swallow him up whole. More than ever, he now had to come to terms with the fact that something wonderful was slipping through his fingers. “I can’t say that I don’t love her. If I did, it would be the biggest lie of all time. I love her, Derrick. I always have, and I know I always will. But I let her slip through my fingers. I blew it,” he said, running his hand across his jaw. “And don’t worry, little brother. I know that I’m going to regret it for the rest of my days.”
Kit pulled into the driveway of the winter cabin she and Jayden had purchased a few years ago in the quaint town of Dove, Colorado. The drive from
Hope Valley had been serene. It had allowed her the opportunity to simply relax and reflect. She’d placed a jazz CD in the player and hummed along to it the entire time. Normally this time of year Kit was up to her elbows in upbeat holiday music. She couldn’t bring herself to do it this year. Who wanted to listen to songs about people rocking around the Christmas tree or snuggling up under the mistletoe?
As she stepped out of her car, Kit took a moment to drink in the sight of the winter cabin. It was stunningly beautiful. Located on Cascade Road, it was located next to a forest, lending it the look of something from a fairytale. Mountains loomed in the distance. A recent snowfall had dusted the roof of the cabin with snow. Years ago, she and Jayden had painted the door a bright red color. A burst of color amid the snow. It gave the cottage a bold look, despite its cozy appearance.
It was two days before Christmas, Kit thought with a sigh as she pulled her luggage to the front door and juggled her possessions as she searched for her keys. After locating it, she put the key in the door and turned it, pushing her way inside. The moment she crossed the threshold, the scent of pine assaulted her senses. Following the smell, Kit let out a gasp as she laid eyes on a huge Christmas tree sitting in the living room. Although there were no ornaments gracing the branches, Kit truly appreciated the gesture.
“It’s gorgeous,” she said, knowing immediately that their caretaker, Jim Sampson, was responsible for the tree. Sampson, who was in his mid-sixties, was a local resident who supported himself after retirement by caretaking several homes in the area.
Kit carried her luggage toward the bedroom and stopped abruptly in the doorway. She hadn’t been prepared for the sight of the mahogany sleigh bed with the beautifully sewn Queen- sized quilt which had been lovingly made for them by Jayden’s mother, Janice. Suddenly it felt as if giant hands were squeezing her chest. Hot tears burned her eyes.
Lord, give me the strength to make it through this holiday and all the lonely weeks and months to follow.
A vast feeling of loneliness enveloped her. Never in a million years had she ever imagined craving solitude at Christmas. But then again, the word divorce had never seemed like an option. Until Jayden became someone she barely recognized. Kit deposited her luggage next to the bed, then turned on her heel to leave the room. There was no point in wallowing in her situation. She’d come to the cabin for peace and reflection. Her stomach grumbled loudly, serving as a reminder that she hadn’t eaten anything more than a bran muffin this morning. She prayed Jim had remembered to pick up her order from the local market. As soon as she entered the kitchen, she knew without a doubt her food supply had arrived.
A bouquet of red and white roses sat on the counter along with a note from the merchants at the market. Happy Holidays to Mr. and Mrs. London. Wishing you a blessed New Year. The flowers were lovely, but she felt a little sick to her stomach at the note. Mr. and Mrs. London. Would she ever get used to not being Mrs. London? Or Jayden’s wife? To distract herself from depressing thoughts, she opened up the fridge and let out a contented sigh. All of her favorite foods were on display. She rubbed her stomach as she spotted a container of chicken salad and cranberries. Kit busied herself making a sandwich, then placed some Kettle chips and a pickle on her plate. After making herself a cup of steaming hot cocoa, Kit settled down at the kitchen table and ate her lunch while gazing out of the huge bay window as snowflakes gracefully fell from the sky. The weather report had forecast a wintry mix for the next day or so. It was coming down more intensely than she’d expected. It was all right with her, Kit decided, since she wasn’t going anywhere for the next week. She intended to spend time at the cabin by herself in deep reflection. Bring on the snow! It would be a welcome diversion from the divorce papers burning a hole in her luggage.
She couldn’t help but remember the time when she and Jayden had been vacationing at the cabin when a random snowstorm had taken them by surprise. The weather hadn’t bothered them one little bit. Their love had made them oblivious to the fact that there was no easy way out until the storm passed and roads were cleared. She let out a sigh. She’d give anything to go back in time to that period in her life and in her marriage when love had reigned supreme. It felt a bit overwhelming that things had spiraled out of control so quickly.
Relax! She reminded herself. In order to move forward with her life, she had to accept that her marriage was over. Signing the papers and sending them to Jayden would be a difficult but necessary step in moving on with her life. Her thoughts were all jumbled up. Perhaps a hot shower with her favorite vanilla foaming wash would provide relaxation and rejuvenation. She needed all the help she could get.
The shower proved to be completely invigorating. As she exited the shower and dried herself off, Kit felt a thousand times better. She let out a sigh. It was amazing how something so simple as a hot shower could make her feel as if she could now take on the world. And all of her problems. She pulled on a comfy pair of pajamas and threw herself down on the comfy bed.
A sudden sound from outside the bedroom door caused her heart to thump wildly in her chest. It sounded as if someone was out there. She sat up and pressed her hand against her throat. Dove, Colorado had to be one of the most serene places she’d ever been in her life. The cabin was in a remote area. It seemed unlikely that anyone would try and rob the place. Was it Jim the caretaker? Perhaps he had forgotten something and had simply let himself in. She’d parked her car on the side of the cabin, so it was possible he wasn’t aware she was here.
She let out a gasp as the door knob began to slowly turn. A scream was trapped in her throat. Her terror was palpable. A figure stood in the doorway as the door swung open. Kit let out a shocked noise. The person standing before her was as familiar to her as her own face in the mirror. It felt as if worlds were colliding. Never in a million years had she expected to see her husband standing a few feet away from her at their cabin.
“Jayden! What in the world are you doing here?”
Jayden tried not to visibly wince as he laid eyes on Kit. She was dressed in a pair of cozy pajamas. Her hair had been swept up in a high ponytail and she looked as gorgeous as ever. The very sight of his wife rocked him to his core. It was a complete and utter shock to the system.
Was someone playing a huge joke on him? He’d only come to the cabin because he had felt the need for solitude. His impending divorce had been weighing heavily on him. And the very thought of being around family and his football buddies had been inconceivable. Then he had run into Kit’s sister, who had encouraged him to get away for the holidays in order to relieve his mind of all his worries. Not that he’d been under the belief that the cabin would solve all of his problems, but he had jumped at the chance to get away from it all. All the questions and the hand wringing. All the holiday cheer and the decorations.
Coming face-to-face with Kit felt like a stinging slap in the face, especially when he had been under the belief that she was thousands of miles away on an island somewhere soaking up the sun.
“What am I doing here?” he asked in a strangled voice. “Shouldn’t I be asking you the same question? I thought you were going to Cabo for Christmas.”
Kit frowned. “Cabo? For Christmas? Why would I go somewhere sunny for Christmas? You know I love being here in Colorado. Not to mention my passport has expired, so it wouldn’t have been an option.”
Jayden narrowed his gaze as he stared at Kit. “That’s what your sister told me.”
She shook her head. “Robin? Why would she have told you that? And when did you see her?”
“A few days ago. We ran into each other at the car show. I was making an official appearance with the team. She seemed certain of your plans and made a big point of telling me you were going to be out of the country for Christmas.”
“That is so strange,” Kit murmured. “Why would Robin have been at the car show? You know as well as I do that she has no patience for things like that.”
Jayden scratched his jaw. “Matter o
f fact, she was the one who suggested I come here to clear my head.”
Kit’s mouth hung wide open. She made a choking sound.