Fall from India Place Page 25

“It does. Try writing it in. It might help.”

He rolled his eyes, giving me a sad smile. “See, why did you have to go spoil a perfectly nice moment with the personal essay crap, Miss Nichols?”

Giving him a look that told him I didn’t buy his pretense at cool, I opened my mouth to dismiss him just as a loud knock on my open classroom doorway drew our gazes.

I sucked in my breath, my body freezing in shock.

Filling the entire doorway was Marco. He was wearing a dark fleece hoodie and dark jeans tucked into construction boots. My eyes flew back up to his face, and I felt that painful wince in my chest at his handsomeness.

What the hell was he doing here?

Jarrod sensed the sudden tension. “You okay, Miss Nichols?” His eyes swung to Marco and instantly narrowed in suspicion.

My heart racing, I turned to my student and attempted to sound calm as I replied, “I’m fine. I’ll see you next class, Jarrod.”

“I can stay,” he said stubbornly.

I smiled at his protectiveness but shook my head. “I’ll be fine.”

He didn’t seem convinced or too happy about leaving me with the large, brooding man in the doorway, but he gave me a chin lift in good-bye and strode across the room, his eyes holding Marco’s in warning despite Marco’s size.

Marco watched him leave, his gaze following him out of the classroom. When Jarrod was out of sight, he turned back to me with an amused look in his gorgeous eyes. “You’ve got a loyal one there.”

No, no. There would be no pleasantries in this ambush. “What are you doing here?”

At my question, determination swept across his face and he walked into the room, somehow managing to fill the entire space with his more powerful than ever presence. I watched warily as he came to a stop a few feet from me. “Nish left my name with Reception so I could get in. My foreman let me cut out of work early. I was guessing that my only chance to see you would be in school.”

My pulse was literally throbbing, probably visibly in my neck, so I was glad I was wearing my hair loose. As dogged as he was in his attempts to talk, I was equally determined to prove he didn’t affect me. I stuck my chin out stubbornly. “Why? I told you I’m not interested in anything you have to say.”

He shrugged, jamming his hands in his jeans. “I think your attitude suggests otherwise.”

I glowered. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

If that was a lip twitch of amusement I was going to kill him. He waved two fingers in the direction of my forehead and its frown lines. “That does.”

Time to change tactics. “Why the hell do you want to talk? You hate talking.”

Marco chuckled. “I’m not that guy anymore, Hannah. I just want a chance to explain that. But also to explain the past. And apologize for it.”

There was a part of me that was desperate to give in, like I would have done when I was a kid, eager for his respect and affection. But I wasn’t her anymore. He’d helped see to that. I leaned back against my desk and crossed my arms over my chest. “You’re sorry?”

His eyes glittered with obvious remorse. “Of course.”

“And you once did genuinely care about me?”

Something else entered his eyes, something more intense. His voice was deeper as he answered, “Yes.”

“Okay. If that’s true, you can prove it by turning around and walking out that door.”

Displeasure replaced the intensity. “Hannah —”

“Prove it,” I insisted fiercely.

Marco stared at me for a long moment, the muscle in his jaw working just like it used to when he was unhappy about something. To my surprise, my relief, and my disappointment, he gave me a jerky nod and turned around. I watched him walk away, my throat dry with thirst and hunger and heartache.


On Thursday evening after the adult literacy class, I did what I always did and went to my local gym. I didn’t have time to work out as much as I had done when I was at uni, but I always felt better if I got in at least two sessions a week. Sometimes, when things were particularly crazy I managed only one. That was always on a Thursday evening. Like my book group evenings, I looked forward to my Thursday nights at the gym because for a whole hour I switched off from work, friends, and family and just concentrated on sweating it out.

There were times, although not too often, when guys who thought they were so attractive they were rejection-proof would hit on me while I was just trying to enjoy my workout. I found that silence usually discomfited them and they’d quickly evaporate.

I was on the treadmill, working my way up from a walk to a run, when in my peripheral vision I saw the large figure of a guy step onto the treadmill next to me. My skin burned under his appraisal, but I ignored him.

However… my skin wouldn’t stop burning because he wouldn’t stop looking.

Annoyed, I chanced a scathing glance at him and nearly went flying backward off the treadmill when I realized it was Marco.

He reached out to steady me, but I flung my hands out and caught the rails. I almost sighed in relief that he hadn’t touched me. I quickly reduced the speed on the machine, drawing to a stop so I could turn a full-strength glare on him.

He stared back at me, not saying a word, while I tried to process what the hell was happening and the fact that he looked beyond amazing in his white T-shirt and track bottoms. He definitely visited the gym often.

But not my gym!

“What the hell are you doing here?” I hissed, smoothing strands of hair back into my ponytail, painfully aware of how gross I must look.

Marco flashed me a boyish grin. “Working out.”

Ignoring the flutterings caused by that grin, I narrowed my eyes and said through clenched teeth, “I’ve never seen you here before.”

“That’s because I’ve never been here before. I joined today.”

I was pretty sure a nerve under my right eye had begun to tick. “Why? And answer in full this time.”

He grinned again, crossing his arms over his chest so his biceps flexed. Oh, mamma.

It was official. I hated him.

“Speak!” I snapped, trying to control my wandering eyes.

Chuckling, Marco replied, “Anisha told me this is your gym, so now it’s my gym.”

“You’re stalking me?”

“I prefer to call it ‘actively pursuing you.’ I told you, I just want a chance to explain.”

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