Authors: Kimberley Reeves
There were limits as to how much pain one heart could take. Shelby
had passed that limit nearly six months ago.
She was little more than a hollowed out shell; cold and empty inside, like an arctic wasteland where nothing grew, and the bleakness of day and night melted together.
The numbness should have been a blessing; at least she didn’t burst into tears at the drop of a hat anymore, but she’d also lost her smile and it wasn’t likely to return any time soon.
God, she’d made such a mess of her life.
But there was no turning back; she had burned her bridges, and now there was nothing to do but try and pick up the pieces and move on.
“Move on,” she murmured bleakly, her eyes wandering around the small room she’d converted into a studio.
How could she move on when every canvas was filled with the same image?
Hair as dark as midnight, eyes that pierced her heart with their intensity, lips that had once caressed her skin and taken her to heights she never dreamed possible. She’d captured the perfection of him in dozens of different poses and still she couldn’t stop painting him.
Because she loved him, had loved him from the first moment he’d taken her hand and introduced himself. And because no amount of time or distance would make her love him any less than she did now.
Not a chance in hell.
Shelby was stuck in this God awful limbo, suspended somewhere between life and death and not really caring about anything.
She was simply going through the motions; eating when she remembered to, sleeping most of the day away, then spending half the night in her studio painting the man who haunted her no matter how hard she tried to drive him from her mind.
Shelby was obsessed, she knew this, and yet she was helpless to do anything about it.
That it was a prison of her own making did little to alleviate the hopelessness that was her only companion these days.
Dabbing her brush into the olive colored paint, she swept it over the canvas, adding a darker shade here and there to add depth to the features of his handsome face.
Logan Vittorio had once been the center of her universe and in a perverse sort of way, he still was.
With every breath she took he consumed her, just as he’d always done back when Shelby had been so sure of his love.
It was a fantasy, she thought dismally, an illusionary world where a man like Logan could actually love a shy, unobtrusive woman who had nothing to give but her heart and undying devotion.
But it hadn’t been enough for him, and less than a year after vowing to love and honor her for the rest of his life, her husband had betrayed her with another woman.
She hadn’t confronted Logan or the woman he was with.
She’d been too shocked to move, too consumed with the raw pain of it to do anything but stand there and watch as her husband escorted the woman from the posh hotel and helped her into his limousine before ducking inside himself.
Shelby hadn’t cried though, there would be time enough for tears later.
Feeling lost and alone and more frightened than she’d ever been in her life, she drove back to the elegant mansion where she and Logan had lived as husband and wife and packed as quickly as she could.
She even managed to produce a smile for their housekeeper, Alba, along with a story that she was going to visit a friend for a few days.
She’d driven away in the car Logan bought her as a wedding gift and taken the first highway out of town.
She hadn’t left a note, offered no explanation for leaving or given any indication where she was going.
He was an intelligent man, he would figure it out soon enough, and if he didn’t…well, the divorce papers would spell it out for him.
Except Shelby had balked in the end, and rather than announce to the world her husband had been unfaithful to her, she filed for divorce due to irreconcilable differences.
After signing the papers in a hand that wasn’t quite steady, she delivered them to
her attorney so he could forward them to Logan. Then she’d headed up the coastal highway, praying that in time she could forget she had ever met Logan Vittorio.
Two days and a few hundred miles later, she spotted the
sign for the beachside cottage and veered off
the highway to take a look.
It hadn’t really mattered where she wound up, but something about the cozy cottage drew Shelby to it and she’d called the realtor from her cell phone right then and there.
She paid cash for the cottage and within a week had hired a contractor to do repair work and slap on a new coat of paint, both inside and out.
While renovations were being done, Shelby filled her time picking out furniture and appliances and had the place completely furnished in no time at all.
She even purchased new art supplies and set up her studio with the idea that she would try her hand at painting the fantastic view of the ocean.
Halfway through the first painting, Shelby realized the dark figure she’d absently brushed onto the canvas was Logan.
He was facing the ocean, but there was no mistaking those broad shoulders, impossibly long legs, or the dark windswept hair.
What spooked her most was that she didn’t even remember doing it, and though she’d attempted to paint views of the ocean several more times, they all ended up with Logan in them somewhere.
Sometimes he was standing, sometimes sitting, and sometimes he was nothing more than a silhouette against the waning light of a setting sun.
But he was always there.
The first few weeks after settling into the cottage had been the hardest because there had been no more contractors to deal with or shopping for furnishings to occupy her mind.
Isolated as she was, Shelby didn’t have to worry about anyone hearing her cry herself to sleep or bear witness to the frequent meltdowns when she stood on the beach letting the sound of the waves drown out the harsh sobs that were wrenched from her body.
Gradually, the emotional outbursts gave way to a listless acceptance that the loneliness would never go away. Now she was able to get through most days with only an occasional round of tears.
Maybe she should have confronted Logan; it might have given her some closure.
But she’d taken the coward’s way out and left without a word.
The only backbone she had shown at all was when she filed for divorce, and she might not have done that if she’d had to face him.
Against her lawyer’s advice, Shelby forfeited her right to alimony, joint bank accounts and any property they had acquired since their marriage.
She didn’t want Logan’s money, she didn’t want any ties to him at all, and the fact that she had the financial means to support herself had made the decision that much easier.
The only thing she’d hung onto besides the car was her wedding ring.
Shelby set the brush down and lifted her hand, staring at the ring that had once symbolized Logan’s love for her, but now only served as a reminder of broken dreams and promises.
Why had he married her if he had no intention of honoring his vows?
She had already given up her virginity to him, and she’d certainly never issued any ultimatums about marriage, not that Logan would have folded to pressure from her anyway.
Was it because he was anxious to start a family and decided he needed a nice, docile wife who would forgive his indiscretions?
Granted, Shelby wasn’t confrontational and even when she did disagree with Logan, there were never harsh words or hysterical crying fits on her part.
She’d been as innocent as a woman could be when she’d first slept with Logan, was it possible he’d hoped that innocence would keep her blind to his unfaithfulness?
Perhaps she would still be married to him, breezing through each day believing he loved her, if only it hadn’t taken longer at the hairdresser’s than she had anticipated that day.
Sometimes, Shelby wondered if she wouldn’t have preferred living in blissful ignorance rather than the empty existence she endured now.
If she was smart, she would have taken the ring off and left it on the nightstand where Logan could find it.
Then again, if she’d been smart she never would have married him in the first place.
Inexperienced or not, at twenty-four she should have known it couldn’t possibly last.
Logan was rich and powerful, devastatingly handsome and wholly male in every sense of the word, and there probably wasn’t a woman alive from sixteen to sixty who wouldn’t sell their soul for one night with him.
They wouldn’t have been sorry for having done it either, she thought with a sad smile, because as much as it hurt to know Logan never really loved her, Shelby couldn’t regret a single night she’d spent in his arms.
“Don’t look now, but he’s coming our way.”
Shelby’s breath caught in her throat.
Oh, God, Maggie, tell me you’re just teasing.”
But Maggie hadn’t been teasing, and the handsome Italian stranger she’d practically been drooling over all evening had weaved his way through the crowd and introduced himself.
He addressed Maggie first, telling her how honored he was to meet her and how much he was looking forward to working with her father.
Then he turned those dark, sexy eyes to Shelby and she nearly fainted from the serious lack of oxygen in her lungs.
Her heart jack hammered in her chest when Logan took her hand with a knowing smile and ran his thumb in a seductive sweep over her wrist.
,” he murmured.
“Such a beautiful young woman should be out on the dance floor, do you agree?”
“I…yes,” she managed to squeak out.
A soft blush began to work its way up her neck as Logan led her to the dance floor. By the time he swept her into his arms, Shelby was positive her cheeks had to be blazing because she suddenly felt as if she’d stepped beneath a heat lamp.
She’d been to more charity balls than she cared to count and had danced at every one of them, but never had her body responded to a man the way it was doing now.
Butterflies fluttered in her stomach and her knees were so weak she would have fallen in a spineless puddle at his feet if Logan hadn’t tightened his arm around her waist and kept her pressed firmly against him.
“Shelby is an unusual name,” he said, expertly twirling her around the dance floor.
“It…it was my mother’s maiden name.”
“And does your mother have the same beautiful green eyes?”
“Actually, it was my father who had green eyes.”
“And did you also inherit your fiery hair from him?”
“No, that was my mother.”
“Are they here tonight?”
Shelby’s eyes clouded.
I never really knew my mother. She passed away when I was only two.
My father died last year.”
“So young to be without your parents,” he said solemnly.
“Have you any brothers or sisters?”
My father never remarried and I was their only child.
What about you, Logan?”
He smiled down at her and Shelby’s stomach did a wild flip.
“I like the way you say my name.”
Logan chuckled when she looked away.
“I also like the way you blush,
t has been a long time since I have met a woman with modestly and who does not flirt outrageously.”
“I’m sure I would turn ten shades of scarlet and have my tongue tied in knots if I even tried to flirt.
But we were talking about your family,” she steered the conversation into safer waters.