“You look lovely, Erica.”
She glanced up at Father Michael’s soft words, spoken just to her, for her ears only. Her father and Father Patrick were discussing Eisenhower quite loudly and Leah—she was still off in her own little world.
“I miss our Mayflower mornings.”
They had met for coffee every morning at the Mayflower cafe for months, but then, after Leah had come home, after things had progressed between Erica and Father Michael to the point where neither of them could deny how they felt anymore, he had just stopped coming. No warning, no nothing.
She couldn’t forget the tender press of his lips against hers, the way her heart leapt at his touch. The heart just didn’t lie, and her heart had beat for him since. The Mayflower had been their little refuge, and when he’d finally stopped coming, she had lost something much worse than her broken heart could bear. She’d lost the only man she had ever truly loved.
“Me too,” Erica admitted. “I wish...”
But of course he knew what she wished. She knew he wished it too.
“I have something for you.” He cleared his throat, taking a sip of his drink. “A small Christmas gift. I meant to give it to you last night, after midnight mass...”
Erica remembered the way he’d looked at her, how he’d frowned when he saw Clay bending down to whisper something into her ear to make her laugh, how her already broken heart seemed to shatter again to bits. Just when she thought it couldn’t break anymore, it happened again, as if her heart could continue to split into the tiniest pieces, the smallest atoms. He’d motioned for her, but she’d ignored him, turning to Clay instead, pretending not to see, not to notice. She was punishing him, punishing them both, but what else could she do? She wanted him, he wanted her, but they couldn’t be together. What more did he want from her?
“I thought maybe we might have coffee at the Mayflower on Monday. Just this once?”
Erica hesitated, biting her lip. She knew she shouldn’t.
He leaned in, whispering, “Besides, I have some information for you, Nancy Drew.”
She couldn’t help the smile that spread over her face. Whenever they had put their heads together to solve a mystery, whether it was finding missing Leah’s whereabouts or unraveling the secrets of the Mary Magdalenes, Father Michael had made jokes, calling her Nancy Drew and saying he was just one of the Hardy Boys.
“Okay.” She told herself she shouldn’t do it, shouldn’t give in, it was only prolonging the torture for both of them. But she couldn’t resist, she couldn’t say no, in spite of her better judgment. Besides, she never could resist a secret.