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“Don’t you remember what it’s like to be young and in love, Mom?” Maryanne asked her. “Remember all those things you told me about you and Dad? How you used to argue and everything? It’s the same with Nolan and me. I’m crazy about him. He’s so talented and—”

“That’s enough,” Nolan interrupted harshly. “If you’re looking for someone to blame for Maryanne’s living in this building and working at Mom’s Place—”

“What’s Mom’s Place?”

“A very nice diner,” Maryanne inserted quickly. “We do a brisk lunch trade and carry a limited dinner menu.”

Her mother let out a cry of dismay. “You’re…you’re working as a waitress?”

Miserable, Maryanne nodded. “But I’m doing lots of freelance work. None of the feature articles I’ve written have sold yet, but it’s too soon for that. I just found out the community newspaper’s buying a couple of my shorter pieces, and I plan on selling them lots more.”

“You might have warned me they didn’t know about your being a waitress,” Nolan muttered under his breath.

Samuel drew a hand across his eyes, as if that would erase the image of his daughter waiting on tables. “Why would you choose to quit the newspaper to work as a waitress?” Asking the question seemed to cause him pain.

“It’s honest work, Dad. I don’t understand why you’re acting like this. You’re making it sound like I’m doing something that’ll bring disgrace to the family name.”

“But your education is being wasted,” her mother said, shaking her head. “You could have any job in publishing you wanted.”

That much was true when it was her family doing the hiring, but when she was looking on her own her employers were more interested in her job skills than who her father was.

“I’m afraid I’m the one who started this,” Nolan interrupted. “I wrote a column about Maryanne,” he said bluntly. “It was unfortunate, because I was out of line in some of the things I said, but—”

“Nolan didn’t write anything that wasn’t true,” Maryanne hastened to say. “He made me stop and think about certain aspects of my life, and I decided it was time to prove I could make it on my own.”

“By denouncing your family!”

“I never did that, Dad.”

Samuel’s shoulders sagged with defeat. The long hours her parents had spent travelling were telling on them both. They looked at her blankly, as though they couldn’t quite believe, even now, what she’d been doing for the past month and a half.

“I did it for another reason, too.” All three of them were staring at her as if they suspected she’d lost her mind. “I’d met Nolan and we had dinner together and I discovered how much I liked him.” She glanced at the man in question and saw him frown, knitting his brow, obviously searching for a way to stop her. “I’m sorry, Mom and Dad. I hated lying to you, but I couldn’t see any way around it. I didn’t want to worry you,” she said, stepping next to Nolan and wrapping her arm around his waist. “I belong here with Nolan.” There, she’d said it! “I won’t be returning to New York with you.”

“Maryanne, sweetie, you can’t go on living like this!”

“I have a wonderful life.”

Her father was pacing again. “You’re in love with this man?”

“Yes, Daddy. I love him so much—enough to defy you for the first time in my life.”

Her father’s eyes slowly moved from his only daughter to Nolan. “What about you, young man? How do you feel about my daughter?”

Nolan was quiet for so long it was all Maryanne could do not to answer for him. Finally she couldn’t stand it any longer and did exactly that. “He loves me. He may not want to admit it, but he does—lock, stock and barrel.”

Her father continued to look at Nolan. “Is that true?”

“Unfortunately,” he said, gently removing Maryanne’s arm, “I don’t return her feelings. You’ve raised a wonderful daughter—but I don’t love her, not the way she deserves to be loved.”

“Nolan!” His name escaped on a cry of outrage. “Don’t lie. Not now, not to my family.”

He took her by the shoulders, his face pale and expressionless. She searched his eyes, looking for something, anything to ease the terrible pain his words had inflicted.

“You’re sweet and talented, and one day you’ll make some man very proud—but it won’t be me.”

“Nolan, stop this right now. You love me. You’re intimidated because of who my father is. But don’t you understand that money doesn’t mean anything to me?”

“It rarely does to those who have it. Find yourself a nice rich husband and be happy.”

She found his words insulting. If she hadn’t been so desperate to straighten out this mess, she would have confronted him with it. “I won’t be happy without you. I refuse to be happy.”

His face was beginning to show signs of strain. “Yes, you will. Now, I suggest you do as your family wants and leave with them.”

Every word felt like a kick in the stomach, each more vicious than the one before.

“You don’t mean that!”

“Damn it, Maryanne,” he said coldly, “don’t make this any more difficult than it already is. We don’t belong together. We never have. I live in one world and you live in another. I’ve been telling you that from the first, but you wouldn’t listen to me.”

Maryanne was too stunned to answer. She stared up at him, hoping, praying, for some sign that he didn’t mean what he was saying.

“Sweetie.” Her mother tucked an arm around Maryanne’s waist. “Please, come home with us. Your friend’s right, you don’t belong here.”

“That’s not true. I’m here now and I intend to stay.”

“Maryanne, damn it, would you listen to your parents?” Nolan barked. “What do you intend to do once Mom’s Place closes for remodeling?”

“Come home, sweetie,” her mother pleaded.

Too numb to speak, Maryanne stared at Nolan. She wouldn’t leave if he gave the slightest indication he wanted her to stay. Anything. A flicker of his eye, a twitch of his hand, anything that would show her he didn’t mean the things he’d said.

There was nothing. Nothing left for her. She couldn’t go back to the newspaper, not now. Mom’s Place was closing, but the real hardship, the real agony, came from acknowledging that Nolan didn’t want her around. Nolan didn’t love her.

She turned her back on him and walked to her own apartment. Her mother and father joined her there a few minutes later, trying to hide their dismay at its bleakness.

“I won’t need to give my notice,” she told them, sorting through the stack of folded clothes for a fresh uniform. “But I’ll stay until Mom’s closes. I wouldn’t want to leave them short-staffed.”

“Yes, of course,” her mother answered softly, then suggested, “If you like, I can stay with you here in Seattle.”

Maryanne declined with a quick shake of her head, trying to conceal how badly Nolan’s rejection had hurt. “I’ll be fine.” She paused, then turned to her family. “He really is a wonderful man. It’s just that he’s terribly afraid of falling in love—especially with someone like me. I have everything he doesn’t—an education, wealth, and perhaps most importantly, parents who love me as much as you do.”

Maryanne hadn’t known it was possible for two weeks to drag by so slowly. But finally her last day of work arrived.

“The minute I set eyes on Nolan Adams again, I swear I’ll give him a piece of my mind,” Barbara declared, hands on her hips.

Nolan hadn’t eaten at Mom’s once in the past two weeks. That didn’t surprise Maryanne; in fact, she would’ve been shocked if he’d decided to show up.

“You keep in touch, you hear? That Nolan Adams—he’s got a lot to answer for,” Barbara said, her eyes filling. “I’m gonna miss you, girl. Are you sure you have to leave?”

“I’m sure,” Maryanne whispered, swallowing back her own tears.

“I suppose you’re right. That’s why I’m so furious with Nolan.”

“It isn’t all his fault.” Maryanne hadn’t told anyone the embarrassing details that had led to her leaving Seattle.

“Of course it is. He should stop you from going. I don’t know what’s got into that man, but I swear, for two cents I’d give him—”

“A piece of your mind,” Maryanne finished for her.

They both laughed, and hugged each other one last time. Although they’d only worked together a short while, they’d become good friends. Maryanne would miss Barbara’s down-to-earth philosophy and her reliable sense of humor.

When she arrived home, her apartment was dark and dismal. Cardboard boxes littered the floor. Her packing was finished, except for the bare essentials. She’d made arrangements with a shipping company to come for her things in the morning. Then she’d call a taxi to take her to Sea-Tac Airport in time to catch the noon flight for New York.

The next morning, dressed in jeans and a loose red sweatshirt, Maryanne was hauling boxes out of her living room and stacking them in the hallway when she heard Nolan’s door open. She quickly moved back into her own apartment.

“What are you doing?” he demanded, following her in. He was wearing the ever-present beige raincoat, his mood as sour as his look.

“Moving,” she responded flippantly. “That was what I thought you wanted.”

“Then leave the work to the movers.”

“I’m fine, Nolan.” Which was a lie. How could she possibly be fine when her heart was broken?

“I guess this is goodbye, then,” he said, glancing around the room, looking everywhere but at her.

“Yes. I’ll be gone before you get back this afternoon.” She forced a trembling smile to her lips as she brushed the dust from her palms. “It’s been a pleasure knowing you.”

“You, too,” he said softly.

“Some day I’ll be able to tell my children I knew the famous Nolan Adams when he was a columnist for the Seattle Sun.” But those children wouldn’t be his….

“I wish you only the best.” His eyes had dimmed slightly, but she was too angry to see any significance in that.

She didn’t reply and the silence stretched, tense and awkward.

“So,” she finally said, with a deep sigh, “you’re really going to let me go.”

“Yes.” He spoke without hesitation, but she noticed that his mouth thinned, became taut.

“It may come as a surprise to learn you’re not the only one with pride.” She spoke as clearly and precisely as she could. “I’m going to do what you asked and leave Seattle. I’ll walk away without looking back. Not once will I look back,” she repeated, her throat constricting, making speech difficult. She waited a moment to compose herself. “Someday you’ll regret this, Nolan. You’ll think back to what happened and wish to hell you’d handled the situation differently. Don’t you know it’s not what you’ve done that will fill you with regret, but what you haven’t done?”

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