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“Ya left me…”
Joe froze, barely hearing her accusation over the pounding of his heart, every muscle in his body going ripcord tight. She had no idea. And he resented her implication that any of this was his fault. He’d sacrificed everything for her—given up who he was so she could have the life she’d always wanted. Joe was careful not to look at her, but it was impossible to keep the anger from his voice when he replied, “Has the thought not crossed your mind even once in the last eight years, that I did it for you?”
“For me?! If ye’re expectin’ me to thank ya for breakin’ my heart, Josiah Troyer, then you’ll be waitin’ till hell freezes over!”
Joe tossed the hammer aside and shot to his feet. His temper too short, and his emotions were running too high for him to soften his words. “Would ya rather I stayed and made an adulteress out of ya?” With his anger, the lilt of his Pennsylvania Dutch accent returned. It tasted foul on his tongue, further fueling his anger. As he advanced on her, Hannah’s vibrant blue eyes widened with surprise. She stumbled back, countering his advance until she couldn’t retreat anymore.
Joe planted his hands against the chipped siding, caging her in his arms and growled, “I would’ve gotten us both shunned because make no mistake, if I’d stayed, ya would’ve been mine, husband or no’.”
She gasped sharply at his confession, staring at him with scandalous shock. Hell, he should really scandalize her and kiss the woman senseless. But he’d only be torturing himself, because Hannah Beiler-Adams was not his to have.
“Ya musn’t say such things, Josiah.”
“Why not?” he challenged. “Can’t handle the truth? I suppose it’s easier to keep on hating me.” He spun around, needing to put some distance between himself and the only woman that had ever owned his heart.
Her voice was a soft whisper behind him. “I was angry… I still am… But I never hated ya, Josiah. I hated myself.”
She sounded so sad, so…defeated. He turned back to face her, and his heart clenched. The crushing ache made it difficult to breathe. “Why would you say that?”
“I wasn’t a good wife,” she confessed. Her eyes filled with tears, turning them into luminous pools of regret that reached into his chest and ripped his heart out.
“I seriously doubt that—”
“It’s true. I never loved Jacob the way he deserved. He was a good man, Josiah.”
Of course, he was. Joe never would’ve found the strength to leave if he hadn’t been.
“He deserved the love of a good woman, not the leftovers of a heartbroken mess who couldn’t let go of the past. He knew I was in love with ya and he married me anyway.”
It was easy to see she had many regrets. If he could, he’d take her pain away, but he wasn’t sure that the truth wouldn’t hurt her more.
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