Read Broken Together Online

Authors: K. S. Ruff

Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Inspirational, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Broken Together (2 page)

“In
the kitchen, when we were cooking dinner.” I pushed back onto my feet and
walked the short distance to my house. There was an envelope lying on the
counter next to the stove.

Grab your coat,
keys, and purse, and seek the place where you last spoke those very same words.

I
grabbed my heavy winter coat, pocketed my keys, and retrieved my purse. I
shoved all of the envelopes I’d acquired thus far into my purse before tromping
down the stairs to my garage. I told Rafael I loved him just before climbing
into my jeep yesterday morning. We were saying our goodbyes before driving to work.

The
envelope was sitting on the driver’s seat. I shoved the key into the ignition and
tapped the garage door opener so I could warm the jeep while reading the note. Between
the coat, the keys, and purse, I was certain this note would lead me away from
the house.

If you want me,
you’ll ask for me in the place where we enjoyed our last date.

I
slid the card back inside the envelope, shoved it inside my purse, fastened my
seatbelt, and eased out of the garage. Within minutes, I was pulling into a
parking garage just down the street from La Madeleine, the French café where we
ate breakfast Sunday morning. I walked the short distance to the restaurant. The
place was packed. I squeezed through the crowd and scanned the tables, but I didn’t
see Rafael.

The
gentleman standing behind the pastry counter waved me over. “Are you Ms.
Stone?”

“Yes,”
I replied uncertainly. I wasn’t sure how he knew me.

“This
is for you.” He handed me an envelope, a pastry bag, and an eco-friendly cup.

“What’s
in the cup?” He’d obviously just made the drink. Steam was shimmying out of a
small hole in the lid. I scanned the crowd again. The man couldn’t have timed
that drink more perfectly. Was Rafael watching me?

“A
double shot café latte with cinnamon on top.” His eyes sparkled, like he knew
some tantalizing piece of information.

I
peeked inside the bag. “Another chocolate croissant?” I laughed. “I never could
eat just one.” I set the coffee and pastry bag on the counter so I could retrieve
my wallet.

“That’s
already been paid for.” He smiled. “Aren’t you going to read the card?”

“Oh!”
One decadent cup of coffee would cause me to forget all about the note. I peeled
open the envelope.

You’re nearly
there, love. Enjoy the coffee and croissant, then ask for me in the restaurant where
we enjoyed our first date… in the United States.

I
laughed. Rafael had long insisted our first date was at a café on the Champs-Élysées
in Paris, before I committed myself to Michael. Hence, the clarification “in
the United States.”

“Where
are you off to next?” the man asked.

“Komi.”
I stashed the envelope inside my purse before grabbing the coffee and croissant.
“Thank you.”

“You
must return and tell me the whole story,” he insisted, “on a slow day!”

“Will
do.” I squeezed outside and hurried toward the garage.

Thirty
minutes later, I was idling in front of Komi while weighing my options. I was
fairly certain the restaurant wasn’t open at ten-thirty in the morning. With my
bottom lip caught securely between my teeth, I turned the hazard lights on and
hopped out of the jeep. The door to the restaurant opened before I reached the
top of the stairs. “Ms. Stone?”

I
smiled sheepishly. “Yes.”

The
man bowed as he presented the envelope. “Mr. Garcia left this for you. Please
come back and visit us again soon.”

My
cheeks heated. “Thank you. I’m sure we’ll see you soon.” I loved Komi with
their synchronized waiters, top secret tasting menu, and decadent desserts. I
clambered back down the stairs and climbed into my jeep. There were a number of
signs indicating that I should not be idling there, so I broke the seal on the
envelope and quickly read Rafael’s note.

Take a chance… and
journey to the place where we first danced.

“Jaleo’s,”
I recalled with a smile. “We danced at my thirtieth birthday party.” I downed the
remaining dregs of coffee before easing into traffic. Rafael had thrown me a
surprise birthday party. He’d invited a number of my colleagues and friends,
but Kadyn and my cousin, Lexie, topped the list. Rafael’s efforts to secure
their presence brought tears to my eyes. Hands down, that was the best birthday
present anyone had ever given me.

Although
I couldn’t for the life of me picture Rafael proposing at Jaleo’s, I was
praying it was my final destination. My breath caught when my assumptions
caught up with me. I slammed on the brakes. Maybe this wasn’t a proposal. Maybe
this was simply a trip down memory lane… a fun and romantic way to spend the
day. “Well, if you don’t propose, then I will,” I announced decidedly.

The
car behind me honked. I resumed driving, but I was trembling violently. Should
I stop and buy a ring? I twisted and craned my neck as I began searching for jewelry
stores. My heart skipped a few more beats. I couldn’t just run into the nearest
jewelry store and purchase a ring. It would take days maybe even weeks of prowling
through stores to find the perfect ring.

I
was thoroughly wrecked by the time I walked into Jaleo’s. I felt anxious and
jittery… nervous, scared, excited, hopeful, vulnerable, and eager all at once.
I hadn’t a clue how you could pack so many emotions into a single moment, but I
felt every single one, along with a few I couldn’t even begin to identify.

“Ms.
Stone?” a young woman asked.

I
shook my head while attempting to clear my thoughts. Belatedly, I realized my
mistake. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shake my head ‘no.’ I mean ‘yes,’ I’m
Kristine Stone.”

The
woman eyed me worriedly. “Would you like to sit down? You look a little shaky.”

Gratefully,
I collapsed onto the nearest chair. “May I have a drink of water?” I bolted out
of the chair when she turned to retrieve the drink. “No. Wait. Is Rafael Garcia
here?”

She
smiled. She had a beautiful smile that reached all the way into her eyes. “No,
but he asked me to give this to you.” She pulled an envelope from the black
apron she had tied around her slender waist.

The
woman and the envelope glistened through my tears.

“Are
you okay?” She helped me back onto the chair. A second employee handed me a
glass of water.

“I’m
just feeling emotional.” I drank the entire glass of water before opening the
envelope.

One final request,
love. Help me roll back time. Return to the place I first made you smile, so I
may reveal myself… this time.

A
strangled sob escaped my chest. I slid the card back inside the envelope and
tucked it alongside the other envelopes inside my purse. “Thank you for the
water.” I pressed a wad of money into the woman’s hand before walking out the
door. I knew exactly where I had to go.

I
parked the jeep inside Union Station and walked to the park in front of the
Senate Hart Building. I stopped just short of the park bench I’d been seeking.
Another envelope was sitting on the bench. “No,” I groaned. I turned in a
circle as I surveyed the park. I’d been expecting Rafael.

There
weren’t many people lingering in the park, but quite a few staffers were
walking toward Union Station for lunch. I picked up the envelope before sinking
onto the bench. “I should know where I’m going before I indulge in a good cry,”
I lamented under my breath.

I
opened the envelope. I stared at the inside of the card. “It’s blank,” I
objected. “Why would it be blank?”

I
pondered that question for quite some time. When no easy answers came to mind,
I sifted through my memories until I reached the day Rafael saw me crying on
the park bench. I’d walked outside to eat lunch, so I could escape the noise
and the insanity surrounding the Senate. It was a crisp fall day… a day that
pre-dated Kadyn, Justin’s abduction, Michael whisking me off to Paris, Maxim, and
Ukraine. At that time, there was only me… and Cade… and the Senate. I was on
the verge of meeting Kadyn, I didn’t know that Michael asked Rafael to watch
over me, and I was terribly homesick.

I
pulled my knees to my chest. The twists and turns that carved my life were
filled with heartache and pain, and yet I questioned whether I would change a
single moment. Part of me longed to roll back time to this very moment in time,
when Rafael discovered me crying on this park bench. The other part of me
insisted on cherishing the good that grew from every difficult experience
transpiring
after
that moment in time.

I
brushed away my tears so I could study the card. I ran my finger along the heavily
embossed crimson font that formed the word “love” on the front of the note
card. I opened the card and studied the inside. Was the blank interior supposed
to symbolize something? Rafael was poetic. Maybe this was meant to symbolize a
blank page at the end of an unfinished book, a page where the author could take
the story in a thousand different directions, add a plot twist, or change the ending.

The
card slipped from my fingers. I knelt to pick it up, then froze. There was a
question mark penned on the back of the card. An icy breeze ruffled my hair. I
grabbed the card before it could blow away.

I
sat on the ground while staring at the question mark. A million questions danced
along the outskirts of my mind. I reached for the stack of envelopes I’d
stashed inside my purse. I removed one of the cards and slowly turned it over.
There was an “M” written in cursive on the back. My heart leapt. I scrambled
onto my knees and tore through another envelope… then another… and another…
until the back of every single card lie facing me on the ground. The back of each
card held a single letter. In addition to the question mark, there were two
M’s, two L’s, two R’s, two Y’s, a W, A, E, I, O, and U.

A
shadow fell over me when I began rearranging the cards.

My
eyes snagged on a pair of black boots… traveled up black jeans… skimmed a black
coat hiding broad shoulders and a trim waist… then locked on Rafael’s devastatingly
handsome face. At six foot three, with long dark hair, and a body carved from
stone; “Dark Angel” was the only term that could possibly describe him.

Rafael
drew me to my feet. Without speaking a single word, he sat me on the park bench.
He handed me a long-stemmed rose, then knelt at my feet.

I
couldn’t speak.

 Grasping
my hands in his, Rafael began to sing Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love,” the same
song he’d asked the young man to sing two years ago when he saw me crying on
the park bench.

Rafael’s
rich, velvety tone both soothed and shredded my heart. Tears warmed my cheeks. His
raw and unaccompanied rendition of the song would have made even the bitterest
soul weep.

Rafael’s
feelings were so in tune with the lyrics that his voice broke on the very last
word…
love.

Heaven
and earth lie spellbound while that word lay claim to the universe.

Finally,
Rafael spoke. “Kristine, you unknowingly claimed my heart the day you wept in
this park. I have longed for your heart ever since. Out of respect for my
brother, I tried not to love you, but my heart would not be swayed. I loved you
more with each passing day. By the time I pulled you into that safe room, it
was too late. Right or wrong, I fell hopelessly in love with you.”

Rafael
took a deep breath. “I cannot promise you an easy or carefree life, but I can
promise you that I will love and cherish you every second of every day that there
is blood coursing through this body. I give you my heart, asking only that you
do the same.” He paused briefly to arrange the cards at my feet.

WILL
YOU MARRY ME?

Rafael
removed a black velvet box from his coat pocket. He opened the lid before
peering up at me. “Kristine Annabelle Stone, will you marry me?”

Tears
streamed down my face. “Yes. Yes, Rafael, I will marry you!” I threw my arms
around his neck and kissed him with everything I had. He snapped the box shut
and cushioned the blow as we tumbled to the ground. Rafael tucked me beneath
him and resumed kissing me despite the applause and laughter that surrounded
us. He continued kissing me until everyone walked away.

*
* * * *

 We
lie; hands clasped, eyes sparkling, and cheeks flushed; facing one another in
the crisp, cold grass. I hadn’t a clue how much time had passed. “Will you run
away with me?” Rafael finally asked.

My
eyes widened. “Run away? Where?”

He
studied my expression closely. “Does the ‘where’ matter?”

My
heart skipped a few beats. “No,” I conceded. “How long will we be gone?” I was
thinking of work.

A
single eyebrow rose. “Does
that
matter?”

A
nervous giggle escaped my lips. “Evidently not.”

“Will
you run away with me?” he repeated.

I
grinned. “I told you some time ago… you’re the only dream that matters. So, yes.
Where you go, I go. If need be, I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth, to
heaven, and hell, and back.”

Other books

Lady in Green by Barbara Metzger
Yearning Devotion by Rachael Orman
Dark Admirer by Charlotte Featherstone
Steel Dominance by Cari Silverwood