Cal ran up the steps to the flat and yanked open the door. Adrenaline was still pumping through his body from seeing Lizzie like that. There had been no warning, no hint she might be here and he took a shaky breath, trying to steady his heart still racing. He’d wanted to be prepared when they saw one another again, not staring at her the way he had across the courtyard, as though he had nothing to say. There was so much he wanted to tell her and all of it had fled the moment he’d looked at her.
What was Lizzie doing here, now, at Halesmere? Why? He knew her too well to mistake the shock racing across her own face the instant she’d noticed him. He looked different, he knew that, but not so changed she wouldn’t recognise him. She’d known everything about him and she was still the only person who did. She’d understood and accepted him, had loved him once. Seeing her now, as beautiful as ever, took him straight back to those days when they’d been each other’s world for that one incredible summer.
When the end came, as they’d known it would, he’d been too afraid to make a different choice. Too afraid of following his heart and having her tell him they were a mistake after all. How pointless those fears seemed now, looking into her eyes for the first time in twelve years and seeing her own wonder reflected back at him. He was a better man now, or at least he hoped he was. Could she tell that, too? Would she care?
Cal knocked back a glass of water as the adrenaline began to fade. Clearly Lizzie and Gemma were still friends; it had only taken a moment to recognise the woman who’d hauled Lizzie away and revealed her own contempt in the glare she’d shot him. He didn’t blame Gemma for that, he’d felt it often enough since he’d left.
Were Lizzie and Gemma staying in the house, or just visiting family and friends? He hadn’t been back that long himself; he’d caught up on a few old connections and none of them had mentioned Lizzie, and he hadn’t wanted to ask. What if she was settled with a partner, a family? How would he speak to her then and tell her what he needed her to know? But he couldn’t disrupt her life a second time if she’d forgotten him and made a better one for herself.
But she hadn’t forgotten him. That single stare had confirmed it. They hadn’t always needed words to communicate, their souls had once been so in tune.
He’d have to wait until tomorrow to find out, on the hike. If Lizzie was one of the guests staying in the house this weekend he would see her then and ask, plead if he had to, for a chance to explain. It was all he could do for now, and he hoped she would listen. There was so much he had to say.