“You weren’t so bad. Just prickly, like your father. Eugenios was the best employee I ever had. We used to talk about you. He loved you.”
“He had a funny way of showing it.” Her husband’s voice wasn’t bitter, just matter-of-fact.
Howard gave a laugh that ended in a wheeze. “In our generation, fathers showed love differently.”
“Yet Letty always knew you loved her.”
“I didn’t grow up with your father’s fears.” Howard paused. “From the age of fifteen, he was your grandmother’s sole support. When you came along, he lost any chance of a job in Greece.”
“His greatest fear was of not providing for you.” Coughing a laugh, Howard added, “Maybe if I’d been a little more careful about that myself, I wouldn’t have left my daughter destitute while I spent years in prison. It’s only because of you that we’re back home now. That’s why I called. I’m grateful.”
Darius’s voice was suddenly urgent. “Then convince Letty to stay.”
“Stay? Where would she go?”
“She says as soon as you’re dead, she’s leaving New York.”
Howard gave a low laugh. “That sounds like her. Foolish as her old man. Can’t see the love right in front of her eyes, has to flee her own happiness because she’s afraid. Actually, now that I think about it, she sounds like you.”
Letty’s heart was pounding as she leaned against the oak-paneled wall beside the open door, holding absolutely still as she listened intently.
Silence. Then Darius said in a voice so low she almost couldn’t hear, “I’m sorry I blamed you for my father’s death all these years. The truth is, the person I really hated was myself. I said something terrible to my dad right before he died. I’ll never forgive myself.”
“Whatever it was,” Howard said simply, “your father forgave you long ago. He knew you loved him. Just as he loved you. He was proud of you, Darius. And seeing that you were brave enough to come here today, I am, too.”
Her father was proud of the man who’d treated her so badly, who’d lied to her? Letty sucked in her breath with an astonished little squeak.
There was a pause.
“Letty,” her father said drily, “I know you’re there. Come in.”
Her heart was in her throat. She wanted to flee but knew she’d only look foolish and cowardly. Lifting her chin, she went into her father’s room.
His bedroom was full of light from the bay wi
ndow. Her father was stretched out beneath the blankets, propped up by pillows, his nightstand covered with pill bottles. His gaunt face smiled up at her weakly, his eyes glowing with love.
Then, with a deep breath, Letty looked at the man standing beside the bed.
Tall and broad-shouldered and alive, Darius seemed to radiate power. For a moment, her eyes devoured his image. He was dressed simply in a dark shirt, dark jeans. His hands lifted, then fell to his sides as he looked at her, as if he had to physically restrain himself from touching her. But his dark eyes seared her. Their heartbreak and yearning cut her to the bone.
Her body reacted involuntarily, stumbling back as her heart pounded with emotion. Fury. Regret. Longing...
“What are you doing here?” she whispered.
“He’s here to meet his son,” her father said.
She whirled on her father, feeling betrayed. “Dad!”
“And I want him to stay for Christmas Eve dinner,” he continued calmly.
She stared at him in shock. “No!”
Her father gave her a weakened version of his old charming smile. “Surely you wouldn’t refuse your dying father his last Christmas wish?”
No. Of course she couldn’t. She ground her teeth. “He kept me from you for two months!”