“Grace inwardly winced, knowing that Ford could hear her conversation with her father. Someone had seen her and Ford together eleven years ago, and after the tragic death of her brother rumor of her involvement with Ford had spread, and ultimately cast a shadow over her reputation. Her father blamed Ford for that as well, of course, even though she’d been a willing party to what had happened back then. It was just easier for her father to believe Ford was responsible for ruining her virtue than accept that she’d consented to the relationship.

“Whatever reason he’s decided to come back to live in Whitaker Falls, it can’t be good,” her father said tightly. “Stay away from him.”

On that heated note, her father was gone.

Shutting the door, Graced leaned against the flat surface and closed her eyes, her heart aching in her chest.

“Is it safe to come out?”

Startled by the deep voice, Grace lifted her head, and found Ford standing in the doorway to her bedroom, his shoulder leaning negligently against the jamb. He was no longer naked, thank goodness. He’d put his slacks and shirt back on, looking nothing like the sensual, affectionate man she’d left in bed twenty minutes ago. No, now there was a dark, ruthless quality to him that made her realize just how little she knew about the man he’d become.

When she didn’t say anything, he pushed off the door frame and strolled into the living room toward her, his expression unreadable. “I guess your father’s feelings toward me are one of the things that haven’t changed since I’ve been gone.”

She choked on a humorless laugh. “You’re right about that,” she confirmed, moving toward the sofa as he closed the distance between them. Last night, she’d trusted Ford, with her heart and her body. This morning, she felt disillusioned and uncertain of his motives. “What business brings you here, Ford?” she asked, giving him one last chance to make amends.

He stopped in the middle of the room, his entire demeanor tensing. Shadows clouded his gaze, concealing truths, and her heart wrenched painfully.

“No more lies, Ford,” she whispered around the ache in her throat. “I know about the house out at Cutter Creek being yours. My father found out from Sheldon at the bank. You’re FZM, Inc.”

He released a deep, harsh breath and scrubbed a hand over his stubbled jaw.

After a long, strained moment, he said, “Yes, I’m FZM, Inc, which stands for Ford Zachariah McCabe. The house out at Cutter Creek is mine, and I’m here to give the house one final walk-through before the carpet and tile are installed and the furniture delivered. In about five weeks, I’m moving in.”

She stared at him, the hurt and devastation coursing through her excruciating in its intensity. “You lied .”

A muscle in his cheek ticked, his eyes turning dark and unfathomable. “I hadn’t meant for you to find out this way.”

That was it, just a flat, emotionless excuse that made a mockery of their night together. He offered no other explanation, and what pride she still had left kept her from demanding a more credible answer.

Tears burned her eyes, but she valiantly blinked them back. She’d hoped this time around would be different for them, but she no longer trusted his intentions, or his purpose for returning. She couldn’t even be sure what they’d shared last night had been real for him.

Lifting her chin, she clung desperately to what little was left of her composure. “I think it would be best if I took you back to the Hampton Inn.”

He didn’t argue or object. Didn’t attempt to deny her request. It was as though he’d closed himself off to her emotionally. Instead, he nodded curtly, a virtual stranger, then turned to retrieve the rest of his things from her bedroom, leaving Grace to endure the same heart-breaking loss she’d experienced when he’d left her eleven years ago.

Except this time, her grief was tinged with Ford’s deceit.

Chapter Four

“T hat nasty flu bug still hasn’t gone away?””