Her face rose up to stare at him, a look close to bewilderment shining from her wet eyes. "Why should that bother you? Why should a man touching me bother you?"
Trapped, he thought, trapped by his misspoken words. And it hurt. Charlene had always been the one woman he could say anything and everything to, the only woman he'd allowed in his mind. Until she'd started dating Jeremy, until one hot summer's night when he'd caught the two of them making love in his parents' kitchen.
He would never forget the look of rapture closing her eyes tight.
Stop thinking about that. The force of the memories jerked his hand from her. He stepped back, but not before he spied another glimmering of unshed tears building in her eyes.
"You never wanted to touch me before."
"You're wrong." Before he could silence the words, he added, "I've always wanted you."
"But you hate me."
He needed to stop this now. He needed to force the conversation to different ground, safer ground. If she ever found out the true reason he'd left her two years ago, only weeks after his brother's funeral, she'd never be able to forgive him.
"Tell me the truth." A tentative hand landed on his arm. "I need to know that truth."
No, the truth is the last thing you need.
He needed to change the subject--and quickly. The plane! "Pam was right."
Her back went rigid at the female name.
"She told me and Billy you crashed the plane." He ignored her astonished look and bent down to stare at the dented wing tip. "Looks like I've a mess to fix up here."
Her temper flared. "No, Hamilton. I have a mess to fix, not you."
"You?" He was being unfair, and he knew it, but he needed to stop her tears. If she cried, he'd be lost. He hadn't returned to Kodiak after all this time just to get her to cry. He wanted her smile. Anger would do.
"Yeah, right, like a woman can fix this," he said, placing his hand on the damaged wing, "good enough to fly it back to Kodiak."
"Why you--" She smothered her harsh words. "I can't talk to you now." She glared at him before she turned and raced toward the safety of the clinic.
At least the hint of tears had left her eyes, replaced by more violent emotions.
Unfortunately, even filled with that McIntire exasperation, the woman affected him way too much.