Worth the Risk
an Ever After by Robin Bielman
Samantha Bennett put Dean Malloy out of her mind five years ago, when he broke her heart after a summer fling. But now he’s back in her life, and ready to steal a heritage protection contract that could make or break her career–if he doesn’t steal her heart first. Samantha’s vowed to hate him, but it’s more than anger heating the competition between them.
With sparks flying across the conference table and sizzling in every touch, Dean proposes a weekend liaison. Anything to have Sam again; anything to get her out of his system. But the unresolved feelings between them complicate both their personal and professional lives, and one wild weekend could turn into a disaster that would destroy the one job that means more to Samantha than anything. For a shot at love…is it worth the risk?
© 2012 Robin Bielman
Somewhere between the first and third floors of the high-rise office building, Samantha Bennett leaned against the wall of the elevator and willed her rising temperature to cool it. She couldn’t show up to her job interview looking like she’d run the six blocks from her hotel.
The strangers filling the elevator on their way to work weren’t helping to ease her anxiety. And she really wanted to figure out who had decided to douse himself with cologne and tell him that less was more. Instead, she slid one sweaty palm down the skirt of her new black suit while the other squeezed the handle of the umbrella she’d bought this morning. Thank you, gloomy Idaho sky.
Five floors and a few deep breaths later, the nerves bunched across her shoulder blades had finally drifted away. But when the elevator doors opened and her gaze fell over the shoulder of the woman crowded in front of her, her legs shook. The man squeezing into the front swept a new kind of panic over her.
Quivers traipsed down her spine. She angled herself for a better look, but hopefully one where he wouldn’t notice her.
God, he looked good. Better than she remembered. His caramel-colored hair was streaked with lighter shades, indicating he still spent a lot of his time outdoors. It hung a little longer now, more surfer-chic than Indiana Jones. Shoulders broader and a chest more developed hid behind a thin khaki T-shirt. Longing overcame panic. Her body tingled. Everywhere.
All the women in the elevator were eyeing him.
His nearness made everything she’d fought to forget come roaring back to the surface. Samantha worried her bottom lip. She wavered slightly, her hand twitching around the umbrella stem. The elevator doors shut, and—
The umbrella opened.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry!”
The expanding nylon whacked several people in the back as bodies bumped. Gasps of annoyance filled the tiny space. Flustered, Samantha took a few seconds to close the damn thing.
Once the umbrella shut, she snuck a peek in his direction. He’d turned his head, but a swift duck while she’d gathered her dignity saved her from meeting his gaze.
“Sorry,” she muttered again, feeling her cheeks heat and perspiration slide down her side.
His face was the same. The same one she’d dreamed about countless times over the past five years: the square jaw, slightly crooked nose, piercing aquamarine eyes that never wavered during a conversation. The tiny smile that had passed over his lips had her itching to see if he was still ticklish in that little spot on his hip.
Get a grip, Sam.
At this moment, if he asked her, she’d forget all about the job interview and once again follow him from Yosemite to the Badlands.
No, she wouldn’t. She was indifferent to him now. And she needed to focus on the meeting, on landing the contract, or she might not be going anywhere but the unemployment line.
It should have been a done deal. The World Heritage Fund was the largest international nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving historical sites. Global climate change contributed more and more to the organization’s plight, and they were looking for a partnership with another environmental company to preserve Route 66. The famous highway, stretching over two thousand miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, had been replaced by an interstate highway system a long time ago, but a recent bill signed into law to preserve and restore historic features like gas stations, cafés, and trading posts along the route had put it back on the map.
Samantha’s employer, Global Site Preservation, wanted the job. It meant national exposure. It meant an unprecedented alliance. It meant Samantha’s freelance position with the company could turn into something more permanent. If she didn’t come through with the account, she feared they’d start looking for someone more established.
That could not happen. She needed to keep this job more than she needed anything else. It would prove to her father that she could make it on her own. His scathing words when she decided to leave his law firm still flooded her with sadness. And doubt.
The elevator doors chimed and people exited. Her body tensed at the loss of barriers. At the next floor, the woman she’d been trying desperately to hide behind abandoned her, leaving her feeling exposed. Naked. Uncomfortable in her own skin. She prayed Dean wouldn’t turn around.
He’d left World Heritage Fund a year ago to start his own preservation company—Monument & Heritage Recovery—and Samantha hadn’t been able to resist keeping track of the California-based organization. Dean had gained a great deal of respect in a short time. So why was he in town? If she’d known he’d be here, she could have prepared herself. Or better yet, done everything possible to avoid him.
The risk he posed to her was too great, even after all this time.
Dizziness swooped in as she realized they’d be getting off the elevator at the same floor. She blinked back the disorientation to glance at her watch. Was there time to pass her floor and circle back after he departed?
He’d probably come to town for a simple visit. His father owned World Heritage Fund, after all, and while everyone in the field knew Dean’s departure had strained the father-son relationship, she imagined he still came to Idaho now and then.
Dean. His name conjured up all sorts of images she needed to extinguish from her mind. Pronto.
“Thank you,” a woman said, exiting the elevator while he held out an arm to hold the doors open.
“No problem,” he replied, his familiar voice causing all sorts of flutters in her stomach. Dammit. The smooth texture of his tone still affected her in ways she was powerless to control.
You don’t care about him, remember?
She focused on the metal doors closing. If she didn’t, she’d slide down the elevator wall like hot fudge on ice cream. There were only two more floors to go, so she needed to buckle down. She could do this. She had to do this. Sure, his presence rattled her, but she was meeting with his father, not with him. Besides, five years had passed since they’d seen each other. Reason indicated they could offer each other friendly hellos and be done with it.
Unless Samantha took into account the broken heart he’d left her with. The broken heart she hadn’t let anyone else come close to healing.
Suck it up, she thought. The job matters and nothing else. She’d dedicated the past few years to getting herself to this point, and she had no intention of blowing it now just because Dean Malloy stood three feet away from her.
Finally they arrived at the twenty-third floor. She waited, pretending it wasn’t her stop, so that Dean would exit first. After he did, she followed, catching the closing elevator doors with her trusty—not!—umbrella.
Hanging back, she watched him greet the receptionist before moving deeper into the office and disappearing from view. The sight of his broad shoulders, nice-fitting khakis, and easy swagger sent her entire body into an unwelcome mess of memories. She wondered what it would be like to touch him again, to hold his hand, to kiss him.
“Good morning,” she said to the receptionist, her voice more strained than she would’ve liked. She cleared her throat. “I have a nine o’clock appointment with William Malloy. I’m Sam Bennett.”
The fifty-something woman with warm eyes moved a mouthpiece away from her lips. “Yes, Miss Bennett. Have a seat, please, and I’ll let him know you’re here.” She gestured toward a sitting area with dark green couches.
Sam willed her body to relax as she grabbed a magazine off the table beside the couch. It wasn’t easy in her suit, the skirt riding up a little higher than she’d realized it would. She pressed her knees together, sat taller, and tried to pull it down. No luck. With a defeated sigh, she opened the magazine to a photograph of a backpacker on a mountain.
The image immediately reminded her of Yosemite, and the first time she’d met Dean. She’d decided to take a month off before law school to journey around the western part of the country, wanting to see the great outdoors that her uppity father had deemed too incidental for their family vacations. On her second day there, she’d bumped into Dean at the top of Vernal Falls.
Fresh off graduation ceremonies at Harvard, Dean was the daring adventurer she’d always dreamed of meeting. Not to mention his adorable charm and irresistible smile made her eager to follow him wherever he might go. Left to her own devices, she would have stayed on the straight and narrow, covered the routes most taken, and missed seeing anything out of the ordinary. Dean had offered more.
Her stomach knotted at the memory. She’d been unable to resist him.
His voice shook her from her memories, and she scrambled to lift the magazine in front of her face.
“Do you think you could get Henry O’Neill on the phone? He’s supposed to meet Dad and me for lunch today.”
With trepidation, Samantha peeked from behind her magazine. Dean stood at the reception desk—all calm, cool, six-foot-two-inches of him. His approachable posture, his muscular biceps, his confidence, were an irresistible combination that made her want to jump up and shout, Look over here!
But she didn’t. She couldn’t. The way her heart pounded in her chest, the way her body warmed in all the wrong places, the way she still daydreamed about him…it wasn’t indifference she felt. And she’d promised herself to forget any feelings of attachment where he was concerned.
Damn him for being here.
She tried to drag her eyes away, but she failed. Honestly, looking at him was better than looking at a sunrise, or a rainbow, or a snow-capped mountain. He must have sensed her heated gaze, because he turned to look in her direction. With about the swiftness of a three-year-old, she whipped her face back behind the magazine, lowered her chin, and squeezed her eyes shut.
“Henry,” Dean said a moment later, saving her, she hoped, from discovery. And major embarrassment.
Samantha didn’t dare look at him again, and she prayed his conversation would be short, because her arms were beginning to get tired from holding up the magazine. It was a good thing her pre-adolescent dream of becoming Nancy Drew hadn’t panned out. She sucked at covert operations. Even at twenty-seven.
Thankfully, Henry quickly agreed to the time and place for lunch. Sam opened her eyes to read about “35 Dream Jobs: Turn Your Passion into a Paycheck” and wondered if someone were trying to tell her something. Footsteps, she assumed Dean’s, sounded, then quieted, relieving her once again. Sort of. Just knowing he was in the same office created nervous tension inside her. No way would her mind win over her body’s reaction to Dean, so she’d have to do whatever it took to stay away from him.
This was supposed to be a done deal, she thought again, willing her mind back to the task at hand. Then her body stiffened. Was Dean the hotshot environmentalist World Heritage Fund was also accepting a proposal from?
She dropped the magazine into her lap.
“Sam,” Dean said, sitting across from her with a smile that slayed her.
It was her. His girl of summer all those years ago.
The pair of powder blue eyes he couldn’t look away from made his gut clench. Her startled expression amused him. Her floral fragrance immediately unlocked memories he’d tried not to think about, and a smile he couldn’t contain spread across his face. Lingered.
He’d noticed her the second he’d stepped back into the lobby. No. That wasn’t true. He’d noticed her on the elevator, but he hadn’t thought it possible she was the girl he’d spent a few summer weeks with. Now he knew.
To his surprise—and delight—her close proximity quickened his pulse and stimulated blood flow to all sorts of body parts. A rush of feelings bombarded him—heat, joy, desire, fear. The simple act of seeing her again stirred far too many complex feelings, emotions he thought he’d left on mountaintops and hiking trails of national parks years ago.
“Dean,” she said, so softly, so innocently sexy, that his groin tightened.
They stared at each other. Speechless.
She still looked like an angel with a devilish edge he knew could be coaxed out with the right words. Her luscious heart-shaped lips spoke to him without movement. Honey-colored hair neatly pulled back indicated a more manicured appearance, yet there was no mistaking her youthful spirit. Her hiding behind a magazine confirmed that.
“Wow. It’s good to see you.” He stood and leaned over to kiss her cheek. The contact sent a jolt of electricity through him.
“Oh my gosh. It’s good to see you, too.” The corners of her mouth pulled upward to reveal a killer smile that brightened her almond-shaped eyes.
He carried her sweet smell back with him as he sat, and images of the two of them assaulted his mind. Like a thirty-second film clip, memories bombarded his brain in rapid succession: he and Samantha holding hands, laughing, touching, kissing, undressing.
Pausing for a moment before speaking, he really looked at her. God, she was even more breathtaking now. He couldn’t believe he was seeing her in the flesh.
He could tell by the way her eyes narrowed that she was sizing him up, too. The trance between them filled the air with wonder and…curiosity? Was she as interested in him as he was in her? It honestly felt like no time had passed since he’d last seen her, and suddenly he wanted something lengthier than a brief hello and how are you.
What the hell was he thinking?
He’d come to town to get a job. A very lucrative job that would catapult his company to the top of its field and give him the distinction he craved. His father wasn’t handing over the partnership for Route 66, but was making Dean work for it. And adding competition from Global Site Preservation, a renowned environmental company based in Chicago with a much longer track record and better-known reputation than Dean’s.
Hooking up with Samantha would be a really bad idea. He didn’t need or want any distractions. Besides, the last time he’d seen her, she’d broken his heart.
“How’ve you been?” he asked, snapping the charged tension between them.
“I’m really well, thank you.” She cleared her throat. “And you?”
“Good. Really good.” He relaxed into the couch, his gaze stuck on the flecks of green in her blue eyes. “I’m surprised to see you here.”
She squirmed a little, her hands gripping the magazine. “I could say the same to you. I’d read you started your own company in California, contributing to the preservation of important sites and striving to guarantee future generations get the privilege of knowing their history.”
“Wow. You sound pretty knowledgeable on the subject. Have you been influenced by all the hype over environmental issues and climate change, or are you just keeping tabs on me?”
Her cheeks reddened and he imagined he’d caught her off guard with his directness. He remembered seeing her blush on several occasions that had been much more intimate. Shit. If he weren’t careful, he’d get a hard-on right here in front of her.
“Last I remember,” he continued, “you were headed to law school and then a career with your father’s firm, doing contract law, I think it was.” He had deliberately changed the topic of conversation to her.
“Actually, I’m in environmental law and preservation now.” She sat up taller, straightened her back. “After law school I did work for my father, but then decided to go to night school to get my MBA in Environmental Policy and Management, too. Some guy I’d met really made an impression on me, and I didn’t want to be stuck doing estate contracts the rest of my life.” Her flat tone left no doubt that she wanted to keep her distance from him.
“Sounds like a smart guy.”
“I’ve met smarter since.”
“No doubt.” He deserved that. He knew he’d broken her heart when they’d parted ways. I’m sorry sat on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it. Not yet. Not when she’d broken his heart, too. He’d known he’d never meet anyone else quite like her. So when he lost his cell phone—the only connection he had to Sam—after they split up, he’d foolishly tracked her down to surprise her. Only he was the one who’d been surprised.
And just like that, he remembered he didn’t want a long-term relationship. That work came first. Was what he looked forward to every day. The look on her face when they’d said good-bye had hurt him down to his core, but a few weeks later she’d reminded him to never waver on wanting his independence.
So why was jealousy nearly choking him now? Why was he clenching his hands? When he’d noticed her gripping the magazine, he hadn’t seen a ring on her finger, but only a fool would think she’d stayed single all these years. In his case, just looking at her made him ache to get lost somewhere remote so they could spend all day and night touching each other.
“I work for Global Site now. I’m here to meet with your father. You’re not here for the same reason I am, are you?” She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes, but she looked more apprehensive than confident.
“So you’re my young, gorgeous competition.” He watched her cheeks redden further. “My contacts at Global Site speak very highly of you.”
She shifted her weight, crossed her legs at the ankle. “I doubt they included those exact adjectives, but thank you anyway. And you’re the hotshot environmentalist who’s going to give me a run for my money.”
“That your assessment or does my reputation precede me?”
“Considering I didn’t know it was your company after the account until a few minutes ago, you can rest assured I haven’t given you any thought until now.” A smirk crossed her face, entangling him in a situation he both relished and regretted. Dean excelled at what he did. And nepotism aside, he was the best man to tackle the Route 66 project. After all, he’d learned from the best, having worked for his father for so many years. But he wished it wasn’t Samantha he’d beat.
And he’d bet it all she had thought about him over the years. He’d certainly thought about her.
With more clarity than ever before, he recalled picnicking with her in Jasper National Park. They’d eaten slowly, sipping on champagne after every bite. When Samantha dropped tortellini covered in red sauce down her white shirt, he’d quickly suggested she take it off. It wasn’t the first time she’d dropped something down the front of her shirt, and he’d always tried to coax her out of the messy article of clothing.
At the sight of her silky skin he’d reached out, touched her shoulder, traced his fingertip down her arm, and circled back up her abdomen before landing at the generous swell of her breasts. She was curvy in all the right places, and over the course of the month they’d spent together he’d memorized every slope and angle. Navigating her body with his fingers had sent a rush of heat through him. The only thing better was tracing her with his tongue.
She was always so susceptible to his touch, her body responding to him like he’d had a magic wand. He wondered if he’d have the same power over her now.
“Dean?” Snapping fingers broke him free from his recollection. “You still with me? I completely understand if you need to gather your thoughts and prepare for your presentation. Don’t let me keep you.”
“Presentation?” He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, back in the present where, goddamn it, he’d stay from now on. “I was just thinking maybe you’d like me to give you a few pointers on what to expect from my old man. I could fill you in on what he’s looking for. Level the playing field.” Teasing. He was teasing.
The look of betrayal on her face told him she didn’t think he was needling her. “I don’t need any inside information from you. In fact, I hope you won’t have any objection to my kicking your ass and securing the job for my employer.”
“Have at it,” he said. This Samantha was feistier than before. He liked it. He liked it a lot. But it also made him a little nervous. Sam was smart, persuasive, capable, and if he weren’t on top of his game, she’d win the contract.
The chance to work with his father again, to mend some of the hard feelings between them, was the biggest reason he was after the deal. He knew he’d never get another chance like this one.
“I mean, I’d hate to think you’d use your family ties to get the account. And I’d like to believe your father wouldn’t have invited me here if I didn’t have a chance of landing the deal.”
“So you can keep all those thoughts to yourself, Dean. I’m perfectly capable of getting down and dirty on my own.”
Blood rushed to points south. No way in hell did he want her getting down and dirty on her own. He wanted to do it with her. Preferably without clothing. Shit. In the course of five minutes, Samantha Bennett had emotionally and sexually hijacked him, and he didn’t know what to do about it.
“You’re right that my dad wouldn’t meet with you unless he thought you offered something top-notch.” He fell back against the chair, relaxing. At least on the outside. Inside, he felt tied up in knots. “And for your information, I had to fight for the chance to give a presentation. My dad was ready to—”
Damn. He’d said too much. He didn’t want her knowing how close she’d been to a done deal before he’d convinced his dad to give him a chance. He’d shamefully used his mother’s birthday on Sunday as a reason to visit this weekend, and then told his father that while he was here, what harm would there be in hearing him out? His ideas for Route 66 were good. Incomparably good.
Sam’s eyebrows lifted in a most appealing way. Not the look she wanted, he knew, but every move she made seemed to capture his interest in a seductive manner. “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but if you think I had your dad committed over the telephone, just wait until I get him in person.”
This time confidence radiated off her in waves, making him admire her more. He gulped. She’d not only gotten prettier, but much more brash.
“Excuse me, Miss Bennett?” Gloria said from behind the reception desk. “Mr. Malloy apologizes for the delay, he was stuck on an international phone call. He’ll be right out to get you.”
“Thank you,” she responded, moving her gaze over Dean’s shoulder for the first time since he’d sat down and gotten her attention.
“Well, I can surely attest to your charms in person,” Dean said. “I remember many a day we wiled away in various stages of—”
“Dean!” The way her face alighted with delight, passion, and embarrassment all rolled into one convinced him she remembered everything, too.
He lowered his voice to a husky whisper. “Come on. Remember Vernal Falls? The truffles we had for dessert?” He hadn’t been able to look at one since without remembering the way he’d straddled her hips, nudging the bulge in his boxers between her legs and pulsing ever so slightly while he’d rolled the chocolate down her neck, then bit it in half and poured the liquor inside down her bare upper body, aiming between her breasts and trickling down to just below her belly button.
Her eyes darkened, and he noticed her chest rise and fall. “I remember.”
While his tongue had lapped up the warm liquid spread over her skin, he’d slid her panties down, haphazardly discarded his boxers, and slipped inside her. Outside. Under a blue sky littered with puffy white clouds. The memory stood as crystal clear now as it did then.
“I haven’t had one since.” Or wanted one. Not without her.
“Me neither.” She looked at him with such intensity, he suspected she could see into his soul. “I also remember eating some disgusting fish you caught and some weird berries that you insisted were an aphrodisiac.”
“Hey, I was young and trying to charm the pants off you however I could.”
“I seem to recall you didn’t have much difficulty in that department.” She batted her eyelashes—he knew it was unintentionally, because whenever she’d gotten a little nervous with him during that summer, she’d blinked repeatedly.
Her adorable anxiety had melted his heart then. As it did now. Maybe she wasn’t as immune to him as she’d like him to believe?
“You had a few tricks up your sleeve, too,” he said coolly.
“I did not!”
“Really? You don’t remember the time we skinny dipped in Lake—”
“Sam Bennett. Sorry to keep you waiting. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Samantha quickly stood and reached out an arm to greet the deep, masculine voice coming from behind Dean. The magazine she’d scrunched in her lap fell to the floor and Dean couldn’t help but take in every inch of her tall, curvy-in-the-right-places frame.
“Mr. Malloy. It’s so nice to meet you in person.”
Dean rose with a little dodge to the side so as not to intrude on their handshake. He stepped back, then turned to face his dad.
The old guy looked surprised to see him. “Dean? What are you doing out here?” He looked from him to Samantha, his brow furrowing. “You haven’t been bothering this young lady, have you?”
“I don’t think so, sir. Just a little friendly conversation. I understand she’s ready to knock your socks off with a killer presentation.” He winked at her. He truly wanted her to do well. Knew she’d do well. But knew he’d do better. If he didn’t take the cocky approach, he wouldn’t stand a chance against her.
Samantha graced him with an appreciative tight-lipped smile, her eyes sparkling, before returning her attention to his dad.
She’d dazzle his father, Dean had no doubt of that. But worse, so help him God, he wanted her again. He thought after five years he’d purged her from his system, but truth be told, she still held a special spot inside him, her effortless ambush of his body and mind testament to that.
Dean was in deep shit.
“Worried?” his dad asked him, a bit of playfulness in his tone.
“Just a little.”
“Well, I’m anxious to hear what she’s got to say, so let’s head on back to my office, shall we?” He gestured Samantha to his side. “And call me Bill.” The two walked away without a second glance back at Dean.
When they reached the reception desk, Dean decided he had to do something. “Hold on.” They paused, looked over their shoulders. Dean stepped beside the desk. “Mind if I have a quick word with Samantha?”
For a moment Dean thought he’d be denied. His father wasn’t the most patient man, and a frown worse than a dagger to the heart crossed Sam’s face.
But when his father said, “That’s up to the lady,” in a warm voice, he knew Sam couldn’t deny him a moment without looking inconsiderate, rival or not.
“Sure,” she answered with less enthusiasm than Dean would have liked. Of course, she had to be businesslike in front of the president and CEO of World Heritage Fund.
“Why don’t you bring her back to my office when you’re finished?”
“Will do.” Dean turned to Gloria as his father stepped away. “Can I use your pen?”
“What in the world are you doing?” Sam whispered as he took her elbow to steer her away from the desk, and from listening ears.
Dean steadied himself on the back of the couch. Touching her sent impossibly hot pulses through his veins, knocking him completely off balance. “I wanted to know if you’d have dinner with me tonight.”
“Dean.” The sound of his name on her lips made him determined to get his way.
“Look, I know we’re competing against each other here, but I’d love to spend a little more time with you. Catch up.” Her worried eyes told him she didn’t know what to do or say. He couldn’t blame her. He’d hurt her when they’d parted ways. He would hurt her again when he got the contract.
“How about a drink, at least? There’s a great bar I go to when I’m in town.”
She kept him waiting for a few torturous seconds, their eyes tangling with memories, regrets, anxiety…and questions. Finally she said, “Okay. One drink.”
“Great.” He lifted her hand and, pulling the cap off the pen with his teeth, wrote a set of numbers on her palm. A breathy chuckle left her lips before he replaced the pen into the cap with perfect precision.
“That’s my cell phone number. Call me a little later and we’ll work out the details.”
They walked back to his father’s office in silence, but the electricity in the air between them crackled. Dean knew he was being a fool, knew he needed to stay focused on the job and landing the contract from his father. Not landing in bed with Samantha.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t help himself.
Samantha Bennett still took his breath away. Still stirred a desire in him that no one else had come close to duplicating.
He heard her take a deep breath as they reached the office door.
“See you later,” she said, then disappeared before he had a chance to wish her luck.
As the door gently shut, he remained rooted to his spot, thinking and breathing in the scent of her that lingered in the hallway. He didn’t regret walking away from her five years ago. How could he? He’d traveled the globe and worked hard for something he strongly believed in. He’d gleaned the experience and knowledge to move on to bigger and better things. Had established his own company at the age of twenty-eight. He’d always wanted nothing more than freedom and self-reliance. His mantra? Never surrender. And that applied to both his professional and personal life.
But as fate would have it, the beautiful blue-eyed girl who he’d impulsively trekked through half a dozen states with, all while falling head over heels for, was back in his life.
He was older now. Wiser. Or maybe not, considering that while he knew it wasn’t the best idea, he still wondered if she’d agree to rekindle things for the entire weekend. A reunion of sorts. But if she consented, could he walk away from her again?