All Nathan could do was collapse onto the log, continuing to stare after Elizabeth. In the span of two minutes, his happiness had become utter heartbreak.
Bill's land had been beautiful. A clear spot to build a house. A river for him and Ally to spend many wonderful hours fishing. Nathan had not just thought about his precious niece, his soon to be adopted daughter. He had pictured Elizabeth and Little Jack while seeing Bill's land. The four of them together. A blended family.
Elizabeth had asked to meet him that afternoon and Nathan's heart had soared at the thought. He had tried to be understanding of their dinner date falling through; he knew that Helen Bouchard's unexpected arrival had thrown her into distress. However, it had been a disappointment.
Instead of making plans, Elizabeth instead had put up walls. She knew he wanted more than friendship; Nathan acknowledged he was not trying to hide it. Elizabeth had shared that she could not lose him like she had lost Jack…..
That was when Nathan admitted something to Elizabeth. Not in an effort to calm her fears. But finally vocalizing what he had been thinking about. He would quit the Mounties. While he loved serving and protecting the people of Hope Valley, being a Mountie had always been a job. It was not his calling. At the end of the day, he loved Ally more.
He loved Elizabeth more.
Nathan had never thought he would marry. Many women would not want a ready made family, a man with a teenage age ward. Elizabeth Thornton had changed all of that. She had brought colors into his life. Elizabeth had made him open up about his past and instead of rejecting it, Elizabeth stayed. The fact that she had a son, Jack, did not faze him. He was a sweet boy who adores horses and well, Newton, Nathan's horse, did not like many people.
But instead of her fears being assuaged, Elizabeth had tried to flee. She had said that staying would only make the situation harder. Nathan replayed the look in Elizabeth's eyes. They had been unwavering as he told Elizabeth he knew she felt the same way as he did. That she wanted more than friendship. That they meant something to each other.
Nathan also replayed the words that had followed as Elizabeth sat astride Sargent. He was in love with her. He loved Elizabeth. It had not been the setting Nathan had pictured telling Elizabeth his feelings. Yet she also deserved to know how he felt. No more being cagey. No more being shy and tongue-tied. It was time for the truth.
But Elizabeth had left. No acknowledgement of his declaration. No indicator of how she felt. Elizabeth had fled, the relationship between the two of them forever changed.
Nathan raked his fingers through his hair. It was something he did when he was processing. Had he been so wrong about Elizabeth? Had the electricity between them been a joke? What had their Christmas decorating together meant? The hug in the street?
Nathan paused to reflect on everything that had transpired. Suddenly, Nathan remembered Elizabeth saying she could not lose him like she had lost Jack. She had compared him to Jack. She also had not said "I don't" about their mutual feelings. She had said "I can't."
"She does love me," Nathan spoke out loud. "But she is scared." Nathan allowed himself to realize that Elizabeth had not loved since Jack. Bill had told him once that Elizabeth would look before she would leap. Looking could take as long as possible but to finally leap was an entirely different step.
Nathan walked over to Newton and mounted his trusty steed. Something told him it was going to be rough for a while. After all, she and Lucas had not exactly ended things either. However, Nathan was determined to not let that faze him. He would be patient. He would be at peace. He would be there if Elizabeth ever needed him. He would live his life, continue to adopt Ally, begin the process of leaving the Mounties….
Oh Lizabeth," Nathan looked once more down the road, the dust long since settled from Elizabeth's hurried exit. "I'm not going anywhere. True love is always worth fighting for and I will fight for you, for us, for our family."