My Cowboy Valentine - Page 19

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Would he never fight for her?

She exhaled in a painful rush, her eyes stinging, her chest aching, and climbed into her car to leave Cade and the garage behind.

She refused to glance in the rearview mirror, refused to let herself feel anything. She couldn’t afford to feel anything, because if she did, she’d realize her heart was close to breaking...

It was at that very moment that Tommy realized they were in her old car and Cade wasn’t with them, and he let out one of his ear-piercing shrieks.

“Cade!” Tommy cried, his thin arm jerking, swinging wildly, gesturing back to the garage and Cade’s truck as she merged with traffic on the road.

Rachel sucked in a breath, fingers tightening around the steering wheel. “He’s got to go work,” she said, trying to sound calm, unruffled, even though her insides were lurching and her eyes were burning and all she wanted to do was cry. “And we do, too, honey. We need to go home and finish packing—”

“Cade house. Cade. Go. Mama.”

“We can’t. We’ve got to go home, to our house.”

“Cade house. Dogs. Mama.”

“Maybe someday we can get a dog—”

Tommy made an inarticulate sound, part yelp, part cry of protest, and her eyes burned with tears she wouldn’t cry. She was doing the right thing, ending things, going home now, going back to her life. It wouldn’t have ever worked with Cade. She knew it, and he knew it, too. Maybe one day they could be friends, but that time wasn’t now.

Tommy yelped again, louder this time. “Cade!”

“He’s going to go back to the ranch to work, Tommy—”

“Cade!”

Rachel clamped her jaw tight and gripped the steering wheel tighter. And then Tommy began to shriek, that blood-curdling shriek he did that went on forever, and it took every bit of Rachel’s strength to keep from crying as she drove them home. Stupid Cade. Stupid, stupid, stupid Cade. And stupid Rachel for loving him in the first place.

* * *

IT WAS SEVEN-THIRTY IN the evening and Tommy was finally, thankfully, asleep, after hours of banging and crying and screaming. Thank God they hadn’t moved into the apartment yet. Neighbors would have been complaining after the first hour, never mind the next six and a half.

Exhausted, Rachel went through the house, locking doors, pulling blinds on the quiet night. The floorboards creaked beneath her bare feet as she hesitated outside Tommy’s room, resting one hand on his closed door.

Their lives—never easy, rarely calm—felt overwhelming right now. It didn’t help that there was so much that was unknown...big questions and little questions. But the question that haunted Rachel most was the one about Tommy’s future. Would he ever be able to live independently? Would he ever be able to communicate with the world...function in the world?

And if he wouldn’t ever be independent, what would happen to him if something happened to her?

Who would care for Tommy if she couldn’t?

She’d never thought about his future quite like that before and it was frightening. Because even if she wanted to do it all on her own, she couldn’t. Tommy needed more than her. He needed a family...a mom and a dad, brothers and sisters, people who would love him and protect him. And maybe it was selfish, but she wanted to be part of a family, too.

For a moment there, she’d imagined starting that family with Cade...

Crazy, silly her. Crazy, silly her for hoping...wanting...needing...

Rachel turned out the hall light and went to her room and changed into pajamas and brushed her teeth for bed. But once in bed she couldn’t sleep. All she could think about, all she could see, was Cade.

Cade.

All-Around Cowboy. Broken cowboy. And keeper of her heart.

The days crept by, one after the other, Thursday, Friday, and then it was Saturday, and Rachel filled the hours of each day with packing box after box of kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, clothes, towels.

And in between taking care of Tommy and packing up the rest of the house, she told herself she was glad Cade hadn’t called, that it was better this way, ending their relationship this way, before things got even more serious, but Tommy didn’t seem to think so. He took every opportunity to ask for Cade, and then when she couldn’t produce Cade, Tommy had another meltdown, and the meltdowns were wearing Rachel down, so much so that on Saturday afternoon when Tommy started begging for Cade again instead of eating his lunch, she completely lost it with him, shouting back at him that Cade was gone and that he wasn’t going to see Cade anymore.

It wasn’t the wisest thing to do, nor was it kind, and so Tommy, hurt and frustrated, ran into his room and dumped out his bin of LEGO and then began pelting the walls with handfuls of LEGO pieces.

“Stop it!” she shouted at him.

He ignored her, throwing more at the wall and window.

“Tommy!”

More LEGO went flying.

“Tommy!”

“What’s

going on?” A deep male voice demanded from the hallway.

Cade?

Rachel stiffened and spun around to face Cade King. “What are you doing here?”

His hands went to his hips as his gaze swept Tommy’s LEGO-strewn room. “What’s going on in here?”

“You can’t just walk into my house,” she answered.

“I rang the doorbell. You didn’t answer.” He glanced at her, a black eyebrow lifting. “But then, it’s probably hard to hear the doorbell when you’re yelling.”

She nodded at Tommy. “He started it.”

“But you’re the adult.”

“I don’t want to be the adult anymore. I’m tired of being the adult. I want to have a tantrum now, too.”

Cade gave her a strange look and pushed past her to enter Tommy’s bedroom. Rachel watched him crouch down next to Tommy and say something to him. Tommy released his handful of LEGO and stared up into Cade’s face. “Dog?” he asked hopefully.

Exhausted, Rachel turned away and walked out, leaving Tommy and Cade together in her son’s room while she went to the kitchen and then through the kitchen door to the small backyard beyond. She was sitting in Tommy’s swing when Cade found her.

“I’ve never seen you lose it with him before,” Cade said.

“He’s been having a lot of tantrums lately and I’m tired.”

“Why so many tantrums?”

She tilted her head back to look up into Cade’s face, and her heart did a painful twist. She still loved Cade, didn’t she? “Tommy wanted you,” she said flatly, trying to smile but finding it impossible. “He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go see you and the dogs.”

“Do you want me to try to explain it to him?” Cade offered.

She planted her feet beneath her to keep the swing from moving. “And what would you tell him?”

Cade’s broad shoulders shifted. “That I love his momma more than anything, and I want to love him, too—”


Tags: Jane Porter Romance
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