That suited him, too.
Dark, tumultuous clouds were churning the sky as he parked outside the address he’d used Google Maps to find. He took in the house.
It was a small blue-and-white Craftsman-style. The yard was neat and trimmed, matching the rest of the street. There were oak trees lining the sidewalk and bikes and toys in the yards, with inexpensive cars that suggested a young but hardworking neighborhood.
There was lace hanging in the windows, a stroller on the front step, and a swing hanging from the tree in her yard.
Cole closed his eyes, let out a long, ragged breath, and thunked his head on the steering wheel a few times.
“Gonna knock something loose in there.”
Cole turned to the familiar female voice.
Susan, standing just outside his truck, gave him a small smile as he cursed. “Hey,” she said.
She looked the same, and the two years fell away. Willowy, serene, her pretty hazel eyes warm.
“You’re a surprise,” she said, and opened his truck door. She got a look at his expression. “Oh,” she said. “Were you planning on just sitting here and staring at my house, then?”
He gave her a rueful smile. “Actually, I hadn’t decided yet.”
“Fair enough.” She leaned against the truck and studied the sky.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Waiting for you to decide.”
“Shit.” He got out of the truck and leaned against it next to her. He could see that she was holding a baby monitor and he had to laugh. “I have no idea why I’m here.”
When he met her gaze, she gave him a small smile.
“Shit,” he said again. “Who called you, Tanner or Sam?”
“Both. They tracked you on your Find Your Friends app and figured out where you were headed.”
“Christ, it’s like they’ve joined Lucille’s geriatric gang,” he muttered.
She lifted the small monitor. “Listen, the baby’s still sleeping, but I’d really rather be inside where I can be closer. Coming with?”
“Yeah.” What the hell. He wanted answers, and she had them. “Sure.”
They sat in her small but cozy kitchen while she poured some coffee and he tried not to stare at the wedding ring blinding him from her finger.
She set a mug down in front of him, ruffled his hair like she always used to do, and sat across from him. She held out her hand with the ring and they both stared at it. “A year,” she said.
“I didn’t ask.”
“You wanted to,” she said. “The baby’s two months old.” She smiled with so much love it made his heart squeeze. “Sierra’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“So you’re happy,” he said.
“Very.” She paused, studying him. “And you want to know how I possibly can be.”
He blew out a breath. “I’m not judging.”
“Yes, you are. And that’s okay, I get it. I told you I loved you. And while I loved you I fell in love with another man.”
“My best friend.”
“Yes,” she said, voice even, only her eyes revealing a past pain. “And now, two years later, I’m in love again. When the real thing comes along, there’s nothing like it. And,” she said, “you don’t, or can’t, understand.”
“I don’t,” he said honestly. “I want to, but I don’t.”
“Some people have to learn how to love by going through it multiple times. That was me.” She paused. “And some people love so completely with their entire heart, every single time.”
He closed his eyes. “Me.”
“You,” she said softly. “Why are you here, Cole?”
“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “There’s a woman.”
She nodded. “And you…aren’t sure?”
No, he was sure. Or he had been. Now he had no clue.
Susan drew a breath and then spoke carefully. “I know you’re angry at me about my feelings for Gil. You’ve got a right to be. But Cole, don’t be angry at Sam and Tanner. It wasn’t their doing. And it wasn’t their place to tell you about it, either.”
“No, it was yours,” he said. “Yours and Gil’s.”
“Yes,” she agreed easily. “It was. And now I’m going to say something really important to you, so I need you to hear me.” She reached across the table and squeezed his fingers until he met her gaze. “And I need you to believe me.”
“Just say it.”
“At the funeral, when my feelings for Gil came out, you left. You left and you wouldn’t speak to me about any of it.”
“You broke up with me right then and there,” he reminded her. “While I was spinning and heartsick. Can you blame me?”
“Yes,” she said. “Because there were things you needed to know.” She drew a deep breath. “Gil and I—”
He closed his eyes. “Susan, don’t—”
“—never slept together.”
He opened his eyes. “What?”
“What was between us was never acted on, Cole. Gil didn’t want to be that guy,” she said quietly. “He refused to be that guy.” She hesitated. “I’m not saying that we were innocent, because we weren’t. After we realized our feelings, we tried to avoid each other for months, couldn’t even look at each other, but eventually we couldn’t do it anymore. It was wrong, it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t fun, and we never felt good about it. We fought it.”