My hand went to the back of my neck as I rubbed it and chuckled. “Probably the main house. With it being Christmas and all, I’m sure Mom will like having me at the house. Besides, bunking with Greg and Jimmy isn’t all that fun. And the lake house would be too lonely being by myself.”
Ty laughed, but I was positive he felt the same rush of sadness sweep over his body that I had. Christmas had always been hard for our mother, ever since our brother Beck had died in the Marines five years ago. It was a topic she didn’t like to talk about, and at times I knew I wasn’t the only one who just wanted to remember our brother. Talk about him. Miss him openly. Mom was getting better at talking about him, though, since Lincoln and Kaylee had come into our lives. In a way, it was almost like Beck sent these two women to us to help us ease the pain.
Ty cleared his throat and gave me another slap on the back. “I’ll meet you at the house. Let me call Brock and let him know you’re home. You might be the only reason he’ll drag himself away from Lincoln.”
“They still acting like a newly married couple?”
Ty rolled his eyes. “I swear the two of them are sickening with the way they love on each other.” He acted as if he was going to gag.
“Please, like you don’t act the same way when Kaylee comes around.”
My brother smiled, and I couldn’t help but notice how his eyes seemed to dance with happiness. The same happiness I saw in Brock’s eyes. Hell, even in my own parents’ eyes. A sharp pain hit me in the middle of my chest, and I rubbed my hand over it, willing it to go away.
“Let me get this trailer off and put up and I’ll meet everyone up at the house,” I said as I tried to shake the feeling.
Before he turned to walk to his own truck, Ty placed his hand on my shoulder. “Is everything really okay, Tanner?”
I let out a deep breath. “I think so. I’m feeling a bit…lost right now. I think being home is going to help me sort a lot of things out.”
“It’s that time of year. I used to feel the same way when I was on the road. The holidays are hard on each of us. I miss him too.”
I nodded. “That’s just it, I wish it was just Beck…but it’s something more.”
His brows drew closer together as he regarded me with a concerned look. “What’s going on, Tanner?”
With a scoff, I shook my head. “I don’t know for sure, but I think Chance might want to walk away from roping.”
His brows shot up. “No shit?”
“Yeah, no shit.”
“We need to have a beer and catch up.”
Ty nodded. “After Christmas, me, you, and Brock, let’s head up to the lake house if the weather is good. Just to hang out.”
I smiled. “I like the sound of that. It’s been awhile.”
We both looked out toward the mountains and stared at it in silence. The two of us searched for something, or someone.
I dropped my gaze. “I feel like my world is about to turn upside down and I have no fucking control over anything, Ty.”
When I looked up and turned to face my oldest brother, he smiled. “Sometimes the only way to get your control back is to let it go.”
I frowned. “That makes no sense at all. You start on the eggnog a bit early, man?”
With a deep laugh, he hit me on the side of the arm and started toward his truck. “I’ll meet ya up at the house, Tanner.”
I shook my head and made my way over to the trailer. Suddenly, I was more than ready to get up to the house and see my folks.
The moment I stepped through the back door, my mama wrapped her arms around me and hugged me like she hadn’t seen me in years. “Tanner, sweetheart! You came home early!”
I looked past her at Ty, who grinned. My father stood next to him, with an equally big smile on his face.
Mama pushed me out at arm’s length and gave me a once-over. “Nothing is broken this time, right?”
I laughed. “No, just in need of some R and R.”
She beamed with happiness. “Then you came to the right place.”
My father stepped up and gave me a quick hug with a hard back slap. “It’s good to see you, son. Ty and Brock can use the extra hands to help out around the ranch.”
With a hard glare, my mother pointed at my dad. “Ty Senior, did you not hear the boy say he needed some rest and relaxation?”
Dad laughed and shook his head. “If the boy wanted to relax, then he ought to have known better than to come home.”
Mama rolled her eyes and let out a long sigh before she faced me. She cupped my face and smiled up at me once more. I could see the happiness dance in her eyes, and it made my heart swell. “I’m so happy to have you back home. How long are you staying, sweetheart?”
“A month or so.”
She nearly shouted as she pulled
me in for another hug.
I caught sight of Brock as he walked into the kitchen. Blayze, his six-year-old son, was right on his heels. “Well, look what the cat dragged in.”
“Uncle Tanner!” Blayze cried out.
I bent down and caught him as he ran and jumped into my arms. “Holy cow, boy, you need to stop growing!” I said while I gave him a quick look over.
“Tell me about it,” Lincoln said as she entered the room.
I smiled as I looked at Lincoln. She was carrying a sleeping Morgan and had a glow about her that screamed she was expecting another baby. Of course, the small baby bump was another clue.
“Lincoln, how are you?” I asked as she made her way over to me. I leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “You look beautiful, as always.”
Brock quickly took Morgan from his wife’s arms like a man who handled a baby all the time.
“I’m doing wonderful. I’m so glad you made it home early!” she replied as we hugged.
“So am I.” I looked down at her stomach. “When are you due again?”
She laughed. “Tanner, please, mark it in your phone! You keep asking. May fifteenth!”
I pulled out my phone and did exactly what she asked me to do. After a quick glance around the room, I looked back at Ty. “Where’s Kaylee?”
“She should be here…”
The sound of Kaylee’s voice came from the front of the house. When she walked into the kitchen, she stopped and looked at me, then broke out into a brilliant smile. “Well, holy shi…”
“Kaylee!” Lincoln warned.
Kaylee rolled her eyes and made her way over to me. “Fiddlesticks. The youngest Shaw brother is back in town. Ladies, hold onto your panties!”
I laughed and hugged her. She turned her face and whispered into my ear, “I’ve got a Christmas surprise for you.”
When I pulled back, I replied in a hushed tone, “Oh, yeah? Am I going to like this surprise?”
She chewed on her lip for a moment and then answered, “I think so, if what I saw at the wedding was any indication.”