“Drive safe. Call if you need me.”
“I will. Thanks, man. Later.”
“Later.” I hang up and step into the shower, washing up quickly so I can join Cara and Seth. I yank on a clean pair of worn blue jeans, pull an old red T-shirt over my head, and join Seth and Cara in the kitchen.
“. . . don’t care!” Seth yells.
“Seth,” Cara’s voice is hard and her hands are fisted on the table.
“What’s going on?” I ask, and narrow my eyes at Seth, who just glares at me as he jumps out of his chair, his feet planted, shoulders square, as if ready for a fight.
“Why didn’t you tell me my dad was back in Texas?” he demands.
“Seth, you refuse to listen to anyone when your dad’s name comes up.”
“If he’s in the States, why hasn’t he come here?” His lip quivers slightly but he tightens his mouth to hide it, and a ball of lead takes up residence in my gut.
“He had to finish up some things in Texas before he could come home,” I explain calmly.
“No one told me,” Seth repeats stubbornly.
“Seth, your dad tries to talk to you every time he calls and you refuse to take his calls. I know you don’t want to see him, but—”
“You don’t know anything about it!” Seth yells as tears fall from his eyes.
“Okay, explain it to me.” I lean against the counter and tuck my hands in my pockets, as if my body weren’t tense and longing to pull him to me to reassure him.
I need him to talk to me.
“No one cares.” He shakes his head and looks down at his feet, his dark hair falling into his eyes.
“That’s not true, Seth,” Cara begins.
“Yes, it is,” he interrupts, and glares at her. “What do you know, anyway? You’re banging him.” He points at me. “You’re no better than the rest of them.”
Cara gasps, and before I realize what I’m doing, I’ve gripped Seth’s lean shoulders in my hands and pulled his face within an inch of my own.
“I’m going to tell you this one time.” My voice is low and hard. Measured. “If you ever disrespect Cara like that again, I will make you regret it.” I loosen my grip but keep his eyes on mine. “I love you, kid. I love you. I care. I want to know what’s going on in your head, but I won’t force you to tell me.”
He continues to cry silently and it’s killing me.
“I’ll answer any questions you have. I’ll talk to your dad for you or call him back right now and put you on the line with him. He wants to talk to you, Seth.”
He shakes his head in denial, and I just sigh deeply and cup his face in my hand.
“Seth, your dad loves you,” Cara adds. “He’s trying to get here as fast as he can. Maybe talking on the phone with him will make you feel better.”
“I don’t want to talk to him,” Seth whispers, and turns tear-filled eyes to Cara. “I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t mean it.”
“I know.” Cara offers him a smile. “You’re angry. But talking to us, or your dad, will help, sweetie.”
He shakes his head again and I pull him in for a hug.
“It’s going to be okay, buddy.”
“Can I take Thor to the barn?” he whispers.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
He pats his leg and Thor happily follows him out the front door.
“My brother really needs to get here and work some things out with that boy,” I mutter softly.
“He’s so angry,” Cara agrees softly. “I wish I could kick Kensie’s ass.”
“Get in line, sweetheart.”
She gathers Seth’s papers and tidies the table swiftly. I pull the papers out of her hand and set them on the table and pull her into my arms, tucked under my chin. I love the way she fits against me.
I tighten my arms around her shoulders, gliding my hands up and down her back, and just hug her.
“It’s amazing how you calm me,” I murmur.
“Same here,” she whispers without moving her cheek from my chest. “Zack’s on his way home?”
“He should be here this weekend.”
“Good. Seth needs him, whether he believes it or not.”
“I know what I need,” I murmur, and kiss her head.
“What?” She pulls back to look into my eyes. Her hazel eyes get me every time.
“You,” I whisper, and kiss her forehead. “You, curled up with me on the couch, pretending to watch a movie while I seduce you.”
She raises her eyebrows and smiles softly. “Do I get to pick the movie?”
“Since neither of us will actually be watching it, yes.”
I stretch lazily, enjoying the way the soft white sheets shift over my naked body, still sensitive from a night of incredible lovemaking. Without opening my eyes, I reach to my right, searching for Josh, but his side of the bed has gone cold.
I love that he lets me sleep in, but I’d love to wake up with him once in a while.
I’ll have to request that sometime soon.
I roll to my back and take a deep breath, registering the smell of coffee. Has he come back to the house to make me coffee again?
A girl could get used to this.
Excited to see him, I jump from the bed and pull on a pair of yoga shorts and a skimpy tank top and shuffle out to the kitchen quietly while I rub the sleep from my eyes. I turn the corner from the hallway to the great room, and there he is, with his back to me, facing the coffeepot, waiting for the last of the coffee to brew.
Something about him seems to be different this morning, something in the tenseness of his shoulders, and I wonder if everything is okay. Did something happen with one of the animals?
I move up behind him and wrap my arms around his waist, bury my face in the center of his back, just as on the other day when we took Seth to get his puppy.
“Good morning,” I murmur, just as I realize that he smells . . . wrong.
“Well, that’s one way to welcome Zack home,” a familiar voice mutters behind me.
I jump back, my heart hammering and my face flushing as the man that I just had my breasts pressed against turns and grins down at me. His face is exactly like Josh’s, aside from that small bump on his nose where he broke it his senior year in high school. “Good morning, Carolina.” He laughs at my stunned expression.
“Zack!” I wrap my arms around him and hug him close, happy to see him after all this time. “I’m sorry.”