“A can’t-mind-his-own-business condition.” Her aches and pains were burgeoning, blooming as they moved. It was taking most of her concentration to not whimper with each step.
“You sure you’re okay?” he asked.
“One hundred percent.”
He gave her a once-over, his dark gaze taking in the holes in her knees, and she amended. “Okay, ninety percent,” she said and then paused. “Ten at the worst,” she amended.
Finn stopped and pulled out his phone.
“We’re over halfway there,” she argued. “I’m not giving up now.”
“Just out of curiosity—do you ever give up?”
She had to laugh. “No,” she admitted.
He shook his head, but he didn’t ask if she was sure, or try to tell her she wasn’t fine. Clearly he was going off the assumption she was an adult.
Little did he know . . .
“Sean plays baseball too,” Finn said out of the blue a few minutes later. “He sucks. Sucks bad.”
“Yeah?” she asked. “As my team?”
“Well, let’s not go overboard.”
She took a mock swing at him and he ducked with a laugh. “In high school, he made it onto his freshman team,” he said. “But only because they didn’t have enough guys to cut anyone. The painful part was making sure he kept his grades high enough.”
Pru hadn’t actually given a lot of thought to the day-to-day reality that a twenty-one-year-old Finn would have faced having to get a teenage Sean through high school. There would’ve been homework to do, dinners to prepare, food shopping needed, a million tiny things that parents would have handled.
But Finn had been left to handle all of it on his own.
Her stomach tightened painfully at all he’d been through, but he was over there smiling a little bit, remembering. “That year half of the JV and Varsity teams got the flu,” he said, “and Sean got called up to the semifinals. He sat on the bench most of the game, but at the bottom of the eighth he had to play first base because our guy started puking his guts up.”
“How did he do?”
Finn smiled, lost in the memory. “He allowed a hit to get by him with bases loaded.”
Pru winced. “Ouch.”
“Yeah. Coach went out there and told him if another hit got by him, he’d string him up by his balls from the flagpole.”
Pru gasped. “He did not!”
“He did,” Finn said. “So of course, the next hit came straight for Sean’s knees, a low, fast hit.”
“Did it get by him?”
“He dove for it, did a full body slide on his chin while he was at it.” Finn gave her a sideways smile. “But he got the damn ball.”
“Did he get road rash too?” Pru asked, starting to get the reason for story time.
“Left more skin on that field than you did.” Finn grinned and shook his head. “He came through though. Somehow, he usually does.”
She loved that the two of them had stuck together after all they’d been through. She didn’t know anything of their mom, other than she’d not been in the picture for a long time. Whatever she knew about the O’Rileys was what she’d been able to piece together thanks to the Internet. She’d done her best to keep up by occasionally Googling everyone who’d been affected by her parents’ accident—needing to make sure they were all doing okay. When she’d discovered that Finn had opened O’Riley’s only a mile or so from where she was living and working, she hadn’t been able to resist getting involved.
And now here he was, a part of her life. An important part, and at the thought she got a pain in her heart, an actual pain, because she knew this was all short-lived. She had to tell him the truth eventually. She also knew that as soon as she did, he wouldn’t be a part of her life anymore.
“Tonight brought back a lot of memories,” he said, something in his voice that had her looking at him.
“You miss baseball,” she said softly.
He lifted a shoulder. “Didn’t think so, but yeah, I do.”
“Is that why you didn’t want to come tonight?”
“I didn’t think I was ready, even for softball.” He shook his head. “I haven’t played since my dad died.”
“I’m so sorry.” She sucked in a breath, knowing she couldn’t let him tell her the story without her telling him some things first. “Finn—”
“At the time, Sean was still a minor. He’d have gone into the system, so I came home.”