“What happened?” she asks.
“I don’t know for sure. I suspected for a while that Kensie was fucking around behind my back. I hadn’t slept with her in years, even when I was home on leave, and that was on purpose. I couldn’t stand her. I think that she saw that Seth was getting older, and able to fend for himself, so she left him to do just that. The kid can cook better than I can.”
God, I don’t want to talk about this part.
I clear my throat and avoid her eyes when she turns on her side, watching my face.
“I think she let the fuckers hurt him. Smack him around.” I cover my face with my hands and struggle to breathe.
“How do you know?” she asks softly.
“He mentioned it a few times after he started working with Cara, so I put him in counseling.”
“He’s doing so great, Zack. He’s happy and coming out of his shell.”
“I know. Thank God. But how could I have left him with her for so long . . .”
“You didn’t know.”
“I knew she was a selfish bitch.”
“You didn’t know that she’d allow something so horrible to happen to your son. You don’t have to be touchy-feely to be a decent human being, Zack. I’m just thankful that she doesn’t have anything more to do with either of you.”
“You and me both.” I let out the breath I’ve been holding and kiss her forehead. We settle back on the blanket, watching the sky erupt in red, orange, and blue. “You really need to think about whether or not you want to be involved with me and all of my baggage, sugar. ’Cause I have quite a lot of it.”
“Who doesn’t?” she scoffs.
“You don’t seem to.”
She erupts in laughter. “I’ve learned to cope, Zack. So is this what we’re doing? Spilling our guts?”
“I spilled some of mine. Maybe not all.”
She nods and thinks about it for a minute, then begins in a soft voice.
“My dad beat the shit out of my mom my whole life, and when Ty was away at college, he almost killed her.”
Rage boils up from my gut and my hands curl into fists. Ty is one of my oldest friends, so of course I knew some of what happened when he came home after graduation, but to hear it come from her lips, so matter-of-fact, it pisses me off all over again.
“Seeing Lauren in the hospital after Jack attacked her brought a lot of that baggage to the surface for me. I’ve had a few bad nights.”
“I’m sorry, baby. I wish I’d known.”
“I don’t think I was ready for you yet,” she admits. “And there’s more. It’s a long story, but the gist of it is, my ex-husband was a cheating bastard. He couldn’t keep it in his pants, and I realize now that that wasn’t my fault. But one thing you should know is . . .”
She pauses and bites her lip and then glances over at me with scared eyes.
“I can’t ever have babies, Zack. I can’t get pregnant. We tried for years, worked with doctors, and it’s just not ever going to happen.”
The grief in her voice is my undoing. I pull her into my arms and kiss her head. “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
“I’m healthy,” she confirms. “There’s no medical reason for it, it just is. So if you want to run, now might be the right time to do it.”
“Stop.” I pull back to look her in the eye. “We are going to take this one day at a time, sugar. See where it goes. I haven’t really given having more kids much thought. Seth is awesome, and a handful. I just want to enjoy you, continue spending time with you.” I lean in to whisper in her ear. “Be inside you as often as humanly possible.”
She giggles and kisses my cheek.
“We’ll figure the rest out.”
“Now, lie back and watch this amazing show I arranged just for you.”
“This is pretty impressive,” she agrees and snuggles up to my side to watch the sky. We lie in silence for a long while until something suddenly occurs to me.
“Wait. Does this mean we don’t need condoms?”
She shrugs nonchalantly and grins. “Maybe.”
I cover her body with mine and bury my fingers in her spectacular hair. “Maybe what?”
Her eyes narrow and she suddenly looks uncertain.
“Until our amazing night this summer”—I kiss her lips—“I hadn’t been with a woman in close to four years. I didn’t cheat on my wife, Jill. I’ve had plenty of workups while in the army and I’m as healthy as can be.”
“I had myself checked too, especially after I found out Todd had been . . .” She can’t finish the sentence and I smooth my hand down her cheek.
“So, we don’t need them?” I ask hopefully.
“I guess not.”
I jump up to my feet and tug her up with me, roll the blankets up into a ball, and pull her behind me to the house.
“Hey! What about the big, amazing Montana winter sky?”
“Fuck the sky. I get to sink into you without a barrier between us, and I’m not waiting another minute.”
“Dad! I’m home!” Seth stomps through the house, greeted by a very excited Thor. “Hey, buddy! Where’s Dad?”
“Hey, Seth.” It’s Sunday morning and Zack and I are in the game room, me working some more on my phone, which makes me crazy—I wish I’d brought my computer—and Zack reading on his iPad. “You’re home early.”
“Josiah’s dad said the roads were good enough, so he brought me home. Why is Jill’s car here?” He spies me sitting on the couch and he smiles shyly. “Hi, Jill.”
“Hi,” I reply with a smile, wondering how Zack is going to explain this. We had agreed that I’d leave before Seth returned home.
“Jill was out here yesterday to see Cara and she got stuck here because of the weather, just like you got stuck in town. She’s waiting for the roads to clear up.”
“Oh.” He shrugs and pets his dog. “What are we gonna do today?”
“Good question.” Zack grins over at me. “Can you stay for the afternoon?”
“If you would both like me to,” I reply carefully. “What do you have in mind?”
“It’s warm enough to take the snowmobiles out,” Zack suggests.