“In here,” he calls from the family room, where the Christmas tree is still standing, playing his video game. He sets the controller aside as I walk into the room. “Well? Did you fix it?”
“We’re going to fix it, but I need your help, buddy.”
He eyes me for a long moment, then shrugs. “Okay.”
“How are you feeling?” Cara asks and joins me on her couch. I can’t believe I’m at the ranch. But I refuse to tiptoe around, afraid of running into Zack.
“Fine. A little woozy now and then, but it’s not too bad.”
“Josh said Zack’s been a mess this week.”
I shrug and sip the decaffeinated tea Cara brewed for me. “It’s been a helluva week.”
“What’s been going on? The last I heard from you, Zack showed up at your place New Year’s Eve and you put him in his place and kicked his ass out.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t talked with you much,” I murmur softly. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything. And I don’t want to put you in the middle, since he’s your brother-in-law.”
“What’s been happening?”
“Well, Zack wasn’t lying when he said he’d prove to me that he’s in it for the long haul. It started with flowers being delivered the next day.”
“Such a man move,” Cara says and rolls her eyes. “Of course, it’s a man move because it works.”
“They were pretty.” I don’t mention that I spent an hour crying and sniffing over them, missing Zack like crazy. “Then on Tuesday, he had lunch delivered to my office from the diner.”
“That’s your favorite place,” she replies with a raised brow.
“I know, and he didn’t just have it sent for me, but for the whole office. Then on Wednesday, Seth showed up after school to shovel my driveway.”
“Aww,” she replies and her face goes all gooey. “That’s sweet.”
“I know,” I admit and sip my tea. “So of course I invited him inside for cookies and to chat. But you know, he never said anything about his dad, or getting back together with him. He just acted like everything was normal. And he came all week.”
“We got a lot of snow last week,” Cara says. “Who picked Seth up?”
“Zack. But he didn’t come to the door, he just honked from the driveway.”
“Why didn’t he come inside?”
I bite my lip and look down at my mug. “Because I told him I didn’t want to see him.”
Cara nods thoughtfully. “Is that all that’s happened?”
“No, yesterday I got a package in the mail.”
“What was it?”
I grab my handbag and pull the heavy book out of it. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”
Cara giggles and takes it out of my hands to flip through. “This is kind of sweet.”
“I know.” I sigh and push my fingers through my hair. “He’s softening me up a bit, but Cara, he was an asshole.”
She nods and continues to flip through the book. “Ew. Don’t look at page 328. It’s scary.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“So, you just fell out of love with him? Just like that?”
“Don’t be stupid, Cara.” I glare at my friend and then feel tears threaten when she raises her sober gaze to mine. “I miss him.”
“He’s right down the road there.”
“I don’t know if we can make it work. He said some pretty horrible things.”
“Oh, please. Jill, people say mean things, especially when they’re scared and worried and have the shock of a lifetime. He apologized, and is trying to prove to you that he loves you, respects you, and wants to work it out. What more do you want?”
“I want a guarantee that he’ll never hurt me again.”
“Well, you won’t get that. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that he will. Because he’s a human being.” She sets the book aside and takes my hand in hers. “But he’s a good man, and he loves you like crazy.”
“I’m still thinking.”
“You’re still a stubborn ass,” Cara replies with a smile. “But it’s cool. I think you’re the bee’s knees.”
“You spend too much time around children,” I reply dryly just as Josh comes through the front door. “Is Zack gone?”
“Yeah, he just pulled out. You have about an hour before he’ll be back.”
“Want me to go with you?” Cara asks with a frown.
“Nah, I’m fine. I’m just getting my stuff out of his place.” I take my mug to the kitchen, rinse it out, and hug Cara close. “Thank you for everything.”
“Don’t give up on him,” she replies. “Keep an open mind.”
I nod and have to hold my breath to keep it together when Josh pulls me in for a big hug too. He’s the same height and build as Zack, and being nestled in his arms is way too much like being held by the man I love.
I pull away and wave as I climb into my car and drive down to Zack’s place. I park and when I reach the front door, Seth opens it wide.
“Dad’s not here,” he says, motioning for me to come in, “but you can wait for him if you want.”
“No, it’s okay, sweetie. I just wanted to grab a few things that I left here on my way home from my visit with Cara.”
Seth’s face falls and his shoulders sag. “Oh. Okay.”
I pat his shoulder and climb the stairs quickly, trying my best to keep my tunnel vision in place. Do not look at the family room where you had the best Christmas of your life. Do not look at his bed. Grab your clothes and stuff them in your bag. Do not think about how he made love to you in that shower. Grab your shampoo and your blow dryer. Do not look at the bed! Okay, down the stairs and you’re almost home free.
“Jill, can I ask you a question?” Seth asks as I come to the bottom of the stairs.
“Of course, buddy.”
He frowns and seems uncertain, shoves his hands in his pockets, and looks so much like his dad right now, it almost breaks me.
“What is it, Seth?”
“You’re not going to forgive him, are you?”
And cue the tears. I bite my lip, but can’t stop the tears that come as I stare at this sweet boy. “I don’t know.”