I gasp and stare at Seth in shock. He does not suck. Sure, he’s a pain in the ass, but what kid isn’t?
“Actually, that’s not what I was told.” Brad frowns down at Seth. “I’ve heard that you’re a really good kid.”
“You did?” Seth asks skeptically. “Then why am I here?”
“Because even good people screw up.” Brad sighs and leans against the wall, crosses his arms and ankles as he looks down at Seth. Seth’s eyes are glued to Brad’s gun. “You interested in firearms?”
“Having a gun and a badge doesn’t make you cool,” Seth sputters, then frowns as if he’s not sure why he said that.
“You’re right.” Brad nods thoughtfully. “They don’t make me cool. They help me to keep people like Cara safe from people like you.” The last part of the sentence is said quietly, but Seth’s face pales and tears fill his eyes, and I want to hug him tight and tell him that he’s going to be okay.
But I wait to see where Brad’s going with this.
“I would never hurt Cara!” Seth exclaims, and turns his sad gaze to the woman next to me. “Cara’s great.”
“Do you think your words don’t hurt her? Or your grandparents? Or even Josh?” Brad changes his stance and tucks his hands in his pockets. “What if you get really, really mad at them?”
“I don’t start fights,” Seth argues. “I’ve never hit anybody. I just keep to myself.”
“But, Seth, not everybody goes to jail just because of their fists. You don’t treat anyone with respect and you are thoughtless with your words. Who’s to say that one day you won’t decide you can hurt someone physically too? Or take something that doesn’t belong to you?”
Seth is shaking his head, processing what Brad is saying. “I wouldn’t do that.”
“I’m going to show you something, Seth.” Brad doesn’t touch Seth, he just motions for him to follow and leads him through a heavy metal door and down a long line of jail cells. He walks into one, but Seth stops at the door. “Come inside.”
Seth does as he’s told and stands in front of Brad.
“I believe Cara when she said that you’re a good kid, Seth. I don’t ever want to see you in here after today. Do you hear me?”
“Yes, sir.” Seth’s voice is nothing but a whisper. It’s tearing me apart.
“Okay.” Brad shakes his hand and leaves us alone, waiting for us by the main door. Cara steps inside the cell with Seth, and it takes everything in me to not follow her in and hold her close, to yank both of them out of this godforsaken place and make sure they’re safe for the rest of their lives.
They shouldn’t be here.
“Seth.” Cara takes his shoulders in her hands and looks him dead in the eye. “Everything you do matters. Your classwork, your chores, your family. It all matters. How you talk to others and treat them matters too. If you don’t change your attitude, bad things are in store for you, and I know that you don’t want that. You are such a bright kid, and you, my friend, are going to be an amazing adult. But you have to change your attitude.”
Seth’s lips quiver as he watches Cara’s face while she talks to him.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers.
“I know. Come on, let’s go home.” She hugs him close for a minute.
He actually hugs her back before walking over to me and looking up at me. “Can we go home now?”
“Yep. Let’s go home.”
The drive home is quiet. Seth doesn’t say a word from the time he gets in the car until Cara pulls into my driveway.
After we’ve all climbed out, Seth stands awkwardly and shuffles his feet. “Do I have any chores to do this afternoon, Uncle Josh?”
“No, I think you’ve done enough work for the day. You can go do whatever you like.” I look down into Seth’s face, so similar to my own and Zack’s. For the first time since that bitch dropped him off to us a little over three months ago, I feel hope.
Seth nods. “Okay, thanks. Bye, Cara. See you tomorrow.” He grabs his bike and rides it down the driveway, then cuts right to the barn.
“He’ll go talk to the horses,” I murmur, and reach down for Cara’s hand. It’s so small, like the rest of her, and yet she’s one of the strongest people I know.
I couldn’t admire her more than I do right now.
“I’m sorry it was so hard for him today,” she whispers with tears in her eyes.
“Rough day for you too, honey.”
She looks up at me and nods and bites her lip, and I just can’t stand it anymore. I need to taste her.
I cup her face in my hands and lean in, keeping eye contact with her as I do, and I brush my lips over hers, so lightly that I can barely feel her. I nuzzle her nose with my own and nibble the corner of her mouth. Her eyes flutter closed on a sigh.
“I’m not interested in cowboys,” she whispers.
“Why?” I breathe.
“Because I don’t think tight Wranglers and cowboy hats are hot.”
I chuckle against her ear and gently tug the lobe with my teeth. “Then it’s a good thing I wear Levi’s.”
God, she smells like heaven. Her hair smells like strawberries and her skin is soft. I want to lose myself in her.
“What about Blondie?”
What the fuck? “Who?”
“The blond chick I saw leaving your house the first morning I was here.”
“That was Erica. She’s with Fish and Wildlife. I think I have a wolf issue.”
“Oh, I thought she might be your girlfriend or . . . something,” Cara mutters as color rises to her cheeks.
“I don’t have a girlfriend or . . . something.” I grin. “Cara, you live in the same small town I do.” I look her in the eyes and hold her face in my hands. “Rumors are just that: rumors. I haven’t been with a woman in over a year.”
Her gorgeous eyes go round and she blinks up at me, processing this information.
“I didn’t think I was your type,” she murmurs, making me chuckle.
My hands glide down to her perfectly round ass as I pull her against me so she can feel my hard cock against her stomach. “I think it’s pretty obvious that you’re my type, whatever the hell that means.”
But taking her now would be too fast, and she’s had a rough day.
I pull back and tug her hair gently before stepping away. She’s panting, her cheeks are flushed, and her eyes are bright green.