“Watch yourself, Carolina.”
“No, you watch yourself! Who do you think you are to call me and question me about having my friends over? I’ve known Ty my whole fucking life, Josh, just like you. What exactly are you accusing me of?”
“Cara, stop.” Ty is standing with his hands on his hips, shaking his head. “You’re not helping.”
I shake my head in return and listen to silence on the other end of the line.
“Well?” I ask Josh.
“I’m not accusing you of anything,” he murmurs, his voice resigned and tired. “I’m sorry. I hope you sleep well, baby.” He hangs up.
I throw my phone across the room. “What the fuck, Ty?”
“Cara . . .”
“Why is he acting like this? I just saw him this morning, and he has the balls to be jealous because you are over here talking with me?”
“Cara, he’s in love with you. He’d be jealous of fucking Santa Claus right now.”
“Bullshit.” I’m panting, my hands are in fists at my side, and I’m just fucking pissed.
“No, it’s not bullshit. If the roles were reversed, I’d kick his ass. It was inappropriate for me to come over. It just didn’t occur to me because you’re my sister in my head, but not in his head.”
Ty sits at the edge of the couch, his elbows on his knees, and watches me calmly as I process what he’s said.
“I fucked up,” I whisper, and sit dejectedly in my chair.
“It happens. He’ll get over it.”
“He was so mad.” My voice is shaky, and I feel the tears welling in my eyes.
“Whoa.” Ty raises his hands in surrender, his blue eyes wide. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. It’s time to call Jill.”
He finds my phone across the room, pops the battery back in it, and as soon as it’s rebooted, he finds Jill’s number and calls her.
“No, I’m not fucking Josh right now, thanks for asking.” He swears under his breath about what girls talk about on the phone and pushes his hand through his hair. “You need to talk to Cara. She’s crying, and tears are so not my department.”
Ty walks back to me and kisses my forehead gently. “You’ll be fine. I’m gonna go home and call Josh. Talk it out with Jilly.”
He hands me the phone and lets himself out of my house.
I’ll fucking kill him.
And spank the shit out of her.
What the fuck?
I’m never going to sleep now, so I get dressed and head out to the barn to get a head start on chores. With a wolf out there killing some of my cattle, I have more on my plate than I can handle.
This week is going to be hell. I don’t know when I’ll see Cara again, and I need to see her, like I need to breathe.
Apparently I need to remind her that she’s mine.
As I walk up to the barn, I’m surprised to see my mom coming from the chicken coop, a basket looped in her arm.
“Mom?” I hurry over to her. “Is everything okay?”
“Of course.” She smiles at me and kisses my cheek when I bend down and offer it to her. “Couldn’t sleep, so I figured I’d come out and see if there were any fresh eggs for breakfast.”
“Yep. Come inside, I’ll fix you something.”
“You should go back to bed,” I mutter, secretly longing for some bacon and eggs.
“Nonsense, come inside and talk to me.” She smiles and leads me to the house, dressed in her usual yoga pants and oversize T-shirt.
At sixty-eight, my mom is in great shape and is active in our community, serving on the board at the credit union and on the town council, and she still helps with fund-raisers for the school.
I take a seat at the table as she pulls out a skillet to cook the eggs.
I immediately begin to help, pulling the bacon from the fridge and washing my hands.
This is what I needed.
“So, why are you awake, Son?”
“Just worried about the wolf killing the cattle,” I reply, and pull the bacon apart.
I raise my head in surprise to find her glaring at me, her hands on her hips. Her salt-and-pepper hair is up in a bun, and her face is clean of makeup, but she’s no less forbidding.
“What?” I ask.
“You heard me. Is this about Cara?”
Just the mention of her name is both a stab to the heart and causes butterflies to explode in my stomach.
“She just moved back home, Joshua.”
“I know.” I shrug and turn away, making coffee.
“If you want her to stay, why didn’t you ask her?”
“Because it’s too soon to live together. Going home was right for her; I just got used to having her around.”
“Mmm . . .” she murmurs noncommittally. “She’s a sweet girl.”
“Yes. She is.” When the coffee has brewed, I pour both my mom and myself a cup, and she slips the bacon in the oven, sets the timer, and we sit at the kitchen table until it’s time to scramble the eggs.
“I always liked her parents.”
I nod and grip the mug in the palms of my hands, thinking about Cara and her kindness, her gentleness.
Fuck, I miss her.
“Gram would have loved her,” I whisper, and take a sip of coffee.
Mom smiles and nods. “Absolutely.” She sits back and narrows her brown eyes at me, deep in thought. Z and I get our features from Mom.
“Dad still in bed?” I ask, trying to change the subject.
“You’re in love with her,” Mom responds instead, and I know she won’t let me off the hook.
“Yeah, I’m in love with her. It’s got me all messed up.” I sigh and push my hands into my hair.
“Love will do that.” She smiles softly. “I’m so happy for you, my sweet boy.”
“Well, don’t get too happy. I pissed her off last night.”
“Love will do that too.” She laughs and takes a sip of her coffee. “Are you thinking marriage?”
I swallow hard and scowl down into my mug. “It’s entirely too soon to go down that road,” I mutter softly.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She shakes her head adamantly and rises from the table to refill our coffees. “Your dad and I got married after dating for four weeks and we’ll be celebrating forty years next month.”
“But you knew each other all your lives.”