Home > Love with Me (With Me in Seattle #11)(9)

Love with Me (With Me in Seattle #11)(9)
Author: Kristen Proby

“No.” I lean on the counter, watching her with my arms crossed and a grin on my face. “How did I not know that?”

“You think you know everything about me, Jace Crawford, but you don’t. I still have some secrets.”

And I look forward to discovering every single one of them.

“What’s for dinner?” I ask.

“I was going to whip up breakfast,” she says. “Omelet?”

“Perfect.”

“I’m putting spinach in yours,” she warns me. “You need more greens.”

“Just when I was starting to like you, you make me eat spinach?”

“You like me,” she says, her back to me as she looks for her omelet pan.

But she’s completely wrong.

I’m head over heels in love with her.

~Joy~

“That dog just follows Dad all over the place,” Noel says on Sunday afternoon. We’re at Dad’s, making dinner while he’s outside with Nancy, working on the yard. “You should give her to him.”

I stop peeling potatoes to turn and stare at my sister. “Uh, hello? She’s mine.”

“Okay, maybe you could share custody. Dad’s been lonely, and Nancy clearly likes him.”

I glance outside and grin at my one-eyed bulldog, who is currently sunbathing in the grass while Dad mows the lawn around her.

“Okay, that’s pretty cute,” I concede. “Maybe Dad would like to have Nancy around more. I could leave her here during the day when I’m working.”

Our father isn’t retired, but he works mainly from home, so maybe having Nancy here to keep him company isn’t such a bad idea.

“Something to think about,” Noel agrees, reaching for the hand-mixer. She’s whipping up a batch of cornbread.

“Remember when you broke this?” she asks, pointing at the chip in the plastic of the mixer. “You were so mad, and you threw this on the floor.”

“Yeah, I was mad at you because you raided my closet again and ruined my favorite jeans.”

“Mom didn’t even bat an eye,” she murmurs softly. “She just told us to clean up our mess and that I’d be buying you new jeans.”

“Which you never did.” I turn to her. “Maybe you should go to that anniversary sale and make good on that.”

She sticks out her tongue at me, making me laugh.

“These hand towels are threadbare,” I say, trying to dry my hands. “Why doesn’t Dad throw them away and get new ones?”

“You know why,” Noel says softly. “Because they were Mom’s.”

She’s right. Everything in the house is exactly the way it was the day Mom died. It’s as if she’s just run out to the grocery store and will walk back through the door at any minute.

“I understood it for the first year,” I comment with a sigh. “I mean, we all miss her. But it’s been two years now, and he hasn’t made any changes at all.”

“It’s comforting for him,” she says.

“It’s not healthy,” I reply and walk to the window to look out at Dad and Nancy, then frown at the third figure squatting in the garden. “Is that Jace out there?”

Noel joins me and nods. “Looks like it. Speaking of Dr. Handsome, you need to spill it.”

“Spill what?”

Noel cocks a brow. “You’re a smart woman, Joy. You know what.”

I blow a raspberry through my lips and lean on the counter, still staring outside as Jace stands and pushes the wheelbarrow full of weeds to the alley to toss the debris onto the compost pile.

“Things are changing,” I say, watching his muscles flex under the weight. “Not in a bad way.”

“I noticed you’ve been spending more time together,” Noel says.

“We have, and honestly, it’s been a lot of fun. I don’t think I realized over the past few years that I missed him.”

“Well, you’ve both been busy,” she offers and pours her batter into a pan, then slips it into the oven. “But I feel like I need to point out that you never looked at him like this before.”

“Like what?”

“Like he’s a hot fudge sundae, and you want to lap up every drop.”

I bust up laughing but don’t deny it.

Because holy shit can the man kiss. I had no idea.

He might have ruined me for all other men.

But before I can say anything, both men and the dog come through the back door.

“What’s so funny?” Jace asks as he walks straight to me and wraps me up in a hug. I haven’t seen him since yesterday morning. I got called into work and spent all day there yesterday, and by the time I got home, I fell into bed and slept like the dead.

“Nothing,” I lie. Jace narrows his eyes at me, but I change the subject. “What are you doing here?”

“Jace comes every weekend to help me out with the yard or things around the house,” Dad says as he pulls two bottles of water out of the fridge and tosses one to Jace.

“You do?” I ask in surprise. I had no idea.

He leans in and whispers in my ear, “You don’t know everything about me.”

He’s echoing my words from the other night, and it’s hot as hell.

“Sometimes, we just watch sports,” Jace adds, making my dad smile.

“I had no idea that you guys were such good buddies.”

Jace squeezes my hand as if to say, “I’ll tell you all about it later,” and Noel asks Dad where he put Mom’s cornbread platter.

Nancy nudges my leg, wanting a scratch behind the ear, so I squat beside her and oblige.

“Hey there, good girl. Were you helping Grandpa in the yard?”

“She’s an excellent helper,” Dad says, and I scoff.

“Sure, she’s excellent at napping in the grass.”

“Well, that’s her job,” he says in her defense, and it softens my heart toward my father even more.

Larry Thompson might very well be the kindest, gentlest man ever born. The heartache he’s been through over the last few years is just plain unfair.

When the table is set, we sit down for dinner. Nancy has abandoned my leg for Dad’s, resting her chin on his thigh, waiting for a handout.

I love that she enjoys my father. Maybe I’ll take Noel’s advice and leave her with Dad once in a while if he’s open to keeping her.

Dad slips Nancy a piece of chicken and rubs behind her ear before returning to his own meal.

Yeah, I don’t think I’ll have to talk him into it.

“Oh, girls, I have something for you,” Dad says and jumps up from the table. He hurries into his bedroom and returns with two small boxes. “I know your mother would want you to have these.”

Dad hasn’t given us anything from our mom since she passed, so this is a big deal. I hope it means that he’s come to terms with losing her.

Inside my box is the heart-shaped locket that I bought for her the Christmas before she passed. Noel’s is a charm bracelet.

We glance at each other, both surprised.

“Thanks, Dad,” Noel says, setting the box next to her plate. “I know it’s not easy for you to part with Mom’s things.”

“Well, I suppose I can’t keep them forever,” he says with a sigh, and again, Noel and I look at each other in surprise.

“If you’d like,” I begin, “we would be happy to come over and help go through some of her stuff. We could donate her clothes to the women’s shelter, and—”

“No.” Dad’s voice is hard, and his eyes have gone cold. My happy, jovial, good-natured father has been replaced by the grief-stricken one. “You will do no such thing.”

“Dad,” Noel says softly, “you just said yourself that you can’t keep everything forever.”

“You will not come in and take her out of here,” he says adamantly. His hands have balled into fists on the table. “There’s no need for that.”

“Can we just tidy up?” I ask in desperation. “I mean, the dust rag she used is still on the mantle, ironically covered in dust.”

   
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