She’d barely finished her sentence when Colleen’s eyes fluttered open and she said, “I’m going to be sick.”
“Please, Adam,” Kerry said. “She’ll hate knowing you saw her like this.”
He shut the door behind him a beat before Colleen’s retching and crying started. Adam knew exactly how this was going to play out. Kerry would take care of her sister, then stay up all night watching over her.
But who would take care of Kerry?
By the time Adam made it out to her kitchen, he’d decided that he would.
No doubt Kerry would need coffee when she emerged from the bathroom. He sure as hell would in her position. Adam’s mother had made sure he and his brothers weren’t useless in the kitchen or around the house, so he easily knew his way around a pot of coffee.
As he found everything he needed to make it, he thought about family and all that came with it. He’d always been thankful for his, for the way they all stood by each other no matter what, and he liked knowing Kerry clearly felt the same about her family.
But from what he could see, there was a big difference between his family and hers—no one in his family had ever pretended to be perfect. His parents had never expected it from Adam and his siblings. They’d simply expected them to be kind, and hoped that any mistakes they made would be something to learn from. Adam hadn’t met Kerry’s mother, but from what she’d said at dinner about her mother doing spot checks on her “empire” all the time, he had a sense of just how much weight her mother expected Kerry to carry on her shoulders. And to do it effortlessly, as well.
An hour later, Kerry’s hair was damp and curling softly around her shoulders as she walked into her kitchen. She’d not only showered, but had also changed into leggings and an oversized University of Washington sweatshirt. She looked utterly unlike the perfectly polished woman he’d first met a week ago—and totally adorable. Even more beautiful, in fact, than he’d already thought she was.
She stopped in her tracks halfway into the room. “What are you still doing here?”
“I was thinking you could probably use a cup of coffee.”
He poured it for her and brought it over before she could tell him that she didn’t need it. He’d seen how hard she worked to take care of everything herself, but sometimes you needed support, whether you wanted to admit it or not.
“How did you know coffee was exactly what I needed right now?”
She took the cup from him and drank. Not dainty sips, but big, thirsty gulps.
Staying to make her coffee hadn’t been about sex—yes, they’d had an amazing night together, but after seeing what she was going through in helping her sister, he’d simply wanted to take care of her. Still, he wasn’t going to blame himself for enjoying the sight of her perfect walls falling away or for thinking she was even sexier behind those crumbling walls.
After Kerry had finished the cup and gone to pour herself a refill from the pot, she said, “You’re good at silence. At letting a person process their thoughts.”
“You can thank my father for that. He’s the best listener there is.”
She gave a faint little smile. “From everything Rafe and Brooke and you have told me, your parents sound really amazing. I can’t wait to meet them at the wedding.” But too soon, her smile fell away and she sighed as she picked up the coffee cup and took another sip.
He’d given her a little silence and coffee. Now he’d give her the chance to get some of tonight off her chest if that’s what she needed. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She sighed again. “I just feel really embarrassed about everything tonight and how it all turned out.”
“There’s nothing at all embarrassing about being there for your family and helping them when times are rough. Trust me, we’ve all been there.” He moved closer and put his hand on her cheek. “On both sides.”
For a moment, she closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. He loved the feel of her soft skin against his palm, her eyelashes brushing over him. He also loved knowing that she felt she could rely on him for a little while.
When she finally drew back, she leaned against the kitchen counter, her expression bleak. “My sister thought the world revolved around her boyfriend. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do or give to him. But then it turned out he was lying and cheating and stealing from her. Pretty much everything you can imagine. And she just fell apart after that. I keep hoping she’ll stop treating herself like dirt over it, but...” She sighed again. “Maybe tonight will be the wake-up call she needs.”
Adam hoped it would be, too, although the way Colleen had behaved tonight didn’t have him holding his breath. Something told him her sister was still a ways from actually hitting bottom, no matter how bad tonight had been.
“How long has this been going on?” he asked.
Kerry scrunched up her nose, so cute and uninhibited that he found himself not only wanting her more, but liking her more, too.
“About three months.”
“You’ve been heading into dangerous neighborhoods to bring her home for three months?” He couldn’t mask the alarm in his voice, and he could see her shoulders stiffen as she reacted to it.
“I’ve been careful.”
He forced himself to bite his tongue, a very difficult task when he was worried as all hell for her. “I’m sure you have, but the next time she calls you for a late-night bar pickup, I’d really appreciate it if you’d call me to come with you.”
Kerry raised an eyebrow at that. “Thanks for the offer, but I don’t think you’d appreciate me calling in the middle of one of your dates to ask you to drop everything for Colleen.”
Not for Colleen, for Kerry. And not only was no one other woman on his horizon right now, but at this point he couldn’t honestly imagine being interested in anyone but Kerry.
“No,” he clarified, “what I wouldn’t appreciate is finding out you went back into one of those dangerous hellholes without me.”
He couldn’t quite read her expression as she said, “You’re stubborn.”
“So are you. But there’s a big difference between stubborn and foolish. And we both know you and Colleen have been lucky so far to get out of those places unscathed. I’d like to keep things that way.” He’d heard her ask her sister for a promise to be safe earlier that night. Now he decided to ask Kerry for the same thing. “Promise me you’ll call me if you ever feel that you need to.”
He watched her battle silently with herself, clearly caught between her belief that she needed to be self-sufficient at all times and the knowledge that she really had been lucky to get out of those neighborhoods in one piece so many times over the past three months.
“Okay,” she finally said. “I promise to call. But hopefully I won’t have to, because Colleen will decide it’s time to turn over a new leaf.” Kerry looked more than a little uncomfortable as she added, “Please don’t say anything about this to Rafe and Brooke. I’d hate for them to think I’m not one hundred percent there for them and their wedding, when I am.”
“They know you are,” he said softly. “And I can’t imagine anything would ever make them think differently. But what happened tonight is just between you and me.”