Taylor stood with her, on autopilot as she handed plates and silverware over, thinking about the last few days with Lucky. The other night they’d gone to the farm for dinner and she’d watched Lucky with his dad. The two big men, wrestling over fixing a piece of equipment, mirror images of each other and both intense in their focus. But then Lucky had looked up, spotted her, and excused himself, skirting around farm detritus to beeline for Taylor, his smile growing wider as he got closer. It wasn’t his usual grin—this one was a sultry twist to his full lips, tilted upward with a private joke and softened with affection. A girl could get lost in a smile like that.
It was like coming home.
When she’d ridden out of town in Lucky’s car, putting Elliott in the rearview mirror was the key to her happiness, and she’d been content in Hawaii. It wasn’t a bad life; the only thing missing was someone to share it with, but she got through the rough patches with an occasional affair and good cable TV.
But standing here in this place she had three people who were excited about the possibility that she might stay—as if her presence would somehow make their lives better. It was nice to be wanted.
Something a girl could get used to.
“Dad, can we talk about the farm?”
Lucky sidled up next to his father, offering a beer to the man before sitting down next to him on the low stone wall outlining the perimeter of the lake house area of Promised Land farm. The house was a small barnlike structure sitting by the man-made lake, surrounded by wooden decking and a wood-fire barbecue pit. When they were growing up, Owen Landon let the boys drink and carry on as much as they wanted as long as they stayed on the property. They’d learned to play poker, handle their liquor, fuck, and fight at this very place. It was his second-favorite place in the world.
Tonight they’d all gathered to share food and a lot of laughter. His mom and her sister, Dolly, had retreated to the house. Michaela and Jack sat on the porch swing talking to Beck and his latest bedmate and Taylor. Teague had left a couple of hours ago with a DC socialite named Olivia who didn’t seem to care much for the alfresco gathering.
He looked at his father, watching the older man drink his beer and stare into the fire in the pit. Owen Landon’s face was aged, but still had the same strong profile Lucky admired as a boy. Never an easy relationship between them, they’d found common ground the last few weeks working side by side.
“Dad, I’ve been thinking about what you said and I have an answer. I’m not sure it’s the one you want, but it’s mine.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” His father paused, turning to look at Lucky in the shadows of the falling evening. “Selling this place to strangers has no appeal, but I don’t want you saddling yourself with this commitment when you’ll be itching to go back to your old life six months from now.”
“I understand.” He really did get it. He’d told anyone who stood still long enough that he wanted off this farm as soon as he could get the bus fare. “I’m tired, Dad. I’m bone-weary of living the life of a soldier. I’m tired of adding to the body count I’ve left in my wake.”
“Son, I’m sure you did what you had to do for your mission. To make sure you came home to us.” His father’s voice cracked on the last bit, and Lucky choked down his own emotion. The night air, so breezy and light moments before, was suddenly heavy with the importance of this conversation.
“I did. But it doesn’t stop it from running through my head.” Lucky sucked in a huge breath. “I did those things, and they will always weigh me down. I was under orders. I was a good soldier, but what they asked me to do should not be done in the gray areas.”
Lucky stilled at the touch of his father’s hand. The unexpected contact gave him strength to go on.
“I want the farm because the thing I would think about when I was lying in the sand waiting for the bullets to start flying was being here. Building something. Creating something instead of blowing it up. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the rest of my life or a better way to forget the old one.”