“We’ve known each other for awhile, man,” he says, his tone also quiet.

“We have,” I agree, taking a pull from my beer. “So do you want to start the heart-to-heart, or would you like me to?” I ask, raising a brow.


“Don’t be a dick,” he says low, sitting closer.

“Tell me about Kim.” His eyes narrow and he sits back. He may think I keep shit to myself, but he does the same. Kim is a woman who works at the hair salon next to our office. She’s also the woman he slept with once then dismissed. Now, she’s the woman who has a man, the woman who every time she’s around, his eyes move to her and his jaw goes tight. And she’s the woman he wants but can’t have.

“Is it really that obvious?” he asks, surprising me with the question.

“If by ‘obvious’ you mean can I see that you’re pissed you let her get away, then yeah, it’s obvious.”

“Fuck,” he mutters, running his hand over his head, looking annoyed that anyone could tell he’s hung up on her.

“She’ll come around, man. You may not see it, but she still looks for you every time we leave the office.”

Shrugging off my statement, he leans forward once more and his eyes meet mine before he speaks in a hushed tone. “You look settled. In the time I’ve known you, you’ve never looked settled, so I’m happy to see that. And my cousin’s happy. That’s all because of you. You’re it for her, and I now see she’s it for you.”

“She is,” I agree, looking across the pool toward June, and her head turns and her eyes meet mine as I watch her smile.

“Are we cool now?” he asks, and I pull my gaze from June and look at him again.

“We’re good.”

“Good, now I need to warn you as your friend. Uncle Asher is on his way over,” he says then stands and walks away.

Jesus.

“Didn’t think you’d show,” Asher says, taking the seat Sage just vacated.

“Like I told you when you came to the compound, I’m not giving her up, and she loves you guys, so I’m not going to make her feel like she has to choose between me and her family,” I tell him, holding his stare. Do I want to be here, right now? Fuck no, but I know June would be disappointed if we didn’t come, and I want her happy. So if I have to sit in her parents’ backyard for a few hours to accomplish that task, I’ll do it.

“As a little girl, she was always moving,” he says, sitting back in the chair and placing his beer on the armrest.

“Pardon?” I ask, confused by his statement.

“June, as a little girl, she was always up to something. She couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes at a time. Where the other girls would happily sit and watch a movie, June had to be doing something, experiencing something new. Her mom and I worried about her. We didn’t think she would ever be content in one place for long. Her first year of college was the same. There wasn’t a week that went by that she didn’t call home, saying she wanted to change her major or move to a different school. But then that stopped. We didn’t know what happened or what helped her settle. We just knew something did,” he says, and then sits forward, putting his elbows to his knees.

“That was you. I didn’t realize it until the other day, but you help her settle, bring her peace, keep her grounded. My grandmother used to say, ‘Don’t take a moment for granted, just because you think you’ll have a thousand more.’ I think you get that more than most,” he mutters, and a deep burn hits my chest before coursing through my body, making it hard to breathe.

“I love her.”

“That’s good, since she loves you,” he grumbles, sounding annoyed which makes me fight back a smile. Closing his eyes, he rubs his forehead then sits back and pins me in place. “One day, when you’re a father, you’ll understand how painful it is to be replaced by another man.”

And with that, he gets up and wanders around the outer edge of the pool toward June and her mom. As soon as he reaches them, he pulls June into his side and places a kiss to her temple. Watching her mouth move, I can’t tell what she’s saying, but his chin jerks in my direction. Her eyes come to me and her face softens before looking back up at her dad and leaning deeper into him.

“What’s up?”

Pulling my eyes from June, I look up at her Uncle Nico and mutter, “Nothing. How’s it going, man?” I put out my hand, shaking his.

“Good.” He cracks his neck, taking a seat. “I was gonna call you tomorrow, but since we’re here, I figured we could talk now.”

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