“No, you don’t know, baby. If you did, you wouldn’t even think about defending him. You’re lucky your uncle was there when they were interrogating you and stopped them from sending you back to him. That shit could have ended badly. Lane’s family is crooked, and I mean that in the worst ways possible. They have no problem killing anyone, and they wouldn’t have thought twice about making you disappear if they thought you knew something you shouldn’t have, or that you were working with the feds.”
“You need to keep an eye out for him. If he approaches you, get away and call one of us, or head for the police station,” Asher instructs, and I watch her eyes widen.
“Do you guys think that’s necessary? I’m sure if I told him to leave me alone, he would.”
“What part of ‘you’re not to have contact with him’ are you not understanding?” I growl, clenching my fists at my sides, and her eyes drop to them.
“No, baby, this isn’t a joke. You see him on the sidewalk, you turn the other way and call me. You get a phone call from him, you hang up and call me. You do not talk to him.”
“Okay,” she whispers, looking between her parents and me. “I won’t talk to him.”
“Good,” I agree, closing the distance between us and taking her into my arms. “We all just want you safe. I know Lane never gave you a reason to believe he was dangerous, but he is.” I kiss the top of her head, while my eyes lock with Asher’s. His eyes move between his daughter and me, and his chin lifts, while his arm slides around his wife’s shoulders, and seeing that, the strength of their relationship, and the love they have for their daughter, shows me what I will have with June for the rest of my life.
“Three, two, one, zero.” I end my countdown and pull myself up from the couch, where I was sitting with my face covered, and then look around, pretending I don’t hear the giggles coming from under the kitchen table, where Hope is hiding.
After Asher and November left, June and I ate breakfast out on the back porch. She was quiet for a while, and I could tell she was upset and reflecting on her relationship with Lane, which was like opening an old wound. If I hadn’t fucked up, Lane wouldn’t even exist for her—for us—but I couldn’t think about that or could I continue to dredge up the past. I gave her time to think but wouldn’t bring him up again. I just knew that if he did show up, I would make it clear to him that he needed to stay away for good. It wasn’t until I told her that we would be babysitting Hope for a few hours that her whole mood changed. She and the rest of the family had fallen in love with the little girl, and I had to admit, I had too.
“Found ya.” I smile, ripping open the shower curtain in the second bathroom, making June yell, “Dammit!”
“Babe, the house isn’t that big. You couldn’t have thought it would take me a year to find you.” I laugh at her pouting face.
“I thought it would at least take a few minutes,” she gripes, stepping out of the tub.
“Sorry, but you lose.” I kiss her upturned face then take her hand and lead her toward the living room. “I got June. Hope, I hope you’re hiding better than she did,” I say, hearing her giggle louder as I pass her on the way to the kitchen, where I open cupboards, pretending to look for her. “I wonder where she could be.” I sigh loudly, planting my hands on my hips while looking around.
“I will never tell,” June says, taking a seat on one of the chairs at the table, and Hope laughs again, making me smile. Walking back toward the living room, I stop at the table, and Hope goes quiet, so I move back toward the bedrooms, coming back out a minute later.
“I don’t know where she is,” I grumble to June, who grins at me. “I guess we’ll just leave her here while we go get ice cream.”
“Ice cream!” Hope yells, crawling out of her hiding space. “I was inbisible.” She jumps up and down.
“How do you become invisible?” June asks her, and Hope holds her finger up between her eyes.
“Like this!” She laughs, and June looks around then looks at me with wide eyes.
“Where did she go? She was just right here.” She moves her arms around like she’s searching for Hope, who starts to giggle.
“I’m right here!” she cries, dropping her finger from between her eyes.
“Oh my, you scared me when you just disappeared,” June fawns, picking her up, swinging her around, kissing her cheeks, and making her laugh.