My heart hurts for her, because I can hear pain in her voice. “I’m sorry,” I tell her softly.

“No, I am,” she replies, looking away briefly. “How I acted toward you yesterday was ridiculous and immature. Tyler is right—I need to grow up before I make my worst nightmare a reality and lose both my kids and my grandbaby.” Her face is anguished.


“They love you.”

“I haven’t made that easy.” She sighs, and I take a step toward her.

“Make it easy,” I implore her. “Heather needs you now more than ever, especially with everything she’s going through. And Tyler needs your support and understanding.”

“Heather was right,” she says, looking away and pressing her lips together before continuing. “She told me all about you after she and Kennedy visited. She said you were perfect for her brother and that she’s never seen him happier.” My heart warms at her admission. “I’m sorry, Leah. Truly sorry about yesterday. I hope you can forgive me for the way I acted.”

“Already done,” I assure her.

She nods; then her expression changes once more, and I hold my breath, not sure what the new look means. “Now. I think we should talk about what happened at the bar.” I start to open my mouth to tell her we don’t need to, but she cuts me off. “Are you insane?” she asks, sounding just like my mom when she’s frustrated with me. “What were you thinking, confronting a drunk man alone?”

I groan, tipping my head back to face the ceiling. “I thought for sure we were past this conversation.”

“You put yourself in danger. I understand why you did it, but imagine what would have happened if that man had a knife or a gun.”

“You sound just like your son,” I tell her, but she doesn’t respond to my statement.

She continues talking, like I didn’t even speak. “As the future mother of my grandchildren, I expect you to take better care of yourself.”

Oh my God, did she just say that?

“You can’t go around doing crazy things without thinking about the consequences of your actions, Leah.”

“I’ll try to do better,” I assure her, hoping to end this. As much as I like the fact that she seems to care, I don’t want a lecture, especially when I know I’m in for another one from Tyler when he gets back.

“Good. Now. I need to get home and in the kitchen.” She starts toward the door. “Thanksgiving dinner isn’t going to cook itself, and sadly, Tyler’s father is a horrible cook. I can’t even trust him to start the water I need to boil the potatoes in.”

“Tyler knows how to cook.”

“I know.” She stops with her hand on the doorknob. “I taught him from an early age how to be self-sufficient. I never wanted him to have to depend on a woman in order to eat. His dad would starve if I weren’t around to cook for him. His mom never taught him how to, and I didn’t want to make that same mistake with my son.”

“You did a good job with him. He’s a good man and a really great cook.”

“I know.” She smiles, looking a little smug, and all I can think is that she and Tyler are seriously a lot alike. “Thank you for talking with me.”

“Anytime.”

With another nod, she opens the door. “I’ll see you and Tyler in a few hours?”

It’s a question I can see she was worried to ask. “Yes.”

“Good.”

She leaves, and I watch her go, then pull in a breath, feeling lighter than I did when I woke up. Tyler might still be mad at me, but at least I know his mom doesn’t hate me. I go to the back deck with my cup of coffee and sip on it as I look out at the valley below. When I hear the glass door open, I don’t turn to face Tyler, but my body does sag in relief when he fits himself against my back and kisses the top of my head.

“I didn’t think you’d be up,” he states, sliding his hands around me. “How’s your hand feel?”

“It’s tight but doesn’t hurt too bad, now that I’ve been using it,” I answer, then take a sip of coffee, trying to figure out what to say.

“I’m sorry about last night.” He rests the side of his head against mine, and the weight that’s been in my stomach all morning dissipates. “I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. I just . . . fuck, the idea of something happening to you makes me feel like I’m coming out of my skin. I don’t know what I would’ve done if he’d touched you. All I could think about last night was what could have happened to you if Bell didn’t come tell me what was happening.”

“Thankfully, it was okay.” I peer over at him.

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