Sage nodded, resigned. Sure, they were worried about her but she knew that her brothers wanted another chance to check up on Tyce, to see if he was treating her right and to, possibly, drop another threat or two in his ear.

One day they’d wake up and realize that Tyce marched to the beat of his own drum and didn’t really care what they thought.

Sage ran a hand over her face, pain pounding through her head and her tailbone and her arm in symphony. “They’ll want food and I don’t have much in the fridge. I’ll have to order in.”

Tyce squeezed her thigh to get her attention. “I made a chicken casserole and there’s more than enough for everybody.”

Sage frowned at him. “You cook?”

“I do.”

“Since when?”

“Since I was a kid and the only way to get a good meal into my stomach, and more important, into Lachlyn’s, was to learn,” Tyce shot back and immediately looked annoyed that he’d allowed something so personal to slip.

Sage knew that he didn’t want to pursue this conversation but since he’d opened the door, she was going to walk through it. She was just...doing a background check on him, she told herself. Finding out information about her baby’s father.

Pffft. Even she didn’t believe the garbage she was thinking! The truth was that Tyce fascinated her. And, yet again, she was venturing where she shouldn’t go.

Oh, well...

“Where was your mom? Didn’t she feed you?”

“When she felt well enough to do so,” Tyce replied, standing up. That action and his closed-off face was a sign—billboard high and painted in neon—that he wasn’t discussing his past anymore. Or again.

“Was she sick?”

Tyce stared at the abstract painting above her head and he eventually shrugged. “She suffered from depression. There were days when she wouldn’t get up off the floor, when she’d rock herself for hours. Most days, she managed to work—just—but when she got home she’d collapse into a nonresponsive heap. If I didn’t look after myself, feed myself, and Lachlyn when she came along, we didn’t eat. It was... Yeah, it was tough.”

“Where is she now? Is she...” Sage hesitated, keeping her voice neutral, knowing that she had to be careful how she framed her questions. If she was too blasé she’d sound callous; if she came across as being too sympathetic Tyce would immediately stop talking. “...still alive?”

“She died from a bout of pneumonia a long time ago.”

Sage pulled her bottom lip between her teeth. “I’m so sorry, Tyce.”

Tyce shrugged. “It happened.”

When he looked around the room, Sage knew that he was trying to change the subject. She wasn’t surprised. Tyce had told her more in ten minutes than he’d shared the entire time they’d been together three years ago. He resumed his seat next to her on the bed and picked a curl up off her cheek and pushed it behind her ear. “I keep looking at that photo of the red diamond flower ring. It’s amazing. It’s your time to spill. Tell me about it and tell me why you didn’t want it displayed at the exhibition.”

And this was the price she had to pay: she’d peeked under the lid of his Pandora’s box and he thought he could do the same. Damn the person who’d invented the concept of tit for tat.

Sage sighed, pushed the rest of her wayward hair behind her ears and looked at a spot behind his head. She eventually looked at him again. “How much do you know about red diamonds?”

“Not much. That they are rare? That they are phenomenally expensive?”

Sage nodded. “There are only around twenty to thirty true red diamonds in the world and most are less than half a carat. My father was, like Jaeger, a gem hunter and my mom often accompanied him on his trips. He bought that diamond from a Brazilian farmer and it’s, as far as we know, the largest red diamond in the world. It was his biggest find, ever, and I remember how excited they, and Connor, were. My mom assumed that the stone would be sold but my dad wanted to give it to my mom to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Connor designed and made the ring. The flower petals represent each of her children.”

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