That night, over dinner, Seki asked, “Do you think one of us should fly to Las Vegas if we don’t hear from her soon?”

We all looked over at him. I could tell that we were all on board with the idea because we were worried sick.

“Yeah, let’s do that,” Ace said, his voice hoarse from disuse.

We remained silent for the rest of the night, each heading to our bedrooms after dinner.

A little less than twenty-four hours later, we had all gathered at the dinner table again. However, it was different tonight because we actually talked. Our conversation was mostly about Jada, about what could be going on.

A little bit later, Seki said, “I know we said we didn’t want to know who the father was, but do you all still feel that way?”

“I think Jada’s right. Things will get weird between us if we find out who the father is,” Ace said. “I don’t want the three of us who aren’t the father to grow to resent each other, Jada, or the baby. It’s better if we don’t know.”

“Yeah, I have to agree,” I said. Of course, I wanted to be the father, but honestly, it didn’t really matter. The child was going to be mine no matter who provided the DNA that impregnated Jada.

I noticed that Ben hadn’t said anything in a while. “You okay, Ben?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” Ace said, “what’s going on in that thick skull of yours?”

Ben looked up from the food he was poking at with his fork. “I don’t know how to say it,” he said, a panicked expression on his face.

“Say what?” Seki asked. “Maybe saying it out loud will help with your anxiety about it.”

“Okay,” he said, letting out a deep breath. “Okay.” Then he blurted out, “I’ve been in love with Jada since I was sixteen!”

Ace let out a nervous laugh. “You know that isn’t exactly a surprise to us, right?”

Thankfully, that seemed to calm Ben down, and he laughed. “Yeah, okay, fair enough. It’s just that now that we’re adults and I’ve gotten to know her all over again, I care about her so much more. I’ve never felt like this before,” he admitted. “It fucking hurts to love her this much. The fact that she left the ranch and hasn’t gotten ahold of us make it hurt even more.”

I knew exactly what he meant because I felt the same exact way. Without Jada here, my heart was breaking.

Ben

I couldn’t believe I said it aloud. Normally, I was a guy who bottled everything up until the breaking point. It’s why I stayed at my dad’s house so long when I was a kid.

But Hank, Ace, and Seki took my confession in stride. In fact, they each admitted that they were also all in love with Jada. For some reason, it was comforting to hear, like I wasn’t alone in my current misery.

I wanted Jada back here with us so damned badly. I felt as if someone had taken one of my limbs. Jada was just as essential to me as my limbs were.

My brain tried to conjure up a picture of what my life would be like if Jada never returned to Montana. Bleak. Dark. Desolate.

I’d be miserable without her, and I was pretty sure the other guys would be too. I didn’t think that level of heartbreak was someone you could ever recover from. Not ever.

When I went up to my bedroom after dinner, I flopped down on my bed and fell asleep. It couldn’t have even been eight o’clock yet when I fell into a fitful sleep.

My dreams that night were filled with nightmares. In one dream, Jada was dying in the hospital and there was nothing I could do about it. They wouldn’t even let me see her. In another dream, I walked into Jada’s bedroom to find all her things gone. The only thing she left behind was a note telling me all the reasons she couldn’t be with me anymore.

I awoke around four in the morning feeling more depressed and heartsick than ever. I knew they were only dreams, but they really rattled me.

This was my second chance with Jada and I wasn’t going to blow it again, but even I couldn’t do anything about it if she didn’t want to be with me. I’d never disrespect her wishes like that.

The workday was even more somber than before, which was saying something. I didn’t think Hank had spent more than five minutes in his office in days and Seki and Ace didn’t say more than ten words all day.

To attempt to drive the demons from my brain, I threw myself into my work. Literally. My muscles and joints ached from overdoing it, but I didn’t care. It made me feel something other than the pain in my heart, so I welcomed the distraction. But after I nearly blew the engine of one of the ATVs while working on it, Hank told me to cool off for a while.

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