“Well, we’ll see how long it lasts. Dad loves ranching too much to retire completely.”
“How is Seth?” she asks as I pull into our driveway.
“He’s doing so much better,” I reply. “His grades are awesome, and he’s got friends. I wish I’d moved him here years ago.”
The guilt sets in as I think of what my son went through before coming home to Montana.
Jill lays her hand on my arm and squeezes gently. “I’m glad he’s doing so much better. He’s a great kid.”
I grin and nod. “Thanks.”
Pulling up to Josh and Cara’s place, I park and turn to face Jill, who is frowning and biting her lip again. She looks almost . . . disappointed.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
She shakes her head and offers me a smile. “Nothing. Thank you for rescuing me.”
“You don’t need to be rescued, Jill,” I reply and return her smile. “I’m just glad you know how to ask for help when you need it.”
I step out of my truck and retrieve her bags from the backseat, then trudge through the snow to Josh’s front door, which is now open as Cara has rushed out to hug Jill. Thor runs out of the house, lifts his leg on a snowbank, and then dashes right back in.
“Dad! I creamed Uncle Josh in Need for Speed!”
“That’s my boy,” I reply and ruffle his hair when he runs over to me.
“He cheats.” Josh glares at Seth, who laughs hysterically.
“Do not. You suck.”
“I bet I can beat you,” Jill announces and Seth stills, watches her with narrowed eyes, and then shoves his controller at her.
“You can try, but I’ll beat your girl butt.”
“We should go, Seth.”
“Just one game? Please?” Seth asks, bouncing on his toes.
“Please?” Jill joins him, both of them about the same height, looking up at me with hopeful eyes, and I can’t help but burst out laughing.
“Yes!” Jill cries and races Seth to the couch, where they settle in to race.
“Couldn’t fix the furnace?” Josh asks.
“We’re gonna have to send someone over there tomorrow,” I tell him and watch the dark-haired woman with my son.
“Thanks for going in to help,” Cara says and hugs me around my waist.
“Anytime,” I reply.
Jill is laughing and when Seth beats her in their race, she smiles widely at him and offers her fist for him to bump, which he accepts happily.
What the fuck am I going to do about her?
“All right, Seth, it’s time to head home. You have school tomorrow.”
“Dumb school,” Seth grumbles under his breath next to me. “Maybe we’ll get a snow day.”
“Doubtful,” Cara replies with a frown. “This isn’t Texas. We’re used to snow around here.”
“Dumb school,” Seth grumbles again, making me laugh.
“Thanks for playing with me.” I nudge him with my shoulder. “This was the best part of my day.”
“Yeah, I had a crappy day. So thanks.”
He shrugs like it’s no big deal, but smiles and pets Thor before standing, putting the game away, covering his dark hair with his hat, and stuffing his feet into boots.
“Thanks again, Zack,” I murmur and offer the tall, sexy man a grin. He just nods and shoos his son and their dog out to the truck, leaving me with Josh and Cara.
“Want to watch a movie?” Cara asks.
“I can go find something to do, give you some girl time,” Josh offers, but I shake my head no.
“Honestly, I’ve had one of the worst days I’ve had in a long while, guys. I’d like to just go take a long, hot shower and go to bed.”
“Okay, follow me.” Cara leads me down the hall to a bedroom with a soft queen-size bed, and towels and washcloths stacked neatly at its foot. “The linens are clean. The bathroom is just across the hall. Let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks, friend.” I hug her close. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
I gather my toiletries and towels, turn on the water in the shower as hot as it goes, and take my clothes off.
This has been one long day. I can’t seem to get warm, despite sitting in front of the fire with Seth, playing the game. I step under the water and flinch as it bites my cold flesh, then sigh in relief when it begins to warm me up. I go through the motions of washing my hair and shaving, and then just stand in the blissfully hot water until the temperature starts to fall.
It’s stupid to be disappointed that he brought me here rather than taking me home with him. Of course he would bring me to Cara’s. Why in the world would he take me to his house?
We’re just friends.
He has a twelve-year-old son, for the love of Moses.
Yet, for just a few moments, the thought of staying with him for the night was a tempting fantasy.
When I’m dry and dressed in clean yoga pants and an old University of Montana T-shirt, I comb out my long dark hair and blow it dry, and as I watch my fingers comb through the strands, I can’t help but remember that night months ago when Zack was inside me, surrounding me with his big, hard body. I was coming down from the best orgasm of my life as he pushed his fingers through my hair, whispering about how soft and beautiful it is. My legs go weak and my stomach tightens as I switch the dryer off and brace myself on the sink, staring at my own reflection.
“He has baggage,” I tell myself. “And you do too. Jesus, between the two of you, you could fill the cargo hold of a 747. It doesn’t matter that he’s hot as fuck and makes you crazy. It’ll never work.”
I lean in and give myself the stink-eye. “And he doesn’t want you anyway. Get over it.”
I climb into the soft bed in Cara’s spare bedroom and curl into a ball as exhaustion takes over and pulls me into sleep.
Someone is trying to bulldoze the house down.
I wake with a start as I push my hair out of my face and gaze about the still-dark room in confusion. Then I remember the cold house, Zack coming to help, and him bringing me here. I lie down and listen. Loud voices and a gurgling engine are coming from out front.
What in the hell are they doing out there?
I check the clock and wince when I see it’s not quite six yet. After yanking the covers aside, I stand and walk out into the hallway, almost running smack into Cara.