“You speak as if the Claytons and the Slades haven’t been gossiped about before,” Daniel said, his tone wry. “Let them talk, Alex. We’re working on our timeline, no one else’s. We only have to answer to each other, nobody else.”
Alex lifted her eyebrows. “Have you met our grandparents?”
He smiled at her quip but shook his head. “We don’t have to be in a rush to figure this out. Let’s take it step by step, day by day. Today you decided to stay in Royal—let that be enough for now.”
Alex looked down at her hands before her deep blue eyes met his. “Okay. But I have one request.”
Didn’t she realize that he’d give her anything he could. “What, sweetheart?”
“I don’t do well when there’s no communication, when I think I am drifting on the wind. I need to be able to talk to you and you to talk to me. I feel better when we talk, when we have these conversations. I might not have the answers, but I don’t feel so alone.”
Touched beyond measure, Daniel clasped her neck with his hand and leaned forward to kiss her forehead. He’d watched her as a child, kissed her as a girl but this woman next to him? She was phenomenal.
* * *
“Do you know how many boys named Daniel were born in the greater Dallas area in ’91?”
Rose looked from her kitchen at The Silver C to the informal dining table in the open-plan entertainment area and caught Gus’s eye. How handsome he looked, she thought. How lucky she was to be married to him.
“How many?” Gus asked Hector Lamb, pushing the bottle of red wine in his direction. The red wine came from Ed’s cellar. He’d collected the expensive wines because he thought it a classy thing to do but never drank the stuff. He’d never allowed anyone else to drink his collection, either. In the years since his death, Rose had sold the more collectible bottles and given away other bottles as gifts. She intended to drink the rest.
Rose pulled the cheesecake out of the fridge and looked around her immaculate kitchen. It was large and spacious and far too big for her and Gus. On the fridge was a magnet Ed had brought back from New York City, inside that drawer were his steak knives. She kept the flour in the same canister his mother did, the sugar in another. The windows were too small, the storage space badly designed.
Rose yanked open the second drawer and cursed when it became stuck before it was fully out. She was sick of sticky drawers and old furniture and poky rooms. She hated this house and was finally in a place where she could admit to it.
“Five thousand six hundred and sixty-two little boys were born during September and October of that year,” Hector replied. “I knew the dates when Stephanie and I slept together—it happened over a week, so I gave Stephanie a little leeway in case the baby decided to be late.”
Daniel was, in fact, early. “Hold on, boys, I want to hear how you tracked Daniel down,” Rose told them, expertly slicing even portions of cheesecake. She scowled down at the half-cut dessert. When had she become so pedantic, so perfectionistic, so boring?
Rose defiantly cut the cake up into oddly shaped, differently sized pieces and wrinkled her nose. That didn’t make her feel any better. She knew exactly what would...
After picking up the cake and three side plates, she walked over to the table and banged the cake down in the center of the table. She darted a quick glance at Hector before dropping an openmouthed kiss on Gus’s lips.
Gus looked at her, shocked. No wonder. Regal Rose never ever engaged in public displays of affection.
“Are you okay, darlin’?” Gus drawled, surprise quickly turning to concern.
Rose nodded. “I hate this house.”
Gus leaned back in his chair, rested his hands across his still-flat stomach and lifted his heavy gray eyebrows. “Do you now?”
“I don’t want to live here anymore.”
Hector cleared his throat and pushed his chair back. “Excuse me, please. I need to visit your bathroom.”
Rose smiled, grateful to be able to speak to Gus alone. “Hurry back, Hector. This won’t take long.”
Hector nodded and walked away from them to the powder room just off the hall. Rose sat down next to him and placed her chin in the palm of her hand.