CHAPTER 24

Leighton

“This is a great split layout,” the realtor says as she shows us the fourth apartment of the morning. “Two bedrooms on one side with a shared bathroom, and a master suite on the other. And the price isn’t much more than the two bedroom we just looked at.”

My dad and I exchange a look. I want a three-bedroom because I want him to stay, but he thinks I only need a two-bedroom because he’s still leaning toward returning to Denver. When he doesn’t automatically discount this place, I take heart.

“Or we could go see a few houses for rent,” the realtor adds. “All three-bedroom, two-bath homes with garage spaces as well.”

I shake my head, giving her a polite smile. “We want to stick with an apartment for now. Not ready to take on yard maintenance at this point.”

This is especially true if my dad returns to Denver. Even though Sam is approaching the age where he could help with outside chores, it’s just not something he’ll be able to take on at this time. I’d rather do a year in an apartment, and then—if I have a good-enough job—maybe we could consider moving to a house. Perhaps even get a dog.

My dad and the realtor start talking about the difference in the cost of utilities between the two and three-bedroom apartments, and I move into the master suite. I’d give this room to my father if he stayed, and I’d share the other side with Sam.

Of course, if August had anything to do with the decision, we’d be a permanent addition to his household.

Last night, we had quite the talk about it.

It did not end well.

I’d expected him, of course. Knew he’d do that soft-knock-on-the-door thing and want me to come to his room after Sam fell asleep.

His expression when I’d declined had been priceless. We’d stood at the door with it opened just a few inches while we had a heated, whispered exchange.

“I am not going to have sex with you,” I’d asserted in the softest voice I could manage while still being heard. “Not with your parents just across the hall. Just… no.”

His expression had turned all mischievous and sly. “Panties in the mouth. Remember? No worries.”

“No, August,” I’d maintained. The immediate frown I got assured me that he was taking me seriously.

“Well, I still need to talk to you about something important,” he’d said. “So put on a robe and come to my room.”

I’d just stared with one eyebrow raised in complete suspicion.

He growled. “I swear… just to talk. Now come on.”

Ultimately, I put on my robe and went to his room. He’d been sitting on the edge of the bed when I walked in, and I closed the door behind me so we could talk in normal voices.

He’d perused my body with something close to yearning regret over the fact I wasn’t going to give in to him tonight, but he maintained a respectful distance. Crossing his arms over his chest, he said, “There’s no reason for you to go look at apartments tomorrow. You and Sam can stay here.”

I was immediately pissed. How he’d missed the sarcasm in my voice was beyond me. I’d replied, “Oh, we can, can we? That’s very generous.”

“Not really,” he said with a shrug. “I mean… there’s plenty of room, and I make more than enough money to support us all.”

“I don’t need your support,” I’d replied. I think it was the flatness of my voice that alerted him that perhaps he’d started off on a bad foot.

August rose, standing before me. Hands to my shoulders, he’d bent in close. “I didn’t mean it like that. I know you’re more than capable. You’ve proven that. But I’m just thinking about what’s best for Sam. You know he wants to stay here. He likes us all being together.”

“I know he does,” I’d stiffly admitted. And I found it abysmal he would play the “Sam Card”.

Regardless of the fact I was clearly not happy with the direction of the conversation, he plowed on. “You’re the mother who always does what’s best for Sam… and it’s best everyone stays here.”

I’d merely folded my arms over my chest, dislodging his hands. “It’s true,” I’d said somberly. “I have always done what’s best for Sam, often putting my own happiness aside. But, in this instance, I think I’m going to take myself into consideration for once. I don’t believe staying here would be the best idea. There’s no way in hell I’m going to be separated from Sam, though, so I’m going to get my own place. I’ll make sure it’s close by for convenience sake. Sam is going to live with me, but you can visit him as much as you want. He can stay the night with you whenever he wants. That’s what is best for all of us.”

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