Page 12 of Alpha's Castle

“Right, well, it’s different when you’re hurting like my mom was. When you’re happy, you want to share that with everyone, but when you’ve got wounds that need healing, you don’t need Len at the diner asking to see the scabs or Jeannie from the bar trying to poke a stick at it. This is a pretty piece of land—nicest around for miles. Not that I’m biased or anything.” I wink at Khloe. She’s not looking out the window anymore. My story has caught her interest.

“Where’s your mom now?”

I pull the car to a stop and nod my head toward the sprawling home in front of us. “Inside, waiting to meet you.”

If there is a paler shade than what Khloe turns, I don’t know of its existence.

“Take me back to Mae’s,” she cries. “We are not at the meeting the parents stage yet.”

“It’s my mom. She’ll love you.” I don’t add that any person would be a welcome relief to my mother. She’d given up on me dating and starting a family. I grab the sacks of groceries and hustle Khloe up the front stairs. Mom is opening the door before we clear the top step.

“This must be Mae’s niece.” Mom claps her hands. She’s like a kid at Christmas. Her eyes are sparkling and her color is high. I lean in and give her cheek a kiss.

“Sure is. Khloe, meet my mom, Althea.”

“Call me Thea!” Mom sings. She drags Khloe in for a hug. “Aren’t you a beauty, although I’m not surprised. Mae was a very attractive woman.”

“She was?”

“Goodness, yes. I’m sure I have some pictures of her from when she was younger. All the men were interested in Mae, but she only had eyes for her Ricky.”

“I don’t know much about her,” Khloe admits.

Mom pats her on the shoulder. “Of course you don’t. Ben moved away when he married your mom, and you never got the chance to connect with Mae—not that it is your fault, mind you. What are you doing standing there with the door open, Dane? You’re letting all the flies in,” she chides me.

“Yes, ma’am. Brought dinner.” I raise the bags as a sort of shield. I might be thirty but once a mom, always a mom. “You should show Khloe some of your Mae pictures while I get dinner ready.”

Mom sniffs. “What are you making?”

“Lasagna.”

“You know how to make lasagna?” Khloe asks. Apparently a man who cooks comes as a surprise.

I give her a wink. “Keep up, baby. I’ve got a whole repertoire of dishes.”

She flushes and my mom coos.

“We just met, Mrs.—“

“Thea, call me Thea, and, yes, tell me all about how you met.” Mom hooks her arm through Khloe’s elbow and hauls her away.

As I’m walking into the kitchen, I hear Mom say, “Of course, I made him learn how to cook and do his own laundry. Men can’t just be pretty these days. They have to have skills. Dane can cook, clean, and even knows how to fold a fitted sheet.”

“A fitted sheet?” Khloe sounds genuinely shocked.

I roll my eyes. From the way Mom acted the day I figured that trick out, you’d think I’d learned how to craft gold from hay. How is that my best skill? As Mom tries to convince Khloe I’m the catch of the century, I heat the oven, boil the noodles, and brown the meat. Once it’s all put together and baking, I clean up and join my two girls.

“You get to the naked baby pictures yet?” I ask, settling in next to Khloe. She tries to move over, but the sofa arm keeps her from going far. I swallow up the small space she made with my larger frame and lay my arm across the back of the sofa. Her hip presses against my thigh and her smaller leg stretches out next to mine. Her body’s warm and her scent sweet—my cock pulses in excitement and anticipation.

“We started with those. You had a sweet baby bottom,” Khloe tries to tease me.

“Later you can see how good it looks now.”

“Your mother is right here,” Khloe hisses.

“Mom, Khloe and I—”

Khloe slaps a hand across my mouth. My mom laughs. “You keep that thought to yourself, son. Your girl isn’t ready to hear it.”

“I’m not his girl, Mrs.—“

“Thea, please, and of course not. You’re just friends. Isn’t that what you kids call it these days?” Mom snaps the photo album shut and sends me a silent but forceful message to not screw this up. I wink at her reassuringly.

“Yes, just friends.” Khloe sighs in relief, thinking that Mom’s finally on her side. “Thank you for sharing the stuff about Mae, though. That’s so interesting and you’re right. She was beautiful. Way more beautiful than me.” Self-conscious, Khloe tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear.

“Nonsense. You’re just as gorgeous, if not more so. I bet you cause so many accidents walking across the street. Dane, you better be with her as much as possible to protect all the citizens of Smithville from getting hurt just from looking at our Khloe.”

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