Page 24 of The Other Man

It was like my children had decided to approach the dinner with a good cop/bad cop dynamic.

“Not far,” Heath replied easily.  “I rent a place a short walk from here.  I’m in town on a job that’s turned out to be longer term than I’d expected.”

This, if it was true, was all news to me.  Apparently Raf was better at getting information out of Heath than I was.

“How long do think you’ll be sticking around?” Gus asked, a hint of belligerence in his tone.

“It’s impossible to say,” Heath returned, eyes staying on his food.

Raf and I made eye contact, and I swear I could read his mind we were so much alike.

We’ve pushed it enough tonight, I thought at him.  Best to wrap it up shortly after dinner before any blood was drawn.

We finished eating and made short work of dessert.  The boys cleared the table and did the dishes, while Heath and I put away the extra food.

When he finished his chores, Gus declared that he had to go, and I walked him out to his car.

“You’re having a hard time with this,” I observed.  “The age difference is understandably shocking.”

“It’s not his age, Mom.  I honestly don’t care how old he is.  He just, he strikes me as off.  There’s something wrong about him.  Like he’s, I don’t know, he’s playing nice enough, but there’s something wrong with his eyes.”

That was another thing about Gustave.  His instincts had always been very sharp.

I gave him the shortest, most to the point answer I could think of.  “He’s ex-military.  He’s lived through some rough stuff.  I believe he’s still acclimating to normal society, to be honest.”

“That adds up,” Gustave admitted grudgingly.  “But, really, Mom, I don’t care what he’s been through.  I want you to be with someone normal, someone that’s good for you.”

I sighed.  “I’m the only one that can decide what’s good for me, sweetie.  And, frankly, I’ve never in my life given a damn about what’s normal.”

“Is it serious?  Are you guys, like, boyfriend and girlfriend?”

How to answer that one?  I thought a non-answer was best.  “This whole thing is new to me, too, and I’m just taking it a day at a time.  I’ve been seeing him for a few months, and I like him.  That’s all I know for sure, so far.”

“Does Dad know about him?”

I frowned at him.  Why would he even ask that?  “It’s not his business,” I hedged.

“I agree, but just so you know, if he ever finds out, he’s going to freak.”

I frowned harder.  “What’s it got to do with him?  Or are you just referring to the age difference?”

“I’m sure he won’t be happy about that, but I’m referring to everything.  You seeing somebody.  Anybody.  You may have moved on, but I doubt he ever will.”

“I don’t know why you say that.  He moved on while we were still married.”

“He knows he blew things with you forever, but that doesn’t mean he’s okay with it.”

“I think you’re wrong about that, but honestly, it just doesn’t matter to me what he thinks.  Seeing as you and Raf are grown, I don’t even have to worry about co-parenting with him.  He’s just not in my life anymore, and he never will be.”

“I know.  Doesn’t mean he’s accepted it yet.  And believe me, I don’t want him in my life, either.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

“Don’t apologize for him.  It’s not your fault.  It’s all him.  He’s a liar, a hypocrite, and an asshole.  I can’t stand anything about him, and I know you think we’ll change our minds, but we won’t.  We’re just done with him.”

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.  I felt guilty about their disdain for him, though I’d never done anything to actively court it.  It just was.  They’d seen too many things in their father that they couldn’t make peace with.  I thought perhaps in time that might change, but I was starting to accept that it was out of my hands, either way.  I thanked God every day that my boys were in my life and remained close to me, and I’d do anything in my power to keep it that way.  What my ex-husband did or didn’t do to re-establish or maintain a relationship with his boys was his duty and his business, at this point.

“I promise to try to play nice with your new boyfriend,” Gus said, grudgingly.

I thought it counterproductive to correct him on the boyfriend thing at this stage in the game.  “Thank you,” was what I said instead.

“Sorry if I was a jerk tonight.  It’s just, I don’t know, it’s hard.  You seeing some guy I don’t know is going to be an adjustment.”

“I know.  I understand.  And you did fine tonight.  You tried your best.  That’s all I’ve ever asked.”

He swallowed hard, his throat working with the motion.  “Love you, Mom.”

I hugged him briefly and kissed his cheek.

“Love you, sweetie.”

I came back inside just in time to see Raf out.

“I think it went well,” I said.

“It could have gone much worse.  Gus’ll just need time.  You know how he is.”

I did.  I knew him well enough to be encouraged by the fact that he’d shown up at all and been as well-behaved as he had.

“He said something odd to me,” I added, “that if your father found out I was seeing somebody, he’d freak.”

Raf grimaced, and it was like watching my own expression on someone else’s face.  “He’s not wrong.  Every time Dad calls either of us, the first thing he asks is if you’re seeing anybody.  I honestly think he’s more interested in learning about that than he is in actually talking to us.”

I found it encouraging that either of them even took his calls, and I told him so, “At least you’re speaking to him.  That’s something.”

He gave me a look, a seriously, Mom? look.  “I only answer his calls to reiterate to him that he better not be bothering you.”

“Oh.”

“And if that’s why I’m picking up the phone, you can just imagine what Gus has to say to him.”

Nothing good, I knew.

“It’s not your burden, worrying about what we think of our father, but yeah, I think he’d freak if he knew you were seeing somebody.”

“And somebody like Heath.”

He sighed.  “Yeah.  The age thing . . . and Heath himself.  He wouldn’t react well to any of it, but you can bet he won’t hear it from either of us.”

I hugged him, kissed his cheek, and said good night.

Heath was waiting for me, right at the front door, when I came back in.

“It went okay, right?” he asked.  He said it like he was worried and that made my heart soften for him all the more.  He might be rough around the edges, but I was starting to feel some genuine affection for those edges.

“I think it went brilliantly,” I reassured him.

“I learned something important tonight,” Heath said.

“That my boys are overprotective?”

“That’s true, but not what I was talking about.  They’re attached to you, and who can blame them?”

I swear I was blushing.  I wasn’t even sure why that one got to me. Likely it was the look on his face, and the affection in his normally affection-less voice.

“Flowers,” Heath continued.  “I need to bring flowers when I come to see you.”

“You don’t have to.  They learned that from my father who dotes on me to a ridiculous degree.”

“Not ridiculous.  You should be doted on.  By all of us.  He sounds like a wise man.”

“To be honest, I’m not sure you two would like each other.”

“We’ll see.  I’m hard to get used to, but I promise to be on my best behavior if I ever do meet him.”

That sounded promising, and I didn’t press the issue about him meeting my father or a future for us in general.  Everything was moving fast enough as it was.

Heath had been a perfect gentleman for the duration of my sons’ visit.

He was sure to balance that out, however, by promptly tying me facedown to my bed and pulling my hair while he fucked my brains out.

It was a balance that I thought I could get used to.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

I woke up the next morning to another rather alarming development.

It was becoming a pattern.

A commotion in my house.

What the hell was it today?

Someone was at my front door.  Someone loud.  They were yelling.

Ah hell.

I knew that yell.

Fuck.

What the ever-loving fuck?  Could I not get a break?

And what the hell was he doing at my house?

Once again I came out of my bedroom in only a thin robe having not a clue what to do with the sight in front of me.

The first thing I took in was an agitated Heath at my open front door wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and a scowl.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Romance
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