Authors: K.M. Scott
Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #erotic
She hung her head and quietly said, “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just stupid and jealous. Maybe it’s because I’m here all day and you’re at the restaurant looking like you do in your suit and tie. Maybe I’m just crazy. I don’t know. I just worry that one day you’re going to come home and say you don’t want this anymore.”
Taking her in my arms, I held her close and tried to fix whatever had made her think I didn’t love her more than life itself. All this time I’d been disappointed we weren’t having sex much anymore, but in her mind, it was so much more than that. She never came out and said it, but she thought I’d found someone else.
As she drifted off to sleep, her head resting on the spot over the heart that belonged to her, I hated this man I’d become. The business with Cash was a great success, but at what price?
y son had his own
idea about what sleeping in meant. Cassian and I shared a name, but we definitely didn’t share the same opinion on what Sundays were for. While I would have liked to spend the morning in bed with his mother, two-year-old boys had a different agenda and by the time eight o’clock rolled around, he had begun banging his crib off the wall, his signal that the day needed to officially begin.
“He gave us a few extra minutes today,” Olivia said with a smile as she sat up to answer our son’s beckoning and pushed her long red hair off her face.
Scrubbing the sleep from my eyes, I looked over at the wall that separated our bedroom from his and tried to be thankful for those few minutes. For a few extra hours, I might have bought the kid a life-sized version of his favorite teddy bear, but for a few minutes I wasn’t feeling that much thanks.
“Tell him I said next time if he can arrange for an hour I might buy him something,” I grumbled as I buried my face in the pillow, knowing my time in bed had effectively ended for the day.
Olivia tapped me on the shoulder. “You know how I feel about spoiling him, Cash. No buying him things for more sleep.”
As she walked out of the room, I said farewell to my sleeping in plans and threw the covers off to start my day. “We can call it his first job. He sleeps later, and I pay him. It’s a win-win situation.”
From the hallway, she yelled, “Nice plan, but no. Time to start the day, so I’ll see you in the kitchen for coffee in a few, okay?”
Cassian banged his crib off the wall once more as Olivia opened his door, and I silently reminded myself I loved being a father. Just not at eight in the morning.
Less than an hour later,
Olivia and I sat with Cassian in the living room playing with his favorite dinosaur toy. As he spent his time gobbling up the smaller dinosaurs around him, she said to me, “While you were in the shower, Abbi called.”
I watched with amusement as the T-Rex exerted his dominance. “Yeah? You two doing something today?”
“I don’t know. That’s not why she called.”
Something in Olivia’s voice made me turn to face her, and I saw she had a look of worry in her eyes. “Is everything okay?”
Olivia sighed, knitting her brows. “She asked me something very strange. I don’t know what to think of it, though.”
“Strange, huh? I’m intrigued. What’s going on?”
Hesitating, she turned to look at our son and his dinosaur stomping on one with a pointy ridge down its back before sighing again and looking at me. “She asked me if I thought Kane was seeing someone else.”
A laugh exploded out of me. Few questions were more ridiculous than that one. “Kane? No way. Nope.”
Olivia narrowed her eyes in anger, a clear sign my response was not what she was looking for. “This is serious, Cash. She sounded upset.”
“Honey, it’s not serious. Kane is madly, completely, and blindly in love with Abbi. She could try to kill him and he’d forgive her. That’s how much he adores her. The guy isn’t seeing anyone else. Jesus, I don’t even think he notices other women exist on the planet, Olivia. Trust me. She’s barking up the wrong tree with this.”
Concern for Abbi and Kane remained in her brown eyes, and Olivia frowned, unfazed by my explanation. “She says he’s been getting calls and he lies to her about them. Cash, that’s a sure sign there’s another woman.”
“Who’s he say is calling?”
“Sometimes he says it’s you or Stefan, and other times he claims it’s the restaurant.”
“The three of us call each other all the time. And it wouldn’t be odd for the restaurant to call him. He is one of the owners and general managers.”
Pushing her long red hair back with her fingers, Olivia nodded. “So you think it’s all nothing even though he’s lying about who’s calling?”
I knew exactly what it was, but I didn’t want to involve her in something I had no intention of bringing into our lives, so I forced a smile and hoped I could convince her it was just as I said. Nothing.
“I think my brother wouldn’t even give another woman a look if someone held a gun to his head. It sounds like maybe Abbi’s reading signs that aren’t really there. Kane is as loyal as they come, strange phone calls or not.”
For a moment, I wasn’t sure Olivia believed me, but after I finished, she smiled and nodded. “I told her it was probably nothing to worry about, but I can’t help but think something’s wrong because he is lying, Cash. She knows that.”
“How does she know? Did she check his phone?” I asked, suddenly wondering if Kane’s sloppiness was going to make its way into my life with Olivia and Cassian.
A sheepish expression washed over my wife’s face. “Don’t tell him, please. She’s just so worried. She’s sure he’s sleeping with another woman. I heard the fear in her voice, Cash.”
As I promised not to tell my brother about his wife checking his phone, mentally I put it at the top of my list of things to do when I met with him and Stefan today. I’d indulged his curiosity or whatever it was for long enough.
“Well, tell her for me that he’s not. I’m sure of it. The guy is like stone when it comes to everyone at the restaurant. I mean, he’s nice enough, but I’ve seen women hit on him and it rolls off his back like water off a duck. He doesn’t care. He’s in love with Abbi, so he doesn’t see other women. Maybe when I go over to Stefan’s today you and Shay can take her out to lunch or something to take her mind off it.”
A look of confusion settled into Olivia’s face. “I didn’t know you were going to your brother’s today. I thought you and I were going to relax with the baby all day.”
I turned to watch Cassian, who’d moved on from dinosaurs to his wooden puzzles of animals. “I have to go to Stefan’s for a little while, but don’t worry. It’ll only be for an hour or so, enough time for you three to grab a nice lunch. I can even take the baby so you won’t have to worry about the whole stroller thing.”
Olivia got up from the couch and headed toward the kitchen. “No way. The last time he was with you and Stefan, he had a brand new word and the daycare administrator ended up pulling me aside to tell me he said booty about twenty times that day. I love Stefan, but he’s a bad influence on my son.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the result of Stefan’s most recent experiment to get Cassian to say his name. Even after two years, the kid couldn’t say it, even though he had no problem repeating anything else that came out of my brother’s mouth. Two hours of trying to get him to say his uncle’s name and all he’d gotten out of it was Stefan’s use of the word booty once.
“Well, you can’t say I didn’t offer.”
Behind me, she said, “And since you seem to have forgotten everything this morning, you know Shay and I can’t take Abbi anywhere, especially if I’m trying to get her mind off the idea of Kane sleeping with another woman.”
Sure I’d missed some part of the conversation when I was thinking back to my last boy’s day out with Stefan and the baby, I shook my head in confusion and turned to look toward her standing at the kitchen island. “What are you talking about?”
Cassian suddenly seemed very curious about what his mother had to say too because he trotted over into the kitchen to join her. She gave him a bowl of dry cereal and sent him on his way with a kiss back to his toys. Grimacing, she waved me over to her, saying, “Little ears hear a lot, Cassian.”
Clearly, I had missed something, so I headed into the kitchen. “What are you talking about? Why can’t you and Shay take Abbi out to lunch?”
Whispering, Olivia explained, “Because Abbi has never gotten over the fact that when she was in the hospital giving birth to Annalea, Kane and Shay were getting drunk together in his apartment. She thinks they slept together.”
Stunned, I opened my mouth to say something but couldn’t. After a few seconds of processing the news that more than six years later, Abbi still hadn’t forgiven Shay, I said, “I knew she was angry back then, but I had no idea she still harbored a grudge.”
Olivia gave me a look like I was some kind of idiot for not knowing this information. “Cash, when can you say you’ve ever seen Abbi and Shay together at any time in the past six years? And haven’t you ever noticed that as soon as Kane and Shay are anywhere close to one another at all at any get-together, Abbi’s mood grows instantly dark? This couldn’t have escaped your notice.”
I thought back to the last few times we all got together at my mother’s and had to admit Abbi and Shay never spoke even once. It hadn’t been something that anyone had made a big deal of, though, so it hadn’t seemed important.
“I guess, but they didn’t sleep together. I know that for sure. Stefan wouldn’t have been able to handle that.”
Shaking her head, Olivia said, “It doesn’t matter. She may have forgiven Kane, but she’s never forgiven Shay. She knows they were close and she’s jealous. So having Shay at lunch while I’m trying to convince Abbi that Kane would never want another woman isn’t a good idea.”
“Well, I guess I’ve been no help whatsoever with this, but thanks for bringing me up to speed on all the family dirt,” I joked.
Olivia slid her arms around my waist and stood on her toes to kiss me. “You really are out of the loop, Cash. I still love you, though, even though you’re perfectly clueless as to what goes on with your brothers.”
I cradled her face and looked down into her dark eyes I so loved. “I’ve found being clueless when it comes to most of what goes on with my brothers is the best plan. You know, just in case the police get involved I can claim plausible deniability.”
“Cute. So what time are you going to Stefan’s?” she asked as Cassian ran up to us and hugged our legs.
“Mommy, can I have more cereal?”
As she filled his bowl, I said, “I’ll head over there around ten. I don’t see any reason why he should get to sleep in all day if I can’t.”
“Because he doesn’t have any kids?”
I dismissed that idea with the wave of my hand. “No excuse. If we parents have to be up, Stefan can be up too.”
“He’ll love that. Let me know how it goes. I think I might take your suggestion about lunch with Abbi and the kids, so if I’m not here when you get back, I’ll be with her.”
Heading toward the shower, I thought about how wrong Abbi was. A tiny part of me wished that was what Kane was up to. Getting him to walk away from that would be easier.
After ten minutes of banging
on Stefan’s door, I was treated to the sight of my younger brother in boxers staring out at me with a mixture of confusion and disgust. I knew I should have felt bad about waking him at that time of day on a Sunday, but I didn’t.
“Wakey, wakey, baby brother. Kane will be here any moment,” I announced as I pushed past him to get into his apartment.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, Cash. What the fuck is with waking me up at the crack of dawn?”
One of his neighbors walked by and stared in shock at how he looked still holding the door open. Pointing toward the hallway to let him know, I joked, “I’m pretty sure your condo board is going to have a new issue on the agenda for the next meeting. She looked pretty freaked out seeing you that way.”
He slammed the door shut and stormed past me to head back to his bedroom. “Fuck her. Like I give a damn what she thinks of how I look first thing in the morning. I don’t even know her name. As for you, make yourself comfortable. I’ll be up at noon.”
“Kane’s going to be here in a few minutes. Get yourself washed up and put some pants on, for fuck’s sake.”
Stefan turned to look at me and sneered. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Cash. Why can’t this happen at a decent time of the day? I was at the club until nearly three this morning, and then Shay and I were up for hours when I got home. I’m dead ass beat, dude.”
I thought about what Olivia had told me that morning about Shay and Abbi and asked, “Hey, have you guys spent a lot of time with Kane and Abbi? You know, dinner and things like that.”
“Did I stutter?”
Wide awake now, Stefan shook his head. “No, but that’s not surprising since Abbi hates Shay for what happened between her and Kane. Why are you asking?”
I shrugged, understanding for the first time how truly clueless I was about family issues. “Olivia told me about that this morning. I had no idea.”
“It’s not a big deal. Shay understands why Abbi feels that way. She wishes things weren’t like that, but she understands.”
“And you’re okay with it all?” I asked, curious how my equally as jealous brother felt about the whole situation.
“Okay with what? They didn’t sleep together, so there’s nothing to be okay with. Now if you don’t mind, you’ve wasted enough of my day with nonsense. I need a shower if I’m going to have to deal with you and Kane, so make yourself comfortable and make me some goddamned coffee, okay?”
Left alone with my orders, I started his coffee maker and took a seat on his couch. Kane knocked a few minutes later and joined me to wait for Stefan. He looked like he’d had a rough night. Hell, he didn’t even look like he’d shaved that morning. Kane shaved every day, so something was up.
“Man, you look like hell. I thought you were going to try to spend some time with Abbi last night. Did you two decide to go on a bender?” I asked as I studied the dark circles under his eyes.
“Rough night sleeping.”