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Screwed (Dad Bod Contracting #4)
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“He has to be ready for it, Jess,” I say, my voice low and quiet.
Jesse nods. “I know. It’s just that I’m a fixer, and his broken-ass heart is the one thing I can’t fix.”
“No one can,” I say. “I can’t fix his broken heart. He has to be willing to be with me with a whole heart. There’d be pieces missing, and seams and cracks, but offered as a whole. I’m worth more than just taking the screwed up mess of him, just to have part. I want more than that—I deserve more. If he can get there, I’ll be here waiting. I’ve got nothing but time, Jess. I’m not going anywhere, and I told him that. I’m willing to wait—because I think he’s worth waiting for.” I smile at Jesse. “If he can get his head out of his ass and work on rebuilding his broken-ass heart, he’ll be worth having waited for.”
Except I’ve already waited so long. For him—for anyone, but especially for him. Endured so much. Spent so long alone, and lonely. And now James is RIGHT THERE, but still out of reach. My heart wants him, my body wants him, but my fears say he’ll only hurt me. And he himself says he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to get over the past—losing his wife. I don’t blame him, but…
How long can I wait? And if he does come around, will it be worth it?
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It’s three o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting at Laurel’s dining table swirling the inch or so of Angel’s Envy around the bottom of my glass, desperately fighting the urge to toss it back and pour another. I’ve already had two fingers of this stuff, but as tempting as it is to get black-out drunk, I refuse to do so. I haven’t been drunk like that since…well, since Craig. But I refuse to think about that. At least right this moment.
I don’t drink like that, and as tempting as it is to want to escape, I know better. It won’t help anything, and I’ll only wake up feeling like crap; I came to Laurel to talk, not to drink. I need to vent, I need advice, not a buzz. I just…I don’t know how to start, or where.
Laurel sits in silence for a moment longer, looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to speak. When I don’t say anything right away she stands up, tugs her thick, plush robe tighter, and ambles to the refrigerator.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
She reaches into the freezer and pulls out two pints of ice cream, grabs two spoons from a drawer, and sets them on the table in front of us. I pick one up and examine the ingredient list.
“Hmmm. Looks interesting,” I say.
“Sugar-free, dairy-free, low calorie, and delicious. Ice cream unicorn, basically,” Laurel says. “And I think for us, ice cream is a more effective coping mechanism than alcohol.”
“No kidding,” I agree, and dig in. I find it to be delicious, and I’m grateful for a few minutes of quiet as we both eat the ice cream.
And then the pint is empty.
I laugh. “Wow, that goes down fast.”
Laurel chuckles and nods. “Sure does. This stuff is a real lifesaver when I’m on my period and want to eat literally everything in sight.”
“Good to know,” I say, setting the empty pint aside. I leave the last of the whiskey in my glass untouched. I turn to Laurel and say, “I…I don’t know where to even start.”
Laurel shrugs. “Honestly, Nova, I know very little about you, so if you just need to vent then, by all means, vent. I’ll be a sympathetic listener and a shoulder to cry on if you need. But if you happen to want my advice or anything like that, I need a bit of background.”
“You guys have all been so great to me, even though nobody knows much about me,” I say. “I tend to keep my history to myself.”
“Pretty much the only thing I know about you in terms of your personal history is that you were going into politics and then some shit happened. Then you worked as a party planner and a bartender, and then some more shit happened, and then you got your nursing degree.”
I’m restless, as evidenced by my bouncing knee. I probably look like teenage boy. I glance at Laurel, sitting comfortably in her robe. “I need to go outside, Laurel. I’m too restless and upset to just sit here.”
Laurel nods, and leaves the table. I follow her to the mudroom, where she shoves her feet in Ryder’s huge work boots, and then reties her robe more tightly around her waist before leading the way outside.
“You’re going out there in a robe?” I ask, amused.
She shrugs, nods, and gestures around us. “Well, yeah. Who’s gonna see me?”
About fifty yards away kitty-corner to the house is a classic red barn, the kind you see on the side of the highway in rural areas—this one is clearly old, but has been restored, which is unsurprising, given that Ryder and the guys are all builders. Around us, there’s nothing but rolling hills with a few scattered trees here and there. I don’t see another house anywhere in view, and I know from driving here that you can’t see this house and barn from the road, as the half-mile-long driveway winds through a stand of trees and then curves behind them before dipping down and winding around the base of a hill.
“So do you often just walk around in nothing but a robe?” I ask.
She snickers. “We often walk around out here in less than just a robe, if you know what I mean.” She ducks her head. “The back deck is really nice. There’s a built-in couch around the perimeter with outdoor cushions. I have a feeling Ryder designed it with a…specific…purpose in mind.”
I snort. “Wait, really? Outside, on the deck?”
She shrugs and nods again. “It’s a lot of fun. Felt sort of…naughty, I guess, the first couple times. But there are no neighbors anywhere, no way to see any part of the house or barn from anywhere except, like, a satellite, and honestly, if someone is watching Ryder and me have sex from a satellite…? Well, that’s a little weird, but I don’t care.”