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“Got it.” I looked up at her. “Thanks, doc.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Thanks, you know, for everything,” I said as genuinely as I could. She pressed her lips together and nodded.

I turned and reached for the doorknob when she called my name again. “Hey, Viper?”

“Yeah?” I spun back to face her.

“Don’t give up on this. Don’t give up on her. Any woman that can drive you this crazy obviously feels the same way about you. I know that without having ever met her.” Her eyes begged me not to throw it all away. “She might have closed the door a little, but she certainly didn’t lock it. Maybe she’s standing just on the other side, waiting for you to knock.”

I stared straight at Dr. Roberts and arched an eyebrow at her. “Well, hopefully she’s not too close to it cause I’m about to bust through that motherfucker like the Kool-Aid man.”

A grin broke out across her face as she scrunched up her nose. “That’s my boy. One more thing…” She giggled and nodded her head back toward the coffee table. “You want your drawer back?”

“MOMMA. MOMMA!”

I cracked one eye open just enough to see Matthew’s smiling face lying on the pillow next to me.

“Good morning, baby.” I rubbed his cheek with my thumb and closed my eyes again.

“Momma! The sun is awake. Time to get up.”

Groaning, I rolled over and grabbed my phone to check the time. “Sweetheart, it’s not even seven yet. The sun gets up earlier than people. Can’t we sleep for a little bit longer?”

“Okay.” He sighed and squeezed his little eyes tight, nuzzling in close to me.

I wrapped my arms around him just as I heard a loud growl. My eyes snapped open. “Was that your stomach?”

With his eyes still pinched together, he nodded.

Wow, there goes your bid for mother of the year.

“I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t know you were so hungry. Let’s go have some breakfast together while we wait for Maura to wake up.”

He didn’t need me to say it a second time, springing from the bed in his little Ninja Turtle teddy bear suit. How could kids wake up and hit the ground running like that? I practically needed two cups of coffee just to get my eyes open and then I still needed a nap by lunchtime.

This adult stuff sucks. I want to be four again.

I tiptoed past Maura’s bedroom door and down the stairs, hoping to steal some valuable alone time with Matthew before Princess Bossy Pants woke up.

“What do you want for breakfast?” I yawned.

“Um…”

I looked over and Matthew was sitting at the coffee table in the living room, already engrossed in his latest Lego collection.

“Matthew!” I laughed as his head snapped toward me. “Stay with me, buddy. What do you want to eat?”

“Um… scrambled eggs and jelly toast.” He turned back to his Legos.

I stood there with my arms crossed and cleared my throat dramatically so that he’d look over at me again. My eyebrows raised but I didn’t say anything.

“Please,” he added with a grin.

“Thank you.” I returned his smile before heading to the fridge and filling my arms with eggs, milk, and cheese. I carried it all over, dropping it carefully onto the island.

“Momma.” Matthew climbed up onto the stool, resting his chin on his hands. I loved when he sat like that. It made his cheeks squish out like they had when he was a baby. “Can Viper give me cooking lessons too so I can cook breakfast for you next time?”

His innocent question was like a shot to the gut.

“Well…” I sighed, not sure how to answer him. “I’m not sure about that, sweetie. Viper’s really busy with hockey right now so he can’t come over.”

“What about when he’s done? He makes good food.”

“He does make good food.” I nodded as I reached up into the cabinet to grab a mixing bowl, desperately praying he’d get bored with my answers and return to his Legos, or at least pick a different topic.

Viper and I hadn’t talked in two weeks, and honestly, I wasn’t sure we ever would again. I was so embarrassed about the way I threw myself at him after the wedding that the thought of facing him again made me cringe. And… he’d made his choice. If he’d wanted me even a little bit, he had clear access that night, but he chose not to. It was probably for the best anyway. Nothing good could have come from us having sex.

Stop lying to yourself.

The truth was, I was devastated. Embarrassed. Kissing him had felt amazing. It had felt like the biggest release after months of arms brushing together and little glances that left us both blushing. The electricity between us was so strong there were times I was surprised I couldn’t actually hear it popping in the air. Somehow, the man I used to tolerate for my husband had become someone I couldn’t go five minutes without thinking about. But he didn’t want me. To him, I was nothing but an obligation.

“Momma!”

Matthew calling my name pulled me back from wherever I had been. “Yes, baby?”

“Your phone.” His little arm was extended, his finger pointing toward my phone on the corner of the island.

“Thanks.” I smiled as big as I could, even though I was dreading deleting that text, just as I’d been doing every morning for the past two weeks. It was almost easier to assume he’d stopped thinking about me, but his morning texts were proof that wasn’t true.

I grabbed my phone and was both happy and sad when I saw the text was from Taylor, not Viper.

T: Yo! It’s gonna be above freezing today and I was thinking of going to Mike’s grave to clear the snow and ice off. Wanna go with me?

I answered as fast as my fingers would type.

Yes! Maura is fighting a cold, so I’m gonna text the sitter and see if she can stay here while we go. What time were you thinking?

T: Pick you up at noon?

Perfect! If you don’t hear back from me, all is good. See you then.

I sent a quick text to Desi and within seconds my phone beeped again. Hopefully she didn’t have plans and wouldn’t mind sitting here for a couple hours. I looked at the screen and took a sharp breath.

V: How are you? Is there anything I can do?

I’d known that text would be coming eventually, but I was still caught off guard. Every day when he’d texted, I had deleted it immediately so that I wouldn’t be tempted to answer. My phone beeped again.

D: No problem. I’ll be there at 11:45.

I worked my butt off all morning to get the kids dressed for Desi, have lunch ready to go, and pick up the downstairs. Before I knew it, Taylor was at the front door. Of course Matthew and Maura were hanging all over their auntie, begging her to come play with them.

“Mommy and I are going to run some errands, but how about after I drop her off, I come in and hang out for a bit?”

Matthew agreed and reluctantly let her go, and we were off.

The cemetery where Mike was buried was only about ten minutes from the house. Taylor and I had gone often last summer to plant flowers and keep his gravesite as clean as possible. It was our thing to do together. We both agreed it made us feel good to still have something we felt like Mike needed us for.

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