“Baby wipes, antibacterial hand cleanser, a couple bottles of water, a large quilt, and a thermos of soup.”

“Huh?”

He shrugged. “I told Kacie what you said. Then I told her what you were doing. She said she’s glad she kicked your ass, too, and that she hopes this all works out. Then she packed you a bag and heated you some soup, further proving that I will never, ever, ever understand women as long as I live.”

I laughed and started pouring the gas from the second can into the car. “You have a good wife, Brody Murphy. A very good wife.”

He nodded slowly. “You will, too, Lawrence Finkle. I can feel it.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. “At this point, I just want to hug her and make the kids pancakes. Anything extra would be icing on the cake.”

“Keep up the good fight, brother. Kacie was so fucking mad at you the other night. I thought she might actually kill you. If you can get her to make you soup after that, I’m convinced anything is possible.”

“Thanks. And thanks for bringing this by.” I tilted my head toward the gas can. “It would have been a long, cold night without it.”

“Yeah, well I head out on the road in a few hours. If you run out again, you’ll have to call Andy, and we both know how that will go.”

I rolled my eyes. “Lecture city.”

“You know it!” He patted me on the shoulder and picked up the empty gas can. We both carried one back to his truck and set them in the back.

“All right, well . . . good luck. Hopefully you see the inside of a house again real soon. And maybe access to a shower. You smell bad as it is on a regular day. I can’t imagine how that car is gonna smell after a few more days.” He laughed and gave me a quick hug.

“Too bad Kacie didn’t pack deodorant, huh?”

“Amen to that.” He got into his truck and waved as he pulled away. I walked back to my car and put the blue duffel bag in the backseat.

As soon as I shut the back door, another car pulled up. I squinted my eyes and lowered my head to see who was in it. Vivian put her car in park and waved at me.

Go time!

 

 

I circled the front window like a hungry shark stalking a school of fish. The thud of a car door caught my attention and the beautiful woman talking to Viper at the back of his car kept me from moving. She was doing most of the talking and waving her hands around as he leaned his elbow on the trunk of his car and listened. They talked for a good five minutes as I hid, peeking out from behind the curtain. After a few more minutes, the woman pulled some papers out of a bag and set them on the back of the car. Viper hovered and looked at them as she kept talking. Eventually she handed him a pen and he signed whatever the papers were. Then she got back in her car and drove away.

Pacing across the front of the house, I went back and forth about whether or not to go out there. The jealous fourteen-year-old in me wanted to fly out the door, stomp my feet, and demand to know everything. The adult in me glared at that kid and told her to sit down and shut up. Ultimately, the fourteen-year-old won.

He was leaning against his car, staring down at the papers when I walked down the sidewalk toward him. The sounds of my feet crunching over the ice made him look up.

“Hey.” He stood up from the car and gave me a big, genuine grin.

“Hey. Who was that?” I tried to sound nonchalant but failed miserably.

“That was Vivian.”

“Oh. Who’s Vivian?”

He stared at me and took a deep breath. Then his eyes fell to the ground for a couple of seconds before reconnecting with mine. “Can I come in and talk to you?”

I was taken aback. “Huh?”

He shrugged. “Can I come in and can we talk? Please? No fighting. No yelling. Just talking, like this.”

“Viper, who’s that woman?”

“That’s part of what I want to talk to you about.”

I shook my head, frustrated that he wasn’t giving me any real answers. “Ugh. Fine,” I groaned and turned back to the house.

We walked in and I knew the kids—especially Maura—would want a few minutes to crawl all over him, so I didn’t stop it when it happened. He picked them both up, one in each arm, and covered their faces in dozens of kisses. After a few minutes of his attention, they scampered back to the playroom and he sat on the stool at the island. My heart was thumping fast. I didn’t know who that woman was or what he was about to say.

“Okay. Go,” I finally said, preparing myself for anything.

He folded his hands in front of his mouth and looked at me. His face was expressionless, but his eyes stared at me so intensely that every nerve in my body awoke and stood on end.

“I love you, Michelle,” he finally said.

I pulled my brows in tight. “What?”

“I love you. I really, really love you. Like . . . from-the-bottom-of-my-heart-don’t-know-how-to-live-without-you kind of love.”

My heart urged me to tell him that I loved him back, but I bit my lip so the words couldn’t come out.

“I have been horrible to you,” he continued. “The way I acted after surgery, the things I said when you told me about our baby, calling the kids your kids and not ours . . . I was horrible. I wouldn’t blame you if you told me to leave and never come back again, but don’t think for a second that’s going to make me stop loving you, because nothing will.”

“You were horrible,” I agreed softly.

“And I wish I could go back in time and take it all back, but I can’t. All I can do is vow never to do it again and move forward. But I want to do more than that. I need to prove to you that not only will I never treat you like that again, I’m never going to leave again.”

My head swirled as I tried to think of what to say back, but he wasn’t done.

He swallowed and looked down at the island. “Walking out that door that day was the single worst mistake I’ve ever made, and I see that now. I should have stayed. I should have taken a time-out. I should have done anything other than walk out that door. The longer I was gone, the harder it was to come back, but when Kacie showed me this”—he put an ultrasound picture on the island in front of him—“and told me about our son, I couldn’t stay away one more day.” His eyes lifted back to mine. “But . . . I’m an idiot. I’m not good with words and presents like Brody. I’m not in control and focused like Andy. I’m a big dumb idiot who is impulsive and pretty damn stupid.”