Tyce walked over to her and rubbed his hands up and down her arms. “Why would you think that?”
“Because that’s what people do!” She frowned. “What if we bonded, if we came to love each other and she died? Of cancer or in a helicopter crash?”
“Dramatic much, Sage? She’s an archivist—she deals with documents. She might die from falling off a ladder or after being buried by falling boxes but she won’t die from a helicopter crash.”
Sage frowned at her lover. “You’re mocking me.”
“Just a little.”
He didn’t understand and he probably never would. Sure, she sounded like a drama queen but she’d had her life wrenched apart; she’d experienced death and desolation. She knew that bad things happened when they were least expected to.
She couldn’t do this, she thought. She couldn’t let Lachlyn in. Sage picked up her coat from where she’d tossed it onto the chaise lounge to the left of the door. She shoved her arm into a sleeve. If she hurried, she could leave before Lachlyn arrived.
The heavy chimes of the doorbell rang through the hallway and, looking through the glass inserts, Sage saw a tiny blonde standing outside, her chin pushed into the folds of a pink scarf.
Lachlyn was here, actually here. Suddenly Sage didn’t know what to do or what to say. Her eyes flew to Tyce’s face and she lifted up her hands. “Will you stay?”
“Are you sure that’s what you want?”
“Hang on a sec, Lach,” Tyce called out. He stepped up to Sage and cupped the back of her head with his large hand, pulling her forehead to his chest. His head dropped and Sage heard his rumbling, sexy voice close to her ear.
“She’s just as scared as you are. Like you, she just wants to be liked. She also just wants to know about her dad, this family. She’s the interloper here, Sage. This is your house, your family. There’s no reason for you to be scared.”
“I don’t like letting people in, Tyce.” It was a massive admission and Sage wondered if he’d understand that she wasn’t talking about this house or her family but about letting people into her life.
“Me neither, honey. But neither can we stay the same. We have to learn and we have to grow. And we can only do that by allowing new people and new experiences into our lives.” Tyce dropped a kiss into her hair. “She’s a nice person, Sage. You could come to love her.”
And that was the problem, Sage thought. Loving someone was fine—she could do that. She just didn’t want to deal with the fallout when they stopped loving her and disappeared from her life in whatever form that took.
“Open the door, honey,” Tyce said, stepping away and giving her an encouraging smile. “You’ve got this.”
Sage shook her head. She really didn’t feel like she did.
* * *
Thank God, the first official, welcome-to-the-family-Lachlyn dinner was over and Sage could finally go home.
She looked around the crowded hallway of The Den, thinking of so many other dinners they’d ended here in a flurry of goodbyes. Connor always stood to the left of the imposing front door, the last person they saw before leaving the house.
Changes, Sage thought, yanking her coat belt tighter. God, she hated them.
“If you pull that any tighter you’re going to cut off your air supply,” Tyce told her, putting his hand on hers.
Sage, irritated, swatted his hand away. “I’ve been tying my coat for a while now.”
“What is your problem?” Tyce asked, keeping his voice low. “You’ve been scratchy all evening.”
Where to start? Instead of answering him, she looked around the hallway and swallowed the compressed ball of emotion in her throat. She’d barely had time to recover, to digest her meeting with Lachlyn this afternoon when Linc had sprung this family dinner on her, blithely explaining that he’d already sent Tyce an invitation and thereby taking the decision about inviting him to accompany her out of her hands.
Would she have asked him? Probably not. After the meeting with Lachlyn, which had been emotional and difficult, she’d realized how easy it was to rely on Tyce’s steady presence and his strength. Counting on Tyce was a dangerous habit to slide into. He was her lover, sure, but she refused to fall in love with him and relying on him for anything other than help to raise their child was foolish. She was setting herself up for an almighty fall and that had to stop immediately.