My head snapped to look at her.

Her brow rose. “I’m speaking from experience here, sweetheart. Maybe that is the question you need to be asking yourself. Is this guy, Easton, the love of your life?” She placed her hand on the side of my face. “Listen to your heart, Chloe.”

When she stood, I rose from my seat. “Waylynn, what if my heart is just as confused as my head?”

Her mouth rose slightly on one side. “Oh Chloe, sometimes you have to cut the strings to make room for what truly belongs in your heart.”

I forced a small smile back. “Yeah. I guess.”

After a quick squeeze of her hand on mine, she headed back into the house. I dropped the notebook onto the bench and headed to the barn. I needed a distraction and it was about time for me to see Patches anyway.

On the way down, my phone rang, and I saw it was Easton.

“Hello?”

“Hey, baby. What are you doing?”

“Heading down to see Patches.”

“Jesus, Chloe, when are you going to get over this weird obsession with that lamb?”

“Goat,” I reminded him, realizing that he wasn’t kidding with me about whether he thought Patches was a goat or a lamb. He just couldn’t be bothered to remember the difference.

“Whatever.”

“Easton, Patches is my best friend. I love him.”

“I thought Rip was your best friend. Come to think of it, shouldn’t your future husband be your best friend?”

“Are you trying to pick a fight with me because it sure as shit feels like it!”

“No. I’m frustrated. I miss you, Chloe. I hate that you’re so damn far away. Can you come here sooner? We haven’t had sex in so long, not even on the night we got engaged.”

My mouth dropped open. That was what he missed? Sex? “I’m sorry, I can’t. I promised Alyssa we would go look at wedding dresses tomorrow. It’s only been a week, Easton.”

“And a week is too long not to see you. Do you miss me, too?”

“Of course, I do.”

Liar.

I stopped walking. Closing my eyes, I willed the doubts to go away.

The moment I walked into the pasture, I saw Patches. He no longer moved like he used to. No more running and jumping to greet me. I dropped to my knees, giving him a hug when he made his way over to me.

“Patches,” I whispered.

“Chloe, I’m talking to you.”

Tears stung my eyes. I would be leaving Patches again. What if I wasn’t here when he was ready to pass?

“Easton, I told you I could come down on your mom’s birthday. That is in six days. Can you please stop making me feel guilty about wanting to be with my own family? I’m getting sick of it.”

“Well, I’m sorry if I miss you, Chloe.”

“Stop doing that. Stop with the guilt trip, East. From the moment you put this ring on my finger you have turned into someone I hardly know, and truth be told, I’m not missing that person. All I wanted to do was be here with my family. Spend some time with them. Love on Patches. Why is that so hard for you to understand?”

“I’m sorry, baby. I am. It’s just hard. I didn’t think it would be this hard to be apart. I felt like you were growing distant in College Station. I thought if we got engaged it would change. Maybe we would at least start having sex again.”

My mouth dropped open, and I fell back on my ass. Patches crawled onto my lap and curled up the best he could.

“Wait a minute. Back the hell up. Is that why you asked me to marry you? You thought I was growing distant? You wanted sex?”

“No! I mean, that was one reason. I want to be with you. I hate knowing you’re there with him.”

“With him? Him who?”

“Chloe, I’ve got to run. We’ll talk about this tonight.”

I exhaled in frustration. He hadn’t even given me time to respond.

When the call ended, I looked down at Patches. He was sleeping in my lap. I couldn’t help but smile as I ran my hand over him.

“Oh Patches, I don’t know what to do.”

As we walked around the bridal store in San Antonio, I listened to Alyssa talk about the style of dress she wanted for her wedding with Mike. Every now and then I would smile and nod, agree with something, and give the appropriate ohh and ahh when I thought it was what she wanted to hear.

“Did you bring your wedding book?” Alyssa asked me as I looked at a gown.

Laughing, I replied, “No.”

“Chloe, why not? That was your dream wedding planner. You wrote everything down in that thing.”

I looked at my mother who casually glanced at a dress she was not the least bit interested in. She’d clearly been listening to what we just said. “That was for a dream wedding. This is reality.”

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