“Neither do I.”

“You have every right to be upset with me, and I’ll wait patiently for you.”

“You? Patient?” I asked with a raised brow.

The corner of his mouth rose in that shy grin. The one that still made my stomach drop. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had any idea that he would forever own my heart.

“You want to go for a drive? I have something I want to show you.”

Smiling, I tilted my head. “Does it have to do with your phone call?”

His face lit up. “Possibly.”

“What about all this cookie dough?”

“John will eat it.”

I laughed, and it actually felt good. I was still angry, and we had a lot to talk about, but right now I needed my best friend more than I needed a resolution to this mess that was my life.

“Do I need to change?”

His eyes slowly moved over my body, causing my insides to melt. Rip had never looked at me like that so openly. I felt my cheeks burn.

“You’re perfect.”

My mouth opened slightly to say something, but I quickly shut it. Turning, I went about covering the dough and putting it in the refrigerator. The oven beeped, and Rip grabbed the mitts and took out the cookies. He then put the other cookie tray in and set the timer again.

“We should let everyone know we’re leaving,” I said, my voice shaky.

What is that about?

“Right.”

Rip motioned for me to walk out of the kitchen first. As we got closer to the family room, I could hear all the laughter and talking. As much as I wanted to enjoy myself with my family, the pain in my chest was almost too much to bear. Every time I thought of Patches, I wanted to cry.

Rip and I stepped into the family room and all eyes turned to us. My mother stood and smiled. “Done with the cookies?”

“No, there is a batch in the oven someone will need to take out in about ten minutes or so. The rest of the dough is in the refrigerator.”

Grammy walked toward us. “Are you leaving?”

If she thought she was hiding her hopefulness, she was wrong. I looked past her to see my mother wearing the same look on her face.

“Rip offered to take me on a drive. He has something he wants to show me and thought it might take my mind off Patches.”

My voice cracked when I said his name. Then Rip lightly touched the lower part of my back, and my body did a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn as tingles zipped across my body.

Good Lord.

I didn’t know if I should be mad, sad, or turned on. I’m a Parker woman, though, so it was possible to experience all of those same emotions in the same breath.

A part of me wanted to just go home, but I knew being alone was the worst choice I could make.

Rip must have felt my body’s reaction to his touch, because he dropped his hand. Had he ever touched me like that before?

Yes. Plenty of times. Guiding me into a room. A gentle touch to let me know he was there. It had always made me tingle, but tonight, that simple touch set my body on fire. I felt the walls between us quickly crumbling, and those touches meant more now than they ever had.

“Oh, that was sweet of you, Rip. You kids be careful driving.” Mom said.

Mike looked at Rip. A look passed between the two of them. It wasn’t concern, more like Mike attempting to make sure Rip was doing the right thing.

Making my way to my parents, I hugged each of them and then granddaddy and grammy. “I’ll just have Rip drop me off at home later.”

“Sounds good. Have a good time, y’all,” my mom called out as we walked out of the family room.

As we made our way out the front door and down the steps, I flashed back to the cabin earlier. Was it only just a few hours ago he told me loved me? Asked me not to marry Easton? It felt like a moment and a lifetime ago.

Rip opened the door to his truck and held out his hand for me. It wasn’t anything new, something he had done since the very first time I rode with him after he got his license. I tried not to react to the way our touching hands shot a bolt of electricity up my arm and into my chest.

When he shut the door and walked around the truck, I took the time to take a few deep breaths.

“You’re mad at him, Chloe. Mad.”

When he jumped into his seat and turned on the truck, he had a small grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. Whatever he was going to show me, he was really excited about it.

“Ready?” he asked, looking at me with pure happiness on his face.

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