Keeping half an eye on her son in that way all mothers adopted instinctively, Megan followed Katie into the kitchen and opened the fridge door.
“I’ll have tea if you’ll have something for breakfast.” She slammed the fridge closed. “Which is going to be next to impossible, seeing as you have nothing in your fridge except coffee.”
Katie put on the kettle, feeling harassed. “I have a grocery store downstairs that sells everything from bagels to radish kimchi when I need it.”
“Then why aren’t you using it?” Megan asked, her gaze on Katie’s waistline.
“I’ve been busy, Meg, I’m not starving myself.” Or, not intentionally anyway. It was just hard to locate her appetite when all she could seem to think about was Jared.
“Is this something to do with Jared—and the reason he’s been out of New York ever since you guys got back from Italy?”
Katie’s head jerked up but the mention of Jared’s name had color flaring across her collarbone.
“No.” The word choked out on an unconvincing huff.
Where had he gone? And why h
ad he left? She had made a point of not going to any events with Dario and Megan or paying attention to the gossip columns since she had returned. She wanted to keep a low profile so she didn’t draw any of the unwanted attention from the press she had gone to Europe to avoid. But she also knew she couldn’t bear bumping into Jared or seeing him escort some other woman to the VIP events. She had also made a point of not asking Dario about his friend, mostly not to alert her brother-in-law to the fact she was desperate for even the slightest bit of news about him.
“Something happened between you two. I know it did.” Megan’s gaze fixed on her like a Rottweiler’s. “Because you have both been acting weird ever since you got back. I’ve never seen you so subdued—”
“It’s called being a grown-up,” Katie interrupted, feeling more dejected than ever. Had she made the nightmares worse, she wondered, by stirring things up while they’d been together?
“And Dario is worried about Jared,” Megan continued, ignoring Katie’s comment. “He won’t answer any of his calls and he’s been staying up at his place in Vermont even though he usually only goes there during the winter-time to ski.”
Katie searched for something coherent to say that would deflect her sister’s concern. Even though she had never managed to get to the bottom of the friendship between Jared and Dario, and why Jared felt so indebted to her brother-in-law, she was positive he would not want Dario to know about their affair. But the urge to tell Megan was almost overwhelming—because all she could think about was Jared, alone in his cabin, torn apart by the nightmares with no one to comfort him. Dario needed to go up there and make sure his friend was okay.
She was just about to say so when an almighty crash had both women jumping. Megan dived out of the kitchen first and hoisted her son into her arms. Luckily Katie’s easel hadn’t landed on top of him, but her paints were scattered across the floor. Katie arrived in time to see Megan pick up the canvas of Jared which had fallen facedown.
Megan turned to her, jiggling her fractious son on her hip, and sent her a smile full of compassion and understanding as she held up the painting. “Well, this explains quite a lot.”
The blood rushed to Katie’s head, her knees buckled and she sat heavily on her tiny couch, knowing she and Jared were totally busted. Now all she had to do was explain the unexplainable to her inquisitive sister.
* * *
“I think you should go and see him, Katie. Not Dario,” Megan said, the urgency in her voice starting to give Katie a headache.
“I can’t do that, Meg. I think I may have messed things up enough already for him.”
She’d explained everything to Megan. It had been a precondition of her sister agreeing not to contact Dario. They sat on the sofa, Arturo sound asleep next to them after his near-death experience.
“Why would you think that?” Megan asked. “This isn’t more of that ridiculous guilt-fest you had going over Mom is it?”
Katie sat up, glad when her head didn’t start aching more. She thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. “No, I know I’m not responsible for Mom leaving us. Or for the fact Lloyd Whitaker blamed us both for Mom’s infidelity. Jared helped me to see that. But I feel like I took advantage of him when I slept with him that last time. I knew he was vulnerable and I...” The blush scolded her cheeks. “I sort of seduced him.”
“Katie, he’s a grown man with a great deal more experience than you.”
“I know that, but what if those terrible nightmares were somehow triggered by me and something I did? I lied to him about my virginity. I didn’t tell him because I think I’d always wanted him to be the one, after that stupid crush I’d had on him when I was nineteen. Don’t you see I tricked him? And it really rattled him. I know it did.”
“You didn’t trigger those nightmares,” Megan said with complete certainty.
“How do you know that?”
Katie could see knowledge in her sister’s eyes and realized that she knew answers to the questions Katie had never been able to ask. Even so, she didn’t want to press—what right did she have to invade Jared Caine’s privacy even more?
Megan stared at her for a long time and then sighed. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, because Dario told me in confidence, and I don’t think it’s something Jared wants people to know, for obvious reasons. But I think...”
“Then you mustn’t tell me. I’m pretty sure I mean nothing to him and I wouldn’t want to—”