“Can you drink that right now?” I ask.
She frowns at me over the top of her coffee cup, making me smile. “Ha, ha. Very funny. Now seriously. Tell me what’s going on?”
I sigh then debate about what I’m going to tell her. I know she’s not a little girl, but the idea of explaining to her how I let the woman I love slip through my fingers because I’m a dumbass is not at all appealing.
“Dad, talk to me,” she says quietly.
I look at her across the counter and lower my head. “I fucked up. I mean really fucked up, and I don’t know if I can fix it.”
“Are you still breathing?” she asks softly, and I lift my head.
“Are you still breathing?” she repeats, searching my face.
“Yes,” I tell her and frown when I see her eyes flash.
“Do you love her?”
“Yes,” I whisper.
She nods. “You know, this man once told me that, as long as you were breathing, anything was possible.” She takes a drink of her coffee, searching my face again. She shakes her head and I see tears fill her eyes. “You could have given up on me,” she whispers, and my heart contracts. “You could have just said screw it and given up, but you didn’t—you never did. You are someone who fights for what you want. So if you love this woman, she’s probably pretty amazing and worth fighting for.”
“She is,” I say, my jaw locking.
“Then fight, Dad. I want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy.”
“When did you get so darn smart?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugs, taking another drink from her cup.
“Love you, baby girl.”
“Love you too, Dad.” She smiles then leans onto the counter with her elbows. “Now tell me about her.”
“Who is she?” she asks.
I take a breath and sit up on the stool. “Her name’s Kathleen. We knew each other back in school before she moved away,” I say.
She nods before taking another drink and then lowering her cup to the counter. “How long have you been seeing each other?”
Shit, I think, and she narrows her eyes.
“How long have you been seeing her, Dad?” she repeats.
“Nine months,” I mumble looking down at the counter.
“Nine months? You’ve been seeing her for nine months and I’m just now hearing about her?” She shakes her head and stands to her full height before turning away from me and walking around the kitchen twice. Then she stops in front of me, opening and closing her mouth again and doing another circle. “I can’t believe you haven’t told me about this,” she says, making me feel instantly worse.
“She has a son.”
“She has a son?” she repeats, coming around the counter to sit on the stool next to me again. “How old is he?”
“Just turned eighteen.”
“Wow,” she breathes.
“Yeah,” I say, running my fingers though my hair.
“How do you guys get along?”
“I don’t know him.”
“You’ve been seeing this lady for nine months, you’re in love with her, and you don’t know her son?”
“I told you I fucked up,” I tell her, lowering my head towards the counter again.
“You weren’t lying,” she mumbles under her breath, and I swing my head towards her and narrow my eyes. “It’s okay,” she says, holding up her hands. “It’s not too late.” She wraps her arm around my back, laying her head on my shoulder. “You’re pretty easy to love, Dad, and one thing I know for sure is that everything will work out.”
“You’re right, baby girl.” I wrap my arm around her, lean in, and kiss the top of her head. And pray that I find away to get my woman back.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” I ask Conner as we pull up in front of a large log house.
“Honey, I told you before. It’s all good. We’re not going to stay long—just a beer. Then we can go to the movies, or if you want, we can go back to my place,” he says, his voice changing slightly, making me panic.
Oh God. I wasn’t ready for that. Conner is a very nice man. He’s good-looking, attentive, and kind. He’s also successful, but the idea of doing anything more than kissing him on the cheek makes me feel nauseated.
I feel bad that there is no spark with him. He has done everything to make me feel comfortable, but something keeps holding me back. There are just no sparks. I keep asking myself, Who the hell needs sparks? But my brain is not listening.
I’ve gone out with Conner a few times. I met him when we were both in line at the bank. He seemed like a nice guy, and I’m still adamant about getting over Mike and finding someone to build something lasting with. Yeah, I know I’m breaking the rules about being an independent woman, but I know what I want. And since the man I want is an idiot, I need to look elsewhere.
“We can go to a movie,” I tell him right away and see disappointment flash through his eyes before he takes his eyes off me and looks at the house in front of us.
“Let’s go in,” he says, opening his door and climbing out of his truck.
I open my door and meet him in front of the house. He takes my hand in his and I fight the urge to make him release me as we walk up the steps to the front porch. When we reach the door, he doesn’t knock; he just walks in. The second we step over the threshold, I’m bombarded by the sounds of people laughing and having a good time.
Conner leads us through the crowd, stopping along the way to say hi to people he knows. When we reach the kitchen, a young, very good-looking guy with his hair shaved off comes up to us, pulling Conner in for a one-arm hug. When they pull away, the guy looks at me and then to Conner. Again, something flashes in his eyes, but I’m not fast enough to understand what it is.
“Asher, this is Kathleen. Kathleen, this is Asher.”
“Nice to meet you.” I smile and take his hand when he puts it out for a shake.
“You look familiar,” he says, and I shake my head no. “Do you know my wife November?” he asks.
My stomach drops. No way. Fate cannot be this cruel. But the chance of another woman named November living in this town is about as likely as being struck by lightning. I’ve never met November, but Mike talked about her often, along with his granddaughters—he even brought up his son-in-law a few times, but I never put two and two together.