- Text Size +
Chapter 16

I had never seen Kevin working in the ring before, but after an hour I began to wonder why. He was just as good with horses as Addy and he was great with the kids.

I hadn't seen where he had gone, but I had figured Joe would have gone back into the house to enjoy some Kevin-free time. I was more than a little surprised then to see him talking to Krista as I lead the ebony horse holding Melissa back to the gate.

"Again!" she cried.

"We have to take turns," I explained. I prepared myself for a Brenna-sized meltdown, but Melissa just smiled.

"Okay!" Karilyn helped me get her down. Kevin lead the other horses up and swiftly got the boys down. Owen was grinning ear to ear, but Greg still looked sullen.

As Melissa clung to my hand, I saw Krista toss her head back and giggle. Joe had his arms crossed, his 'cool' stance in place and grinned.

"Krista! It's your turn!" I called out, surprised that for once my voice didn't come out meekly. She turned I'm surprise. I gave Joe a look, but as he followed her in, I realized he was purposely ignoring me.

"Cole?" Kevin called.

Cole was sitting down, looking bored. He shook his head.

"I'll pass," he said tonelessly.

"Why?" I asked. I had one eye on Joe. Amazingly, he had actually helped Krista with her helmet AND he was getting her up on the saddle.

"I'm not a cowboy," he shot back.

"Come on Cole," Karilyn said. "You're going to do this."

They began to argue back and forth. Kevin nodded towards Krista. "Why don't you get her going?" he asked. He was watching Joe like a hawk.

I nodded. Joe had his hand wrapped around Krista's calf as I grabbed the lead. "Thanks for the help," I said. "You should probably get back to WORK."

"I am working," Joe smirked. Krista giggled.


He reluctantly stepped back. "See ya around," he said begrudgingly. Krista beamed; I couldn't believe my BROTHER had made her flustered.

"He's SO cute!" she blurted out when we were far enough away from him. I looked at her like she was crazy. "Are you kidding?"

She shook her head and beamed. "He said he was going to come visit me," she said happily.

I gritted my teeth. I was going to kill him. He always did this. He always made promises he knew he wasn't going to keep.

About ten minutes later, Krista was still asking me questions about Joe, Cole had finally gotten on a horse and was clinging to the reins for dear life, and Melissa was hanging onto Karilyn still yelling happily every time I would bring the ebony one past.

"Are you a virgin?"

The question caught me off guard. "What?

"Are you a virgin?" Krista repeated. My face flamed. "Well?" she pressed.

"Yes," I said quietly. Krista leaned forward. Thinking that she was going to fall, I stopped the horse.

"I'm not," she said with a smile before sitting back up.

I didn't know what I was supposed to say. 'Good for you,' sounded sarcastic or even a little bitter, which I wasn't. 'You're only fifteen' sounded judgmental and granny-ish.

I chose silence.

A half hour later, we came to a stop. Kevin helped Krista off, much to her delight. She told me that he was a total dilf. Of course when I told her he was fifty-seven, she looked like she was going to throw up. I kinda felt like that was retribution for the whole 'virgin' question.

I watched as Kevin helped Cole down. Towards the end he hadn't seemed as nervous on the horse, but getting down was a whole nothing story. I saw a new side of him, a vulnerable side. It was quickly replaced by anger once he got both feet back on the ground.

"I'm never doing this again," he declared. Kevin didn't seem bothered; he went over to talk to Karilyn and Melissa. Joe came out of nowhere and began talking to Krista again.

"You didn't have fun?" I asked.

"I'd rather ride in a car," he said. "It's more comfortable than having your junk hitting the saddle every time that creature decides to speed up."

I was thankful I had three brothers, otherwise I probably would have been embarassed again. As it was, I was used to comments like those. In a boys world, their whole life seemed to revolve around 'the junk.'

"But, it's nice to get out," I tried again. Cole smiled.

"It might seem like a prison for the rest of them, but I can go anywhere I want to." He tapped the side of his head. "There's something to be said about not being able to see what's directly around you."

Just like there's something to be said about being able to stop the noise, I thought to myself.

"Yes, but doesn't it get lonely?" I mused aloud. "Sometimes it's nice to have a vacation partner."

He laughed. I had a feeling he didn't do that very often.

"That's cute," he said. His hands wrapped tighter around his walking stick. "Of course, from hearing Krista and the rest of the hens speak, I guess you're beautiful. Too beautiful to be spending time with us."

My eyes widened. "That's not true!"

"Which part?"

"B--both," I stuttered. Cole leaned forward slightly.

"So you're not beautiful?"


He lifted his hand and I was caught off guard as his fingers began to spread over my face. First my eyes, then my nose. They paused when they got to my lips.

"You don't have a third eye, your nose is perfectly straight, and your skin is smooth," he said. "Paired with that dark hair Jess was describing and I'd say you're gorgeous."

My throat went dry. "I--"


I turned. Kevin was motioning towards me. I glanced back at Cole.

"'Scuse me," I said quickly. I hurried over to him. "What's up?"

"The boys are missing."

I looked around. I didn't see Owen or Greg anywhere nearby. "Missing?"

"Can you go look up at the house? Maybe they just went to find a restroom," Kevin suggested. Karilyn looked panicked. Melissa was still smiling happily. She had taken hold of Kevin's hand again. I noticed Joe had disappeared again. Maybe Kevin had sent him to go look in the barn.

"Sure, I'll be right back."

I took off towards the house. Surely two little boys couldn't have gone far. I opened the screen door leading inside and before I even took a step, I could hear loud, happy voices. I slowed my pace and headed towards the kitchen, the source of the noise.

The first thing that surprised me was that Addy was cooking. I had assumed she had gotten sick and was resting in bed. Instead, she had tons of mixing bowls spread out all over the counter. Each one had a different cookie dough.

Owen and Greg were on either side of her on small stepstools. Greg was actually smiling; his burned skin seemed to accordion fold with the action. Some would say it made him look grotesque, but the happiness in his eyes was way more important.

"I like the peanut butter best!" Owen announced.

"The chocolate is real good," Greg said. Addy reached around him and handed him a squeeze bottle of red food coloring. "Why don't you put a few drops of this in my icing?"

"Addy?" I said quietly, afraid to interrupt. She looked at me. Her eyes were red and raw, but she was smiling. "Yes?"

"Karilyn's ready to take everyone back," I said, glancing at Owen and Greg. Addy looked down as if just realizing why they had really come in the first place.

"How did I forget?" she asked. "Thank you for your help boys. I'll walk you back to the van, it's time to go."

Greg squeezed a couple drops of food coloring in the bowl and set it down. He scowled. "Do we have to?"

"We don't get to make cookies there!" Owen cried. He looked distressed. Addy looked like she was going to cry right along with him.

"You can come back and make cookies with me again soon, okay?" she promised.

This seemed to appease the boys. They stepped off the stools and took off the large aprons she had tied around him.

True to her word, she walked the boys back to the van. I lagged behind, my mind whirling.

I had never seen Addy act this way before. I hung back and watched Kevin wrap an arm around her. Both boys yelled out the window at her until the van rolled down the drive.

It was only then that I realized I hadn't said goodbye to Cole. And we hadn't finished our conversation.

I touched my face. I could almost feel his fingers still memorizing my face.

On second thought, I was kinda glad we hadn't finished that conversation.