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Welcome to Roswell

Roswell, Georgia, the eighth largest city in Georgia and one of the most affluent subdivisions of Georgia, had a picturesque historical charm that I had never seen before. Brian made the perfect tour guide, pointing out landmarks like the old Roswell Presbyterian Church and Bulloch home, as he drove us towards his home.

"It was nice to see your mom," I said, staring out the window. It was early morning, just after sunrise. Our trip had been extended due to bad weather that happened during our layover in Louisville where we had taken leave of Brian's parents and brother.

"She always did like you," he said, smiling my way. "Jilly, you know you can tell me what's going on."

I had been saved from telling him on the plane by Baylee and Cole's explosive fight. I had been sure we were going to be kicked off the flight, but we were saved the embarrassment due to Brian's smooth talking (and notoriety). Even so, both boys were sporting a nice shiner. After moodily climbing in the SUV, they had each fallen asleep in the back, separated by Tibby. She was holding rein in the center, snoring softly.

"It's nothing," I said quietly.

"You wouldn't hop on a plane and go over 700 miles if it was nothing," Brian replied equally as quiet. "I don't know what happened between Tibby's dad and you--"

"What makes you think it was him?" I said even as my skin crawled.

"Call it intuition or an astute sense of awareness, but you spoke easily about Cole's dad, but the moment I brought up Tibby's dad you clammed up tighter than a...well, clam."

"It sounds silly, but I actually decided to go into dentistry thanks to your mom," I said. I knew it was a pathetic way to change the subject, but I couldn't help it.

"She was so happy when you decided to job shadow her for Senior Career Day," Brian said. He turned onto a quiet street. Of course, at that time in the morning, all the streets were pretty quiet.

"Well, Jilly, welcome home."

"Oh my God."

I was staring at a house that would have easily stored both our parents' houses inside with room to spare. The grounds seemed to stretch out on either side for an eternity. The nearest neighbor looked to be maybe a half mile away.

"It's a fixer upper, but I got a great deal on it."

"A fixer upper?" I repeated. The house looked beautiful from the outside, all red brick and white trim. A three-car garage and a wrap-around drive lined with flowers completed the scene from the front view.

"It was a foreclosure. Leighanne got the mansion, but I wanted something I could make more my own taste."

"This isn't a mansion?"

Brian hopped out. I could see the happy lines that lit up his face the moment he opened my door. "Not by a long shot. Can I carry Tibby in?"

The question caught me off guard. I glanced back into the backseat. She was leaning on Baylee's shoulder, mouth open and I was sure she was probably drooling. The snoring had quieted to a mere snuffle.

"You sure?"

"It would be an honor."

My lips twitched. "Then by all means."

I stepped back, crossing my arms to ward off the early morning chill and watched as Brian opened the back door to the SUV and leaned inside. A second later, he reappeared with Tibby hanging from his shoulder, her hands dangling. She was completely comatose.

"I'll wake the boys," I said, noting how weird it was to say boys as in plural. Bri nodded and I took his place at the SUV.

"Cole. Baylee. We're here. Wake up."

I leaned in and shook each of their shoulders. Cole stirred first, but Baylee wasn't far behind. As soon as they saw each other, their sleepy eyes narrowed.

"Cole, don't even start. We're guests," I said. His mouth twisted, but he turned his face away from the blonde haired mini-Brian and hopped out. Baylee climbed out and quickly caught up with his dad.

"I don't know why you brought us here," Cole hissed as I closed the door to the SUV.

"I think you do," I said. Cole's shoes scuffed on the driveway pavement.

"He's out of jail?"

I had battled with the whole thing the entire plane ride, finally deciding that I wouldn't try to sugarcoat anything. Cole had lived through the entire thing with me. I was sure he had known the second he had seen my face and my wild desperation when I was plotting out our escape. Besides, as much as I tried to deny it, he was almost a teenager.


"But why here?"

"Brian's an old friend, Cole."

"I don't like him. What if he hurts you too?"

Tibby, Brian, and Baylee had already disappeared inside the house. I stopped, turned, and put my hands on his shoulders. It was amazing how until that moment I hadn't realized that he was just a couple inches shorter than me. How had that happened?

"He's an old friend, honey. He was nice enough to let us stay here a couple days until I can get things figured out. That's all. There's nothing more."

Cole's eyes were filled with doubt. "He looks at you like Gregg used to. In the beginning."

Hearing his name come out of Cole's mouth and the pain associated with it brought tears to my eyes. I wrapped Cole up in a hug, kissing the top of his head while I still could.

"You're my #1 man. I don't need anyone else. You've just got to trust that I'm doing the best thing for all of us. We just had to get away. You can help me plot our next move. Okay?"

"Okay," Cole said so quietly that I almost didn't hear him. I pulled away and he took my hand. He scrutinized the house.

"Just a couple days," he repeated.

"I promise," I said.

"Okay," he said, louder this time.

"I guess that's okay."