“Why don’t you want to come with us?” Candace questioned my brother the following morning. It was just after 9:30 and the three of us; Alex, Candace and I were ready to head out for some brunch at the new place she had told me about the previous day. Grayson, however, had other things on his mind.
“I’ve got some stuff to do,” was his reply, sounding like he could care less his wife wanted him with her.
She frowned. “But it’s Sunday; and a holiday weekend at that. Do you really have to do work today?”
“Unfortunately my work doesn’t stop because it’s a holiday.”
“You can’t even take an hour and come to brunch with us?”
I shifted on my feet and glanced over to Alex; he looked about as uncomfortable as I felt. Maybe we should be waiting out of earshot.
“Candace, I already told you, I’m not going.”
My sister-in-law looked like she’d been kicked in the chest. “Fine, stay here then.” The glare she shot my brother was one that could make the hair stand up on the nape of your neck and she turned and stalked from the room.
My eyes met my brother’s and I shook my head. “Not cool, bro.” Then I sauntered off behind her with AJ following behind.
“I’m sorry, Candace,” I came up beside her as we reached the driveway, “he’s such a jerk sometimes.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” She shrugged from my touch and dug her car keys from her purse.
Alex put his hand on my shoulder and I knew he was telling me to just let it go. With a sigh, I found my sunglasses and slid them over my eyes. “Would you like us to drive?”
“No, I can drive.” She withdrew her key ring and pressed the keyless entry and the lights on her silver Lexus flashed once. “You don’t know where the place is.”
I shrugged; she had me there.
“Thank you, though.”
“It’s no problem.” I smiled at her and thanked my boyfriend when he opened my door.
Soon we were on the road heading out of the quaint subdivision my brother and his wife lived in. I had just finished commenting on a beautiful house that stood on a corner a few blocks down from theirs when my cell phone rang. Pulling it from my purse, I smiled as I saw who the caller was.
“Hey, sweetheart,” my mother greeted me. “How are you?”
“I’m good. How are you?”
“I’m doing well. I thought I’d call and wish you a happy Independence Day.”
I smiled at that. “I’m glad you did. What are you and daddy up to today?”
“Oh, we’re having a cookout later this afternoon. Your grandmother is coming over and we’re having some of the neighbors over as well.”
“That sounds like fun. Please tell me dad’s not going to try to beef up the grill again.” I could still remember the time he’d insisted on upgrading the grill himself and nearly sent the entire thing sky high.
My mother laughed. “Goodness no; he learned his lesson after he burnt his eyebrows off.”
“Good, then I think you’ll all have a good time.”
“I think so too. What are your plans for today?”
I glanced over to where my sister-in-law was driving. “Alex and I drove out to Phoenix for the weekend.”
My mother gasped. “You’re visiting Grayson and Candace? That’s wonderful, honey! Please tell them I said ‘hello’. I tried calling your brother right before I called you, but he didn’t answer.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s busy, but I’ll do that. Candace, Alex and I are headed out to brunch right now. Grayson had some work to do.”
“That boy is always working. He works too much, I think.”
She had no idea. “Well, he’s got a pretty stressful job.”
“I told him he needs to quit and go into a business for himself, or just relax for awhile. He can afford to do that.”
“You just want grandbabies.” I chuckled and peeked my eyes over to my sister-in-law. She made a face and my mother laughed. “Darn right I do. I can’t believe my son doesn’t want any children; he had a happy childhood.”
“It’s not always about that.”
“You want children, right?”
“Of course, but that’s not going to be for awhile yet, Mom.”
“I know and I don’t want to rush you into anything. You’re doing so well again and I’m so proud of you.”
Tears misted my eyes at that and I smiled. “Thank you. Things are great, Mom.” I glanced behind me to my wonderful boyfriend that sat in the backseat. He winked and I giggled low. “I told you we had a great time in Hawaii.”
“You did and we can’t wait to come out and visit you both.”
“I can’t wait for that either.”
She sighed softly. “Okay, let me let you go. I don’t want to take up your time with Candace.”
“Okay; I hope you and daddy have a great day.”
“I’m sure we will. Have a good time and a safe trip back to LA. I love you, baby.”
“I love you too, Mom.” I lowered my phone and severed the call.
“They doing okay?” Candace glanced over to me.
“Sure are; they’re gonna have a barbecue this afternoon; have Mimi and some neighbors over.”
“Oh, that sounds fun.”
I nodded and turned to peek back to Alex. “And they’re so excited to come out and visit us.”
His face broke out into a wide grin. “I’m excited to see them; your Mimi is such a trip.”
Candace chuckled. “She really is. I’m just glad she’s doing well after everything.”
My thoughts drifted back to my grandfather and I frowned. “Me too.”
“It’s hard to lose someone you love.”
The look on her face and the tone of her voice made me wonder if there was a double meaning to that statement. And when she looked my way and our eyes met, I knew there was. Damn that Grayson.
The following day, after brunch, Alex loaded up the SUV. We would soon be heading out for Vegas and my wonderful boyfriend wanted to get things ready in plenty of time. At the moment, he was trying to figure out how to fit all the items I’d bought on my shopping spree with Candace into the back of the vehicle. It was an art, he’d told me as I watched him wiggle and tuck things here or there and when I had tried to help, he had kissed me on the nose and told me I was very sweet, but he had it all under control. So instead, I headed off in search of a quiet place and called Dianna to check on how Daisy was doing.
I was just hanging up with her when my brother strolled into the den.
He jerked some, not expecting to find anyone in the room then nodded in my direction. “Hi.”
I fiddled with my phone, watching as he crossed the room to the large desk by the window and set a folder down. “When do you head back to New York?”
“Monday; with the holiday on a Sunday, they’ve given us Monday off.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“Yeah,” he pulled out the office chair and sank down into it, “I would have preferred to work tomorrow though.”
“So you don’t have to be out here with Candace?” Okay, maybe it was the wrong thing to say, but Candace was so upset and I hated to see her that way.
Grayson stilled and when his eyes met mine, a chill went down my spine at the look in them. “Excuse me?”
Might as well just come out with it. “I talked to Candace.”
“Yeah, she said you work a lot.”
He leaned back in his chair, watching me with a crease in his forehead. “I know you’re my sister and you think you have my best interests in mind, but it’s really none of your business.”
“She’s really upset, Grayson. She’s your wife!”
“And it’s none of your business.”
I sighed. “If you really don’t like her having taken this job, why not talk to her about it? She says you refuse to talk to her. All that’s going to do is drive you two further apart. Is that what you want?”
“Of course it’s not what I want!” His frown deepened. “I love Candace, but we’re going through problems like every married couple does. And what happens between us is between us; not you or anyone else.”
I held up my hands. “I understand that and I’m not trying to tell you what to do, Grayson. I just want you to know how hurt and upset she is. Your refusal to talk to her about it is only making it worse.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose and was quiet a moment before speaking, “I appreciate your concern for my wife, Morgan, but this conversation is over.”
“That’s fine. But don’t come crying to me if your marriage falls apart because of your stubbornness.” I shook my head some. “Candace is such a wonderful person and you’re very lucky to have her; just don’t let that luck run out.” Then I shrugged and made my exit.
Candace was coming down the hallway as I headed from the den. “There you are; Alex sent me to find you.”
“Is everything okay? Does he need my help loading the SUV after all?”
She chuckled. “No, he wants to know if you want to ship anything back or wait until Vegas and ship from there.”
“Ooh, this must mean we’re shopping in Vegas too.”
“That what it sounds like.” She nudged my arm. “You lucky thing.”
I couldn’t help my grin. “What can I say? I have the best boyfriend in the world.”
“You most certainly do. Hang onto him for as long as you possibly can.”
“Oh, he’s not going anywhere.”
She chuckled. “What time are you guys heading out?”
“Whenever he’s ready to go. I have no idea how long it takes to get to Vegas from here; but I’m sure he does.”
“Well, Vegas is the city that never sleeps, so it probably doesn’t matter if you get there late.”
“I thought New York was the city that never sleeps.”
Candace shrugged. “Vegas is the New York of the west.”
“Hey, that’s a very good way of looking at it.” Together we began to head back down the hallway to the door that led to the garage, where my boyfriend was loading up our vehicle.
We found Alex in the back of the SUV, surrounded by luggage and shopping bags. My eyes stretched at the sight and I gave a surprised laugh. “Did I seriously buy that much stuff?”
He turned at the sound of my voice and chuckled low. “You are lethal in a shoe store and I shouldn’t let you back into one in a long time.”
“Geeze, I hadn’t realized she bought that much either,” Candace spoke from beside me.
I chuckled and felt a slight blush creep over my cheeks. “Well, in my defense, I hadn’t been shoe shopping in ages.”
“Remember that next time you wanna go.” He winked at me and I knew he was teasing.
“I’ll just take you with me; and we can rent a moving truck.”
My sister-in-law laughed. “She’s got it all figured out.”
“She thinks she does,” he tossed our way as he worked on fitting the suitcases in so they didn’t slide. “Sad thing is, I’ll probably cave and do just that.”
I giggled. “He loves me.”
“I do,” Alex admitted as he finally climbed from the back of the SUV. “Okay, we are done. You aren’t buying anything else.”
I slipped my arms around his waist and gave him a squeeze. “If I do we can ship it back.”
“Hey, you could tie Morgan to the top of the SUV and use her seat to store more items.”
I sent Candace a playful glare. “Don’t give him ideas.”
“I’ve already considered that.” He winked her way then looked to me, patting my butt. “You about ready to go? We have a good drive ahead of us.”
“How long is that?”
“About five in a half, six hours. Depends on traffic.”
“And it’s holiday weekend, you’ll probably run into a good bit.”
I looked over to Candace. “I hate traffic.”
She chuckled. “I’m sorry; next time, take a plane.”
“We are so doing that.” I pulled myself from Alex’s grasp. “I just need to grab my purse and sunglasses and we need to tell Grayson bye.”
Luckily, Grayson seemed to be over the lecture I had given him and he hugged me goodbye, thanking us for coming out and telling us to try and make another trip sometime. Alex shook his hand and invited him and Candace out to California whenever they could make it. I hugged Candace tight and told her if she needed to talk, I was just a phone call away. She thanked me and whispered that she was going to drag it out of my brother if it was the last thing she did. Wishing her luck, I finally stepped back and let her hug my boyfriend goodbye.
Shortly after, we were on the road and headed for the expressway.
“That was a good time, huh?” I questioned Alex as I scrolled through his iPod in search of a song to play.
“Yeah, it was pretty nice.”
“The fireworks last night at the park were so beautiful.”
“They had a really good display.”
I sighed and looked to him. “I’m sorry if things were kind of awkward; I don’t know what’s going on between the two of them.”
Alex reached over and squeezed my knee. “It’s okay, baby, we survived. I just hope they’ll be able to work out whatever differences they’re having.”
“Me too.” I frowned as I thought back on it. “Poor Candace, it makes me want to shake my brother until he confesses what’s going on.”
Alex chuckled. “I don’t think he’d appreciate that.”
“Well, I wouldn’t really do it. But I’d like to. I just don’t understand why he’s acting the way he is and poor Candace,” I pouted, “she’s so upset and he refuses to even talk to her. How do you not talk to your wife?”
My boyfriend tilted his head. “Maybe he’s afraid of what she might say.”
“Say about what?”
“What he’s feeling.”
“So instead, he behaves this way and makes things worse.”
Alex glanced to me. “I’m just throwing out suggestions here, babe. I don’t know what’s going on with your brother and I’m sorry they’re having to deal with it, but stressing yourself out about it isn’t going to help.”
I sighed. “I know, it just upsets me.”
“I know it does.” He squeezed my knee again.
My hand found its way down to his. “I hope we never become like that.”
“Me too, baby.”
“Promise me that we won’t.”
He looked to me. “I’ll do my best, sweetheart. Besides,” he chuckled low, “you have a way of forcing things out of people. So even if we do, it won’t last long, I’m sure.”
I giggled low and traced the back of his hand with my fingers. “Good.”
He turned and caught my hand in his then brought it to his mouth, kissing my fingertips softly. “I love you.”
I smiled, resting my head against the back of the seat and watching him. “I love you.
“When we get back to LA, maybe we can sit down and talk about moving in together.”
My brows lifted and I couldn’t help the grin that continued to spread across my face. “You think we’re ready for that?”
“Do you?” His dark eyes met mine and I felt my heart tug at the love held in them.
“I think we’re ready to talk about it. I don’t want to rush into anything, or make any decisions based on the last few weeks. I know they’ve been great, but I think we need to make sure our relationship is strong again.”
He nodded. “I understand that. And I don’t mean we would move in together right away.”
“I know.” I squeezed his hand. “I guess I just want to make sure that we’re really okay again.”
“Do you think we are?”
I studied him a moment before offering up a grin. “I think we’re getting there. Hawaii was good for us, but now that we’re back in the ‘real world’, so to say, I think we need time to just let our relationship flow and take it a day at a time.”
He looked my way. “Are you still upset with me?”
“No,” I shook my head, “but you can’t tell me you are completely over everything. You weren’t telling me things and you didn’t think you were good enough for me and you have some self esteem issues you need to work through. I think we’re on the right path, but it’s not smooth sailing yet. Besides, we don’t even know how your exes are going to react once they find out you aren’t footing their bills anymore.”
He made a face at that. “Should be soon. I called my accountant Thursday and had him get the ball rolling.”
“And you think Sarah is going to cause a fuss?”
“Oh, you have no idea the kind of bullshit she is going to spew.” He looked to me. “Least you met her already so when she comes busting up into my place, you’ll know who she is and what’s going on.”
My eyes narrowed. “She can bring it. She doesn’t scare me.”
“Oh, she’ll definitely do that.” He kissed my fingers again. “I’m warning you now though, she’s conniving and manipulative and she is going to say all kinds of things; so be prepared.”
“I’m ready. She can do whatever she wants and the only thing it’ll do is make her look the fool.”
“I sure hope so.”
I tilted my head. “Are you worried that she’s going to do something that’ll make me change my mind about us?”
Alex sighed at that. “I know you aren’t going to change your mind, but…” he wet his bottom lip, “she was with me when I was doing a lot of the bad shit in my life and she was with me when I went into rehab and tried to get myself back on the right track.” His eyes briefly met mine before he turned back to the road ahead of us. “She knows a lot and she would definitely use it against me, you, us.”
I shrugged. “Well, we’ll just have to make sure we don’t let her.”
“I’m just warning you; things might get ugly.”
“I’m ready for whatever she’s gonna throw our way.”
He squeezed my hand. “You are the most beautiful, strongest, will powered and bravest woman I know and I feel blessed that you love someone like me.”
“Well, I think I’m pretty darn lucky to have someone like you loving someone like me.”
He chuckled. “We’re in the same boat on that one, huh?”
“Yes we are.” I smiled and closed the distance between us to place a soft kiss on his cheek. “Okay, no more sad or stressful or drama talk. We’re on our way to Vegas and we’re gonna have a good time, not let ourselves get bogged down.”
“That sounds like a good plan.”
I smiled and pulled his hand into my lap, holding it with both of mine. Alex’s warning about his ex-fiancée slightly worried me. I tried to make it seem like I wasn’t bothered by it, but what woman wouldn’t be in my situation? I was confident I could handle it though. Look at everything I’d already survived and overcame. Besides, she was just one person, how much trouble could she be?