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The Will
  • Текст добавлен: 9 октября 2016, 02:02

Текст книги "The Will"

Автор книги: Kristen Ashley

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Текущая страница: 12 (всего у книги 35 страниц)

I didn’t go on to include these options.

“Yeah, in heels,” he replied.

“Also not in heels,” I shared.

“And when aren’t you in heels?” he asked.

“This morning, when I slammed my head into your jaw.”

“I surprised you.”

This was true.

“Try it,” he encouraged.

It was then I found myself wondering how I was wearing Amber’s workout clothes, had a donut in my stomach, far less caffeine than was required for me to face the day and was in Jake’s gym at the ungodly hour of seven fifteen in the morning contemplating the idea of taking my life in my hands to skip rope for Jake Spear.

My eyes wandered to his body-hugging t-shirt and I had my answer.

Thus, I arranged my rope and started.

First pass was good, second pass I caught the rope on my ankle and tripped.

“Shake it off, try again,” Jake murmured then began jumping rope.

I took in a deep breath and tried again.

Three jumps into it, I failed again.

“Again,” Jake said, still jumping.

I gave him a look and tried again.

Ten seconds later, I failed again.

“Don’t give up, babe,” Jake urged.

I sighed and tried again, failed again, tried again and failed again.

Jake stopped jumping and I looked to him.

“Right,” he said, his voice again trembling with humor. “Do that schoolyard skipping thing instead. It’s not as fast but it’s something and we need you warmed up.”

“I feel like a fool,” I murmured, looking down and preparing to start again, the girlie schoolyard way with Jake beside me doing it the manly boxing gym way, but my hand was stayed by Jake’s fingers wrapping around my wrist.

I looked up when the fingers of Jake’s other hand curved around my jaw and I saw he’d gotten close.

Very close.

“You are not a fool,” he whispered. “You can never be a fool. You’re total class from top to toe. You’re also a klutz. Own that, baby, because it’s cute and because it’s you. If you learn to accept yourself just as you are, learn to laugh at your quirks instead of hating them, show the world all that’s you without tryin’ to hide things that are not even a little unattractive, that makes you more attractive. What you got is a fuckuva lot. You own all of it and let it all hang out, you’ll go off-the-charts.”

My heart was racing and not from exercise when I blurted, “You’re very sweet.”

“And you’re very cute,” he returned immediately then grinned. “Even cuter standin’ in a fighter’s gym skippin’ rope the way you do it. So own that, Josie.”

That was so nice, his words made me feel so lovely, I could do nothing but nod.

So I did.

After years of Gran saying much the same thing and me not taking it in, for Jake, I’d own it.

For Jake, alas, I had a feeling I’d do anything.

He unfortunately let me go and stepped away.

He started jumping rope and I began skipping it. I continued to do this for some time without catching my rope on my ankles or any other mistakes and suddenly found it was kind of fun.

On this thought, the phone in the office rang.

Jake stopped jumping rope and said to me, “Keep doin’ that, Slick. Only stop if you get too winded.”

I nodded.

He moved to the office just as the door behind me opened.

Still skipping and doing it concentrating so I wouldn’t falter, I turned to it and saw a brawny man walking in wearing workout clothes and carrying a workout bag over his shoulder. He was, perhaps, two or three inches shorter than Jake (which, I should note, still put him at tall) and he had his dark brown hair clipped close to his skull in an attractive cut. He was quite muscled, and although his muscle was bulky, it was not as pronounced as Jake’s.

He also had his eyes on me as he moved into the gym and he further had his lips turned up into a grin.

I kept skipping rope, doing it owning it as Jake said I should and I saw as the man approached that he did not seem to think I looked a fool. Not if I read the look in his eyes correctly.

“Hey,” he greeted, stopping close (though not too close, my rope was still swinging).

He had lovely blue eyes.

“Good morning,” I replied, still leaping over my rope.

He looked me up and down before he again caught my eyes. “You new to the female league?”

“As I don’t know what that is, the answer would be no,” I answered and his grin got bigger.

“Female fighters,” he explained.

“Yes, my answer is no,” I confirmed.

“Good to know, seein’ as no one should put a glove to that face,” he remarked.

Since I agreed I wanted no boxing glove hitting my face, and since I thought this was an unusual but quite nice compliment, I said nothing.

His grin turned into a smile. “Name’s Mickey,” he informed me.


“Nice t’meet you, Josephine.”

“Likewise,” I replied.

“Please tell me that Jake’s opening the gym to aerobics classes and you’re the instructor,” he begged good-naturedly.

“Alas, I must dash this dream,” I told him.

He burst out laughing and I found the sound of it most attractive.

When he stopped, he asked, “So, seein’ as this gym is fighters only, you wanna share what you’re doin’ here skippin’ rope?”

“She’s with me.”

This came from behind me and it came from Jake.

Mickey’s eyes moved to Jake and I looked over my shoulder at him (yes, still skipping rope).

“You can quit, Slick,” he said to me.

I stopped skipping.

“We got a new gym policy?” Mickey asked Jake as Jake came to a stop close to my side.

“Yeah, the policy is, seein’ as I own the joint, I can let anyone I want in,” Jake answered.

“Well, in case you want feedback, I approve of your choice,” Mickey returned and I looked to him and smiled.

When I did, I felt Jake get closer to me.

Mickey looked at me. “You comin’ to the Saturday night match?”

“The what?” I inquired.

“Adult league,” Mickey stated and it was clear he felt he answered my question but he didn’t.

So I queried, “Pardon?”

“Adult league,” Jake repeated Mickey’s words and I looked up at him. “Mick and me belong to an adult league. We box in Saturday night league matches.”


“Every weekend?” I asked.

“Can’t fight that much, Slick,” Jake answered. “One match every month, short matches, three rounds.”

“You wanna come, I’ll leave tickets for you at the office,” Mickey invited at this juncture and I looked to him.

Before I could answer, Jake put in, “She wants to come, I got her covered.”

I looked to him.

“You got three kids and DeeDee to cover. I got her,” Mickey returned and I felt my insides squeeze.


Who was DeeDee?

“Dee’s gone, Mick,” Jake said in a quiet voice that strangely also sounded quite lethal. “You know that,” he finished and that sounded even more lethal.

My insides relaxed.

“You been on and off for two years, Jake,” Mickey remarked.

My insides seized again.

“We’ve been off for five months, Mick,” Jake returned, his voice still quiet, but now tight and also terse.

“Right,” Mick murmured but it was the odd mixture of both taunting and disbelieving.

I wasn’t entirely certain what was happening. I just knew it was dangerous and I also knew I was the only one there who could do anything about it.

Therefore, I did and I did this by turning to Jake and noting, “I think I’m warmed up, Jake. Can I punch a punching bag now?”

Jake looked down at me and I saw his face was also tight, most specifically his strong, square jaw.

Oh dear.

It relaxed but only slightly when he replied, “Yeah, babe. I’ll show you how to work the bag then we’ll finish you up on the speed bag.”

I had no idea what was what but I still said, “Excellent.”

He jerked up his chin and stated, “Let’s move.” But he was the one who moved me, doing this by putting a hand in the small of my back and giving me a gentle shove.

I got moving.

Jake said over his shoulder, “Later, Mick.”

“Later, Jake,” Mickey replied and then, clearly to me, “If you come to the match, I’ll have a ticket waiting for you, Josephine.”

Jake made an annoyed noise low in his throat that was, like all things Jake, attractive. Intensely so.

Even thinking this, I called noncommittally, “Thank you, Mickey, and nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.” I heard him say as Jake stopped me at a long, cylindrical bag.

I decided my best course of action was to leave my discourse with Mickey at that and turn my full attention to Jake.

He still looked annoyed. Vastly so. He was also looking at the punching bag like he wanted to rip it from its chains and throw it out the window.

To stop him from doing this, I said, “All right. What do I do now?”

Jake looked down at me and it took a moment for his expression to clear, but finally it did and he gave me a small grin.

“You ready to kick the shit outta that bag?”

“Kicking is involved?” I inquired, somewhat surprised.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know that bags such as that were used in that manner. It was just other types of fighters, not boxers, used it thus.

“It will be the way you’re gonna use it.”

I looked at the bag thinking this might be fun.

So I looked back up at Jake, smiled and said, “Splendid.”

Finally, Jake’s face totally cleared and he smiled back.

Then he said, “Right, Slick. I’ll show you how it’s done and then it’s your turn.”

At that point, Jake pushed me slightly back and commenced “showing me how it’s done.”

And thus, at that point, watching Jake, I knew without any doubts why I’d allowed myself to be pulled from my bed and dragged to a boxer’s gym at an ungodly hour of the morning.

I also knew I would allow the same to happen tomorrow.

And the next day.

And the next.

Just as long as I got to watch Jake “showing me how it’s done.”

* * * * *

Although it was unnecessary, after our workout, when Jake took me home, he walked me to the front door of Lavender House as well as through it.

I felt quite strange seeing as I was sweaty and I was never sweaty. My body also felt fatigued and my body never felt fatigued unless the day was a rather long one or the evening included dancing. And I was not in my usual attire which put me off-balance. Amber’s choices were lovely but they weren’t me.

So when Jake closed the door against the chill of the morning and turned to me, feeling off-balance and having a morning that started with Jake waking me up by tickling my nose with a lock of my hair and ended with him and I both getting sweaty (alas, not in a way I would chose but it was far from bad, especially watching Jake do it), I had a near overwhelming desire to move into him. To curl my arms around his neck. To press my damp body to his then press my lips to his.

Fortunately, before I gave into this urge, Jake spoke.

“Amber’s done bein’ grounded today. You still good to look after Eath this afternoon?”

I stared at him a moment in surprise.

Had a week passed since we discussed this?

It had.

“Of course,” I replied.

“He gets off school at two forty-five,” he told me. “I’ll text Amber and let her know she’s off-duty.”

I nodded.

“Got shit to do at the gym, got shit to do at the club,” Jake carried on. “And the kid’s league is startin’ up again so I got shit to do for that. You good to keep him for dinner?” he asked.

Sharing dinner with Ethan.

I would very much enjoy that.

“Certainly,” I answered.

“It’ll help a lot, Slick,” he shared.

“Ethan’s very good company therefore this is hardly a bother, Jake,” I assured him with complete honesty.

He grinned then said, “I’ll pick him up around seven thirty.”


Another early dinner.

Oh well.

“All right,” I replied.

“Tomorrow night, we’re goin’ to the football game.”

I blinked before I asked, “Pardon?”

“Friday night high school football. You, me and Ethan are goin’.”

My heart made a flutter and not at the prospect of going to a high school football game. “That sounds fun,” I partly lied because football would likely bore me silly.

Being with Jake was another story.

And knowing I’d be spending even more time with him was yet another story.

He grinned again and moved closer.

My heart fluttered again.

“You pick up Eath after school. I’ll pick you both up later. We’ll grab some food and go.”

I forced myself to speak normally when I asked, “Amber and Conner aren’t going with us?”

“Amber’s goin’ with her friends. Conner is either goin’ with one of his girls or he’s goin’ with his buds. They’re in high school. They don’t hang with their old man. But their old man goes to games to keep an eye on them, specifically Amber, who’d probably be under the bleachers doin’ shit that even thinkin’ about it for a nanosecond makes my gut twist and my mouth taste like acid so I try not to think about it. I also fail.”

“Is she…well,” I started carefully and finished with, “promiscuous?”

“I hope not,” he replied immediately, sounding like he very much meant those three words. “That said, she wants to be popular, she wants to be liked, she wants boys to notice her and this Noah kid is a senior and he shares the title of the big man at school with Con. He’s a hotshot basketball player so he doesn’t play football but he goes to the games. With the way she wants all of that shit and the fact she got her hooks in Noah, who she’s had her sights set on since she was a freshman, it means anything can happen.”

I was not surprised that Conner was the high school “big man.” However, it was my experience when I was in school, and my understanding it was still true, that the athletes were the ones who earned that honor.

“Does Conner play sport?” I asked.

“He boxes like his dad,” Jake answered.

“Is he good at it?” I went on.

“In his current league he’s undefeated three years running,” Jake stated without even attempting to hide the pride.

And there was the reason he was the high school “big man.”

I grinned at Jake. “Good for him.”

Jake grinned back but said, “Not good. He works at it. You see those quotes on the walls of the gym?”

“Indeed.” I nodded. “I meant to mention that they were all very inspirational and I thought it was very clever that you had them painted on your walls.”

He was grinning bigger when he replied, “Glad you think so, Slick, but those quotes, Con lives them. He’s hungry for the learning but he’s got the soul of a fighter. I started the junior league for him hopin’ that would be the way. When I started it, he was too young to be in it. He got old enough, he took to it better than I’d hoped. And if he’s not with one of his girls or at work, he’s at the gym.”

I watched with some fascination as his face changed and listened with even more fascination as his voice roughened when he finished.

“Makes what Lydie did for me and my family even better, knowing she made it so I could give my boy a place to train. A place that’s mine to give him. A place that’ll be his one day if he wants it.”

“Yes, Jake,” I said softly, at his words, his look and his tone, again having an overwhelming urge. But this one was to touch him, take his hand or lay mine on his chest or his jaw. It didn’t matter how, I just wanted that connection. Any connection. Or all of them.

I couldn’t have it so I didn’t take it.

But I wanted it.

“Right, so I’ll see you tonight at seven-thirty,” Jake declared. “You wanna hit the gym tomorrow, let me know and I’ll pick you up at seven. Tomorrow night, I’ll pick you and Eath up at five-thirty. And Saturday, the matches are at the arena in Blakeley. Got a lot of matches to get through so they start at nine in the morning with the flyweights. I fight heavyweight, which’ll be one of the last, so my match’ll be around eight at night. You can come and watch as much as you want. I’ll have a ticket waitin’ for you at the office.”

As much as I wanted was not very much. I didn’t even know if I wanted to watch Jake box, I certainly didn’t want to watch anyone else. I knew by then that I’d watch Jake do practically anything, but I wasn’t eager to watch someone hitting him.

But it seemed he wanted me to go.

So I would go.

Thus I again nodded.

“We’ve got a plan,” Jake murmured and got even closer. “And you gotta get to the Weavers.”

I sighed and nodded. My sigh was not only about the fact that Jake was soon to leave, it was also about seeing Eliza Weaver and knowing she would be worse than yesterday, and worse still tomorrow.

Jake read my sigh and I knew this when he said gently, “You can give up any time.”

“I’m there until Mr. Weaver no longer needs me,” I replied.

He held my eyes a moment before his warmed in a way that warmed me all the way through and then it was his turn to nod.

After he did that, he lifted a hand and I braced, waiting for it, delighted he was going to give it to me and he didn’t disappoint.

He cupped my jaw and bent in, brushing his lips against the skin that was mere centimeters away from the corner of my mouth.

He drew back only mere centimeters as well so I could feel his breath on my lips. Thus, my breath stopped altogether.

“See you later, Slick,” he whispered.

“Later, Jake,” I pushed out.

I watched his eyes smile.

Seeing the smile in the stormy gray of his eyes in my dimly lit foyer, my belly dipped.

Then he bent in again and gave me another brush of his lips against the corner of my mouth before he added something new. He moved his hand from my jaw and tugged gently and playfully at my ponytail before he moved away and I watched him walk out my front door.

* * * * *

It was after school and Ethan and I were at Wayfarer’s.

I had picked him up from school, or, more accurately, he’d seen me in my Cayenne and nearly given me a heart attack by dashing across the road with extreme excitement (and not checking the street before he did so), throwing open the passenger door and shouting, “I can’t wait to get a ride in this totally awesome ride!”

He did not delay in achieving his purpose, climbed up and buckled in. I set us on the road while I allowed him time to get his “ride in this totally awesome ride” before I used measured words to explain he should always scan the street before crossing it.

“Whoops,” was his reply.

I decided to take that as him having heard me then I shared our afternoon endeavors were that we were going to make cream puffs from scratch.

To that, a yelled, “Awesome!” was his reply.

And to that, I’d smiled at the windshield.

Ethan chattered to me while we moved through the aisles at Wayfarer’s, picking up what we needed. But when we approached the checkout counter, Conner came in the front doors.

“Con!” Ethan cried and Conner’s head turned our way.

He spied us and moved in our direction while smiling.

“What’s up?” he asked when he arrived.

“Cream puffs, dude,” was Ethan’s answer.

“Awesome, little dude,” was Conner’s response, still smiling at his younger brother.

“Hello, Conner,” I greeted.

“Yo, Josie,” he replied, turning his smile to me. “You doin’ good?”

“I am, indeed,” I answered. “And you?”

“Nothin’ gets me down,” he stated breezily and I couldn’t help but smile at his words and tone. “Love to rap but gotta clock in,” he told us.

“Later, bro,” Ethan said.

“Good-bye, Conner,” I said.

He jerked up his chin, so very much like his father, gave us a low wave (also like his father) and moved away.

“Amber’s a pain in the butt but Con is the bomb,” Ethan told me and I looked down at him.

“Amber is a teenaged girl who’s trying to understand her place in this world and is erroneously assuming that that place is dependent on how many boys find her attractive and how popular she is at school. Your brother has a good deal of confidence due to his good looks and, likely, his prowess in the boxing ring. When Amber finds what she excels at, she’ll cease being a pain in the behind.”

“I hope she finds what she excels at soon,” Ethan muttered.

“I do too,” I murmured back.

“What’s erroneous?” he asked and I grinned down at him.

“Mistaken,” I explained.

“Right.” He grinned up at me then went on, “So what’s prowess?”

“Ability. Skill,” I told him.

“Right,” he repeated, still grinning.

At this point, the cashier told me my total.

I paid for the groceries and Ethan insisted on getting two of the three handled brown paper bags (also, it would appear, like his father). I took the remaining one and we left the store.

Cross Street had been (and still was) rather busy when we arrived at Wayfarer’s and thus we’d needed to park well down from the store. We set off on our journey, carrying our bags, Ethan again chattering.

“They got cream puffs at the bakery but I bet yours will be better,” he noted.

“As Americans often put sweetened whipped cream or vanilla pudding between the choux pastry, and we’ll be making crème patisserie, this is indeed a fact.”

“What’s crème patisserie?” Ethan asked.

“Proof there is a God,” I answered.

He burst out laughing and I liked the sound so much, not to mention liking that it was me who gave it to him, I smiled down at him just as I heard, “Yo! Josephine!”

I stopped and saw that we were standing in front of one of the two large opened bays of the Firehouse. I peered into the shadows beyond the shiny red fire truck and out came Mickey from the gym.

And I saw that this time, Mickey from the gym was not in workout clothes, which suited him greatly, but instead in dark blue trousers and a lighter blue t-shirt with an insignia over his heart. As these were the apparel of a firefighter not actually fighting a fire, but still being a firefighter, they suited him even better.

“Mickey!” Ethan exclaimed, clearly knowing the man.

“Yo, Eath,” Mickey replied on a grin at Ethan and his grin, like it had been that morning, was also quite nice.

“You know Josie?” Ethan asked and Mickey moved his grin to me.

“We met at the gym this morning,” Mickey explained.

I felt Ethan’s eyes and looked down at him just as he was inquiring, “You were at the gym this morning?”

“Your dad and I worked out together,” I shared and Ethan smiled big.

“Cool,” he said in approval.

“Wanna check out the firehouse, little man?” Mickey surprisingly asked at this juncture and my eyes shot to him.

“Seriously?” Ethan breathed.

Before I could get a word in, Mickey gave him a head jerk toward the firehouse and replied, “Absolutely. I’ll look after your bags. You go in.”

Without delay, Ethan dropped his grocery bags by Mickey’s feet and raced into the firehouse.

He did this so quickly, I lost sight of him immediately.

I looked to Mickey. “Um…Mickey, Ethan’s my charge and I’m uncomfortable with him being out of sight.”

To that, Mickey twisted his torso and bellowed, “Yo! Jimbo! My boy Eath is in there. Keep an eye on him, will you?”

And then I heard shouted back, “Got it!”

Mickey turned back to me and opened his mouth to speak but I spoke before he could say a word.

“I appreciate Jimbo’s assistance but as I don’t know Jimbo, I still would prefer it if I was aware of Ethan’s activities and by that I mean that I could actually see him.”

Mickey’s (not unattractive, to say the least) lips were spread in a wide smile by the time I was finished speaking and when I was done, he assured me, “Ethan’ll be good.”


“Listen,” he interrupted me. “You got plans tomorrow night?”

I closed my mouth.

Oh my.

Was yet another man in Magdalene going to ask me out?

I’d been there but a week and a half, having attended Gran’s funeral on a Monday, and if Mickey was indeed asking me out, that made him the second man to do so in that short period of time.

It was not lost on me that I was attractive. I was no beauty, I’d spent my life around raving beauties so I knew beauty and I did not have that. But that didn’t mean I was unattractive. I also received my fair share of attention and partook of that attention when the spirit moved me.

But this was ridiculous.

And what made it worse was the fact that the one man I wanted to give me more than a fair share of attention was, indeed, giving me more than my fair share, just not the way I would wish.

“I—” I started.

He interrupted again before I could reply. “’Cause I’d like to take you to Breeze Point for dinner.”

Yes, he was asking me out.

And doing it to take me to Breeze Point, which said a good deal about how he wished this date to go.

And this felt nice.

Even so.

“I’m sorry, Mickey,” I said quietly. “Jake and I have plans tomorrow night.”

Mickey’s face went strange and for some reason he looked over his shoulder into the firehouse before he turned back to me and inquired, “You and Jake an item?”

Even though I knew what an item meant, the question threw me mostly because the idea of me and Jake being one was both infinitely desired and completely impossible, thus I asked stupidly, “An item?”

“You seein’ him, darlin’,” he explained.

Oh, how I wished.

“No, we’re just friends,” I shared, successfully keeping the note of disappointment out of my voice.

His face cleared and he gave me another smile. “Then are your plans with him solid on Friday?”

Any plan that included Jake was solid.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Right. Then I’m boxin’ on Saturday. How ‘bout we do dinner Sunday night?”

I opened my mouth to decline then I closed it.

Quickly studying him so I didn’t delay in giving him an answer, I noted yet again he was very attractive. He was taller than me and I was, as usual, in heels. He had a very nice body. And he was not in the least like Boston Stone. Mickey’s smiles were frequent and genuine. His manner easygoing. He had confidence, not arrogance. Further, he had an obvious rapport with Ethan.

And last, he liked me and he did it in a way that felt nice.

“I’d enjoy that, Mickey,” I accepted.

“Excellent,” he said softly and I gave him a small smile. He dug his phone out of his back pocket and, still using his soft voice, requested, “What’s your number, honey?”

Another man who called me honey.

And another time I liked it.

I gave my number to him while he programmed it into his phone.

“I’ll call you later,” he told me, shoving his phone back in his pocket. “When’re you done lookin’ after Ethan?”

“Jake’s collecting him at seven thirty.”

“I’ll call you after that.”

“I’ll look forward to that,” I replied, and I found that I meant it.

He smiled at me again.

I smiled back.

Yes, he was very easy to look at and his smiles were genuine and I liked all that.

Alas, I had cream puffs to make

“I better go,” I said, sounding disappointed because I actually was. “Ethan and I are making cream puffs.”

When I uttered the words “cream puffs,” something else changed on his face and this was not difficult to read.

It also changed the way my legs were able to support me and that was to say, it made them feel shaky mostly because they were trembling in a way that felt too lovely when I was standing on a street in front of a firehouse.

“Save one for me,” he requested, his voice having lowered, and at his tone and the vision of him biting into a cream puff that suddenly filled my head, I forced myself not only to remain standing but also nod.

Then he turned and bellowed, “Eath! You got cream puffs to make!”

Seconds later, Ethan sprinted out of the firehouse. A second after that, Mickey approached me and took the bag from my hand, moved to Ethan’s bags, took one of his and he walked us to my Cayenne.

“Sweet ride, babe,” he stated after he’d stowed the groceries in the back.

“Thanks,” I replied, idiotically feeling pleased he liked it.

Ethan climbed in the front and Mickey walked me to my door, opening it for me and saying before he closed it, “See you Saturday night…and Sunday.”

“Yes, see you then,” I returned.

He gave me another smile and closed the door.

I found my breathing mildly affected as I turned on the car, pulled out of the spot and headed the Cayenne toward home.

“You goin’ to Dad and Mickey’s fights Saturday, Josie?” Ethan asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Awesome,” he decreed. “I usually go but Combat Raptor comes out tomorrow and I’m goin’ over to Josh’s on Saturday, we’re goin’ to the movie then I’m sleepin’ over and I can’t…freaking…wait.

Combat Raptor?” I queried.

“Yeah. The…coolest…movie of all time,” he declared.

“And you can make that assessment prior to viewing it?”

“Uh…Josie…it’s Combat Raptor,” he stressed the title to the movie in a way which couldn’t be mistaken. However, I still didn’t understand but I was also not an eight-year-old boy.

“It’s good you have such exciting plans for the weekend,” I told him.

“Yeah. It is. Totally. Josh and me have been waitin’ for this movie for-eh-ver.

“And now it’s finally here,” I noted.

“Yep,” he agreed.

“Will Amber or Conner be going to your dad’s fight?” I asked.

“Amber, no way. She’s not grounded anymore so she’ll totally be on a date if Noah asks her out or she’ll be doin’ stuff with her friends as well as sulking if he doesn’t. Conner normally always goes but he’s scrapin’ off all his girlfriends so he’ll probably be breaking some chick’s heart Saturday night.”

I looked to Ethan in surprise then back to the road. “Conner’s breaking up with his girlfriends?”

“All but one,” he answered. “Dad laid down the law. Said he’d had his fun and it was time to pick one. I heard Con talkin’ to his bud on the phone. He hasn’t picked one but he already got rid of Shantay. Three more to go then we’ll know who made the cut.”

I heard his words and they weren’t great words as pertains to discussing the hearts of young women but I couldn’t get into that because Ethan said that Jake had “laid down the law.”

“Do you know when your father discussed this with Conner?” I asked quietly.

“No clue. But Shantay bit it over the phone on Sunday.”

And Jake and I had discussed Conner and his girlfriends Saturday night. Which meant Jake had discussed Conner and his girlfriends with Conner very quickly afterward.

I felt something strange, strange and miraculous and beautiful and strong budding inside me. Something I liked in a way I knew I could love. Not even love but adore. Worship.


“Anyway,” Ethan continued, breaking into my thoughts and, perhaps fortunately, taking my focus off that feeling, “I hope he picks Ellie. She’s not only the prettiest one, she’s the sweetest. She’s all shy and stuff and she never acts like she doesn’t want me around when she’s over like the other ones do. And it’s cool how she’s so pretty and so shy at the same time. No one that pretty should be shy but she is. I like her best.”

Just from his description, I liked her too.

“Well,” I started as I turned off Cross Road to take us toward the cliffs and Lavender House, “I just hope Conner chooses well and is sensitive as he goes about ending things with the others.”

“Conner is totally into his babes. He’ll be cool with them,” Ethan assured me.

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