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“Even if she doesn’t, that’s okay. You should make up with your mom regardless of any misunderstandings or drama,” I told her, glancing toward my father. “Because in the end, those disagreements don’t matter. What matters most is family, even if it’s a bit messed up.”

She swallowed hard. “Are you encouraging me to make up with my mother?”

“You’d never forgive yourself if you didn’t.”

“You’re not wrong… So, will you come? It could be a nice break for a while. Just to get away for a bit.” She was good at that, good at making me take breaths whenever I forgot how to breathe. “Say yes?” she begged.

So, I did.


I felt oddly nervous as I stood on the front porch of Grace’s parents’ house. If my dad knew I was standing in front of the Harrises’ home to receive prayers for his life, he would’ve come back to full health just so he could murder me.

But Grace had a way of making me do things I wouldn’t normally do.

“Are the flowers stupid?” I asked. I’d brought a dozen red roses for Loretta Harris—the sky was falling, and hell had frozen over.

“They’re perfect,” she told me. “You’re fine.” She squeezed my hand, giving me a burst of comfort, but it didn’t last long once the front door opened and Loretta stood there.

“What in the world is he doing here?” She gasped, staring my way.

“I told you I was bringing the person in need today, Mama, remember?”

“Yes,” she said, her voice low and cold. “But you failed to mention it was him.” She spat out the last word as if I were diseased.

I couldn’t blame her—I used to do the same with her family’s name.

“Yes, but we welcome all into our home, right, Loretta?” her husband said, walking into the foyer. He looked my way and nodded once. I did nothing in reply. The longer I stood there, the more I began to regret my decision.

I cleared my throat. “I brought flowers.”

Loretta eyed them up and down. “Yes,” she muttered. “It seems you did.”

“That’s nice,” Samuel remarked. “Thank you, Jackson.”

Loretta turned toward her husband and grumbled as she moved past him. “This is a huge mistake,” she whined before walking away.

Samuel looked at me and smiled. “We’re glad to have you here, Jackson. I’m very sorry to hear about your father.”

I still didn’t reply, but when he held his hand out toward me, I shook it.

As we walked into the house, my eyes fell to a painting on the foyer wall, and my gut tightened.

I was almost certain that this home was the last place I was supposed to be.

The dinner was odd for me. When everyone sat at the table and they all began to pray, I wasn’t certain what to do, so I studied the clock hanging on the wall. How long did it take one to pray? And if prayers were real, did you have to do it for a certain amount of time?

I felt unease throughout the whole meal, but the saving grace of it all was Judy, and her husband, Hank. They seemed so much like Grace that it made it a bit easier to breathe. They seemed like genuinely good people.

“Mama, aren’t you going to do the tour of the property with Jackson?” Grace asked. Then she turned to me. “She always shows the guests around the property. This place is her pride and joy.”

She shot Grace a dirty look. “No. I’m going to do these dishes.”

Judy laughed. “Since when do you do dishes, Mama?”

Loretta scolded her daughter as she stood and started clearing items away. “Since always, Judith Rae. Now come help me, will you?”

Judy rolled her eyes toward Grace and made a face, which made me smirk. At least I wasn’t the only one Loretta drove insane.

“I’ll show him around,” Samuel said, standing up from his chair. “I was hoping to have a moment to talk to him a bit anyway.”

Grace’s face went pale. “Talk to him about what?” she asked, her nervousness evident in her expression.

“Just things between the two of us, that’s all. How about you and Hank finish clearing off the table? Come on, Jackson, let’s take a stroll.”

I knew I didn’t have a choice, not really, so I stood and followed him.

As we walked around the acres of land, Samuel began to tell me all about it. He went into the stories of the orchards, the berry bushes, and the swimming pool used for baptisms, but I cut into the conversation once we started talking about tennis courts.

“We don’t have to do this,” I told him.

“Do what?”

“The small talk.”

He grimaced and stopped his steps, knowing exactly what I was getting at. He crossed his arms and looked my way. “We’ve never really spoken in all these years, have we?” he asked.

“I never had anything to say to you,” I stated harshly, feeling my chest tighten. He didn’t flinch at my words, probably because he knew he deserved them.