“People keep thanking you today, and I thought it was dumb.” Seth wipes his nose with his arm. “All these people saying thank you for going to war, but I thought it was stupid because you just left me and Mom, and I didn’t think it was anything great.”
“Hey,” Zack tries again, but Seth is on a roll.
“But you didn’t go because you don’t love me.”
It’s not a question.
“No,” Zack simply says.
“And she lied when she said that you didn’t want to talk to me on the phone.”
“She did. I suppose that’s why you refused to take my calls all these months?”
Seth nods and sniffles again. “And just now, when you thought there was a bomb, you were trying to save me.”
“Seth, I’ll probably always react that way to loud noises. It’s just habit.” Zack shrugs uncomfortably, but Seth is shaking his head adamantly.
“You were trying to save me.”
“I was,” Zack whispers, still looking his boy in the eye.
“I’m sorry, Daddy.” Seth wraps his arms around Zack’s neck and holds on tight. Finally, Josh leans down and murmurs in both of their ears, and they stand and walk back to our group.
Zack sits on Seth’s blanket and his son sits beside him, leaning his head on his shoulder. “Can I watch the fireworks with you?”
“Damn, that kid breaks my heart,” Jill murmurs, and I nod in agreement.
“Yeah, we’ll watch them from here,” Zack replies.
“I didn’t think Zack was going to stay for the fireworks.” I look over to Josh for confirmation.
His face is grim. He sighs and watches his brother and nephew. “He wasn’t. But I think he’d hang the moon if Seth asked right now.”
The sun has begun to set, and from two pontoon boats out in the water, fireworks begin filling the night sky.
Josh pulls me back down on our blanket, but I know he’s keeping a sharp eye on his brother. When I glance over, Zack has a firm grasp on Seth’s shoulders, his jaw is clenched shut, and sweat is beaded on his brow. He glances over to me and winks, sending me a cocky smile, but I know he’s panicked inside.
Seth is curled against Zack’s side, his eyes wide with wonder as he watches the bright flashes across the sky.
“They’re fine,” Josh murmurs against my hair, and tightens his arms around me. I glance up at him and smile and then settle into his arms to watch the show.
* * *
I love to cook. I especially enjoy cooking in Josh’s kitchen. It’s big, providing me with plenty of space to dance around to the Top Forty station on the satellite radio. Pink is currently encouraging me to get up and try.
I love Pink.
Seth and Zack are gone for the day, having packed up early to go fishing. Seeing them joking and arguing over who would catch the most fish warmed my heart. I hope they have a great day together, getting to know each other again after so much time apart.
I shimmy to the fridge and pull out the eggs, bacon, and hash browns and set about the task at hand.
I’m making breakfast for my man.
Josh is out working on morning chores, but I called Louie and asked him to send Josh back to the house in about a half hour.
I glance at the clock on the microwave.
Make that twenty minutes.
I slide the bacon into the oven and move my body with the loud music, swinging my hips in time with the beat, switching gears to a Kelly Clarkson song.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so sexy in all my life,” Josh murmurs from behind me just as I’m pulling the bacon out of the oven. I turn to smile at him and take in the sight of him. He’s leaning against the counter behind me, his ankles crossed and his hands gripping the countertop. He’s sweaty and dirty from morning chores, but when he smiles at me in that way that says that I’m about to be rewarded handsomely for cooking this meal, I’ve never wanted anyone so badly in all my life.
“A barefoot woman cooking in your kitchen is the sexiest thing you’ve ever seen?” I ask dryly.
He laughs as he saunters over to me and kisses my forehead without touching me anywhere else. “This woman cooking in my kitchen is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. Do I have time to shower?”
“Yep.” I grin up at him and then begin dancing about again as I move to the stove and put the hash browns in the skillet.
“Keep moving your hips like that and I’ll take you right now,” he growls.
“Go shower!” I laugh and throw a piece of potato at him. “I’m working here.”
He returns to the kitchen twenty minutes later, clean and fresh and hot.
I toss his words back at him as I set the table: “Sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“You didn’t have to cook.” He pulls me into a tight hug and kisses my cheek and then slants his mouth over mine, kissing me slowly and thoroughly.
“I know, but I like to cook.” I pull back and pat his cheek lightly. “Have a seat.”
“How are you feeling this morning?” he asks, then sips his coffee.
“I’m good. I think my ears are finally recovered from the fireworks last night.” I laugh and pass him the bacon.
“Zack and Seth seemed to be good this morning.” Josh’s tone is light, but I know he’s relieved.
“They did.” I nod and take a bite of my eggs. “I hope the worst is over.”
“He’s twelve. We haven’t seen the worst yet.”
“You know what I mean.” I laugh and shake my head at him.
“This is delicious.” His happy brown eyes meet mine as he takes a bite of his bacon. “I’m discovering all kinds of hidden talents.”
“I wasn’t hiding my cooking talents,” I respond wryly.
“I was referring to your dancing-while-cooking talents.” He grins widely.
“I need music to cook. It’s a requirement.”
“I’ll remember that.”
I take my last bite and lean back in the chair, full and happy.
“When will your house be done?” he asks without looking at me, finishing up his meal.
“The day after tomorrow.” The thought of moving back home, of not being next to him every night, is like a knife to the chest, but I know it’s too soon to suggest that we live together, and Josh hasn’t said anything about my staying.
“I’m sure you’ll be relieved to have it done.”
“Mmm,” I murmur noncommittally. “You’ll probably be happy to have your house back to yourself.”