“Good.” I stand back just as Brad opens the door.
“You done here?” He raises an eyebrow when he sees the Jack’s condition.
“Yep. I’m not going to take his case after all. And it looks like his cellmate must not like him much either.”
“Jack pisses everyone off,” Brad agrees, and pulls Jack out of the chair and down the hallway toward the holding cells.
I walk out into the rainy fall night and join my friends at my Jeep.
“You okay?” Zack asks.
I nod and sit in the passenger seat. “I need to get back to Lo.”
“We’re on our way.”
“Everything still fucking hurts,” I grumble as I slowly descend the stairs into the living room. It’s been a week since I’ve been home, and Emily and Ty have been here every second of every day, driving me up the fucking wall.
I love them both, but they have got to stop hovering.
“Are you sure you won’t take the pain meds?” Emily asks worriedly.
“No, just the ibuprofen.” I settle into the deep cushions of the couch in the family room. “I’m sick of sleeping all the damn time.”
Emily bustles into the kitchen to fetch the pills and water, then returns. “If you need me to stay, I’ll make some calls and stay another week.”
I swallow the pills and set the water aside. “I’m fine, Em. Honestly, I’m getting better every day, and I have Ty here. You need to get back to your family.”
“What will you do when he’s at work during the day?” Emily frowns. “Maybe it was too early for him to go back.”
“He just went back today.” I chuckle. “Life has to go back to normal. I’ll probably work myself.”
Emily nods and smiles at me softly. “I’m so happy for you, Lo. That man is totally head over heels in love with you.”
“It’s mutual.” I sigh. “He’s just . . .”
“I was going to say amazing, but hot works too.”
“You deserve to be happy.” Emily grips my hand in hers and squeezes gently.
“I wish my parents knew about him.” I sigh and rest my head on the back of the couch.
“Did they know him?”
“Yes, they knew of him. But his parents didn’t mingle in the same circles, and he and I didn’t hang out together in school, so they didn’t know him well. I wish they could know him now, as he is as a successful man.”
“What else would you like for them to know about him?” Emily pulls her legs up under her and rests her head in her hand.
“How considerate he is. He’s always putting my needs first. He makes sure I eat, for God’s sake.”
I sigh and close my eyes, thinking of the man I love more than anything. “He’s kind. Reliable. He loves his family fiercely.” I open my eyes and meet her gaze. “He loves me fiercely. I wish they could see that.”
“They know, Lo.”
“I hope so.”
“So where do you think this is all leading?” A romantic twinkle is in Emily’s eyes.
“One day at a time, Em.”
“Seriously, I want to know. I’m going to be two thousand miles away again in a few hours, so I need to get all the face-to-face dirt I can while I’m here.”
“I love him,” I reply hesitantly. “And that’s unexpected, especially after my past.”
“I get it.” She nods. “What if he asked you to marry him today?”
“I highly doubt that will happen. He just said the L-word a week ago. This isn’t one of our romance novels.”
“How can you write such beautiful stories and be such a cynic?” She tilts her head, studying me.
“I’m not a cynic, I’m a realist. We don’t live inside a romance novel. I learned that lesson the hard way.”
“You’re right.” A slow smile spreads across her lips. “But when you do get married, I get to be in it, right?”
I chuckle and shake my head. “If I say yes, can we change the subject?”
“You’re no fun.”
“I am too. I just think we’re jumping the gun a bit to be picking out cakes and bridesmaids dresses.”
“I refuse to wear teal.” She grimaces. “And no chocolate fountain. It’s not classy.”
“Oh my God, Em, stop!” I laugh and clutch my injured ribs. “Ouch.”
“Oh, I’m sorry!”
“It’s okay.” I sigh and take her hand in mine, holding on tight. “Thank you for coming, and for being such a kick-ass friend.”
“You’re welcome. You can repay me by bringing me onto the movie set with you when the gorgeous men start acting in your movies.”
“Done.” Then I get sober. “I guess this means I can start telling people that I’m Peyton Adams.”
“You should have done that from the beginning.”
I shake my head sadly. “It’s going to be weird to see myself in photos and give interviews and all the other things my agent has been begging me to do.”
“It’s going to be a lot of work.”
“I know, but I’m tired of hiding who I am.”
The doorbell rings.
“That must be Cara and Jill. Cara’s taking me to the airport and Jill is staying with you until Ty gets home.”
“You’re all a bunch of mother hens,” I grumble, and follow Emily to the door.
She turns and pulls me gently into her arms, despite our vast height difference. “I’m so happy that you’re okay, my friend. I love you.”
“I love you too.” Tears of gratitude and love prick my eyes. “Safe travels.”
She pulls away and opens the door for the girls. “She needs to go back to bed,” Emily informs them as she gathers her bags. “And she won’t take the pain meds anymore.”
I roll my eyes and push her out the door. “Good-bye, Mom.”
“Take care of her, Jill!” Em calls right before she sits in Cara’s Honda and waves through the window.
“How are you really?” Jill asks as I close the door and set the alarm.
“Tired. Sore.” I shrug. “The usual.”
“Why no pain meds?”
“Because I’m sick of sleeping all the time, and I’m ready to get back to my life.” I prop my hands on my hips and glare down at her. “Are you going to lecture me too?”