My hand glided against my neck, and I pretended it was her neck he was touching. He warmed her up without saying a word; he loved her quietly with his hands. His fingers trailed down her neck and she moaned as he reached the curves of her breasts. Tristan… My breaths picked up as I felt him taste her skin, his tongue gliding from his mouth and slowly licking her nipple before he placed it between his lips and sucked, nibbled, massaged. She was surrendering herself to him. Tristan…

My hands moved lower across my skin as Tristan filled my mind. He lowered her panties as I lowered mine. His hand glided between her pulsing thighs as I slowly slid a finger inside myself. I gasped, almost surprised by the feeling Tristan brought to me, my thumb massaging my clit as I kept imagining.

But she was gone now.

It was only him and me.

His rough beard brushed against my stomach before his tongue danced around my belly button. I moaned slightly, feeling another finger slip into me. His fingers moved faster, fell deeper, and pushed harder as he worked me up to a sweat. I whispered his name as he owned mine, and when I felt his tongue taste me, I was seconds away from losing myself to him. My hips thrust against his tongue, my lips begged for more, and he gave me more, faster, deeper, harder. Caringly, gently, forcefully. Oh my God, Tristan…

My mouth parted and I pumped my fingers faster, feeling myself hanging from the cliff of forever and moments away from falling into the depths of never. He fed my imagination, he rocked my insides, he begged for me to come apart against his lips, and I did. I collapsed with his touch inside me and released with a feeling of bliss, unable to remember the last time I’d been able to feel alive.

I’m good.

I’m good.

I’m so fucking good.

And then I opened my eyes and saw the darkness of my bedroom.

My hand slid from between my thighs. My panties moved back up my legs, and the feeling of bliss dissipated.

I’m not good.

I looked over at Steven’s side of the bed, and a level of disgust filled me inside. For a moment, I swore I saw him lying beside me, staring my way with confusion. I blinked once and reached out to touch him, but he was gone.

Because he’d never really been there.

What did I just do? How could I do such a thing? What is the matter with me?

Pulling myself up from the sheets, I headed to the bathroom and turned on the shower. I stepped inside with my bra and panties still on, and I fell to the ground as the water washed over me. I begged the water droplets to drag my guilt down the drain, to make the disappointment I’d been feeling leave my body. But it didn’t.

The shower rained over me, mixing with my own tears, and I stayed there until the water ran cold. I shivered in the tub and closed my eyes.

I’d never felt so alone.

Chapter Thirteen


Despite Tanner’s protests, I chose to keep having Tristan come to care for the lawn. Every Saturday he would come over, cut the grass, and head into town to work with Mr. Henson. Sometimes he worked in the mornings, other times, late into the night. We hadn’t spoken since my drunken night, but I thought that was all right. Emma always played with Zeus in the front yard as I sat on the porch, reading a romance novel. Even when your heart was hurting, there was something so hopeful about reading a book filled with love. The pages were somewhat of a reminder that maybe one day I would be okay again. Maybe one day I would be all right.

Each week, I tried to give Tristan money, but he declined it. Each week, I invited him to stay for a meal, and each week he said no.

One Saturday, he arrived right as Emma was in the middle of an emotional breakdown, and he stood at a distance, trying his best not to interrupt.

“No! Mama, we have to go back! Daddy doesn’t know where we are!” Emma cried.

“I’m sure he does, baby. I think we just have to wait a little while. Give Daddy time.”

“No! He never takes this long! There’s no feathers! We have to go back!” she hollered as I tried to pull her into a hug, but she yanked away from me and hurried into the house.

I sighed, and when I looked up at Tristan, I saw his scowl. I shrugged my shoulders. “Kids.” I smiled. He kept his grimacing look.

He turned to walk back toward his house.

“Where are you going?”


“What? Why?”

“I’m not going to sit out here and listen to your damn kid whine all morning.”

Mean Tristan was back in full force. “God. Sometimes I start to make believe that you’re a decent person, but then you just go ahead and remind me of how much of a jerk you are.”

He didn’t reply, but disappeared once more into his darkened home.

“Mama!” The next morning I was awakened to a hyper Emma bouncing up and down on my bed. “Mama! It’s Daddy! He came!” she screamed, pulling me up to a sitting position.

“What?” I muttered, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. “Emma, we sleep in on Sundays, remember?”

“But, Mama! He showed up!” she exclaimed.

I sat up straighter when I heard a lawnmower outside. Tossing on a pair of sweatpants and a tank top, I followed my excited girl to the front of the house. When we stepped outside, a small gasp left my lips as I stared at the porch, which was covered with white feathers.

“See, Mama! He found us!”

My hands covered my mouth as I stared at the white feathers that were starting to float around the space from the bursts of wind.

“Don’t cry, Mama. Daddy’s here. You said he would find us and he did,” Emma explained.

I smiled. “Of course, honey. Mama’s just happy, that’s all.”