“Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t forgive her actions at all, but it makes them more understandable.”

“I think I could tell when I met her that she was a runner. Also, I’m certain she could tell I was cold, that I’d never once ask her to stay.”

“Do you miss her?” I asked, my voice low.

“No,” he answered quickly, no hesitation whatsoever. “She and I were never in love. We had an unspoken agreement that if one was ever ready to go, they were free to do so. The marriage arrangement was just something she thought would help her advance in her career.

“We were simply roommates who happened to have sex sometimes. Before Talon, it would’ve been fine if she left. It would’ve been completely acceptable. Hell, I was somewhat surprised she stayed as long as she did. I wouldn’t have cared, but now…” He smiled down at Talon as she burped for him, and then he laid her on the blanket on the floor. “Now I call her each night, asking her to come back, not for me, but for our daughter. I know what it’s like to grow up without a mother, and I’d never want that for Talon.”

“I’m so sorry.”

He shrugged. “Not your fault. Anyway, how’s the garden?”

“Perfect. It’s perfect. Thank you again for the gift. It means more to me than you could imagine.”

He nodded. “Of course. I’m guessing you’re gone this weekend, for the holiday?” He climbed from the couch onto the floor and started playing peekaboo with Talon, which made my heart do cartwheels.

“I was supposed to be, but it turns out I’m spending the holiday alone.”

“What? Why?”

I explained that Mari would be out of town, and that I normally made the trip up north but didn’t want to do the drive alone.

“You should come to Professor Oliver’s house with Talon and me,” Graham offered.

“What? No. No, it’s really okay.”

He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. “Hello? Professor Oliver, how are you?”

“Graham, no!” I whisper-shouted, reaching out my arm to stop him, but he stood up and wouldn’t allow me to grab the phone.

“Good, I’m good.” Pause. “No, I’m not trying to back out. I’m calling to see if you could add another chair to your table. It appears Lucille was going to sit in her apartment for Easter and cry into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and while I think that’s a completely normal thing to do, I thought I’d see if you could host her at your place.”

Another long pause.

Graham smiled.

“Very well. Thank you, Professor Oliver. We’ll see you this weekend.” He hung up and turned my way. “They are having a brunch at one. It will be us, Professor Oliver and Mary, and their daughter, Karla, and her fiancée, Susie. You should bring a dish.”

“I cannot believe you did that!” I hollered, grabbing a throw pillow from the couch and tossing it at him. He smiled even more.

God, that smile.

If he had smiled more often before, I was certain Lyric would’ve never been able to leave his side.

He picked up the pillow and threw it back at me, making me fall backward onto the couch. “We can drive over there together. I can pick you up from your house.”

“Perfect.” I grabbed the pillow and threw it back at him. “Dress code?”

He tossed it at me one last time and bit his bottom lip, allowing the small dimple in his right cheek to appear. “Anything you wear will be good enough for me.”

I arrived at Lucy’s house to pick her up for Easter brunch, and when she walked down the apartment staircase, I sat in the driver seat of my car. Talon babbled, and I nodded once. “Exactly.” Lucy looked beautiful. She was wearing a yellow dress with tulle underneath the skirt that made it flare out. Her makeup was sparse except for the apple red lipstick that matched her high heels. Her hair was braided up with daisies threaded throughout, like a crown.

I stepped out of the car and hurried to the passenger side to open the door for her. She smiled my way with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a dish to pass in her other.

“Well, aren’t you just dapper looking.” She smirked.

“Just a suit and tie,” I said, taking the dish from her. I walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door, placing the dish on the seat.

As I climbed back into the driver’s seat, I closed the door and glanced once at Lucy. “You look beautiful.”

She laughed and patted her hair before smoothing out her dress. “You’re not wrong, sir.”

We drove to Professor Oliver’s home, and when we arrived, I introduced Lucy to Ollie’s daughter, Karla, and her fiancée, Susie.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Lucy,” Karla said as we walked into the house. “I would say I’ve heard a lot about you, but you know Graham—the guy doesn’t talk,” she joked.

“Really?” Lucy asked sarcastically. “I can’t get the guy to ever shut up.”

Karla laughed, took Talon from my arms, and kissed her forehead. “Yeah, he’s a real loud mouth, that one.”

Karla was the closest thing I’d ever had to a sister, and we argued like it, too. As a kid, she had been in and out of the foster program and had found herself in a lot of trouble with drugs and alcohol. I never knew her back then, though. When I came across her, she had already kind of figured out life. She was this beautiful African American woman who was a strong activist for kids who have no place to call home.

Professor Oliver and Mary wouldn’t give up on her when she was a teenager, and Karla always said because of that, something changed in her heart. Not many kids would be asked to be adopted at the age of seventeen, yet Oliver and Mary wouldn’t let her go.

They had that skill about them—seeing people’s scars and calling them beautiful.

“Here, I’ll take that dish,” Susie offered, taking Lucy’s tray from her. Susie was also a stunning person. She was a beautiful Asian woman who fought hard for women’s rights. If ever there was a couple destined for a true love story, it was Karla and Susie.

I was never a people person, but these people were good.

Like Lucy.

Just wholeheartedly good people who didn’t ask for anything but love.

When we walked into the kitchen, Mary was there, cooking, and she hurried over, giving me a kiss on the cheek and doing the same to Talon and Lucy. “You’ve been requested to join Ollie in his office, Graham. You were supposed to bring him new chapters of your book to read, and he’s waiting,” Mary said. I glanced over at Lucy, and Mary laughed. “Don’t worry about her, she’ll fit right in. We’ll take good care of her.”

Lucy smiled, my heart expanded, and then I headed to Professor Oliver’s office.

He sat at his desk reading the newest chapters I’d presented to him, and I waited impatiently as his eyes darted back and forth. “I took out the lion,” I told him.

“Shh!” he ordered, going back to reading. Every now and then he made facial expressions as he flipped the pages, but mostly, nothing. “Well,” he said, finishing and placing the papers down. “You didn’t have sex?”