“I must be in good company.”
Oh, Oliver. Don’t make me blush.
“Why are you single?” he asked, throwing me completely off.
I turned to him and raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Sorry. I’ve just been wondering. You’re a good woman. I mean, not that being single means you’re not a good woman. What I mean is, do you?”
“Do I what?”
“Well, after Reese, I had a hard time even getting dressed in the morning. Then, as she grew older, I was always working two jobs at least. Time wasn’t really on my hands to be dating. Plus, growing up, I never really saw decent relationships. So it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind.”
“So you have no interest in it?”
“In dating? If it were the right person, I guess.”
“What makes a person the right person?”
I was surprised at all the questions he was shooting my way. Each day it seemed as if Oliver’s words flowed easier when he was around me. As if he were getting out of his own way with his thoughts.
“Oh, I don’t know, someone who’s caring. And romantic. And kind. Loves kids, obviously. Someone who listens. Someone like . . .” You . . . “Someone like that. Someone who makes me feel like home.”
“I see.” His brows lowered. “Someone who makes you feel safe.”
“Exactly. Who makes me feel like I belong.”
“You do that to me,” he confessed. “Make me feel like I belong. No one has done that since my brother.”
He’d finally brought up Alex around me.
Before I could ask him anything about it, a voice burst into the kitchen, breaking into our conversation.
“Oliver, we need to talk before the get-together tonight!” Tyler said, barging into the room. “My wife said I’m not allowed to bring up work stuff today, so I came over early to get work stuff out of the way!” He paused the minute he noticed our proximity to one another. “Uh, am I interrupting something?”
“Mama, I dropped my doughnut and ruined my shirt!” Reese exclaimed as she shot into the room just as quickly as Tyler had. “Can I have another doughnut?”
“How about we get you cleaned up first,” I said, taking her hand into mine. I looked back at Oliver, who was looking my way. A sad smile crossed his face as he turned to go talk to Tyler, leaving our conversation unfinished at the most important part.
“Do we have to do this today?” I asked as we sat in my office with the door shut.
“We most definitely have to do this today. I’ve been working with the PR team for the past few days trying to figure out how we dig ourselves out of this mess with Cam. And the best thing that we could come up with was you doing a live sit-down interview with one of the biggest stations. You know everyone will want to talk to you. You haven’t done an interview since . . .” His words faded. Since Alex passed away. Tyler shifted in his chair. “Anyway, we need to put you out there. We need to show your face to be put out there. Otherwise, it paints you in a terrible light.”
“I don’t do interviews,” I said. I hated interviews. I bombed most of the interviews I’d ever done. The only reason they seemed semidecent was because Alex had made them great. For all my flaws, he showcased his talents.
“You have to, man. These type of allegations against you can ruin your career, and even more so, your life. You can’t let someone like Cam ruin your life. You deserve to tell your side. The truth.”
“Even if I told the truth, would they believe me?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “But if you say nothing, they’ll definitely believe her. Just think about it for a minute, all right? I know it’s the holiday, and I won’t bring it up again, but this is a big fucking deal, Oliver. We have to handle it sooner rather than later. Especially if you’re thinking of dropping new music.”
I knew he was right, but that didn’t ease my anxiety about it. I had a history of having interviewers twist my words and take things the wrong way. I knew for a fact that if I spoke, some questions would build up in my anxious mind, and I wouldn’t have my other half there to pick up my slack.
Tyler headed out to pick up his family for the gathering, and a few hours later my house was packed with kids running around and diving in and out of the swimming pool, with Kelly supervising them as Emery finished up the final touches on setting up her serving table. Everything smelled delicious, and I wasn’t surprised.
The only thing left to do was grill some of the meat, which Emery wasn’t allowed to do. My dad had a rule that only he could grill, since he was a Texas man and knew a thing or two about making meat tender.
When my parents finally arrived from the airport, I met them in the driveway. Mom beamed with excitement when she saw me. “Ollie! Come here, oh I missed you!” she said, wrapping me into a tight hug. “How’s my babe doing?”
“I’m good, Mom. I thought you would’ve been here sooner. I sent the driver a while ago.”
“Well, you know how this LA traffic is. It’s bullshit,” Dad stated.
“Richard! Do you have to use that language around our son?”
“Oh, hush, woman. Oliver writes songs about oral sex; I think he is grown enough to hear me say ‘bullshit.’”
“He does not write songs about that!”
“What do you think ‘The Falls’ is about?” Dad asked her, and hell, only a few minutes had passed, and my parents were already talking about the sexual lyrics of Alex’s and my songs. My brother was lucky to be missing out on that moment.
“The Niagara Falls!” Mom exclaimed, making me chuckle at the idea. She was so sincere and honest with her reply.
“Woman, that’s a sexual innuendo,” Dad told her, shaking his head in disbelief. He’d grown a beard since I’d last seen him, and it looked good on him. He’d put on some weight, too, which also looked good.
“How is that a sexual innuendo?” she asked.
“You really want to know?” he questioned.
“Yes, I really want to know.”
“Okay, well, remember when we were in college and you came over for a study date, and I did that thing with my fingers to your—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, oversharing much?” I barked, knowing exactly what he was talking about and wanting to delete the image that had formed in my brain forever.
Mom’s mouth dropped open, and she slowly nodded. “Ohhh, the Niagara Falls!” She grinned bright and shimmied a little. “I love the Niagara Falls. We should take a trip there tonight, Richard.”
Oh dear God.
“If you both could stop talking, that would be wonderful,” I begged.
“Don’t act like you’re innocent, Oliver. You did write the song, after all.” He moved toward me and patted me on the back. “Happy Fourth, buddy. Please tell me there’s food inside, because I am starving.”
“We just need to get you on the grill, but there’s enough food for a football team in there,” I said.
“Or for your growing pop,” he said, rubbing his stomach. “I start Weight Watchers on Monday.”
“He said that last week, too,” Mom chimed in. “Then we ordered pizza.”
“Deep dish and delicious. But I’m really starting next week. Scout’s honor.”
“Mm-hmm, we’ll see when Taco Tuesday comes around and you want margaritas,” Mom said, smacking Dad’s stomach.
“You’re right, I should start next Wednesday,” Dad agreed. “Now come on, let’s get a move on so I can get the grill started.”
We headed inside, and my parents greeted everyone with big hugs, because that’s who they were—huggers. I swore, they’d hug every stranger they met if they could. We walked into the kitchen to find Emery finishing up the spread, and she looked up with a big smile on her face.
“Oh my goodness, it looks like a Thanksgiving feast in here,” Mom exclaimed.
“Smells like one, too,” Dad said as he grinned. “You must be Emery.”
Mom was already rounding the corner to pull Emery into a hug, and without any thought, Emery fell into her arms. “I’m Michelle, and this is Richard. We’re Oliver’s parents.”
“It’s so nice to meet you both. I’m so glad you made it.”
“Me too. Oliver has told us so much about you!” Mom said.
Emery looked my way with a sheepish grin. “Is that so?”
“Not so much,” I countered. “I may have mentioned you in passing conversation.”
“Are you kidding me?” Mom gasped, shaking her head. “Oliver went on and on about how you have made some of the best food he’s ever had. Why, just last night he was telling me all about you and how—”
“Mom,” I groaned, shooting her a stern look.