The woman I’d just hissed at was Ian’s grandmother.
What a great first impression.
I brushed my hand across my face and cringed a bit when I hit the bruise. I’d forgotten that was there, and now Holly was staring at me and my massively bruised skin. I held my hand out and shook hers.
“Sorry, I’m just waking up. Normally I’m better at first impressions.” I smoothed my hands over my pajamas—pajamas I hadn’t recalled putting on—and gave her a tight smile.
“Oh, honey, don’t worry about it. You look beautiful.” She smiled so brightly I couldn’t help but smile too. I’d never seen such a genuine expression in all my life.
Holly was so beautiful in an effortless way. She had long silvery hair that was pulled back into a ponytail and eyes that matched Ian’s. Though she was much shorter than Big Paw, she held her head high. She was slender and stood up straighter than most people my age.
If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve assumed she was in her late sixties—not eighties.
“If you’re looking for Ian, it seems he’s not here, or maybe not up yet,” I told her.
She shook her head. “Oh no. I know that. He’s the one who called me. He’s working at the ranch already and—”
My eyes widened in pure panic. “Oh my gosh, what time is it? I’m supposed to be at the ranch working!” I knew if Big Paw found out that I was late, I’d be out of a job in a heartbeat. “I’m sorry, Holly, I have to get going to—”
She placed a hand on my arm and shook her head. “No, it’s fine. Ian said you weren’t feeling well today, so he’s taking over your tasks.”
A ripple of relief and shock raced through my system. “Is he upset? That he has to take on those tasks?”
“Lord, no. He actually sent me over to check on you and make sure you had some food to eat and some coffee to drink.” She raised an eyebrow. “You do drink coffee, right?”
I smiled, feeling relief fall over me as my anxiety was replaced with comfort. “All the coffee.”
“Good.” Holly walked over to her basket, pulled out a few ibuprofen and a water bottle, and handed them my way. “Now take these and shower up, and by the time you’re done, I’ll have some breakfast ready for you.”
I thanked her for her kindness and headed off to hop in the shower.
I understood why people drank to forget. Last night, I’d felt free from the burden of Mama’s struggles for a split second. I needed that break to stop feeling everything so strongly. But unluckily, I wasn’t one of those humans who forgot everything that happened when they drank.
Nope. I remembered it all.
Especially the parts where I’d called Ian “H-A-W-T” and talked about the lady boner I had for him. Gosh. The next time I saw him, I was certain I’d be fifty shades of red from humiliation.
After my shower, I considered putting on makeup to cover my bruise, but since Holly had already noticed it, I didn’t see much reason to do it.
The house smelled heavenly, as if a Top Chef had come in all on their own to cook up a meal for me. As I walked into the dining room, I found Holly setting up two plates that were filled with bacon, eggs, and home-style potatoes. My coffee cup was filled to the brim, and my stomach started doing somersaults of excitement.
“This looks and smells amazing,” I commented as I took my seat.
She smiled as she slid into hers. “The best cure for a hangover is homemade cooking,” she exclaimed. “I’ve had to cook plenty of these meals for Ian and his best friends throughout the years.”
“He’s lucky to have you.”
“I’m lucky to have him. He and Harry are my two biggest headaches. Lord only knows how I’ve dealt with their grumpy exteriors, but deep down inside, those two are teddy bears. They build up walls to avoid getting hurt; that’s for sure. I’m one of the lucky few who they’ve let see their gentle sides.”
“So I shouldn’t take their grumpy sides personal?”
“Heavens, no. It’s just their wall of protection from getting hurt. After my daughter and son-in-law left, both Harry and Ian struggled. Having someone so important to them leave without a goodbye really damaged their hearts. My boys are sensitive. More than most people. They are terrified of being hurt, so they pretend that nothing stings them.”
“That has to be lonely.”
“Yes.” She nodded. “I worry more about Ian. He’s so closed off and doesn’t let anyone in close enough to show him any kind of comfort—outside of his bandmates. But then he played me your song, and I saw a spark inside of him that I haven’t seen in a while.”
“What do you mean? What do you mean, he played you my song?”
“The one you helped him write. He came over and played it for Harry and me, and we were blown away. I hadn’t seen him that invested in his music in so long, and those lyrics . . .” She pressed her hands to her chest and shook her head in amazement. “I haven’t heard my grandson sing such beautiful words in all my life. So thank you for that.”
“Helping him find his voice. He’s been searching for years, and for the first time ever, it seems he’s on to something, and I think it has a lot to do with you. You’re truly gifted at the written word.”