“Not sure,” I said, finding my voice. “Probably something to do with their will.”
He nodded and pushed away his own plate. It must be sympathy pains or something since I knew we were both hungry when we’d sat down.
I’d yet to settle all my parents’ legal affairs, since dealing with it bought up too many painful memories. I’d done the bare minimum, the funeral was planned, and with the help of Brian’s mom and a local realtor, I’d sold the house I grew up in. The movers had packed everything and it was all still sitting in a storage unit in my hometown. All the rest, pension plan, retirement accounts, and insurance policies remained on the back burner, untouched. Dealing with it all would be too final, and I just wasn’t ready to go there. I especially didn’t like this envelope with its shiny gold embossment on my dining table looking up at me, reminding me. It felt like two sides of my life were intersecting. It was childish, but maybe if I just refused to open the envelope, I could pretend that none of this was happening.
For all my running, all my volunteer work to make things better in this world, I still had to face that there was a bitter force driving me. It scared me to realize that maybe running into Knox’s arms had nothing to do with love. It was about me throwing myself into something even messier and uglier than my own past. It was simply another place to hide.
“You’re not going to open it, are you?” Brian asked, pulling me from my somber thoughts.
He knew me all too well. “Wasn’t planning on it, no.” I pushed the offending paper away, knowing it was pointless. I’d likely find it on my dresser later.
“Can I ask you something?” He glanced down at his plate, picking at the remnants of his sandwich.
“Have you and Knox….” His forehead creased. “Are you still….”
“Brian, that’s none of your business.”
“You are,” he said, his voice certain.
I wanted to yell at him for interfering and telling Knox I was a virgin in the first place, but faced with the awkwardness of the conversation, I chickened out. Closing my eyes, I drew a deep breath.
“Wow. I’m surprised. Even after all those nights you’ve spent there?”
I released my breath in a huff. “I know you have a hard time believing this, but Knox really is a good guy. He would never do something I wasn’t ready for. And he’s been in recovery, so sex really wasn’t on the table for either of us.”
“But it is now?” His eyebrow quirked up. “And you’re right, I do have a hard time believing that.”
A heavy silence fell over us and I considered ripping open the envelope just for something to distract me from this awful moment.
Brian leaned closer, planting his elbows on the table. “So if you haven’t fully given yourself to him, does that mean….” He hesitated, drawing a deep breath. “Do you think there’d ever be a chance for us?”
I wanted to set him straight, tell him once and for all it was never going to happen between us, but sitting there, looking into his bright blue eyes, something in me couldn’t crush him. He’d done too much for me. Still, I didn’t want to leave him with false hope. That wasn’t fair to him. “Brian, I’m dating Knox. You should date other people, too.” It was my subtle way of telling him he needed to stop pining for me.
“Your dad, your parents, they would have wanted you with me. You know that, right?” he asked. I swallowed a bitter lump in my throat. “They joked we’d get married someday from the time we were six years old, McKenna.”
Fighting back tears, I excused myself to my bedroom while Brian called out my name. Bringing my parents into this wasn’t fair. He knew my life’s mission was to try and honor them in all things. My chosen career field, how I spent my time, but I’d never factored in who I dated. Realizing Brian was right sucked. My parents had adored him.
I fell back heavily onto my mattress with a thud. Today had been too much. I couldn’t deal with the mystery envelope regarding my parents and Brian’s declaration that I was dishonoring them by choosing the wrong man.
Part of me knew I couldn’t hide in my bed forever, but most of me wanted to try.
The next several days passed in a blur. Between working, volunteering, and helping Amanda get around – everything from taking her to doctor’s appointments to shopping for maternity clothes to buying prenatal vitamins, I’d barely had time to see Knox. And our alone time together had all but disappeared.
But tonight that was going to change, because Jaxon and Luke were taking Tucker out to dinner and then to their high school’s basketball game, meaning Knox and I would have the house to ourselves for a couple of hours. It was exactly what I’d needed after a trying week.
I found Knox alone upstairs in his bedroom, sitting on the edge of his bed with his sketchbook open in his lap, looking deep in thought.
“Hi,” I greeted him.
“Hey.” He closed the book and crossed the room, drawing me into his arms. “Everything okay? You look exhausted.”
Leave it to Knox to immediately pick up on how drained and crummy I felt. “I’m fine. It was just a long week.”
“Yeah? And how many hours did you work this week?”
I quickly did the math in my head. “Mmm, somewhere around seventy¸ I’d guess.”
“McKenna,” he groaned, holding my shoulders and positioning me so he could meet my eyes. The dark circles lining them wouldn’t help my case. But Knox couldn’t understand how one simple letter from a lawyer back home could send me into a tailspin. It had been easier to work and volunteer than to sit at home with the constant reminder staring me in the face.
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