“So, where do we start?” I surveyed the large kitchen.
McKenna had gotten there early and met with the church kitchen staff. We were making lasagna, salad, and brownies, and she gave each of us an apron as she explained the tasks.
Tucker and I teamed up on the brownies, Jaxon was going to make the salad, and McKenna and Luke were going to prepare the main dish. It would take us a couple of hours to prepare the huge batches of food, plus cleanup time afterward.
Putting Tucker on dessert probably wasn’t the wisest idea. He kept stealing the pieces of chocolate I was roughly chopping. I glanced over at Jaxon, who was chopping tomatoes into slimy little chunks, and almost chuckled at the disdain on his face. Public service was good for him. Maybe this would get him to open his eyes and see there was more to life than gambling and girls.
McKenna and Luke gathered their ingredients and were beginning to assemble pans of lasagna noodles and sauce.
“You sure you want me to have all that money?” Luke asked her, a questioning look in his eyes. He wasn’t any more used to handouts than I was, and that made me proud.
“Of course I’m sure. It would make me very happy to see you off at college. That’s the best use of the money I could think of.”
“You’re too good to us.” He playfully tossed a noodle in her direction.
McKenna caught it and smiled at him. “Yeah, well, I kind of have a thing for your brother…”
He laughed. “Trust me, I noticed.” His expression grew thoughtful for a few moments as he layered cheese over the bed of noodles. “It’s just really cool of you to forgive him.”
“Forgive him?” she questioned, peering up from her task to meet his eyes with an inquisitive expression.
My stomach turned sour and dropped like a stone.
Luke and I were elbow deep in noodles and tomato sauce, and I was trying to understand what he meant about me forgiving Knox. I knew Knox’s background as a sex addict, but since I’d forgiven that a while ago, something told me there was more Luke was referring to.
Using my clean hand to push a lock of hair behind my ear, I turned to face Luke. “What do you mean?”
He swallowed and his gaze wandered over to Knox’s. Knox looked like someone had punched him in the stomach. His shoulders were rounded forward and his face had gone pale. Knox shook his head at Luke, and his mouth pulled into a frown.
My hands felt shaky and I gripped the edge of the counter for support. “L-Luke?” I stammered.
The entire kitchen went still and silent as the weight of this moment bore down on us. Something was about to happen. Something Knox didn’t want me to know, if his reaction was any indication.
“It’s time, Knox. She needs to know. No more hiding, right?” Luke said, his voice barely above a whisper.
I licked my lips and faced Luke again, my eyes begging his for the truth.
Without any further prompting, Luke took a deep breath and began. “All of this—Knox cleaning up his act, us being here today, volunteering for a drunk-driving cause—it’s Knox’s way of trying. Listen to me. He loves you. Don’t forget that.”
I nodded slowly, fighting to comprehend where this was headed. “Tell me, Luke.”
Luke’s gaze shot over to Knox once again. “You gonna do this, or should I?”
Knox dropped the knife he’d been holding onto the chopping block. “I will.”
Escorting me to a back hallway, Knox’s fingertips at the small of my back felt cold and lifeless. He was terrified for me to learn whatever he was about to tell me, and I was equally as scared. Just as my life had begun to stabilize, I sensed everything I thought I knew was about to change. The feeling was disorienting.
Knox and I stood in silence for several heartbeats. I was torn between wanting him to tell me the truth about whatever it was he’d been hiding, and living in blissful ignorance for a while longer.
“You know I love you, right?” he started.
I nodded slowly. The sentiment that sometimes love wasn’t enough pushed itself to the forefront of my brain, and I steeled myself for whatever he was going to say next.
“You never asked about the reason I showed up at that first sex addicts meeting. And I never offered the information.”
He was right. I didn’t know why it never occurred to me before, but now I was filled with curiosity. What had prompted him to take that step? I recalled he’d said that he was there at the request of his counselor. “You were in counseling,” I offered.
“Why?” I asked softly. I could only assume it had something to do with sex, and I shuddered at the thought. Had he hurt someone? Done something awful?
“We should talk about this later, when we have more—”
I shook my head. I needed to know. “I know about your past, what more could you possibly tell me?”
“You don’t know everything.” He hung his head.
“You’re scaring me. Did you father a child you never told me about?”
“No. But I have a feeling that might be easier for you to stomach.”
“Knox. Just tell me.”
“All right,” he said, running a hand roughly through his hair so it stood in odd directions. “Promise me one thing. That you won’t run.”
I nodded. “I’m here. You have me.”
Agony twisted his features. “Before I met you, I was a mess. Weekends were my escape from reality, and I used them to their fullest. I drank too much, f**ked too often, and didn’t really care about the ramifications.”
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