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I rushed to his side, cupping his cheeks in my hands. “Knox? The baby…?”

“Is fine. A little girl. Not quite five pounds. They have her in intensive care, but there’s not a thing wrong with her.”

“Wow. That’s great news. And Amanda?”

“She’s doing well. She was a trouper. It was a long labor. For all of us.”

“What’s wrong?” I took in his ragged appearance, the fine lines that seemed to have appeared overnight, and his pale skin tone. “You look…scarred for life.” I chuckled, giving his chest a pat.

He met my eyes, deep worry etched into his honey-brown stare. “No man should see the things I saw.”

I couldn’t help but giggle again at his obvious discomfort. Giving birth was a natural process, but apparently Knox and his poor eyeballs felt differently. “Did something…happen?”

Knox swallowed heavily. “I just…the things I saw…I can’t unsee that.” He made a face.

I gave his chest a playful shove. “I think you’ll live. Poor Amanda is the one who had to go through it all. Did she get pain medication?”

He nodded. “Yeah. She made it a good long while without any and then it got too bad. I called the nurse, and they put something in her back that made the pain go away.”

I smiled. Knox had proven he was a good friend and a good brother. But what I really wanted to know was if he could be a good boyfriend.

“Thanks for staying with Tucker and the guys. Everyone good?”

I nodded. “All is fine. They were fun.” I almost told him about Jaxon taking me for twenty bucks in poker last night and immediately decided against it. I knew things were already somewhat shaky between the two of them, and didn’t want to pile on any additional stress. “I came straight here last night because I wanted to talk.”

Knox nodded, bringing a big, warm palm to my jawline and stroking my cheek. “I know. We do need to talk, but I’m exhausted. I was up most of the night and the little sleep I did get was in a folding chair.” His rough thumb continued its path, softly rubbing my cheek. “Can I take a rain check?”

“Of course. I guess I’ll go home. Unpack. Shower. Water my sure-to-be-dead plants.”

“Okay. Thanks again for last night. I’ll call you later.”

All the excitement I’d experienced when I pulled up to Knox’s house last night had vanished. I still needed answers, but for now it seemed, they would have to wait.

Chapter Three


McKenna surprising me last night should have been a good thing. But it was more than just the situation with Amanda that was giving me pause and had me asking for a time-out today. I knew the conversation we needed to have—about McKenna’s painful past and my own drunk-driving arrest. But every scenario I played out in my mind ended with her in tears and my heart broken. I just wasn’t ready to go there yet. I needed her. My brothers needed her. She’d only just showed back up in our lives and I didn’t want to lose her.

After greeting the guys and checking on the house, I fell into bed, drifting off to a deep sleep almost immediately. When I woke several hours later, I felt groggy and disoriented. Checking the time on my phone, I realized it was late afternoon and reluctantly crawled from bed. After a much-needed shower, I felt more alert and ventured downstairs.

Jaxon was sitting on the couch with a brand new laptop balanced across his knees.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked.

He looked up from the screen at me. “I won some money at a hand of cards.”

I frowned. “I told you I don’t want you gambling.” Jaxon had enough bad habits without adding another to the mix.

“Relax, man. I had a good hand and I bet appropriately. It’s not a big deal. And besides, I got it for Luke. I thought he could take it to college with him next year. He’s gonna need a computer.”

I couldn’t argue with that. Jaxon’s intentions were in the right place. “Fine. But I’m serious about the gambling.” I headed toward the kitchen before halting mid-stride to face him again. “And don’t be looking up  p**n  on that thing. I don’t want Tucker stumbling across your search history.”

Jaxon chuckled. “That’s the entire reason I shelled out six hundred bucks for this, dude.”

I shot him an angry scowl.

He laughed again, closing the laptop and setting it aside. “I’m kidding. If I want pu**y, I have three dozen contacts in my phone. All I have to do is text one of them. I’m sure you know how that works.”

My blood pressure shot up. The little shit was right. Which made me realize I should probably delete all those numbers. I didn’t want McKenna finding them and getting the wrong idea. Or worse, I didn’t want to chance succumbing to temptation if this thing between me and McKenna didn’t work out.

“Where are the guys?” I growled.

“At the park,” Jaxon said. “And speaking of pu**y…I’m going out.” He grinned.

I rolled my eyes. Perhaps he was a lost cause. The sooner he was out on his own, the better. He would have to make his own mistakes and learn his own lessons, just as I had.

I made myself something to eat and sat alone at the kitchen table. The house was picked up and more organized, and I wondered if that had been McKenna’s touch last night. There was no denying our house felt like more of a home because of her—her light, feminine scent that hung in the air long after she was gone, the sense of calm she instilled in me and the boys, the home-cooked meals she occasionally spoiled us with. God, I’d missed her.

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