Things got weird.
So weird that he took off on me for nearly five days, leaving Sunday afternoon and not showing up again until Thursday. I had no idea where he went and didn’t ask him about it when he came back. But it had to get less uncomfortable, right? Because you can only be all tense and strange around each other for so long …
At least Noah started school without any problems, which didn’t really surprise me. He’d always been good at making new friends and tended to roll with whatever changes came along. Before Ruger left on his club run (I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what “runs” were, but apparently this one involved being gone for five days), he’d handed me some money and suggested I wait until the next week to start job hunting. He wanted to explore work options with the club, and also thought I should focus on helping Noah adjust to his new situation.
I’d love to say I’m such a strong, independent woman that I told him to butt out, but it was actually a huge relief. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a week off, and I loved it. I unpacked everything, sucked up the sun and got reacquainted with the area.
I also spent an afternoon with my old friend Kimber.
She invited me over for lunch on Tuesday. We’d stayed in touch through the years, and last summer I’d stayed with her and her new husband when we came to visit. Kimber had gone a little wild for a while after graduation. Then she met Ryan and settled down. He was some kind of software engineer and apparently did pretty well for himself, because she had one of those big houses popping up like mushrooms out on the Rathdrum Prairie. It was part of a development, not custom like Ruger’s, but twice the size and pretty impressive.
She also had a pool.
“You want a margarita?” she asked, opening the door in a bikini, a brightly colored wrap, and sunglasses that would’ve made Paris Hilton jealous. I smirked, because some things never change.
“It’s always happy hour when you have kids,” she replied, shrugging. “Either that or it’s sad hour, and that’s not half as much fun.”
We grinned at each other like total dorks.
“So, you want one or not?” she asked, dragging me through her grand entryway and down the hall to her kitchen. “Because I’m definitely having one. Ava was up all night teething. She finally fell asleep about fifteen minutes ago. If I’m lucky, I have two hours before she’s up again. I need to make the most of it and pack in six weeks’ worth of social life before you go.”
“Okay,” I told her. “But just one. I have to drive and pick up Noah later. I take it you’re enjoying mommyhood?”
“Loving it,” she replied, pouring me a drink in a brightly colored martini glass with a flamingo-shaped stem. “I can’t believe how amazing Ava is. But it’s crazy, too. I had no idea how much work they could be—I still can’t believe you did this when you were seventeen. I couldn’t even find my keys half the time back then, let alone keep track of a baby.”
“Well, sometimes life brings us surprises,” I replied, thinking back to those early days. After Noah, I’d gone to the alternative high school and lived with Ruger’s mom. It hadn’t been easy. “I couldn’t give him up, so I figured it out. What doesn’t kill us, and all that shit.”
I waved my hand airily to illustrate the point.
Kimber burst out laughing, and it was just like high school again. God, I loved her. We made our way out to the backyard, sitting at a tile-topped table under a vine-draped pergola. Her backyard really was gorgeous. Totally different than Ruger’s wild acreage … Kimber had a perfectly manicured little Garden of Eden in the suburbs.
“So, you’re staying with Jesse Gray,” she said, arching a brow. I laughed.
“I haven’t heard him called Jesse since his mom died,” I replied. “He goes by Ruger.”
“Um, yeah,” she said, eyes drifting away from mine as she sipped her drink thoughtfully. “I don’t want to be negative, but is this a good thing? I thought you hated him. I mean, things got bad there before you left … It was an ugly time.”
“Um, ‘hate’ is probably too strong a word for Ruger,” I replied, taking a sip from my flamingo-themed glass. Ugh, way too much tequila. Yuck. She wasn’t kidding about packing in weeks of social life. I set it back down, eyeing the yard speculatively. When she went inside, I’d dump it on a shrub or something.
Did tequila kill shrubs?
“I’d say our relationship is a little tense, though,” I added. “He was kind of a jackass about me coming back to town, but I have to admit, it’s a good move for us. Things weren’t so great in Seattle.”
Kimber made a soothing noise and waved her hand at me.
“You’ll be glad you came back,” she replied. “If nothing else, now you’ll have me around to babysit for you. I promise—no drinking when I’m watching your kid. Scout’s honor.”
“They kicked you out of Scouts.”
“Only the Girl Scouts,” she mused. “Those boys always found room for me in their tents. Seriously, though, Noah’s a great kid, and it’s not like I get to go out and do anything these days anyway. Not that I mind—I’ve had my fun.”
I snickered at that. She didn’t even blush. I wasn’t entirely sure she was joking about the scouts and their tents.
“Speaking of fun …” she said slowly, swirling her drink. “I need to tell you something.”
I glanced over at her, and for the first time since I’d known her, Kimber looked embarrassed.
“What?” I asked, a little nervous.
Nothing embarrassed Kimber.
“I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to spit it out,” she replied, swallowing. “I slept with Ruger three years ago. It was a one-night thing, nothing special. I figured you should know, since I might want to come and hang out at your new place sometime. Full disclosure.”
I gaped at her.
“Why did you sleep with Ruger?”
She cocked a brow at me, eyes knowing.
“Seriously?” she asked, and I flushed. Of course I knew why. “It was before Ryan, so it’s not like I did something wrong. You were still living in Olympia and could hardly stand him long enough to let him see Noah. I thought I was in the clear.”
I looked away from her, trying to process. The thought of her and Ruger felt wrong. In fact, it made me kind of angry. And that was ridiculous, because it wasn’t like I had any business being upset. Not only that, it’d been three years ago. A full year after things fell to shit here, and not even Kimber knew all the details on that one …