Page 23

“But that was fast, wasn’t it? How did you get that all done?”

“It’s still in the process of being purchased, but the previous owners okayed us to move in ahead of the closing date. And it happened fast because I still know a lot of people in the area. I made calls.”

“Calls?” I didn’t let her finish. “Us?”

“You and Nate. Nate. And all the guests who are going to be here.”

Right. Because he had a tribe behind him, and I had Ricci and Emily.

“I have a small tribe, too.”


That was it. Those three.

Was that sad?

That was definitely sad.

I stopped and turned. “Am I wrong in doing this?”

Aspen’s eyes were wide, taking me in. She bit down on her lip and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. It was already there, so her movement was a nervous gesture. She seemed to rock back on her heels as she thought of a response, at least until her eyes suddenly grew more focused. “No.”

I waited to see if she had more to say.

She didn’t. It was a simple no.

I jerked a nod. “Okay.”

She nodded back, her shoulders loosening. “Okay.” She started forward again. “Nate thought you might want your own section with your own entrance.” She went past a large living room, going down the long hallway until it divided. She pointed to the right. “That goes to Nate’s bedroom.” She went left, and I saw that we stepped into an apartment. Or at least it looked like its own apartment.

There was a living room. A kitchen. A small dining room. Farther past was a small hallway. There was a big bedroom. She continued to the left, showing me another attached area.

She gestured toward a door and another door. “This is where your guest bedroom can be.” Emily stepped out from it, her bags now covering the bed.

“Do you need me to help with anything?” Emily asked, her eyes bright and shining.

Emily wasn’t staying here, but I guess I hadn’t informed Nate of that. I shook my head. “No. You can continue unpacking the bags, but those will all go in the other room.” I glanced at Aspen. “I’m assuming the big room is mine?”

“Oh! Yeah.” She frowned but pointed at the last door in this area. “That’s the guest bathroom. I’ll show you your room.”

My room was large, the bathroom extending off from the left side of the room. She went to the right to a closed door. Opening it, she said, “Nate thought this would be a good room for Nova.”

I was seeing that.

There was a crib, a rocking chair, and a changing station already in place. There was a chest of toys in one corner. The other corner was full of stuffed animals with a particularly large ostrich and giraffe almost stretching to the ceiling. There were even bookshelves filled with children’s books against one wall.

I glanced, seeing what I assumed to be a closet as well.

This room had its own little hallway going to the door, but on the other side of the room from where we came in was another door. I didn’t have any idea where that one might lead or what it would open to.

Aspen went to it, a faint smile on her face shadowed by something else. She opened it. “His room attaches to hers as well.”

She stopped just inside his room, not letting me walk around it.

That was fine.

I moved back into Nova’s room, already doing a scan to see if everything was kid-proofed and safe. She said it was, but I needed to see it for myself. The electrical sockets were covered. There were no sharp edges on any of the furniture. Furniture like the bookshelves and dresser were securely strapped to the wall. That was impressive.

“Who was your designer?”

Aspen opened her mouth, then closed it. She didn’t answer.

Okay, then. That wasn’t my business, I guess. As long as everything was fine for Nova.

“Would you like me to start unpacking Nova’s things in here?” Emily asked from behind me.

I heard the slight tremor in her voice, and irritation sparked in me.

I didn’t know why. It wasn’t irritation at her.

It was… at everything. At this situation.

I swallowed a knot, feeling it choking me, and spoke around it anyway. “Yes. That’d be great, Emily.”

“Do you… do you want me to stay the night as well?”

Tonight was an exception for Emily’s normal hours. Then again, nothing about tonight was normal. It was all an exception.

It was the beginning of my new life. And I had no idea how I felt about it.

“No.” I gave her a smile, knowing I couldn’t have done any of this without her. “Thank you for your help, Emily. If you could unpack Nova’s things, and then you could go home after that? Take a day off or maybe a week. I think I’ll need time with just Nova to start getting comfortable here.”

She dipped her head in a nod. “Of course.”

Aspen had fallen silent, moving back as I began to move toward what would be my room.

I had cleared the doorway and moved past her when Emily spoke up. “Quincey?”

I paused, looking back.

“No matter anything, this was the right thing to do.”

My eyes burned, but I gave her another smile. “Thank you.”

She blinked back some tears.

It hit me like a tsunami then.

He did this to her. He did this to me.

He had done this to so many.

It wasn’t right that my father could affect someone hired by us. It wasn’t healthy. It was toxic.

The lump in my throat lessened by a little bit.

“I’m sorry.” Aspen followed me, wringing her hands. “I assumed she was staying here.”

“Where are you and Mr. Kade staying?”

“I’m in the pool house, and Logan’s upstairs. He said he wanted to be in the house for Nate.”

Right. Because they were only here for the moment.

I would be the one staying.

Me. Nate. Nova.

Like how a family should be.

But that was the thing…we weren’t a family.



We were finishing up the bags when Logan said, “Heads-up.” He nodded to the street.

A line of cop cars had turned on the road leading to the house.

“Three.” Logan whistled. “Damn, he must be poker buddies with the chief.”

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