And I hated it.
Felt fucking exposed every day Quincey wasn’t here, home, next to me.
I raked a hand over my face and sighed, sitting back in my office chair. I’d been trying to get shit organized, and my meetings for the next week dealt with or postponed, but my mind was racing. I felt like I was scrambling, trying to catch up, and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
I didn’t know what all I was even catching up to also. It was like a foreign entity, one that I couldn’t quite grasp or understand, and it kept slipping out of my hands. I was paralyzed with fear, thinking I wouldn’t be able to grab it in time, only to watch it slip away once again.
Fuck if I understood what was going on with me.
A soft knock sounded on my door, and I looked up.
Mason was there. He lifted his head in a nod to me. “Mind if I come in?”
I expelled a ragged breath, my hand falling to my desk, and I nodded at the same time I moved my seat back. “Yeah. Please.” I stood as he came in, shutting the door.
I went over to the liquor cabinet. “Want something?”
“Whatever you’re having.”
I pulled out two glasses and poured brandy into both. Handing him one, I returned back to my desk and wheeled my chair sideways. I wasn’t facing him. I was facing the wall, but I glanced over. It didn’t feel right to sit facing him for some reason. This way was more of a camaraderie feel to it.
Fuck if I understood that, either.
Mason sipped his drink, his eyes narrowing on me. He leaned back in his chair, getting comfortable. “How are you?”
A short laugh burst from me. “You want the real version? The Logan version? Or the PG version?”
“I want the Nate version.”
Right. I just sighed, again. “I feel like I’m trying to paddle somewhere without a paddle, and if I don’t get there, I’m going to lose something so precious that I’ll never get it again. Ever.”
Mason’s eyebrows rose. “I have no clue how to respond to that.”
I shook my head. “Neither do I. I love her, and I don’t think I’ve loved anyone before because I’ve never felt this before. My sister, yes. You guys, yes. I love my parents, but we’re just not close, and that’s cool with me. But, man. Mase. With Nova and Quincey? I’ve never felt this before. They’re everything to me.”
He grunted. “Been there. Am there. I get it.”
“Fuck. Fuck, man.”
He tossed the rest of his brandy back, setting the glass on my desk as he hissed slightly. “Forgot that’s a sipper.”
I grinned, then tossed the rest of my drink down, too.
Sipper. I felt the burn, and today, it felt good.
I stood, grabbing the brandy bottle, and brought it back over. I poured both of us a second glass and leaned back. I held my glass up. “Cheers to falling in love and not knowing a goddamn thing what to do about it.”
Mason laughed but raised his glass up for a cheer.
We both sipped. We both hissed.
I eyed him, setting my glass back down. “It’s been nice having you here for a few days.”
“It was good timing. Sucks for what happened, but worked with my schedule. We’re heading back tomorrow. I need to get back in, but it’s been easier since I can watch the game tapes here.”
We sat in silence for a bit, and it felt right. It always felt right with my family, but Mason especially.
He leaned forward after a minute, setting his glass on the desk. A serious look came over him, and he looked down before looking back up. “Listen.” He sounded serious, too.
I straightened, rotating to face him more fully.
“At the risk of not wanting to jinx anything, I want to thank you for letting Logan and me help you. With Duke. Before.”
Mason glanced away.
It hit me then.
Mason was nervous.
I didn’t think I’d ever seen my best friend nervous.
I was humbled it was because of me.
He looked up.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
He started to grin but went sober again. “All that shit that happened when we were kids, when you came back and just how we all were… You were going through shit, but I wasn’t there for you. I’m sorry.”
I waved it off. “Listen. I was pissed at my parents. They shipped me off, and when you’re in high school, your friends are everything. I’m older, hopefully wiser, and I don’t agree with what my parents did, but it is what it is. When I got close to Aspen again, I worked through a lot of my anger at my mom and dad, letting them have it on a daily for a long while. The way I see it, parents are parents. You get what you get, and at some point, you have to accept who they are. But back then, I was angry and shut down. I was messed up, and then losing Owen put me in a whole other tailspin. I didn’t reach out, and you did come to me a few times. I shut you down, and that’s on me. It all worked out how it was supposed to work out. You love me. I know this. I love you. You know this. Same with every person in our group. It’s done, but you coming out and saying that? I appreciate it. Deep. I love you.”
He nodded, his eyes shining a bit. Seeing Mason like that was another first for me.
It humbled me because damn. Mason liked his kids, his wife, his brother, myself, and Channing, and that was about it. He had a fondness for a few others, and he tolerated everyone else, but even he had mellowed over the years. We were all just growing up.
I hoped that I’d still be growing up when I was in my eighties.
“So.” He picked up his glass, lounging back again. “You love her, huh?”
“Yeah. I love her.”
“Have you told her that?”
I shot him a look. So Mason. So wise. A dumbass, just like Logan at times.
He smiled back.
I rolled my eyes. “I will.”
“I have learned that the longer you take to say the important shit, the harder it gets to say.”
I seriously loved my family, but yeah.
I needed to tell Quincey.
I made a call.
They were letting me go home today. I was cleared to resume my daily life, and I was hella missing Nova and Nate. Not that I hadn’t seen them. Nate brought Nova to see me the second day, and she had crawled all over me, playing with a new stuffed dragon that she got from Auntie Aspen. She named him Doug, and Nate said that now Miss Penguin and Doug were the new fixtures in Nova’s arms.