Now it was my turn to look over at her, studying her in silence.
She seemed thoughtful, her eyes looking in the distance.
I had to wonder what thoughts she was mulling over because the air around us shifted, growing more somber.
I almost wanted to apologize, but I couldn’t. It didn’t feel like a bad sort of somberness.
“Everything works out in the end.”
I glanced over again, hearing her light words, and a second later, she smiled to herself.
The topic was dropped after that, and we discussed the rest of our trip. When we got back to their house, Logan and Taylor had arrived, and Taylor came out holding Nova, which I wasn’t surprised.
“Mama!” Nova shouted, struggling to be put down.
Taylor knelt, and Nova ran to me, her legs and arms pumping.
I scooped her up, my heart bursting.
“Mama.” She wound her arms around me, pressing a very wet kiss to my neck and cheek, and the struggling commenced. She had to be put down so she could greet Gagely first and then Samantha. She returned to give me a hug before going back to Taylor.
The three of us went into the house, Gagely leading the way and making a beeline toward wherever I was assuming the guys were.
“Logan was thinking we’d do pizza for dinner?” She nodded to their backyard. “The weather is so nice. He wanted to use your pizza firepit outside.”
“Oh, yeah. That sounds great and delicious.”
“Taylor, you okay with Nova?”
The question was almost moot because my little girl was wrapped around Taylor’s leg.
Taylor laughed. “Always! She’s been going to Maddie, Mason, and me with a trip every now and then to check in with Dad.”
“She’s not shy, that’s for sure.”
I headed to our room, and Nate came in a few minutes later.
“How was the walk?”
I stepped out of the bathroom, yawning. “It was good.” But I frowned. “Sam made a comment about Mason’s contract coming up for negotiations soon.”
He froze. “She did?”
I nodded. “Do you know what that’s about?”
He opened his mouth, blinked a few more times, and shut it. “No. I don’t. I mean… no. I don’t think...I don’t think so.”
Then he saw I was in the process of changing, and his eyes darkened. “Were you going to take a shower?”
I grinned, feeling my heartbeat pick up. “Maybe. Taylor’s watching Nova.”
His answering grin decided for me, then he reached out and locked the door.
I was hustled into the shower the next instant, and it was a good while before we joined the rest.
It was later that night when I rolled toward Nate. “Do you miss living here?”
He threw me a surprised look, but both of us glanced at Nova. She was curled up, clutching her blanket and her penguin, and her soft snores filled the room. She’d been sleeping heavy lately, but Nate got up and turned up the volume on the noise machine just to be safe.
He came back to bed, sliding under the covers, and scooped me up. He pulled me to lay on top of him, and I rested my head on his shoulder, turned toward his face. He glanced at me, his voice coming out in a hushed tone. “Yes.”
My hand spasmed on his chest.
He noted it before looking back at my face. His hand covered mine, lacing our fingers together. He shifted, one of his legs wrapping around mine. “I don’t think that’s the question you’re really asking, though. What’s going on in your head?”
“I need to stay in Seattle.” My heart twisted. “I think I’m going to reach out to Dierek and tell him I’m done with dancing. Matthew talked to me about a dance student in Seattle a while ago. She’s doing graduate work in dance therapy. I might reach out to her and see if that’s something I could do, too.”
“You’d like that?”
I nodded, resting my cheek on his shoulder. “I have a lot to heal from because of my dad. It might be cathartic for me. I don’t want to dance anymore, not in productions. I think I haven’t for a while. I think this is my next step.” I looked up again, remembering why I brought this up in the first place. “I’m sorry.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Why are you apologizing about that? It’s what you need right now.”
I lifted my head up a little. “What?”
“I’ve always known you needed to stay in Seattle.” He gave his head a slight shake. “I mean, I didn’t really think about it until the past couple of months, but it makes sense. I stayed in the beginning because I didn’t want to take Nova away from what and who was familiar to her, but you need to be there for your family.”
“You’re okay with that?”
He nodded. “Of course.” He moved, bringing his free hand to my face and tracing his thumb down the side of my cheek, sending sensations trailing it. Good sensations. Loving sensations. He cupped the side of my face, his thumb moving over my other cheek in a warm caress. “I’ve gone through my shit. When you and Nova came into my life, I was restless. I needed a purpose, or I was looking for more of a purpose. Logan’s got Taylor, Mason has his family, and Matteo is good with his career. My sister’s happy. Things were good, but I wasn’t complete. Not totally.” His eyes pierced mine. “Then you and Nova came, and you guys complete me.”
My heart was skipping all over my chest. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” he whispered, his eyes warming and moving over my face. His thumb went to my mouth, running over my lips in a tender motion. “I love you so much. It’s hard to remember what life was like before you. I was a different person then. I am a different man now, and I personally really like who I am now. That’s because of you and Nova.”
I was melting all over, and my throat was trembling. “I love you, too.”
He nodded, a cocky grin coming over him now. “I know.”
He sobered. “The reason I said that is because this is your time to heal, and you’re just starting. Valerie gave me you. I don’t know the reason she didn’t tell me about Nova. I think we can only speculate, but a part of me feels that everything happened how it was supposed to happen. I’ve always felt that she wanted me to come in and love you how I do, that maybe she knew you were mine from the start. But we’ll never know.”