He got up swiftly, helping me back on my feet.
The ride back was silent. I texted Sailor that we were on our way and asked her to have a first-aid kit ready. When we got back, Sailor was waiting for us outside with water bottles and a medi-kit. Cillian ignored her, dismounting Franklin and putting me down back on the ground gently.
“You look like shit.” Sailor eyed my husband.
“You aren’t exactly my type, either,” Kill drawled dryly, placing me in front of her like a piece of furniture. “Make yourself useful and draw her a bath. Don’t let her out of your sight. She’s easy to forget and hard to keep alive.”
He got back on the horse, riding away without sparing either of us a glance.
Sailor directed her green eyes at me, biting back a smile.
“Nothing about this situation is funny.” I dropped onto a nearby rocker, flinging an arm over my eyes with a sigh.
“Oh.” She sat on the arm of the rocker, rubbing my arm. “But of course it is.”
“Please enlighten me.”
“You made your husband shit bricks, dude.” Sailor slid into my lap, pulling me into a crushing hug, giggling uncontrollably. “You should’ve seen the asshole when I told him you guys went riding. He looked ready to smash some skulls. Someone’s got it bad for you. Kill and Persy are sitting in a tree. F-U-C-K-I-N-G.”
She was wrong.
Kill didn’t want me.
He wanted what I could give him.
I laughed, letting the sting of the truth roll off my shoulders.
I tilted my head up to the sky, praying to find Auntie Tilda.
It was full of clouds.
Two hours later, Belle, Aisling, Devon, and Sam were back.
My friends hurried to my room, gushing about my banged-up husband (“Cowboy Cunt-sa-nova,” as Belle referred to him). How he found his horse on the top of the mountain and rode it back to the ranch.
“Let me tell you, I think cowboys are libido repellents, but somehow, watching Kill riding an unruly stallion changed my mind.” Belle fell onto my bed, sighing.
I elbowed my sister. “Watch it. It’s my husband you’re talking about.”
Ash rolled her eyes, plopping onto the mattress beside us. “Don’t worry, Belle is too busy trying to figure out how to drag Devon Whitehall into her bed to think about your husband.”
We group-hugged, me squeezed in the middle. I turned to my sister, popping my eyebrows.
“Oh, yeah? I don’t think you’ll need to sweat it. The man was all over you like a rash.”
“He’s such a delicious flirt,” Belle groaned, throwing her head down on my pillow.
“What about you and Sam?” I turned to Ash. “Any progress?”
“If it’s not going to happen this year, it’s not going to happen at all.” Ash smiled sadly.
I rubbed her arm. “I’m sorry.”
The dinner before we drove home was delightful. It consisted of bacon-potato corn chowder, fried chicken, and cornbread, all cooked from scratch by Sailor. For dessert, she served rhubarb tart and a peach cobbler.
“Anyone else wants to complain about how I invited the girls over?” Hunter wiggled his brows behind his coffee cup. He had three servings of the cobbler alone and shoved enough food down his throat to last a week.
“How’d you learn to cook and bake like that?” Devon sucked on a teaspoon, regarding Sailor with newfound respect.
“Our mom is one of the best cooks and bakers in the world.”
Sailor put her hand on Sam’s forearm.
“The best,” Sam corrected.
I sat next to Cillian, smiling and nodding. We both stared at our friends as they drifted in and out of easy conversation, first talking about the Brennans’ many restaurants, then about sports, and the disastrous stormy weather that still tore into Boston with its sharp talons.
I knew I had to put my big girl pants on and thank my husband properly, not just for today, but for everything else he’d done for me. I was walking the tightrope between wanting to ignore his existence and restore my wounded ego, and taking a metaphoric hammer to his walls, demolishing them one by one.
“Thanks, by the way,” I said under my breath, squeezing his hand under the table.
He slipped his hand away from mine. My heart bled.
This is going nowhere, and you are letting him lead the way, blindfolded.
“Taking care of Byrne. Paying my debt. Getting me a divorce. Saving me from Hamilton’s wrath. I never said thank you, and I should have.”
“It’s a part of our agreement.”
“You taking care of me or avoiding me?”
I opened my mouth to tell him something. I wasn’t even sure what, when Hunter threw a poker chip in our direction, hitting my husband’s shoulder.
“Mo òrga, are you in or are you out?”
“In.” Kill drew a cigar from a box, clipping its cap before lighting it up.
Hunter began shuffling. “And the missus?”
“She’s out,” he answered on my behalf.
“Holy shit.” Belle checked her phone. “Look at the time. It’s the twenty-first century. That means women can do whatever the hell they like without asking their husbands.”
Devon grinned, watching my sister with open admiration.
“You needed the phone to check what century you’re in?” My husband puffed on his cigar calmly. “I think it’s time to lay off the mimosas, sweetheart.”
“My sister is going to play.” Belle stubbed the table with her finger, breathing fire.
“Wanna bet? We’re already in a gambling mood.”
Cillian was arranging his chips neatly, not even sparing her a look.
I didn’t even know how to play poker, so they were both being stubbornly dumb.
“I swear to God, Kill—”
“Drop it.” My husband raised his gaze from his chips. “Her ex lost her entire worldly possessions in poker. Think she wants to relive that, Einstein?”
Silence fell over us.
He gathered the cards Hunter dealt for him with a shake of his head.
“Yeah. Thought so.”
“If I were her, I’d play just to spite you,” my sister persisted, the fire absent from her voice now. Everyone at the table played other than Ash and me.