All the inevitable questions. “No. He was for a little bit, but then he just up and left. Haven’t heard another word from him. Which I’m fine with. I don’t need the reminder.” Still, she’d thought Eric had been a different kind of man. But she’d been wrong. And might be again. She twisted her cup, turning it slowly until the handle was perpendicular to the edge of the granite.
“We don’t have to—”
“You have a right to know.” She blew out a small breath, feeling the old regrets tugging at her happiness as images of Eric filled her mind. “I met him the summer before my last year of college.”
“You went to college?” He held a hand up. “Sorry, didn’t mean that like it sounded.”
“No, I get it. Kincaids aren’t known for their academic prowess.” She smiled grimly. “I was determined not to be a typical Kincaid. Anyway, I thought I was in love and, long story short, he wasn’t. He disappeared before Charlie was born.”
“You ever try to track him down? Get support out of him?”
She shook her head. “And risk having to fight him for custody? Or see him happily married with kids and have him reject Charlie all over again? No, thanks. Really, I’d be fine never seeing him again.”
Hank nodded. “What about college?”
“I managed another semester, but it was a hard pregnancy.” She stared into her cup. “I always figured I’d go back and finish that one last semester, but it never happened.”
“Doesn’t mean it still couldn’t.”
She laughed. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
“What did you major in?”
“Business. I thought it would be a ticket out of Kincaid country. Instead, I ended up going to the local beauty school after Charlie was born and staying right where I was.” The weight of her broken dreams weighed heavy on her.
“Maybe I can be that ticket.”
He said it so quietly, she almost wasn’t sure she’d heard it. She looked up. “I didn’t mean to imply—”
“I know.” He took a long, thoughtful pause. “I like you, Ivy. And you’re going to be my wife. I want you to be happy. I want…us to be happy.”
She stared at him, not quite able to process that idea.
He turned back to the griddle and flipped the pancakes. “Why didn’t Charlie come with you?”
Because Clemens knew she would have run. “My father thought it would be easier for us to get to know each other without a kid underfoot.”
“And Charlie’s staying with his grandparents?”
“Mm-hmm.” Staying and being held hostage were two sides of the same coin when you were a Kincaid.
“You want to go get him?”
She froze at the thought of that confrontation. Hank and her father, her son caught in between and the truth being used like a weapon to beat her precious boy down even further. “No.”
Hank slanted his eyes at her. “It was just a suggestion.”
She made herself smile. And breathe normally. “It’s a great one, but I want to make sure this whole thing is going to work out before I introduce him to you.”
That sounded like a weak excuse even to her but she wasn’t sure what else to say. School was out for the summer so she couldn’t use that.
Hank shrugged and went back to plating breakfast. “Whatever you think is best.”
Her shoulders dropped in relief. She slid out of her seat, done with the conversation. “I’ll set the table.”
“Good, because we’re ready to eat.”
She collected silverware, napkins and the syrup. “What time do you have to be at the station?”
“Half an hour.” He brought the plates over. “What are you going to do today?”
She set two places, then grabbed her coffee and sat at one of them. “I hadn’t thought about it.”
“You know how to get back into town.” He put a short stack of pancakes in front of her, then took his spot. “Why don’t you go explore? See the town you’re about to become a resident of. Nocturne Falls is anything but boring.”
“So I’ve heard.” The town was well known amongst supernaturals as the place to live if you wanted the most freedom to be yourself. Celebrating Halloween three hundred and sixty-five days a year made that possible.
“And if you stop by the station at noon, I might be able to break away for lunch.”
She grinned. “Are you making a date with me?”
“You’re the one who agreed to the wooing.” He winked at her as he carved up a forkful of pancake and stuffed it in his mouth.
That she had. “I’m glad you don’t think you’re off the hook for that after last night.”
He swallowed, his seriousness returning along with a hint of gold in his eyes. “If anything, last night showed me that making you happy is a very worthwhile endeavor. One I will be pursuing many, many more times.”
She did her best not to show how light-headed and swoony those words made her, but a little sound of pleasure escaped anyway. She covered with a bite of pancakes. More sounds of pleasure ensued. “These are really good.”
He preened. “I’m not without some skills.”
“Yes, you proved that last night. I just didn’t think you could manage breakfast, too.”
He chuckled and leaned in to kiss her syrup-sticky mouth.