Austin stepped out of the way as Axel measured the cabinets and countertops in the B&B while Kade wrote up the estimate. “Thanks guys. This really could’ve waited until after the festival. I want to get the work done, but it’s not an emergency.”
“No problem. We had the time.” Kade said.
“Plus, it was this or get dragged into working at that kid’s camp.” Axel smiled as the measuring tape retracted with a snap.
Austin had heard the guys talking about the program that their teens were running last night at the BBQ. He wondered if that’s where Sara and the kids were. By the time he got out of the shower, they’d already left the B&B.
“Okay, let me write up a few ideas and a cost breakdown. It’s going to be within a thousand or so of the price we discussed. Then, if you want to move forward, we’ll schedule the reno.”
“Actually, why don’t you run with this? I trust you. As long as it’s in the financial range we talked about, then I’m good.”
“Alright.” Kade nodded.
They moved to the back door and found Brynn walking up the back steps.
“Just the man I was looking for!” Her face lit up when she saw Axel.
He wrapped an arm around her waist and gave her a NSFW kiss.
Kade and Austin both diverted their eyes.
When they finally broke away, Brynn patted Axel’s shoulder, “I’m glad you’re in a good mood because I need you to come help with the kids.”
Axel’s head dropped and Kade chuckled.
“You, too, chuckles.” Brynn pointed at Kade. “Ali said that she can hold things down at the rental shop and I can have you until five.” Brynn smiled gleefully.
“My wife volunteered me without running it by me?” Kade asked flatly.
“Sounds about right.” Kade grinned, obviously not upset.
She looked his way and Austin’s heart jumped at the thought that she was going to ask him to come too, since he was ninety percent sure that’s where Sara was.
“You’re safe. Mrs. D already claimed you.”
“So Sara and the kids are staying here, right?” Brynn asked as the guys were putting their tools in their trucks.
“Yep.” He wasn’t sure where this train was headed, but he hoped it was a short trip. He’d always liked Brynn, but she was a psychologist and the last thing he needed was to get stuck on the interrogation tracks with Brynn barreling full-steam ahead on a subject about which he was beyond clueless.
“And you two just met yesterday?”
“Yep,” he repeated, confirming yet another topic he was sure had been covered the night before.
“Wow. That’s crazy.” Brynn shook her head. “You guys seem like…well, not like you just met yesterday. You’re so…I don’t know…in sync.”
“I better be Timberlake.”
“Yep, you’re totally Justin.” She chuckled. “Did Sara come back for lunch, I wanted to ask her something and I’m scared I’ll forget when I get back there.”
“I haven’t seen her.”
Austin hadn’t seen her since she’d looked at him like he was what she wanted for breakfast. He’d had to make a quick exit so his running shorts didn’t advertise just how much her hungry stare had affected him. One look. That was all it had taken for his body to forget they were in a room full of people.
“Oh, okay. Well, in case I forget to ask her, we’re all going out to the tracks tomorrow night and I wanted to see if she wanted to come. You too, of course.”
“I feel like that was a pity invite.”
“It was.” Brynn nodded somberly. “I pity you.”
Austin smiled. “I’ll let her know if I see her.”
At this point, Austin wasn’t even sure if he wanted to see her. No, scratch that, he knew for damn sure he wanted to see her, but he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. The connection, or chemistry, or whatever was going on between them was strong. Too strong. He wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to stop himself from acting on it.
Sara’s life was the definition of complicated without him adding to it. Her plate was full. Actually, she didn’t even have her own plate. She ate her kids’ leftovers. When Austin had heard that, it bothered him. It was just one more piece of evidence that there was no one taking care of her. And it was killing him how much he wanted to be the man for the job.
“Tomorrow night. Seven o’clock.” Brynn said pointedly as Axel opened the passenger door of his truck for her.
There was no way he was going to agree to anything without even talking to Sara. “If I see Sara, I’ll ask.”
“Okie dokie.” Brynn smiled.
A phone buzzed, and Austin knew immediately who the caller was. Kade’s entire face lit up like a neon billboard in Times Square the second he looked down at the device. He lifted the phone to his ear as he climbed in his truck. “So you think you can just volunteer me for things?”
Austin watched as his friends drove away. All looking deliriously happy.
Austin tried to remember if he’d ever really been happy with Brielle. He’d been attracted to her. And they’d gotten along. She was sweet and funny.
He’d met her a couple of months after he’d lost his grandparents. At first, he had missed her when he was deployed, which was more than he could say for the handful of other relationships he’d had. When she’d told him she wanted to get married, he’d agreed. At the time, he’d wanted to make her happy, and she’d been good to him. Loyal. Or so he’d thought.
It was still mind-boggling to him that he’d been so blind to the fact his fiancée had been having an affair with his best friend over the last two years of their relationship. Whenever he was home, the three of them hung out, and Austin never noticed anything. No looks. No weird vibes.
Walking back through the kitchen, Austin scrubbed his hands over his face in frustration as a thought he didn’t want to admit hit him.
Maybe he had noticed, but on some level he didn’t want to admit it. That would explain why he hadn’t, not even for a second, been surprised when he’d found out about the affair, the baby, and who the father of the baby was. He’d just felt…nothing. He’d been totally numb.
Ironically, Austin’s plan had been to surprise Brielle by not telling her he was coming home…to stay, but when he’d walked into their house and seen she was visibly pregnant the surprise had been on him. He’d been shocked.1yyy9
The main reason he’d stayed in Wishing Well as long as he had was because he was avoiding facing the reality of a world without his grandparents in it. But he’d definitely used the time there to decompress and figure out why his reaction to his personal life blowing up had been so robotic. He’d waited to feel something. Anything. He’d been happy to see and spend time with his family, but he’d felt no strong emotion about anything else.
After months, Austin had self-diagnosed his inability to feel or connect with the situation as a result of war changing people. He’d seen and done things that were life-altering. Things that no matter how much he wanted to, he couldn’t unsee. Actions that no matter how he wished he could, he couldn’t take back. Up until he’d arrived in Whisper Lake, he’d been convinced his emotional state was a consequence of those life experiences. That a part of him had been damaged. He’d resigned himself to live his life in a Pleasantville kind of existence, where the world was black and white. Where his range of emotions went from four to six. No lows, no highs.
Austin froze as he stepped into his room and realized the second he’d seen Sara, his entire world had exploded into color again. Bright, vibrant color. She brought a part of him that he’d thought was dead back to life again. She’d made him feel again.
Protective. Passionate. Possessive. Emotions he’d truly believed he’d lost the ability to experience, she’d inspired.
Now the real question was what in the hell was he going to do about it?