Home > Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(11)

Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(11)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“But he was there. Sam treated me like I was fragile, the finest crystal. But Hap spoke openly of Travis. In his way, guiding my way to carry on, understanding that wound would never heal, but doing it anyway. He was just firmer about it. Not pushy or unkind, but making it clear Travis lived, and was loved, and now he is no longer living, if he is no less loved, but the rest of us are living so we must keep going.”

“I think I might like this guy,” Pearl mumbled.

“He’s likable. You especially, Pearl, would love him. He’d go tit for tat with you, shock you silly with his language and pretty much everything he says. He’s affable, but so impertinent, but it doesn’t hide the sweet or the sincerity. You couldn’t help but adore him.”

Pearl had kind eyes on her when she was done. “I’m beginning to understand your dilemma.”

Even if Luci was no longer hungry, she picked up her fork.

“And he was also firm he thought this was a mistake?” Henry asked carefully.

Luci shoved her fork into the rice. “Yes.” She didn’t lift the bite, just her head to look at Henry. “It’s this code you mentioned. It’s like they held a ceremony and vowed, should something like this happen, the others would take care of the wife left behind, but hands off. And those men take vows like the most devout of priests. There is no shaking it.”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” Henry murmured.

That meant she was right.

Which meant her insides deflated and this was not a good feeling.

Luci looked back to her risotto. “I am too.”

“Escape to New York was a good plan to hatch,” Pearl put in. “But I fear you’re just going to have to find more strength, yekirati, once you get home so you can ride this out. And ride it out you will, my girl.”

That was what Luci feared too.

Except Hap was taking himself away, not only from Luci, but Sam and Kia, who adored him.

They were like a family, their own mismatched family, but there was still love.

So much love.

This meant Pearl was right.

She just had to find more strength.

But it had taken everything out of her to find her way back to life when it felt like she lost hers as sure as Travis’s had leaked out of him.

She had, and she realized she was ready for life again, and love, watching Sam and Kia find all they had and knowing she wanted that for herself again one day.

Even so, she didn’t know if she could dig into a well that felt so very empty to find more.

The problem was, she had no choice.

“You’ll get there, hon,” Pearl murmured reassuringly, reaching out to pat Luci’s thigh.

“I will,” Luci replied, but the way the words came out, she didn’t even believe herself.

“Darling,” Henry called.

Luci looked to him.

“You will,” he whispered. “It doesn’t feel like it, but you will.”

Luci tipped her head to the side, and curiously, not callously, asked, “Do you think you’ll get over Josephine?”

“In this very moment, even if some time has already passed, no.” He smiled a soft smile at her. “But I still will. The right woman. The right place. The right time. The stars will align and I’ll find someone to make me happy. And you will too, Luciana. You’ll again be very, very happy. Perhaps not with this man. Hell, perhaps not with any man. But you have too much light in you for it to stay dimmed for too long. So something will come along to make you happy. And if it’s something or if it’s someone, or if it’s both, then that will make me happy.”

“It goes without saying, me too,” Pearl chimed in.

“You both are such loves, amori della mia vita,” Luci murmured, feeling her throat get itchy and thick.

“Yes, as are you. We’re also done with this conversation and we’re further done with depressing things,” Pearl decreed. “Now, I have a photo shoot tomorrow but fortunately it’s with the most talented photographer on the planet. It’s your job, motek, to make me fabulous,” Pearl said to Henry. “And I’m sorry, but I’m going to challenge you seeing as tonight we’re living it up, getting very drunk, staying out very late, and making memories that will last a lifetime.”

“I’m in for that,” Henry agreed.

“Luci?” Pearl prompted.

Luci stared at the white truffle risotto she had not taken a bite of but knew it would be amazing. It was also frighteningly expensive (even for her).

Travis wouldn’t blink at paying the bill after she’d ordered it, she’d feed him some from her fork and he’d love it.

Hap would give her no end of grief for ordering it, probably turn his nose up at it, but she suspected he’d try it anyway . . .

And also, probably, he wouldn’t blink at paying the bill after she’d ordered it.

But neither of them was there right now.

She was there.

Pearl was there.

Henry was there.

They were living. Breathing.

And it was time she started living and not just breathing.

She finally lifted her fork and suggested, “Monkey Bar after this.”

Henry smiled.

Pearl hooted.

Luci took her bite.

And it was amazing.

Sterling Idea

Hap

HAP SAT IN his truck with his phone in his hand, but his eyes were trained to the back door of Skippy’s Crab Shack.

If I thought it was worth my time, instead of a waste of it, to tell you a story that would get your head out of your ass, I’d do it. Since it’ll be a waste of it, I won’t. But you’re a damn fool, George Cunningham.

Hap wanted to know Skip’s story. This was why he was sitting like a thief casing the joint in a lane down the road from the parking lot at the front of Skip’s place, a lane only used for deliveries and by Skip’s employees.

He looked at his phone and saw it had gone dark since the last time he’d looked at it a minute ago.

He engaged it and what he’d left there came right up.

She’s home. Take some time. Go to her. Make things good again.

The text was from Sam.

Luciana was home.

Hap drew in a breath through his nose and looked back at Skip’s place.

But you’re a damn fool, George Cunningham.

He had been, returning Luci’s kiss like that.

Now he was again, avoiding her and making his fuckup even worse.

He tossed his phone to the seat beside him, turned on his truck and reversed out of the lane, onto the road.

He put it in drive, and for the first time since it had all gone down, he headed straight to Luci’s.

It was Saturday. The sun was shining. There was a chill in the air. It was November. It was only going to get worse, then it was going to get better again.

Hap was the kind of guy who would retire in Florida or Phoenix in an effort to avoid even a chill. Probably Phoenix. He figured he could deal with the dust and temps that could fry an egg on the sidewalk not to have to put up with humidity.

But that time was not close, so he had the time to make the decision.

On the turn to the beachfront road, instead of going left, toward Sam and Kia’s, he went right, toward Luci’s.

He felt his chest tighten as her house came into view.

She’d lived on this road, just a ways farther down it, when Gordo had been alive and awhile after. It was only a few months ago when she’d sold the bigger house, a house they were going to fill with children after they had their alone time together.

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