Home > Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(3)

Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(3)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“You need more plant-based foods in your system,” Vi said to their son.

He grinned at his mom. “Potatoes are plants.”

“You need more plant-based foods that aren’t immersed in boiling fat before they’re consumed,” she amended.

Sam kept grinning then got serious. “Me and Ben are jerks.”

That was his oldest boy. Right in front of Ryker.

He could be a pain in the ass.

But he was a straight up good kid who had guts and integrity and loved his mom.

“No you aren’t,” Vi replied quietly. “You’re a boy. But boys become men and we gotta cut out the jerk tendencies before they take root.”

His grin came back.

But it grew unsure when he turned it to his dad.

Cal dipped his chin at his boy.

The uncertainty vanished and Sam’s smile again grew bright.

That was all it took. Sam was in no doubt he had his father’s love because Cal made sure that was the case. And he loved his old man. They’d had times like these, they’d have more.

But in the end it would always be all good.

“Rooms. Trash. Homework,” Cal said again, and Sam took off.

Ben went to his mother and gave her a squeeze around her middle. Shooting up fast, the kid might be taller than Cal when it was all said and done.

The hug was his apology. Ben wasn’t a fast talker or a smooth one. He was an actions-speak-louder-than-words kid.

Like his dad.

Vi in turn gave her son a hug like all the hugs she gave her children.

For moments through it, it wasn’t a given she’d ever let go.

Then she did.

And when she did, Ben switched to his dad.

Cal suspected he gave his kids the same kind of hugs his wife did.

After he did that and Ben took off, Cal reclaimed Vi as she looked to Ryker. “You want a drink?”

“Nope. Need to chat. On the deck,” Ryker answered.

Then, not being asked, he stalked through the room, the den and out the back door to the deck.

Cal looked down at his wife. Vi looked up at him.

Then he turned them around and they followed Ryker, still connected.

They stayed connected as Cal slid the door shut behind them and they faced their friend.

“What’s up?” Cal asked.

But Ryker was looking at Vi.

“What color roses say, ‘I’m shy but I wanna fuck you, but not just fuck you, I think I like you’?”

Cal stared at Ryker.

He knew when she didn’t answer that Violet was doing the same thing.

“Well?” Ryker pushed. “Purple?” he said, like he hoped that was the answer.

Ryker and roses and the color purple did not compute.

What the fuck was going on?

“Ryker—” Cal started.

Ryker spoke over him, still to Vi. “You know flowers and shit, lay it on me.”

She did know flowers “and shit.” When Ben went into kindergarten, they got serious about her landscaping business. Now she designed and installed yards in the ’Burg, Danville, Plainfield, Zionsville, Avon. She even had some clients in Indy.

“I’m not sure there’s a color that says all that, Ryker,” Vi answered.

Ryker’s face got hard, which didn’t mean he was pissed, just disappointed.

Vi read it. “But orange, peach or coral usually mean desire or fascination.”

“Not purple?” he asked.

“Sorry, no.”

Cal pressed his lips together when he heard through his wife’s words she was also suppressing laughter.

At this point, Cal cut into the conversation. “What’s this about?”

Ryker looked to him. “I’ll get to you in a minute.”

The man looked back to Violet, and Cal didn’t take offense to the brush off. If you took offense to Ryker’s ways, you’d either be in prison for murdering him or not have him in your life in another way, as in, cutting him out for being a jackass most of the time.

The man was a prickly character, but he was good people.

Ryker started with, “So, you know, not to be insensitive and shit, but time has passed, you got your happy ending, so I figure you’re all good.”

This made Cal tense but Vi giving his waist a squeeze made him cool it as Ryker went on.

“What did it for you with Cal? Was it him rescuing himself from his own kidnapping? Saving you from yours? Or killing a guy for you?”

“What’s this about?” Cal repeated on a growl, no squeeze from Vi making him cool with this line of questioning.

“It’s okay, Joe,” Vi said softly.

“It fuckin’ is not,” Cal returned, his attention not leaving Ryker.

Ryker looked to Cal and he did it appearing impatient, like Cal butting in was wasting time he did not have.

“I know this dude, yeah?” he stated. “Good guy. Fuckin’ skilled at pool. I bought Lissa some fancy-ass blender and food processor with a killing we made on a game against a couple of tools. He’s solid. And the bro is good-lookin’. I mean, he’s so good-lookin’, I can say that shit without feelin’ my dick shrink. You feel me?”

Cal did not confirm he felt him.

He urged, “Keep going.”

Ryker kept going.

“But the fucker is shy. I don’t get it, but he just is. He likes this girl. Good girl. Pretty. Nice. But he’s like, terrified of her or something. I could tell she was interested at first but he didn’t make a move, so Lissa says this chick reckons he’s not into her so she moved on. He’s bummed.”

Ryker stopped speaking.

Cal still didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about.

“And?” Cal prompted.

“And, so, you know, shit has calmed down. No one has been kidnapped or got involved with the mob or anything for a while but it’s not like you don’t remember shit like that. So, I was thinkin’ how he could get this girl’s attention and I thought, fake kidnap her, he could save her, she’d be happy he did, like real happy, if you know what I mean, and then he could give her some roses to seal the deal.”

Cal and Vi were both totally silent.

“Just gotta make sure he doesn’t have to do anything extreme, like shoot the motherfucker, since the motherfucker will be me, you know, wearin’ a ski mask so she doesn’t know it’s me,” Ryker finished.

Cal and Vi remained silent.

Ryker focused on Vi. “So, gotta know, would it have been all good if Cal just rescued you or does this shit have to be whole hog, ’cause I’m gonna have to come up with another scenario seein’ as I like this dude, but I’m not feelin’ bein’ shot so he can get laid.”

“You’re going to kidnap a woman so some guy can get her attention?” Cal asked, and Ryker looked to him.

“Yeah,” he answered, like he’d done that yesterday, and the day before, and was totally down with doing it tomorrow.

“And you can say that shit with a straight face, not realizing you sound like a lunatic,” Cal noted.

Vi swallowed a giggle.

Ryker’s face got hard in a different way and he jerked his head toward Violet. “Seemed to work for you, motherfucker.”

“We were living together before we both got kidnapped, Ryker,” Cal pointed out.

“You were?” Ryker asked.

“Yeah,” Cal answered.

“Shit, I wasn’t around for your gig,” Ryker muttered.

“You do know that’s not the lunatic part of your plan, right?” Cal queried.

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