“Probably,” she said gravely, still smirking. “I’m glad you had fun. Just take care of your heart, okay? It took everything I had not to hunt Brandon down and shank him after we lost Tricia. I’m not sure I’d be able to hold back twice.”
“No worries. This isn’t anything real, believe me. But it’s been a crappy year, so why shouldn’t I have fun?”
“When you put it like that, I can’t think of a damned reason,” she admitted. “Go, Tinker!”
Without Randi I wasn’t nearly as productive as I needed to be. Fortunately I had a bit of an out—my dad had an appointment later in the week in Seattle, so I’d be driving him over on Thursday. That’d let me take care of the deliveries on my own.
By five fifteen, I’d finished shutting everything down at the shop, wanting to get home in time to primp a bit before my date started. I was just climbing into the convertible I really needed to sell at some point when I realized that I didn’t have anyone to stay with Dad for the night. I’d been planning on asking Randi, and had forgotten about it when she left. Crap.
I couldn’t go out on a date—I had to stay home and babysit my father.
“This sucks,” I muttered as I pulled up to the house, because it did. I might not be under any illusions that Gage was the man of my dreams but that didn’t matter. The idea of a no-strings fling had been growing on me all day, and I’d actually been excited to see him again (what can I say—sometimes hormones conquer common sense). Walking into the house, I was so busy feeling sorry for myself that I didn’t notice Dad and Mrs. Webbly in the dining room at first. She was laughing and they had music playing. Country, of course. They also had what looked to be a fairly intense round of poker going, based on the carefully arranged piles of chips on the table.
Place looked like a casino.
“You have a good day?” I asked Dad, kissing the top of his head.
“Mary and I had a great time together,” he told me. “It’s been nice.”
“Glad to hear it,” I said, glancing toward Mrs. Webbly, who offered me a sweet smile.
“We’ve had a lovely day,” she agreed. “We used to play cards like this a lot, actually. While you were living in Seattle. When your mom passed, we just sort of . . . stopped. Felt good to play again.”
“We talked about her a lot,” Dad said, smiling fondly. “She always used to cheat.”
Mrs. Webbly laughed. “Lord, didn’t she? She knew we were on to her, too. She had to know.”
“Oh, she knew,” he agreed. “Plausible deniability. So long as nobody called her on it, we could all keep having our fun.”
They both started laughing again, and I thought about all the hundreds of times we’d sat around this exact table playing cards while I was growing up. The memories were bittersweet, but for the first time they didn’t hurt. I missed my mom and I always would, but maybe I was starting to heal.
I hoped so.
“I’ll be right back,” I told them, heading toward the kitchen. Along the way I pulled out my phone, sending Gage a quick text.
ME: I can’t go out tonight. I know it sounds stupid, but I forgot that I needed someone to watch over my dad.
He responded immediately.
GAGE: Mary Webbly will stay with him. We already talked. She likes the idea of you getting out
Um . . . That was a little presumptuous. I couldn’t decide how I felt about his making arrangements like that. It’d been thoughtful, but pushy, too.
ME: Okay . . . Next time check with me first, okay?
GAGE: Sure. Glad to hear you’re planning a next time.
“No need for language like that,” Mrs. Webbly said, coming up behind me.
“Sorry, didn’t realize I said that out loud,” I told her, feeling as sheepish as if my own grandmother had caught me out. She grinned at me, then held up a glass tumbler, giving it a little shake. Ice cubes rattled inside.
“Need more whiskey,” she said. “Your dad had some, too, but not much. He’ll fall asleep early, then I’ll go home. Unless he’s been wandering during the night?”
“No, he hasn’t,” I said. “Once he’s out for the evening, he’s out.”
“Some things never change,” she said, nodding sagely. “Your mother used to complain about that—how he’d snore like a train and sleep so soundly she couldn’t wake him up no matter how bad it got.”
“Thanks for helping us,” I said, feeling suddenly awkward. “I know this isn’t your responsibility.”
“Bullshit. I’ve lived here since before you were born. If that doesn’t make me family, I don’t know what does. I care enough that I want to keep an eye on him for my own peace of mind. When do you see that specialist again?”
“Good. Be sure and tell the doctor that while he’s had trouble keeping up with the building for the last couple years, this mental stuff didn’t really start until Tricia died. It was sudden.”
I cocked my head at her, surprised. “I’d assumed I hadn’t noticed because I was so caught up with my life in Seattle.”
Mrs. Webbly shook her head.
“If that’s the case, I never saw it,” she said firmly.
“Okay, I’ll make sure I mention it.”
“And have fun with your young man,” she added. “I like him. I know he wasn’t straight up with us at the start, but he had good reasons. I’ve lived in Hallies Falls my entire life—nearly seventy years. I’ve seen the Nighthawks rise and then I saw them change. Might not agree with his methods, but it’s good that he came here, Tinker. I’m certain of that.”
Okay . . .
“I’m going upstairs now,” I said firmly, deciding this was enough. At this rate she’d start giving me sex tips next.
“Just be safe,” she replied. “You be sure to use—”
“No. Just . . . No.”
Her laughter rang out as I ran for the door.
Sometimes retreat is the only option.
• • •
I’ve never been a motorcycle kind of girl, but the sight of Gage pulling up to the curb on his Harley . . . well, let’s just say we hadn’t even officially started the date and my panties already needed a change. This was dangerous, I realized. He was dangerous, and not just because he was part of a motorcycle club. I’d been lusting after him from the minute I first saw him. In some ways, it was the first real thing I’d felt since I’d lost my mom. The first positive thing, at least.