Home > Songs and Sweethearts (Untouchable #10)(3)

Songs and Sweethearts (Untouchable #10)(3)
Author: Heather Long

He nodded firmly. “I’m sorry you don’t have a mom anymore. We decided you can share ours.”

Heat flash-flamed against the back of my eyes.

“But Mom said to not tell her that today,” Chloe snapped into the middle of our conversation. She wrapped an arm around my neck. “She’s sad, remember?”

Alec huffed out a little sigh, then fixed Chloe with a look. “Craig is going to open more car doors than you.”

She stomped her foot, stuck her tongue out at him, then took off as I rose to my feet. The guys were right there, no way they could have missed any of the interaction. Jake’s faint snicker promised as much.

Wearing a bland look, Alec peered up at me and then at the guys. “More boyfriends.”

“Yep,” I said.

“Don’t worry, little man,” Coop told him with a clap on the shoulder. “I already passed on the warning to the rest of them. Jake and I will totally back you up.”

“Huh,” Alec said as he glanced from one to the other, then to my great amusement, he eyed Ian. “You’re quiet.”

“I have zero intention of ever hurting your sister again. So you can focus on those two. They’ll happily beat each other up for you.”

That earned him a middle finger from Coop—which also caused his mother to snap “Cooper” and he groaned—even as Jake laughed. It was absolutely ridiculous. And wonderful.

“I like them,” Alec told me.

“Me too.”

“We should go up,” Hank said almost gently, as he put a hand to the small of my back. We'd slowed down arrivals by just standing there so I nodded, and with Hank on one side and Alec on the other, let them guide me up the steps to where Kelly waited. She wore a kind, patient smile. Hank greeted her with a quick, easy kiss. One she returned as she feathered her hand to his cheek before she glanced at me.

“I really want to give you a hug,” she told me and before she’d even finished the statement, she cut Hank a look. “I said I wouldn’t just grab her and hug her as hard as I think she needs or deserves, I didn’t say I wouldn’t tell her.”

As reluctant as the chuckle was that escaped, it was still a chuckle. “I wouldn’t say I’m wholly opposed to a hug.”

Any other time this might seem weird, but talking to the woman who was ostensibly my stepmother on the steps to the hotel we were using to host everyone who’d come up for my mother’s funeral and agreeing that I wasn’t opposed to a hug from the former—well, it really just didn’t register on the scale of weird in my life.

“Then brace yourself,” she gave me the warmest of smiles with that warning and then descended one step, so she didn’t quite tower over me, before she wrapped me up in a hug. These were the kinds of hugs that Sara, Alicia, and Carly gave. The kind of hugs that just wrapped you up tight and seemed to make a promise even as they hid you away.

“Oh, me too!” Chloe shouted somewhere behind me, and I barely had time to brace before an energetic young body clasped onto my hug with her mom. I loosened my hold on Kelly, a bit surprised I’d returned the hug with all the fierceness she’d offered it and then we glanced down to include Chloe too. “Group hugs are the best,” she told me and I smiled.

“I agree.” They really were.

More cars pulled up and I touched my finger to my right eye behind my sunglasses to ease away the tear before it messed with Rachel’s cosmetics job. There were more car doors closing. Ian stood a couple of steps up, waiting for me. Jake and Coop were talking to Coop’s mom and Trina. Jake broke away to jog down the steps when a car pulled up with his dad and Klara.

That surprised me even more than all the other families coming in. His dad had been in physical therapy after the wreck, there was still something wrong with his knee. He’d been scheduled for a surgery the last time we’d spoken to him and in the chaos, I’d kind of forgotten about it.

“Stop it,” Hank said gently and I blinked before glancing at him. Kelly and the kids had gone on up when I’d gotten distracted, but he stood right next to me.

“Stop what?”

“That little downturn your mouth takes when you’re thinking something bad about yourself,” he commented. “My mother used to do that. Stop it.”

I rolled my eyes. “I wasn’t thinking something bad about myself. “

“Uh huh,” Hank said. “Well, when you’re ready to go inside…”

He trailed off because the car pulling up next held my grandparents. In all honesty, I’d had very little to say to either of them. Though less to her than to him. My grandfather just seemed—broken. My grandmother kept insisting she could explain, but honestly—I didn’t care what her explanation was. Someday, maybe I would care? Right now? Nope.

Grandpa Ted emerged from the car with them. He’d taken charge of both through all of this, and I couldn’t thank him enough. In a way, he didn’t need my thanks or encouragement—they were old friends of his after all. At the same time, they blamed Edward for Maddy’s death. The only person to blame for Maddy’s death was Maddy.

The last thing I wanted right now was another argument. The lunch reception was more to make sure everyone who came got a chance to eat. “I’ll be in in a sec,” I told Hank. “I need a minute.”

Turning away from the cars and him, I headed for the walkway that would take me around the hotel. I didn’t even have to look to know Ian had fallen into step with me. They were all keeping one eye on me and when I reached out a hand, he tangled our fingers together easily.

No questions. No platitudes. No urgency. I just followed the walkway around the hotel toward the back, where they had a huge patio area and a closed off swimming pool. The hotel boasted two, an indoor heated one and an outdoor one that was far too cold to be open in April.

At the end of the walkway where it dead-ended into grass, I closed my eyes and tilted my head back. The building provided heavy shade, so the air was actually cooler here. Cool enough I shivered. Ian tugged off and draped his jacket over my shoulders and then wrapped his arms around me, and I leaned back into the hug.

“We can just go up,” he reminded me quietly. “No one expects you to be a hostess.”

I tried to smile, but it wouldn’t come this time. “I need to see everyone who came. They came for me and that means something.”

“I know, Angel.” The hint of exasperation in his voice did what the soft reminder hadn’t, it relaxed some of the tension coiling through my insides. I swore my skin pulled too tight everywhere.

“This is so weird.”

“I know,” he repeated, only this time he punctuated it with a kiss. “What do you need right now?”

“I wish I —”

His phone buzzed against me. The only reason I noticed really was it was in the inner pocket of his suit jacket. Tucking the purse under my arm I dipped my fingers into the pocket to pull out his phone.

The name on the front was Aaron Garson. He was the producer at Roll City Records. Instead of taking the call, however, Ian clicked the side to decline and sent the call straight to voicemail. “Let me turn this off. I thought I had it on Do Not Disturb.”

“You can take his calls,” I told him as I turned to face him. He’d had to let me go to take the phone and the look he gave me countenanced zero arguments. “Or you can wait and talk to him later.”

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