I WAS still pissed.
Yes, I know it’s such a cliché for the gay kid to be mad at his mother. I was embarrassingly aware of that little fact. Yet here I stood, twenty-one years old and still fuming about hurtful things said long ago.
That simple truth was supposed to make it all okay. It was time to forgive and forget. You’re not allowed to hate a person who’s dying. Everyone knows that.
The front door of my childhood home opened abruptly, returning me to the present, and I froze like a rabbit. I’m not sure why, really. I wasn’t going to scurry into the underbrush, no matter who it was. Belinda hobbled outside and began to shake the throw rug clutched in her hands as if she were performing some sort of exorcism. She coughed against the cloud of dust that wafted back into her grimacing face.
“Can I help you?” A deep voice out of nowhere addressed me. A guy about my age stood in the shade at the corner of the porch. I hadn’t seen him when I got out of the cab. He was watching me with eyes narrowed. Did he think I was here to run off with the silver? He was shirtless, and annoyingly my gaze wandered over his muscled biceps and smooth chest before it occurred to me not to.
“I’m good.” Who the hell was this guy trying to chase me off my own property?
“Is that right?” His tone was challenging.
Meanwhile Belinda must have caught sight of me out of the corner of her eye because she stopped short and her mouth dropped open. “Jason?”
I raised my hand. “In the flesh.”
From this distance she appeared almost the same: plump with ruddy cheeks and a rumpled, flowered apron. As I closed the space between us, I could see some wrinkles around her weary brown eyes and patches of gray at the temples. She dropped the rug once she realized I wasn’t an apparition, and grabbed me in a warm hug permeated with the scent of lemon polish.
“I can’t believe it.” She held me at arm’s length. “On the phone it sounded like you weren’t coming.”
I managed a sheepish smile. “I wasn’t. But then I changed my mind.” Belinda had always been more maternal toward me than my actual mom. She’d been our housekeeper for as long as I could remember. Whenever my mom had been in one of her dark moods, Belinda kept me in an affectionate cocoon, tucked away in the kitchen with her nearby, peeling potatoes for dinner and humming a little tune under her breath.
“You’re Jason?” The guy from the shadows had ventured toward me. He was even nicer to look at in the sunshine. Raven hair, sky blue eyes, and full lips. Sexy.
He held out his hand. “Sorry if I came off like a jerk. I’m Adam.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. No problem? I took his hand and enjoyed the feel of his smooth, warm flesh against mine. I caught a whiff of sweat and soap.
“We’ve had a lot of trespassers lately,” Adam added when I didn’t speak. His cheeks were flushed and he dropped his gaze to the ground.
I shrugged. “It’s cool. You didn’t pull a gun on me or anything.”
Belinda grinned suddenly. “I’m so happy you’re here.”
“It’s great to see you too, Belinda.” I couldn’t quite manage enthusiasm for being home just yet, but I really was happy to see her. “You never seem to age.”
“Oh I do. Believe me. And at warp speed these days.”
“How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been all right. Other than my ass growing bigger every year, things are pretty much the same.” She squeezed my arm. “You’re really here, right? I’m not hallucinating?”
I gave a worried glance toward the old house. “I probably shouldn’t have come at all.” I could feel Adam’s gaze on me, but he stayed silent.
Disapproval fluttered through her eyes. “Nonsense. She’s your mother, for better or worse.”
I picked up my suitcase and laptop, which I’d set down before we hugged. “Pretty sure that’s something only married couples have to suffer through.”
Adam laughed, so he went up a notch in my book.
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