“What’s wrong?” Janelle asked even though she already had her suspicions.
Kelsey shook the question away and gave her sister a slight smile. “Nothing.”
Janelle raised a disbelieving eyebrow as she set the box and bottle on the counter. Kelsey looked toward the window over the sink, and her face relaxed. Janelle could see the tiny stress lines all over her face and frowned.
“Patrick said he’d try to call early today,” Kelsey said quietly. “I haven’t heard from him yet.”
“Kels, I’m sure you will.” Janelle laid her hand on Kelsey’s shoulder and rubbed in small circles. “Maybe he’s just gotten busy today.”
“Probably,” Kelsey agreed. “He’s been getting busier and busier over the last few days. His calls have become farther and farther apart. And sometimes he just sounds so distracted.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Janelle stated as she sat on the stool in front of Kelsey. She had every confidence in Patrick’s return and of his love for her sister, but she also knew that at least a small part of Kelsey feared he’d slip back into his old habits, regardless of how exaggerated they’d been in the tabloids, and either cheat or abandon her altogether.
“Sometimes I think he’d be better off without me,” Kelsey admitted as a single tear slipped down her cheek. “Our family is a mess. Compared to his, we’re a basketful of crazy, and I don’t know anyone who would want to be a part of that.”
Janelle looked up and met Nathan’s gaze as he walked into the kitchen carrying Zoe. He gave her a soft smile then walked over to Kelsey. He shifted Zoe to his right side so he could put his left arm around Kelsey’s shoulder.
“His focus is on you and being a part of your life,” Nathan said reassuringly, and Janelle’s heart leapt to her throat. “Nothing else matters. He loves you and he accepts the rest.” Nathan bent closer to her ear but looked at Janelle as he added, “And if he hurts you, you just let me know and Mason, Jackson, and I will rough him up for you.” He winked at Janelle as he stood back up.
Kelsey pulled her head away, her mouth opened in surprise with a little upward tilt to her lips. “You’re kidding, right?” she asked, sounding amused, and Janelle breathed a sigh of relief.
“Not at all,” Nathan replied. “You know we’ve always thought of you like a sister. That’s what brothers do for their younger sister, right?”
Kelsey beamed at him as she nodded. “Yeah, I suppose it is.”
“Between you and me, though, I don’t think we’ll have to do anything,” Nathan said.
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