Home to Stay


EXCERPT

The flurry of noise and action left as the whirlwind child made his exit complete. Matt turned to Jessie as soon as Brody’s bedroom door closed. “So. McLeod. What’s that about?”

She looked weary and tired of looking at him. “What about him?”

“I’m not stupid, Jessica. How long? Before or after the divorce?”

The use of her full name was never a good idea. Adding serious insult to injury by questioning her fidelity while they were married was a desperate dig, but he couldn’t help it. Jealousy burned in his veins like acid. He needed the truth and making her mad was usually a good way to get it.

Her hands went to her hips as she squared off with him. “Okay, first, is there something wrong with his name?”

“No.”

“Then quit saying it like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like you’re talking about smallpox or SARS.”

He shrugged.

“And if you want me to keep talking to you, don’t use my full name. You know I hate it.” She held up a finger, pointing it at him. “And don’t go letting that big brain of yours make all of this more complicated than it is. I have enough problems in my life. I won’t let you make Brody’s relationship with Cole one of them.”

“Brody’s relationship with Cole isn’t what I’m concerned about. It’s yours.”

“We’re friends.”

He forced out a blunt laugh. “I’ve seen you as friends. That wasn’t friendship. Thaaat was something else.”

“You are really making me mad, you know that?”

“Tough.”

“Maybe you don’t get how divorce works, Matt. A divorce means that you don’t have any say in my personal life anymore.”

Ah. Now that sounded like Jessie—drawing lines in the sand and telling him where to go if he didn’t comply. Combined with that finger she pointed at him—something she knew he disliked with a passion—it felt like coming home. “Has he proposed?”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“Are you insane? We’ve been on a few dates.”

The knife twisted deeper. “What’s a few?”

“I’m not having this conversation with you,” she said. “Look, Brody already thinks we’re fighting—”

“We’re not fighting,” he said. “We’re finally talking.”

“Sounds like arguing to me. You always did confuse the two.”

“No confusion. We do everything passionately, Jess. It’s what we do.”

Her gaze dropped briefly to his chest and her cheeks turned pink. She turned, gripped the front door handle and swung the thing wide, motioning him out with a hand. “I have work tomorrow.”

“Fine. I’ll be by in the morning to take Brody out to breakfast.”

“Hey, Hard-of-Hearing,” she said as she grabbed his Stetson off the small table and shoved it at him. “I said it’s a school day tomorrow.”

“So?” He pulled the hat slightly down his forehead and grinned at her, supremely smug to be making a dent in that tough exterior. “Isn’t that one of the reasons you decided to homeschool him? So you could have more flexibility?” He walked around her and through the door, sensing her annoyed glare following him down step for step. Once his boots touched gravel, he turned to see her silhouette in the doorway, haloed by the light from the foyer. She perched her hands on her hips, and when his eyes adjusted to the different light, he noticed her sweet mouth twisted in a frown. Something about that stance brought out the devil in him, and he couldn’t help but challenge her once more. “Right?”