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Silence then, “Really? You told him it was over?”

I shot up in my chair and cried, “Cam!”

“All right! All right, I’ll let you go.”

“Call Tracy, brief her with the limited intel you have, it’ll save me time,” I ordered.

“Gotcha.”

“No double dates.”

“We’ll just get something in the calendar.”

“Cam!”

“Later, babe.”

Then I was listening to dead air.

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I beeped the phone off and put it on its base. Then I got up and went downstairs because I was pretty certain I had frozen Twix bars and I was pretty certain about this because I always had frozen Twix bars but it wasn’t unheard of for me accidentally to eat my way through my stash while, say, watching a movie or just getting the munchies. Through copious experimentation I’d discovered that frozen Twix bars were proven to intensify focus. I needed my focus intensified so I was going to pull out the big guns.

I found I had frozen Twix bars.

Upon offering, I also found that commandos didn’t eat frozen Twix bars.

This was good. More for me.

I grabbed a twin pack, straightened my shoulders, with effort cleared my head and determinedly walked back up the stairs to my office.

Chapter Eight

How We Met

As I headed to Dad and Meredith’s house I was feeling pretty good. I’d managed to make some headway on work and load up my files on my laptop before leaving my house.

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I had a plan: eat dinner, explain shit to Dad and Meredith, do both of these things very fast then hole myself in Dad’s Den and work until my vision got blurry.

The only flaw in this plan was that I was tired. I’d only had about four good hours of sleep last night so I was running on empty. In my business attention to detail was key and getting fuzzy was not good. But I figured I had enough mojo left to squeeze in two or three good hours of concentration and, if I got a decent night’s sleep, tomorrow I could hit it fully loaded and kick some book-editing ass.

With my plan of attack all sorted out, and my excuse of having to get work done a good one so Dad would cut his lecture short, I was feeling good, totally psyched up for dinner at my parents’.

That was until their house became visible and I saw a dark, metallic gray kickass Camaro parked out front.

I was beginning to understand why people were moved to acts of extreme violence when I parked behind the Camaro.

Even so, as I turned off my car and set the parking brake, I did take a moment to reflect on the fact that it was too bad Hawk and I were so over. I would love to ride in that Camaro.

I got out, rounded the car and grabbed my bag and laptop. Then I walked to the house.

If I was a different kind of woman, in other words I didn’t have my mother’s blood in my veins, I would have walked to the house slowly, considering my options, calming myself, building a plan of attack.

I did not do this. I stomped up to the house, opened the door, encountered a wave of strong garlic smells and stomped in.

My parents lived in a big house on a slight rise. Stairs dead ahead leading to a landing with a big window. Huge living room to the left that had a small den off of it at the front of the house, another small conservatory-like space behind the den also off the living room. Enormous kitchen to the right with a big area for the dining room table. Half bath and utility to the back of the kitchen that led to a garage. Wall to wall wool carpet throughout except the kitchen which was tiled. Three bedrooms and two baths upstairs, one shared, one off the master suite.

The garden level was an apartment that they’d rented out since I could remember to a woman named Mrs. Mayhew who had three cats. In her tenure in the apartment the cats had rotated due to kitty death, and, once, kitty desertion though Mrs. Mayhew contended it was kitty theft and I was prone to believe her since she treated those cats better than most people treated their children, but Mrs. Mayhew never rotated. She had been old as the hills for as long as I could remember. She was also a silent neighbor. No loud music, no loud parties, no stream of constant visitors. And best of all, she put up with Ginger because she admired Dad, adored Meredith and cared a lot about me.

Before Ginger and I moved out (I never moved home after graduating U of C – Ginger took longer and graduated high school by what we all considered a minor miracle), there were four bedrooms upstairs but after I moved out Dad had turned one of the smaller bedrooms into a master bath. And Dad, being Dad, and Meredith, being Meredith, meant the whole pad was well-maintained, well-decorated, homey, warm and comfortable.

Like it was right then with a fire burning in the grate of the living room fireplace and candles lit throughout.

But once I’d swept the house with a glance, seeing Dad was entertaining Hawk in the living room and the table was set for four, my gaze swung left again and I took in Dad in his armchair and Hawk on the couch, his back to me, his arm stretched across the back of the couch but his neck twisted to look over his shoulder at me.

I dropped my bags and opened my mouth to shout.

“Honey,” Dad got there before me, straightening out of his chair, a bottle of beer in his hand, “why didn’t you tell us Hawk was coming to dinner?”

“No bother! No bother!” Meredith’s voice came at me from the right where I looked to see her rushing into the room carrying a dishtowel. “We have plenty. He’s a big guy but I always make plenty. And Bax giving me the idea last night, I’d already planned for lasagna.”

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I was forced to delay my tirade when Meredith hit the entry area at the same time Dad did. Dad leaned in to kiss me and I automatically tipped my head back to accept it. Then I turned to Meredith and bent to give her a kiss and she lifted one arm to add a shoulder hug because this was her way.

Then I straightened and turned to Hawk who was standing at the side of the couch, arms crossed on his chest, exuding badass cool while watching my welcome home.

Then I opened my mouth to yell.

Dad again got there before me when he announced, “I’ll just go whip up a cosmo.”

I turned to my father. “Can’t, Dad, after dinner, I have to work.”

His brows shot up. “But we’re having a family dinner.”

“I’m behind,” I explained.

Dad’s expression changed and I knew it so well I could sketch a perfect rendition of it while blindfolded (that was, if I could sketch).

Lecture Face.

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