After a week of waking up with the sun, my eyes easily popped open before the sunrise was complete. Eva was making some soft purring sound in her sleep. Her legs had gotten all tangled up with mine at some point last night.
The smooth silk of her skin sliding against my calves was hard to resist. But I’d managed. I wasn’t a complete angel though. I couldn’t help myself. When she’d grabbed my arm with her hand and pulled it up closer around her my hand had been left to palm her left boob. So, yeah, I’d copped a feel. But damn, I’m a man. They were real nice too. Soft but firm and her nipple had been nice and hard even in her sleep.
The erection I had pressed into her ass probably wasn’t going to go over real well when sober Eva woke up. As much as I hated to, I eased my arm from around her and untangled my legs from hers. As quietly as I could I slipped out of bed. Grabbing a pair of jeans, a work shirt and my boots I left the room to go get dressed. I didn’t want to wake her. She really needed to sleep that shit off. I’d be willing to bet that was her first drunken experience. She’d been so damn cute. If only sober Eva liked me as much as drunk Eva did. With a sigh, I pulled on my jeans and laced up my boots. It was time to get back to the cows.
Stepping out into the morning sun, I wasn’t surprised to see Jeremy there. I wondered if he’d even gotten any sleep worrying about leaving Eva with me. I had to question his common sense a little. I would’ve never left Low with a guy like me while she was drunk and not thinking clearly.
Jeremy was pacing back and forth in front of the barn door with a worried frown. His hair looked like he either forgot to brush it or he’d been running his hands through it so many times that he’d messed it up good.
“Thought you had to leave early this morning,” I said in greeting.
Jeremy stopped pacing and closed the distance between us. He almost looked brave enough to take me on. “Dude, please tell me you didn’t—“
“I just gave her aspirin, some water and slept beside her.”
“She okay? Did you do anything to her? Is she sick? DAMMIT, I shouldn’t have left her. Josh would be furious with me. She was vulnerable and I just left. I can’t just leave.” He stopped his tirade and starting pacing again.
“She’s fine. I took care of her. She’s nice and safe. No harm done.”
Jeremy shook his head and kept pacing. “No. No, she isn’t okay. She ain’t ever gonna be okay. I’ve been waiting for her to be okay for eighteen months. I know Josh would want me to stay and look out after her. I’ve been doing what I know he’d have wanted for a year and a half. I gave up my scholarship to Vandy. I lost a semester of school. I went to this dumbass cowpoke community college just so I could stay near her. But I can’t keep doing this. I want to live again. I will miss Josh for the rest of my life but I don’t want to keep mourning him.” He stopped and put his hands on his hips. His eyes looked glassy like he was trying to hold back tears. “I can’t stop my life for her anymore. But I’m afraid that if no one is here to catch her when she falls, like last night at that damn bar, then she will crash and burn. I’d never be able to forgive myself if something happened to her. She always had Josh. He was her best friend, her protector and he made her feel complete. But I’m not Josh.”
I closed the barn door firmly behind me after checking to see if the bedroom door was still closed. I didn’t want Eva hearing this. I understood that Jeremy needed to let this out but Eva didn’t need to be so f**king close when he did.
“Why don’t we go somewhere else and talk about this,” I suggested walking away from the barn and closer to the house.
“You’re right. Sorry. Damn, she’s still asleep, isn’t she?”
I nodded and led him to the front porch where I had a view of the barn door but we were far enough away that I knew she wouldn’t be able to hear us.
Jeremy walked up the steps and ran his hands through his hair again. He even pulled the ends a little as if he were trying to inflict pain on himself.
“I just need to do this. I need to go to Louisiana and get everything set up for the fall. But every time I think about coming home and telling Eva that I’m leaving in August to go away to school I feel like I’m gonna vomit.”
Poor guy was beating himself up. He was right, though, he couldn’t keep putting his life on hold for Eva. She wasn’t his responsibility. Just because she’d been his brother’s didn’t make her his now his brother was gone. Why hadn’t someone told him this before now?
“I’ve got a best friend who also happens to be a female. I understand what you’re feeling. I know that if Low needed me, I’d be there. I’d drop the world for her but there were times in our life that I wished I didn’t have that responsibility. Difference is that Eva wasn’t your best friend. She was your brother’s. This isn’t about Eva. This is about you wanting to fulfill what you believe your brother’s last wishes would have been. In my opinion, you have. I didn’t know the dude but I think you’ve done your job. I don’t think he ever wanted you to give up your life for Eva.”
Jeremy sank down onto the old wooden rocker that I’d often seen Eva sitting in while drinking a glass of tea and staring off into space. “You saw her last night. What if that happens when I’m gone?”
Hell, I wasn’t a damn psychiatrist. What did he expect from me? He was asking for wisdom from the guy who was working at a farm all summer because of a DUI.
“She’s a big girl. She’ll be okay. She has her daddy here watching over her and she has other friends.”
Jeremy rubbed the back of his neck nervously, “What about you? While you’re here, does she have you?”
Me? What the f**k kind of question was that? She didn’t want me. At times I was pretty damn sure she hated me. But, yeah, if she needed me I knew without question I’d be there. She’d gotten under my skin.
“Yeah, she has me. As long as I’m here, I’ll be available if she needs me. Even when she doesn’t want me.”
Jeremy chuckled and stood up. “She wants you. She just doesn’t want to want you. Or at least that is what she said in my truck last night.”
She told Jeremy she didn’t want to want me. I liked that. I could work with that. “Drunk Eva was something else,” I replied.
Jeremy walked over to the steps and held out his hand. I stared down at it and realized he wanted to shake my hand. I clasped it and he shook it one good time before letting go. “Take care of her for me.”
I nodded, “Will do.”
I couldn’t remember what all I’d said to Cage while I was drunk. All I knew was he’d been sweet and I’d slept in his bed smelling like tequila and an ashtray. While he’d been out working this morning, I’d changed his sheets and made up his bed. I hated for him to sleep on sheets that smelled like the inside of a bar all week.
That was the only contact I’d had with him. I was avoiding him. I was sure he knew that too. I couldn’t help but feel guilty about not taking him water and ice towels but I couldn’t bring myself to face him just yet. Had I snored? God, I had probably snored. I didn’t even know if I snored. Plus, my breath had to have been atrocious. He’d still let me sleep in his bed with him. How could one girl manage to make such a fool of herself so easily? I really should write a book on how to make an ass of yourself.
Cage hadn’t come looking for me today either. He was probably worried I’d think more of what happened than he did. I bet that stupid gorgeous redhead never came to his bed a blubbering idiot and stinking like cigarettes. She just didn’t look the type.
I ran out of things to do in town and none of the movies playing at the theater looked appealing. All that was left to do was hideout in the house. Several vehicles pulled into the driveway from the sound of all the gravel. I went over to peek outside and see what was going on. It was truckloads of guys. Lots of guys. What in the world? I hurried down the steps and to the front porch.
Loud insults were thrown around along with a whole lot of male laughter and lewd comments. Cage jumped over the fence and a huge grin broke out on his face as the herd of guys made their way down to the barn.
They were his friends. That much was clear. He fist bumped a few and made a few comments with his cocky smirk that I knew were probably something naughty.
“You stay in the house for the next couple of hours,” Daddy said as he walked up the steps of the porch with a frown.
“Who are they?” I asked, surprised Cage had let a bunch of guys come see him here.
“It’s your Uncle Mack’s baseball team. He sent them here to do a little bonding time with the boy. He don’t want him to get his mind off the goal. I told him it’d be okay for a few hours. They’re supposed to take him into town for something to eat and bring him back.”
“Can I sit on the porch?” I asked, wanting to watch them. It was interesting to watch Cage with his teammates.
“I reckon but when they come walking back this way you go on inside. Ya, hear?
“Yes, sir,” I replied. He still treated me as if I was a sixteen-year-old girl instead of a twenty-year-old woman. Part of it was my fault. I’d been so dependent on Josh that when he died I’d crumbled. Daddy had to take care of me like I was a child again. I didn’t remember to eat. I didn’t answer phone calls. I didn’t go anywhere. I gave him complete control over my life. My age didn’t mean anything to him. He still thought he had to take care of me. Until I moved out I knew he would always feel that way.
A loud whistle broke into my thoughts and I gazed back down toward the barn to see three of the guys sitting on the back of the farm truck staring up at me.
The blond one with long hair pulled back into a ponytail was prettier than the others and he knew it. The flirtatious grin on his face and tilt of his head made it apparent, he really thought I’d just go walking down there because he whistled at me. Maybe all baseball players were full of themselves.
Cage came walking out of the barn and his eyes locked on mine. He shifted his gaze to the guys on the truck and he gave them a single shake of his head. All three of them said something to him and he didn’t look real happy. But they didn’t look back up here at me. I wondered if he warned them off because I was Coach Mack’s niece or because he didn’t want them flirting with me.
Somehow I didn’t think he’d really care if they flirted with me. He was a huge flirt. It was no surprise his friends were too.
The guys all started heading back this way now that Cage had on clean clothes. Daddy was back in his office and I wondered if I could get away with sitting in the rocker while they passed by.
Cage led the group as they drew closer to the front of the house. I scanned the group and then my eyes came back to him. He was watching me. I felt my face grow warm. What if he talked to me in front of all of them and I said something stupid and they all laughed at me? I decided I had better do what daddy said after all. Turning I grabbed the door handle and rushed inside.
I walked over to the fridge for a glass of water. I hated that something as stupid as a bunch of guys made me nervous. There was a knock on the screen door then it opened up a crack and Cage stuck his head in.
“Hey, you okay?” he asked with a concerned look on his face.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I replied, quickly feeling silly for running inside.
“I’m sorry about the guys. They didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I was getting a shower so I didn’t know they were bothering you.”
He had been worried about them making me uncomfortable? That was … sweet.
“Oh. No. It was fine. I don’t even know what they said.”
A crooked grin flashed on his face, “Probably a good thing. You sure are a pretty picture standing on the porch in them shorts. Can’t say I blame them for staring.”
My face felt flushed and a horn blared outside. “I gotta go. Just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
I nodded and he stepped back and let the screen door close. Then he winked at me before turning and walking away.