After the Game (Page 30)
When he closed his menu and met my gaze, he winked, as if he didn’t have a care in the world and this were a normal date. Not one that could possibly blow up at any minute if Gunner Lawton followed us here and walked in that door.
“How was the park today? Bryony make any new friends?”
He wanted to talk about easy stuff. For now I would let him.
“There was a little girl around her age there with her grandmother. They played some before we had to leave. As it gets colder it’s going to be harder to go to the park. I wish we had a swing in the backyard, where I could at least take her out when it is the sunniest and let her play some. She’ll miss having other friends, but I can play with her. I thought about building her a fort or something like that.”
Brady nodded. “She’d like a place out back to play. That’s a good idea. Hopefully you can put her in preschool next year. It’d be great for her to play with the other kids.”
He actually cared about this, and that made me want to tear up and cry. Bryony hadn’t had anyone other than me and my parents in her life. Having someone else that cared meant more than he would ever know. Even if it was temporary.
“The game is home Friday right?” I asked him.
He nodded. “Yeah. You still good with going?”
I took a drink, then decided to tell him about Willa Ames.
“A month or so ago I picked a girl up on the side of the road walking home from a field party,” I began.
“Willa,” he added. He already knew.
“How did you know?” I asked him.
“Gunner told me about that night.”
Figures. “Well, anyway, I saw her today at the pharmacy. She spoke to Bryony and she seemed to know that she was my daughter. Most people assume she’s my sister. She was kind and basically asked me to come to a game and sit with her sometime. I know when I gave her a ride she was messing around with Gunner, so I wasn’t sure what to think of all that.”
He leaned back in his seat and smiled. “Sounds like Willa. And as a matter of fact she and Gunner are an item. She’s changed him a good bit now, but even as kids those two fit. They were a matching set. Still are, it seems. She just started back to school two weeks ago. She had a short homeschooling time after some s**t went down with the Lawtons. Ms. Ames was trying to protect her. But she’s back now.”
“That nice girl is dating Gunner?” I asked, a little surprised.
He nodded. “Yep. They had a rough patch and some issues to work through. Gunner’s family is blown to hell. Not sure what all you know about that, but he’s had a bad time of it. She’s been there for him through it all.”
Gunner dating Willa seemed like an odd fit to me. Gunner was selfish and self-absorbed. Willa had been so kind and gentle. Nothing about them matched up.
“What happened with his family?” I asked, not sure I wanted to know all this.
Brady started to tell me when the waiter appeared and we ordered our food. He left some bread on the table just as Brady’s gaze fell on something over my shoulder and anger burned so bright I turned to see who he was looking at. I expected to see Gunner, but it wasn’t.
It was a blond woman on the arm of a handsome man in a suit. The woman was wearing a clingy black dress that hit midthigh and silver heels that drew attention to her legs. The man whispered in her ear, and she laughed.
“That’s her.” Brady’s voice sounded like hard, cold ice. I shivered.
“Who?” I asked turning back to him. His eyes blazed and his fists were clenched on the table as if he were ready to swing a punch at any time.
“The woman who was f*****g my dad.”
Oh. Oh no.
I turned back to look at her and saw there was a diamond on her left hand and the man sitting across from her also wore a wedding ring. It seemed that not only was one family going to be destroyed, but two were.
“I can’t stay here,” he said, his tone still so void of anything resembling Brady that I could barely recognize it.
“Of course,” I replied, getting my purse and standing up.
“I’ll tell the waiter. Meet me at the door,” he said, and I obeyed, looking to see the woman one more time on my way out.
She was smiling at the man across from her as if she were in love. No one would guess otherwise. Was life really this jaded and sick? Did people fall in love and get married, then so easily throw it away for sex? Was one sex partner just not enough?
The woman turned to look my way, but her gaze traveled right past me, and I saw then: the emptiness in her eyes. The place where you should see one’s soul. She had none. That made sense. She was out for herself. Nothing more. The man across from her had no idea, and I felt a twinge of sadness for this person I’d never meet.
Right when I got to the door, Brady was behind me. He had moved quickly. Like we were running from hell. His hand rested on my lower back as he opened the door for me to exit.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said, his voice warming a touch.
“Don’t be. I understand.”
“Pizza okay with you?” he asked.
I was hungry, but I doubted he was.
“Can we get one to go and then sit somewhere alone and eat it? I think right now that’s what you need.”
He nodded. “Yeah. It is.”
That’s the Best Pizza I’ve Ever Had
I hadn’t wanted to talk much in the truck, and Riley seemed to get that. She didn’t push me or ask questions. After going inside to grab the pizza, I drove us to the field. No one would be there on a Tuesday night. It was away from everything, and it was somewhere we could go undetected.
“Haven’t been to this field in a long time,” she said when I parked out in the clearing.
That wasn’t exactly the truth. “Remember, I saw you back in August. You came here.”
She ducked her head and stared at her hands. “Yes, but after seeing your welcoming face I left quickly. Never made it to the actual party. Which was a good thing. I’m not sure what I had been thinking.”
I reached over and covered her hand with mine. “I’m sorry about that. I was a dick.”
She shrugged. “You were reacting the way any of the guys would. You are Gunner’s friend. I had no business trying to come here.”
I hated that she felt that way.
“I was a dick,” I repeated.
A laugh escaped her, and she nodded. “Yes, you were.”
“Glad we can agree on that,” I said. Then reached in the back to grab a blanket I kept there in case of emergencies. Or other things.
“Here, take this. It’s cold tonight. I’ll get the pizza and Coke.”
“You have a blanket in the truck?” she asked, sounding amused.
I smirked. “Don’t read too much into it.”
Then she really laughed. “Okay. I’ll keep that in mind.”
We headed to the moonlit grass, and she chose a log by one of the bonfire sites. We wouldn’t be lighting it tonight. But it was where the best seating was.
She wrapped the blanket around her and sat down. “I’ll share if you need it,” she said.
I might take her up on that after pizza. The idea of getting under a blanket with her out here alone was nice. More than nice. Helped erase my f****d-up family issues from my head.
I opened up a Coke and handed it to her, then sat the box down and put a piece of pizza on a paper plate they’d given me with the order. “Here you go.”