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Finding Our Forever(7)

By:Brenda Novak

“So...do I surmise a bit of interest on your part?”

“None. I’m not the marrying type. You should know that by now.”

“I’d like grandkids at some point.”

“You have plenty of other sons to give you grandkids.”

She sighed as if he was being purposely stubborn. “Fine. Obviously, you don’t like talking about this subject.”

He didn’t argue. There were moments he wondered if he truly wanted to be alone for the rest of his life. But he also saw nothing to be gained from allowing his happiness to hang on the love or will of another person.

“You missed dinner tonight,” his mother said.

“You said to come by if I was hungry.”

“You should’ve been hungry. It’s nearly eight.”

“We’ve talked about this before,” he responded. “I’m too old for you to worry about.”

“You’ll never be too old for me to worry about. And you know why? It’s called caring.”

His problem was that he had the tendency to care too much, to be too intense. “I’m fine.” He started on Atsila’s fourth and final hoof. “I’ll grab a bite while I’m in town tonight.”

She leaned against the fence post. “Whoa, don’t tell me you’re leaving the ranch for a social outing. You don’t do that very often.”

He gave her a look that let her know he didn’t appreciate the sarcasm.

Unperturbed, she smiled. “Your dark looks don’t frighten me the way they do everyone else.”

“They should.”

“Why? I know you love me, even if you rarely say it.”

“What good are words?” His parents used to claim they loved him, but they only loved themselves and the twisted joy they received from tormenting him. “Words are empty, meaningless.”

“Hopefully, someday, you’ll regain your trust.”

He winked at her. “Don’t hold your breath. But... I am very grateful for everything you’ve done for me. I hope you know that.”

“Stop!” She started to walk away.

“What?” he called after her.

“That wasn’t a leading statement. I’m not looking for your gratitude.”

She wasn’t comfortable with it, either. “You want me to fall in love.”

“I want you to be able to fall in love. I want to see you lose your heart—and not be afraid to let it go. Then I can rest easy, knowing you’re completely fulfilled.”

“You never married,” he pointed out, but she offered the usual lame excuse.

“Because I’m married to this place.”

Knowing that was all he’d ever get out of her on the subject, he studied her retreating figure. “Yeah, well, so am I.”

Chapter Three

Cora was using her Bluetooth to talk to Jill when she passed through the wrought iron arch at the opening of the school, her car packed full of her belongings. “I’m here,” she announced as she wound slowly around to where she’d be living.

“That didn’t take long. What time did you leave again?”

She’d gone in to hug her friend goodbye, but Jill, dead asleep, had mumbled something about missing Cora, promised to call and dropped back onto the pillows. “Six.”

“That’s not even two hours ago.”

“See? I’m not that far away.” Although...it almost seemed as if she’d moved to another planet; Silver Springs was nothing like LA.

“I should’ve come with you,” Jill said.

“How?” Cora asked. “You have to be to work in an hour.”

“I could’ve called in sick. You need someone to be there to help you unpack.”

“No, I don’t. My mother would’ve been hurt if she found out I let you come, since I told her I preferred to organize everything on my own.” Cora had definitely not wanted Lilly on the ranch. She knew Lilly had never met Aiyana, that the whole adoption had been handled through an agency. According to the documents her private investigator had uncovered, Aiyana had demanded absolute secrecy. But that didn’t change Cora’s need to keep the two women apart. “I can handle this. The cottage is furnished. And everything I’m bringing fits into my car. It’s not as if I’m towing a trailer.”

“Still, I’m curious.”


“The ranch, for one thing. What does it look like?”

“Your basic high school, but with horses and cattle—and some dorms and a machine shop. You’ll see it when you come visit me.”

“I’ve been to Ojai but never Silver Springs. How does it compare?”

“The towns are similar, which makes sense. Silver Springs is located in the same valley, has some of the same mission-style architecture. Only they’ve added a few murals in Silver Springs, like they’ve done in Exeter.”