Still Come True
Four years later
“You look tired,” Ryan said when he walked into her office.
“Do you talk to your wife like that?” Whitney asked, grinning.
Ryan laughed. He was one changed man and she knew first hand that love could do that. He was still considered a newlywed, having gotten married two months ago over the summer.
“Never,” he said. “She is beautiful no matter how much sleep she gets.”
“Where is Ryan Butler and what have you done to him?”
“Yeah, I know. I can’t help it. I never thought I’d see this day. Shannon and I brought Jeffrey for his first day of school today. Shannon cried; Jeffrey pleaded with me to get her to stop. It was funny.”
“You wanted to shed a tear, didn’t you?” she asked.
“No. I know they aren’t my kids, but it feels like it.”
“They are yours now,” she said. “Jeffrey looks at you as his father and Maddie adores you.”
“It is a nice feeling,” he said, puffing his chest out. She wasn’t sure if he was aware he’d made that move. Ryan’s wife, Shannon, was a widow with two young kids when she relocated to Colonie fifteen months ago. Whitney was pretty sure the last thing Shannon thought she’d find here was love again so soon and a second marriage.
“So the question is, when will you have your own child?” she asked.
“Probably soon,” he said. He stopped to look at her. Really stare at her. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she said. “I’m not.”
She didn’t need her brother to apologize to her for finding love and a family and wanting to add to that. “Yeah, but we all thought it’d be you with the kids by now. It’s been your dream.”
“And dreams can still come true. As we know, it wasn’t meant and it’s a damn good thing nothing is tying me to Kevin.”
“Asshole,” Ryan said.
“He was that. And many more choice words. But he’s out of my life for good.”
She’d thought for sure she’d have to buy him out, but during the divorce proceedings, she got her fast divorce and they went on their separate ways. The fact their biggest asset, their home, wasn’t in either of their names worked in her favor. They had a joint savings account that she only put part of her income in, they split it and divided up some things in the house and he was gone as if she’d snapped her fingers and he went up in a puff of smoke.
“Damn straight,” Ryan said. “Now you need to get on that horse again. Don’t let him hold you back.”
“I’m not,” she said. “We’ve had this conversation several times. I don’t hate men and never did. I’ve got too many good examples of them in my life to feel that way. I’m just more selective now.”
She wouldn’t admit trust was a factor with moving on completely, but she figured many assumed it.
“If Evan can find someone, anyone can,” Ryan said of their older cousin.
“Evan isn’t nearly as bad as you used to be and Parker is perfect for him.”
“You’re obsessed with Parker because she was on Survivor.”
Whitney did a little shoulder wiggle. “She was awesome. Girl power there. Sorry, reality shows are my guilty pleasure.”
“Just don’t sign up for any of those Bachelor shows.”
“Good God no. I’ve had enough drama in my life. Anyway, one of my backup smoke alarms was beeping last night and it kept waking me up and I had a splitting headache this morning. It’s fine now.”
“Does it need a new battery? Do you want me to stop over and check them out? It was cold the last few nights, your furnace kicked on fine?”
“I don’t need my baby brother to change a battery that I did this morning. After I figured out which one it was. It’s all good. And yes, my furnace is working.”
“Okay. I know you are all independent and everything, but if you need anything you can ask any of us.”
“And I do when it’s something I can’t figure out on my own.” She appreciated the help and support she got from her father and brother. No one lived that far from the other in Paradise Place. Her whole family lived there, except Christian who was always buying and flipping homes all over the area on the side.
“If you have a minute I wanted to go over some supply orders with you,” Ryan said.
“Pull up a seat,” she said. She was a jack-of-all-trades for the business. The office was fairly big and she ran it. She oversaw the staff and the building itself. She dealt with most of the new build paperwork that went through their realtor, Ruby Turner. She handled all the customer and vendor relations. Not to mention the website for the business and marketing.
Yep, she had staff under her and they were great and she could delegate, but her job was her baby at this point in her life. She used it as a substitute for motherhood.
Was it wrong? Yes, it was. But it was what it was since it was all she had.
Before Ryan sat, he moved over to her filing cabinet, opened it up and pulled out a package of Twinkies. She kept junk food in there for her brother and cousins.
“You’re never going to grow up, are you?”
“No way,” Ryan said around a mouthful. “I eat these here so Shannon doesn’t yell at me for setting a bad dietary example in front of the kids.”
“You don’t need this junk food when Shannon is always baking for you.”
He rubbed is hand on his flat stomach. “Don’t I know it. But you keep filling the cabinet and I know you won’t eat these. Got to keep my sister happy too.”
She smiled. Not too many other than family worried about her happiness in her life.
“And you do. I am happy.”
“You are,” Ryan said. “We’ve seen it for years. That is one good thing.”
It wasn’t like a flipped switch when she kicked her lying cheating husband out of the house. There were times things got even darker and her family saw it.
She had secrets. Or Kevin did that she’d discovered. They’d hurt her. They’d burned her. They made her lose faith in men.
Until she realized that Kevin was his own brand of douche. She just wished she’d seen it before and hadn’t wasted so much of her life.
But she wasn’t so happy when hours later she got a call that her security system was going off at home and the fire department had been dispatched.
She pulled the cameras up fast to look around and didn’t see smoke, but couldn’t figure out what was going on as she rushed out the door without telling anyone the reason.
The office wasn’t that far from the development her grandfather had started over fifty years ago.
She pulled into her driveway at the same time the firetrucks arrived. “Whoa, where do you think you’re going?” one of the firemen asked.
“It’s my house,” she said. “There is no fire. I can see it on my cameras. There is no smoke either. I’d rather you don’t break a door down to get in.”
“Captain,” the guy yelled. “The homeowner is here. She says there is no fire inside.”
She turned her head to see the fireman in full gear coming toward her and felt her heart slam into her chest at the sight of her first love. The boy that broke her heart and pushed her into the arms of Kevin.
No, no. That was wrong. He didn’t push her toward another man. She went there on her own when the one she wanted discarded her.
“Trey,” she said, pulling her shoulders back. She wouldn’t let him know she was affected. She’d shed more than enough tears over him when she was seventeen. She wasn’t that young girl anymore.
He wasn’t that boy either that said he was going to be a fireman like his father and it scared her. No, this was a man in front of her. One she’d tried to push from her mind for years.
“Whitney,” he said. “Do you want to let us in, or just tell us to leave since there isn’t a fire?”
“Can I go in or do you have to go before me?” she asked. “I don’t see a fire on my cameras, but I’m not stupid enough to send you away without having the house looked over.”
“Let me see the camera,” Trey said. She pulled her security system up and handed her phone over. “I’d like to go in first, if you’re okay with it?”
She handed over the key. “Here you go.”
“Stay here. We’ll be right back. We won’t break anything, don’t worry.”
She cracked a grin. “I know a few men who could fix it if you did.”
He didn’t smile back. Not like the boy she used to know. Guess they’d both changed a lot.