The Cowboy Way(9)

By: Anna Alexander

Her fingers threaded through his hair. He knew the gesture was meant to comfort, but it had his nerves vibrating on so many different levels it made him shake. Her breath hitched when she felt the row of stitches that ran down the back of his scalp. “I’m sorry you got hurt.” The softly spoken words wobbled. “I never wanted—I—” she broke off and pressed closer, burying her face into his shirt.

“Hey, hey,” he soothed. “I’m okay. Nothing that time won’t fix.” Moisture pooled in his own eyes, and he blinked it away.

This overwhelming uncertainty was so fucking frustrating. He was a bubbling volcano of want. He wanted to take the solace she offered, wanted to kiss those lips until they turned dark pink with desire, wanted to stay just like they were until their legs gave out and they fell to the floor. Want, want, want. Take, take, take.

He might be her husband, but it didn’t sit right with him to take such liberties. No matter how fierce the need was to remember their past and pick up where they might have left off, he’d just have to reconcile himself to the fact that his brain would not be rushed. Until that time came, he would have to do his best to do right by Greta.

“I’m sorry I got angry about the bed,” he murmured into her neck. “I don’t like the thought that you ever felt like you couldn’t sleep in your own bed. My wife should be happy.”

“I understand.” Her sigh carried the weight of the world. Some of the rigidity returned to her spine as she visibly braced herself and said, “Sometimes we don’t always see eye to eye. We may fight big, but we love big too. We’re not the most perfect couple,” she admitted with a tiny chuckle. “I know you have so much on your mind, Trey. Please, don’t force it. We just need to adjust. Remember, one day at a time. We’ve been through worse.”

Like the death of their son. Trey didn’t think that anything would ever make up for him not being able to remember his child.

When her body shifted to step back, he tightened his hold. He felt her cheek bunch against his chest as she smiled in response.

“I’m going to let you have some privacy. I need to check on dinner, too.”

Trey didn’t want to let her go, but he knew she was right. They both probably needed a moment alone. She gave him a tremulous smile and brushed her thumb over his cheek before she left him on his own with one of her signature shy smiles. The sensation of her touch lingered long after she’d gone.

In the wake of her absence, a deafening silence rolled into the empty room. A terrible, thrown-into-a raging-river sensation of helplessness swamped over him like a tidal wave.

“Damn it,” he muttered as he ran his hands through his hair.

He had to fix this. Somehow, he was going to have to try to make up for the last few days and chase the cloud of pain from Greta’s eyes. Try to be her husband.


Determination straightened his spine. He was her husband. There would be no trying about it. All he had to do was suck it up and be the husband he knew he could be.

She said they weren’t the perfect couple. Well, who was? He had to stop worrying about the past. Focus on the present and everything would fall into place.

“Right.” He pulled on his cuffs and stood taller. “You can do this.”

The air conditioner kicked on, blasting out a cold stream of air that reminded him a bit too much of his time in the hospital. Fresh air and hard-packed earth under his boots was just what he needed to get his bearings.

As he headed toward the stairs, he passed the door of what he knew had been his room as a child. Greta hadn’t shown him inside, and he wondered if it was decorated with the same blue and tan gingham of his youth or if it had been converted into a guest room.

He reached for the doorknob and his hand froze millimeters from the gold-plated knob. A thousand alarms screamed in his head at him to not open the door as a sense of dread crawled up his chest and tightened his throat. The soles of his boots shuffled across the carpet as he stumbled a step back and looked at the door in confusion.

Maybe he needed the fresh air more than he thought.

Shaking off the disturbing reaction, he ran down the stairs and out the front door into the dry climate. He could have gone out the back, through the mudroom near the kitchen, but he wanted to give Greta some space.

The hot summer air slapped him in the face as he stepped outside and made the walk around the house toward the barns. Glittering like a gemstone in the late afternoon sun, his silver truck came into view and he stopped to admire the clean lines and sheer size of the monster. Boy, was she pretty. Did he and Greta ever take drives out into the hills with a cooler of beers and an air mattress in the flat bed?

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