Forever and a Day(10)

By: Jill Shalvis



“No one says that,” he said.

“They think it.”

Josh’s fingers curled helplessly as she struggled into her jacket, but if he offered to help, she’d bite his head off. He wasn’t the only Scott family member who hated needing help. “So prove them wrong,” he said.

She shrugged. “Too much work.”

“Anna, you can’t just traipse around Europe with Devon for the rest of the year.”

“Why? Because my life is so busy? Because I’ve even got a life?”

“You’ve got a life,” he said, frustrated. “You’re taking classes at the junior college—”

“Yes, Cooking 101 and Creative Writing. Oh, and my creative writing teacher told me I should definitely not quit my day job.”

He sighed. “You can do anything you want to do. Pick a major. You are smart. You’re—”

“Paralyzed,” she said flatly. “And bored. I want to go to Europe with Devon.”

God knew what Anna saw in the guy who claimed to be going to a Seattle tech school at night while working on a roofing crew by day. Josh had never so much as seen Devon crack a book, and he sure as hell seemed to have a lot of days off. “How does Devon have the money for Europe?”

“He doesn’t. My settlement money from the accident comes in two weeks.”

Oh hell no. “No.”

“I’m going out,” she said, both ignoring what he’d said and changing the subject since it didn’t suit her.

“Where?” he asked.

“Out.”

Jesus. Like pulling teeth. “Fine. Be back by midnight.”

“You’re not Mom and Dad, Josh. And I’m not sixteen anymore. Don’t wait up.”

“Devon have gas this time?” Last week he’d run out of gas in his truck at two in the morning, with Anna riding shotgun up on Summit Creek.

In answer to the gas question, Anna shrugged. She didn’t know and didn’t care.

Great. “Midnight, Anna.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Wake me up when you’re home.”

She rolled her eyes again and yelled for Devon, who appeared from the kitchen eating a sandwich. He slid Josh a stoner-lazy smirk, then pushed Anna’s chair out the front door and into the night.

Nice. Josh shut the door and ground his teeth. He was all too aware that he wasn’t Mom and Dad. They’d been gone for five years, killed in the same accident that had nearly taken Anna as well. Josh had been twenty-eight, a brand-new father from his first and only one-night stand, and a single year out of residency when it’d happened. Overnight he’d lost his parents and had suddenly become responsible for a badly injured, headstrong, angry teenager along with his infant son. He’d held it together, barely, but it’d all been a hell of an adjustment, and there’d been more than a few times Josh hadn’t been sure he was going to make it.

Sometimes he still wasn’t sure.

He locked up, flipped off the kitchen and living room lights, and found Toby jumping on his bed with his Jedi saber, the iridescent green light slicing through the air.

Whoosh, vrrmm-whoosh.

Josh caught him in midleap and swung him upside down, to Toby’s screams of delight. Then Josh tossed him onto the bed and crawled in after him.

Toby had a few books on his pillow. He was into superheroes, cars, trains…anything with noise, really. Being read to calmed him, and he snuggled up close and set his head on Josh’s shoulder, pointing to the top book. The Berenstain Bears. The cover showed the entire family, but Toby stroked his finger over the mama bear.

He wanted his mama bear.

Like a knife to the heart. “Toby.”

Toby tucked his face into Josh’s armpit but Josh gently palmed the boy’s head and pulled him back enough to see his face. “You remember what I told you, right? About your mom? That she had something really important to do, but that she’d be here with you if she could?”

Toby stared at him with those huge, melting chocolate–brown eyes and nodded.

And not for the first time in the past five years, Josh wanted to strangle Ally for walking out on them. For walking out and never so much as looking back. Leaning in, he pressed a kiss to Toby’s forehead and then sighed. “You forgot the soap.”

“Arf.”





Josh woke somewhere near dawn, dreaming about being smothered. When he opened his eyes, he realized he’d fallen asleep in Toby’s bed. The Bean had one half, Tank the other, both blissfully sleeping, limbs and paws akimbo.

Josh, bigger than both of them put together times four, had a tiny little corner of the bed. And he meant tiny. His feet were numb from hanging off, and the Berenstain Bears book was stuck to his face. Wincing at his sore bones, he shifted, and at the movement, Tank snuffled and stretched.

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