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Forgive me callaway book.., p.4

Forgive Me (Callaway Book 2), page 4

 

Forgive Me (Callaway Book 2)
 


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  When his alarm started beeping, he shut it off and rolled off the bed, ready to get down to work and hopefully have a break from his own thoughts. He walked into the kitchen and smiled at the sight of his mom over the oven, making pancakes, with his brother, John, making coffee. To a lot of people, four grown men living in the same house—well, three since Cole and Jamie had moved into the cabin—was a weird arrangement, but for Drew, it was all he knew. He wouldn't trade his choices for anything in the world. This was where he belonged, where his heart belonged, and there was no denying that type of connection.

  "Morning, Mom. How did you sleep?" He walked around the island in the middle of the kitchen and kissed his mom on the cheek.

  "Like Sleeping Beauty, honey. How about you? You look like you didn't get much rest." He should have known better than thinking his mom wouldn't see right past him.

  "I've had better nights, but I'm fine, Mom. I just have a lot on my mind right now." He prayed like hell that his mom wouldn't push him for more information.

  "You want coffee, man?" John's voice was thick with worry, and he hated that they hadn't made things right since their argument. They weren't the kind of family who stayed angry with each other, or the type who didn't clear arguments; that just wasn't how they were.

  He walked over to where his brother stood. "Are we good?"

  John looked at him, and for a brief second, he thought he was about to tell him to go to hell, but what he said next left him speechless. "We're brothers, Drew. No matter how bad we screw up, no matter what shit happens, we're brothers. We're always good. Nothing is ever going to change that."

  "You remind me so much of Dad." And that was the honest truth. John was the one who had inherited their dad's deep soul way of thinking. Almost philosophical-like, there was nothing John couldn't fix using words, and their dad had been the same.

  "You all have a little bit of your father in you. John thinks just like he did—deep, emotional but rational. Your father always had an answer for everything, just like you do. Cole inherited your father's sense of responsibility. He takes on so much, cares for this family. Nick has the same free spirit as your father, and the need to run wild and free is part of who he is. Becca's heart is so pure and feels everything so deep, and your father was like that. And you, baby, you inherited his passion for this land. Your father couldn't be torn away from this land, no matter what. It was part of who he was, just like it's part of who you are. But more than that, you all inherited something else from him: your heart. You all love fast and hard, and when your heart belongs to someone, it's theirs forever."

  Drew listened to his mom and let her words sink in before speaking up. "I miss him so much, Mom. Sometimes, when I'm working out on the land, I swear I can see him right there beside me, telling me how to fix the fence. Do you think you could ever move on, Mom? Fall in love with another man?"

  "Oh, baby, your father was the only man I have ever given myself too, and he is the only man I could ever truly give my heart to. When you fall in love with a Callaway man, you never fall out of it. Maybe that's the answer you're looking for."

  "Maybe," he answered, but the truth was he really didn't know what he was looking for.

  John piped up just then. "I was talking to Abby the other day, and she told me Amanda has been spending her time either at the diner or at home. She thinks she's working herself to the bone trying to forget something. I'm no expert, Drew, but what you two had back in high school was hot and heavy. It was hard and fast, and that kind of love doesn't just go away with time. It just adds to the fire." Sometimes, he hated how smart his brother could be, nothing got past the man.

  And there it was, the question he was desperately trying to avoid. Would what they had back then still be there after all this time? He didn't want to go down that road this morning, especially not in front of his mom. He looked at his brother with a smile and turned the tables on him "You were talking to Abby?"

  John sighed, and Drew had to bite back a laugh. "That's what you got from that? Selective hearing much?" His brother all but barked at him, and that told him a lot more than any words he could have said.

  What was going on between John and Abby? That was something he could talk about. "Man, it's not every day your reclusive brother talks about a woman."

  "Fuck off, Drew." John shoved him back against the counter, and all Drew could do was laugh. There was definitely something going on there.

  "John Callaway, watch that language."

  John flipped him the finger, careful not to let their mother see the gesture, before walking toward the woman they all cherished more than anything in this world. "Sorry, Mom."

  Drew decided he'd put his brother in the spotlight long enough when his mom gave him a knowing stare that told him to stop avoiding the question. He filled his cup of coffee before sitting down at the kitchen table, where they'd shared more talks, dinners and arguments than he could recall. "I don't want to push her too fast but, man, she shared something with me, and I can't get that out of mind."

  His brother sat down next to him, "Listen, Amanda isn't the type to act on feelings. She's a logical person, so it's up to you. You want her, take her."

  "I always loved that girl. She's good for you." Drew's eyes went straight to his mom. She rarely spoke about his relationship with Amanda, or any of their relationships, actually. But he should have known better; she saw everything, and just like she'd always done, she kept her piece of advice until just the right moment.

  "But am I good for her?" The instant he saw the hurt in his mother's eyes, he regretted speaking the words. However, the truth of the matter was he honestly didn't know if he was good for Amanda. She wanted more to life than Montana, and Montana was all he could ever give her. It was all he had to give.

  "Andrew Callaway, I don't ever want to hear you say that again. That girl is lucky to have you, and I don't want you to ever say otherwise. Now eat, these chores aren't going to get themselves done."

  "Yes, ma'am." He kissed his mom before grabbing his baseball cap from the corner table.

  As he walked outside, with the sun shining down on him, he couldn't help but feel like he just had a déjà vu moment after talking to his mom. In high school, they had the same conversation, and she had told him the exact same thing back then. Maybe it was time for him to realize he was good enough for Amanda, that he could give her a good life. Maybe not the one she had hoped for, but a life worth staying for.

  Around lunch time, Drew was desperate for some time alone to think. "Hey, Nick, I'm taking off for an hour or so. You good?" he told his brother as he walked past the barn toward his truck.

  "Yeah, man, I'm good. Is everything okay?" Nick asked, the concern in his voice palpable.

  "Yeah, I'm just going to go see Dad and then I'll be back. I shouldn't be too long." He watched Nick give him a nod, and he knew his brother wouldn't push the issue. They all had moments when they needed to talk to their dad, and when that time came, none of them asked questions. Cole had done it right before asking Jamie to marry him, and God knew each of them had their share of talks with their old man when they needed to think.

  The drive to the cemetery always managed to calm him down; there was something peaceful about driving down an old dirt road with the sun beaming through the trees, reminding him of the beauty surrounding him. No noise, except the sound of birds humming and gravel flying. There was nothing like it.

  He parked his truck outside the entrance and walked down to where his father laid. He cleaned the weeds around his grave and crunched down. "Hey, Dad. I know it's been a while since I've been around, but it's just so hard to come here and talk to a grave instead of talking to you. You'd think I'd stop missing you so damn much after all these years, but I could really use your advice right now. Amanda's back in town. Yeah, I know, none of us saw it coming. Her dad died, and she moved back. I don't think she ever thought she'd be back here. She's so beautiful. God, she's so damn gorgeous it hurts. You should see her house,
Dad. It's falling apart.

  "I feel like I should have checked in with her dad more, and then maybe I would have been able to do something about the house before it got too bad. But every time I thought about that house, I thought about Amanda, and that just hurt me so fucking much. I loved her so much and when she left, she took my heart with her. But she's back now, and I don't think I can stay away. To know she's waited for me this whole time, to know there's a part of her that will always belong to me. Fuck, Dad, it makes me feel like Superman. I see Cole with Jamie and I ache for what they have, for what you and Mom had. The kind of love that's so strong it can withstand anything." He paused and smiled. "I'm going to get her back, Dad."

  Driving over to the Callaway ranch, Amanda was still reeling from what went down between her and Drew the night before. She couldn't believe she told him she was still a virgin. God, he must think I'm an idiot. She couldn't shake the look on his face as the words slipped through her lips, a combination of pure shock and lust. That was one thing about Drew that hadn't changed with the years—the man just oozed sex appeal. It didn't matter if he was working on the ranch, sleeping or just plain breathing. She had no idea how she was going to survive having him work on the house. She barely made it through their encounter at the ranch without jumping him.

  She couldn't think about Drew, and especially not Drew shirtless and dripping with sweat. She had to focus on the task at hand. Ever since moving back, she'd been missing the ability to be creative with food. The diner was great, but it wasn't like she could change the menu to something fancy. If Cole and Jamie wanted her to cater their wedding, it was her opportunity for her to get back some of the creativity she had in the city. When she pulled up to the ranch, she saw them, Cole and Jamie, sitting out on the porch, with Cole's hand protectively placed on Jamie's growing baby bump. She parked her truck, took a deep breath, and focused her thoughts.

  "Hey, guys." She climbed up the stairs looking around for any sign of Drew. When she finally reached the porch and looked at Cole, she knew she'd been caught red-handed by the smirk on his face.

  Jamie elbowed him in the stomach, making Amanda laugh. She loved this family, and Jamie was the perfect addition. It took a strong woman to be with Cole, and she seemed made for him. "Hey, Amanda, how are you?"

  She smiled and sat down in the empty rocking chair in front of Jamie. "I'm good. What about you, Miss Soon-to-be Bride and Mom?"

  "I'll be better once you agree to cater this wedding." Jamie sounded exhausted as she spoke. Immediately, Amanda knew she was walking out of there with a wedding to cater. There was no denying that after looking into Jamie's eyes.

  "Let's see what we can do about that. I'm flattered that you guys want me to do this for you." Then something hit her: Drew would be there. Being around him at his brother's wedding was something she hadn't thought about until right that moment. Could she handle being so close to him? Good God, she needed to get a grip. She was a professional, and she could damn well do this job without letting her feelings for Drew get the best of her.

  "You want something to drink, Amanda?" she heard Cole ask through the fog of her thoughts, which were running wild.

  She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "No, I'm good, Cole, thanks. So, why don't you guys tell me what you're looking for?"

  "Well, we're having a small wedding with about forty guests here at the ranch. Honestly, I don't know what I want on the menu, which is why we want you to create whatever you think is best. We want to use veggies and fruits grown here on the ranch, since Kathy has been growing them in industrial quantities lately, but apart from that, it's up to you."

  As she listened to Jamie tell her about the wedding, Amanda started seeing pieces of the menu come together in her head. It was why she loved cooking because it gave her the ability to bring someone's vision to life, the joy of bringing happiness to people through food. "This could be a lot of fun. I assume you want something simple and down to earth, nothing over the top."

  "See, this is why you're the best person to do this. You know Cole and the family better than any other caterer we could work with," Jamie said enthusiastically.

  She smiled at Jamie then at Cole, who was looking at her like he was trying to figure something out. "Okay, what's the budget we're working with?"

  Cole leaned forward with his hands on his knees before answering her. "This is what we wanted to talk to you about. So, I know Drew had a look at your house, and we know you can't afford all of the renovation right now, so we'd like to make a trade. You cater the wedding, and we'll fix the house. We'll cover all the food costs and overhead, of course."

  She heard him, but her brain couldn't process the words. It wasn't right; there was no way she could accept that. Catering their wedding was one thing, but doing it in exchange for work on her house? What kind of person would that make her? "No, no, I can't do that. That's not right, Cole. I can't let you guys do that."

  Cole took a deep breath, and she suddenly felt like this decision was already made, no matter what her objections were. "Amanda, you're family to us. Seeing you live in that house is making Drew have ulcers, and it's making all us nervous. This is a fair deal, Amanda. It's a fair trade."

  "Did Drew put you up to this?" she asked him. She wanted to know—no, she needed to know if Drew had put him up to this because if he had, she was going to give him a piece of her mind.

  "Actually, he didn't. It was my idea," Cole told her severely but casually, as if he knew exactly how she would react. She hated that they knew her so well because she had no defenses against them. She didn't like being this vulnerable, this open.

  "Amanda, you know they won't let it go. The Callaway men are as stubborn as you can get. Please, say yes," Jamie told her, and Amanda knew she was right.

  "All right, I'll do it." she reluctantly agreed, knowing very well she didn't stand a chance.

  "Oh, my God, I'm so happy!" Jamie smiled and clapped her hands. Amanda had the feeling that if she could, the woman would be dancing around on the porch.

  "I'll put together a menu, and we can go from there." She already had some ideas and couldn't wait to get started and see what she could do to make this day even more memorable for them.

  "Drew and I will stop by the house this week and give you a game plan," Cole told her, reminding her of the fact that she was going to be seeing a lot more of Drew than she was comfortable with.

  Right, the house. She had been so caught up in the food that she'd almost forgotten what she'd agreed to. She looked up at him and smiled. "Thank you, Cole."

  He gave her a quick hug and whispered in her ear, "Don't thank me, Amanda, thank Drew. This might be pushing it, but what you guys had back in the day was special. Don't let that go."

  She slowly pulled away from him before whispering, "Thank you."

  "I don't know where you stand with him, Amanda, but don't play games. When you left, it broke something in him, and I don't think he can go through that again." The big brother had quickly replaced the friend, not that she blamed him for wanting to protect family.

  Listening to Cole, she knew Drew had told him everything. Her heart beat so fast, she thought it may pop right out of her chest. She knew by leaving the way she did had hurt Drew, but hearing it was a whole different story. She never wanted to put Drew through that kind of pain. "I never wanted to hurt him, Cole. I love him."

  Cole tilted his head. "Funny how you just used the present tense."

  What? Oh, God, she needed to get out of there before she said something else. Something that would give away a lot more than she already had, something that once said, there was no going back from. "I have to go. I'll need a couple of days to put the menu together."

  The rest of the day went by in a haze. The diner was crazy busy, and she had no time to think about anything else other than getting the food out and serving the customers. She managed to close the diner around 8 p.m., ready to tackle the preparations for Cole and Jamie's menu. "Abby, do you have a minute? I wa
nted to talk to you about something."

  She watched as the tiny woman she'd become fast friends with walked into the kitchen. She didn't know what Abby's story was but knew there was something there. The girl was running from something, but as long as she was there, Amanda would do whatever she could to keep her safe.

  "Sure thing. What's going on?" Abby asked, leaning against the counter.

  "Well, Cole and Jamie have asked me to cater their wedding and well, I can cook, but I can't bake to save my life. I know you can, though, since I've seen the baked goods you do for John. I was hoping you would do the wedding cake instead of our outsourcing to a baker."

  "Really?"

  Amanda laughed at how surprised Abby was, but she hadn't lied. She'd tasted some of the goods Abby baked, and the girl was one hell of a baker.

  "You'd be saving my ass," she told her honestly. Plus, she was more than sold on the idea of keeping everything in-house.

  Abby gave her a hug, her eager happiness easy to read. "I would love to. Thank you so much. I won't let you down."

  "I should be the one thanking you. So, you and John, huh?"

  Abby blushed and Amanda smiled. Oh, yeah, there was definitely something going on there. She couldn't blame Abby; the Callaway men were hard to ignore and there was something about John that screamed authority and power, something strong. "Oh, well, no, it's not like that. I mean, we're just friends."

  "Women don't normally become 'just friends' with the Callaway brothers."

  Abby sighed like she was living in a fantasy of her own, and Amanda could relate to that feeling. Abby smiled before saying what most women probably thought of the Callaway genes, "It should be illegal to be that good-looking."

 
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