“Deal.” I only half mean it.
Barrett bobs his head in agreement. “You’re my person.”
I haven’t been anyone’s person, so I’m not sure what all that entails, but I can bake cookies and smoke a few joints with Barrett if that makes his days a little better. Burying a body might not be in my personal repertoire, but I keep that to myself. He’s happy at the moment, so that’s all that matters because we are only a moment.
I turn toward the door and the female voice.
“Bella, come meet my friend, Henna.”
Bella is petite with a dark-haired pixie cut and sable eyes, nothing like Barrett or Bodhi. She’s clearly the spitting image of the woman I saw in pictures on the living room wall.
“Hi.” I smile.
Bella gives me a wary once-over before relinquishing a ghost of a smile. “How do you know my dad?”
“I live up the way, and we met after I took a guided tour on Angelina.”
Her ruddy lips purse to the side. “What’s in the basket?”
“Cookies,” Barrett answers.
I give a stiff smile.
“Want one?” he offers.
Oh God …
“I’m good. The wine I had with dinner was a Moscato. I don’t need anything sweet.”
“They’re double chocolate. Your favorite. And Henna makes the best cookies.”
Why must he press this? They’re double chocolate to tame the cannabis taste.
“Maybe just half.”
My nose wrinkles as I give Barrett a this-is-not-a-good-idea look. He winks at me, giving her a whole cookie.”
Bella takes a bite, her nose scrunching a bit like mine. It’s a recipe I’ve perfected over years. My mom says they’re really quite good, and she’s never been a big cannabis fan.
“Not bad.” She shrugs.
Bodhi freezes when he sees me. I return a toothless smile with wide eyes.
“Henna’s back in town, Bodhi. She just brought over some cookies. I gave one to your sister.”
Bodhi’s gaze swells with concern as it ping-pongs between me and Bella.
His dad holds up the basket. “Bodhi?”
He shakes his head. Men who get high and totally shitfaced then put their fathers in wheelchairs for life don’t touch drugs or alcohol.
Barrett shrugs. “Your loss. After embarrassing yourselves with your bickering while Henna could hear you, I think you both could use a cookie. Maybe two.”
Bodhi tosses me an uneasy look. “I didn’t know your friend was here.”
It’s probably strange that I’m oddly turned on by this game where I’m Barrett’s friend until Bodhi has me alone with my clothes off. We’re back to the forbidden. I didn’t think I wanted that forbidden thrill anymore, but I was wrong.
“I prefer her to both of you at the moment.”
Bodhi cringes like Barrett’s little jab really pains him. Bella? She’s finishing the whole cookie, inspecting it before each bite as if she’s trying to figure it out. I don’t think she’s heard a word Barrett’s said about their fighting.
“Did our dad tell you he’s going to die without chemotherapy?” Bella asks.
“Bella. Don’t,” Bodhi warns.
Rolling my lips together, I wait for Barrett’s reaction.
“Because he is…” she continues “…he’s going to die without the chemotherapy. And he won’t listen to Bodhi because he feels sorry for Bodhi.” She coughs a laugh. “Which is utterly ridiculous because Bodhi’s the reason he’s in a wheelchair.”
“Bella.” Barrett narrows his eyes at his daughter while giving her a barely detectable head shake.
Bodhi looks out past the drive toward the horse barn while running a rough hand through his hair.
Bella sits in one of the wooden rocking chairs like a queen taking her place on the throne. “If Henna’s your friend, then she should know the truth about the Malone family.”
My heart and my head struggle with Bella’s attitude. Yes, she’s being cruel to both Bodhi and her dad, but I know it’s because she’s not only angry about the circumstances, she’s hurting too. That makes me sad for her. She’s lost her mom. Her relationship with her brother is toxic. And she’s dealing with the real possibility she could lose her father.
Bodhi is her scapegoat.
“I’m going for a ride,” Bodhi mumbles while walking down the ramp in his jeans and cowboy boots.
“You do that,” Bella spits out. “I’ve only been watching him for the past week so you could escape, pretending you didn’t mess everything up. But yeah …” She leans back in the chair with her hands laced behind her head and a stiff smile carved into her bitter face. “Since I leave in the morning, you’d better squeeze every last bit of freedom that you can out of me.”
“Bodhi!” Barrett’s voice booms with more strength than I thought he had in him. “Don’t you ever talk to your sister that way.”
Resting his hands on the ramp railing, Bodhi hangs his head. Bella has the audacity to look offended while their dad releases a long exhausted breath. I feel so out of place, yet another part of me feels like I need to be here. I traveled the world to discover the place I wanted to be more than anywhere else is in Bodhi Malone’s arms.
Easing out of the squeaky chair. I give Barrett a sad smile.
“Don’t go,” Barrett says while Bella keeps rocking and Bodhi remains statuesque with his head tucked between his outstretched arms and hunched shoulders.
The wood planks creek beneath my feet as I walk down the ramp. Bodhi doesn’t move. I duck my head and slide my body between his arms so he’s now caging me between his body and the railing.
“Henna,” he whispers, closing his eyes. “Don’t do this.
My palms slide up his cheeks. “Henna and Bodhi forever,” I whisper.
The rhythmic wood-against-wood whining of Bella’s rocking chair stops. I don’t have to see her to know she’s frozen, wondering what’s going on between me and her brother.
“Take me for a ride, Bodhi.” My thumb grazes across his lower lip. I let us be in our own little bubble.
The pain deepens along his forehead, but he leans into my touch.
“Because I love you so fucking much, the rest of the world can’t touch us.”
His hand moves from the railing to cup the back of my head, and he brings our mouths together in a slow kiss. We kiss like no one else exists—slow and passionately.
Crickets are all that can be heard around us. Without looking at his dad or his sister, he grabs my hand. “I’m taking Henna for a ride with me. Don’t wait up.”
If there was any question whether or not I would forgive Bodhi for letting me go the way he did, there isn’t now.
I forgive him. I love him. And it’s so much more than temporary.
“You’re terrible at following instructions.” I pull her toward the horse barn.
“I love you too.”
I can’t hide my grin. She erases all the pain in my life with a look, a word, a single touch.
“I think your sister swallowed her tongue.”
With a grunt, I mumble, “If only …”
“By the time we get back, they’ll be in a happy place. I bet she doesn’t hate you in about … two hours.”
I hold open the door for her, shooting her a lifted-brow look. “So kind of you to get my sister and my father high this evening.”
“You’re welcome.” She lifts onto her toes and deposits a soft kiss on my lips before continuing into the barn. “Duke done for the night?”
“I can’t recall seeing him walk to his mobile home.”
I grab Snare’s blanket, saddle, halter, and reins. “I’m guessing it’s because you were too busy feeding my dad cookies.”
Henna meanders around the barn, showing love to some of the horses with their heads peeking out of the stalls. “Did you find anyone … when we weren’t together?”
I lift the saddle onto Snare, glancing over at her to confirm that she’s asking me what I think she’s asking me, but her back’s to me.
“Did I date? No.”
“But you were …” She makes her way over to me, leaning against a wood post, arms crossed over her chest. “With other women. Right?”
My hands stay busy as I let her question hang in the air, hoping it will evaporate without an answer.
“Bodhi …” She slips her hands in my front pockets and rests her head on the middle of my back.
I close my eyes, pausing my hands.
“If you say no, I’ll feel terrible like I cheated on you. If you say yes, I’ll feel jealous, but at least …” She trails off.
I open my eyes without turning. I’m not ready to look at her. “Jealousy is a pretty fucking awful feeling. I’m not sure why you want me to answer you at all. Does it matter?”
Bobbing her head on my back, she exhales. “Were you jealous?”