Home > Next to Never (Fall Away #4.5)(16)

Next to Never (Fall Away #4.5)(16)
Author: Penelope Douglas

I doubt it.

Lucas knew me when I needed to get pushed on the swings and all I wanted to watch on TV was the Disney Channel. I’d been kissed, I’d been touched, but I’d never felt compelled to experience more.

What did Jase want with? What did he want to do to her? She was only slightly older than me, so what did he see in her that men didn’t see in me?

But I guess that’s not true. There were boys who had been interested in me.

I was still curious, though . . . what did desire feel like for someone when one woman could give him what he needed but not another?

• • •

Jase . . .

Stepping through the front door, I walked into my home and immediately saw Maddie sweeping into the foyer. Our son sat on her hip as she swung his diaper bag on her other shoulder. “You’re home early.” She forced a small smile, her voice light.

“Where are you going?” I asked, setting my briefcase down.

I reached out a hand and rubbed Madoc’s bald head.

“We have a doctor’s appointment,” she said, wiping some drool from the corner of his mouth. “Just a checkup, and then we’re going to the library before I drop him off with my mother, so I can meet with the caterers for my sister’s wedding.”

“Well, here then.” I held out my hands, ready to take him. “Just leave him with me, and you can do what you need to do.”

Just because we were practically roommates these days didn’t mean I wasn’t still my son’s father.

“Oh, Jase.” She laughed like it was a joke. “Have you ever changed his diaper? You’d be calling me in ten minutes, breaking down.”

“I think I can handle it.” I reached out for him again. “I went to Harvard.”

But she just shook her head and walked around me. “I don’t have time to show you where the formula is, how to make it, the toys he likes to play with . . . trust me,” she said, kind of sounding like she was talking to a child. “Use the peace and quiet to get some work done. I’ll be home in a few hours. We have dinner with your parents later, so I laid out a suit for you. Just don’t forget to shower,” she instructed. “You kind of smell like that cologne your mom bought you last Christmas that I threw away. Did she buy you another bottle?”

“Maddie?” I argued, seeing her open the door. “I want him—”

“It’ll just stress me out,” she fought. “Making me come all the way back here when you need help . . .” And then she kissed the air between us. “Love you. Bye.”

And she pulled the door closed.

For a few minutes I stood there, trying to figure out why she thought I couldn’t take care of my son. Why she seemed in such a hurry to leave.

It was me, no doubt. I’d cut her off for so long and put him in her care so much, she didn’t know how to let me help her with him.

Or maybe she didn’t want to be around me any more than I wanted to be with her.

My phone rang in my briefcase, and I opened it up to retrieve it. Hitting the green Call button, I brought it my ear.


“This is Rhodes BMW, sir.”


“Sir, the car you wanted delivered today was sent back.”

Sent back? What?

I tore the phone away from my ear and ended the call. Sent back?

Digging under some files, I pulled my wallet out, stuck it in my breast pocket, and headed for the door.

I’d purchased a car for Kat, not expecting anything, and I could understand her being compelled to not accept such a large gift, but hell . . . She could’ve been attacked the other night. She was nearly attacked, actually. You would think a young woman with a child to worry about would choose sense over pride and take a vehicle that would improve the chances of keeping her and her kid safe.

It wasn’t like it was a new car, either. If she thought the gift meant I was intending to keep her as a mistress, I’d damn well put her in a brand new Bimmer, or better yet, let her pick the car and color herself.

Climbing into my car, I shifted it into gear and sped off. The daylight spilled through the trees, and I was grateful it was finally warm. I worried about Kat. I hated where she lived, I hated the environment her son was faced with every day, and even though he was too young to notice now, he eventually would. Coming home at night, I wondered about her and him. Were they warm? Were they safe? Was he properly fed?

I wanted her to have everything and to not worry about anything.

Passing through the denser neighborhoods, I drove by the high school, when it occurring to me that Kat probably graduated from there only last year. We were only seven years apart in age, but worlds apart in education and experience.

It should’ve unnerved me. But instead, it excited me. I liked how she was different from other women I’d known.

Young, impulsive, angry . . . and completely unrefined. She felt so forbidden to me, and I wanted her.

I also liked how she seemed to need me, just a little.

Finally giving in and pulling in front of her house, I turned off the car, hesitating a moment. I wasn’t sure if that son of a bitch was home, but I was completely prepared to do what I had to do.

Leaving my car, I made sure to lock it, and I walked up to her house, passing through the creaking gate of the chain-link fence and up the steps.

“Hello?” I called, knocking on the wooden screen door.

“Yes?” someone called out, and I spotted a shadow approaching through the screen.

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