Home > Travis (Pelion Lake)(2)

Travis (Pelion Lake)(2)
Author: Mia Sheridan

“Yeah. I brought the police department’s data he asked for,” I said, pulling the folded printouts from my back pocket. Archer had asked that I pull together crime statistics for the town’s annual meeting coming up in July.

Bree nodded. “Lie down,” she said to the dogs who were still milling around my legs.

“That’s not a good idea, Bree. You’re married to my brother and I’m attached to someone. You really have to get over me once and for all.”

She rolled her eyes. “Funny.”

She focused her attention on the dogs—her serious mom look—and I grinned as they lay down on the porch, the larger black dog and the small, curly-haired white one flopping onto their sides, the brown one still grinning up at me like some furry demented clown. I glared at it, letting it know that it should save its furry deranged clown business for someone who couldn’t fight it off. Its grin stretched, widened. Jesus. I gave it an extensive berth as Bree stepped inside the house and motioned me to follow her. “Archer texted a few minutes ago. He’s running a little late but he should be home shortly.”

The house was small but homey. It smelled like vanilla and something savory cooking in the kitchen. The boys argued genially, their animated voices rising and falling as they played in their room at the back of the house. The windows were open wide and the curtains fluttered in the breeze coming off the lake. The hardwood floor creaked under Bree’s bare feet as she walked to the kitchen, chubby baby perched on her hip. Would this be so bad? A home like this? A life like this?

“You’re welcome to stay for dinner,” Bree said. There was only the barest hint of hesitation in her tone, as though she wasn’t a hundred percent sure she meant what she said. I guess that’s going to take a while—maybe forever.

I set the papers down and leaned against the counter as I watched her juggle Averie, while checking something in the oven and then stirring what looked like pasta on the range. “I can’t. I got tonight off so I can surprise Phoebe and take her to dinner.”

Bree let out a small laugh but it died a quick death. “Sorry. I just wish your girlfriend didn’t have the same name as my dog. It’s . . . unsettling.”

“So change its name.”

She turned to me quickly, looking more than a little outraged. “You can’t just—” She shook her head as though what she was about to say wasn’t worth her time. “Anyway, I’m sure she’ll be thrilled that you’re off.” She looked at me sideways. “How are things going with her? You’ve been seeing her for what? About a year now?”

I nodded, warmth infusing my chest as Phoebe’s smile filled my mind’s eye, the way she still sighed and looked nearly star-struck when I winked at her. “Ten months. She’s good. She’s great.” She worships me.

Bree had gone back to her stirring, but now stopped, placing the spoon on the counter. She shifted Averie so she was holding her with two arms and leaned against the counter, resting her chin on the baby’s head and watching me thoughtfully. “Travis Hale. I never thought I’d see the day. You’re actually serious about someone, aren’t you?”

“Jealous?” I grinned but she remained serious. My smile slipped.

“No. Glad. It’s good to see you finding happiness.”

There was a full, weighted silence that made me feel itchy. I didn’t know what to say. In all honesty, Bree had every right to wish me unhappiness for the rest of my days even though Archer and I had mended fences, and I tried my damnedest to be a good uncle to my nephews—which wasn’t hard because, frankly, I enjoyed the hell out of them—and someday, if I was able to win her over, the niece still watching me cautiously. The way I’d acted when Bree first came to Pelion . . . the things I’d done to my brother all our lives, would forever be between us. Years had passed, holidays had gone by, I liked to think I’d matured, but even so, there was nothing I could do to change the way I’d hurt them in the past. The things my actions might have caused.

“She’s the one, huh?” Bree asked, and I detected the barest hint of . . . uneasiness? Concern? I wasn’t sure, and whatever had passed over her expression was there and gone in the blink of an eye. She bent her head and inhaled Averie’s wispy brown hair, sighing softly.

Bree had met Phoebe on many occasions. She’d never said anything unkind about her, but I’d also gotten the sense they might never be best friends. Which was okay by me. Bree was into baking, and reading, and mucking around in the rocks with her kids and dogs. All worthy pastimes when you were a mom. But Phoebe wasn’t a mom. Yet. She was into . . . well besides me, she was into . . . what was Phoebe into?

She liked to shop, I knew that. And tan. She was very good at both.

“Well, when you know, you know,” Bree said, smiling softly, meeting my gaze and holding it for several beats.

When you know, you know.

I pushed off the counter just as the soft sound of the front door opening met my ears. The door clicked shut quietly and then Archer turned into the kitchen, looking unsurprised to see me. He’d obviously noticed my truck parked out front. Hey, he signed.

Hi, I signed back as Archer made a beeline for Bree and his daughter, his face lighting with such open joy that I almost looked away, as though I’d barged in on an intimate moment and had no business being there.

The baby kicked her chubby legs and grinned, two shiny white teeth appearing on her bottom gum. Averie reached for her father and Archer took her from Bree, kissing his wife on the lips, lingering.

“Well,” I said, loudly, giving the papers sitting on the counter a tap. “There’s the data you wanted. I emailed it to you as well, but was in the area, so thought I’d drop off printouts. Tell the boys I said bye. I’ll pick them up Sunday.” We had a long-standing after-dinner ice cream date where I fed them too much sugar and then sent them home so their parents could deal with the aftermath.

Archer glanced at Bree, his hands too full to “speak,” and as though reading his mind she said, “Travis can’t join us for dinner. He has plans with Phoebe.”

Ah, Archer mouthed, smiling at me and nodding.

“Good to see you,” I said. “Bree.” I smiled at Averie whose eyes narrowed minutely. She leaned toward Archer, her tiny fist clutching his shirt the same way she’d held on to her mother. “Okay, then. See you guys later.” And with that, I turned and let myself out of the little house on the lake that smacked of home and love and family.

 

**********

 

The breeze smelled like peaches. I inhaled a deep breath of the air coming in my open window, as my truck idled on the dirt road that ended at the edge of my property. Peace rolled through me. Hope in the future. The sun was just beginning its descent behind an old barn, the light hazy and golden. Unfortunately, I’d have to tear down the structure. It was right in the spot where I intended on building my home. Maybe I could use the lumber somehow though. Beams . . . or flooring, something to pay homage to what had once been but was no longer.

My father had bought this land on the very edge of Pelion, technically in the town of Calliope, the more touristy area on the opposite side of the lake. The land wasn’t massive, but it was prime lake-front property. It had once been an orchard, and several of the fruit trees remained: apples, cherries, peaches, and plums.

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