Kyle scrubbed away at the pans in the sink. Even though it was Lucian's job, he figured he needed a little hard labor for a while to take his mind off things. It was still way too early for yard work, and he didn't feel like practicing for the lumberjack climb, so he scrubbed pots.
He wasn't going to lie to himself. Kyle felt a little down.
Judith had been towed upstairs to her room by Marianne and Nora, who had been waiting by the car, and they had been in there for two hours. Bre had dropped by not long after they went up, and brought Alex back. Things had been relatively quiet, which only made Kyle's mind race. He almost wanted to go trudging through the woods anyway, even though it was a foolish thought.
Bre was now sitting at the center island, making the batter for her famous scones. She glanced up, and signed audibly.
"Your going to rub that finish off that pot, boy, if you scrub any harder."
There was a loud clank as he dropped the pot into the drying rack.
He had never told a woman that he loved her before. What a disaster that had been. She had basically run screaming out of his house. Fantastic.
"I'm going to the pantry. Inventory needs to be taken."
She frowned, "Not until next month."
"No time like the present."
Kyle marched out of the kitchen. At least in the pantry, no one would see him drowning in misery.
The three women sat in the middle of the living room, Judith had her arms curled around Alex. The baby slept in her arms, completely oblivious to the conversation they were having around him.
"I see," Marianne sighed.
Judith had just regaled them the tale that she had only told Kyle about not even three hours earlier.
"Jack and I want you to come stay with us for a while," Nora replied, "Vince knows that you'll go to Marianne's first, so stay with us."
"Al and I can keep him busy," Marianne told her, "You'll be safe there."
"I can't put either of your families in the cross-fire like that," Judith objected, she was still wearing Kyle's shirt, but she had slipped on a pair of black leggings underneath it.
"You can't keep running. That's not safe either."
They were stuck at a hard place. There was a brief silence, and then Nora asked, "Is it because of Kyle Masters?"
Judith gasped. She didn't want to think about Kyle.
She had treated him badly. His confession, the confession that she hadn't suspected, had scared her. If she let herself get attached to him, even though she figured she already was, it would be hard to recover from leaving him. Judith already knew that it was becoming close to impossible.
"We'll clear this up in no time. We have Vince trapped. Once his business dealings are made public, it won't matter any more. His assets will be frozen, and you'll be free again," Marianne explained, "You're parents estate in Florida is still being maintained. You don't even have to go back to the old place."
Judith shuddered. She would have rather lived in motels than in Vince's house again.
"Of course," Nora said, "If you want to stay there, that would be fine too. There are plenty of people taking care of the O'Shey Imports. All you'd need is your own office and-"
"That's out of the question," she interrupted, "I can't inconvenience these people forever."
The rumors would pass, that didn't bother her. After the time she'd stayed at the B and B, the workers there were like her family. It would be hard to leave them, but she would do what she had to. She always did.
"There's still a matter that bothers me," Nora said, "How was it that Vince always knew to track you before? No one knew about the hospital you were at, or when you left. Who exactly did you tell when you ran?"
"The two of you," Judith replied, "My governess, Eliza Gracia, and the head of the household staff at my parents old estate. Alarico de Luca. I trust both of them, they've been in the family for years, and were loyal to my family and not Vince's."
"It might have been someone at the hospital. I'll have Jack do some digging. Maybe Vince is paying someone."
Judith suspected it, and wasn't surprised.
Alex stirred in her arms, and she shifted him to her arms. He had been fed, bathed, changed, and he always liked to sleep after that. The other women didn't object when she left the room to lay Alex down for a nap. When she came back, she picked up her tea that had been sitting on the table.
"All that aside," she said, "I can't leave for at least the next week. There's a big town fair here, and I have promised to help. I can't just leave them short-handed."
Nora and Marianne exchanged a look. Marianne then shrugged, "We took out a room at the B and B already, not thinking that we'd find you that quickly. Why don't we stay here until the festival is over? That should give Jack and Al enough time to make sure everything is set up for you and Alex."
A week?, Judith thought. That was all she was going to have.
It was going to have to do.
Jack hauled the boxes back onto the top shelf. He didn't even remember what the number was that he counted. He was hot, sweaty, and dusty. When the hell was the last time the wood on the shelves was replaced? He would have to go make some new ones soon-
The door opened and shut.
He held his breath and turned around. Judith was leaned against the back of the door, still wearing his shirt and leggings. There was a tired look on the face, but that it was more emotional than it was physical.
"So," Kyle stepped down from the ladder, "What did they say?"
"I'll be leaving after the fair."
"A little less than a week," Kyle said, stating more to himself than her. He cleaned his hands off with a rag. It was a blow to his gut. Looking back at her, the blue eyes of the only woman he would ever love gazed back at him.
"I'm sorry," she said, "I've been rather...rude to you. I should have-"
She flinched as he viciously tossed an empty pop at the back wall of the pantry. It crashed, and scattered on the floor, "I don't want your damn pleasantries! I'm not some blasted acquaintance that you have to humor!"
He turned his back to her, dragging his hands over his face. His temper and tolerance were really short, and he prayed that she would leave soon. When he felt a hand lay on his arm, he jumped almost as if she had shocked him. Judith pushed him to face her, and there was a look in her eyes he hadn't expected to see. Determination mixed with irritation and frustration.
"You will not yell at me," she told him.
"Look here, princess," he pointed at her, "I'm not in the mood to deal with this. Go away."
He wasn't prepared for her to push him. Kyle stumbled backwards, and landed on top of a wooden crate, "What the hell-"
She grabbed his collar and shoved him against the wall, "I wasn't finished with you."
"I don't give a flying good goddamn-"
Judith kissed him.
Everything from last night and that morning flooded back. Despite the fact that he wanted to wring her neck, he still wanted her like nothing else. Grabbing her waist, he yanked her forward onto his lap, her legs straddling his hips. Her hands were moving before he could catch up. She yanked his shirt out of his jeans, unbuttoning it before he could get a word out.
"Judith-" he gasped, feeling her soft hands run down his chest, "...wait-"
"You're not just some acquaintance," she murmured, moving back slightly to wiggle out of her clothes. His shirt was open, and she sat back on his lap, tugging at his belt. Kyle was loosing his mind, trying to catch up, but finding himself unable to do so. Before he could stop her, she unzipped his jeans.
"Please," he gasped, not really knowing if he was begging her to stop or keep going. But he was begging her to do something.
Her back arched and she slipped around him.
He couldn't breathe in enough air to fill his lungs. His hands dug into her waist as she pressed her palms on his face, kissing his lips. She moved over him, ignoring whatever little pleas he was uttering. Her blond hair tumbled down to her waist, he couldn't help but move one hand to fist it. She came hard, slamming the force of it into him, and he had to grit his teeth to keep from crying out.
After a few seconds, they simply sat, holding onto each other, her head buried in the crook of his neck. God, he would have died happy, sitting there in that dusty pantry, part of him buried inside her. Her arms wrapped around him like he was the only thing in her world.
"Someday," he murmured, "We'll go slow."
"But not today," she smiled, "I missed you."
"It was only two hours."
Judith smiled, "I still missed you."
That smile, and the thought that she missed him when she was only down the hall, was what would hold him out for the week. Kyle wrapped his arms around her, and dragged her back to his chest. He would hold her for a little bit more than let her go.