Home > Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)(6)

Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)(6)
Author: Nicole Helm


   Never mind the fact that she’d never learned how.

   “Empty plate for you.” He nudged it, then nodded toward the casserole dish. “Help yourself. What can I get you to drink?”

   “You don’t have to get me anything to drink. I can get it myself.” It’s my house. Mine. But it wasn’t. Not anymore.

   “All right,” he returned, eyeing her carefully. She didn’t like that stare. It was so analytical and sharp, like he could see right through her. But he never stopped the analyzing, so she doubted he did actually see.

   An awkward silence settled over the kitchen and Becca knew it was her fault. She should have accepted the gesture. Why couldn’t she relax?

   Maybe she could drink whiskey. She would definitely relax then. The thought made her smile. Mom would have had a cow at the idea of Becca drinking alcohol with dinner. Or drinking it period.

   They were all staring at her, as well they should have been considering she hadn’t made a move to take the seat Alex had offered. Which was the next step then. Move her feet forward. Slide into the chair that was Burt’s usual spot.

   Right. Fun times. She forced herself to do it though. She was learning to apply force to herself, and courage. She sat and scooped herself some dinner, bound and determined to get through this thing.

   “So…” She had to start a conversation. She’d killed the last one. “What are your plans for the bunkhouse?”

   “That eager to be rid of us?”

   She blinked at Gabe, her stomach swooping down in an embarrassed roll. “Oh, no, that’s not what I meant at all. I was just—”

   “Hey, no worries.” Gabe flashed her one of those reassuring smiles. “It was just a joke. Teasing, that’s all.”

   “Oh. Right. Joking.” The heat of embarrassment washed over her and she knew it was obvious on her face. A red, blotchy beacon.

   “He thinks he’s funny, which takes some getting used to. Feel free to ignore him completely. It’s what Jack and I do.”

   She tried to smile at Alex because she knew he was trying to make her feel at ease. He was trying to help. She was probably the only person in the world who would sit there thinking Gabe wasn’t joking.

   “I think this will take some getting used to for all of us,” Alex said, and he really did remind her of Burt. Not so much in appearance, but in that quiet ease he led people with. A certainty he was right and knew what was best.

   It was an odd comfort and a reminder that Burt had impressed upon her that she was capable—of running a ranch, of starting a business, of finding out who Becca Denton was beyond her old health problems and her mother’s heavy-handed protectiveness.

   Not only could she do this, but she would. No matter how many awkward meals she had to live through.

 

 

Chapter 3


   After dinner Becca insisted on cleaning up. She’d shooed the three of them out of the kitchen, and now Alex stood in the living room of his youth at a loss.

   It was an incredibly surreal thing to have eaten dinner at the kitchen table of his childhood and not have his father there. It was beyond awkward to have a woman he barely knew doing their dinner dishes in the place his mother had once stood.

   Even after dinner, he didn’t have a better read on Becca. She was skittish, that was for sure, and maybe that was reasonable, but it seemed…over the top. He stared at her back, trying to work through the puzzle as she washed.

   But no matter that his mother had once done the same thing in the same place—he only saw Becca. She had a slim frame and her hair was a riot of different shades of brown and red all braided together. She had her shoulders hunched over the sink as if she could block out the world.

   If only he could figure out why.

   He blew out a breath and turned his attention to Gabe and Jack. They were sprawled out in the living room, Jack flipping through the channels on the TV and Gabe scrolling through something on his phone. The dogs curled up on the rugs on the floor, seemingly happy with a little company.

   Alex had enough responsibility to deal with before he figured Becca out, so that’s what he needed to focus on.

   He strode back to the entryway where he’d left his bag. Though he’d instructed Gabe and Jack on what rooms to take, he hadn’t ventured to his own room yet. He’d needed some time to gear up to stepping foot into his childhood bedroom. He needed time to brace himself for the onslaught of memories that would be found there.

   Alex grabbed his binder that kept his meticulously organized business notes and returned to the living room. The room was different than he remembered. He had memories of clean, gleaming dark woods and furniture and blankets in shades of tan and brown.

   Now, it was colorful and cluttered, two things his father had never cared for. Even when his mother had been alive, there hadn’t been knickknacks or stained glass or vases littering every surface.

   Which meant this was likely Becca’s mother’s influence on the house, or maybe even Becca’s.

   He’d have been lying if he’d pretended it didn’t bother him a little bit. It shouldn’t have—he knew it shouldn’t have. Still, it grated along his nerves.

   Another thing to shove away for the time being. He had a foundation to get off the ground.

   Alex plopped himself onto the couch and the binder onto the coffee table in front of him.

   “Please, God, no,” Gabe said, pretending to recoil from the sight.

   “Tomorrow is the first day of this new venture. We need to go over the plan.”

   “Isn’t the plan to figure out what the hell we need to do to get the bunkhouse hospitable? That’s hardly binder worthy.”

   Alex flipped to the schedules tab. “I’ve created a five-step plan for determining our next course of action with the bunkhouse.”

   “Christ,” Jack muttered. “You’ve lost it, Maguire.”

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