Where I Belong Page 25

I paint on my most convincing I wasn’t just fantasizing about what you could do to me face and answer. “Yeah. She’s doing great right now. The treatments aren’t making her nearly as sick as they did in the beginning. It was awful when she first started them.” He glances over at me and gives me a sympathetic smile. “She wouldn’t eat anything and she didn’t have the strength to get out of bed. I couldn’t leave her side for more than a few minutes at a time because she was constantly getting sick.”

“But she’s doing better now? Does she still have it?” he asks, turning onto the main highway that led to Ruxton.

I nod once. “Yeah, she still has it, but I guess the treatments are working because she’s doing so much better than she was. I think she’s gotten most of her strength back.” I lean my head back against the seat rest, shifting my eyes from Ben’s profile to the road in front of us. “I just, I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to her. She’s the only family I have left besides my aunt.”

The hand that I had longed to mount reaches over and grabs mine. He squeezes it gently, comforting me. “Nothing’s going to happen to her. And she’s not the only family that you have. Tessa would kick your ass if she heard you say that.”

I laugh and he smiles at me. His eyes shift to our conjoined hands. After one gentle squeeze, he lets mine go. I hold in my disappointment and rejoin my own hands together in my lap. “So, Officer Kelly.” My God, does that have a ring to it or what? Images of him doing things to me in that uniform flash in front of my eyes too fast to focus on. I blink rapidly as his eyes meet mine and darken. And that look, the look that he’s hitting me with is directly connected to the pulsing spot between my legs. I clear my throat and the dirty thoughts from my mind. “Do you like being a cop?” Good save. I hide my heated face behind the strand of hair that fell out of my clip, shifting my attention to the road in front of us. My body goes rigid when his hand brushes my face, tucking my hair back behind my ear.

“I do,” he replies coolly as if he didn’t just touch me. As if he’s completely unaffected by that touch. His hand returns to his lap before he continues, his eyes returning to the road as mine neglect it completely. I am entirely too focused on him and his smooth voice. “It’s never boring, that’s for sure. Plus Nolan gets a kick out of it.” His lip curls up into a smile. “When he’s not playing knights, he’s usually playing cops and robbers with me.”

I look to the back seat at a very sleepy little boy whose head is slouched against his car seat. “He really is the cutest kid I’ve ever seen.” I pry his wooden sword out of his hand and place it onto the seat next to him. “You’ve raised this incredible little boy, Ben. If I ever have kids of my own someday, I hope they turn out as awesome as this one.”

Our eyes lock. “If there was any woman that was born to be a mother, it’s you.”

He means what he says. I can feel it. I settle back into my seat and stare at his profile. “Really?” I’ve never given much thought to having children, mainly because I’ve never pictured the person I would someday have them with. When you’ve gone twenty-three years without a boyfriend, it’s hard to imagine having a husband.

He looks over at me like I’ve just asked him the most ridiculous question. Deep crease in his forehead and a curious frown. “Are you kidding? Look how you are with Nolan.”

I shake my head in disagreement. “Nolan’s easy though. He’d probably love anybody that played knights and princesses with him.”

“You’re not just anybody. You knighted my son, which he hasn’t stopped talking about, you gave him this amazing memory tonight, and he does the nose thing with you.”

I furrow my brow, confusion setting in. “The nose thing? Oh, you mean when he runs his finger down your nose? That thing?”

“Yeah. Do you know he only does that with me?” He pulls off the highway and onto the back road leading toward the house. I shake my head and he sees it before continuing. “I’ve never seen him do that with anybody else. Not Tessa, not my parents, and definitely not his mother. I don’t know why he does it, but he’s only ever done that with me.”

I suddenly feel horrible, like I’ve barged in on a private Ben and Nolan bonding activity. “I’m sorry. He did it to me when he woke me up the other day and I did it back out of reflex. I didn’t know that was your thing.”

“Mia, relax. I like that he does that with you. I like that that’s something you and I share with him. He’s only known you for a week and he’s already formed this special bond with you. You’d be an amazing mom.” He pauses, glancing in his rearview mirror. “You’d be better than the one he has.”

“She’s not good with him?” I only have concern in my voice, but the thought of someone not being good to Nolan makes my blood boil. I keep that emotion tucked away though.

Ben shakes his head. “She doesn’t spend time with Nolan because she wants to spend time with him. She does it to keep him from spending time with me. She’s never been a good mom to him. When he was a baby, she refused to breastfeed him because she was so worried that it would wreck her body. I begged her to do it because I knew it would be good for him, and she still refused.” His hand that is gripping the wheel seems to grip tighter. “I hate leaving him with her, knowing that he’s probably being neglected. Something could happen to him because she doesn’t pay attention and the thought of that…” His voice trails off and I don’t think, I just move.

I push up the flip console and slide across the bench seat, pulling his free hand into mine. “Nothing’s going to happen to him. You can’t think like that, it’ll drive you crazy.” He glances over at me, our bodies pressed up against each other’s. I squeeze his hand the way he did mine when he was comforting me moments ago. “You’re going to worry about him because he’s your son, but you can’t let that worry eat you up. Just focus on your time with Nolan. Focus on making him happy every second you’re with him, because that little face back there should always be smiling.” The truck had stopped in front of the house sometime during my speech, but I have no idea when. I am purely focused on easing his troubled mind. Seeing him like this is heartbreaking.

He stares at me with fascination. “You’ve given my son more in one week than his mother has in three years. You have no idea what that means to him. What that means to me.” His neck rolls with a deep swallow as he glances down at our hands that are interlocked in my lap. “How did I not see this amazing girl nine years ago?” His thumb grazes the skin of my hand, rubbing it softly.

I don’t know how to answer him, so I watch him study our hands instead, admiring his features while he admires our connection. His long dark lashes and prominent cheek bones. He seems drawn to the very sight of our hands together, but that look of interest doesn’t linger. Exhaling loudly, almost frustratingly, he slides his hand out of mine and bypasses my gaze to look at the dashboard. “It’s late. I should probably get Nolan to bed.”

Friends don’t hold hands. Friends don’t sit this close. And Ben knows these things. I don’t care what the rules of friendship are because I’m not sure I want Ben as a friend. Not when he makes me feel like this. But that must be how he’s seeing me because he’s breaking our contact. I slide back over to my side and open my door, jumping out of the truck. I open the back door and lean my head inside, pressing a kiss to Nolan’s temple. “Goodnight, Sir Nolan,” I whisper, seeing him stir a bit. I look up front at Ben whose bright gray eyes are studying me. “Goodnight, Ben.”

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