Blake made his way through the sports bar to where Alec waited. He’d only been back in town a few days, but Avery hadn’t been far from his thoughts. He worried about her night and day. She’d replied to the few texts he’d sent, but there hadn’t been much there. Just a few words each time that basically let him know she was alive and doing okay, but he wanted to know she truly was, that it wasn’t just words on a screen. Josh had loved her so much that Blake would feel he’d let his brother down if something ever happened to her.
“How’s Avery?” he asked as he reached the table.
Alec looked up from his menu. “She’s up and down,” he admitted as Blake took a seat in one of the empty chairs. “I really wish she wasn’t alone.”
“I think we all agree on that,” Blake said. “Maybe I’ll go by later, make up some excuse. Have you seen her lately?”
“No. I thought I’d give her some space. I know Taylor’s been going over a lot.”
“I haven’t seen her since I took the ring over,” Blake said, his fingers tapping against the menu in front of him. He looked at his younger brother. “You hear anything from her after that?”
“Nothing,” Alec frowned and pulled his coffee closer. “You’d think if she opened the ring, she would have called one of us, wouldn’t she?”
Blake shrugged, but he’d had the same thoughts. He set the menu back down. How could he focus on food? It seemed like everything had been in a daze for the last few weeks. Some part of him had expected a bit of it to fade away by now, at least a miniscule little bit, but it was the same as it was from the moment he found out.
Josh sat in the empty chair at the table, unable to hide the smile on his face as he listened to his brothers. He wished they would see him. Know he was there. That he was able to share with them the fact that he should have been engaged by now. That the perfect ring he’d searched so long for now had a permanent home on Avery’s left hand. Instead, he sat there, wishing they’d sense him, feel him, hell, hear him somehow. Just give him some acknowledgement he really was there. Just a tiny bit of hope that he wasn’t so far removed from everyone he cared about. “I’m glad she has you guys looking out for her. I know you’d never let me down.”
A coolness swept by Blake, noticeable enough that he thought someone had brushed by him. He turned his head . There was no one nearby, yet the feeling lingered. He narrowed his eyes but saw nothing behind him. The rational side of his mind was ready to dismiss it as nothing more than a trick of the imagination. An unexpected blast of stronger than usual air conditioning, yet some part of him knew it wasn’t.
Alec waved a hand in front of his face. “Yo, Blake? You still here?”
Blake jumped at the sudden motion, and shook his head in embarrassment. “Sorry, I guess I just zoned out there for a moment.”
Alec gave him a quizzical look as the waitress stopped by the table and refilled their coffees. “It’s okay. Did you hear anything I said?”
Blake nodded, but he hadn’t really. He’d been too busy trying to make sense of what he’d felt. They went back to their conversation, but his attention slipped away again when Alec started mentioning store names and checking out websites on his cell phone. He nodded at a crib Alec showed him and took out his own phone, pretending to be in on the search for the right nursery décor, but honestly that was the last thing on his mind. As he saw the way Alec was suddenly throwing himself into this project, he realized that the zoned out expressions they usually wore when they were together were slowly fading away, yet still present. One of these days they’d need to talk to one another, to let out all their feelings, but for now it was too soon to press anyone into talking. He wasn’t sure if he was even ready to talk about how he felt, like a piece of himself had been ripped away without warning. A piece that he needed to function.
Alec lifted his head from his cell phone and smiled as he kept typing away. “Crib bought.”
“Don’t you think we should have at least taken a look at it in person?” Blake questioned.
Alec slapped him on the back. “That, is why there’s a little thing called a return policy.” He smiled as he set his phone down and reached for his coffee. “What do you say I call our favorite blonde and see if she’s available for lunch?”
“Yeah, you calling her isn’t obvious in the least.”
“Hey, who out of all of us has been called her best friend? Last vacation I was the one who headed out with her every morning for breakfast.”
“That’s because you were the only two who didn’t go fishing every single day. And seriously, that four a.m. wake up call every morning was miserable. I should have stuck back with you two.”
“So should I call her?”
“I think we should give her a little space.” Blake hated saying the words, but he had a feeling if they kept crowding her, she’d just pull herself away, the last thing he wanted to see happen. She needed to know they were there for whenever she needed them.