Unbreakable Stories: Rowe is a collection of short stories following the romantic adventures and misadventures of former Army Rangers turned security experts Rowe Ward and Noah Keegan following the events of Torch, book 3 of the Unbreakable Bonds series.Books in Series:Unbreakable Bonds Series by Jocelynn DrakeBooks by Author:Jocelynn Drake Books
Piece of Pie
Rowe unbuckled his seat belt but didn"t immediately get out of the warm car. His eyes locked on the cloudy Tupperware container tightly clutched in his left hand because it was easier to look at that than the rows of headstones and statuary that filled the rolling hills around them. He hadn"t been back in a few months and in truth, he hadn"t expected it to be this hard. But then, the man behind the steering wheel had a way of making the world just a little easier to tolerate.
"Hey," Noah said, dragging his gaze up. Concern filled his expression, making his smile a little uncertain. "You want me to come with you""
His hand tightened on the container, thumb sliding along the smooth edge. "No, I got this."
Rowe reached for the door handle with his free hand and Noah grabbed him by the lapel of his coat, jerking him across the center console so that Noah could press his nose into Rowe"s hair. "I wasn"t trying to push you out of the car. Take your time," he whispered before brushing a soft kiss across his temple.
A smile teased one corner of Rowe"s mouth and some of the tension eased. It was just one of the many things he loved about this man. Noah was endlessly patient with him, always seemingly happy to let Rowe move at his own pace. Well, except when it came to sex. Then they were both frantically racing to get naked and as close as possible.
"I should go. She"s already waiting."
Noah nodded and released his hold on Rowe, sitting back in the driver"s seat. An easy smile slid across his handsome face, but it did nothing to mask the worry still filling his blue eyes. Rowe was tempted to lean across and kiss away his concern, but instead he opened the door and climbed out of the car.
Gravel crunched underfoot as he walked down the wide asphalt road. The maples and oaks were barren now, but there was still a heavy green on the horizon from the various pine and spruce trees that filled the cemetery. Mel had always liked Spring Grove. They"d gone for walks here when they"d first been dating, enjoying the quiet of the park, the beautiful landscaping, and the interesting tombs. Rowe had laughed on more than one occasion at the elaborate and ridiculous tales she"d crafted about the owners of the over-the-top mausoleums.
A woman standing not more than a dozen yards from the car looked up at the sound of his approach. A shaft of pain lanced through his heart when he saw her smile. It was Mel"s, but it wasn"t Mel. Gretchen looked like her sister. Mel had been three years older, but they had the same smile, same eyes, same chin, so sometimes it was hard to look at Gretchen.
"You"re getting slow in your old age," Gretchen called. She turned, lifting the baby heavily wrapped against the mild cold higher onto her hip.
"It"s the day after Thanksgiving. I"m still trying to digest the meal. You try getting out of bed after that," he replied, leaving the road to cut across the greenish-brown lawn to the graveside. He stopped beside Gretchen and his eyes swept her face slowly, taking in the similarities. Her smile slipped a little as if she knew what he was doing. "It"s good to see you," he finally said in a low, rough voice before bussing a kiss across her cheek.
"It"s about damn time too!" she snapped, turning sideways so that Rowe could see the little girl dressed in a pink coat and a little knit panda hat covering her vulnerable ears. "Your niece has missed meeting you."
Wide blue eyes met Rowe"s and she giggled.
Rowe cleared his throat twice before he could finally speak. "It"s good to meet you, Melody Rose." He reached out a trembling hand and carefully rubbed a knuckle against her chubby cheek. "She"s gorgeous."
Gretchen snorted. "Of course. She"s mine."
Rowe"s smile returned and some of the weight on his chest eased. He hadn"t meant to stay away for so long, but Melody had been born not long after Mel"s death and he just couldn"t bring himself to go see her, see any of his wife"s family.
"And big. She"s going to be a terror, just like her mother, I"m sure."
"You know you"re still family, right"" Gretchen asked, her voice serious for the first time since he"d joined her. Of course she wasn"t going to let him off the hook with some light banter and meaningless small talk. "Just because Mel is gone doesn"t mean you escape our crazy family. I know you"re tight with your boys, but you"re stuck with us"even when you get remarried."
There was no stopping the chuckle. He"d always thought that Mel was a force to be reckoned with, but her sister was even worse. That hadn"t been an if. She fully expected Rowe to marry again.