Whisper Of Love (Whisper Lake #1)

By: Melanie Shawn

“What? What did I miss?” Kade asked, looking back and forth between Ricky and Ali.

You mean besides the last year and a half? is what she wanted to say…instead she went with a simple, “Nothing.”

The table was quiet and Ali lifted her glass and took a large swig of Dr. Pepper, closing her eyes as the carbonated goodness washed away the nasty taste of nephew betrayal and soggy and burnt Hamburger Helper.

“Nothing?” Kade broached again.

“KJ hasn’t let Aunt Ali go to any of his classes,” Ricky hung their dirty laundry out to dry.

“It’s not a big deal,” Ali assured the table.

Logically, she knew it wasn’t. Kade was not just their “uncle” he was Kade McKnight. Of course KJ would want him to go to the gym with him. But emotionally, it felt like another slap in the face. Kade had been off…doing whatever he’d been doing…and she’d been here, in the trenches, and he was the one who got all the glory.

She’d been the one that had rushed KJ to the emergency room after she found him passed out drunk in the basement. She’d been the one that had been called to the school twenty-seven times for a variety of behavior issues and had to beg the administration not to expel him. She’d been the one that had to go down to the police station because he’d been caught vandalizing Stone Castle with his friends.

She’d been the one that had been there.

But he was Kade McKnight.

* * *

KADE WATCHED AS Ali’s eye twitched and he sensed that she was dangerously close to her breaking point.

As much as he’d love to go check out KJ’s class and meet KJ’s coach, the last thing Kade wanted to do was upset Ali. He was already skating on thin ice with her since he’d shown up out of the blue with his bag and somewhat manipulated his way into being able to stay here. Sure, it had been a dick move. But he knew that there was no way she’d willingly have let him come or invited him to stay.

Still, Ricky bringing up Patrick hadn’t been part of the plan. He actually hadn’t thought he’d need the boys’ intervention at all. He’d figured all he’d have to do was show up on the doorstep and he’d get an obligatory invitation. He hadn’t been prepared for how different things were. How different Ali was.

“See, it’s fine,” KJ insisted, pretending his aunt’s statement about it not being a big deal had been sincere.

Ali’s lips pursed as her jaw ticked. He didn’t want to disappoint KJ, but he knew that he had to tread lightly.

Hoping to smooth over the situation Kade suggested, “Why don’t we all go? And then after we can stop at Cherry On Top for ice cream.”

“It’s closed.” Ricky was back to his book.

“And they’re thirteen, not five,” Ali snarkily commented.

“I’m thirty-two and I love ice-cream.”

He could see that Ali wanted to make a crack about his maturity level but she refrained.

“I love ice cream.” KJ shot Ali a look that Kade would’ve never dared to give any adult, much less someone he cared about at KJ’s age.

He’d only been here an hour and already he could see how much the boys’ personalities had changed. Kade wondered how much of it had to do with Patrick’s death and how much of it was just being a teenager. Whatever the cause, it was clear they were having issues and he’d left Ali to deal with it all by herself.

KJ was angry. Ricky was withdrawn. He didn’t need to be a child psychologist to diagnose them.

“What about you, Ricky? Where do you stand on this controversial subject of frozen dessert?” He tried to lighten the mood and draw Ricky out. Two birds.

“It’s fine.” The kid’s eyes didn’t leave the pages.

Ali stood, her spine ramrod-stiff as she picked up her and KJ’s plates. “Go get dressed. We have to leave in ten minutes.”

“You’re coming right, Uncle Kade?” KJ asked eagerly as he stood.

Kade glanced at Ali. If she really didn’t want him to go, he’d make up an excuse so it didn’t throw her under the bus. He had a feeling she’d spent enough time getting run over by life and he wasn’t about to add to it.

Her eyes blinked in a resigned yes.

“Wouldn’t miss it, bud.”

KJ rushed upstairs and Kade pushed his chair back and began clearing the table.

“I don’t need your help.” Ali’s tone left no room for argument but he had no plans to fight with her.

“You cooked, that means we clean right, Ricky?”

Without a word, Ricky closed his book and started gathering up the dishes.

Ricky had always been the quiet one but this was more than that. Kade knew it in his gut. He sliced a look over to Ali and saw the concern brimming in her light brown eyes as she stared at her nephew.

“We got this.” Kade tried to take the plates from her hands.

She held on to them with the grip of a spider monkey before finally releasing them. “Fine.”

She reached out and ruffled Ricky’s hair. “Thanks. You da man.”

Ricky grinned and took the plates into the kitchen.

Without even a glance in his direction, Ali turned and headed up the stairs. His eyes locked on the sway of her rounded hips. She was thinner than he was used to seeing her but she still had a world-class ass. An ass he’d been a fan of for far too long.