Travis shifted on the old couch that was his bed now. At least until things settled down enough that he and Chad could make the old house habitable again. By the time his dad built this place for his mother, they had given up hope of any more children. So, three bedrooms were more than sufficient.
Except they had not considered this possibility. His dad had the master suite. Breeanne had taken the guestroom. And he had insisted that Key-Key take his old room. That left the study and this old couch for him. Not that he minded. He had slept far worse places during his time in the Marines and on the streets.
The problem was that he spent way too much time imagining the woman in his bed. What would she wear? As much as he liked to think of her naked beneath the sheets, the realities of caring for her Angel made that virtually unthinkable. Heck, even he had gone from sleeping in plain boxers to old sweat pants and a t-shirt.
“Hey, I don’t mean to disturb you, but I saw the light on and figured you were still up.”
As if he had somehow magically conjured her up, Key-Key stood in the doorway. Shorts that looked a lot like his boxers and a sleeveless t-shirt. He shifted again. This time to hide the bulge in his sweat pants. He never wanted to make her feel uncomfortable. And having an old dude perv on her would probably do just that.
“Sure, come in.” Did his voice sound as strained to her as it did to him? He cleared his throat, “Is there something you or Angel need?”
Keisha stepped further into the room, but her eyes were glued to the ugly green shag carpet. She seemed incredibly stiff, and her arms were behind her back. He cursed himself under his breath. She must have seen the tent in his pants. His mind searched for something to say.
She shook her head, “No, it’s my fault. Now probably isn’t a good time. You’re trying to get to sleep.”
“No, Key-Key,” he shifted into a sitting position this time and patted the cushion next to him. “It’s fine. I wasn’t having much luck falling asleep anyway.” Because I was wondering what you wore to sleep in my bed, was the truth, but not what she wanted to hear.
She pulled her arms from behind her back and with them a large present, wrapped in more of that yellowed newspaper. Travis could not stop the smile as she held it out to him.
“Merry belated Christmas. It isn’t much. But I figured since you bought me that sewing machine… Thank you for it again. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Not just because I wanted one, or because of how incredibly expensive it is. You really shouldn’t have. But…”
He fought back a chuckle. Key-Key was obviously as nervous as he was in this situation. He did not want to make it worse. He reached for the package and placed it on his lap. At least it would cover his erection. “You didn’t need to get me anything.”
She shook her head and looked up. Their eyes met, and she smiled shyly, “I didn’t. I mean, I made it. It isn’t much. It’s pretty crap, actually, but Rose said it was pretty good for a first attempt. Of course, none of the points match, and the binding is totally wonky. But I figure it could keep you warm. Besides, it seems only right that I give you the first thing I sewed. I hope you like it.”
His fingers trembled as he began to peel the paper back. “Remember, Bree says ripping into it is half the fun,” she teased, and this smile seemed a bit more genuine. Her daughter always brought the real ones out. He nodded and compiled until he held a small quilt in his hands.
“I know it ain’t fancy or nothing. Like I said, it’s my first attempt. Just some old scraps and shirts that I had. Rose had some bigger pieces for the backing and binding. She says that Chad’s grandmother left a whole stash of fabric when she died and that I’m helping her to work her way through it.”
He nodded and fought the lump in his throat to speak, “Thank you. It’s lovely. Really.”
She shrugged and bit her lip, “I guess I should go back to my room.”
Travis was not sure what happened next. He had taken her hand. He just meant to give it a gentle squeeze, to let Keisha know how much her gift meant to him. Instead, he had pulled her in. A kiss on the cheek would be better, right?
Except she turned her head. Their eyes met, then their lips. And he was lost. Utterly. Totally. And completely lost in the taste of her. The feel of her soft skin. The sweet smell. The delicate little moans that verberated through his whole body.
By the time he came to his senses, Key-Key was sprawled across his lap. Scorching heat that he could feel through her shorts, the quilt, and his pants threatened to banish all reason from his lovelorn brain.
But he couldn’t. He could never forgive himself if he took advantage of her like this. “Key-Key, I’m sorry…”
And her bubble burst. Reality came crashing around her. What was she thinking? Worse yet, what had she done? How could they ever stay here now? After what she had done…
Keisha pulled back. She could feel the heat of the tears streaming down her cheeks, which were flaming with their own mortification. Why had she listened to Rose? But she knew it was not fair to blame the other woman. She had done this because it was what she wanted.
Well, at least now she knew. Knew that Travis could never return her feelings. She was strong. She had survived her father’s beatings. She had survived losing her best friend, going through her pregnancy alone, single motherhood, Bree’s diagnosis. She had made it through all that. And as much as this hurt, she knew that she would get through this too. Even if she was unsure how or why this hurt worse than any of the rest ever had.
She stood up and turned to go. She could not even look at him. She did not dare say a word. She was mortified. If there were any way, she would pack their bags and leave tonight. But not only had she left her only means of transportation back in Atlanta, but it was also the middle of a pandemic. And it was no safer out there now for her daughter than it had been a month ago.
No, her only choice was to stick this out. At least for now. But she needed to come up with a plan. Maybe one of the women that Rose kept introducing her to would have somewhere they could stay? Just until she got back on her feet. There was that refuge that the one closest to her age spoke of.
What was her name? It had some meaning like Angel or Grace. Patience? Comfort? Mercy, that was it. She said that her mother lived there now with her boyfriend. That his family ran the place. She inhaled deeply. Okay, so it was not the future she wanted for them. But she had survived worse. Right?
She wanted to run from the room. She dared to sneak a glance at him. His head was down, and his hand was running across the top of that ridiculous quilt. “I should go,” she forced out words that burned in the back of her throat. Because she knew they meant far more than merely escaping back to the bedroom that she knew he had given up for her.
They were final. Just as soon as she could. Maybe Rose and Chad would help them get to Colorado? New Mexico? Arizona. That’s right, Sedona, Arizona.
Keisha fled as quickly as she could. Back down the hall to the safety of her room. His room. She was careful not to let the door slam. She did not want to wake Bree or Mr. Bill. Explaining why she had been crying was the last thing she needed right now. She threw herself on the bed and reached for the pillow. Hugging it tightly to muffle the sounds of her tears, she allowed it all out.
The broken dreams. The hopes that she should have known better than to allow to take hold. When would she learn? There was no happily ever afters in this world. At least not for the likes of her.