Home > Dirt (Evergreen #1)(8)

Dirt (Evergreen #1)(8)
Author: Cassia Leo


My heart galloped in my chest. Was I really going to do this?

I’d asked Jack to go to marital counseling or to see a therapist on his own. I’d read dozens of books on dealing with grief and saving your marriage. I’d tried herbal supplements and yoga and talking to my doctor. I tried looking for a group for grieving parents, but the nearest groups were an hour away in Portland.

I’d been thinking about moving into my mom’s house for months. Ever since Jack’s interest in the case began keeping him from sleeping in our bed. It was demoralizing and heartbreaking having to lie in bed alone while your husband hobnobbed with his fellow armchair sleuths on the internet.

My emotions betrayed me as my throat began to close and my sinuses stung with the effort of trying to hold back the tears. This was a decision I would either regret or be grateful for the rest of my life. But there was no way to know now how I would feel later.

All I knew was that I wasn’t happy living this way. And Jack had made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t willing to see a therapist, or let go of the investigation, or get rid of his weapons arsenal, or have another baby. I was running out of options.

Finally, I held my breath as I turned over to face Jack. I reached up to touch the smooth skin on his back. I traced the tattoo of my name on his right shoulder blade. As I finished tracing the -el at the end, Jack let out a soft grunt and rolled onto his back.

He squinted at me through the pale morning light. “How long have you been awake?”

“Not long,” I lied. “We need to talk.”

He blinked a few times, letting his eyes adjust, before he sat up abruptly. “We can talk at home.”

“No, I want to talk now.”

He shot me a defiant look, as if he wanted to challenge me, but he decided against it, shaking his head as he turned to face me. “What do you want to talk about?”

I took a deep breath and sat up, folding my legs in front of me like butterfly wings. “I’m going to stay here at my mom’s for a while.”

“Why?”

“Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, our marriage is in trouble. I’ve lost faith.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “You’ve lost faith in me or our marriage?”

“Both.” I looked him straight in the eye, waiting for him to roll his eyes or put me down, but he said nothing. “We need help. We’ve tried doing this on our own and it’s not working. We need professional help.”

There it was. The infamous Jack Stratton eye-roll.

“This again?”

“Yes, this again,” I replied, just barely able to temper my anger. “I’m going to look for a marital counselor. If you’re serious about saving this marriage, you’ll go with me.”

He shook his head. “What does that have to do with you staying here? Why can’t you just come home and we’ll go to counseling over there?”

I narrowed my eyes at him as I willed him to remember the one time he agreed to go to counseling only to change his mind the very next day.

“I’ll do it this time. I swear.”

I shook my head. “I don’t believe you.”

He let out a frustrated sigh. “So you’re going to blackmail me into going to counseling by moving into your mom’s house? What if I do go? Will you come back?”

“I will, but not after the first or second session. I need to know you’re not going to back out.” I looked down at my hands, which I just realized I was wringing mercilessly. “It will also give me some time to fix up the garden.”

One of the things that brought me tremendous guilt was that I had let my mother’s beloved garden die along with her. Staying at my mom’s house for a few weeks would allow me to hold Jack accountable for attending marital counseling, and it would give me the opportunity to correct one of my greatest mistakes.

“How long?” he asked, and I knew he was asking how long it would take to fix the garden.

I shrugged. “I don’t know, three or four weeks, at least. It’s August, so I’ll need to get it done before the rain gets steady in October.”

He was silent for a while, then he nodded. “All right. I don’t like it. Not one fucking bit. But I don’t want to lose you.”

I scooted toward him and curled my arms around his neck as he pulled me into his lap. “I’ve been feeling like I lost you months ago,” I said, leaning my forehead against his.

“You haven’t lost me. I’m right here.”

I kissed his scruff then laid my head on his solid shoulder. “And I haven’t felt this happy in ages. I’ll do whatever it takes to hold onto this.”

He nuzzled his head against mine. “I love you more than you can imagine,” he said, echoing the words he’d said to me on our wedding day.

“I can’t imagine loving anyone more,” I replied.

Cuddling turned into very slow, very emotional sex, which almost made me change my mind about staying at my mom’s house. It was the first time we’d had sex that wasn’t initiated by a fight in more than a year.

As Jack got dressed in yesterday’s clothes, I watched him from the bed, marveling at his beauty. The sleek fluidity in the definition of his muscles as they moved beneath his smooth skin. The way the sunlight poured through the window and bounced off his bulging shoulders, his messy brown hair, his straight nose and full lips.

I was reminded of the first time we met with our wedding photographer and he asked if he could use our wedding photos to promote his business. I was a bit surprised, considering the photos hadn’t been taken yet. How did he know the photos would be good enough for promotional purposes? His reply: “Because you are the most gorgeous couple I’ve ever worked with, and beauty sells.”

I slid out of bed as he knelt down to tie the laces of his gym sneaker. “Why don’t you stay a while? It’s Sunday. We can have breakfast, then we can Netflix and chill all day.”

He stood up and flashed me an uncomfortable smile. “I wish I could, but I have to get home. I have a Q&A in the Facebook group at two p.m.”

My stomach dropped. I had just asked him to stay here and basically have sex with me all day and he would rather do a Q&A with some internet sleuths in the Justice for Jack Stratton Jr. Facebook group.

I blinked a few times as I attempted to recover. “Okay. Have fun.”

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