Continuing with Rick and Leann’s story. You can read the first installment here.
Rick watched as their waitress headed back to the kitchen. He ran a hand over his chin. Something was definitely wrong there. He’d seen the anxiety in her eyes before she’d pasted that smile over her face. She hadn’t acted any differently with him and Todd, but there was definitely something going on. He wanted to know what it was. He wanted to help her.
He wanted her.
He barely bit back a groan. He hadn’t wanted a woman like this in over four years. Not since Tessa. He glanced across the table at his son. Damn, he looked so much like her. Sometimes he thought that was what kept his heartbreak so fresh. He couldn’t blame the boy. None of it was his fault. And he hoped he’d never given him the impression he thought that. He’d seen that sadness come back into his eyes at the beginning of the school year. Had watched him start to withdraw again. Had almost called the therapist back. But, Todd hadn’t done well with those therapy sessions the first time. He wouldn’t open up. Hadn’t opened up to anyone but his grandparents.
He just missed his mother. Rick couldn’t blame him for that either. He missed her every goddamn day.
Leann seemed to draw something out of him too. He didn’t know how. They’d been coming here every Friday for dinner, even though there were plenty of places back in Canon City they could eat. They’d met Tessa’s parents here so they could take Todd for the weekend. That was the first time he’d seen Leann even though she hadn’t been their waitress that night. He’d brought Todd back each week, sometimes even on Saturdays, since then.
But, he couldn’t remember ever seeing her like that before. He’d wanted to wipe away whatever had put that shadow in her eyes. Of course, he couldn’t do it if she wouldn’t tell him what was going on. And who was he to think he had the right to do it. She was right. It didn’t have anything to do with him. But, he wanted it to.
And how ridiculous was that? He’d gone out a few times in the last few years. His mother kept telling him it was time. That Todd could use more of a womanly influence in his life. He couldn’t imagine having another woman in their life again. And he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to share him with a dead woman. Oh, Tessa. Shit. Four years later, and he still missed her so much.
He pushed away those thoughts and looked across the table at Todd. “What is it?”
He was fiddling with the wrapper of the candy the waitress had brought him. It brought a smile to his face. She did that every time they came in. She always had a smile for his boy and asked how he was doing. Like she really cared. And she barely even knew them.
“Leann looked sad. Why did someone make her sad?”
Rick was a little surprised that the boy had noticed. He supposed he shouldn’t be. His son may look more like his mother, but he was his son through and through. There’d been way too much evidence of that through the years. And the calls from his teachers saying he was always arguing and analyzing every word that was said in class. A grin nearly broke through at that. The boy wasn’t even ten and he was already following in his footsteps, a lawyer in training.
“I don’t know, Todd. Maybe she just had a rough day.” This could be his opening with the boy. “What about you? How was your day?” He’d had a call from his teacher, so he already knew. He just wanted his son to be the one to talk to him about it.
The boy just lifted one shoulder then let it drop again. “It was fine. Just another day of school.”
But, Rick saw the slight shake of his hand as he reached for his drink. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to hold onto something that would help him get through this. Tessa, I wish you were still here. If she was, they probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation. “Are you sure? Because I got a call from your teacher today.”
Todd groaned and laid his head on the table. “It’s nothing, Dad. Really.”
“Fighting with who I thought was your best friend certainly isn’t nothing, Todd. We’ve talked about the fighting before. It doesn’t solve anything.”
The boy finally looked back up at him, and his eyes were so serious. Damn, he looked so much like Tessa then. It felt like his heart just cracked in two. “He was picking on a first-grader, Dad. There was no reason for it. I told him to stop taunting her, and he wouldn’t.”
Rick wasn’t sure most of his son’s peers could use taunt correctly. It wasn’t the biggest word the boy knew though. It was a hazard of being a lawyer’s son. “You should have gone to a teacher then.”
“I just wanted him to stop.”
His son’s ears were getting red. And Rick started to think there might be more behind this fight. “Who is she, Todd?”
“No one.” But, he had his eyes trained back on the table, and Rick felt the table shake as Todd kicked a foot back and forth.
Rick barely bit back a smile. “Okay. No more fighting though. I don’t want you getting suspended.”
He saw Leann heading back toward their table. He met her gaze and searched her face for any of those signs he had seen just minutes ago. Nothing. A smile spread over her face making even her eyes shine. Maybe it really had been nothing. But, he didn’t believe it.
“Here are those rolls for you,” she said, setting the basket on the table. She reached out with her other hand, and he thought she was going to ruffle Todd’s hair. But, she stopped herself at the last minute and set it on the back of the booth.
His son was already tearing into the first roll. There was definitely nothing wrong with his appetite. Rick glanced up at Leann and saw that look again. When she caught him looking at her, a shutter came down, blocking him out. “I’ll have your salad out in a minute,” she told him before turning away.
He hadn’t planned to do it. But, he reached out for her hand, his fingers grazing her wrist. Her pulse hammered beneath his fingertips, and he glanced up at her. His own heart scrambled in his chest. Then, he released her, and she hurried back to the kitchen. Rick watched her quick retreat. Something was definitely going on here. And he was determined to find out what it was.