Home > Slow & Steady (Alphas Undone #2)(7)

Slow & Steady (Alphas Undone #2)(7)
Kendall Ryan

          I had a mountain of work to do if I ever wanted to bridge this gap between us. And there was no better time to start than now. But the last thing I wanted to do was stumble over a minefield...again. I had to approach this conversation carefully. Find some safe common ground. I couldn't talk about the weather—she'd instantly know that I had nothing else to say, which would just be pathetic. I couldn't think of any question about work that wouldn't come across as weird. She probably didn't have the spare time or cash for the theater, so unless I wanted to embarrass her, I couldn't ask whether she'd seen any recent movies.

          “So, uh...how's your family?” I asked. Dammit, that was barely a step above the weather.

          “They're okay. My mom retired a few years ago.” She cocked a sharp eye at me. “In case you were wondering, no, I can't ask her to help me. She's on a fixed income.”

          “I wasn't going to suggest that,” I protested.

          Finley nodded and took another bite of food. I gave up the topic for dead. Maybe she and her mom weren’t close.

          But soon, in a much gentler tone, Finley added, “I'm afraid I don't have much else to say. My dad was never really around, and I'm bad about staying in touch with my mom's sister. Last I heard, she was getting divorced.”

          “Oh, that's too bad.”

          “Not really. My uncle was also kind of a bast...I mean, a huge jerk.” Then she gave a flurry of quick blinks, as if she'd caught herself saying too much. “Uh, what about your family?”

          I shook my head. “I'm not really close to them, either.” One of the many features of being married to your job. Sometimes a pro, sometimes a con.

          The noise of forks clinking against plates filled the room again. Talking about our relatives was pretty much a bust, but at least Finley had been willing. Hell, she'd even tried to throw me a bone. That was a promising sign.

          Taking my time chewing, I dug through my memories of Finley from when I'd hung out with Marcus. She hadn't followed sports at all. Whatever her old job had been, that was likely a sore spot. But she'd had a hobby. Something ultra-feminine, like scrapbooking...only not that. Was it knitting? Fuck, I couldn't remember for sure. But I decided to take the chance.

          “So, uh...do you still knit?” I asked.

          Her eyebrows lifted slightly. “You remember that?”

          Mentally pumping my fist in victory, I replied casually, “Yeah, of course.”

          “I don't have much time for it anymore, but occasionally...” The tiniest possible smile graced her lips. “While I watch TV with Maple.”

          I pictured them together: Finley perched on the couch, silver needles busily spooling out a bright wool scarf, with Maple sitting entranced between her knees. The homey image felt so warm it slowed my tense heartbeat.

          Wait a second. I'm an idiot. Of course, there was a topic staring me right in the face. Every parent loves to talk about their children. “What shows does she like?”

          “Well, we don't have cable—only Internet streaming—and I only let her watch educational stuff. So the selection's kind of limited.” She actually chuckled a little. “Even though we never go over an hour a day, I swear I know all the songs somehow...”

Finley talked about Maple for the rest of dinner. It wasn't always riveting, exactly—only a parent could get passionate about stuff like potty training and fine motor skills. But the way Finley's face lit up with motherly love was more than enough reward for me. And Maple was having a great time; she grinned wide and wiggled in her high chair, knowing damn well that she was the center of attention. Cute little thing.

Halfway through dinner she instigated a game with me—making a squeal that I repeated back—over and over again.

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