The smell of his skin, the scent of his shaving cream, spicy and familiar, enveloped Tess. She pressed a kiss between his shoulder blades.
“Helping Luke make up his bed.”
Tom frowned at his reflection. “You think after ten years in the Marines, the boy can make his own bed?”
She smiled at his grumpy tone. “I don’t mind. It’s nice to have some time with him alone.”
“You work too hard,” Tom said. “He takes advantage of you.”
Tess knew her man. She’d loved him for almost forty years, since he was a cocky Leatherneck on leave in Chicago, sauntering into her family’s restaurant in Little Italy, trying to pick her up before she could write down his order.
“You’re not upset about the bed,” she said.
Tom didn’t answer. He didn’t talk about his feelings. He never had.
She twisted around him, keeping her arms loosely linked around his waist, until they were front to front. “It’ll be all right,” she said softly. “Luke needs us. Taylor needs us. She’s our granddaughter.”
Tom grunted. “What happened to her mother? You get that out of Luke while you were making his bed?”
“Dawn’s lawyer told Luke it was some kind of brain bleed from a congenital condition. No prior symptoms, no warning.” Tess shivered. “It was all very sudden and horrible.”
Tom stroked her back, instinctively giving comfort. “Christ. Was Taylor with her?”
“No, Dawn was at work when it happened. Apparently she was a receptionist at the law office. The lawyer said they got her to the hospital right away, but it was already too late.”
They stood a moment in silence. What if it had been her daughter, her baby, struck down like that in the prime of life? Tess wondered. She couldn’t stand it.
“How’s Luke?” Tom asked.
He had always counted on her to keep up with the details of their children’s lives, to tell him as much—or as little—as he needed to know.
“He doesn’t say.” And in that, Tess thought, their younger son was very like his father. “But you can see he’s affected by her dying like that. He’s not heartbroken, he was over Dawn a long time ago, but he still feels it. And now this business with Taylor . . . It’s just so much for him to deal with right now, in the middle of a deployment. Did you see how thin he is?”
“He’ll be all right as soon as he gets back to his squadron.”
She bit her lip. “It’s still a distraction.”
“Not as much as you think.” He rubbed her neck, his strong hand reaching under her hair. “Men compartmentalize better than women.”
They were still pressed together, front to front.
Tess grinned suddenly, realizing her husband’s focus had shifted. “Is that what you call this? Compartmentalizing?”
His fingers found the knot at the base of her skull. “That’s one word for it.”
She sighed in pleasure, letting her head drop forward as he kneaded the ache away. “I just worry about them, Tom, no matter how old they are. Matt’s not happy, and Meg’s living with that man who’s never going to marry her, and now Luke—”
“You can’t live their lives for them, honey.”
“I’d do a better job,” she mumbled.
His laugh rumbled in his chest. “You did a good job already. It’s their turn now.”
“But I want them to have what we have.”
“I’d be happy if they’d just stop dumping what they have on you.”
She raised her head. “Tom!”
“We’re not getting any younger, Tess. It would be nice to have the house to ourselves before we’re too old to enjoy it.”
“Mm. You, me, and an inn full of guests. Very romantic.” She settled her weight more firmly against him, enjoying the feel of him hot and potent against her stomach.
He patted her butt affectionately. “You don’t want me going soft in my old age, now, do you?”
She laughed at him. “I can feel just how soft you are.”
He smiled down at her, the old gleam in his eyes, the one that still made her breath come faster after all these years. “Why don’t you come to bed and I’ll show you?”
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