Chasing Serenity (River Rain #1) by Kristen Ashley



He saw her start to intercede.

But he was far from done.

“I want, and I’ll add that I work very hard, to get kids moving their bodies. To show them how extraordinary nature is. Introduce them to vistas that don’t include concrete and asphalt. Where the air is fresher, and the stars shine brighter. I want to explain to them how important it is we guard these things, keep them safe and pure, and what it’ll mean when we don’t. Because they’re going to be in the positions soon where they have no choice but to do something about it, and they need to start thinking about that now.”

She again tried to say something.

But he hadn’t even gotten to the most important part of it.

So he didn’t shut up.

“And above all, just to let them know they aren’t forgotten. There are people who give a shit about them and what they experience and want to broaden those experiences, their minds, and bottom line think they’re worth spending time with. And I don’t know, Meg, if that isn’t good enough for you, then you’re right. Though I wouldn’t take you to a bar to dump you after we spent over a year of our lives together. But that makes no difference. You’re right. We’re wrong. And it’s time to end it.”

With that, and her staring at him, he slid off his barstool, pulled out his wallet, opened it and tossed enough money on the table to pay for their drinks and the food that had not yet been delivered.

“I gotta get home,” he said. “Text me when I can come to your place to get my shit. I’ll pack yours up and bring it when I do that.”

He started to leave, but she caught his forearm.

“Are you really just walking away from me?” she demanded.

He stopped and looked down at her. “Sorry, did I steal your exit?”

She took her hand from his arm. “There’s no need to be a dick.”

Unh-unh.

No.

“Hang on a second, you told five minutes ago, in all honesty, that you thought I had no direction, no drive and that I didn’t know what I wanted or how to go after it in a preamble to dump my ass. And I’ve given you what you want. We’re through, and I’m walking away because I’m not real hip on sitting here after you’ve kicked me to the curb and watching you pick through a plate of tater tot nachos because eating two expends your allotment of calories for the day. And I’m being a dick?”

Right.

That was definitely dick-ish.

His sister (or that would be stepsister, but she’d been around so long, he didn’t really think of the “step” part of that) said often that he looked like the Zen master. Mr. Outdoorsman. Mr. Easygoing. One with nature, one with humanity. But piss him off and all that was out the window.

And she did not lie.

“Maybe, when I said fight for something, I meant me,” she suggested with not a small amount of hurt.

His stomach clutched.

It was not a good feeling.

“And how would I do that, Meg?” he asked quietly.

“Well, you could not live a hundred and thirty miles away.”

Judge closed his eyes and dropped his head.

Because that meant quit your job and move to Phoenix.

“Judge,” she called.

He opened his eyes and looked at her, what was happening fully registering.

This was it.

They were over.

And he wasn’t okay with that.

Because he was in love with her.

“I want more of you, would you quit your job and move to Prescott?” he asked.

A hard shell slammed down over her eyes as she replied, “I know what you’re doing, but there are far more opportunities for both of us in Phoenix.”

“And then you get a job in LA, and I follow you there. And then New York, and I follow you there. Right?”

“There are programs for kids, in nature, for the environment, everywhere, Judge. You can’t get away from any of them.”

He’d been bending, because he’d been considering what she was saying and what was happening between them, because she was right, and he didn’t want to lose her.

However, the last part of what she said struck him.

You can’t get away from any of them.

Who exactly was “them”?

“Do you want kids, Meg?” he asked.

Her head twitched.

One of her tells.

“Of course,” she lied.

Holy fuck.

She’d lied.

About wanting kids.