Chapter One

Dylan Lake pushed a hand through her tangled blond curls as she observed herself in the bathroom mirror. Fatigue danced around her brown eyes and a spattering of freckles stood out across her nose. Disgusted at the image reflected, she dipped both hands in the sink and splashed cold water on her face. It was days like these she felt older than her thirty-five years.

Emma, her seven-year-old daughter, didn’t always have bad nights, but when they hit, it left them both drained and exhausted. Emma had woken her up around two a.m. and hadn’t fallen asleep until six. Now at nine o’clock, Dylan felt the brief five hours of sleep she’d gotten.

When Emma was two years old, she and her dad were in a car accident that left Ian dead and Emma pinned against the side of the car. Because Emma sustained so much damage, the doctors amputated her right leg above the knee. Losing first her husband, then learning Emma’s life had hung in the balance were most excruciating experiences of Dylan’s life. The healing process had taken years, but Dylan and Emma had made it through and now both were on the right path.

A happy child, Emma loved to draw and paint, along with coming up with new creations for her numerous dollhouses. Her collection of miniature items took up half of her room, but Dylan wouldn’t have it any other way. Seeing the joy on Emma’s face was well worth the pain of occasionally stepping on one of the miniature pieces. Lately, Emma had taken to buying Lego figures and decorating her dollhouses with them. Money was tight, but Dylan did her best to make sure Emma had most of the things she wanted.

After Ian’s death, it became hard, especially finding out he had quit the payments on their health insurance a few months prior to the accident. Five days into Emma’s hospital stay, she was moved to a children’s hospital where her medical bills would be paid, but that still left the bill for five days prior for Dylan to cover. It had come as a shock when she received the bill for almost a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

She could have let the bills go into a collection agency but that wasn’t how she was raised, so the fifty thousand received from Ian’s life insurance and the ten thousand from the sale of their house went directly to pay for Emma’s bills. Monthly payments were arranged for the remaining amount. Despite his tight budget, her dad had contributed a hundred dollars a month to help pay it off and for that, she would always be grateful. But she wasn’t sure how much longer she could do it. Bankruptcy held an option, but she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, no matter how many work hours were required to pay off the balance.

Six months after Ian was buried, Dylan and Emma moved in with her mom to make ends meet. A selling point had also been that Emma’s rehabilitation center was only forty minutes away from her mom’s house. It became a turning point in her life when realizing at thirty-one she couldn’t do it on her own. It was a hard pill to swallow but she would do anything for her daughter, including moving in with her mom.

Emma was happy, and Dylan enjoyed getting the chance to know her mom all over again, even if money was tight. She was proud but, like anyone struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table, she’d broken down and signed up for assistance. It didn’t bother her as much as it used to when someone would make a snide comment when she would use her food card to buy ice cream sandwiches for her daughter as a snack. Emma went to hell and back and Dylan didn’t care what a stranger thought of her. Until someone walked in her shoes, they could keep their pointless opinions to themselves.

Ian’s death happened five years ago, but sometimes a memory would hit of that tragic time, making it seem almost like yesterday, and she’d be stuck replaying moments in their life together. From joy to pain, then all over again. It was a process she was still learning to deal with. Even though she had dealt with his death and was ready to move on, it would always feel like a tiny part of her was missing. Especially while in bed at night when she would reach for him, only to feel an empty space beside her. She didn’t wish, even for her worst enemy, to lose their spouse. The pain was piercing.

At times, remembering the notification from the police officer of the accident would slam into her and she’d break down all over again. There were moments she cursed Ian for letting the insurance go, but he had provided for them and had loved her and Emma. She would never get the chance to ask him why but knew he would have never wanted her to struggle. He loved them, but at times it all seemed for naught. She had trusted him to provide health insurance, but in the end, even if he hadn’t meant it, her trust in him fractured. Thank God, he’d kept his life insurance up to date.

They had known each other in high school, but lost touch while they were both in college on opposite sides of the country. After Dylan graduated, she had met up with Ian again in their home town and rekindled their relationship. It had felt natural from there to get married and have a child.

She’d dated off and on during college but no one she wanted to make a life with. There was one woman, but that ended abruptly when she opted to intern overseas. After coming out as bisexual in high school, her parents never treated her any differently and she would always be grateful for their open acceptance of her.

After Ian died, it felt like her life had slowed to a crawl, especially while spending so much time in the hospital with Emma. The doctors had given her a fifty percent chance of making it and although Dylan wasn’t religious, she had prayed to every deity she could think of to save her baby’s life. During that time, the weight gain came. She didn’t necessarily hate her body, but on some days, she wished to lose the extra weight. Going from a size six to twelve proved eye opening and as much as she tried to discipline her eating habits, the extra pounds stayed. It had taken a lot of time for her to accept herself, but it was a wonderful place to be.

Dylan applied the final touches of make-up and fixed her hair. Her reflection in the mirror looked like she hadn’t slept, but, at least now, she looked presentable. With a final look in the mirror, satisfied with what she saw, she joined her mom in the kitchen.

“Good morning, sweetheart.” Iris Dunmore was a formidable woman at sixty-three, and Dylan’s rock. Looking at her now, Dylan swallowed the lump in her throat. If it hadn’t been for her mom, she didn’t know if she would have survived. Those first few months after Ian’s death were the hardest of her life. And if it hadn’t been for Emma, Dylan wasn’t sure what her outcome would have been. For the first year after Ian’s death, Dylan kept a bottle of pain killers, that were Ian’s from knee surgery, in the drawer by the bed, but with the help of her mother and a therapist, she was able to work through her grief in a healthy way. Never would she have left her daughter, but it scared her that death was an option once considered.

“Sweetheart, I know that look.” Iris waved her hand in the air. “Stop before you ruin your make-up. Sit. I’ll get you a cup of coffee.”

Dylan bypassed her mom’s outstretched arm and pulled her into a hug. “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too.” Iris patted her back. Once Dylan sat with a cup of coffee, Iris went on. “How’s Emma this morning?”

“Asleep. Finally.” Dylan took a sip of her coffee, closing her eyes as the caramel tones danced on her tongue. “It was a long night.”

“By the time I’d gotten out of bed when she screamed, you were already with her. What was it this time?”

“Another nightmare.”

“Should we up her sessions with Dr. Kline?”

“No. Dr. Kline said the nightmares would come and go. She already sees her once every two weeks.” Dylan hated that her baby still suffered from the accident. On bad nights, Emma would wake up screaming and when realizing her right leg was gone, she would have a panic attack. Dylan wished she could take her child’s pain away. She would give anything in the world for that to happen, but knew it was a wasted wish. If sitting up with Emma half the night was what she had to do, the lack of sleep was a small price to pay for Emma’s pain and peace of mind.

Iris nodded and placed a bowl of fruit salad, granola, and yogurt on the table. “Are you still going to be able to help your cousin at her restaurant today?”

With her spoon halfway to her mouth, Dylan groaned. “Yes, we can use the extra money.” She popped the spoon in her mouth and hummed as the spice of the granola danced on her tongue. Working on her day off wasn’t ideal, but the money, along with the tips, would be worth it.

“You could always use extra money in the bank.” Iris took the seat across from her.

“I know.” Macy, older than Dylan by three years, owned the Burger Café, a restaurant in the next town over. Not that Dylan didn’t want to help, but it was difficult to get the smell of grease out of her clothes after a workday at the restaurant. When she’d first moved to town, she’d readily taken the job Macy had offered, but soon realized it wasn’t for her. “She said eleven, right?”

“She did.” Iris patted her hand then took a sip of coffee and sighed. “Emma and I will be fine. She plans to work on a new drawing anyway.”

Dylan nodded. “It’s all she talked about yesterday.”

“It was.” Iris held her coffee cup between her hands.

“All right.” Dylan stood, stretched, then deposited her empty cup and bowl in the sink. “I’ll see you later.”

Dylan worked five days a week at The Town Square, a local hotel, in downtown Garriety as a housekeeper. It wasn’t much but, as of right now, it at least paid the bills, and, most days, it afforded her the time to be there when Emma got home from school. She’d also gained a friend in her co-worker, Haley. They’d quickly hit it off after Dylan was hired and they tried to get together at least a couple of times a month outside of work. Dylan’s dream was to become a florist one day and run her own shop, but as of right now, that’s all it was, a dream. She didn’t have the extra time to spend on silly notions with bills to pay and a disabled child to take care of.

The previous week, Dylan had gotten a quarter raise and her hours had changed. From now on she’d work Sunday to Wednesday and Friday. She felt grateful for the change in schedule that would allow her to accompany Emma to her Saturday activities. It would also allow her to find a job that she could work on Thursdays. She wasn’t sure what jobs were available that would let her work only one day a week, but surely, something existed out there.

Haley had also been a catalyst in enrolling Emma in public school. Dylan had worried herself to death when she had investigated private schools for Emma. The cost had almost given her a heart attack. But Haley had even went as far as creating a Power-Point presentation for enrolling in public school. Dylan was skeptical because of Emma’s disability, but Emma’s excitement over the tour of the school combined with Haley’s presentation and the knowledgeable staff sealed the deal for Dylan. Though Emma had never had a panic attack while attending, Dylan made sure everyone was aware of her issues and the faculty had assured her that Emma’s well-being was their number one priority. Emma had taken to it and quickly made a few friends. Dylan wanted Emma to live the fullest life she could. The panic attacks lessoned over the years, but Dylan knew from experience they could be debilitating.

Dylan leaned against her daughter’s door and watched the rise and fall of her small chest, a well-loved penguin plush that her dad had given her for her first birthday held tightly in the right hand. The same penguin that Dylan had to perform emergency surgery on more than once over the years. Emma didn’t feel sorry for herself, and Dylan wouldn’t either. Emma was the strongest person she knew and took every opportunity to do something fun.

Emma was hooked on horseback riding, and they had an appointment for a riding lesson once every two weeks. If it wasn’t for one of the local charities and the donations they received, Emma wouldn’t have been able to take these classes. Dylan was grateful for everything she and Emma received since the accident.

The forearm crutches Emma used from time to time were propped against the wall by her bed for easy access. Her wheelchair sat folded up in the corner of her room. Thankfully, from the help of some amazing organizations, Emma received a couple of prosthetic devices. One for everyday use and the other a running prosthetic that Emma wore when she played soccer. It became a life saver for them both to realize that Emma, with the help of technology, could participate with the other children in after school activities. Every few years, the prosthetic devices needed to be upgraded, but Dylan couldn’t worry about that now. When the time came, she’d have all her paperwork in order and prayed that Emma would be allowed the prosthetics she would need.

Dylan had been diligent in teaching Emma how to care for her prosthetic limb. It could be a slow and tedious process, but they were both so thankful for the chance for Emma to live a normal life that they would go through the process together most days. Emma was still too young to take on the task herself, but when they had the extra time, Emma would take over the duty of caring for and washing her prosthetic socks and gel liners.

“You need to go,” Iris said.

“I know.” Dylan wiped a tear away.

Iris kissed her on the cheek. “Drawing this morning, then the Garriety Science Center later.”

“Okay.” Dylan hated for her mom to pay for Emma’s way, but was also grateful. Her pride only stung a little every time Iris paid for something that Dylan should be paying for. Iris had told her more than once that they were in this together and after five years living under the same roof, Dylan started to believe it.

With a final look, Dylan turned and walked away. She hoped when Emma got older, she didn’t resent the hand dealt her. Dylan would do what became necessary to ensure that didn’t happen. No matter the sacrifices she’d had to make over the years. Even if that included dating.

Iris had told her countless times she needed to date more. That it wasn’t good for Emma to be her entire life. Losing Ian had broken her heart, and even though it had healed over time, it still hurt. She’d dated over the years, but no one note-worthy, and no one she wanted to introduce to her daughter. There was one guy, but when he realized he wasn’t the center of Dylan’s world, it quickly fell apart. There weren’t many people that wanted to deal with a handicapped child.

Dylan knew she’d get the same talk from her dad about dating when she saw him the following week when he took Emma fishing. When a teenager, Dylan’s parents divorced, but her dad had always been there for them. Dylan knew if she ever needed anything, he’d be there at a moment’s notice.

She’d yet to meet someone she would be willing to give her heart to. They’d have to be someone special, and at this point in her life, she wouldn’t settle for less than she deserved. They would have to understand that Emma was her life and they would always come in second. She’d learned the hard way life was too short, and she didn’t have time for games. No. She shook her head and backed her car out of the driveway. Love wasn’t in her game plans. At least, not any time soon.

Chapter Two

Kat Anderson hummed as her two employees, Kyle and Reeva, put the finishing touches on their latest tiny house build. It truly was a labor of love over the last six months to get everything for the business planned and implemented, but the result standing proud in front of her felt good. With one final walk around, she joined the other two off to the side of the house.

Kyle had come to her from Washington State. His car carried all his possessions the first time he interviewed for the job. She had a sneaking suspicion he had also been sleeping in his car. Briley, her sister, wasn’t sure about hiring him and voiced concerns, but Kat saw something in him. That, coupled with his previous job as a construction worker, and the positive recommendation from his former boss, sealed the deal for her. What sealed the deal for Kyle was the stipulation that he could live in the bunkhouse as part of his salary. They’d gotten along since day one and he turned out to be an excellent craftsman. When he showed interest in building custom cabinets, Kat knew he was going to be an excellent addition to her team.

On the other hand, Reeva, was a harder sale. Brandon, Briley’s business partner in their house flipping enterprise, had recommended Reeva after she was laid off from her job unexpectedly. Although she had worked in construction all her life and had a certification in plumbing, she also had a permanent chip on her shoulder. The first time Briley had met Reeva, Briley had brought her girlfriend Leah with her. Normally, Briley was chill, but Kat had to calm her down when Reeva made an inappropriate comment about how hot Leah was. Kat had fired her on the spot, but a few days later, Reeva, with a different attitude, came back and apologized to all of them. Kat wasn’t one to hold a grudge and made it clear she wouldn’t stand for that kind of behavior toward anyone. She hadn’t had any trouble out of her since.

Where Reeva was tall and skinny, Kyle was short and stocky. They’d clashed a few times when they first started working together, but after the first few weeks both seemed to mellow out. Kat never asked what brought about the change and they didn’t offer an explanation. If they stayed decent to each other and it didn’t interfere with business, she wouldn’t get involved in their squabble.

“Looks good, boss,” Kyle said, rubbing his beard.

“The buyer should be pleased,” Reeva added. From the moment Kat had met Reeva, she’d appreciated her short, almost buzz cut red hair. It wasn’t just anyone who could pull the look off, but Reeva did it effortlessly. Her dimples didn’t hurt either.

Five months ago, Kat had made an appointment to get her hair trimmed, but once at the salon, her eyes had zeroed in on a picture hanging on the wall and she’d decided to go for it. For years, she’d had a bob cut, but now her chestnut hair was short on the sides and longer on top. At least, long enough to spike it up if so desired. She wasn’t sure she could pull the look off, but the stylist had promised it would work. Briley had given her hair the once over, high-fived her, and said how good it looked. The first few weeks, it took some getting used to but now, she loved it and kept on top of her hair appointments to keep it that way.

“He should be,” Kat said. They’d hit a few snags with their first tiny house build but Kat had expected that. It was Kyle and Reeva’s first time working in such a tiny medium, and Kat’s first time with any type of construction. With Briley and Brandon’s help, they had quickly found solutions to all their issues.

On more than one occasion, Briley and Kat had stayed up all night trying to figure out the answer to a problem. She’d spent more money on flowers for Leah over the last six months, as an apology for taking up so much of Briley’s time, than she had on all her previous girlfriends combined. That might have been why they were all exes.

A year ago, when Kat decided to quit her accounting job, where she was set to make partner, to move to Garriety, her mom verbalized her displeasure. Briley, however, had stuck by her like glue. Even though two years older than Briley, her sister had always been her rock. They’d talked for hours over the three months Kat spent deciding what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Briley’s encouragement and straight forward voice of reason allowed Kat to take a chance on herself and future.

Her musings stopped when Kyle slapped her on the back. “How about the three of us go out for drinks to celebrate the completed house?”

“I’m game.” Reeva rocked back on her heels and eyed Kat as if challenging her. Kat wasn’t much of a drinker, and had no intention of getting wasted. The last time they’d went drinking, Reeva and Kyle had made a contest out of who could drink the most. It was something to watch. Reeva and Kyle were so focused on beating each other, they didn’t notice that Kat limited herself to a couple of beers. Kyle had lost, and showed up the next morning looking like death warmed over but managed to complete his assigned job.

“Can’t. I’m watching my niece tonight.” Briley and Leah were going on almost a year of dating and it was only a matter of time before they got engaged, considering Kat had gone ring shopping with Briley the previous week and Briley couldn’t keep a secret to save her life.

Some days, she wished for what Briley and Leah shared. Their love was evident to anyone who spent any amount of time with them. Yes, she wanted what they had, but knew what they put into their relationship, and wasn’t sure she had it in her to compromise so much. At least not right now. In the future, when more settled, and the business brought in a steady enough income that she could quit her part-time accounting job, she would go about finding someone to share her life. Maybe. Though it was not at the top of her long priority list.

Right now, they already had two more tiny house builds on the docket and she was meeting with two more people next week to discuss their options. The career demanded more than she’d expected, but she loved it and couldn’t wait for it to become full time. Being able to create a home for someone was exhilarating and a high she didn’t know she needed.

“You two have fun, though.” Kat took one more look at the tiny house, then bid them a good evening. After six months of working closely together, they’d earned her trust and she now allowed Kyle to lock up the building and make sure everything was secure. He was becoming a friend, while Reeva stayed at arm’s length. But Kat couldn’t complain about her since she had a stellar work ethic and that’s what mattered.

As Kat slid into the seat of her work truck, she searched her mind for where to take Griffin for dinner, recalling a recommendation from Kyle. It was always a new and exciting experience to spend time with her and she couldn’t wait to see what the two of them could get into next.

Thirty minutes later, she pulled into her driveway and made her way inside the house for a quick shower. There were still a few things she wanted to do to make the space hers, like finishing the basement, but she had to admit it felt like home. She’d never felt like that when living in her condo. Maybe all she had needed to feel secure in her life was to set down roots.

As she passed by the large poster of Harley Quinn leading to the office, she saluted her, then walked into the office and greeted her ferret, Stripes. She had fallen in love with him the first time she’d laid eyes on him. His light red-brown guard hair was paired with a white undercoat, brown eyes, and a pink nose. She picked him up and lifted her phone to snap a picture for their Instagram page. She had to admit they made a fine pair. Once an adequate amount of cuddling had occurred, she made her way to the bedroom and scrounged through the closet as Stripes sat on the bed, staring at her. She made herself presentable in a pair of skinny jeans, a gray Anderson Tiny Homes t-shirt, to rep her brand, and a pair of white sneakers, then kissed Stripes on the head and bounded across the street to Briley and Leah’s house. Before she could even knock on the door, it suddenly swung open, and a nervous Briley stepped out, shutting the door behind her, then pushed Kat back down the steps.

For the first time in a long time, Briley looked nervous. Good grief, she’d talked to her a few hours ago and she seemed all right. “What’s wrong?”

Briley gnawed on her bottom lip and lifted a hand to run it through her hair, forgetting for a moment she had put it up in a bun, leaving it sticking out in some places, making her look like a wild animal. Kat held back her snicker because Briley was wired.

Briley stuffed her hands in the pocket of her sweatpants that had honestly seen better days. One leg had a split up the calf and holes littered the other leg. A baseball sized stain of unknown substance covered one knee. The red and yellow flip flops and pink tank-top depicting a unicorn added to the overall picture. Kat thought about taking a picture but figured now wasn’t the time for blackmail material. Not with Briley looking so distressed.

“I’m going to do it.” Briley balled her hands into fists.

“It?” Kat knew exactly what Briley meant, but it didn’t hurt to egg her on.

“Don’t be a smartass. Tonight. I’m doing it tonight.” She nodded her head as if to convince herself and not Kat.

Instead of saying anything, she drew Briley into a hug and noticed over Briley’s shoulder the front room curtain being pulled back and Leah watching them. “I’m proud of you and you don’t have anything to be worried about. Well, at least not much to worry about. If I were you, I would change clothes before I asked the love of my life to marry me. Are you sure this,” she said, pointing to Briley’s clothes, “is the look you want to go with?”

Briley squeezed her tight, then pulled away. “I plan on it. A nice dinner out, then maybe a walk down by the river, then back here for dessert. I have everything planned. I’ve got this.” She pointed to her own chest and Kat noticed the fingers of Briley’s other hand squeezing something in her pocket. Briley carried that ring with her everywhere she went once she bought it. She was surprised Briley hadn’t broken down and asked Leah before now or lost it. Her excitement was palpable. Kat had balked at the price of the ring, but Briley had barely blinked at it. One look at the ring and Briley had declared it perfect. Once Briley set her mind to something, she went for it. She’d announced that her bank account was healthy and wanted nothing more than to put a nice ring on Leah’s finger. In the end, Kat admitted the ring was beautiful and looked like it was made for Leah.

“Yes, you do. Don’t overthink this, Bri. She loves you. Now,” she slipped her arm around Briley’s shoulders, “I’m going to collect Griffin and you need to start working on your evening.” At the front door, Kat turned Briley to face her, then squeezed her shoulders. “Relax. You’ve got the girl. There is no way Leah will say no.”

“Say no to what?”

Kat flinched at the unexpected voice. They were both so lost in their own world, they didn’t hear the front door open. Briley’s eyes widened, and Kat tightened her grip on Briley’s shoulders before they both turned to Leah, who stood in the open door. It would have been comical if it wasn’t so serious.

Leah narrowed her eyes at them. “What are you two up to? Does it have anything to do with Briley being fidgety all week?” Leah was a force when she set her mind to something and one would never be able to tell she only stood five-foot-two, a good nine inches shorter than Kat, but the way she commanded a room made her seem larger than life. It was one of the things Kat appreciated, respected, and loved about her, but not at this moment.

“What?” Briley said, and Kat could see the sweat gather on her forehead. “Kat was being weird.” She adjusted her glasses and Kat fought the urge not to roll her eyes. Leave it to Briley to make the situation even more forced.

“I know you two well enough. I don’t buy it. What will I not say no to?” Leah looked from one to the other. “Does this have anything to do with those Christmas blueprints for the house I found stashed behind the cereal boxes in the kitchen cabinet? We can go back to pretending I never found them if you want to.”

Kat was about to make up some bullshit story when Briley did the one thing she hadn’t expected and dropped to one knee while taking the small black box out of her pocket. Kat didn’t realize Briley had it in her, but quickly pulled out her phone and started recording, proud her little sister worked up the courage to do this. Although, a bit horrified that Briley decided to do this looking like a homeless person on a three-day bend.

“To marrying me.” Briley opened the ring case and Leah covered her mouth and gasped. “Leah, I love you more than life itself. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

Kat took a step back when Leah squealed and pulled a grinning Briley up, allowing her to slip the ring on her finger. Briley picked Leah up and swung her around while they both cried, Leah’s blond curls bouncing around them.

“Yes. A thousand times yes.” Leah peppered kisses all over Briley’s face.

“Say it again,” Briley said.

“Yes.”

Kat wasn’t one to get emotional but seeing them both so happy warmed her heart. She was happy for them and glad she could be witness to their engagement, but at the same time, understood now more than ever what she was missing out on. Her choice to wait before finding her own Leah wasn’t looking all that great at the moment. She’d come back to her senses, but now felt a tiny pull of loneliness in the pit of her stomach.

When they broke apart, Kat sent the video to both their phones, then grabbed them into a group hug. She kissed first Briley’s then Leah’s cheek. “I’m so happy for you both.”

“Thank you, Kat,” Leah said, wiping her eyes. “I’m glad you recorded it.”

Briley took her glasses off and wiped her eyes as well. “I had everything planned. Kat and I just talked about it.” She looked disgusted with herself, but Kat had learned over the past year that Briley was putty in Leah’s hands and didn’t have any self-control around her.

Leah cupped her cheek. “My love, I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful proposal.”

“Really, Tiny?” Briley used the nickname she had for Leah, and grinned.

“Yes.”

“Enough of that,” Kat said, ushering them both inside. “No need to give the neighbors even more of a show. You know if they catch a tiny whiff of something, it’s spread around town in seconds.” Kat had learned over the last year and a half that, although it was a good neighborhood to live in, nothing stayed quiet for long. “I’m going to grab your daughter, then we’re going to get out of your hair.” Kat gave her sister a teasing smile. “Briley, you can still give her an evening she won’t forget.”

She didn’t stick around, instead giving them their privacy, and walked down the hallway to Griffin’s room where the child busily stuffed things into a Big Bird duffel bag she’d gotten for Christmas.

“Ready, monkey?” Kat stayed back by the door, awaiting Griffin’s instructions.

A bob of the small head was her answer. Griffin was quickly expanding her vocabulary, but only talked when in the mood. Kat respected that.

“Let me help you.” Griffin accepted the help then ran into the living room for goodbye kisses from her moms. With the duffle bag on one arm and Griffin on the other, Kat walked across the street to her house. Once Griffin’s things were put in the living room, and she’d greeted Stripes, they were ready to go.

“Burgers for dinner?”

“Fries?”

“You bet, monkey.” Kat ran after her once they were in the front yard and pretended to be a tickle monster.

Griffin still giggled when Kat buckled her into her car seat.

“I know of a place we can go.” She’d never been before but Kyle swore by their burgers, proclaiming them the best he’d ever had. She would withhold judgement until she tried one, but being the best was a bit of a stretch considering Briley, the restaurant aficionado of the family, hadn’t even heard of the restaurant before.

Double checking in the rearview mirror that Griffin was comfortable, Kat put the truck in reverse and backed out of the driveway. The burgers better be worth it because it was a forty-minute drive from her house and Griffin was not one for patience. She flipped the radio on, singing along with Griffin, as they made their way to The Burger Café.