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Fueled (Page 80)

“Mom—”

“How serious is it?” she deadpans, and I shouldn’t be shocked at her frankness, but even after all of these years, I still am.

“Mom, Colton doesn’t do serious,” I try to deflect.

“Don’t try to play it off, Rylee,” she scolds. “I know you well enough to know that any man you give your time to is obviously worth it. And you wouldn’t waste your time on someone that is in it for a quick lay.” I cringe at her words. If only she knew about Colton’s arrangements, I’m sure she wouldn’t be so sure of my judgment then. “So tell me, honey, just how serious is it?”

I sigh loudly, knowing that my mother is tenacious when she wants an answer. “Honestly, from my viewpoint, it could be something. From his…well, Colton isn’t used to doing the more than a couple of months type of thing. We’re just feeling it out as we go,” I answer softly and as honestly as possible.

“Hmmm,” she murmurs before falling silent. “Does he treat you well? Because you know that they always treat you the best in the beginning of the relationship, and if it’s not good in the beginning then it’s not going to get any better.”

“Yes, Mother,” I say like a child.

“I’m serious, Rylee Jade,” she says, her voice implacable. She must be serious if she’s using my middle name. “Does he or doesn’t he?”

“Yes, Mom. He treats me very well.”

I hear her warm laughter on the other end of the line, and I can tell she’s relieved. “Just remember what I always say; don’t lose yourself trying to hold onto someone who doesn’t care about losing you.” I finish mouthing the words she’s saying. Words she’s told me since I started crushing on boys as a teenager.

“I know.”

“Oh, honey, I am so happy for you! After everything that you’ve been through…you deserve nothing but happiness, my sweet child.”

I smile at her unconditional love and concern for me, appreciating what a great mother I have. “Thanks, Mom. We’re just taking things a day at a time right now and seeing where it leads us.”

“There’s my girl. Always with a level head on her shoulders.”

I sigh, a soft smile on my face. “So how are things going? How have you been? How’s Dad?”

“All’s good here. Dad’s fine. Busy as ever, but you know how he is.” She laughs and I can imagine her running her tongue over her top lip as is her habit. “How are the boys?”

I smile at my mom’s question. She treats them like they’re family too, always sending them treats or cookies or little things to make them feel special. “They’re good. I think Shane has his first pseudo-girlfriend, and Zander is slowly making progress.” I go through the boys and talk about each one with her, answering her questions, and I can sense another care package coming for them.

We talk for a bit more before she has to go. “I miss you, Mom.” My voice cracks with my words because she might be tough and overbearing, but she only wants the best for me. I love her more than anything.

“I miss you too, Ry. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you.”

“I know. I love you.”

“Love you too. Bye.”

I hit call end and snuggle back into my warm bed that for some reason no one will let me sleep in this morning. I glance over at the dresser at the People and grab it. I flip it open to the marked page and there I am.

I stare at the picture of Colton and me at the Kids Now function on the red carpet. He is standing, his shoulders squared to the camera, with his hand in one pocket of his slacks and his other hand wrapped around my waist. His pocket square front and center. His face is looking toward the camera, but his chin and eyes are angled toward me with a huge smile on his face.

My eyes gravitate to the part of the picture that I love the most, the way his hand grips my hip, a possessive hold announcing to the world that I am his.

I reread the caption again and sigh. I’m so glad the press hasn’t gotten a hold of my name yet. I’m not ready to be thrust in to the media circus but I know it’s inevitable if I’m with Colton.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” I mutter to myself.

I hold the picture in my hand, staring at it until I talk myself into taking my run. I shift out of my bed when my phone dings a text. I laugh out loud at technology’s rule over my life this morning and nonetheless pick up my phone to see Colton’s name. I can’t help the smile on my lips.

Thinking nasty thoughts of you in the middle of my meeting. Won’t be standing for a while now. Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven.

I laugh out loud, knowing the song and feeling flattered at the same time at the song’s lyrics. I text him back.

So glad I could help with your boredom, Ace…it’s the least I can do. Think more thoughts! TLC – Red Light Special.

I smirk as I toss my phone onto my nightstand, knowing that he’s going to have a lot harder time concentrating in his meeting now.

“Stella?” I call out from the door of my office. “Stella? What happened to my schedule for today?”

I lower my very tired and aching head into my hands and rest it there while I try to figure out how to juggle everything this week: budget projections, schedules, project meetings, along with the usual daily grind. And now I can only hope that the sudden four hour meeting blocked on my schedule for after lunch is just a computer glitch. Why didn’t Stella enter any details? I swear it wasn’t there thirty minutes ago. Maybe I’d looked at the wrong day.

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