We both laugh at the memory of just one of his over-the-top parenting moments.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, waving my hand around the general area of my bedroom.
“Nate. Well, Nate indirectly. He called me earlier.” He raises one shoulder in a shrug like that should be enough.
“Yeah? And that explains what, exactly?”
“Oh shut up, brat,” he teases. “He mentioned, in between his bouts of hilarity over the morning craziness at the Reid house, that you were sick, and I figured I would come bring you Mom’s soup and keep you company. You know, like old times.”
“Old times?” I question, confused.
“You know. I used to always sit with you when you were sick.”
“Cohen, the last time I was sick, I was, like, ten and you had no choice since we were the only two with the flu and our parents didn’t want us spreading it to our siblings.”
What in the hell is going on here? For a couple of years, he’s treated me with a friendly indifference. Not rude, but never . . . this.
“Still, it helped,” he smirks.
“Yeah, it did.”
Of course, he probably thinks it helps for an entirely different reason than it actually did. I was beside myself the whole week we were basically quarantined together. Not because I was sicker than shit and miserable. I was sick as hell, but I was in heaven. Absolute euphoria because I was alone with Cohen—just him and me—for a whole week.
There is seriously something wrong with me. Besides the obvious. In case you haven’t guessed it, I’ve been madly in love with Cohen Cage since I was a little girl—I think I was six when I realized just how much I loved him and he was ten. That childhood crush has grown over the years into something that is so big—so soul consuming—that even I feel like it will crush me at times.
And the worst part is that he’s completely blind to it.
I’M DEFINITELY IN WAY OVER my head here.
I look over at Dani, who is now peacefully—thank God—sleeping again, and drop my head back on the pillows stacked up behind my back. What the hell was I thinking rushing over here? As soon as Nate called, laughing his ass off over how he woke his sister up, and let me know just how sick she was, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from getting here as quickly as possible. Mom didn’t even bat an eye when I asked her how to make her soup—the same soup she’s made for each of my siblings and me every time we were sick. She did ask why I needed it and left it alone when all I said was, “Dani.” I didn’t miss the look in her eye though.
Curious but hopeful.
It really should have been a concern. How could she possibly be okay with me rushing over to Dani? Someone who is almost five years younger and has never made it a secret, even though she thinks she has, about how she feels about me.
Sure, there was that one time. I think the twins, Lyn and Lila, had just turned sixteen—Dani was around fifteen—when she whispered her feelings towards me with a intensity that no teenager just coming into herself should ever understand.
I’ll never forget it. Never. Of course that was a defining moment for our relationship—not that she knows that.
“I’m going to miss you, Cohen. I know you don’t look at me like I look at you, but one day, you’re going to come back and I’ll still be waiting for you. Waiting for you to see me like I see you. Mark my words, Cohen Cage. One of these days, you’re going to be mine. And until you’re ready . . . I’ll be here. I’ll be waiting.”
Her husky whisper replays in my mind like it just happened moments ago. I haven’t forgotten a single word. Not a single one. Over the years, they would come back to me at the worst-possible times. When I would be out on a date—boom, there they were. Instantly, that chick would morph into a vision of Dani so clear that I struggled not to reach out and run my fingertips down her cheek. When I was in the middle of one of the biggest games in my football career, there they were—a hushed whisper that carried over the roaring crowds. And it would never fail—I would look up from a huddle and there she would be standing with my family, screaming louder than any other person in the stadium.
And most recently, when I was in the middle of a warzone, gunfire flying all around us, bombs exploding, and the dust burning our eyes and lungs. Right in the middle of that Hell-on-earth chaos, I would hear her words trail through my thoughts right when I needed an extra push of strength or, God forbid, hope.
I think that was the moment that I realized the enormity of it and that confession whispered all those years ago. Right or wrong, whatever it is between us would always be bigger than I understand. It’s something that was so unexpected—that feeling, craving, desire, to make her mine. It’s something I’ve almost felt guilty about over the years. Not only because of how close our families are, but because, until the last few years, it’s something that was very inappropriate to feel towards someone that young.