Authors: Rebecca Young
Tags: #canada, #cowboy, #farmer, #ontario, #small town romance, #modern romance, #romance series, #marriage in trouble, #accidental pregnancy, #marriage and love, #canadian romance, #small town series
Between Then and
Copyright © 2013 Zoe York
this is something worth
For my in-laws, who will
soon celebrate forty-five years of marriage
had never before considered heading to the pub instead of going
home at the end of a work day. Eight years of scrimping and saving,
crying babies and tantruming toddlers, medical troubles and family
interference, and he’d always embraced the drama.
But this wasn’t something they could face
together. Now the drama was between them, and he didn’t know if he
could handle another chilly conversation where he ended up the bad
guy when he had no clue what the problem was.
It had been a long, hot summer. Long days in
the field. Too many nights spent pouring over other people’s
bookkeeping. Carrie had been onboard with him picking up the extra
work, but maybe those nights would have been better spent in their
bed. Wrapped around his wife.
Had there been clues? Hindsight was a fucking
bitch. Of course there had been clues. A bite of the lip. An
indrawn breath. Wrinkled brows and shrugged shoulders. A few false
starts at conversations about work and balance, but the real alarms
should have gone off when all of that faded.
Silence chilled like nothing
It took him a few weeks to notice, because he
was an idiot. Then he got mad, which didn’t help. Calling it out as
passive aggressive crap really didn’t go over well. Thinking that
was the end of it was even worse.
But in between the empty smiles that didn’t
meet her eyes and the long-suffering sighs, happiness still flowed
through and around his wife. She was at a great place with the
kids. Drew had finally potty trained, and Kaylie was loving
kindergarten. Her cake business was taking off, as it should,
because Carrie turned sugar and butter and flour into something
better than a slow fuck on a Sunday morning.
He swelled at the image of his curvy wife
underneath him, kids somewhere far, far away. No, there was nothing
better than a naked Carrie in the morning. But her German chocolate
cake came pretty damn close.
Too bad he’d missed his opportunities to
figure out what her problem was. There hadn’t been any cake, or
proper naked time, in far too long. His own fault.
Ian stopped at the end of his
parents’ lane. He’d been working their farm since he’d learned to
walk, and until this summer, he’d never thought he’d walk away from
it. But something had to give, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to
be his marriage. Whatever Carrie’s problem was, they were going to
sort it out. Together. Because if his wife was upset, he was
He lifted his foot off the ground and gunned
his bike for home.
Daddy’s going to be home any
minute. Drew, get off the table. Kaylie, stop telling your brother
what to do. You need to worry about yourself and let me be the mom,
okay?” Carrie grabbed plates from the cupboard and set them on the
counter. Cutlery. Cups of juice, glasses of water. “Drew? Would you
rather milk or juice?”
The back door swung open, and Ian
stepped into the kitchen. He shrugged off his leather jacket and
hung it on a high hook. Good lord, he was handsome. Tired, though.
When had he started to look so weary? Her heart ached to smooth
that away, make it easier for him. Before she could say anything,
Drew had leapt into his dad’s arms, and just like that, Ian lit up.
“Hey bud, were you a good boy today for Mommy?”
The three-year-old bobbed his head
solemnly. “No timeouts, no twouble.”
That’s what I like to hear. I’m
gonna take a quick shower, you go play.” Drew hit the ground
running, and finally Ian was across the room. She lifted her face
for a kiss. Too quick. Never enough time. She sighed, and he tipped
her chin up with one knuckle. “Hey, babe.”
Missed you today. Miss you every
day.” That smile again. Too weak. What was on his mind?
Everything okay?” He nodded and
leaned in to dust her mouth with another kiss. “More,” she
His tongued darted out and swiped at her
bottom lip. Eight years and she still shivered. “I need to get
going to be ready in ten minutes. We gotta leave for hockey
practice in half an hour.” She didn’t miss the wince.
Ian, come on…I put it in your calendar, but you have to look at the
He lifted his hands in surrender,
but it didn’t matter. Just like that, the mood shifted, and, since
he must have felt it too, he turned and headed to their room. When
had happiness become so fragile? How could she love her husband so
much and still want to shake him silly?
They hadn’t had enough time
together this year. That was for sure. She knew why he was taking
on more accounts, and it was good for their finances, but she’d
offered to go back to work full-time instead. If they were out of
the house at the same time, they’d have more time at home together.
And not just the two of them—the kids missed their dad as
But each time they’d talked, he’d
said the same thing.
Maybe next year.
There’s no rush.
Carrie knew his hope was
that she’d get pregnant again, and it would stick this time. He
didn’t need to spell it out for her.
What’s the point of starting a new job only to go on
maternity leave again? And daycare for three is prohibitively
expensive. Just do your cakes.
Music swelled in the living room. Kaylie had
managed to convince her brother to have a dance party. Two
beautiful kids. Healthy and happy. That was enough. For her. Not
They needed to talk about that.
They needed to talk about a lot of things. She flipped off the
oven. Not now, but maybe they could make some time.
She found Ian in the ensuite
bathroom. He pulled off his t-shirt, and she paused for a moment in
the doorway, letting her gaze drift lazily over his broad shoulders
and long back. He was a big guy, but moved with a casual grace that
took her breath away. The smooth, hard muscles in front of her
flexed as he swung his arms up over his head to stretch before
unbuckling his belt and letting his jeans drop to the tile floor.
Heat flooded her core as she realized he’d gone commando all
Hey, again.” She aimed for a sexy,
cute tone, but it didn’t hit the mark. He turned with a scowl.
There was a time when this would be the moment he’d flash a wicked
smile and invite her to join him in the shower. Now there wasn’t a
chance in hell they’d risk the kids discovering them naked
together, and right now, she wasn’t sure they liked each other
enough to share such a small space. “I’m sorry for
I’m sorry for
She shrugged. Not the point of this
conversation. “I was thinking, maybe we could ask your parents to
babysit on Saturday night?”
Sure. What do you want to do? Go
to a movie?”
It was a reasonable suggestion, but
her skin prickled with irritation. Before she could stop herself,
her mind was snapping back a retort.
alone and you want to sit in a room full of strangers and not talk
to each other?
“I was thinking something
more…just the two of us. Maybe we could stay home.”
Why would we waste a babysitting
There are things
we can’t do with the kids here.”
shot to get it, buddy.
“Like, if they were
at your parents, I could join you in the shower.”
He grinned and stepped closer, sliding his
hands around her waist. “Okay, we can ask my parents to babysit on
the weekend so we can have shower sex.”
She slapped at his back without effect as his
whole body shook with silent laughter. “Ian! I’m
I get it, babe.” He kissed her
neck, squeezed her one last time, and moved back to the shower.
“You want some quality time. We’ll make that happen, I
That’s not it—” Her protest died
on her tongue as he stepped under the stream of water. It was more
than just quality time, but how could she explain that to Ian when
she couldn’t properly quantify it for herself?
She was still grumpy when he walked back into
their bedroom a few minutes later, wearing nothing but a towel.
Beads of water rolled down his bulked up chest and clung to the
rectangular patch of dark hair on his still flat abdomen. The
shower might have been physically cleansing, but his shoulders
still sagged under the weight of whatever was on his
She knew what that felt like.
Dinner ready?” His words were slow
and careful, like he was trying hard not to piss her off. Like he
needed to walk on eggshells around her. Damn.
She crossed the room and slid her arms around
his waist, pressing her face against the damp, warm skin over his
spine. “It’s been a long year, eh?”
Did it all used to be easier?”
Under her fingers, his abdominal muscles flexed, but he didn’t
respond right away. After a long silence, he took a deep breath and
twisted to pull her around to his front.
It was so long ago, babe, I don’t
know either of us can rightly say.” He kissed her forehead. “I get
that you want to talk, but we gotta have dinner and get to Kaylie’s
hockey game, right?”
She nodded numbly. Never enough
asleep in Drew’s room that night, and by the weekend, they’d both
been making such an effort to be thoughtful and considerate that
when the kids were dropped off at his parents, it seemed a shame to
bring the mood down with a heavy talk, so they headed to Danny’s to
catch up with friends. Her closest friend, Karen Miller, was
chatting at the bar with Evan West, who had been in Ian’s grade in
high school, so Carrie left the men to catch up for a minute and
went in search of drinks. Karen joined her.
Where’s everyone else?”
Karen craned her neck to the back of the pub.
“Ty is back there somewhere making out with his chickie of the
week. Evie and Dale were here for a few minutes, but he threw a
temper tantrum when Evan showed up, so they left.”
There was no love lost between
either woman and their friend’s husband, whom they had long
suspected was unfaithful. How anyone could cheat on Evie, who was
funny and smart and drop-dead gorgeous, was beyond them. But Dale
also pushed their buttons by being extra possessive of his wife,
particularly around her high-school boyfriend, Evan.
Which made no sense, because Evan was pretty
But Dale was a douche, and logic wasn’t a
Besides, despite having a good week, she
really wasn’t one to judge other relationships when her own might
be in a precarious position itself.
Before long, the table had filled, and when
Ian caught up, he pulled a chair up right behind her and leaned
forward, sharing her space. His breath was hot and distracting on
the side of her neck, and though he seemed to be paying attention
to the conversation, his fingers were busy in the wavy tangle of
hair cascading from her low ponytail.
It had been too long since she’d had his
attention like this. She eased her hands backward through the slats
of her chair and reached for his legs, reciprocating the gentle
touch. Before long, he’d lifted all of her hair into a twisted bun,
and his fingers were resting on bare skin at the top of her
Prickly awareness coursed down and out from
that hot contact, and she was halfway to proposing they sneak off
to the restrooms when he shifted his hand sideways and squeezed her
neck, holding the possessive position for a few beats before
bringing his lips to the curve of her ear. “Let’s get out of here,