What did that mean? Who would find her?
Atticus would know the answer. Of course he would. But getting the answers out of him was another matter entirely.
Duncan did a walk through the house and made sure everything was locked up tight, and then he let himself out through the kitchen door.
He knew he’d caught her in a moment of weakness there at the end, and he should have stopped her from saying anything more. She’d seen his show in New York, and she was familiar enough with his work to recognize it. And then he remembered she’d seen one of his paintings in the guest bedroom.
None of that bothered him. He worked hard at keeping his identity a secret, along with a little help from Atticus, but there were people outside his family who knew who he was in the artist world.
What had really bothered him was the three little words she’d uttered at the end. Even in delirious sleep, there was fear in her voice.
She’d said she’d driven all over the country, and he brought the image of her falling into his arms back into his mind. What had she been through that had made her that desperate? What had she survived to give her the strength and courage she had?
When he got back in the SUV his phone was ringing, and he saw Jenna’s name once again lighting up the screen. He let out a sigh. It was time to end the cycle.
“You can’t move forward if you’re holding on to the past,” he said. And then he hit the answer button.
“Jenna,” he said.
“Oh, Duncan,” she said, the surprise evident in her voice. “I didn’t think you’d answer. I was going to leave another voicemail.”
“What do you want?” he asked.
“Well,” she said. “I wanted to see you. I’m doing a shoot in Boise in a couple of weeks. And…well…I miss you. Maybe we need to talk things out.”
He let out a sigh and closed his eyes. Six months ago he would’ve agreed to do it. But it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
“Jenna,” he said. “I don’t think so. Living in the past isn’t going to solve anything. I’m not part of your life anymore. And you’re not part of mine. Let’s just call this what it is and be done with it. No visits, and no more calls.”
“You’re angry with me,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to talk to you. I could give it another chance, and move back to Laurel Valley.”
“And it’s still going to snow for nine months, and you’ll hate it as much this time as you did the last.”
“You could paint anywhere,” she said, sounding puckish.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I could. But I choose not to. What we had was great while it lasted. It’s time to let it go.”
His words were met with silence, and he’d decided there was no time like the present to practice what he preached.
“Goodbye, Jenna,” he said, and hung up the phone. And then he blocked her number.
And then he backed out from under the portico and headed to the one place he knew he could get his thoughts together and make sense of things.
His parents still lived in the same house they had when they’d first married, with a few additions added on through the years. It was a working ranch, though it was much different than when he and his brothers were growing up. Long gone were the days of sunup to sundown hard labor—tending animals and mending fences and anything else that broke down—which was always something. But the horses they’d started breeding had changed the course of Clann O’Hara Ranch, and they now had a legacy of champion thoroughbreds, including a Triple Crown winner.
His father still worked with the ranch hands and trainers, but not like the early days. His parents enjoyed the freedom of doing whatever they wanted to do in their retirement years, though they were both tied to Laurel Valley through several committees and boards. The truth was, there were O’Haras in Laurel Valley before there was a Laurel Valley, and they’d grown up hearing their grandfather say, “If you want to make change, you have to be the change.” Fortunately, Duncan had plenty of other family members to take on that mantle. He was content putting Laurel Valley on the map through his art.
The farmhouse sat on top of the crest of the hill—gray stone and fresh white paint—and all the barns and outbuildings were also white with dark green metal roofs. White fences lined the paddocks and fields, but they were all empty because of the storm.
He’d been the oldest of five, which had been a huge responsibility in those early days when there hadn’t been much money and times were harder. There’d been no resorts in town or easy places to earn extra money. His art had been his escape, a way to dream of something…more.
But it was family that anchored him. Who knew? Maybe he’d made art too much of an escape. He’d put distance between himself and people, choosing to be an observer instead of getting too involved. But that distance had helped him see things that most people never got to see—compassion, empathy, anger, joy, peace, despair—he saw people’s emotions as clearly as if they’d been wearing them like clothes.
The driveway housed a basketball hoop where’d they’d played many an evening game, and he pulled up under the covered area that connected the house and the garage. He remembered his mom had insisted on having it built because she was tired of getting rained and snowed on while trying to pack the cars with kids or unload groceries. And what Anne O’Hara wanted, she got.
The kitchen door was unlocked. Kids and family were always welcome.