Page 16 of Tribulation Pass

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Duncan noticed his parents give each other one of those silent looks—the kind that only they understood, but somehow held all the meaning of a full-blown conversation.

“So…” Mick said. “Who is she?”

“Is it Jenna?” his mother asked. The look that passed across her face made Duncan realize something he’d missed the entire time he and Jenna had dated.

“Definitely not Jenna,” he said. “How did I not know you don’t like her?”

How had he missed that? His mother had always gone out of her way to be friendly to Jenna and make sure she felt comfortable. But he guessed now that he thought about it, the warmth she shared with everyone else had never been there.

“Of course I liked her,” Anne said. “She was a sweet girl. I just didn’t like her foryou. But you get to make your own choices, and if she’d been your choice I would have loved her like a daughter.”

“How do you know she wasn’t the right one for me?” he asked.

“Duncan…” she said.

“No, I really want to know. How do you know?”

How had his mother known that Jenna wasn’t for him when he’d been so sure she was the right one?

Anne paused and looked at Mick again.

“Don’t look at me,” Mick said, holding up his hands. “You stuck your foot in your mouth on this one.”

“But you agree with her,” Duncan said, looking at his father. “I can tell you do.”

“Sure, but I’ve found it wise over the years to always agree with your mother,” he said, winking at Anne. “I don’t like sleeping on the couch.”

Anne rolled her eyes and then looked back at Duncan. “It’s just one of those things, son. You can just tell. When you’ve met your match, you’ll feel it. You’ll see it. It’s not just a friendship or physical connection when you meet the person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with. Your souls…”

“Are connected,” Duncan finished for her. It worried him to hear her say it. That kind of soul-searing love went into his painting. He wasn’t sure there was a woman he was capable of connecting with on that deep of a level. And if there was…maybe she’d crashed through his door that morning because he’d definitely felt a connection.

He’d never believed in the idea of love at first sight. In his mind, love was so much more than how people often described it. Hearts and butterflies and physical attraction were all surface. Love—real love—was making the choice to be there when things got hard. Coping with the death of a loved one, through sickness, and through the fights where it felt like things might be hopeless.Thatwas real love. But he’d never been able to see himself doing any of those things with any woman. Until now.

“Why does that bother you?” Anne said.

“No,” he finally said. “It doesn’t bother me. I just don’t understand it.”

“Not yet,” Mick said. “But you will. You’re gifted in a lot of ways. You can look at something or someone and understand them with a depth I’ve always found astonishing. It’s intuitive and insightful. But love doesn’t work that way, and I think you pull back from it because it doesn’t come easy to you like other things do. It takes patience and unselfishness. And it takes time.”

“I think I’m just tired,” he said. “Work has been going well for the most part. I’ve got enough to ship for the gallery showing. But I was on a roll today and got interrupted, and I guess I’ve been out of sorts all day.”

“Gee,” Mick said. “I have no idea what that’s like.” He gave Anne a pointed look. “If you creative types would just find a good physical outlet when you get stuck or things aren’t flowing right, then life would be so much easier. And it’d make the people who live with you not want to kill you.”

“It takes a special person to love people like us,” Anne said, grinning. She took Mick’s hand and kissed the palm. “We’re so moody and prickly.”

“What was it that interrupted you?” Mick asked.

“Someone knocked at the door,” he said, shrugging.

Mick and Anne both raised their brows in surprise.

“Does Atticus know?” Mick asked, worry replacing the surprise.

“He knows,” Duncan said. “When I opened the door a woman all but fell into my arms. She was soaking wet. Her car had gotten stuck almost a mile down the road.”

“Yes, but what was she doing there?” Mick asked. “That’s quite a wrong turn to make.”

“Atticus leased her the lake house. Apparently she missed the fork in the road, and the rain was so bad she veered pretty far over and the car stalled. She just started walking. When I opened the door she fell right into my arms.”

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