“I can’t believe you’re really here.” Billie released Adam from a rib-crushing embrace. She motioned him into the house and watched as he hefted his bag. “You brought your guitar? You must be planning a long visit.” Her brows drew together in a little frown.
Adam grinned to hide his uneasiness. “Sure, why not? I’m out of school, looking for my path in life. I might as well search in California as well as Minnesota.”
“I thought you already had a job offer.” The reprimand in her voice was obvious but instead of waiting for a reply she closed the door and led him through the house, down a hallway into a guest room.
A tall four-poster dwarfed the space, but the painting at the head of the bed immediately grabbed his attention. The surreal vision of vibrant colors fighting one another to dominate the canvas was almost more than he could take in. Billie was right when she told him her uncle was exorcising personal demons with his art.
“Uncle Jack’s work?” He dropped the bags and stepped around his sister to get a better look. “I thought you auctioned them off or something.”
She shrugged and lifted her chin. “I kept a couple. It seemed wrong to sell all of them. He was our uncle, after all. Besides, I see them in a different light now.”
“Really? In a dark room with a dim flashlight?”
She smacked his shoulder. “Same little smart aleck you always were,” she said, her voice light with laughter. “Are you hungry?”
He nodded and followed her to the kitchen.
“What did Mother say about you flying out here?” She pulled leftovers from the refrigerator; chicken breast, wild rice, and broccoli materialized from containers. She lifted a carton of milk. “Seems funny she didn’t call me.”
Adam scratched at the stubble along his cheek. “That’s cause I didn’t mention it to her.”
She looked up from her preparations, amusement flickering in the depths of her eyes.
“She’d just try to talk me out of it. You know how she is.”
Billie bit at her bottom lip, a longtime habit since she was a kid, and slipped the plate of food into the microwave. “Haven’t learned how to deal with Mother yet without running away?” she asked. She turned to face him as they waited for the food to heat.
“Hey! I’m not the one who moved to California,” he reminded her.
“I didn’t move here to get away from Mother. That was a bonus.” She smiled smugly.
“I’m going to tell her you said that,” he threatened, and pulled his cell phone from his back pocket.
She laughed and shook her head, unafraid as ever. “No you won’t. Cause then she’ll know where you are.”
“You’re right. I’d rather be sucked into quicksand than have that conversation now. I’m too tired and hungry to deal with thirty questions.” He sat at the butcher-block table, and propped his head on his hand. “You aren’t going to quiz me, are you?”
“Not tonight,” she said as she set the plate before him. “Maybe tomorrow.” She watched him eat with obvious sibling affection.
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