I narrowed my eyes. It could’ve been a part from my Chevy’s engine. Jamie had deliberately disabled my car so I couldn’t go anywhere.

“Nate, Jamie, take her things back to her room. Simone, you and I need to have a talk. How about some ice cream?” Luke doled out orders like he was in charge.

On second thought, this was his turf.

I faltered.

“Go on,” Nate urged me. “You need that talk.”

“What about my car?” I asked Jamie. Without it, I was practically crippled. Nothing in Bellwood was within walking distance.

“I’ll fix it. Maybe.” A faint, devilish grin appeared on Jamie’s face.

I sighed. I met Luke’s eyes and resigned. “Okay. You guys win.” I climbed into Luke’s truck and slammed the door.

Luke slid behind the wheel and started the engine. “Be back in a while,” he said to his brothers.

Nate nodded.

Jamie scratched his belly as if he was uncomfortable with something. “Ugh.”

That was when I noticed Luke’s knuckles were bruised. Nate had a new cut on his face, and so did Jamie.

“Have the three of you been in a brawl?” I asked Luke as the truck lurched onto the street.

Luke coasted the vehicle leisurely. “Hmm?” He sounded unconcerned. “Brawl?” One eyebrow arched. “I wouldn’t say it was a brawl. We just had a brotherly discussion.”

“Luke! This is one of the reasons I’m leaving. I don’t want to see any of you getting hurt.” I covered my face with my hands. “Although I’m already too late on that.”

“You’re thinking too much of it. Have you tried the ice cream shop near the post office yet? It’s really good. The new owner is a food snob from Seattle, and he makes a really damn good ice cream. You can find unusual flavors too. Like bacon ice cream. I usually stick with the traditional vanilla with hot fudge.”

“I’m not in the mood for ice cream.”

“You sure? You’re the one who always said ice cream makes everything better.”

I turned to Luke. When Luke and his brothers were small, I’d always used ice cream as a bribe to make them behave or comfort them when they were sad.

Luke gave me a conspiratorial wink. “Tell you what, we’ll share a sundae. Iggy makes a kickass banana foster ice cream. You’ll love it.”

Twenty minutes later, we sat in the farthest booth from the counter with a gigantic sundae perched precariously in a too-small glass bowl between us. Luke had already dug in. I tasted one spoon and gave up. The sundae was spectacular, but I really had no appetite.

The shop was rather deserted at this hour. We were the only customers. Luke seemed to have anticipated this so we could have this talk without fear of somebody eavesdropping.

“Simone,” Luke began, “why did you think you were the guilty party regarding Jamie and Nate’s feud? Have you ever thought you’re actually the victim? You’re vulnerable and hurt and you’ve been mistreated by your ex for years, and naturally, when some man is kind to you and whispers a few nice words, you’ll eventually fall for it. Think about it. You’re Red Riding Hood living with three big bad wolves. No matter how much the wolves promise to behave themselves, Simone, you’re a temptation. A guy must be a saint to be able to leave you alone. Just so you know, I ain’t no saint either.”

I was stunned by his revelation. “I-I don’t know what to say.”

“To be honest, I’ve seen this coming since you came back to Bellwood. I thought it was going to be far worse, like coming home to find Jamie with a hatchet in his head or Nate lying on the floor with a shotgun hole in him.” Luke laughed. “Ah, those two yahoos handled it better than I thought.” He paused to drink the water that came with the sundae. “The three of us talked this thing through and—”

“By talking, you mean fist-fighting?” I interjected.

“Ah. No. The talk came after the punches. That’s irrelevant anyhow. We feel things between the three of us won’t go well if we don’t compromise. One thing we know for sure, now that you’re available, is that we’re not going to back down pursuing you until you end up with one of us. Which leads me to this—”

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