Kane:Steele Brothers #5

By: Cheryl Douglas



“Ever asked yourself why you haven’t been able to hold down a relationship?” Ryker asked.

“I’m not the only one,” I said, hooking a thumb at Gabe. “He hasn’t either, and you’re not jumping all over him.”

“That’s because he’s willing to give this thing a chance,” Ryker said. “Not for Jack’s benefit, but because he realizes it’s the best thing for him and Beck and Tanner.”

“So you’ve all talked about this?” I asked, hurt that I’d been left out of the loop. “And you all, what, decided you’re going to forget everything that son of a bitch did to Mom?”

“Kane,” Macy said, laying her hand on my forearm. “Maybe the best way to honor your mom’s memory is by being a real family again. Isn’t that what she would have wanted?”

“I can’t do this right now,” I said, pushing my chair back. “I need some air.”

I heard Ryker offering to go after me, but the click of heels on the tile told me Macy had beaten him to it. We stepped outside just as the breeze picked up, and I passed a woman whose perfume was strong enough to knock me on my ass.

Macy stepped in front of me, blocking my path, and gripped my biceps. “You can’t go there with an attitude like this. I get that you’re still angry with him, and you have every right to be. But if you want to let him have it, don’t do it in front of your brothers. Ryker’s right. None of this is their fault.”

I wanted to lash out, to blame someone, and I hated that my brothers seemed so willing to forgive and forget the man who’d made our lives miserable. I shook Macy off before walking a safe distance away, hoping she would get the message I wanted to be alone.

But she didn’t. She followed me to a stone bench and sat beside me, reaching for my hand. “I know it’s not easy to heal old hurts, but sometimes it’s worth the effort. Don’t you think?”

“I’m not sure this can be healed,” I said, watching some guy pass the keys to a black Ferrari off to an eager valet.

“Maybe that’s because you never let yourself consider the possibility it could be.”

We’d talked about my father a lot during the time she spent at my place during her last visit to Tampa. She understood the things he’d done: drifting from one job to another, blowing money we didn’t have on gambling, bar fights, and drinking too much, and then blaming our mother because he felt worthless and wanted to make her feel that way too.

She also understood the things he hadn’t done, and in many ways, that was harder to forgive. He’d never cared enough to read a single report card or attend any of our games. He’d called us losers, claiming we were headed nowhere. He’d never once tried to encourage us or insulate us from the world. Instead he’d shown us firsthand how brutal life could be when you didn’t learn how to defend yourself.

“I know Brody says he’s changed,” I said, slipping my hand free of hers as I leaned forward. “And maybe he has. I don’t know. But I was just a couple of years younger than Ryker when he finally left, and I remember how hard it was, trying to make it on our own. Ryker wasn’t the only one working hard to try to keep everything together. I did my part too.”

“I know you did,” she whispered, touching my back.

I rested my elbows on my knees, looking at her over my shoulder. “Ryker was right about one thing in there.”

“What’s that?”

“My reasons for not getting into anything too serious. I have a hard time trusting people outside of my family. Some of that is Jack’s influence, but a lot of it has to do with my job. I’ve answered a lot of domestic violence calls, and I’ve seen firsthand how ugly things can get.”

“But you already knew that,” she said, quietly. “You’d lived through it.”

“Yeah.” And I would never be able to forget it. My mother had been a sweetheart who deserved a man who loved and appreciated her. Instead she got Jack, a man who hated himself and blamed her. “And I think somewhere along the way, I just shut down. I’m not even sure how to open up anymore.” Or if I want to.

“We all have emotional scars. Whether it’s from our childhood, past relationships, jobs…” She sighed. “No one gets through life unscathed. It just doesn’t happen.”

“I guess you’re right. But sometimes shutting down just seems easier, you know?”

“I do,” she said, smiling. “Take it from someone who knows—relationships are a lot of hard work. Sometimes they’re worth it. Sometimes they’re not. But I guess you’ll never know if you’re not willing to try.”

Glancing at her left hand, where her wedding ring would soon rest, I nodded. “I guess I don’t have a choice, do I? I’ve got to try.”



***



Macy’s words came back to me as I stood on Jack’s front porch. I was here because I was ready to try. I wanted to bury the past, not resurrect it, but I’d intentionally come when Jack said he’d be alone because I knew I’d need a little help laying it to rest.

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