Home > Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(14)

Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(14)
Author: A.L. Jackson

He took a slow pull of his beer, his words measured. Careful. “I’m really sorry about your grandmother, Rynna. She was a really good woman.” Sadness flashed through his expression. “Don’t know of anything worse than losing someone you love.”

Emotion thickened my throat, stunned by his sudden care and swimming in the stark loss. “I feel like I lost her a long time ago.”

The admission was strangled, ripped from my chest as if I couldn’t keep it in for a second longer.

That stunning gaze searched my face through the shadows. “Had it been a long time since you saw her?”

There was no accusation behind it. Just honest curiosity.

“Yeah.”

“Why’d you stay away so long?”

I choked out an uncertain laugh. “Because I wasn’t brave enough.”

He frowned. “You seem awful brave to me.”

My head shook. “No. I’m not brave. Or maybe I just wasn’t brave soon enough.”

The lyrics lifted in the atmosphere, words about life and death and the impermanency of our bodies. I swore I saw Rex’s spine go rigid.

I touched his arm, unable to stop myself. My skin lit up at the contact. He stared at it before he jerked away and pushed from the bar.

Shocked, I spun around.

His chest heaved and he looked . . . panicked.

“Rex—”

He roughed a hand over his face, cutting off whatever connection we’d shared. “I’ve got to get out of here.”

Then he turned, stalked through the crowd, shoved open the door, and disappeared into the night.

Leaving me sitting there staring at the vacancy he’d left behind, wondering exactly what I’d done wrong.

8

Rex

I was agitated.

Pissed and confused.

A disorder trembling me to the bone.

As hard as I tried, there was no corralling it. No shaking the bristling anger that had followed me through all of last night and into this morning.

It was a blinding fury that had taken to my veins when I’d found her backed into a corner by that piece of shit.

Hell. It’d been ignited the second I’d looked up from the table and saw him talking to her.

I didn’t even know her, and she sure as hell wasn’t mine, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of her leaving with him. Of her going back to his place or maybe him going to hers.

The vision of him following her up her stairs had made me want to claw my eyes out. Two of them falling into her bed.

It was no surprise he turned out to be a pussy-bitch pretty boy who had the misconception he had the right to reach out and take whatever he wanted whether someone wanted to give it or not.

Would have relished in teaching him the lesson.

Enlightening the fucker on what it meant to show a little respect.

But that was the problem when someone affected you. The problem when someone got under your skin. When someone made you start entertaining all kinds of foolish ideas. Ideas of stepping up and getting involved in matters that were none of your concern.

Treading a line you had no business walking.

That fact had never been as striking as when she’d reached out and touched me at the bar. She was making me want things I couldn’t want.

Things I had no fucking right to take.

But it didn’t matter.

They’d been there, and I knew I had to get the fuck away before I did something I couldn’t take back.

Before I crossed a line I couldn’t cross.

I had one priority.

One focus.

A single reason to keep on the straight and narrow.

And that reason was currently hurtling down the walkway.

Brown hair flying and spirit soaring. Grin wide. As bright as the sun that blazed as it climbed the sky behind her.

The second I’d pulled my truck to the curb, she’d bolted out my mom’s front door, arms lifted over her head and that sweet voice riding the wind.

“Daddy!”

I hopped out of my truck and went straight for her, scooped her up, and tossed her into the air.

Let her laughter rain down around me. A drenching reminder of what I was living for. I caught her, hugging her close while she tightened her chubby arms around my neck in a death grip. “Daddy! Guess what?”

I pulled back a fraction so I could see her face. “What?”

“Grammy gots me paints, and I painted a tree and a mountain and a squirrel, and now I’m gonna be an artist and take paintin’ lessons and be the best dancer in the whole world and Wonder Woman when I goes to the gym with you.”

It was then that I spotted the thick smear of white paint across her cheek and the rainbow of splatters on her shirt.

I glanced at my mother, who was grinning like the Cheshire where she leaned against the doorjamb with her arms crossed over her chest.

“Now you’re going to be an artist, too, huh?”

“Uh-huh. Grammy said my picture was so, so pretty. You think I could sell it and get so much money and then I can buy a dog? Oh, Daddy, please, I wants a puppy so bad.”

I chuckled under my breath because it was the only thing I could do.

“I don’t think a puppy is a good idea right now, Frankie Leigh.”

“Oh, but, Daddy!” She stuck out her bottom lip before she grinned. “You wants to see my picture?”

I laughed. “Nothing I’d like better than to see that picture.”

Wasn’t lying last night. The child was a handful. A whirlwind that spun from one idea to the next without giving me time to process the first.

Sweet to the brim.

Most likely because all those dreams and ideas were gushing out from the inside.

I arched a brow at my mom as we approached. “So, we’re painting again?”

Taking the single step up to the door, I dropped a kiss to Mom’s cheek.

Her smile grew. “Oh, yes. We are definitely painting again. We had a blast, didn’t we, Frankie Leigh?”

“So, so, SO much fun. Can I spend the night here every night?”

I feigned offense. “And you’re going to leave your daddy all by his lonesome every night.”

Frankie’s horror was real. “Oh, no, Daddy. You can spends the night here, too. Right, Grammy?”

“Oh, Sweet Pea Frankie Leigh, I think your daddy might be too old for sleepovers. Unless he finally decides to start participating in the right kind. You know, of the adult variety.”

The last she mumbled under her breath, and the woman had the nerve to shoot me a wink.

Mom had just turned fifty-two and was about as pretty as they came. The years had been good to her, and her spirit was as free as Frankie’s.

“Sly, Ma. Real sly.”

She laughed. “Oh, everyone needs a little push in the right direction every now and again. Speaking of, how was last night?”

I shrugged. “Uneventful.”

That felt like a bold-faced lie.

But the last thing I needed to do was mention Rynna moving in across the street. Mom would hop on that so fast that I’d never hear the end of it.

I set Frankie back on her feet, scooting her in the direction of her room. “Go get your stuff, Sweet Pea.”

She took off down the hall, and I straightened and looked at my mom. Obviously, she was dying for any juicy details she could get.

“Met Ollie and Kale for a couple of drinks then called it a night,” I told her.

A long, restless night.

A pucker formed on Mom’s lips. “You’re no fun. Here I am, nice enough to have your daughter over for the entire night, and you don’t even do me the service of having a wild night on the town. You know I’ll be having one tonight.”

Amusement shook my head. “You really are a terrible influence. I think I’m going to have to rethink these sleepovers.”

She pressed a hand over her heart. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t test me.” It was purely a tease.

Everything about her softened. “How are my boys?”

A smile ticked up at the corner of my mouth. “Good. Kale has the weekend off, so I’m sure he’s off making up for any fun I’m not having. Ollie is . . . it was twelve years yesterday.”

A soft puff of air blew from her mouth. “Oh . . . I didn’t even realize. How is he doing?”

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