They say that children have the purest hearts. That children don’t truly hate, because they don’t fully understand the emotion. They forgive and forget easily.
They say a lot of bullshit like that, because it helps them sleep at night. It makes for good, heartwarming sayings to hang on their walls and smile at as they pass by.
I know differently. Children love like no one else. They have the capacity to love more fiercely than anyone. That much is true. That much I know. Because I lived it. By the age of ten, I knew hate, and I knew love. Both all-consuming. Both life-altering. And both completely blinding.
Looking back now, I wish someone had been there to see how my mother had sown the seed of hate inside me. Inside my sister. If someone had been there to save us from the lies and bitterness she allowed to fester within us, then maybe things would have been different. For everyone involved.
I never would have acted so foolishly. It wouldn’t have been my fault that a girl was left alone to take care of her ailing mother. It wouldn’t have been my fault that the same girl stood at her mother’s graveside, believing that the last person on earth who loved her was dead. It wouldn’t have been my fault that a man had destroyed himself, his life becoming a broken, hollow shell.
But no one saved me.
No one saved us.
We believed the lies. We held on to our hate. Yet I alone destroyed an innocent girl’s life.
They say you reap what you sew. That’s bullshit, too. Because I should be burning in hell for my sins. I shouldn’t be allowed to wake up every morning with this beautiful woman in my arms, who loves me unconditionally. I shouldn’t get to hold my son and know such a pure joy.
But I do.
Because eventually, someone did save me. I didn’t deserve it. Hell, more than anyone, it was my sister who needed saving. She hadn’t acted on her hate. She hadn’t manipulated the fate of another family, not caring about the outcome. But her bitterness still controls her, while I’ve been delivered. By a girl . . .
But she isn’t just a girl. She is an angel. My angel. A beautiful, strong, fierce, loyal angel who entered my life in a pickup truck, carrying a gun.
This isn’t your typical love story. It’s really too completely fu**ed up to be charming. But when you’re the bastard son of the legendary drummer from one of the most beloved rock bands in the world, you expect serious fuck-ups. It’s what we’re known for. Add the selfish, spoiled, self-centered mother who raised me into the mix, and the outcome isn’t pretty.
There are so many places where I could start this story. In my bedroom, as I held my sister while she cried from the pain of our mother’s cruel words. At the front door, as she watched, with tears streaming down her face, while my father came to take me away for the weekend, leaving her alone. Both of those things happened often, marking me forever. I hated to see her cry. Yet it was a part of my life.
We shared the same mother, but our fathers were different. Mine was a famous rocker, who brought me into his world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll every other weekend and for a month during the summers. He never forgot me. He never made excuses. He was always there. As imperfect as he was, Dean Finlay always showed up to get me. Even if he wasn’t sober, he came.
Nan’s father never came. She was alone when I was gone, and even though I loved being with my dad, I hated knowing she needed me. I was her parent. I was the one person she could trust to take care of her. It made me grow up quickly.
When I asked my dad to bring her along, too, he would get this sad look on his face and shake his head. “Can’t, son. Wish I could, but your momma won’t allow that.”
He never said anything more. I just knew that if my mother wouldn’t allow it, then there was no hope. So Nan was left alone. I wanted to hate someone for that, but hating my mother was hard. She was my mom. I was a kid.
So I found a place to focus my hate and resentment at the injustice of Nan’s life. The man who didn’t come to see her. The man whose blood ran through her veins yet didn’t love her enough even to send a birthday card. He had his own family now. Nan had been to see them once.
She had forced Mom to take her to his house. She wanted to talk to him. See his face. She just knew he would love her. I think, deep down, she thought Mom hadn’t told him about her. She had this fairy tale in her head that her father would realize she existed and swoop in and save her. Give her the love she so desperately sought.
His house had been smaller than ours. Much smaller. It was seven hours away in a small country town in Alabama. Nan had said it was perfect. Mom had called it pathetic. It hadn’t been the house, though, that haunted Nan. Not the small white picket fence that she described to me in detail. Or the basketball hoop outside and the bicycles leaning against the garage door.
It had been the girl who opened the door. She’d had long blond hair, almost white. She had reminded Nan of a princess. Except that she’d been wearing tennis shoes with dirt on them. Nan had never owned a pair of tennis shoes or been near dirt. The girl had smiled at her, and Nan had been momentarily enchanted. Then she’d seen the pictures on the wall behind the girl. Pictures of this girl and another girl just like this one. And a man holding both their hands. He was smiling and laughing.
He was their father.
This was one of the two daughters he loved. It had been obvious, even to Nan’s young eyes, that he was happy in those photos. He wasn’t missing the child he had left behind. The one her mother kept telling her he knew about.
All those things our mother had tried to tell her over the years that she had refused to believe suddenly fell into place. She had been telling the truth. Nan’s father hadn’t wanted her, because he had this life. These two beautiful, angelic daughters and a wife who looked so much like them.
Those photos on the wall had tortured Nan for years afterward. Again, I wanted to hate my mother for taking her there. For shoving the truth in her face. At least when Nan had lived in her fairy tale, she had been happier, but her innocence was lost that day. And my hate for her father and his family began to grow inside me.
They had taken from my little sister the life she deserved, a father who could love her. Those girls didn’t deserve him more than Nan did. That woman he was married to used her beauty and those girls to keep him from Nan. I hated them all.
I eventually acted on that hate, but the story really starts the night Blaire Wynn walked into my house with a nervous frown and the fu**ing face of an angel. My worst nightmare . . .
I had told Nan I didn’t want people over that night, but she’d invited them anyway. My little sister didn’t take no for an answer ever. Leaning back on the couch, I stretched my legs out in front of me and took a drink of my beer. I needed to hang around here long enough to make sure things weren’t going to get out of hand. Nan’s friends were younger than mine. They got a little rowdy sometimes. But I put up with it because it made her happy.
Mom running off to fu**ing Paris with her new husband, Nan’s still-inattentive father, hadn’t helped Nan’s mood lately. This was all I could think of to cheer her up. For once in her life, I wished my mother would think of someone other than herself.
“Rush, meet Blaire. I believe she might belong to you. I found her outside looking a little lost.” Grant’s voice broke into my thoughts. I looked up at my stepbrother and then at the girl standing beside him. I’d seen that face before. It was older, but I recognized it.
She was one of them. I hadn’t known their names, but I’d remembered there were two of them. This one was . . . Blaire. I cut my eyes toward Nan to see her standing not too far away with a scowl on her face. This wasn’t going to be good. Did Grant not realize who this girl was?
“Is that so?” I asked, racking my brain for some way to get her out of here—and fast. Nan was going to blow any minute. I studied the girl who had been a source of pain for my sister most of her life. She was gorgeous. Her heart-shaped face was highlighted by a pair of big blue eyes with the longest natural eyelashes I’d ever seen. Silky platinum-blond curls brushed against a pair of really nice tits that she was showing off in a tight tank top. Damn. Yeah, she needed to go. “She’s cute, but she’s young. Can’t say she’s mine.”
The girl flinched. If I hadn’t been watching her so closely, I would have missed it. The lost expression on her face didn’t add up. She’d walked into this house knowing she was in unwelcome territory. Why did she look so innocent?
“Oh, she’s yours, all right. Seeing as her daddy has run off to Paris with your momma for the next few weeks, I’d say this one now belongs to you. I’d gladly offer her a room at my place if you want. That is, if she promises to leave her deadly weapon in the truck.” Grant was finding this amusing. The dick. He knew who she was, all right. He loved the fact that this was upsetting Nan. Grant would do anything to piss Nan off.
“That doesn’t make her mine,” I replied. She needed to take the hint and leave.
Grant cleared his throat. “You’re kidding, right?”
I took a swig of my beer, then leveled my gaze at Grant. I wasn’t in the mood for his and Nan’s drama. This was taking it too far. Even for him. The girl had to go.
She appeared to be ready to run. This wasn’t what she’d been expecting. Had she really thought her dear ol’ dad would be here, waiting for her? That story sounded like bullshit. She’d lived with the man for fourteen years. I had known him for three years, and I knew he was a piece of shit.
“I got a house full of guests tonight, and my bed’s already full,” I informed her, then looked back at my brother. “I think it’s best if we let her go find a hotel until I can get in touch with her daddy.”
Blaire reached for the suitcase that Grant was holding. “He’s right. I should go. This was a very bad idea,” she said with a hitch in her voice. Grant didn’t let the suitcase go easily. She tugged hard to get it out of his grasp. I could see the unshed tears in her eyes, and it tugged at my conscience. Was there something I was missing here? Did she really expect us to open our arms wide for her?
Blaire hurried to the exit. I watched the gleeful look stretch over Nan’s face as Blaire walked past her.
“Leaving so soon?” Nan asked her. Blaire didn’t respond.
“You ’re a heartless fuck. You know that?” Grant snarled beside me.
I wasn’t in the mood to deal with him. Nan strutted over to us with a triumphant grin. She’d enjoyed that. I understood why. Blaire was a reminder of all that Nan had missed out on while growing up.
“She looks exactly like I remember her. Pale and plain,” Nan purred, sinking down beside me on the couch.
Grant snorted. “You’re as blind as you are mean. You may hate her, but she’s mouthwatering.”
“Don’t start,” I warned Grant. Nan might appear happy, but I knew that if she dwelled on it too much, she’d break down.
“If you don’t go after her, I will. And I’m gonna put her sexy ass up at my place. She isn’t what you two assume she is. I talked to her. She hasn’t got a clue. That dumb-ass father of yours told her to come here. No one is that good of a liar,” Grant said as he glared at Nan.
“Dad would never have told her to come to Rush’s. She came here because she’s a mooch. She smelled money. Did you see what she was wearing?” Nan scrunched up her nose in disgust.
Grant chuckled. “Hell, yeah, I saw what she was wearing. Why do you think I want to get her back to my place so bad? She’s smoking hot, Nan. I don’t give a shit what you say. The girl is innocent, lost, and smoking damn hot.”
Grant turned and headed for the door. He was going after her. I couldn’t let him do that. He was easily fooled. I agreed that the girl was easy on the eyes, but he was thinking with his dick.
“Stop. I’ll go after her,” I said, standing up.
“What?” Nan asked in a horrified voice.
Grant stepped back and let me pass him. I didn’t turn back and acknowledge my sister. Grant was right. I needed to see if this was an act or if she really had been told by her douchebag father to come here. Not to mention that I wanted to get a look at her without an audience.
She was walking up to an old, beat-up truck when I opened the door and stepped outside. I paused a moment, wondering if it was hers or if someone had brought her here. Grant hadn’t mentioned anyone else. I squinted against the dark to see if I could make out someone inside the truck, but I couldn’t tell from this far away.
Blaire jerked open the driver’s-side door and then paused to take a deep breath. It was almost dramatic, or at least it would have been had she known she was being watched. But from the way her shoulders sagged in defeat before she climbed up into the truck, I knew she had no idea that she had an audience.
But then again, maybe she did. I knew nothing about this girl. I only knew that her father was a fu**ing mooch. He took what my mother and Nan gave him¸ yet he never returned their tokens of affection or love. The man was cold. I had seen it in his eyes. He cared nothing for Nan or my stupid mother. He was using them both.
The girl was beautiful. There was no question about that. But she had also been raised by that man. She could be a master manipulator. Using her beauty to get what she wanted and not caring whom she hurt along the way.
I walked down the steps and toward the truck. She was still sitting there, and I wanted her gone before Grant came out and fell for this act of hers. He’d take her home with him. And she’d use him until she was bored. I wasn’t just protecting my sister; I was protecting my brother from her, too. Grant was an easy target.
She turned, and her eyes collided with mine before she let out a scream. Her red-rimmed eyes sure looked like she’d been crying real tears. No one was out here to see her, so there was the slight possibility that this wasn’t part of an elaborate scam.
I waited for her to do something other than stare at me like I was the stranger when she was on my property. As if she’d read my mind, she swung her gaze back to her steering wheel and made a move to crank the truck.
She started to become frantic in her attempts to get the truck to crank, but from the click I’d heard, I guessed there wasn’t a drop of gas in her tank. Maybe she was desperate. I still didn’t trust her.
The sight of her hitting her steering wheel in frustration was funny. What good was that gonna do if the idiot had run her tank completely empty?
She finally opened the door to the truck and looked up at me. If she wasn’t as damn innocent as she looked, then the girl was a hell of an actress.