Home > Escape (Getaway #3)(2)

Escape (Getaway #3)(2)
Author: Jay Crownover

“I’ll go after him.” The deep rumble of Cyrus Warner’s voice finally broke through the stranglehold on everyone caused by the lack of an answer from Brynn. The thud of boots on hardwood sounded in time to rushing heartbeats as the oldest Warner brother went after the youngest. It was his job to protect, and that’s what he was going to do.

Lane Warner had been present for every proposal that took place on this ranch, and it seemed his reaction to every one of them was getting worse.

When Lane was eighteen, he tried to be Brynn Fox’s hero. He was the first cowboy who got on his knee and asked the beautiful girl to marry him even though they hadn’t so much as shared a single kiss. They were best friends, close in a way his brothers and several of their classmates would never understand. Brynn needed someone safe, a protector and a confidant. Lane needed someone who saw him. Someone who thought of him as more than the youngest Warner. Someone who knew he was as far as could be from the easy-going jokester that he presented to the world. They were honest with one another; they were each other’s truth. Brynn owed him too much to let him sacrifice his entire life and his youth for her, so that first proposal had ended much the way this one was going to.

The trembling hand that covered Brynn’s mouth dropped, and her spine stiffened. The tears that were threatening escaped the lush cage of her lashes and started to fall freely. She took a step back, and a collective exhale seemed to be breathed out by the rest of the people in the room. Her answer didn’t just change Jack’s life forever; it changed everyone who had watched Brynn and Lane torture each other with unrequited and unspoken love for years.

“Jack, you’re great, really. I . . . I had no idea you were so serious about us . . . about me. I . . . well . . . I’m not ready for something as big as marriage. I’m so sorry. I wish I could give you the answer you want to hear.” It was evident in her voice that there was a part of her that honestly wanted to be able to tell him yes. If anyone asked about her relationship she told them that Jack was easy. Jack was kind. Jack was a fresh start. What she never could say out loud was, Jack didn’t own the other half of her heart. Lane Warner did, and he had since she was twelve years old.

Jack seemed to wilt. He dropped the hand holding the ring and ran his fingers through his shaggy blond hair. “Brynn?” Her name was part question and part plea.

Brynn took another step back and shook her head, sending her fiery hair swinging. She ran her hands down the front of her jeans, palms obviously sweaty. “I’m so sorry, Jack. But I can’t.” Everyone in that room aside from Jack knew that she really couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be the first time she told a good man “no”.

Slowly, the blond cowboy climbed to his feet. Belatedly his gaze swept around the room. Brynn’s family was there minus the Warners. Lane and Cy had disappeared to God knew where. Sutton, the middle brother, had left for California a couple of months ago. Jack’s boss, a woman named Ten, who just happened to be a longtime friend of the Warner’s was there.

Tennyson McKenna was watching them with guarded eyes and a fierce frown. She’d warned Jack to be careful. She’d told him in no uncertain terms that anyone with the last name Warner had a complicated relationship with love. Jack had laughed it off and reminded Ten that Brynn was technically a Fox, in more ways than one. She was only a Warner out of necessity, not because she wanted to be. Ten asked him how sure he was about that. Right now, Jack was wishing he had been able to read between the lines sooner. Because the audience witnesses him going down in flames at the boots of the woman he wanted to marry were people Jack couldn’t easily avoid when this was all over. There would be no place to hide his broken heart and disappointment in this small town and within this tightly knit group of people.

Brynn’s younger sister, Opal, was there. She watched everything with wide eyes and a pale face. Her hand was wrapped around an older woman’s, whose face was pinched and twisted in the same kind of pain that seemed to be ripping Jack apart at the moment. Brynn’s mother was visibly horrified by her daughter’s reaction to the proposal, even though she had never met the man asking for her eldest daughter’s hand in marriage.

Brynn didn’t mind that her sister was present for one of the most vulnerable and tragic moments of her life. Opal had been invited to the festivities that had nothing to do with the messy display today, but Brynn would have rather walked through lava barefoot than deal with her mother’s response to this nightmare. The older woman had latched onto her youngest’s invite like a leech, refusing to let her come to the party unless she got to tag along. The only reason Brynn’s mother had made an appearance was because there was free food and she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see who was gathered at the Warner’s ranch. Brynn’s mom was always looking for her next meal ticket, and the Warners knew all the influential people within several hundred miles. Brynn should have let Cy throw the older woman out when he offered, but she hadn’t wanted the scene to distract from the celebration. Her mother knew how to make the happiest of moments awful and unforgettable in all the worst ways.

All Harmony Fox wanted in life was to be taken care of and treated like a queen. Brynn’s mother spent her life endlessly searching for someone to take care of her and provide for her. It was obvious Harmony couldn’t believe her oldest daughter was walking away from that, that Brynn was willfully turning down the security and safety she’d always been willing to kill for. Her expression quickly switched to anger as she pushed her youngest child’s hand off her arm and started for her oldest, a determined slant to her mouth.

Jack’s best friend and his cousin were also in attendance, as well as a few faces who were new to Sheridan, Wyoming. A man whom Cyrus had hired to help run the luxury vacation portion of the business when the middle Warner left, and another man who was a few years older than him. The latter looked so much like the hired hand there was no mistaking the fact that they were brothers.

They had all been lured to the ranch by the promise of free booze and prime steaks as they celebrated another engagement, one that had gone off without a hitch. When Cyrus Warner got on his knee and asked Leora Conner to be his wife and to spend the rest of her life with him, she couldn’t say yes fast enough. The petite redhead had thrown herself at the oldest Warner with enough force that they both ended up on the floor. The joy and rightness of the two of them being together forever had seeped into everyone who was lucky enough to witness that engagement. This party was supposed to end the same way. Jack thought it was perfect timing, he felt it at his very core. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

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