Home > Escape (Getaway #3)(3)

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

Everything with the Warners was changing, which meant everything in Brynn’s world was changing. For a long time, the Warners and their ranch had been her entire world. The boys’ dad, Boyd Warner, had stepped in when Brynn turned Lane down back when they were teenagers. Brynn was a few weeks away from being legally able to walk away from her circumstances, but she was stuck in a no-win situation. No one questioned the possibility that the next time she was sent home to the reservation where she lived—trapped, with her mother and sister—might very well end up being her last. Things had taken a turn for the worse recently, but there were few legal means for anyone outside of the reservation to do anything to help. Boyd hadn’t wanted his youngest son to offer up the rest of his life to save his best friend either. Nor had he wanted Brynn to continue returning to a home where she wasn’t safe.

The patriarch of the Warner clan knew his days were numbered. He’d been sick for a while, fighting and pushing back against a disease that was slowly stealing minutes of his life away. His boys didn’t know, he kept it from them on purpose, but he’d told Brynn. Confided in the girl that his youngest couldn’t live without, and promised her that if she took his last name, no one would be able to hurt her again. At least not physically, because words could sting and rumors would wound.

They’d called Brynn a gold digger. They’d blamed Brynn for his death. To this day they talked about the fact that not one, but two Warners had offered to change poor, pitiful Brynn Fox’s last name, and only the older, wealthy, established one had managed that feat. It took forever for Brynn’s skin to thicken to the point it was almost bulletproof. She was safe. She was home, and she was loved no matter what the small-town gossips had to say. What Brynn never got over was the way Lane had looked at her after she agreed to his father’s outrageous plan. As soon as that ring hit her finger, their friendship had ended, and every second Brynn spent loving Lane seemed irrelevant and wasted. Those closest to the two of them watched as Lane went from the most important person in Brynn’s entire life to a virtual stranger overnight. The fact that the rest of the family had immediately taken Brynn in and welcomed her regardless of the circumstances hadn’t helped things. The other brothers had no problem joking about their hot-as-hell stepmother, but Lane never found the situation funny.

Eventually, Boyd Warner came clean about his disintegrating health and why he brought Brynn into the fold the only way he knew how. When he passed, they all grieved the man who gave them a home and taught them how to be a family, and none of the brothers were surprised when their old man left a portion of the ranch to Brynn in his will ensuring she would always have a safe place to call home.

As time went on, Lane and Brynn fell into an always awkward but easy pattern. She pretended not to notice he turned into the town Lothario, sleeping his way through every available woman—and even some who weren’t—he came across. He ignored the fact that Brynn was living the life he tried to give to her without him. Reasonably happy and content in the only place she ever felt wanted and safe.

They were both miserable, but neither one knew how to break down the walls they constructed to keep the hurt that the other inflicted at bay. Now, with Cyrus getting married and settling down and Leo stepping up to be his partner in every single way, the role Brynn had played for so long was less defined and less necessary. She had been the one who took care of the Warners, but now they were all moving on and finding the women made for them. They found the other half of their hearts, and it was no longer up to Brynn to make sure they ate right, remembered to rest and didn’t work too hard. She was no longer in charge of holidays and making sure the strong-willed brothers didn’t bash each other to death with their stubbornness and egos. Brynn was sure they didn’t need her anymore, and that was scary, but nowhere near as terrifying as giving it all up and marrying Jack would be.

“Brynn, honey, take a breath for me.” Leo’s voice was calm and soothing. Everyone in the room focused on the man whose heart she had just stepped on and abandoned, but Leo didn’t work that way. She always had an eye on the big picture, and there was no way she missed how hard it was for Brynn to hurt a man who didn’t deserve it. She took careful steps toward the woman who had become one of her closest friends, hands out like she was approaching a wild animal.

Brynn merely shook her head again and bolted from the room, bouncing off Cy as she went. The big man caught her as he was coming back into the room, giving the top of her head a gentle kiss before letting her retreat. His looming presence and unspoken command had everyone in the room turning to look at him questioningly, except for Jack. Jack couldn’t tear his gaze away from the spot where the woman of his dreams had just disappeared. The man looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over, and no one dared to touch him because it was evident he was ready to break apart.

“Lane left.” Cy’s raspy voice filled the room as he pulled his fiancée toward him.

Leo barely reached the big man’s chin when she stood directly in front of him, lifting her hands to rest on his cheeks. Her fingers were pale against the salt and pepper scruff that covered the lower half of the man’s face making him look both distinguished and rugged.

“What do you mean he’s gone? He probably just needed some air. I think we could all use some space to breathe.” Normally that would be when Brynn swooped in to offer everyone a drink or something sweet to eat, but considering the pretty redhead was the whipping winds of this particular storm it was up to the future lady of the house to smooth all the rough edges that were still very much working to slice everyone open. She motioned lightly to Brynn’s still-stunned little sister and told her, “Why don’t you go check on our girl. Tell her I’ll be up in a minute.” Her sharp gaze lit on Jack’s people and she inclined her head sharply in the direction of the dejected man telling the people who loved him, “I’m sure this is the last place he wants to be right now. Take him somewhere that has good whiskey and a dark corner. Don’t leave him alone.”

The cousin and best friend jumped to do her bidding like she was a tiny, bossy general giving them orders for war.

“I think it’s pretty clear the party is over, at least for today. We want to thank everyone for coming, but right now our family needs some time to figure some things out.” She plastered a pleasant smile on her face and congenially ushered everyone who wasn’t a Warner or soon-to-be Warner out the door. If anyone bothered to look closely, they would have noticed that Leo’s smile was more a baring of teeth because she was every bit the fierce predator that would do anything to protect her pride. She lived up to her namesake fully.

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