Home > Escape (Getaway #3)(5)

Escape (Getaway #3)(5)
Author: Jay Crownover

My middle brother had managed to knock-up his new girlfriend within the first few months of claiming her as his own. It was hands down his best mistake to date. The woman was stunning, forgiving, and had a backbone forged of solid steel. My temperamental and destructive brother tended to create chaos with very little effort. Emrys Santos was the eye of his storm. When everything else around him was flailing in the chaotic winds of the maelstrom, she was the calm center and his safe place. With Em in Sutton and his young daughter Daye’s lives, it became clear that one could indeed dance inside of a hurricane if Emrys was around to offer a few moments of peace and tranquility. She was also pretty damn good at keeping other people from getting caught up in the storm that always seemed to sweep through when Sutton was around. They had pulled through some serious hardships together and at the end of the day decided some new scenery might be nice as they started their own little family. Em was originally from Northern California and during an extended visit with her folks after learning she was carrying her and Sutton’s baby, the first Warner in over a hundred years who had been born and bred on the ranch decided to make his home somewhere other than the sprawling property in Wyoming. Forging his own path with his newfound family, putting his hopes and dreams on a goal that didn’t involve Warner obligations . . . and I was damn proud of him.

There was no question of my welcome when I showed up out of the blue with barely anything more than the shirt on my back and a face full of scraggly whiskers from over a week spent on the road. I made sure to stop and get Daye a present because she wouldn’t let me in the house without a treat, but other than that I was a man without a plan and with no sense of direction for the first time in his life.

After a few days with my family, Em tried to bring up the proposal and mentioned she wanted to talk to me about how it all went down. I appreciated her concern and the fact she was worried about me, but I refused to engage in the topic. I had no desire to know what happened after I walked out of that room. I told myself it was finally time to let whatever this thing I had with Brynn go. It had been strangling me for more than a decade, and I needed to breathe. Em accepted my avoidance and let the topic drop. She skirted around the issue the rest of the time I was there and made sure all impending nuptial talk remained firmly on Cy and Leo’s wedding. Daye already claimed the illustrious role of flower girl, so there was no containing her youthful enthusiasm for flouncy dresses and the new wedding shoes that were going to sparkle.

It was nice spending time with my brother, and I adored both his girls, but it was weird and hard to get my head around the fact he had a whole new life that I wasn’t around for. I’d been in both Sutton and Cyrus’s back pockets since I could toddle after them. They were my whole world, and everything I did was in search of them noticing me and approving of my efforts. I wanted to be just like them, but now one was having a baby, his second kid, and one was getting married for the second time. It took both my brothers a couple of tries to get things right.

I was admittedly jealous that I’d never had the chance to screw shit up for the first time. Everyone who mattered the most to me was moving on and away from where we had always been, and it left me feeling hollow and aching all the way down to the center of my bones. For a man who thought he would live and die spending every minute caught between the shadows his brothers’ cast, I found myself thrust into the light of day and boy did that sun scorch when you weren’t ready for it.

Sutton and Emrys didn’t mind letting me couch surf as long as I needed, with the understanding that I would check in with Cy every few days and assure him I was doing all right. I lied through my teeth and told my older brother that everything was fine; I just needed some space. What I needed was a whole new history and to have never stepped in and stopped Danny Turner from pulling on Brynn’s fiery pigtails when we were both in grade school. Even back then I knew she was a game changer. One look into those mysterious, secretive dark eyes and suddenly there was someone I cared about just as much as my brothers. I wanted her to stop crying and being scared. I tried to destroy everything and anything that dared to hurt her. She was my wounded bird with more than a fractured wing, and I knew it was going to be my job to teach her how to fly.

Fuck . . . I missed her.

The trip to the coast and the subsequent visit with my brother and his family was the longest we’d ever been apart. She was always there. One of the threads of my family that made the fabric tough and resilient. I couldn’t fathom what I was going to do when that material started to fray and unravel as her thread got yanked out of the weave.

To distract myself from the constant worry and fear of how everything in my life was changing, I offered to take Daye to the beach one afternoon so Sutton and Emrys could have a couple of hours alone. They weren’t shy about showing affection or touching one another, but I could see the gleam in my older brother’s eye as he watched his woman when she wasn’t looking. He wanted to pounce, which he couldn’t do with his baby brother and his daughter hovering. I earned myself a steak dinner and a bottle of my favorite tequila for my troubles. Plus, I liked spending time with my niece. She was mouthy and bossy but sweet as could be. I missed having her underfoot and asking me questions about everything under the sun.

The weather cooperated by being temperate and slightly breezy the day of our outing. We didn’t boil and bake as Daye dragged me to the water's edge and splashed around gleefully. She demanded that we make sandcastles and then chased the remnants out to sea as the tide crashed into them and washed them away. We played a short-lived game of catch that ended when Daye dropped the ball and wasn’t fast enough to catch it before the waves claimed it. After that, we both plopped down on the huge beach towel Em had shoved into my hands on my way out the door, falling together into a fit of laughter.

Daye’s blond ringlets were kinky and wilder than usual, but her dark green eyes that looked so much like her father’s eyes were steady and serious. She’d lost her mom recently and watched her father struggle with addiction and recovery. She also witnessed him fall in love and now had to share him with not only Em but also the new baby. She’d always seemed older than her years, but now, looking into those solemn eyes, I wondered if she knew more than the rest of us ever had. Knew that life wasn’t as complicated as it appeared to always be, but was as simple and as uncomplicated as loving hard and laughing often. As if she almost knew that adults muddied up the waters with pride and emotions and other things that didn’t matter.

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