Home > Escape (Getaway #3)(8)

Escape (Getaway #3)(8)
Author: Jay Crownover

Now that he was standing in front of me, looking much thinner and more haggard than he had even when he came home from the hospital, I finally felt like I could inhale again. Everything that was fuzzy and blurred around the edges pulled back into sharp focus. I could look at the sky behind his tousled head and see that it was the same stormy blue as his eyes. I could also focus on the lines of tension and stress radiating out of the corners of those eyes and the bruised, dark hollows underneath them. Without him, nothing felt like it mattered. There was no home. There was no peace of mind. There was no safety and security.

When he was close, the littlest things felt hugely important and essential. The twitch of his lips into a wry grin spread warmth that chased away the emptiness for the first time in what felt like forever. The heat radiating off of his long, lean body made my heart kick back to life. When his arms wrapped around me for a seriously overdue hug, I finally felt alive. Finally felt something other than the echoing loneliness and hollowness that consumed me the minute he turned his back on me. Even with Daye trapped between us, I still felt a tingle at every single spot where his body touched mine.

“It’s so good to see you.” I meant it with every fiber of my being. Looking at him, even as worn and as drawn as he appeared, settled something deep inside of me.

Lane gave me another hard squeeze that made Daye squeal from where she was caught between us. She wrapped her thin arms tightly around my waist. The little girl looked like she had grown a couple of inches in the months that had passed since I last laid eyes on her, but I was happy to see that her green eyes were clear and bright. Missing was the cloudy fear and anxiety that had engulfed her after the ordeal with her father’s tormentor and the death of her mother.

“It’s good to see you too, Brynn.” He stepped back, and I could feel the reluctance in his touch when he dropped his arms. He put a hand on Daye’s head and gave her curls a little pat. “Why don’t you let Brynn go, and we’ll find something to eat. I’m sure your dad and Emrys have worked up an appetite while we were gone.” Lane gave me a conspiratorial wink and smiled at me. “Did they tell you where to find us?”

I took a step back so I could lean against my rental car and pushed my hands through my hair. It was a tangled mess from the flight and endless tossing and turning as I tried to sleep the night before. I’d never been more than a few hundred miles outside of the Wyoming border. I didn’t hesitate one second when I made the decision to jump on a plane to chase down Lane and bring him home, just like he never hesitated to stand between me and whoever was trying to hurt me.

His protectiveness may have started when he pushed Danny Turner down for pulling on my pigtails, but it never seemed to end after that. If anyone dared to tease me about my torn, ugly hand-me-downs, Lane was there to set them straight. He was quick with his fists and faster with his sharp tongue. No one wanted to be on the other side of his wrath. If anyone dared to touch me, they ended up with matching bruises. When the girls picked on me for not being pretty enough, popular enough, nice enough to fit in with them, Lane was the one who made them regret it. He was all the things I wasn’t so when he decided that someone hadn’t treated me right he wasted no time using his good looks and legion of admirers to show them what being on the outside looking in really felt like. I existed in a protected bubble at school because he couldn’t protect me at home. He was the cushion between me and the harsh reality of most teenage experiences, at least he was until that bubble popped.

Going after Lane meant my first time flying, my first time seeing the ocean. It was also the first time I’d seen Sutton and Emrys since they announced they were expecting a baby. When Em answered the door to their cute little house on the coast, her rumpled appearance, inside out shirt, and bright red flush didn’t register because I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the softly rounded curve of her belly. Honestly, I was a tad bit jealous of that baby bump. She was beautiful, and the way she had healed Sutton and pulled him back into the fold of his family was nothing short of a miracle. All I wanted was to do the same thing for the youngest Warner brother. I wanted to bring him home and make him see that no matter what happened between us or to us, we would always be family. He would always be the most important person in my world. He was the person at the center of it, even when I didn’t want him to be.

“Em told me where you were. I didn’t get a chance to see Sutton. I . . . uh . . . think I interrupted them. I was anxious to see you, so I didn’t hang around for too long.” It was easy to feel the sexual tension and heat circling Emrys as she hastily gave me directions to the beach. I smiled down at Daye who was still watching me with wide, expectant eyes. “I did have time to grab you something at the airport before I flew out. I would never forget about my girl.” I dropped into a crouch and took the little girl into my arms. It felt so good to hold her close while knowing she was happy and healthy. She was practically vibrating with energy and excitement, so much like the Daye that existed before the events in her parents’ lives had twisted her day to day into tight, painful knots. This little girl found her safe place and settled into her new home. It hurt that it was so very far away from where those places were from me, but anything that made her look young and innocent again was a good thing.

Evergreen-colored eyes glinted mischievously at me as she practically strangled my neck in a return hug. “I missed you, Brynn, and so did Uncle Lane. He hasn’t smiled the whole time he’s been here, not even when I took him to see the horses at Daddy’s new job.” She pulled back and put her small hands on my cheeks. Her tiny face screwed up in a severe and intent expression. She always seemed to know more and see more than normal girls her age. I thought I was immune to being examined by an inquisitive seven-year-old, but the way she saw through me was still unnerving and unsettling. She shouldn’t have that much knowledge of how screwed up, and flawed people could be at such a young age. “I’m glad you brought his smile with you, and I’m happy you brought me a gift. Can I have it now?”

Lane broke into our quiet conversation that wasn’t quite as quiet as I’d hoped. “Later, Daye. Let’s grab some food and give Brynn a few moments to relax after traveling all day. I’m sure your dad and Em are excited to spend some time with her too. What do you feel like eating, little bit?”

Daye turned around in a flurry of blonde curls and excited sounds. She clapped her hands together and smiled up at her uncle, showing every one of her missing teeth. “Sushi!” She said it with such glee that Lane had to struggle to hide his horrified expression. I swallowed down a laugh after catching the look on his face. There wasn’t anything close to traditional sushi in Sheridan, Wyoming.

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