Home > After the Storm (KGI #8)(17)

After the Storm (KGI #8)(17)
Author: Maya Banks

“We don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder,” Sarah continued hesitantly. “But in light of everything else, it seemed the perfect time.”

“Of course!” Marlene exclaimed.

There was an instant round of encouragement from the rest of the table. The knot in Donovan’s stomach increased as he took in the wealth of happiness present at the table. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out his other brother’s news, and it just solidified the longing in Donovan’s soul to have what his brothers had.

“We’re going to have a baby too,” Sarah said shyly. “Close to when Sophie and Sam have theirs. I went to the doctor Friday and he thinks I’m about six weeks along, so maybe right after Sophie has hers.”

“Oh, this is wonderful!” Marlene exclaimed, tears shining in her eyes.

She wiped at them as she rose and hurried around to enfold Sarah into her arms.

“Oh, my dear. You’ve made an old woman so very happy today. You all have. I can’t believe I’m going to be blessed with two more grandchildren!”

Another round of congratulations went up and more mad hugging ensued. Rusty glanced at Donovan, unease present in her eyes. He knew exactly what she was thinking. That she shouldn’t say anything to ruin the moment. But he shook his head and looked pointedly at her. His father needed to know. His family needed to know. Then they could brainstorm the situation after they knew everything there was to know. And Donovan could make it clear where he stood. That he planned to do whatever necessary to help Eve and her siblings.

The Kelly family as a united front was a daunting, overwhelming force of nature. One that Eve had no hope of resisting. They’d cover her up with so much love and understanding and support that she’d never have to worry about going hungry again. And in time, she’d know without a doubt that whatever it was she feared, that she didn’t have to fear it any longer. The Kellys—Donovan—would protect her. No matter what.

“This is better than Christmas,” Joe said with a grin. “Don’t think I’ve seen the family together and this happy since the first Christmas Rachel was back home with us.”

There were many responses to his proclamation. Ethan’s gaze, though happy, was momentarily shadowed by the re-minder of all he’d lost—and miraculously regained. Just a brief shadow, one that had been finally erased with time—and the knowledge that Rachel was back and that he wouldn’t lose her again.

“This family has been through a lot,” Frank said gravely. “But we’re Kellys, and above all Kellys prevail. We overcome. Nothing will ever get us down as long as we remain a strong, family unit.”

“Hooyah,” Ethan murmured, which immediately precipitated groans and good-natured ribbing from his non-Navy brothers.

“I hate to be the damper on so much good news,” Rusty began hesitantly.

The moment she spoke, every head turned her way. Marlene immediately glanced between Donovan and Rusty as if remembering that they’d arrived late, together. And that Donovan had told her they’d let her know what was going on later.

Donovan reached over to squeeze Rusty’s hand under the table. Just a reminder that he was here and that he had her back.

She glanced gratefully at him but continued on. She didn’t put it off on him. Didn’t say that she and Donovan had something to say. She put it out there herself. Took full responsibility. Donovan respected her for that. He was damn proud of her.

“I hired someone part time at the hardware store.”

There were raised eyebrows all around, and Frank immediately looked confused. But Donovan had to give his brothers credit. They didn’t immediately launch into a thousand questions, nor did they interrogate Rusty or ask her what the hell she’d been thinking.

“When did this happen?” Frank asked in a puzzled tone.

Rusty swallowed and glanced back at Donovan, asking for silent support. He nodded and encouraged her to continue on. He’d step in when the time was right. For now she needed to give the details.

“He’s a kid,” she said quietly. “Fifteen years old. He’s in . . . trouble.”

When the table erupted in questions and scowls—the usual Kelly response to anyone in need—she held up her hand, and they quieted.

She took a deep breath. “He’s hungry. I know how that feels. As I told Van, he could be me—he is me—at that age. Desperate. He’s a good kid, though. I know y’all will think I’m crazy. Or naïve. But I know he’s a good kid. He’s quiet. He’s a hard worker. He has two sisters he’s trying to support and feed. And oh my God, y’all. What they’re living in. It makes me want to cry for them.”

Marlene’s expression was immediately fierce. “How old are his sisters? Where are his parents? Why didn’t you come to us immediately? You have to know we’d be willing to help them.”

Rusty nodded. “I do know. I do. It just happened yesterday. He came in and asked if we needed any help. And I know I shouldn’t have done it without asking, but I was afraid he’d walk out and never be back if I told him I’d have to see. So I made the decision and put him to work. I paid him in cash out of my own money.”

Donovan’s brothers scowled. Not in disapproval over Rusty. They’d gotten past that stage. But there was worry in their eyes. Not only of the kid Rusty had helped but over Rusty and the fear that she could be harmed.

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