Home > After the Storm (KGI #8)(3)

After the Storm (KGI #8)(3)
Author: Maya Banks

“He’s a kid who desperately needs a job and money,” she said as they walked down the sidewalk.

“And let me guess. Frank doesn’t know you’ve hired him,” Sean said.

Rusty shook her head. Sean cursed beside her.

Rusty paused at the door to the sandwich store and stared hard up at Sean. She always felt smaller around him, but then the beating force of his disapproval could weigh down even the biggest person.

“No, he doesn’t. Yet,” she amended. “I have no intention of keeping it from him. Contrary to what you may think, I love Frank and Marlene. I’d never do anything to hurt them. He just came in today. He’s hungry and broke, and he has sisters to support. And don’t worry, Sean. I’m paying him out of my own money. Not that it’s much. But I figure anything will be better than nothing and it’s a safe job. At least here I can look out for him.”

Sean’s eyes softened, and for a moment he remained silent.

“Look, Sean,” Rusty said, hating how entreating she sounded. Like she needed his goddamn blessing. She sucked in a deep breath before she continued. “He’s me when I was that age. He’s where I could still be if it weren’t for Frank and Marlene and the rest of the Kellys. He needs help and I can give it to him. Just like no one until the Kellys was ever willing to give me. So back off, okay? I know it grates on you for me to ask you to trust me, but do you think you can set aside your personal dislike of me long enough to give me a chance here? I’m not stupid. I can help this kid and I’m going to do it with or without your blessing.”

Something that looked remarkably like regret flickered in Sean’s steady gaze.

“I don’t dislike you,” he said softly.

She snorted.

“Just be careful,” he warned. “I’m not saying this to piss you off. But damn it, Rusty. Be careful. What do you even know about him? I don’t like you being alone with him in the store. What if he tried to rob you? Or hurt you?”

She laughed. “The day I can’t defend myself against a fifteen-year-old kid is the day I go to my grave. I’m tough, Sean. I’ve had to be, growing up the way I did. The last few years with the Kellys may have softened me, but I’m still on my own at school, and believe me when I say that school is not a cakewalk. I take self-defense classes. I can take care of myself.”

Sean’s eyes narrowed. “What the f**k does that mean? What happened at school? Did someone mess with you?”

She rolled her eyes. “Nothing I can’t take care of myself.”

He wiped a hand through his short hair and blew out his breath. “Damn it, Rusty. Would it kill you to ever ask for help? Just once?”

She blinked in surprise. “And what would happen if I were to ever ask you for help?”

“I’d give it,” he said quietly. “You think I hate you, but that’s not true, Rusty, and if you ever actually lowered your hackles around me you’d realize that I only want to make sure you’re safe.”

She had no idea what to say to that.

“I’ll go,” Sean said. “But I’m going to be keeping an eye on the kid. If you have any trouble at all, you call me. If you even think there will be trouble, you call me. And if you need anything, let me know. If the kid is into any trouble, let me know. There may be a way to help him.”

She was so surprised that she couldn’t do anything more than nod.

As Sean stalked away, she stared in bewilderment after him.

He actually acted like he . . . cared.

CHAPTER 2

EVE looked up from the tattered, worn couch where Cammie was finally sleeping, sprawled across Eve’s lap when Travis walked in the door of the dilapidated one-bedroom trailer they rented.

“Is she any better?” Travis asked anxiously as he walked over to the couch.

Eve ran a hand over Cammie’s forehead, a motion she’d repeated several times over the last hours.

“Her fever is down a little,” Eve said in a low voice. “I’m so worried. We can’t take her to the hospital or even a doctor. It’s too risky. But I can’t get her fever to break no matter what I do.”

Travis’s expression darkened with the same worry and fatigue Eve felt herself. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out three twenty-dollar bills.

“I know it’s not much,” he said. “But I’m going in tomorrow morning for a few hours too. The lady who hired me is really nice. She even bought me lunch.”

Eve took the money, tears burning her eyelids. She swallowed hard, determined to remain strong and not allow Travis to see how scared and worried she was. But he knew.

“I hate that you have to work,” she said fiercely. “As soon as Cammie is better, I’ll find work. I promise.”

Travis’s nostrils flared. “No. Cammie needs you. I’ll do whatever I can. If I can’t get in enough hours at the hardware store, I’ll find something else. I don’t want you to worry, Evie. I’ll take care of us. I swear it.”

Eve patted the space on the couch beside her and then wrapped an arm around her younger brother when he sat.

“I love you. We’ll get through this, Trav. I promise. We’ll find a way to stay together and be safe.”

He hugged her back, holding and squeezing, offering her the comfort she offered him.

“We’ll make it, Evie. We’ll never have to go back to that bastard. I’ll protect you and Cammie both. I won’t let him hurt you again.”

   
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