Home > After the Storm (KGI #8)(6)

After the Storm (KGI #8)(6)
Author: Maya Banks

“And you want me to follow this kid with you to where he lives. What then? Do we just say, ‘Oh, hi! Just wanted to make sure you weren’t being chained in a basement’?”

She shook her head, but her shoulders had relaxed and a smile flirted with the corners of her lips.

“I hadn’t gotten that far in my plan yet. I was hoping Nathan would have an idea. I can’t explain it, Van. I hurt for this kid and I only just met him yesterday. You’d like him. He’s quiet. Very respectful and he’s obviously protective of his sisters. I just want to see if there is anything I can do to help.”

Donovan’s heart softened at the earnestness in her eyes and her impassioned speech. And the hell of it was, he had a huge soft spot for women and kids. Especially kids. It ate at his gut to think of a fifteen-year-old boy living hand to mouth, working part time in a hardware store to support two sisters. Where the hell were his parents?

“I’ll go with you,” he finally said. “But, Rusty, you’re going to do it my way and you’re going to listen to everything I tell you. Got it? Which means you stay behind me at all times, and if I tell you to cut and run or to get down, then you better do exactly that. We have no idea what kind of situation we’re walking into, so I expect you to pay attention.”

She nodded vigorously. “There’s another thing, Van. And I don’t know how to do it without being pushy.”

“You? Pushy?” he mocked.

She rolled her eyes but laughed. “Okay, yeah, I can be pushy. But this is for a good cause! The kid is hungry. And if he’s hungry I can only assume his sisters are as hungry as he is. I bought him a burger for lunch yesterday and he scarfed it down in about three bites. So today I got a burger for him, but he didn’t eat it. He didn’t want me to know he hadn’t eaten it. He hid it and is saving it. My guess is he’s bringing it home for his sisters to eat. And that kills me, Van. I was that hungry once. It’s why I broke into your parents’ house. I was starving and would have risked jail just to have something to eat. I don’t want that to be this kid. I want to bring them food. I have to do something. I can’t just stand by, knowing what I know and seeing what I see and do nothing.”

Donovan slung his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his chest for a hug. “You’re a good kid, Rusty.”

She elbowed him. “I’m not a kid anymore!”

He chuckled. “No, you’re not. You’re a young lady now. I forget that sometimes. Hard to believe so many years have passed since you were adopted into the Kelly clan.”

“They’ve been the best years,” she said softly.

“Okay, so here’s what I propose. We follow the kid home. See what his situation is. Then we can figure out how to get them what they need. I can do some checking on him and his sisters.”

“Thanks, Van. This means a lot to me.”

“No problem. Just do me a favor, okay? In the future, call me or call someone before you make a decision like this. It may have worked out this time and the kid may not mean any harm, but there’s no guarantee the next time won’t be different. I don’t want you getting hurt, Rusty. You can always call me or anyone else in the family.”

She smiled. “Having so many older brothers is kind of cool, you know?”

He rolled his eyes. “And I think having older brothers is a pain in the ass.”

“That’s because Sam and Garrett are pains in the ass,” she said with a laugh.

“Very true. Okay, so what time are you setting the kid loose? And I don’t see a car so I’m assuming he lives close enough to walk?”

“I have no idea. He didn’t exactly fill out an official application, so I don’t know his address. And no, he doesn’t have a car and no one drops him off or picks him up. Don’t know how far he lives, but he’s definitely been walking.”

“Could be hard to tail him without him knowing it if he’s on foot,” Donovan said dubiously.

Rusty grimaced. “Yeah, he watches his back. It’s why I know he’s scared shitless and is in some kind of trouble. I mean, most kids walk around oblivious. Especially in a small town like this. They walk like they don’t have a care in the world. This kid? He walks like he expects someone to jump out at him at every turn. He’s very cautious. Constantly looking around.”

“You’ve been watching this kid pretty closely.”

She nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach him. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about how to do this. I would just ask him straight out, but that would spook him. Been there, done that. If anyone had come out like that to me, I’d have been gone in a shot. I didn’t trust anyone, and I don’t imagine he does either.”

“I know you had a rough life,” Donovan said softly. “It’s pretty damn awesome that you’re wanting to help this boy out.”

Her cheeks went pink, but her eyes gleamed with happiness over his praise.

“I need to get back so he doesn’t get antsy. If you could hang around, I planned to let him work thirty more minutes. I’m paying him in cash and I’m going to intentionally short him a twenty. He won’t say anything. I know that much. He’ll take whatever I give him and be grateful. But it will give us an excuse to follow him to his house. I can tell him I shorted him and we can check out his living conditions.”

   
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