snapped Jack out of his daze, he stepped forward. Strong hands caught hold of my arms and jerked me against a chest that was still hard for a man his age. His arms wrapped around me and I felt his tears on my neck as he buried his face in my hair. “You look just like your mother. Fuck, you are so pretty. So pretty. I have one picture of you…” He pulled back, sniffing loudly and unashamedly as he gave me a bright smile. “It’s a school picture. You were about five years old… Even then you looked so much like your mother it killed me to look at it.”
I heard whispers and turned my head to find the men at the booth staring at us both as if we had suddenly grown three heads. My heart was pounding… No, it was breaking! I closed my eyes and pushed away from the man still holding onto me. All of those years of hoping and praying only to give up, when my mother’s salvation had been right here. Doing. Nothing. “You’re my grandfather, a-ar-aren’t you?” I whispered, my voice breaking.
Jack nodded. “Yeah, sweetheart. I sure am.”
Without thinking about what I was doing my hand lifted and in the next moment it was connecting with the old man’s cheek. The sound of flesh smacking hard against flesh sounded more like a gunshot in the very quiet bar. My hand started to sting, but I dropped it to my side instead of holding it against my chest as I wanted to do. Angry tears blurred my vision as I glared at the only family I had in the world from my mother’s side of the family. “Where the fuck were you when my mother needed you!” I screamed at him before turning and running out of the bar.
Chairs scraped back fast. A few people moved into my path, but I pushed past them. I’d just hit one of their MC members. Of course they were all mad and wanted to stop me. Tears were blinding me and I felt a pain that went soul deep as I reached the door and pushed it open. Before I could take more than a few steps toward Hawk’s car, strong arms wrapped around my waist. I knew the moment he touched me who it was so I wasn’t scared. I could never be scared of Hawk, but still I struggled to get free. I didn’t want him to see me like this. All I wanted was to go home and hide under the covers in bed. To cry and mourn my mother all over again.
“Hey, hey.” Hawk’s voice came out softer than I’d ever heard it as he pulled me around and wrapped his arms tightly around my waist. He kept murmuring soothing words, rocking me back and forth as I sobbed into his chest. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”
“He…j-j-just…l-l-left her!” I cried harder, my hands fisting in his white T-shirt under his cut. “H-he…let h-h-her…die.”
“Gracie, baby. You’re making yourself sick.” His voice sounded choked, tortured. “Don’t do this to yourself, sweetheart.”
“I-I’m s-s-s-sorry.” I held my breath, trying to force myself under control if only for him. My shoulders trembled under the force of my contained sobs and his rough hands slipped under my top, rubbing circles over my bare skin. My skin instantly prickled with delight, but my heart was too shattered to comprehend how good it felt to have Hawk rubbing my back.
After nearly a full minute Hawk pulled back and grasped my chin, forcing me to meet his eyes in the dim lighting coming from the street lights of the parking lot. “Talk to me, Gracie. What just happened back there? You’re Uncle Jack’s granddaughter?”
I nodded. “Y-yeah, I guess so. My m-m-mom…” My voice broke again and I sucked in a deep breath to steady it. “She was his daughter.”
I watched as his eyes widened and began to darken in the poor lighting. “You never talk about your mom. Why is that?”
“I-it’s too hard, H-hawk.” I hiccupped. “She was my favorite person in the world.”
Releasing my chin, he wiped a few tears away with the rough pad of his thumb. “What happened to her, baby?”
I didn’t want to talk about it. The memories were too hard to relive. But I owed Hawk so much. If there was anyone I could share this with it was the man still holding me so tenderly. “My dad beat her. Every night he drank he would beat her. Which was almost every night near the end.” I closed my eyes as the images flashed across my mind, making my stomach turn with bile. “One night he came home and he beat her so bad she could barely stand... That night she fought back. She shot him with a pistol that I didn’t even know she had… And then she died from internal bleeding because he had cracked a rib that ruptured her spleen.” It had taken the police a week to work out the events of that night. My grandfather and uncle had kept everything quiet from the press, not wanting the Morgan name dragged through the mud. Mud that was full of all kinds of ugly family secrets.
Like the fact that all the men in my family were wife beaters, and all the women were either too scared to leave their piece of shit husbands or too greedy to let go of all that prestige and money that went with being married to those Morgans. The whole thing made me sick. Which was why I’d turned my back on them all. Taking the little bit of inheritance I’d gotten when my father had died—which had been just enough to pay for one semester of Trinity University and a year of law school. I didn’t know what I was going to do when it came time to pay for the rest of school. I couldn’t touch the rest of my inheritance until I was twenty five or got married.
Either would involve me having to go to my uncle and signing a crap load of legal papers. And if I got married… Well, that would require my uncle and grandfather’s approval of the groom. No way was I going to let them pick the man who I would be chained to for years. I didn’t want another copy of all the men I’d faced in life up until now. I would figure something else out when it came time for my second year of law school. Something so that I wouldn’t have to ever deal with the Morgans ever again.
Hawk pulled me hard against his chest, kissing my hair. He probably hadn’t expected what I had just confessed to him. My parents had killed each other; one out of self-defense, and the other out of pure evilness. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
I didn’t say anything as he helped me into the passenger seat of the Chevelle. When he started the car I laid my head back and looked out the side window as he drove home. It was quiet inside the car but I didn’t consider it tense. I could feel Hawk sending me worried glances. Less than a mile from home, he grasped my hand and linked our fingers together. It was then that I realized my fingers were numb with cold. His larger, warm hand made me shiver and I turned my head to give him a weak smile that he returned.
“I’m so glad I met you,” I whispered as he pulled into the driveway.
Putting the car in park he turned to face me. Big hands cupped my face as he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the middle of my forehead. “I’m so glad I met you too, Gracie.”
The TV was on when I walked into the living room with Gracie tucked into my side. My mind was all jumbled up with the news I’d received tonight on top of finding out about Uncle Jack and Gracie. Gracie’s confession about her parents was only the cherry on top of the big shit sundae this night had turned into.
Raven was spread out on the couch watching some crime drama show. It was after eight so I knew that Lexa was in bed. My sister raised her head, about to greet us when she saw how pale Gracie was. “What happened?” she demanded, concerned. In the six weeks or so that Gracie had been living with us, Raven had gotten attached to her. She was just as protective of Gracie as she was Lexa.
“I’ll tell you about it later, Rave,” I promised her as I urged Gracie toward the stairs. “We’re going to bed.”
Eyes identical to my own widened but she just nodded. “If you need me just shout.”
“Yeah.” I kept walking, holding Gracie against me. When we reached our room I closed and locked the door before walking her into the bathroom.
She didn’t say a word as I turned on the shower. Turning back to her I pulled her against my chest again. She looked exhausted and heartbroken. It made my entire body hurt to see her like that. My Gracie should never be heartbroken for any reason. I was going to have words with Uncle Jack first thing in the morning about all of this shit.
When the bathroom started t
o fill with steam, I took a step back. “Do you need help?”