Unexpected fate, p.11
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       Unexpected Fate, p.11
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         Part #1 of Hope Town series by Harper Sloan
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Page 40

  Needless to say, with all her smarts, cooking just isn’t something she can do.

  “How are you doing with things?” she asks, breaking the silence.

  “I’m okay, Lila. I really am. I know I got a little over the top when he first left and I’m sorry for that. It wasn’t right for me to do that and not be there for you and Lyn. It’s just—I can’t even describe it. We’ve known each other forever. Been solidly on that ‘just friends’ line that I never imagined how different it would be to finally have him. Even if it was just for a few hours. Those hours . . . ” I pause, remembering every second of my night in Cohen’s arms. “When I was with him, it was like everything was right in the world. ”

  “You sound like a cheesy Hallmark card,” she giggles.

  I laugh. “You’re right. God, I’m pathetic. ”

  “No, you aren’t. I understand what you’re saying, even if it is gross to think about it being with my brother. ”

  “Do you think its crazy? This instant connection between us?” I don’t think it’s crazy, but I know how others might see the swiftness of our relationship. I’ve been lusting after him for so long that I’m sure I look pathetic to most. I know I never dreamt that he would return my feelings.

  Lila studies my face for a beat, her expression giving nothing away, before she speaks. I don’t know why, but between her and Lyn, I have always thought that Lila didn’t exactly want Cohen and me to get together.

  “I don’t think it’s crazy, Dani. But I’m worried about you. He’s my brother, but you have always been like a sister to Lyn and me. I’m worried that things might get . . . sticky. ”

  “Meaning?” I push hesitantly.

  “What’s going to happen when he comes home?” she asks, not answering my question.

  “The same thing that would have happened if he were still here. We’re going to tell everyone together and then, hopefully with their blessing, continue to see where our relationship goes. ”

  “Okay. Well, what’s keeping you from telling everyone now? I’ll be honest, I don’t agree with your wanting to keep a lid on it. ”

  I’m trying to keep my temper in check. I know she’s just trying to think logically, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to get frustrated with her lack of faith.

  “You’re afraid he’s going to change his mind, aren’t you?” she asks when I don’t say anything,

  “Never,” I spit venomously. “Look, I don’t want to fight with you, Lila, but I have faith in your brother that he never would have even opened this can of worms if he didn’t mean it. But I will admit that I can see where you’re coming from. It might be easier for me to say something now and deal with calming my dad down while Cohen is home. I know one thing for sure: when he comes home, I want to be able to focus on us becoming us without having to worry about hiding and being scared of what others might think. So I guess I’m not going to keep this to myself. ” I sigh and try to suck down the small panic I have from knowing what kind of chat that will be with my dad. “I’ll tell my parents about it next weekend at dinner. ” I nod a few times before stopping. God, I must look like a bobblehead.

  Her eyes widen. “You’re going to tell your father—the same father that locked you in the house when Toby Gilbert tried to take you to the movies when you were seventeen and chased the kid out of the house with a chainsaw—that you and Cohen are together?”

  “Hey—the chainsaw wasn’t on,” I laugh, remembering how embarrassed I was.

  “Dani . . . he still chased a man down with a freaking chainsaw and all Toby wanted was to take you to a movie. We’re talking about telling your father that you and Cohen are together together, and I’m pretty sure no one is going to believe that you two have something that doesn’t involve touching. ”

  “I know, I know,” I sigh. “But I figure it would be better to tell him now and give him a while to get used to it before Cohen comes home. ”

  “Oh, God. He’s going to kill him. You know that, right?”

  “He wouldn’t kill him knowing it would hurt me. Hey! What’s with the back-and-forth crap here? Five minutes ago, you were questioning my logic on not saying anything. Now, you don’t think I should. ”

  “I think that’s before I realized what telling Axel you’re dating his best friend’s son would do to said best friend’s son. ”

  Page 41

  “It’ll be okay. It will. ”

  She gives me a weak smile, which tells me that even she doesn’t believe my lie to myself.

  God, this is going to be a nightmare.

  Lee came over later that night with my brother. We were supposed to go out to a local sports bar for dinner, but by the time they got there, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was crash. I feel like I’ve been running on empty for the last few weeks, grasping at any kind of sleep I can find.

  We’re all camped out in the living room. Lee and I are sitting on the couch, my head in his lap while his fingers brush my hair, pulling me halfway to dreamland, when my phone rings for the second time in five minutes.

  “It says ‘private,’ Dani,” Nate says from the recliner next to us. “Want me to answer it?”

  “Yeah, whatever,” I mumble with a wave of my hand, not really caring. Anyone who needs me that bad could just call the house.

  “’Ello?” Nate booms into my phone. “The fuck?”

  Something in his tone draws my attention, and I look over at him. His eyes are locked on mine, but other than the sharp look he’s throwing my way, he appears to be relaxed.

  “Yeah. Sure thing, bro. I think you might want this, Dani. ” Nate extends his arm with my phone and waits for me to take it, looking at me like he can’t figure out what’s going on.

  “Hello?” I question, trying to shake the lingering fatigue away.

  “Dani-girl,” I hear, and my eyes shoot to Nate before closing tightly and letting his voice wash over me.

  Oh my God!

  “How . . . how are you calling me? Did you call your parents? Your sisters or brothers? Oh my God! Are you okay? You’re calling because something happened, aren’t you?”

  “Slow down, baby,” he laughs. “I missed you. That’s all. ”

  Well, so much for holding my shit together. Those three words almost cause me to come undone. I give Nate another look, begging him not to freak out until I can talk to him. He gives me a hard one back but doesn’t say anything.

  “I miss you, too,” I breathe while getting off the couch and walking out of the room.

  Right when I’m about to shut the door into the front bathroom to get some privacy, I hear Nate boom at Lee, “Did you fucking know about that shit?”

  “I’m guessing I have some explaining I need to do to your brother when I get home,” he laughs, completely unconcerned about Nate’s freak-out.

  “That’s an understatement at the moment,” I laugh when I hear something thump on the other side of the door followed by Lee’s whine of pain. “Don’t worry. I’ll talk to Nate. ”

  “You shouldn’t have to deal with that alone, Dani. I hate that I’ve left you in that position. ” He pauses, and I can hear his breathing pick up. “Fuck, I hate this. If you want to wait to say something, I won’t hold that against you. I meant it when I said it was you and me against the world. ”

  “I can handle it. ” And I can. Plus I wasn’t joking when I told Lila earlier that it would be best for me to soften the blow a little when it comes to my father.

  “To answer your earlier question, no. I haven’t and won’t be able to call anyone else. I’m going dark, baby, and I know this might be the last chance I get to call home—I needed that call to be to you. I couldn’t go without making sure I told you some things. Things I should have said before I left. God, I sound like a fucking sap. I can’t explain it better than me needing to get my head straight before our next mission and the only way I could accomplish that was to talk to you. ”


  “Oh . . . ”

  “Is that a good ‘oh’?” he laughs, the connection getting a little fuzzy.

  “If your sisters find out, they’re going to kill me. ”

  “No, they won’t. If they do, you just tell them that their brother loves his girls, but he loves his woman more. ”

  Wait a minute.

  “Do what?”

  He laughs again, the sound like a balm for my soul. “Dani, what do you think we’re doing here?”

  “Uh, talking?”

  “Yeah, baby. Talking. You going to tell me how much you love me?”

  “You already know how much I love you,” I jest.

  “I do. And now you know I love you. ”

  “Even if I didn’t, the weekly flowers are sure doing a good job at showing me. ”

  He’s silent.

  Silent for so long that I pull my phone away from my ear to make sure we didn’t have the connection drop.

  Page 42

  “Dani. I haven’t sent any flowers. ”

  “Don’t be silly, Cohen. Of course you have. They’ve been coming every Saturday since you left. Who else would send them?” I feel what can only be a described as a flash of fear wash over my body. Oh my God. If Cohen isn’t sending them, then who is?

  “Flowers . . . yeah, those aren’t my thing, Dani. They look beautiful for a little while and then they start to stink before they die. When I show you how much I love you, it damn sure won’t be with something that’s going to die in a week. ”

  Oh. My.

  “Put your brother on the phone. Now,” he barks.

  I jump at his tone, the fear I started to feel only seconds before rushing into my system, and I almost drop the phone because my hands are shaking so badly.

  I rush out of the bathroom door and almost tumble over my brother, who is standing there, looking guilty, with a cup in his hand. A cup I’m sure was just pressed against the door like the ghetto little spy he is. I mutely hand Nate the phone and step back until I bump into Lee. He looks down at me with concern, and I just shake my head, not trusting my words.

  I listen through the roaring in my ears as Nate responds to what Cohen is saying in clipped tones. His eyes shoot to mine a few times, the anger that was there at first now turning to concern.

  “I’ll take care of it,” he snaps and hands me the phone again.


  “Don’t worry, baby. Your brother knows what to do, and he’ll take care of everything. Is Lee there too?”

  I nod my head but then remember he can’t see me. “Lee’s here. ”

  “Good. Ask him if he can stay with you for a while. ”

  “I’ll do that. ”

  “I love you, Dani-girl. No one is going to mess with that. No one. Don’t worry, okay?”

  “I’m not worried. ” And I’m really not worried. I’m not. I am terrified.

  “Liar,” he whispers. “God, I hate that I can’t be there to protect you. This is killing me, Dani. It goes against everything I feel to not rush to you. ”

  My heart breaks, the fear I felt instantly dimming. “I’ll be okay. I promise. I’ll make sure I’m not alone and the guys will watch out for me. I’m . . . I’m going to tell Daddy about us and, well, this. He won’t let anything happen to me, Coh. ”

  “That’s a good idea. Might mean he kicks my ass a little harder when I get back with all that time he will have to stew on it, but it will be worth it to know that you’re safe. ” He doesn’t even hesitate. Not one second, which would have made me think he doesn’t want this.

  “Tell me you love me, baby. I have to go. ”

  “I love you, baby. ” I smile.

  “Yeah,” he sighs. “And I you. ”

  “See you soon,” I whisper.

  “Every time I close my eyes. ”

  I don’t move the phone away from my ear. Not when I hear the click or when Nate starts to ask his questions. I just smile to myself and let it sink in.

  PREDICTABLY, THINGS GOT A LITTLE insane after that call. Nate demanded to know what was going on between Cohen and me. I was honest with him, and in the end, he didn’t have a problem with it more or less, just that I had kept from him.

  Okay, that might be a stretch. He knew how I felt, of course, but he was shocked that Cohen had taken it that far without at least talking to him first. Then I had to explain to my irrational older brother that he isn’t my keeper.

  Don’t ever tell a man who was raised by alpha males that he isn’t the keeper of his baby sister. It isn’t pretty and there is usually something that gets broken in the process. This time, it was my coffee table when I pushed the big ape over for telling me that I should be locked away on an island of Barbies and Big Wheels.

  Yeah. I’m always going to be the baby sister.

  That being said, justifiably, what he did have a problem with was the unexpected and unknown sender of the weekly flowers. I told him everything I knew about the delivery guy and how many had come, showing him the ones that were still around the house. Each of the vases held a big, black bow tied to the center of the glass vase. Black wouldn’t have been my first choice, but when I’d thought they were from Cohen, it hadn’t bothered me. Now, it makes me skin crawl.

  And that was before Nate had found the first microscopic-looking wireless camera in the arrangement.

  “You’re moving home,” he booms through the room. “That’s fucking it. No. You’re not staying here one more second, Danielle!” He starts pacing around my bedroom, his hands clenching in tight fists at his sides. Bringing out the full name is his way of showing me that he’s serious.

  Page 43

  I don’t think so. No. I finally got out from under my father, and there is no damn way I’m going back. Especially now, it would only be a million times worse.

  “I’m not leaving my home, Nate. ”

  “Don’t be irrational, Dani!” he screams in my face.

  Lee, who was quiet until now, steps between us. “Be pissed, I get that, but don’t you dare talk to her like that. ”

  I give him a squeeze before things get too intense between him and Nate. Won’t be the first time, and it damn sure won’t be the last.

  “Look,” I start and step around Lee so that I can make sure Nate knows I mean every word I’m about to say. “I’m not going to leave. First of all, if whoever is sending the flowers is watching me, they’ll see that and follow. I’m comfortable here. We’re safe here. Lee can stay for a while, right, Lee?” I turn and wait for him to nod. “And I’ll tell Daddy what’s going on. I won’t be put out of my own house because of some stupid flowers. ”

  “Flowers with goddamn cameras in them, Dani!” he yells.

  “Tone, Nate,” Lee reminds him.

  “Shut the fuck up, Lee. ”

  “Would you both shut the hell up?!” I scream.

  “What the hell is going on here?”

  Oh great. I look over at my mom and smile sweetly. She narrows her eyes, and I know she doesn’t buy it for a second.

  “Do you want to tell me now or wait until your father gets in from unloading the car? He’s always freaked me out with that sixth sense he has when it comes to his children. Imagine my shock when I’m trying to enjoy a glass of wine and a nice game of Candy Crush when your dad comes rushing in the room and demands we leave right this second because he knew you needed something. Of course, he couldn’t tell me what it was you needed, so we had to stop off for just about everything he could buy at Walmart, the only damn store that’s open at eleven on a Saturday. So . . . before he gets in here and I have to hear him gloat about being right, why don’t you tell me what has your brother doing his best Axel Reid impression? Hey, Liam,” she finishes with a smile. “Don’t you look handsome tonight. ”

  Jesus Christ, it’s going to be a long night, and all I want to do is go to bed.

; “Don’t worry. His bark will be a lot worse than his bite,” Lee whispers in my ear on a laugh. He’s quick to move away before my dad walks in the room though.

  “Hey, Daddy,” I smile when he pushes into the room. “Shouldn’t you be in bed by now? You know, past your bedtime and all?”

  “Don’t be a smartass with me. What’s going on?”

  “What makes you think something is going on? Nate and Lee were just watching a movie with me. Normal boring night. ”

  “What makes me think something’s going on? Besides the fact that a father always knows when his little princess needs something? How about your brother over there?” he states and points to Nate.

  Nate, who is standing farther away in the middle of the living room, pacing back and forth and muttering to himself. His fists are clenched and his face is flushed with anger.

  “Oh . . . poor guy. I told him that ’N Sync wasn’t getting back together. He took it really, really hard. ”

  Lee lets out a boom of laughter. My mom snickers to herself and rubs her hand down my dad’s back.

  “Dani,” Nate warns. “You tell them or I will. ”

  “I don’t think—” I start only to be interrupted by Nate when he drops a bomb in the middle of the room.

  “Why don’t you fucking start with you and Cohen and then get to the flowers and cameras, Danielle. ”

  “The hell is he talking about?” Daddy rumbles.

  “Uh, about that. ”

  “There better not be any of that to be about,” he fumes.

  “What does that even mean?” I ask.

  “Don’t you be smart with me. Start talking. ”

  I sigh and look at my mom for some help, only to get a small nod and smile. Lee isn’t much help either. He walks over to the couch, sits next to Nate, and waits—the popcorn we forgot about in their hands.

  “Shit,” I mutter.

  “Mouth!” Dad explodes.

  I narrow my eyes and have to resist the urge to stomp my feet.

  “Start. Talking. ”

  “Ugh! This is ridiculous. Well, this is definitely not how I saw this going. Thank you, Nathanial. You might as well sit down, Daddy. ”

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