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Because of Low (Chapter Twenty-Two)

Marcus

"He's our father, Marcus. That isn't ever going to change," Amanda said heatedly as she paced in front of the desk where I'd been trying to pick the summer courses I needed to take. "Besides, I keep seeing that little face and those blond curls and knowing she's our sister. She's a baby who did nothing wrong. She was born. It's not her fault. I want to know her Marcus. I want to have my dad back in my life again. I hate this. Mom wants us to go see him. Them. She thinks it'll be good for us. Especially you." Groaning, I leaned back in my chair and stared up at my very determined sister. What happened to mad Amanda?

The one who hated our father and never wanted to see him again. I liked that Amanda. I wanted her back. We felt the same way. Except of course the part about Larissa. Every time I thought about her my chest ached. All that time I'd been so fascinated with her little blond curls and happy little claps and squeals and she'd been my sister. Had that been Will ow's plan? She'd thought by bringing Larissa into my life under false pretenses that I'd love her and accept what my father had done? God, how had I been so blind! Those damn dimples. I was lost the moment she flashed them at me. She appeared so wounded and innocent and the whole freaking time she'd known exactly what her sister was doing to my mama. What she'd done was unforgivable. She lied to me. To my family. And dammit I was still in love with her.

"They're going to be at the condo this week. He's invited us and I'm going. I want you there with me. I need you there Marcus. Please," Amanda begged.

Dinner with Dad, the other woman and the other kid. Not my idea of a good time. An image of Larissa smiling up at me and demanding I play with her tugged at me.

"Okay, I'll go. But only because you want me to so badly.

Not because I want to make amends with him. If you want to then fine. But it'll never happen for me." Amanda frowned then nodded and walked around the table and kissed me on the head.

"Thank you. I really wish you'd get past all this anger and let it go. Then maybe you can see the big picture that everyone else sees. You're living in a tunnel and if you stay blind for too long you'll miss it."

What the crap did that mean? I stared up at her and she smirked then walked out of the room. I guess she thought that was supposed to be deep and meaningful. It was probably the lyrics from some God awful boy band song.

"Amanda," my dad said warmly and pulled Amanda into his arms. He patted her head and kissed her temple and whispered something to her. She nodded and his eyes raised to meet mine. "Marcus. I'm glad you came." I wasn't.

But obviously Amanda needed this. I nodded and followed her inside.

"MARTUS," A loud squeal startled me and I looked down to see Larissa running toward me with her arms up in the air, grinning. Two little teeth flashed at me. I picked her up and she smelled just like I remembered.

"How's my princess? I see you got two teeth." She pointed at her new teeth, "Two teef," she agreed and placed a wet kiss on my mouth.

"Martus come pay," she'd added a few new words to her vocabulary. I sat her down and held her hand.

"You lead the way," I told her and she pulled me along behind her toward the living room where toys of all kinds were scattered around the floor. I quickly scanned the room and Tawny was nowhere to be found. Letting out a sigh of relief I sat down where Larissa demanded and she pulled a bucket of bright pink blocks toward me.

"Pinses bocks," she explained pointing to the picture of Cinderel a on one of the blocks.

"My favorite kind," I assured her and she giggled happily waiting for me to build her a tower of blocks to knock down.

"She's mentioned you several times," my father said as he walked into the room. I didn't look up at him. Nor did I respond. I came here for two reasons. My sisters, both of them.

Amanda sank down on the ground on the other side of Larissa.

"Larissa, this is Manda," I said as she studied Amanda.

"Mana," she repeated. Amanda beamed at her and nodded.

"Yes, and it's very nice to meet you Larissa. Can I play too?"

Larissa grinned brightly. Amanda had said her favorite word.

"Mana pay too," she pushed some blocks toward Amanda.

Amanda eagerly started stacking them. Larissa had that effect on people. She was hard to resist. Much like her Aunt. Aw, damn.

Larissa was studying me and I watched as her small smile faded and she looked back at dad then at me.

"I 'ont my Lowlow," she whispered as tears filled her eyes.

Dad immediately walked over and picked her up.

"Hey, don't cry sweetheart. You have Marcus here to play with you and Amanda. Remember I told you Lowlow would be coming tomorrow to see you. Okay," his voice was so gentle. Had he talked to us like that once? It was hard to see my dad as being soft hearted and loving. Larissa sniffed and nodded her head.

"Down," Larissa demanded and Dad put her back where she'd been sitting.

Larissa smiled tearily up at me. "Lowlow come too." My chest hurt so bad I was having trouble breathing. Would it ever get easier seeing Larissa? Would memories of Will ow always haunt me and rip me apart all over again?

I cleared my throat and nodded.

"Can you show me your other toys?" Amanda asked. She knew I was having a hard time and she was trying to distract Larissa from anymore comments about her beloved aunt. Larissa stood up nodding and held out her hand to Amanda. "Come see."

Amanda happily followed the little chubby blond out of the room. It was like Amanda finally had a real baby doll to play with. She'd always wanted a little sister. Guess she finally got one.

I was alone with my father. Shit.

"You have any plans for the summer?" he asked picking a very neutral topic.

"Online courses," I replied, standing up and walking over to the large windows overlooking the gulf.

"You trying to hurry up and finish?"

"No. I'm making up for lost time." He didn't deserve anymore of an explanation. He'd opted out of my life.

Turning around before he could say anymore I asked,

"Where's the wife?"

"I asked her to let me do this alone."

"Why? Afraid I'll hurt her feelings?"

My father shook his head, "No, I just didn't want her here while I visited with my kids."

"I'm only here for Amanda."

"And Larissa. I'm not a fool son. I see the way you look at her. You may not want to care about her but you do." No reason to lie. "I cared about Larissa before I knew.

She's a baby. None of this is her fault."

"And she's your sister."

"And she's my sister," I agreed. No point in arguing. It was the truth.

"Have you spoken to Will ow since…" he didn't finish. He didn't need to.

didn't need to.

"No."

He didn't have a response for that. I started to go find the girls when his voice stopped me. "She didn't know." I froze.

"She was devastated. She'd just figured it out. She was there, at the house, having a complete emotional breakdown when you walked in."

I swallowed hard. Did I want to hear this?

"She stripped me bare by listing every person I'd hurt with my actions. She pointed out every sin I'd committed and she praised the one person who'd been left to pick up the pieces. She praised him rather passionately. How he'd been the one to hold the family I'd betrayed together. She also told me how much she loved him and how my actions and her sister's actions were going to be the reason she lost him."

I grabbed hold of the chair beside me. My knees went weak. The ache from hearing Larissa ask for Will ow was nothing compared to the pain searing through my chest.

The things I'd said. Oh, God no.

"She's been left her whole life. She's a good girl. Larissa adores her. Where her sister lacks in many honorable traits Will ow seems to have them in abundance." I'd left her.

Just like she feared.

The memory of her face when she'd walked into the bedroom that day before my sister had called. She'd looked completely broken, devastated, lost. She'd just found out. She'd come to tell me. And I'd had to leave.

She hadn't known.

"What's wrong?" Amanda ask as she walked into the room.

I lifted my head and looked at her. "She didn't know," I whispered horrified as the words echoed in my head that I'd yelled at her that night as she pleaded with me to stop.

"I never thought she did," Amanda replied. The sadness in her voice was unmistakable. "I tried to tell you that I was pretty sure she was innocent but you wouldn't listen to me. I wasn't allowed to even speak her name. Every time I tried to talk to you about Will ow you ended up so stupid drunk you couldn't walk."

She knew as well as I did that I'd lost Low, and it was all my fault.

Willow

Dinner with Tawny and Jefferson hadn't been too bad.

Larissa had latched onto me and hadn't let go. I'd even tucked her in and read to her until she fell asleep. I knew there was no way I could handle hearing her cry for me when I left. The way she'd clung to me reminded me of how I felt. Afraid I'd lose someone I loved. I wasn't going to stay away any longer. I'd discussed with Tawny meeting her half way and getting Larissa one night a week. That way I could spend time with just her and not have to face that house again. Surprisingly Jefferson was behind the idea one hundred percent. He apparently didn't like Larissa crying for me either. I wanted to hate him but when I watched him with Larissa it made it hard. Things happen in life and you can't control them. It sucks and you have to move on.

Holding a grudge against Tawny and Jefferson was pointless. It only hurt Larissa and she was innocent.

Cage's bedroom door opened and he walked out, frowning.

"Are you sure you're okay with this? I'd feel better about going if you'd come too."

I shook my head. I wasn't going to be his shadow anymore.

He needed to get back to his life. Tonight I wanted him to go out and have a good time with his friends. I was fine right here.

"I have chocolate ice cream and two seasons worth of True Blood. So go. Me and vampire Eric will be just fine. I promise."

He sighed and reached over and hugged me, "Okay fine.

I'm going. But you call me the minute you feel an anxiety attack or just if you get upset or—"

"Cage, GO now," I pointed toward the door.

"I'm going. But I've got my phone with me."

"I heard you, Cage. Go."

Once the door closed behind him I got out my chocolate ice cream and headed for the couch. Tonight I would forget about everything except hot viking vampires.

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