Beneath These Chains (Page 62)

Unable to deal, I’d pulled a card from my mother’s deck and drank until I didn’t care about anything at all. The next day, she and Denton had bailed me out of jail, and their scathing reprimands had made it clear just how alone I truly was.

The conversation still played vividly in my head: “Disappointed? How can you of all people be disappointed? I’m just taking after you by solving my problems with a bottle.”

My words had been followed by her sharp inhale, the sting of her palm across my face, and Denton’s eyes lighting with approval.

I’d never forget that look on his face—or hers.

Because she’d looked like I’d slapped her right back.

Over ten years of ugliness on both sides … spawned by a man we’d both loved and lost.

He would have been so disappointed in us both.

My tears fell faster, but this time they were washing away the bitterness instead of letting it fester. I was done holding it in. It was time to let it all go. Time to start over. I had one parent left, and I’d already wasted over a decade caught up in the past.

Time was fleeting. Nothing was guaranteed. I could just as easily lose my mother, and with that, my chance to repair everything between us.

Lord’s hand stroked my hair and my back as my tears quieted. I lifted my head and began wiping them away. I didn’t even care how I must’ve looked.

Lord stilled my hands and slid his thumbs along my cheeks, catching the tears I’d missed.

“We’re going to get through this, Elle. I swear to you. I will not let another one of your tears fall without putting myself on the line to stop it from happening again.”

This man. What did I do to deserve this man?

“I love you,” I said. “I don’t deserve you, but I love you.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Lord said, lowering his lips to press against my forehead. “You deserve everything—and I’m going to give it all to you.”

I bit my lip. “If you keep saying things like that, I’m going to cry again.”

“You’re going to have to figure out how to handle it, because I guarantee it’s not the last time I’m going to say it.”

I hugged him tighter before pulling away. I stood straighter, stronger, and not feeling nearly as broken as I had only minutes before. I had a renewed sense of purpose. A renewed sense of hope.

Lord’s hand slid down my arm and threaded through my fingers. He brought it to his mouth and pressed his lips to my knuckles.

“How about we clean this place up?” he asked.

I surveyed the room and the shards of glass.

It was time to start picking up the pieces … for good this time.

We cleaned up the library in silence, but it was a silence filled with purpose and not despair. Elle was already pulling herself together, and I was impressed as hell.

When we finished, I asked her what she wanted to do.

“I have to stay. I can’t leave her.”

“You want to stay the night? Or just for the rest of the day?”

Elle released a long breath. “I really should stay the night, probably.”

“I’ll get your bag out of the car.” It was the one she’d packed and had waiting when I’d picked her up this morning. “The rest of your stuff is at the house, though. You tell me what you need, and I’ll get it for you and run it back.”

She snuggled into my chest. “Thank you. Thank you for everything.”

“You never need to thank me for being here for you. It’s my privilege, not a burden.” I pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

Elle pulled back, her smile wobbly again.

“No more tears, sweet thing.”

She nodded. “I’m good. I promise.” She paused before adding, “I left my purse at the shop. It’s in the office. Do you mind getting it?”

“Of course. Anything you need.” I pressed another kiss to her forehead before releasing her and turning toward to the hallway. “I’ll be back soon.”

Before I hit the kitchen, the doorbell rang again. Margaux hurried to the door.

“Detective, was there something else you needed?”

Fuck. Hennessy. My earlier thoughts came back in a rush.

The door opened wider, and Hennessy shoved a guy who looked to be in his mid-twenties into the house. The kid stumbled, but righted himself before face planting on the floor of the foyer.

“What in the world?” Margaux hissed.

“DJ?” That came from Elle. Which meant this was the stepbrother.

His shirt was untucked and soaked down the front.

“A unit picked him up in a bar fight about twenty minutes ago. They called me because they recognized the name from today’s … events. I thought I’d deliver him home rather than toss him in the drunk tank.”

Damn. The kid worked fast. He was wasted.

I wasn’t sure if he’d mainlined moonshine, or what, but I could smell the booze coming off him from where I stood.

Margaux was ringing her hands, and I stepped up. “Where’s his room? Hennessy and I will get him up there.”

Elle led the way up the stairs to a bedroom at the far end of the hall and pushed it open. We dumped the kid on the bed. Margaux fussed, pulling off his shoes and yanking the covers out from beneath him.

No one said anything.

No muttered comments about his behavior, which we all recognized as a kid going off the rails because he just lost his dad. Again, it made me think about Elle and what she’d been through.

Hennessy and Elle followed me back downstairs. I paused by the front door and pulled her against my side.