Home > Elias

Elias(West Bend Saints #1)(16) by Sabrina Paige

16
 
“Mom?”  I called.  I stood in the doorway for a moment, not wanting to even walk inside, almost as if I stayed right here, I wouldn’t be sucked into whatever drama was going on.  As much as I’d come home because I was lost, I knew I didn’t want to be rooted here permanently.  I didn’t want to be taking care of her forever.
 
It sounded callous, I knew it did.  Honor your parents and all that.  And my mother wasn’t evil, not the way my father was.  She was just… incapable.  She had never been strong.  It was one of the reasons I was back here, to make sure she was okay.
 
I just didn’t want to get stuck here in West Bend.
 
I didn’t want to end up like her.
 
She motioned for me to come inside, a lit cigarette dangling off the end of her fingers.  “I was thinking of getting one of those holders, you know?” she asked, pointing to the unlit end of the smoke.  “The way the actresses used to have, back in the day.  Looks classy.  Keeps your fingers from yellowing.”
 
I exhaled loudly.  “Maybe you should quit smoking, mom,” I said.  “It’s not good for your health, you know.  Cancer and all that.”
 
She looked behind me at the television set, on mute but set to a soap opera.  “Your father used to complain about that all the time, too,” she said.
 
“That was the one f**king thing in life we ever agreed on,” I said.  Except that the ass**le didn’t give a shit about whether or not her health was great.  Fuck, he didn’t give a shit if she lived or died.  He just f**king cared about not having to buy my mother’s smokes.
 
When we were kids, we used to pick up loose change for her, or ask people for a quarter, so she could get them when my father refused.  Between the two of them, his booze and her smokes, it was a wonder my brothers and I ever ate.
 
“Your father did hate these,” she said.  “He did care about me.”
 
I didn’t bother to correct her.
 
“Mom,” I started, then stood in her line of sight to block her view of the television.  “I need to talk to you about something.”
 
“Yeah, baby,” she said.  She angled her head to watch around me so she could see her daytime soap.  “Later, though, okay?  This is a rerun of one of my favorites.  This guy’s brother died in a tragic skydiving accident, see?  Only he’s not actually dead.  He’s back and he’s sleeping with that guy’s wife.”
 
“No,” I said, walking over to the television and shutting it off.
 
“What did you do that for?”  She sounded indignant, but puffed on the end of her cigarette casually.
 
“Because this is important,” I said.  “In town, someone said something about the property, about you taking care of the property.  What’s going on?”
 
She waved me away with a dismissive gesture.  “It’s that developer,” she said.  “Wants to buy our property.”
 
“Did they make an offer on it?”  I asked.  “Is it a fair price?”
 
She turned and walked across the room, her bathrobe billowing behind her.  “I don’t want to think about it,” she said.  “I just can’t deal with - the paperwork and all that - after what happened with your father.”
 
I felt a rush of anger at her.  My mother’s denial of anything bad in life had kept us with my father.  She lived in this mental place where my father wasn’t an ass**le, where he didn’t come home drunk on Friday nights after pissing away the little money we had, belt in hand, looking for someone to exact punishment on.  And now, after he was dead, to act as if she should mourn him, was insane.  She should be relieved he was gone.
 
“You need to think about it, mom,” I said.  “If they’re offering a fair price, you need to consider it.”
 
She began rummaging around in cabinets, pulling out a mixing bowl and utensils.  “I have bananas,” she said.  “I’m going to make that banana bread you boys always liked.  You know Silas came by here yesterday.”
 
“Yeah?”
 
Her back was toward me as she took a carton of eggs from the refrigerator.  “Asking questions about these things,” she said.  “About the accident with your father, how he died.  You boys know all that just causes me more stress than I can deal with, and then I start getting the headaches.”
 
“All right, mom,” I said.  I made a mental note to ask Silas about it.  She may not have ever been a great mother, but she didn’t deserve to just waste away in this shithole house, not if a big developer was offering her something for it.
 
“You talked to Silas, then?” she asked.
 
“Yeah, I talked to him.”
 
“I don’t like the two of you fighting,” she said.  “You’re twins.  You should be close.  All of you should- Killian and Luke, too.”
 
Maybe if we’d have had a regular childhood, we would have all been close.  That’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t.  Instead, I said, “Have you talked to Luke and Killian?”
 
She turned around, her back against the counter, her tone defensive.  “Luke comes into town every now and again,” she said.  “Smoke jumpers travel a lot, you know.  He’d like to be here more, but he can’t.  Sends me postcards though.”
 
I was sure that Luke’s job wasn't the only thing keeping him far away from West Bend.
 
“And Killian,” she said.  “He’s traveling, too.  Out on the oil rigs.  Don’t hear from him much, every few months or so.  Of course, that’s because he’s out of contact for long stretches of time.  But he says he likes it.”
 
"Look, mom,"  I said.  "I want you to be okay, money-wise.  I want to look at whatever they're offering you."
 
She turned back toward the counter, waved me away with her hand.  "Later, Elias," she said.  "Not right now.  I already feel a headache coming on."
 
I sighed.  I wouldn't be getting anywhere with her, not on this topic.  I'd have to see what Silas had to say about it. If anything.
 
"One more thing, mom," I said.  "I ran into Jed Easton in town today."
 
She stopped mid-motion, her mixing spoon in her hand, but didn't turn around.  "Oh?"
 
"He said I should give you his father's regards," I said.  "What the hell was he talking about?"
 
She was silent, still for a moment.  "I have no idea," she said, her voice strained.
 
"You have no idea why Jed's father, the town mayor, would be giving you his regards?"  I asked.  "You don't know what the hell he wants with you?"
 
She shook her head.  "You need to stay out of business that doesn't concern you, Elias," she said, her voice dark.  It was the first time I'd ever heard my mother speak directly about something like that in my life.  It wasn't her way.
 
Now I was interested.
 
I also knew when to leave things alone.  So I wasn't going to push it.
 
Then she surprised me again.  "I think you should leave now," she said.
 
I rode away from the bed and breakfast and the ranch house, letting the mare guide me more than I guided her.  I figured she knew this place better than I did, knew the rolling hills and the meadows out here, the groves of aspen trees that clustered like little oases in the desert.  Except that this was the opposite of desert, all lush and green, even in late summer.  It was as far removed from Hollywood as you could get, from the smog and dust of Los Angeles.
 
Riding out here like this, I couldn’t understand why Elias would hate to come back here.  But I guess it was the same kind of relationship I had with my hometown.
 
Out here by myself, I could see how someone might never want to leave.  Like June and her husband.  It was idyllic.  This was the kind of place I could feel like was a home.
 
Home wasn’t something I had felt in a long time, maybe ever.
 
I pulled the saddle and the blankets from the back of the mare and brushed her down.  As I left the barn, Cade was walking toward me.  “How was the ride?” he asked.
 
“Great,” I said.  “I've never ridden anywhere like this.”
 
Cade nodded.  “Yep.  West Bend isn’t like any other place.”
 
“No,” I agreed.  “I can see why it’s special, for sure.  It’s gorgeous out here.”
 
“What I said earlier, about the Saint brothers -” Cade started.
 
“It’s okay,” I said.  “June explained.  It’s complicated.”
 
“Nah,” he said.  “Not that complicated.  I was out of line.  June called my ass on it, said I was being too protective.  Don’t tell her I said she was right, but she was.  What all happened was a long time ago, and the other brothers, they were only kids.  I spoke out of turn, not knowing anything about Elias.”
 
“June is your family,” I said.  “Makes sense, you protecting her like that.”
 
Cade nodded toward the ranch house.  “June’s inside putting little Stan down to sleep,” he said.  “You want to come up for a beer?  I know she’d love to have you over.”
 
“Sure,”  I said.  "Just let me get cleaned up and I'll be over in a few."
 
After I'd showered and changed, I walked over to Cade and June's place.  The sun was low on the horizon by the time I walked over, the sky all lit up like a watercolor painting, all pinks and purples and reds.  I breathed in deeply, the smell of the evening air like a soothing balm.
 
“June won’t say so, but she’s the biggest fan of yours,” Cade said.  “She’s pretty much tickled shitty that you’re staying here.  I mean, I don’t watch your movies - no offense.”
 
I laughed.  “None taken,” I said.  “I haven’t exactly branched out beyond chick flicks.”  I paused for a moment, trying to consider how to say what I wanted to say.  “I’m here on the down low, though - you understand that, right?”
 
Cade opened the front door to the house and motioned me inside.  “Yeah, I gathered that,” he said.  “You’re not the first person I’ve hid in West Bend.”
 
He opened the refrigerator and withdrew a beer, popping the top and handing it to me.  “Local brew,” he said.
 
I took a sip.  “It’s nice.  So you’ve hid other celebs out here?  You and June running some celebrity witness protection program?”
 
Cade smiled, but the expression was drawn.  “That would be something, huh?  No, just have some experience with helping people lay low, that’s all.”
 
“I appreciate it,” I said.  “I won’t be here too long anyway.  I imagine it’s not going to take all that long for someone to figure out how I’m here, all on their own.”
 
Cade nodded, taking a drag on his beer.  “You checked the internet or anything?” he asked.
 
I shook my head.  “I was avoiding it.  Why?”
 
“June said it’s on the web.”  He rolled his eyes.  “I don’t pay attention to all that gossip shit, but she checked it today, said she wanted to make sure no one was pointing to you being out here.  Said you were in a rough spot.”
 
I laughed.  “Yeah, that’s one way of putting it.  I walked in on the fiancé and my sister going at it.”
 
“I can take him out if you want,” Cade said.  He paused.  “Just kidding.  Sniper joke, sorry.”
 
“You were a sniper?”
 
“Marines, yeah,” he said.  “A long time ago.”
 
“Elias was in the Navy,” I said.
 
Cade nodded.  “Explains the leg,” he said.  That was the extent of what he said out loud, but I could tell his mind was churning.  It was written all over his face.  I wanted to know what he was thinking about Elias, but I didn’t ask.
 
“You know, I’m actually not mad about it,” I said, leaning against the kitchen counter.
 
“About what?”
 
“Viper and my sister,” I said.  “I was, when it happened, but I’m actually not upset about it now.  Is that weird?”
 
“Shit,” Cade said.  “I say, f**k ‘em.  But I’m the last person to tell you what’s normal f**king behavior.”
 
“What’s this about f**king behavior?” June asked, sliding her arms around Cade’s chest, as much as she could with her belly in between them.  “How was your ride, River?”
 
“It was great,” I said.  “Haven’t been on a horse in a long time.”
 
“I was just telling River that I’m not the person to ask about normal behavior,” Cade said.
 
June laughed.  “He’s really not,” she said.  “Is there ice cream in the freezer?”
 
“Brought it home,” Cade said.  He rolled his eyes.  “Speaking of normal behavior.  You’re like a page out of a pregnancy manual.”
 
“I know,” June said, putting a spoon in the carton of ice cream and bringing it to her mouth before she stopped, eyes wide.  “Oh.  Did anyone else want any?”
 
I laughed.  “I’m okay with the beer.”
 
“This is my beer replacement,” she said.  “Want to take this out on the porch?  If we wake little Stan, it’s going to take forever for him to get back down, and I just don’t think I can handle another round of putting the toddler down for bed.”
 
“If there’s any question of who wears the pants in this family, it’s Stan,” Cade said.  “He’s like a mini dictator.”
 
Outside, we sat in the cool evening air.
 
“I was just telling River that you’re practically stalking her,” Cade said, grinning at June.
 
“What?”  June leaned forward in her rocking chair and slapped his leg.  “You did not.  I am not stalking you!”
 
I laughed.  “It’s okay,” I said.  “As long as you don’t boil a bunny or something, leave it on my stove.”
 
“I didn’t tell her you were stalking her,” Cade said, turning toward me and dramatically mouthing the words, “completely stalking you,” while June slapped him again on the arm.
 
“Stop,” she said.  “She’s actually going to think that.  He was crawling up my ass because I looked you up on one of the gossip sites, and I really felt bad about it.  But in my defense, I just wanted to see if anyone was talking about where you were.”   She glared at Cade.  “For research purposes only.  That’s it.”
 
“Was anyone talking about it?” I asked.  I was suddenly nervous.
 
"Well, they're talking about it now," June said.
 
"June," Cade's voice sounded like a warning.
 
"No," I said.  "I want to hear it, whatever it is."
 
"It's all just talk," June said.  "Stupid stuff."
 
"They saw Elias," I said.
 
"There's video of you with him at a hotel in Vegas," June said.  "Driving off in his car."
 
My heart sank.  I had basically pushed a giant pause button on my life, running out here, and I wasn’t ready for it to start up again.  I didn’t want reality intruding on this.
 
Not yet, anyway.
 
I wasn't even sure exactly why.  But I knew there was something about being here in this place that made me want to just stay like this for a while.  Even if I knew that was unrealistic.
 
"So you're going to have some people show up here," Cade said.  "Probably soon."
 
"When was the video posted?" I asked.
 
"It looked like it was this morning," June said.
 
"Okay," I said.  "I knew it was coming."
 
"A bunch of tabloid reporters and bullshit," Cade said.  "Anyone shows up, we can keep them away from the house."
 
I sighed.  "Thanks for the offer," I said.  "But they can be really obnoxious.  And you've got a kid."
 
Cade cleared his throat.  "When I said we could keep them away, it wasn't a suggestion.  That's what the hell is going to happen.  This here's not public property."
 
June shrugged her shoulders.  "He's real stubborn like that, River."
 
I nodded.  "Okay, then."
 
"There is one more thing..." June's voice trailed off.
 
Cade rolled his eyes.  "Junebug," he said.  "She doesn't need to see that shit."
 
"I'd want to see it," June said.  "If I were her.  Just so I had all the information in case I was making any decisions."
 
"I'm going on the record as saying this isn't a good idea," Cade said.
 
"Just grab the laptop for me," June said.  After he went inside, she turned to me.  "There is something you should see.  When I searched today, it was all over the place."
 
Cade returned, laptop open in his hands, and gave it to June.  He shook his head.  "I'll let you be the one to decide before I throw in my two cents," he said.
 
June fiddled with something on the screen, then turned the screen to me.  "Here," she said.
 
I watched as Viper appeared on screen, sitting on a sofa in our house.  My ex-house.  He had a new guitar in his lap.  I'd smashed his old one.  "This song is dedicated to my fiancé, River.  I know you're out there listening, and I just want to say..."  I stared, numb, as I listened to him launch into song.  "Baby, I'm so lost without you here..."
 
When his musical apology was finished, I shut the computer and handed it back to June before I sat down.  "Huh," I said.
 
June and Cade shared a look, then seemed to each be studying the floor of the porch.
 
"Well, that was something."  I barely got the words out before I was overcome by a fit of giggles.
 
Cade and June didn't say anything, just stared at me, and I paused long enough to say,  "I can't believe I was going to marry that f**king douchebag."
 
Cade grinned.  "See, Junebug?" he asked.  "I knew she wasn't going to fall for that bullshit.  That was a stupid ass song, too.  Shit, the part about the hole in his heart?"  He screwed up his face in disgust.  "I don't even have words for it."
 
"She still needed to see it," June said, smiling.  "It was really bad, though.  The part where he said he could see into your soul and he knew your soul wanted to be with his?"
 
I howled with laughter.  "That's embarrassing."
 
"For him," June said.
 
"For me, too.  What was I thinking?" I asked, more to myself than to them.  "I was going to actually marry that guy."
 
Cade grimaced.  "Screwing your sister aside," he said, shaking his head.  "Any guy who writes a song that lame should just be taken out and shot."
 
"He's a huge star," I said, my voice soft.  I felt numb, detached from everything.  I shook my head.  "I don't know why I didn't see what a douche he was before.  Nothing's really changed.  He's always been like this."
 
"Sometimes it's hard to see what's right in front of your nose," Cade said.  He reached over and grabbed June's hand, and she patted it, smiling as she looked at him.
 
The sound of a car engine and the crunch of gravel cut through the evening air, and I saw a car pull into the driveway of the bed and breakfast.  It might have been early evening, but I could still see whose car it was, plain as day.  And who was stepping out of the car.
 
I heard June's voice, soft, like it was meant only for Cade.  "Speaking of seeing what's under your nose..."
 
I walked over to the bed and breakfast.  Elias had stood there for a minute on the front porch, probably thinking I was still pissed off at him and just not answering, before he noticed me coming across the lawn.
 
"Hey," he called.
 
"I didn't expect to see you here," I said.  I crossed my arms over my chest.  Even if he was looking sexy, standing there in a pair of tattered jeans and this t-shirt that made his blue eyes look even bluer, he'd still been a jackass earlier.
 
"I f**ked up," he said.  "Snapping at you, saying it was none of your business.  I was being a shithead."
 
"No kidding," I said, but I felt my resolve softening.  Especially now that I knew why he'd been so touchy about his past.  I could understand that kind of thing.  "You want to come inside?"
 
"Nope," he said, crossing my arms over my chest.
 
"Okay, then," I said, taken aback.  I guess he was still being a shithead.
 
"Came to see if I could take you out."
 
"Like on a date?"
 
"Yep," he said.
 
"I don't know."  I was wary, thinking about the possibility of being noticed out in town.  "I don't think it's a good idea.  The tabloids, they've got video of you and me at the hotel in Vegas.  I'm sure they're tracking me down even as we speak."
 
Elias nodded.  "I already thought of that," he said.  "Come with me.  I want to show you something."