Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(47) by Susan Mallery
“Have you changed much?”
She shook her head. “My hair is shorter. I used to wear it nearly to my waist. But that’s the only real difference. Well, I’m older, but let’s not talk about that.”
She opened the passenger door and stepped into the parking lot. No strange young men lurked there, so she followed Walker inside.
There was a tall, nice-looking teenager in the foyer. Elissa smiled absently at him, then turned away. It was only his gasp of surprise that had her looking back at him.
“Bobby?” she asked, unable to believe this tall, broad-shouldered kid was her skinny little brother.
“Hey, Elissa.” He tried to smile, but couldn’t quite make it happen. “How are you?”
“Shocked. Wow—you’re so grown-up.”
His eyes were the same, she thought in amazement. So was his mouth. But his hair was darker and longer, and he was so big. Suddenly she was grateful to have Walker along.
She didn’t know if she should hug him or shake hands. Neither seemed right so she settled for introducing Walker.
Bobby’s eyes widened. “I never thought you’d get married.”
“What? No. We’re just friends. Walker’s here for moral support.”
Just then the hostess walked up and asked if they would like a table. Elissa asked for a quiet one and they were led to a booth in the back. She slid in first, then Walker sat next to her. Bobby was across from them.
The waitress appeared promptly. Bobby got a soda, while she and Walker asked for coffee. When they were alone, Elissa leaned toward her baby brother and studied his face.
“You look so different,” she said.
“You don’t,” he told her. “Just prettier.”
He shrugged. “I mean it. I’ve wondered about you. Ever since you called, I couldn’t stop thinking about you and wondering how you are. I c-couldn’t…”
Elissa was stunned when his voice cracked and tears filled his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Elissa, I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I was just so mad. When you left…”
“You didn’t hurt me,” she said, not sure why he was so upset. “I’m the one who ran away.”
“I know…It’s just…” He gulped the glass of water the waitress had left. “You know how they always were. With me, I mean.”
She nodded, feeling more confused than anything else. “They loved both of us, Bobby. You had the added advantages of being the boy and being hard-won, but I know they cared about me.”
At least, they had. Before she’d run off and they’d turned their backs on her.
Once again she wondered—would it have made a difference if they’d known she was pregnant? Would they have reconsidered? She was torn between wanting to understand their position and her anger at parents who would leave a child alone on the streets.
“They did care,” he said earnestly. “I swear, Elissa. When you ran off, they went crazy. Mom cried for weeks. We put up flyers and offered a reward.”
She winced. This shouldn’t surprise her, yet it did and she felt more than a little guilty for what she’d put them through.
“I didn’t know.”
“It was bad,” he said. “Dad wouldn’t talk and Mom kind of lost it. She went away for a rest. I don’t know what really happened. When she came back, everything was different.”
Went away? Meaning what? A breakdown? Elissa didn’t know what to think.
“If they were that upset, why didn’t they want to talk to me when I called?”
“It wasn’t like that. Oh, God…” Bobby brushed his hands over his eyes and stared at her. “Elissa, I’m the one. It’s my fault. I never told them you called. When I said I’d talk to them, I lied. I didn’t say anything. I’m sorry,” he added quickly. “I was mad because it was like I didn’t exist anymore. I hated you for what you’d done. But later, I kept thinking about you, all alone, and how you’d wanted to come home and I was the reason you hadn’t.”
Tears poured down his cheeks now. Elissa didn’t know what to think. He hadn’t ever spoken to her parents? They hadn’t known she called? Maybe, just maybe, they hadn’t rejected her.
She felt as if the world had shifted on its axis. All these years she’d alternated between hating her parents and vowing she would show them that she was more than capable, that she had never needed them for anything. All the struggling. Living in the halfway house while getting bigger and bigger with Zoe. Barely making it year after year.
Rage filled her, chilling her body and making it impossible to accept or forgive.
“I was pregnant,” she said flatly. “When I called about coming home, I was pregnant, alone, broke and terrified.”
Bobby dropped his head and began to sob. “Elissa, I’m s-sorry.”
Sorry? He’d changed her life forever and he was sorry? She wanted him punished. She wanted him thrown out and forced to survive the way she had. She wanted blood and…
Walker took her hand in his and squeezed her fingers. “How old was he?” he asked.
Four words. Four simple words that put her world back in place and allowed reason to filter into her brain.
“Thirteen,” she said quietly. “Just thirteen.”
Thirteen and angry and stupid, she thought as Bobby continued to cry. An angry, stupid boy who had also had massive changes in his life.
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