Take Me On (Page 45)

Take Me On (Pushing the Limits #4)(45)
Author: Katie McGarry

My eyes jump to his at the word son and a dangerous glimmer of hope flickers inside me. Is it possible he regrets throwing me out? But if that’s the case, how come he never showed? How come he didn’t ask me to return home?

“Your mom tried to call you,” he says.

“My cell died.”

“I figured.” He scratches his jaw. “You haven’t answered me. Why were you in the Timberland neighborhood? Why not with one of your friends or my parents?”

“Dump’s in that side of town. Just going where you told me I belonged.” I’m pushing him. We’ve been tearing at each other for so long we have no idea how to stop. At least I don’t.

“Why, West?” he presses. “I need to know, why there?”

“Why does it matter?” Does Dad know Mom’s been going to that bar?

“Answer the question. Why do you make everything difficult?”

“If I do, it’s because I learned from the best.”

“Just answer the question.” His voice rises with his anger.

I stay there because it’s close to Haley, but I don’t want her anywhere near a conversation with Dad. “It doesn’t matter why.”

His fist clenches. “My father once told me you can love your children, but you don’t have to like them. I never understood him. I thought his words were cold and callous, but then I realized I don’t always like you.”

Fuck it. I stand, memorizing what I’ll tell Mom because I refuse to live under his thumb. Not after holding Haley last night. Not after figuring out my life’s jacked up. I’ll take the damn shelter. Living in the damned car wasn’t as bad as listening to this.

“I was in the Timberland neighborhood because I got a job,” I say. “That pays. Tell Mom I’ll call her once a week.”

The surprise registering in his eyes causes me to smirk. He honestly thought I’d return home with my balls cut off and he sure as hell didn’t think I’d be willing to walk again.

“A job?” he asks.

“Yeah. I don’t need you anymore.”

The moment I step for the door he says, “Your mother’s been through hell. Are you willing to put her through more?”

Fuck him for using guilt. “No, I’m not.”

“Then come home for her.”

A knife straight to my gut. Come home for Mom, not for him because he could give two shits about me. Regardless of how much I tell myself I don’t care what he thinks of me, I do. I’ll never hear him say he wants me or that he’s proud of me, yet whenever he opens his mouth, I hope for the words.

“What are your terms?” I won’t fool myself that this is anything more than a business negotiation. Haley’s words echo in my mind: Are we different from animals on an auction block?

“I’ll give you until graduation to clean up your act, your grades, your life, your attitude, and if you do, I’ll let you stay in my house. Otherwise, I want you out this summer. Who knows, maybe you can find a way to make me proud.”

“Yeah,” I mutter as I leave. “You never know.”

Chapter 33

Haley

It’s eight at night and West is late.

I untangle the last jump rope and loop it neatly with the others on the hook on the wall. Two million explanations as to why he hasn’t shown yet have deluged my mind, but it’s the reasons that cause my heart to ache that stick around to torture me. Nibbling on my bottom lip, I scan the gym to find something else to fiddle with to pass the time.

“Prince Charming chip a nail and decide the sport wasn’t for him?” My grandfather turns off the light to his office. “Tells you a lot about a man’s integrity for him to show late.”

“I’m sure he has a good reason.”

“Humph.”

“He’ll show.” He will. Though doubt tiptoes in my mind like a linebacker through tulips. After the intense night we shared together, I sort of freaked and blew him off this morning. My eyes drift over to the clock again. As much as each tick of the second hand causes a painful sinking of my heart, in theory, isn’t this what I wanted? West to walk away?

The door opens, cold air rushes into the gym and the groan of a tractor trailer rumbling down into a lower gear from the freeway enters alongside West. My muscles actually relax at the sight of him, like I stepped into a hot bath. Until this moment, I hadn’t realized how much I had come to depend on him keeping his word.

With his baseball cap on backward, heavy jacket and gym bag thrown over his shoulder, West smiles when he spots me. My answering grin actually makes me feel like I’m floating, but then I notice his blue eyes. There’s no light shining from them. Just a bland dimness and the high within me plummets.

John mumbles something to West as he leaves. West nods his head and says, “Will do.”

I sit on the mat and roll out my yellow wraps, pretending I’m not dying to know why he’s not on time. “What did John say?”

“He told me to make sure you got home safely.”

“Hmm.” I have nothing intelligible to say to that.

West plops down beside me, unzips his bag and pulls out his set of wraps. “Sorry I’m late.”

“Why were you?” Hey, he brought it up.

He smirks with a muffled snort. “You don’t let anything slide, do you?”

“Answer the question.” Because while I hate to admit it, John’s right. Being late is an integrity issue and it’s one I plan on nipping in the bud now.

West pulls his cap off and scratches the top of his head. His blond hair sticks out in a hot crazy mess. He shoves his hat into the bag, then stares at the ground. “I saw my parents.”

My eyes flash to him, but he doesn’t meet my gaze. “Where? How? What happened?”

“At the hospital. I visited my sister and they were there.”

He pauses and I have no idea if I should fill the silent gap. Time passes. Enough I’m uncomfortable. “Is she okay?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know.” He shakes his head and the shadow of pain darkening his face physically hurts me. “She’s out of the ICU and in a normal room, but she looks like hell and her legs…”

Because both of his hands are untangling his wraps with the fury of a sailor untying knots on lines during a storm, I place my hand on his thigh, on the spot above his knee. “I’m sorry.”

West drops his wraps and places his hand over mine. He doesn’t respond. He doesn’t squeeze my hand. He just holds on.