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Fate (Steel Brothers Saga #13)
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Bradford Steel never believed in fate…until he met the girl of his dreams.
As sole heir to the Steel ranch and fortune, Brad knows what his future holds. He’ll marry and have children, but he’s not cut out for love. Fate has other plans, though, when he meets college freshman Daphne Wade—an innocent and beautiful young woman who loves sunrises, animals, and the color yellow.
Daphne is on her own for the first time, and she vows to make the most of every minute. Never again will she fall victim to the anxiety and depression that plagued her through high school. Instead, she’ll treasure the joy in even the most mundane and live her life to its fullest. When handsome senior Brad Steel shows an interest in her, she gathers her courage and dives in.
Their relationship moves more quickly than either of them expect, and before long, fate blooms into love. Brad is determined to eliminate all the obstacles in their way and protect Daphne. It’s a promise he’ll ultimately keep…no matter the cost.
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Prison is hell.
I gave up my right to go to a white-collar crime facility so that my accessories could walk. They’d worked hard for me, and they were young. They didn’t deserve incarceration. It was the least I could do.
I always knew I’d end up in prison. My money could only buy freedom until my reasons for hiding ran out.
Once they did, I was ready to go.
Ready to answer for the life I’d led.
Ready to pay.
Yeah, prison is hell.
Not because of the constant inmate fighting. I may be in my sixties, but after a lifetime of watching my back, defending myself, and protecting those I love, I can fend off even the worst of them.
Not because of the disgusting slop masquerading as our meals. I’m used to fine dining, but what is food other than fuel for a body? I can change my thinking, imagine a Steel rib eye in place of the glop they call beef stew.
Not because of the asshole guards. They all know who I am, know I have access to wads of cash. They pretty much leave me alone.
The real hell is the time.
All the fucking time in the world with nothing to do but think.
Think about the life I chose, the roads I traveled, the choices I made. The mistakes—and what they’d cost me.
I chose to fund the Future Lawmakers…and the money they made was used for unthinkable activities.
I chose to marry Daphne…and though I loved her and love her still, my choice harmed so many.
I chose to sleep with Wendy…and though I had my reasons at the time, things between Daphne and me were never the same.
I chose to raise Wendy’s child as mine and Daphne’s, telling no one the truth…and my youngest son will never forgive me.
I chose to leave my children…and though my reason was noble—to protect their mother—they felt abandoned.
I chose to fake my own death—not once but twice—and though my children forgave me the first time, they’ll never forgive me now.
I chose to protect my wife and children at all costs…and now I’m paying the ultimate price.
Time is a formidable enemy. Time to think of the chaos I’d caused.
Time to imagine how everyone’s lives may have been had I acted differently.
Time to create every viable scenario in my mind.
Could I have prevented Wendy’s obsession with me?
What could I have done differently?
Hindsight is twenty-twenty.
But what could I have changed? The outcome might have been far worse had I acted differently.
The past is mine to live with, as it is for my wife and my children.
At least Daphne is safe. All the threats to her have been eliminated, and her children will care for her. She will live out her days comfortably, with her doll for company, in the world she created because she couldn’t exist in the world I gave her.
And I wanted to give her so much! Daphne was fragile, more fragile than I knew when we met and made Jonah. And I loved her. I loved her nearly from the beginning, and I love her still. She was and is my soul mate. If only I could have been worthy of her. I watched my own mother’s abuse by my father, stopped it when I was large and strong enough, but still she suffered the effects. I wanted so much more for Daphne, for our family.
And my children…
Jonah, Talon, Ryan, Marjorie.
They’ve all found happiness, and I’m the grandfather of five so far with another on the way.
I can’t ask for anything more. I don’t deserve to find joy in my children or grandchildren because I denied Daphne the joy in hers. In ours.
Happiness was never in the cards for me. Yes, I had moments here and there—Daphne’s smile, the births of my children, teaching my sons how to work the ranch, my baby girl looking up at me with those big brown eyes and demanding I teach her everything I taught her brothers.
But each moment was only a tiny oasis in the hurricane I constantly sought shelter from.
The hurricane has finally turned to nothing but a cool breeze, but it left so much damage in its wake.
Life was forever altered for each of my children.
My children who, though they bear no responsibility, have suffered endlessly for my sins.
I’d been furloughed for Marjorie’s wedding, and she’d allowed me to walk her down the aisle when she married Bryce Simpson, but she hadn’t forgiven me. She made that clear after the ceremony.
I wanted to give you this, Dad. I wanted to let you walk your only daughter down the aisle. I selfishly wanted it for myself, too. But I’m not ready to let this go yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.
Her brothers were harsher, especially Ryan. I don’t blame him. I lied to him from his birth about his true parentage—only one of my many sins against my children.