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The Heathen (Preacher Brothers #2)
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Preacher Brothers. That’s what we were. A unit. The only family I had. I’d never felt love, never felt like I belonged.
I buried what emotions I had lingering deep down, pushed them away until I was this stoic, apathetic machine. It’s how I survived, how I kept my brothers safe. It’s how I showed them I cared, that I wasn’t a machine, a monster.
My history was one of violence, neglected by a parent who only wanted to train his sons to steal, to take from others.
It’s all we knew, so that’s how we continued to live long after the old man died and we were left to make our own lives.
That’s what I was, and I reveled in it.
I’d been such a recluse, taking care of my brothers as they grew up, making sure we had money, food to live. I never wanted or needed a woman… never even knew what it was like to touch, kiss… claim a female.
And that had been fine with me. Until now. Until she came into my life and refused to back down. Until I knew walking away from her would leave a hole in my heart.
But I wasn’t a good man, and Kimber deserved better. I should have left. But I couldn’t.
And I knew one thing for certain… not making her mine would only guarantee my complete ruin.
She was my downfall in the best of ways.
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I knew Dom’s woman had just come in, had heard the door open and shut. I didn’t give a fuck. She could hear this. She needed to hear this.
I didn’t even pretend to act like I wasn’t crazy. We all were. It was how we were raised, how we were molded.
It’s how we fucking survived.
The four of us were standing around the island in the kitchen, the heat and testosterone amped up. I leaned against the stove with my arms crossed, the ball cap I wore pulled down low, mainly because I didn’t want my grumpy-ass attitude to be obvious on my face. I slowly lifted my head and looked over at Amelia. Could practically see her shiver in response to my stare.
I didn’t like her, but it wasn’t because of who or how she portrayed herself, but because she’d been the first person to shake up our family.
She was taking my brother away from me, from us and our family. I might be solitary, be a creature of habit and live by my own rules, but fuck, Amelia had turned everything around, and I didn’t know how to process it.
“You can do whatever the fuck you want to do, Cullen, but it’s bullshit and you know it.” I listened to Wilder bitch, his voice clipped, terse, but kept my focus on Amelia, trying to think about what to do, what to say. How the hell should I act now? She was here to stay.
Wilder was angry, but I didn’t give a shit. The twins were dramatic and theatrical.
It didn’t matter that it was clear she wouldn’t turn us in and would keep her mouth shut. It didn’t matter Dom claimed her, loved her probably.
“I have to agree with Dom,” Frankie said, and I clenched my jaw and finally looked over at him. “I think this is just an excuse, because you’re still pissed about not getting your way with the girl.”
“Amelia,” Dom snapped. “Not girl. Amelia. Get it right next time.”
Frankie held up his hands in surrender, and I felt my muscles tense even more.
Yeah. Dom fucking loved her.
“If you want to leave, fine. But own up to why you’re doing it,” Wilder said, and I narrowed my eyes at him, growling low.
I stood there and said nothing, didn’t fucking respond. They could throw their temper tantrums all they wanted. It wouldn’t change the outcome. After a prolonged moment, only then did I exhale and just say what needed to be said. “Let’s make one thing clear.” I had my arms crossed over my chest, my baseball cap still pulled low, the shadow from the bill blocking out the overhead light. “I don’t give a shit that you found a piece of ass, Dom, or that you’re in love, or that you want to get married and have a houseful of kids.” I shrugged and looked at Dominik. “I don’t care if you’ve found your fairy tale happily ever after.”
No one said anything, and I felt Amelia’s gaze locked on me. I was glad she was here to listen to this, to witness it all.
“I need to get out of here, because we’ve been doing job after job. I’m going to the cabin to clear my head. When I know all of us are ready to focus, then we can start up again, yeah?” Although I phrase it like a question, I didn’t expect anyone to actually answer. I looked first at Wilder, then Frankie, and finally Dom.
I cleared my throat, feeling it get tight, my mouth becoming dry. Shit, those emotions I kept buried, I kept good and dead, were trying to make their way up.
There was the sound of shuffling feet, the air becoming hot and thick. My brothers could feel how tense things were.
I made this deep sound in the back of my throat and lowered my gaze to the ground, shaking my head. “I just need to get away, clear my mind.” Without saying anything else or looking at anyone, I left the kitchen, walking past Amelia.
I gripped the handle of the front door and just stood there for a second. All I heard was silence. I looked over my shoulder and gritted my teeth.
Getting away… that’s what I fucking needed.
I should have slowed down, pulled over until the storm subsided, until I could calm down. I felt just as turbulent as the raging weather, as the hail slamming down against my windshield, as electrifying as the lightning cracking through the sky.
I felt like my life was spinning out of control once more, as if I were that little boy unable to stop his father from hitting him, unable to fully protect my brothers.
Dom had found a woman he was happy with, and although she’d been this complication at first, something I knew I had to get rid of to save my brothers, our family, it was fucking clear she was his. He’d die for her.