Last time, we left Icarus going to talk to Chief and Bull about what happened in town. Today, we pick up the next morning.
Icarus stood in the hallway, leaning back against the wall. Cassie hadn’t said a whole lot the night before when he’d finally found her again. He wasn’t sure if she was upset he’d left her as soon as they’d gotten back to the clubhouse and hadn’t been able to find her until close to dinner. But, he hadn’t really had too much choice in the matter.
Sure, he could have waited to tell Chief about the run-in with Henry. But, he figured it was better they knew right away. No point in putting it off.
Maybe the shock of the run-in had finally worn off, and the reality had hit her.
Maybe she did actually want to go back to Henry. He shook that thought right out of his head. She had chosen to come with them. And every day she made the choice to stay. If she’d really wanted to return, any one of them would have driven her back to that house and dropped her off. Well, maybe not Icarus himself. He would let her go, but he didn’t think he could bring himself to be the one to leave her in that hellhole.
But, she’d never asked.
Who knows, maybe her thoughts had nothing to do with Henry or this situation. How was he to know? She hadn’t talked to him at all.
A door a couple rooms down the hallway opened, and a soft giggle escaped with it. “Trace,” Birdie said, almost affectionately exasperated. “Those pigs are going to eat all the breakfast if we don’t go down there now.”
He heard murmuring from inside the room but couldn’t make out any words that his son said. He shifted from one foot to the other, considering heading for the stairs right now, before either of them saw him. He was aware that they shared a room most nights; either Birdie’s or Trace’s. But, knowing his son and the girl he’d raised as a daughter from a few months old shared a bed and seeing the evidence of it were two far different circumstances.
Too late. Birdie’s gaze caught him, and her eyes danced. “Hi, Dad,” she said, nearly grinning. “You waiting for one of us?”
“Nope,” he said, feeling his cheeks pull up in a smile. She was definitely full of something this morning.
Her gaze darted toward Cassie’s door then back to him. And her grin widened. “Got you.” At least she didn’t seem to hate Cassie anymore. They hadn’t exactly gotten off to the best start. “We’re just heading down to breakfast. If there’s any left,” she threw back to Trace who was hesitating in the doorway.
“Uh, Dad,” he greeted Icarus. Apparently not nearly as comfortable as Birdie with being caught coming out of the same room when both were obviously just out of bed. “Morning.”
“Less talking, more eating,” Birdie said, and finally Trace laughed, following her to the stairs.
Cassie’s door finally creaked open after they’d disappeared downstairs. She stepped out and spotted him right away. Color rose to her cheeks, and his grin softened to a smile. “Why are you waiting for me?” she asked. “Usually you’re already down at breakfast.”
Had she been trying to avoid him. He certainly hoped not. Had he given her cause to try to? Again, he certainly hoped not. “I wanted a chance to speak to you. After yesterday, I was hoping everything was okay.”
“Everything’s fine, Grady,” she said, but she wouldn’t quite meet his eyes. “I was just tired last night. I didn’t feel like staying down with everyone else.”
He reached out and cupped her chin, bringing her face up toward his. “Are you sure that’s all?” he asked. “If there’s anything-”
“Stop,” she said quietly. “I’m fine. A little shaken up, but I’ll survive. You should probably go down to breakfast. See if anyone needs you today.”
Okay, there was a bit of a sharp bite to that. But, he did have responsibilities here. He couldn’t really help that. He brushed his lips over hers then pulled back. “Are you coming down, too?”
“Maybe in a little bit. I’m not hungry right now.”
She also didn’t look like she’d slept well. But, he doubted she’d take kindly to him saying so. Instead he just said, “We’ll talk later, okay?”
She nodded then crossed the hall to the bathroom. Right. She usually did take a shower before coming down to join them. He should know her routine by now. She wasn’t the only one still a little shaken from the encounter yesterday he supposed.
He found a fairly normal scene down in the large dining room. People talking, laughing, some kissing. His gaze skipped from Trace and Birdie to where Hawk and Devil sat hip to hip. Hawk’s face was all healed up from his ordeal with the Ivory Crows. Icarus knew his ribs still ached, though. In fact he saw a slight cringe as he moved a little too fast to meet Devil’s mouth. That didn’t stop the two of them, though, and Icarus couldn’t hold back a smile at the sight. After everything they’d been through, they deserved this bit of joy.
After grabbing a plate of food from the buffet, he moved to an empty chair, his empty chair, and was grateful to find the newspaper folded up in front of it. He imagined he had Birdie to thank for that, though she hadn’t gotten down here all that much sooner than him.
He took a sip of coffee before unfolding the paper. But, he froze with a forkful of pancake dripping syrup over his plate. All the joy he’d felt at seeing the people he cared about together fled in a single instant.
A photo of Cassie and Trace stared back at him. It had to have been taken a couple years earlier. Trace didn’t look much more than sixteen, softer than he was now, but there was already fear in his eyes. Even with the grainy image, he could see it. He scanned the article running beside it and everything inside him curdled.
“Kidnapped,” he read aloud and sensed everything around him come to a crashing stop. “Wife and son of decorated Olin County deputy sheriff, Henry Kearns were abducted from their home early last summer. Under threat of their death, he didn’t report the abduction until now. After spotting his wife, Cassandra, the daughter of the late sheriff Scott Vallis, with the man who allegedly abducted her, he knew he had to take action.”
Icarus could not read anymore. His mouth was too dry to even speak. Trace’s wasn’t, though, apparently. “What utter horseshit,” he spit out. “I left there on my own, before I ever even met any of you, and he damn well knows that. Mom left of her own free will, too. And you’ve never threatened any of us. How dare he say any of this.”
“It doesn’t matter that it’s not true,” Arrow said from the other end of the table. “He’s said it, and it’s out there. People will believe him because of his position. It doesn’t matter,” he said again.
Icarus knew what the kid said was true. But, he couldn’t let this happen. He was not going to let that man take his family away from him. Not this time. Not again.
He didn’t realize he had the newspaper balled in his fist until Bull pried it out of his fingers. When Icarus looked up, Cassie stood in the doorway, a stricken look on her face. All his anger spilled over, and he shoved back from the table. He turned and stormed into the kitchen, taking the door in there to go outside. He needed to get away before he did something that would have scared her even more.
He just needed to calm down, before this fire raging through him destroyed everything in his path. It had been nearly eighteen years since he’d felt like this. Since Eric Parnell had plucked him from the dark path he’d started down after Cassie was taken from him.
He couldn’t let himself start down it again. No matter what it took. And if Henry ever got his hands on what was his again, Icarus was afraid that’s exactly what would happen.
What will happen now? What else will Henry do? What will happen between Cassie and Icarus now?