Last time we left Icarus leaving the clubhouse, angry about what he’d read in the newspaper and worried his temper would scare Cassie. Now, her reaction to what happened.
Cassie stood in the doorway, staring out into the kitchen. The now empty kitchen where she could still see the door swinging. She couldn’t remember ever seeing Grady so angry. Except for that day she’d come to see him. But, he hadn’t exploded like that. She’d seen it simmering in him. Of course, she’d pretty much told him he wasn’t good enough for her. Or at least that he had been good enough for an adventure, but nothing more than that.
None of it had been true. But, she’d been all of not quite seventeen, had just found out she was pregnant, and her father had threatened her with sending Grady to jail if she didn’t find a way to make him leave. She hadn’t wanted that for him, so she’d done as her father ordered. And had lost so many years with a good man because of it. Her father had taken care of everything so she could marry Henry before Trace had been born and be put as the father on his birth certificate. Her only conditions were that they never go after Grady again, and she be able to name the baby without any arguments.
She had named him, but when Henry realized who he’d been named after, he lost it. Trace had only been a week old the first time Henry hit her. Because of his name. He refused to call him Grady, insisted no one call him by that name. If she ever slipped when he was around, she’d paid for it. And the few times Trace had insisted he be called Grady, he’d paid for it as well.
Cassie shook away those old memories and started toward the kitchen. Only to find a large man, the president of the club, standing in her way. “Eric, please,” she said, still not comfortable using their nicknames for each other after nearly a year. “I have to go after him. He’s upset.”
“I know,” he said, his voice surprisingly gentle for such a large man. “There’s a reason he left. He doesn’t want you to see him that way. He doesn’t want to frighten you.”
“He never has,” she said. “Not like that.” No matter what she’d tried to convince herself, and Trace, of over the years. Grady had never been a scary person. Not like Henry. “I can’t let him think-”
“He doesn’t,” the younger Eric Parnell assured her, coming up to stand beside his father. “He knows you, Cassandra.” She flinched at the use of her name. Henry had always used it instead of the shorter version. She’d always liked it when Grady called her his Cassandra, like she was something special. Now, even that was tainted. “He loves you.”
“I love him, too. I can’t let him drown in all that anger. I won’t.”
Eric studied her for a long moment then stepped out of her path, taking his son with him. “I hope you know what you’re doing. Losing you to that man nearly destroyed him once. I don’t want to see it happen again.”
She headed through the kitchen and outside to see Grady pacing in front of the trees, his hands gripping both sides of his head. He looked up, their gazes clashing, and she saw all the anguish in his. Sorrow spilled through her, and she couldn’t do anything but go straight to him. He tried to turn away, but she simply moved with him, until his shoulders slumped and he stood in place.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry, Cassie.”
“No,” she said gripping his arms. “It’s not your fault. Remember that first day I came to find you? After my father finally let me out of the house? You tried to take the blame for my punishment then, and I told you the same. Their actions are not your fault. Not then and certainly not now.”
“I can’t bear the thought of harm coming to you because of me. That’s what it would be. If we hadn’t come to take you away from there-”
“Then, Henry would have kept taking his anger out on me. Every single day, Grady. I don’t know how much longer I could have stood it. You came exactly when I needed you to.” She reached up to caress his face. “Stop taking on the weight of this. I love you, Grady Hartson. And I’m not going to leave you again. Not because of Henry, and not because you think you need to protect me.”
He stared down at her for a second then drew her in to him, burying his face in her hair. “I love you,” he said. “And I’m not going to let anything take you from me. Not Henry and not my own stubborn pride.”
She laughed but stayed right in his arms until the cool breeze made her shiver. Then, with his arm wrapped around her waist, they walked back into the clubhouse.
What will happen now? Will they be able to hang onto this and each other? Or will Henry succeed at coming between them?