I never thought I would find her again. Eighteen years. No, I reminded myself. Longer than that. Closer to nineteen now. I’d looked. Not in a thorough way. I could have. I knew I could have found her again. At one time I’d had the resources for it. But, I’d never abuse the chance at a new life I’d been given.
So I hadn’t looked as hard as I could have. Then, I saw that boy standing in the parking lot of that rest area last night. For just a moment, I thought he was the perfect blend of both of us. But, no, it couldn’t be. The girl I had loved so desperately wouldn’t have kept something like that from me. No matter what she thought of me.
“Seriously, Icarus, I don’t think this is a good idea,” Bull said from his bike next to mine in the parking lot of the grocery store where we had stopped.
He was probably right, and yet, I couldn’t just give it up. “He looks so much like her, Bull. I just don’t see how-”
“Then, ask him. But, you don’t need to go looking for her. I saw how she destroyed you the last time. Don’t forget, I knew you when you were still Grady Hartson.”
I flinched at the name I hadn’t used in more than five years. “And your dad kept me from staying on the path that would have led me to sitting in a cell for most of my life. I owe him a lot, but I can’t give him this anymore.”
“He never would have asked you to give up on love. You did that yourself.”
“But, he warned me a woman who left me that broken would only lead me to stray to that path again. I couldn’t let him down like that.”
“You’re an idiot, Icarus, but you know I’d follow you anywhere you go. So, let’s get this done.”
I turned to the man on the other side of me. “You got that address, Hawk?”
“Yep, Cap’n,” he said, handing me the slip of paper. We’d headed out right after I saw Trace go up to his room the night before. And we’d ridden hard to get here so soon. Thankfully we hadn’t hit any patrols. I wasn’t looked too kindly on by cops these days. Happens when you testify against one, even when they’re dirty.
We drove past the address the first time. Not because it was easy to miss, but so we wouldn’t draw attention. Then, leaving Hawk with the bikes, Bull and I walked back toward the house. It was still early, the sun just barely rising over the horizon. But, we could see well enough. And could certainly hear.
A crashing sound came from inside the house. My body tensed, but Bull put a hand on my shoulder to hold me back. “Reconnaissance, remember.”
I nodded. I did remember, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. Then, the yelling started. “You call that boy and tell him to get his ass back here right this minute. I won’t stand for this. I’m going to show him-”
“No, Henry, please don’t.” Her voice was quiet and trembling. But, it was one I would never forget.
“Cassie,” I murmured.
“It is her?” Bull asked. He hadn’t known her, had only seen the aftermath of her leaving.
“Almost positive,” I said. I only needed to see her.
“This is my house, and you will not tell me how to discipline those who live in it.”
My stomach turned at his words. They were so similar to ones I’d heard growing up. Had Trace been raised with them bouncing around in his head as well? A sheriff’s car was parked in the driveway, and he had said his stepdad was a deputy. Everything was falling into place.
The boy I’d taken in the night before was my son.
I heard a sharp cry, and I couldn’t just stand there any longer. But, even as I started forward, Bull hauled me back. “You can’t go in there. My dad doesn’t have the pull any longer to keep a murder charge off your head.”
He was right, but how could I just stand by when I knew what was happening in there? Then, a man strode right out the door, dressed in the tan shirt and dark slacks of the sheriff’s department. Everything inside me curdled at the sight of him. Then, someone else stepped into the doorway. “Cassie.” Every muscle in my body bunched, ready to go to her. Again, Bull held me back. But, I knew the moment her gaze collided with mine. Her eyes went wide then she turned and slammed the door.
Everything inside me broke, and I turned away from Bull. “We need to get back,” I said.
“She looked frightened,” Bull said as we started to walk back toward the bikes.
“Yeah, but of me or him?”
“No matter what people think, you’re not a scary guy, Icarus.”
I stopped halfway to the bikes. “I can’t just leave her with him. He hurts her. Bull, I can’t-”
“You can’t just take her away either. Not if she doesn’t want to go. Maybe you can get Trace to talk to her.”
I turned to him. “So, you see it too?”
He smiled. “I saw it from the minute we spotted that boy staring at us. Now, let’s go back so you can have a long overdue talk with your son.”