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Posts tagged ‘Cassie’

Fiction Friday: Staring at the Sun – Chapter 2

Yes, I made it back with Chapter 2 of Staring at the Sun. Finally. 😉 Working on a new routine for my days, and it’s still a little bit of an adjustment. But, I did get here. And now, here’s the beginning of Chapter 2.

Cassie couldn’t believe she was here kissing Icarus. A year ago she was still sure she’d never even see him again. That it was for the best she hadn’t ended up with him. How had her father and Henry brainwashed her into thinking he was the dangerous one? That had always been Henry. Why hadn’t she seen it before?

She had, she reminded herself. Every time his hand struck her.

Icarus pulled back slightly from her, and she couldn’t help the sound of protest that escaped. He bent his head to press another kiss, this one brief, to her lips. “We should probably get back.” He sounded about as disappointed as she felt.

They should probably do something about that one of these days. Every time she thought she was ready to go to him, she chickened out at the last minute.

She needed to do something about that as well. She wished she had enough courage to do it. For now she slipped her arm through his and walked with him back toward the clubhouse. They didn’t speak any more, but she was fine with that. She didn’t mind walking in silence with him.

When they reached the clubhouse, Trace stood on the porch. His face relaxed when he saw them approaching. “I have to check in with the board,” Icarus said. “We have some decisions to make, but we shouldn’t be long.” He kissed her cheek and left her on the porch to go into the house.

Cassie looked over at her son and smiled, though it froze there when her gaze fell on the tags on his vest. Dive. That’s what they were calling him. She hated thinking about the way he’d earned the name. Or the reason he was good at diving out of the way. She averted her gaze from it and back up to his face.

“I’m guessing Dad told you,” he said. “About Henry.”

She nodded and moved over beside him. “He did.” Her hands trembled as she set them against the railing. “He…what if he comes after us, Trace?”

She realized how ridiculous it sounded as soon as the words left her mouth. She should have been the one to trying to assure him instead of seeking that assurance from him.

“He won’t get us,” Trace said, his voice firm. “You should know this by now. You’ve been here long enough to see the club circles around us when there’s trouble. He won’t get through that to us. Dad won’t let him.”

Icarus had tried to tell her the same thing. She wanted to believe him, both of them. It was hard to trust in something she still didn’t understand.

Trace slid his arm around her shoulders. “We’ll be okay, Mom. I promise you.”

She still wasn’t sure she believed him, but she walked with him into the house. She’d pretend if it made him feel better. She owed him that much at least.

And you can read the rest of the chapter here. Let me know what you think.

Fiction Friday: Staring at the Sun – Chapter 1

I finally got the first chapter of Staring at the Sun up on Wattpad. Ok, finally might not quite be accurate. It didn’t take that long. But, I was worrying I wouldn’t get it done today because our internet was out most of the morning. Not sure why except we did get a lot of rain last night and possibly some thunderstorms. That might have done it(though I swear sometimes a strong wind can knock our connection out). Anyway, here’s the beginning of Icarus & Cassie’s story:

Icarus crossed the yard, and his smile spread as he saw what—who—waited for him up on the porch. There wasn’t anything he could do to restrain it. Nothing he wanted to do. After nearly nineteen years of thinking he’d never even lay eyes on her again, it was good to get to see Cassie every day. Several times a day. He wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Well, nothing, except take away the years they’d spent apart, the years both she and their son had been hurt. He knew even better than most you couldn’t get time back. The only thing to do was move forward. So, that’s what he did.

He stopped with one foot on the bottom step and held his hand out toward her. “Will you walk with me, Cassie?”

Her return smile was soft, sweet, and a little wistful. Did she remember him asking her almost the same thing all those years before? Except back then she climbed on the back of his bike and wrapped her arms tight around his waist. That began their nearly six-month adventure.

Until her father caught up to them and ended everything. If he’d known she carried his child…No, he wasn’t sure there was anything he could have done differently. Her father wouldn’t have let him close enough to do anything differently.

None of that should matter now. She was here with him now. So was their son. Icarus lost eighteen years with them, but he wouldn’t waste another moment.

Cassie took his hand and came down the steps to join him. Unfortunately it would have to be a fairly quick walk. They had a meeting coming up. Icarus hoped it would remain a routine one, going over the club’s old business and anything new that had come up. It was the new business that had him worried. Hopefully the men who were out around town would bring back all good news.

He knew perfectly well he couldn’t count on that.

Things had been quiet for several months. Ever since they’d struck a tenuous truce with the Ivory Crows. He didn’t know how much longer that would last. And if not the Crows, which direction the next threat would come from.

If you want to find out what happens next, you can find the rest of the chapter here, and I should have the next one up next Friday.

Fiction Friday: Staring at the Sun – Cover

I finished posting Dance with the Devil a couple weeks ago. Earlier this week I made up a cover for the next story, Staring at the Sun. This is Icarus’ and Cassie’s story, which I originally posted as this year’s A-Z blog challenge. It takes place just a month or so after Dance with the Devil. It’s the shortest of them, so far, and slightly different. Mostly because instead of writing from single 1st person POV, this one is dual 3rd person. And it ties back into some things that happened in the first book, Into the Sun.

I’ll start posting it to Wattpad next week, but for right now, here’s the cover:

You can look for chapter 1 next week.

WeWriWa: Owed Him

Welcome back to another visit with the Weekend Writing Warriors, the blog hop for anyone who likes to write. Today is my niece’s 14th birthday. Gah! That’s just hard for me to wrap my mind around. She was born my senior year of high school, and I can still remember holding this little thing and watching her as a toddler. So hard to believe she’s 14 now. And tomorrow’s Mother’s Day. Hope all the mothers have a wonderful day and anyone who the day is hard for, take care of yourself.

Anyway, for today I have more from Staring at the Sun. Last week Icarus and Trace were worrying over news they’d gotten and how they’d be able to keep Trace’s mom safe. Now, Trace is trying to assure his mom that they’ll be fine. I got creative with punctuation to make it fit. 😉

“He won’t get us,” Trace said, his voice firm. “You should know this by now. You’ve been here long enough to see that the club circles around us when there’s trouble. He won’t get through that to us; Dad won’t let him.”

Icarus had tried to tell her basically the same thing, and she wanted to believe him, both of them, but it was hard to trust in something she still didn’t completely understand.

Trace slid his arm around her shoulders. “We’ll be okay, Mom, I promise you.”

She still wasn’t sure she believed him, but she walked with him into the house. She’d pretend if it made him feel better. She owed him that much at least.

Who is it they’re so worried about? Will the club be able to keep them safe? Why does Cassie think she owes this to Trace(if you’ve read Into the Sun and Come Back Down, you’ll know that answer).

A to Z: Z is for Zenith

Last time, we left Cassie and Icarus taking Henry down. And the state police showing up. Now, to what happens next for them.

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Cassie held on to Grady as he rounded another curve on his bike. They’d been back at the clubhouse for nearly a week now. She could hardly believe he’d let go of her at all in that time. They hadn’t discussed much of what had happened. Or what was going to happen next. They’d just held onto each other as much as they could.

The police had only held him for a few hours, until they could sort out everthing that had happened. Cassie was sure her statement had gone a long way to getting Grady released as soon as he was. And the reason Henry was still sitting in a cell, despite his connection to the sheriff. Hopefully he would not be getting out for a long while. If ever again.

Jake and Daniel were sitting in another cell as accomplices. She hoped they wouldn’t be getting out, either. But, when they did, they wouldn’t have jobs in the sheriff’s department any longer. She could at least be thankful for that. Whether the sheriff had known what they were doing or not, he couldn’t very well back them and come out looking very good.

She wrapped her arms a little tighter around Icarus. “You okay back there?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Very okay,” she told him.

She caught the edge of his grin before he looked back toward the road. She hung on to him as they took the final turn to the lookout point they’d gone to almost twenty years ago. She had some rather fond memories of the place.

Grady stopped the bike and she slid off from behind him. By the time she’d removed her helmet, he was off the bike and pulling a blanket and small basket of food out of one of the saddlebags. The cook from the clubhouse had put together some sandwiches and things for them. She grabbed the two bottles of water they’d brought along and joined him where he’d laid out the blanket.

When they finished eating, Cassie leaned back against him, covering the hand he had resting on her stomach. “I was going to quit,” he said.

“What?” She tried to turn toward him, but he held her in place.

“I was going to quit the club. Take you, Birdie and Trace if they wanted, and go find somewhere we could all find peace. Would you want me to do that?”

She couldn’t believe he was asking her that. “Why would you do that? That club is so much of who you are. And I’ve seen the good you do for people. Why would you just give that up?”

“That doesn’t mean anything if I constantly have to worry about who’s going to come after you. You’re what matters to me, Cassie.”

“And you matter to me. I love you, Grady. Whether you’re here with the club or we go somewhere else and you find another way to help people. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do, though. Even before. You can’t give up doing that.”

He hugged her a little tighter to him. “I guess we’ll stay then. All I want right now is to spend the rest of my life with you. That sound good?”

Warmth flooded through her, and she couldn’t tone down her smile. “That sounds perfect to me.”

He turned her toward him and took her mouth in a long kiss before laying her down on the blanket. Later, after watching the sun set, she climbed back on the bike behind him, and they headed back for the clubhouse. To their home. She knew this wasn’t the end. But, she was glad to have every moment she could with him. She wasn’t going to take another one for granted.

~~~~~~~~~

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I enjoyed taking you on it. There’s more in store for these characters. I should be starting to put Devil’s story(Dance with the Devil) up on Wattpad soon(you can read the first 2 stories there as well) and am just starting to write Hawk’s. I’m not sure whose will come after that.

A to Z: Y is for Your Love

Last time, we left Icarus ready to go and rescue Cassie. And Chief reminding him of priorities. Today we’re back with Cassie. Will she be able to get away? Read on! We’re almost done.

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Cassie opened her eyes to light streaming through the window Wraith had climbed through the night before. There was no one there now, though, she could feel someone watching from the doorway. Henry, she realized turning her head slightly. Her mouth was dry, and her stomach ached. They hadn’t given her anything to eat or drink since they’d grabbed her. And now her heart sank, knowing Grady still wasn’t here for her.

He was coming. He had to be.

Henry sauntered into the room, and she tried to force her body up into a sitting position. She got herself somewhat braced against the wall, but that was about the best she could do without the use of her hands. “You ready to start begging for that forgiveness yet, Cassandra?”

“I don’t need your forgiveness, Henry. You should be the one asking for it. You took advantage of a scared young girl who found herself pregnant and no way to get in touch with the father. And you held it against me every day. My trust in you, what I thought might be love. You used it to hurt me. And to hurt my son. No, I won’t ever ask you for forgiveness, Henry. And I’ll never give you mine.”

He was in front of her in two strides. His hand shot out and her head bounced off the wall from the slap. “Do not ever speak to me like that again, Cassandra. I beat it out of you once. I’ll do it again. Don’t doubt it.”

“Oh, I never have,” she said, wiping the blood from her mouth on the shoulder of her shirt.

He turned and started to leave the room. But, Cassie heard the roar of engines down the street and propped herself up on her elbows. That had to be Icarus. If it wasn’t, she didn’t know what she’d do. Henry had apparently heard it too. He sent a glare over his shoulder at her. “I’ll take care of that. Once he’s gone, you won’t have any other option but to apologize and accept what I offer you.”

“Never,” she spit at him.

“You’ll see,” he said and started out of the room.

No, she wouldn’t. She knew taking care of it didn’t mean sending Grady on his way. He would never go without her. Not again. Which meant Henry likely planned to kill him or smehow have him arrested. No. She couldn’t let that happen.

Cassie rolled onto her side and twisted her wrist around. She could feel it slicked with blood. The ties had already dug into her skin. And she felt it catch. She couldn’t just give up, though. Grady wouldn’t give up on her. Cassie bit her lip as pain seared through her hands, but then one of them was sliding out. She let the ring fall away from her wrist and and pushed herself up on the mattress.

There wasn’t anything but the mattress in the room. Certainly nothing she could use as a weapon to help Icarus. She’d need to find something once she got out there. Henry had left the door unlocked, apparently thinking there was no way she could get free. She stepped out into the hallway, keeping an eye out for anything she could use. She found a heavy canister near the other end of the hallway. She almost dropped it but managed to hold on as she creeped forward.

“Let her go, Kearns.”

“Grady,” she murmured. That was his voice out on the front steps. He had come for her.

Henry just laughed. “You can’t actually think I’ll let you get your filthy hands on her again. She’s mine now, Hartson. You lost. Get used to it.”

“I haven’t lost anything. You will let her go. We have the state police waiting just down the road. If she doesn’t leave with us, it only takes one call, and they’ll be here to take you in on abduction charges and anything else they can find. I imagine they’re already at your house searching it for the drugs Trace told them about.”

Henry didn’t sound nervous when he laughed again. “Like I’m actually going to believe the state police are going to help a gang of outlaws like you.”

“You should. First we aren’t a gang or outlaws. And Eric Parnell still hs contacts in law enforcement. They believe what he tells them. And they’ll believe Cassie when she tells them you’ve held her against her will. Let her go now, and this won’t go so bad for you.”

“He’s right,” Cassie said, stepping forward. “I’ll tell them exactly what you’ve done to me and to Trace, Henry. I imagine you’d be lucky to make it out of prison. Especially if they knew what you’d done to a boy you raised as your son. Add in that you’re a cop, and I doubt you’d have any friends in prison. ”

Grady’s gaze snapped up to hers, and she could see the relief shine in his eyes. Henry jerked around to face her, his mouth falling open. “What are you doing? Put that damn thing down.”

“I will. If you let me go with him now.”

He laughed, and for the first ime it sounded a bit unhinged. “You can’t actually believe that will happen. I’ll never let you go again.”

The canister trembled in her hand but she raised it up. “I won’t stay. No matter what it takes, I will find a way to get away from you.”

“Get away from her, Kearns,” Grady yelled from just outside the door.

He didn’t though. Cassie swung the canister at him, knocking into his arm just as a shot sounded. She could barely hear Grady’s shout over the deafening echo. But, then he was at her side, holding onto her while still aiming his gun at Henry. Henry knelt on the ground, holding one wrist in his other hand. It seemed to be bent at an angle now.

“You’re all right?” Grady asked.

“I am now,” she said. “Your love had me holding on. I knew you wouldn’t let me go.”

“Never again,” he said, pressing a kiss to her mouth just before two state troopers pushed their way into the house.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So what’s next? Do Cassie and Grady get to live happily ever after? One more scene to go.

A to Z: W is for Wraith

Last time we left Icarus ready to go after some vengeance once he gets Cassie back. Today we’re back with Cassie, and she ends up with a visitor.

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Cassie leaned her head back against the wall, forcing tears back once more. She’d gone along with Jake and Daniel easily enough. Not that she’d call it of her own free will. But, she hadn’t put up a fight. She hadn’t wanted Jake to take it out on Barbie if she’d fought back before they were away from the clubhouse. And as soon as it was out of sight, they’d pulled over, put a cloth around her eyes and tied her hands behind her back with something she figured was only a step away from zip ties. She couldn’t have fought back if she wanted to. And suddenly she had. But, even as she’d tried, one of them had hit her with the side of a fist, if she could guess by the feel of it. It had stunned her long enough for them to climb back into the front and pull onto the road.

She hadn’t even been buckled in, so she bounced around every time they hit a bump. And she swore Jake hit every bump he could as hard as possible. She didn’t have any way to brace herself or even see what was coming. She’d smacked her head on the window several times and the seat in front of her even more often. By the time the car stopped again, her head was throbbing and spinning, and she was sure she was going to be sick.

Neither of the men cared. They yanked her out of the car and shoved her up the walk toward the house. She fell twice, and they just handled her even rougher. Then, they’d left her alone in this room, but they had at least removed the blindfold. She wasn’t sure if she could have taken much more of that. Still she felt like she was going to lose it.

She didn’t have a clue how much time she’d been here. Except night hadn’t quite come yet. Where was Grady? Was he going to come for her? How would he even find her? What had Henry done to him? Told him? What was he going to do to her? When would he get here? Where was she? This wasn’t the house she’d shared with Henry for eighteen years.

All those questions kept circling in her head the longer she was forced to sit here. By the time something happened, she wasn’t sure she’d have any sanity left.

And that was probably their plan.

Cassie gasped as she saw something move in the window. She blinked, sure she had to have imagined it. Maybe this was how losing her mind started. Seeing things that weren’t really there, that couldn’t be there.

But, the face was still there. She blinked again and recognized it. She couldn’t remember his name, but she knew she’d seen him talking to Grady out at the clubhouse. What was it they called him? “Wraith,” she breathed out the name as it came to her.

Then, the window was sliding up, and he somehow made it inside. She didn’t know how. She wasn’t even sure she could have fit through it. “You came,” she said on a sob. “You all came for me.”

He smiled slightly but put a finger over his lips. “Icarus is losing his mind,” he said, his voice barely even a whisper. “There is no way he wouldn’t come for you. But, Hawk and I are only here for surveillance. We had to find where you were before the rest could come. But, they will come. You just have to hold out a little longer.”

“When?”

“Morning most likely. By the time Hawk and I get back and we hammer out a plan. But, we will be back for you.” He went still then pushed to his feet. “Morning,” he said again then nearly slithered out of the window, closing it again behind him.

A light feeling washed through her. She could make it through one night. Then, Grady would be here. He’d take her away from this. She wouldn’t have to suffer through that life again.

Then, she heard footsteps in the hall outside the door, and it nearly drowned out all that hope. “One night,” she whispered. “You can get through just one night.”

But once the door opened, Henry stepped through the room, and she wasn’t so sure about that any more. He sneered at her. “What a man you got for yourself, Cassandra. He hasn’t even tried to come after you.”

She held on to what Wraith had told her. And didn’t let Henry’s words dig in under her skin. Instead she held her head high. “You won’t get away with this. Not this time.”

He laughed. “I aleady have. I told him if anything happens to me, they’ll know just who to throw into the most secure cell possible. He’s not going to risk it. Not for you.”

“I’m not a kid anymore, Henry. I don’t believe every word you say, or that you’re trying to protect me. I believed it once, and you treated me worse than he ever could have. You won’t make me believe it again. He’ll be here. And you’ll be the one going down.”

“You just keep believing that. You’ll figure out the truth eventually. And you’ll come crawling on your knees for my forgiveness.” He paused for a moment, a wicked light coming into his eyes. “I might just grant it. If you beg enough.”

She was going to be sick. Even more so when he told the men, “Put her over on that mattress.”

She threw her body to the side as they came toward her. “No, she yelled. “You’re not putting your hands on me.”

“Don’t worry, sweet Cassandra, I don’t plan to. Like I said, not until you come crawling on your knees to me. But I figured even you would appreciate a soft place to sleep for the night. Tomorrow you can start working on that forgiveness.”

She held her tongue as Henry’s two men lifted her from the floor and dragged her over to the mattress, laughing as they just dropped a thin blanket over her. They didn’t even free her arms. So, she doubted she’d get any sleep anyway. But, that didn’t matter. If Henry did leave her alone, she would be fine. Grady would be here in the morning.

And then she could finally go home. With the only man she’d truly ever loved.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wow, I didn’t think I could hate Henry even more, but I achieved it with this one. Will Wraith come back with the other Riders in time? Why couldn’t hey just take her away now?

A to Z: T is for Taken

Last week, we left Icarus realizing he’d been drawn away from the clubhouse for a reason. Today, we go back a little in time to see exactly how they got to Cassie.

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Cassie felt like her feet were glued to the porch. What was happening? She was supposed to be safe here. Grady had promised her she would be. They shouldn’t have been able to find her.

But that was definitely Jake driving that SUV up the drive. She’d always felt a little uneasy when he’d come by the house to see Henry. Jake was probably only too glad to do Henry’s bidding.

“No,” she whispered. “No, I can’t go with him.”

“You won’t,” Chief said, stepping up behind her and putting a large strong hand on her shoulder. “Go in the house. I’ll take care of this.”

But before she could do what he said and take Raven with her, the SUV jerked to a stop and the back door opened so fast she could only assume whoever was back there had kicked it open. Someone stumbled out, another figure following right behind.

Chief’s hand tightened slightly on Cassie’s shoulder. “Barb,” he breathed.

Looking closer, cassie saw Barbie was exactly who had stumbled out of the SUV first. “No,” she gasped, taking a step forward. She couldn’t let Barbie be used against her.

But, Chief yanked her right back. “Grady would never forgive me if I let something happen to you.”

“You can’t let anything happen to her either,” she insisted. “She’s your son’s wife. Eric would -”

“I know, ” Chief said gruffly. “I know, Cassie, but it’s my job to protect you today. I can’t fail.”

She wanted to argue with him about that. She wasn’t any more important than Barbie was. Barbie had been a part of this group from the beginning. And a part of all their lives longer than that. It would devastate just about everyone in this club if something happened to Barbie. Whereas Cassie really only meant something to Grady and Trace.

“How’d they even get to her?”

“She doesn’t like to watch the men leave. Especially lately. So,  she says good-bye to Bull and goes for a walk. They’d have seen her from the other side of the property.”

Cassie didn’t know why the ‘especially lately’ part was significant, except that Bull had been acting more protective of her lately. So, she wondered. “You have to let me go, Chief. I won’t forgive myself if she gives her freedom or life for mine.” Or, if Cassie was correct, her baby’s life. “You have to let me go.”

“This is an impossible choice,” he said, and she could hear the battle in his voice. “I think of Grady as much of a son as Eric. And you’re his. I can’t choose one of you for the other.”

But, the man was pushing Barbie closer to the porch, and Jake stepped out, his gun pointed at Cassie. “Send her down here, old man, or both of them die.”

“I know that’s not what your boss sent you here for. He wants her alive. But, I’m not sending her back to that hell. There’s no way.”

“Then, I guess you’ll be saying good-bye to your old lady.”

They didn’t even know. Cassie doubted they cared who Barbie was really with. It was all the same to them. And she wouldn’t be able to live with it. “Don’t,” she said, jerking away from Chief’s hand. “Don’t hurt her. I’ll go with you.”

Chief choked out her name, and she knew what he was thinking. But, she couldn’t let that stop her. She kept her shoulders straight and her head up as she headed toward Jake. She might be quaking inside, but she wasn’t going to show them her fear. Barbie glanced up at her as she approached. “Don’t do this,” she said. “It will kill him.”

“I have to,” she said. “Henry hasn’t left me a choice. I’ll see you again when this is over.”

If she survived this. Because she knew Grady wouldn’t rest this time until he knew she was safe. She just had to hold on until then.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Will she survive? Will Grady be able to get her out of it? What is going to happen next?

A to Z: K is for Kidnapped

Last time, we left Icarus going to talk to Chief and Bull about what happened in town. Today, we pick up the next morning.

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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?

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