The Return of Brody McBride Read Download or Online

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The Return of Brody McBride Read Download or Online

29. Chapter Two

TRAPPED IN THE familiar dream, Rain shifted in the sheets, her subconscious
taking her to the one place she didn’t want to go. Straight into Brody’s arms, his
big hand and long fingers clamped around her thigh as he joined their bodies.
The dusting of blond hair on his chest tickled her taut nipples just before his
chest pressed against her heavy, tingling breasts. Their mouths joined, tongues
imitating the thrust of their hips, and their hearts melded together as the heat
between them grew hotter than the whitest star, exploding into an ecstasy she’d
only ever found in Brody’s strong arms.
Rain awoke, gasping for breath as her body betrayed her conscious mind.
Ripples of spent passion echoed through her.
Great, Rain. Eight years and you’re still dreaming about a man who betrayed
you.
But, God, even in her dreams he could make her body hum. “I need a new
dream man,” she said to the ceiling and combed her fingers through her long
hair. Even in her dreams, she couldn’t come up with a new man to stoke the fire
in her that was cold as last winter’s ashes in the waking hours.
What did she expect? Her only point of reference—Brody. No one but him
made her heart stutter. Not that she had the time or inclination to let another man
into her life when she devoted all her time to raising her girls. One round with
Brody knocked her out of the ring of love. It took years to get up off the mats,
dust herself off, and find a way to let go of her dreams and put the past behind
her.
Yeah, right. You just woke up in bed with a ghost.
She shivered with an odd sense. Trouble’s on the way.
OWEN SAT OUTSIDE Rain’s house for a good five minutes before he worked up the
nerve to get out of his truck and walk up the driveway to the back door. Without
knocking, he walked in and found Rain at the stove flipping pancakes. The smell
of coffee hung in the air over the scent of the fresh chopped strawberries on the
cutting board.
“Hey, beautiful.” Owen eased toward Rain.
Rain turned and smiled. “Hey, yourself.”
He kissed her on the forehead, reached around her, and stole a pancake from
the platter, rolled it, and took a bite, savoring the buttery taste. “Mmmm, good.”
“Want some coffee?”
“Definitely. Where are the girls?”
“Brushing their teeth and hair. They’ll be down in a minute.”
“Okay.” He paced the kitchen, stopping to take his mug of coffee from Rain
and the plate of pancakes she’d made for him before pouring more batter onto
the skillet.
With her back to him, she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Why do you think something is wrong?”
“It’s seven thirty in the morning, and you’re pacing my kitchen like a caged
animal.”
“I have something to tell you, and I’m not sure how you’ll take it. It’s big. It’s
about the girls.”
Rain turned abruptly, spatula held up like a club. “Is Roxy back in town?”
“Not that I know. It’s something else.”
She turned back to the pancakes. “Then, just say it. Whatever it is, it can’t be
that bad.”
“Brody’s back,” he spit out, sipped his coffee, and scalded his tongue on the
hot brew. She stood rigid with her head down, watching the pancake batter
bubble on the pan. “Flip them over, honey.”
She did, but her shoulders remained stiff, her head down. “Does he know?”
“No.”
“Why is he here?”
“He’s been honorably discharged from the Army.” When that didn’t faze her,
he continued. “He came home to find you.”
She turned and faced him, eyes narrowed. “Does he know I’m here?”
“He seemed to think you were probably living in San Francisco, or at least
California after you attended college.”
“Which I never did.” Sadness flashed in her eyes. He hated seeing it.
“He doesn’t know that. After we talked this morning, he realized I know
where you are, have for a long time, and figured out you’re either in town or
close by.”
“Do you think he means to stay?”
“Hard to say. He’s out at the cabin.”
“That place is a wreck.” She wrinkled her pretty, pert nose.
“Yep. I think he means to clean it up and live there.”
“So, there’s no getting around it. He’ll find out.”
“Looks that way. I’ve bought you a day to tell the girls. He’s promised not to
come into town. I told him I’d tell him where you are tomorrow.”
Rain bit her lip, working her teeth over the rosy flesh. “Do you think he’ll try
to take them from me?”
Her voice went soft, like a child. Tough and strong, she had to be after
everything she’d endured. Brody was the cause of this disturbing change.
“No one can take them from you, honey. You’re a great mother.”
Footsteps across the floor upstairs, the girls would be down for breakfast soon,
so Rain hurried to voice the rest of her concerns. “If he tries to sue me for
custody, even partial, will you represent him, or me?”
Owen frowned, not knowing the right thing to do, or if there was a right or
wrong. It seemed the longer he practiced law, the more shades of gray he
uncovered. “I don’t think it will come to that.” He held up a hand to stop her
from arguing. “If he wants to sue you for partial custody, as is his right, I’ll do
everything I can to work with both of you to come to some sort of agreement.
But I will make it clear to Brody that you’re the only parent those children know.
He’s changed, Rain. We had some words this morning, and things could have
gone the usual way.”
“With him in your face, both of you ready to trade punches.”
“Aw, you know us so well.” He teased to bring her out of her dark mood. She
didn’t crack a smile. “But he didn’t. In fact, I won’t say he backed down, that
will never be Brody’s way, but he let the anger pass and opened up about why
he’s here.”
“I don’t really care why he’s here. The problem is he doesn’t know about the
girls. He doesn’t know about Roxy. How do I explain them to him? They’re
seven. What if he doesn’t want anything to do with them? Do you have any idea
how crushed they’ll be?”
“You don’t owe him a damn explanation. He left you, pregnant with his baby.
He didn’t call, never wrote, never told anyone where he was for the last eight
years. He left you to clean up the mess with Roxy. He should thank you for what
you did.”
“Somehow, I don’t think he’ll thank me for keeping his girls from him.”
“You didn’t keep them from him,” Owen said under his breath. Little footsteps
pounded on the stairs. “You spent three years trying to find him. It was luck I
found out he was in the military. Even then, they were already three and the old
man was dead. Brody wouldn’t return my phone calls, just sent that damn note.
It’s his own damn fault,” Owen bit out. The two little nymphs came flying into
the room with bright smiles on their faces.
“Uncle Owen,” they shouted in unison and hugged and kissed him on the
cheek. His heart always felt lighter when he saw them.
“Morning, girls. You guys hungry? Your mom made pancakes.”
Dawn, ever the inquisitive one, looked at Rain for a long moment. “What’s
going on? Uncle Owen doesn’t usually have breakfast with us during the week.”
Rain brushed a hand over her daughter’s golden hair. “Uncle Owen came to
tell us some news.”
Rain turned her sad eyes on him. He wasn’t sure how all of this would turn
out; he could only imagine how Rain felt.
“What is it?” Autumn asked, pouring syrup on her pancakes.
It always struck Owen how much the two girls looked alike, even though they
had different mothers. It was sometimes creepy to see two sets of identical sky
blue eyes turn to him, the same as his only brother, Brody’s.
“Well, on my way to town today, I stopped by the old cabin.” He stalled,
knowing there was no way to prepare the girls. “My brother came home last
night.”
Autumn looked up at her sister, and by silent agreement Dawn spoke for the
two of them. “Does he want to meet us?”
“I’m not sure, honey.”
Dawn turned to her mother. “You didn’t tell him about us, yet.”
“I haven’t spoken to him, sweetheart. Uncle Owen just told me he’s back.”
“But you’ll tell him. You’ll go and talk to him,” Dawn said with a hint of
demand in her voice.
Rain bit her lip, pushed away from the counter, and came to her daughters.
She put a hand on each of them. “I will talk to him. Everything will be fine.”
“Does this mean Roxy is coming back, too?” Autumn asked, looking down at
her lap, pancakes forgotten.
Rain bent beside her and cupped her face and made Autumn meet her gaze. “I
promise you, Roxy will never take you away from me again.” When Autumn
didn’t look convinced, Rain asked, “Don’t you want to meet your dad?”
Autumn shrugged and tears filled her eyes. “I guess.”
“What’s really bothering you?” Rain coaxed.
“Will he take me away because I’m not really yours?”
Rain glanced at Owen and he understood the depth of what it meant to have
Brody come home out of the blue.
“Autumn, sweetheart, you are mine. You are my daughter. You have been
since the day you were born. God just made a mistake when he put you in
Roxy’s belly and not mine. But you are the daughter of my heart, and I love you
every bit as much as I love your sister. I would never let anyone take you from
me. I’m your mommy, now, and forever.”
“Promise?” Autumn’s lips trembled. One tear slipped past her lashes and
trailed over her softly rounded cheek.
“I promise.” Rain took Autumn into her arms and stared over her shoulder at
Owen.
Owen got the message. He and Brody had better not make a liar out of her.
Autumn had been through enough. They all had. Rain spent every day working
her ass off to provide the girls with everything they needed, but moreover, she
gave them both the love they needed. If Owen—or anyone, for that matter—
didn’t know Autumn wasn’t her biological daughter, you’d never guess by the
way she was treated, if not for the fact she and Dawn looked nearly identical.
Owen had no trouble thinking of them as fraternal twins. That Rain would love
Brody’s daughter by Roxy as her own was more than anyone could ask. Rain
went to drastic measures to get Autumn—and keep her.
Rain was right, God made a mistake in not putting both babies in Rain’s belly.
But he’d sure as hell made up for it, giving Autumn a champion in Rain.
Autumn had really lucked out when Rain stepped in, and stood firm, to save her.
“Autumn, Dawn, Brody just got back. What you might not know is that he
was injured in the military, fighting overseas.” Owen cautiously broached the
subject.
Unsure how much the girls knew, Rain was very careful about telling the girls
too much about their father. She didn’t want to get their hopes up for something
that might never happen.
“Mom told us,” Dawn said.
“Well, he looks fine, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have bad memories
about the war.” Owen thought of the anti-anxiety meds and the disturbing way
Brody woke up this morning. “He told me he came home to see your mom. I
think that’s a good sign, girls.”
“When will you tell him about us?” Dawn asked, waiting for either him or
Rain to answer.
“I’ll tell him tomorrow how to find your mom. He thought she moved away
years ago. He’ll probably come to see your mom . . . and you,” he added.
“So, you’ll tell him about Mom, but not us?” Dawn asked.
“Your mom should tell your dad about the both of you. No matter what
happens, your mom will take care of you. Besides, once your dad gets over the
shock, I think he’ll be really happy to see both of you.”
Owen wanted to laugh at the disbelieving looks on the girls’ faces. They
weren’t too sure about Brody. Both hooked their arms around their mother.
“Brody’s got his work cut out for him winning over you girls,” Owen said with a
smile. “He’s never met a challenge he couldn’t beat.” He stood and went to Rain
and planted a kiss on her forehead. “It’ll be fine. You’ve got until tomorrow. Tell
the girls again about the Brody you loved.”
“That’s not the man they’ll meet,” she said defensively.
“Are you sure about that? He was always his best when he was with you. Just
look at them. There’s something truly good and decent in him, and it shows in
them. It showed any time anyone saw the two of you together. That’s what she
wanted, a little piece of what he was with you.” Rain understood he was talking
about Roxy. The girls were pretty smart, even at seven. He didn’t doubt they
knew exactly who he referred to. “The only good she got from him went straight
into Autumn.” He squeezed her shoulder. “Give him a chance to be their father.
Who knows, maybe you can put back together a few of those shattered dreams.”
“I’ve done just fine on my own.”
“The operative words are on your own. Brody owes you. He’s their father.
Responsible for them financially, if nothing else.”
“I don’t want his money.”
“Maybe not. But it wouldn’t hurt. The girls are getting older, the things they
want and need are more expensive. College will be here before you know it.”
She frowned and the lines on her forehead deepened. “Take today to think of all
the possibilities Brody’s return presents for you.”
“The only possibility concerning me right now is the possibility he’ll hightail
it out of town faster than he did the last time,” she said under her breath. Both
girls ate their breakfast, not listening to them.
“I don’t think you have to worry about that, darlin’. I do believe my brother
has made it plain, he aims to have you back.”
With that, he kissed his nieces on the tops of their heads. Rain’s astonished
gaze followed him as he walked out the door smiling.

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