“I’ll be there in a few. Gotta get cleaned up real quick.”
“I reckon Momma will cover for you some more if you’re late. Whatever you’ve been up to she’s behind it.”
I didn’t look at Dallas when I opened the truck door to climb inside.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he called out.
“It means she knows where you went. She covered for you. That’s what it fucking meant. I wasn’t speaking in a damn riddle.”
Dallas looked nervous. What the fuck had he been doing?
“I didn’t tell her,” he said. “She didn’t know.”
I laughed because sometimes that boy was stupid as shit. “You don’t got to tell Momma anything. If she wants to know she finds out.”
Dallas didn’t like that answer. He didn’t want anyone knowing what he had been up to. Damn if I wasn’t getting curious now.
“Get dressed and get your ass to Dixie’s.” I started the truck and pulled out of the driveway.
Dallas was waving his hands. I stopped the truck. “What?” I called out through the window that was only rolled up when it was raining or cold outside.
“How am I gonna get to Dixie’s if you take the truck?”
“Walk,” I replied, smiling as I drove off. Damn kid should have been here sooner.
The decorations, flowers, and activity weren’t as hectic at Dixie’s. They had it all done it seemed. A few people were out doing some last-minute things, but for the most part all I saw was Asher sitting on a white chair leaning forward resting his elbows on his knees as he stared straight ahead. To his far-left Steel stood talking to one of the bridesmaids. The rest of the action was inside with the bride.
I pulled the truck out of sight from the wedding and walked back to sit by Asher. He glanced at me briefly as I took the seat beside him.
“Nervous?” I asked. Because I’d sure as shit be nervous.
“Only that Dix will change her mind and decide against this,” Asher replied.
I laughed at the comment. Damn woman adored him. “That’s not happening. You’ll be hitched up to the ball and chain by the time the sun sets.”
His lips curved a little. “Don’t act like you don’t know how I feel.”
“No. I don’t.”
He turned his head to look at me again. “You saying you don’t love Scarlet? Because it’s obvious you’ve had nothing serious since she left. Brent has. But not you.”
I’d had meaningless. Lots of fucking meaningless. I didn’t say that though.
“She’s gone. I’m over her.”
Asher frowned. Leaning back, he placed a hand on my shoulder. It was his typical older brother move. Anyone else would have been punched. “No, Bray. You’re not.”
I wasn’t going to argue with him on his wedding day.
“We didn’t have what you and Dix do.” That much I was certain of.
He didn’t reply right away. When I thought, he was finished with the conversation he said “Everyone’s story is different. Doesn’t make it any less powerful.”
“IT’S TIME YOU come back.”
“Brent has moved on. He’s happy. But Bray isn’t. He’s lost. Hurting. It’s in his eyes.”
“Dixie needs you there.”
“You know you want to be with her.”
“Just think about it. But not too long. Wedding starts at six.”
I looked out the window and watched as Dallas’s truck pulled out of the parking lot. He was gone but his words lingered. They were playing through my head over and over. His insistence that I should be at the wedding. That Brent was over what had happened. That Bray wasn’t.
My chest tightened. It always did at the thought of Bray. My sick brain had thought Bray was the only thing that could save me. I had clung to him hoping I could find a joy. That had been as screwed up as my head was. My soul so twisted and weak.
Forgiving myself was the hardest part. I hadn’t been able to do that yet. I feared I never would. My selfish desperation for Bray had hurt too many. I’d always hurt people. I needed to be alone. The things that had warped my brain at a young age ruined me for a normal life.
“That was one good lookin’ boy,” Ethel said coming up beside me. “He the reason you’re out here living this life?”
“I find that hard to believe. Seeing him sure did cause a look on your face. Pure heartache.”
“He has older brothers. Seeing him reminded me of one of them.” I admitted only what I could.
She sighed. “Lord there’s more of them? That one seemed real determined about something though. Left here looking defeated.”
I finally tore my eyes off the parking space the Sutton farm truck had left vacant.
“It’s my best friend’s wedding today,” I told Ethel. “She’s marrying the oldest brother. I loved the next two. They’re twins. I caused a lot of pain.”
Ethel let out a low whistle. “That sure sounds like a hot mess. What brought that one out here to see you? He worried you’ll show up at the wedding?”
I shook my head. “He thinks I should be there. For Dixie, the bride. Says his brothers can handle it now. The one I hurt the worst has moved on. The other . . . well you never know with him. He’s dark, closed off, often detached, and can be possessive, passionate, wild . . . he’s special.” When I was with him, my soul wasn’t so tarnished.
Ethel patted my back. “Sounds like you need to go on and get ready for a wedding. I reckon your friend would want you there. Make her day even more special. And from the sounds of that boy, you might be the charm that tames him. It’s one of them things in life you gamble with. He could break you in a thousand pieces or make your world brighter than a fireworks display. The best ones are never easy.”
I wanted to be there for Dixie. I’d lived my entire life in that town. She’d been the first real friend I’d ever had. Other girls wouldn’t invite me over. Their mothers talked about mine. They whispered. They kept their daughters from me. And I understood why. Dixie was the first person in my world to make me feel normal. I had been away seven months. I’d shown myself that I wasn’t weak. I was strong. I could go back to that town. Face the demons there waiting to grab me. Stand strong. Smile. Pretend it’s all okay. And leave after the wedding. For Dixie.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” I said before I could change my mind.
“You better not be. I’ll see you in three days. Take your time. Make the decision you won’t regret. Not the one you think is safest.”
I turned and hugged Ethel. “If it was only that easy,” I whispered. “Thank you for letting me go.”
Ethel hugged me back tightly. “We all have regrets honey. There’s always a chance for redemption. And not just with the good Lord.”
If it was only regret, I’d have gone back long ago. My redemption wasn’t in a Lord I’d never gotten help from as a child begging him to rescue me. My redemption was Ethel and this job. Maybe even that tiny camper I called home.
“Thanks, Ethel,” I said taking off my apron and handing it to her.
“Go on with your self now. Drive safe,” she replied.
With one last fake smile I headed to the door.
“Where’s she going?” Netty called from the kitchen window. “I got three orders up!”