Behind Nate the door opened, sending in a blast of unusually cool April air. Nate didn’t bother to look over. Instead, he looked up at the large-screen TV hung on the wall where the sportscaster gave his predictions for that weekend’s Bruins game against the Rangers. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone pull out a bar stool and sit.
“Callahan,” a male voice said.
He immediately recognized the voice and turned to find Matthew McDonald, Lauren’s older brother, seated next to him. “Hey, Matt. On your way home?”
When the bartender put a bottle of beer in front of each of them before Matt said a word, Nate assumed Matt was a regular at the pub.
“No. I come here every Thursday night. I’m in a pool league. Starts in another thirty minutes.”
Nate took a swallow of his beer. Maybe he’d look into the league at some point. It’d be a good way to reconnect with the guys in town. Although, his job might make it difficult to commit. Most nights he got home by seven, but it wasn’t a guarantee. A career with the FBI wasn’t exactly a nine to five position.
“Lauren told me what happened the other night,” Matt said with a hard edge to his voice.
The mention of Lauren’s name caused Nate’s mind to zero in on that night at her house. Waking up from his nightmares with her leaning over him had sent his body and mind swirling through emotions. Everything from desire to shame assaulted him. That night had also told him something. Lauren still cared, despite her words of denial. She hadn’t hesitated to come in when she thought he needed her, and she’d made his favorite breakfast.
Even with the hints that she cared, Lauren still refused to outright admit it, and so far he hadn’t come up with a good way to melt the ice barrier she’d erected between them. So, rather than beat his head against it, he’d backed off.
Nate opened his mouth prepared to answer when the bartender placed his food in front of him. The scent of the grilled burger and melted cheese made his stomach rumble. He’d skipped lunch and right then he figured he could down two of these burgers. “There was no way I could leave her stranded out there. Only an asshole would do that.” Even if it hadn’t been Lauren stuck out there that night, he would have stopped and helped.
“We all know you’re not that.” Matt’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
Nate’s hand paused with the cheeseburger halfway to his mouth. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You left her to fend for herself once before.”
Using all his self-control, he brought the burger back down to the plate. He wasn’t used to anyone talking to him with such animosity and disrespect. “What the hell are you talking about?” Nate rested his forearms on the bar, his hands clenched and his knuckles white.
Matt glared at him as he took a swig from his own beer bottle. “The summer you took off for the Naval Academy and left her to handle things herself.”
Nothing Lauren’s brother said made any sense. “If you’ve got something to say, then say it. Otherwise get lost.” He didn’t even try to keep his voice low. The guy was pissing him off.
Matt’s face exploded with fury, and he slammed his beer bottle down on the bar. Around them people turned to look, and the bodybuilder bartender headed their way. “Forget did you? Let me refresh your memory. After you two graduated, you took off and left my sister behind pregnant. Real upstanding of you.”
An IED exploded in Nate’s chest and he stopped breathing. Lauren pregnant? Baby? No, Matt was wrong. She would’ve told him. “Bullshit.” His voice came out strangled. “She never said anything.” She would’ve told him something like that.
Matt shrugged a shoulder as some of the red faded from his face. “Maybe she thought you knew. Hell, even I suspected before she told me. She was so sick that summer. She couldn’t eat anything, and she slept so much.”
He did remember that, but back then he’d assumed it was stress and anxiety. Their lives were about to change as they left for college. “I didn’t . . .” His voice trailed off as questions mounted. How could she have kept something like that from him? Where was the child now? Had she given it up for adoption? Had she had an abortion? Nate needed answers and he needed them now. Pulling a twenty out of his wallet, he dropped it next to his plate, which contained his uneaten meal. Without another glance at Matt, he stood.
“Leave her alone, Callahan. Lauren’s happy and with someone. She doesn’t need you messing up her life again.”
Nate ignored Matt. As much as his fist wanted to make contact with Matt’s face, he walked past Lauren’s brother and out the door.
Somehow, he managed to make it from the pub to Lauren’s without getting into an accident, although he didn’t know how. Anger filled him as he drove, making it impossible to focus on anything. From her driveway he saw a light on inside the house. As he approached the front door he heard JoJo barking before he even rang the doorbell. Then as if he’d conjured her up, Lauren pulled open the door, a calm expression on her face.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish