The house was quiet when I stepped inside, but I knew my uncle was home. His truck was parked outside, so I figured he’d locked himself in his office, using work as an excuse to avoid us as usual whenever he was home.
I didn’t bother to announce my presence and made my way up to my room two steps at a time. I wanted this to be a quick in and out.
When I pushed open my bedroom door, I almost lost my shit.
“What are you doing?”
He continued to look through my shit unfazed. “Looking for reasons why my son is lying in a hospital bed dying.”
“You mean other than the fact your parenting skills suck?”
I tossed my book bag on the floor, crossed the room to my closet, and forced my jaw to relax. I wasn’t worried about his snooping. After Monroe found the locket and gun, I made sure to move everything to a more secure place.
“Are you heading to the hospital?” he asked.
I pulled down my duffle and began filling it with clothing. “Yeah.”
Socks, jeans, shirts, and boxers filled the bag by the handful.
“I just left myself. He’s worn out so he’ll be asleep for the rest of the night.”
“I know.” I left the closet and moved around the room packing whatever I thought I would need. I managed to avoid eye contact though I felt his eyes track me around the room, appearing too comfortable for someone who had just been caught trespassing.
When everything I needed was packed, I picked up my bag and looked at my uncle expectantly. He took the hint and stood up from his seat at my desk.
“We need to talk before you go.”
“I’m sure it can wait for another time.”
“No, son. It can’t. I want you in my office in less than five minutes,” he ordered before leaving my bedroom.
I waited a beat before making my way downstairs. I had every intention of walking through the front doors but found myself making a hard left instead.
I might as well get this over with.
When I reached his office, I didn’t bother knocking and pushed the door open. I found him sitting behind his desk, waiting.
His expression changed from curious to expectant as he watched and waited for me to say something first.
With a single lift of my brow, he sighed and gave in.
“I think it’s time for us to have a talk about your mother.”
I couldn’t help it. My mask slipped and my face fell.
“I’m not interested.”
“Don’t feed me that bullshit, boy. You’re going to want to know this, and I need to say it, so sit.”
I looked around the immaculate room, taking in the dark browns and burgundies. Leather and wood encased almost every inch of the office, and thanks to the housekeeper he hired once a week, it was kept clean, fresh, and dust free despite his lengthy absences.
When my gaze finally met his once again, I took in the darkening irises and suppressed a smile.
Fine. I’ll humor you.
I took a seat in front of the desk, and he relaxed back against the large leather chair.
I watched him struggle with the words to say and fought the temptation to roll my eyes. Despite my open indifference, I was actually a lot more curious than I was willing to let on.
“Sophia was a gentle soul. She was kind, soft spoken, but incredibly gullible. I didn’t meet your mother until two months after you were born.”
The sound of my mother’s name heightened the urge to walk through the front doors and never come back. It was a thought I’d been having for years, but my obsession held me back.
“After my brother managed to disappear for nearly a year, I did some digging and tracked him down to an apartment he was able to purchase somehow under an alias. To this day, I still have no clue how he managed to do so. Mitch is extremely resourceful among many things. Growing up, he always managed to find himself in trouble and just as quickly would find a way out of it. It was one of the reasons we never got along. We were never brothers the way brothers should be. We shared the same blood, but we might as well have been strangers. We used to drive our parents crazy to the point they had to separate us. Since the age of fifteen, we grew up in separate homes. I stayed with our parents while Mitch moved in with our grandparents. They died three years later after Mitch had gone to college. It was a robbery gone wrong, though sometimes, I wonder if your father had anything to do with it…”
John’s hard gaze was fixed on the desk. His jaw was set in silent concentration.
“Anyway, your father’s disappearance began to affect our parent’s health so even though I thought it was better he was gone, I tracked him down. For them. I’d written him off long before since we never really possessed a brotherly connection.”
At least you had the chance. It was on the tip of my tongue but decided it wasn’t worth the argument.
“After Mitch was forced to move in with our grandparents, his relationship with our parents was ruined. He accused them of favoring me. I never argued his claim and neither did our parents. I thought they preferred me too, and I think my parents knew it, too.” He moved to sit behind his desk, pouring a drink, and choosing to stare at it rather than drink it.
“I’ll never forget the day I stumbled upon your mother. She was the most beautifully broken thing I’d ever seen. When she saw me, she immediately asked me to save her. She didn’t even know who I was. She was so desperate. Her gown was torn and she wore fresh bruises, and instead of being afraid of the man who’d just broken into her home, she looked at me as the man who’d just broken open her cage. I fought not to care and won. After I confirmed the place did indeed belong to my brother, I turned to leave, having obtained the information I needed to mend my parent’s broken heart. I could tell them their youngest son was alive.”