Blind Fury (Men of Steele Book 1)(8)

By: Gwen Hernandez

God, he was such a wreck. Only a madman would need to go a hundred miles an hour to relax.

A sign for food and gas flashed by and he slowed to a crawl—seventy—to exit. An empty bagel shop beckoned and he parked behind the building, hidden from the main road. He beat his forehead against the steering wheel a few times before sitting back in the seat, eyes closed.

The soft tick of the cooling engine disrupted the otherwise silent interior.

He’d promised to watch out for Jenna—whatever the hell that meant—but she didn’t want him around. Probably didn’t need him either. And when he was with her, she tested his restraint on every level. He could sense a wildness beneath her prim exterior that made him want to pin her to the wall and peel back her carefully crafted veneer of control. Nothing turned him on more than the idea of that tightly reined woman letting loose.

Maybe Rob had secretly hated him, because asking him to protect—but not touch—Jenna was like asking a starving man to box up a steak for someone else.

He’d also promised to quit Claymore and stay in the States, but after being home for just two days, he was already restless. There was too much time to think here. And all the promises he’d made collided in his brain until his head felt ready to explode.

Rob, Jenna, bullets, blood.

There was only one way to stop the voices and images flashing in his head. Both disappointed and relieved by his decision, Mick started the engine up again and went looking for a bar.

After letting Tara drag her out for Indian food, Jenna returned to her empty house. The oppressive silence lay over her like a blanket. The rooms would never again be filled with Rob’s deep laughter or his exhaustive musings on everything from the Peloponnesian War to veganism.

He’d been gone more often than not over the past few years, but she’d always held onto the hope that he’d return. After all, without hope, what was left?

Moving with leaden limbs, she dragged Rob’s bag over to the sofa. Damn, the thing had to weigh fifty pounds. How had Mick hefted it like it was a kid’s backpack? She opened the duffle and removed each item, sorting everything into piles on the coffee table. One to donate, one to decide about later, and one to go into a box in her garage along with the rest of the Ryan family’s belongings.

Tara would probably be shocked that she was already beginning to mark her brother’s clothes for charity, but the activity soothed her, giving her a way to occupy her mind and hands.

Underneath Rob’s clothes, Mick had packed the few personal items he’d found. A twin of the family photo on her mantle, a cheap cell phone, Rob’s toiletry bag, a pack of cinnamon gum, a large handgun, a rifle. Jenna stared at the guns, covering her mouth with her hand as images of Rob getting shot played through her head like a bad movie. How had it happened? Had he done something stupid or just been colossally unlucky?

The questions kept piling up, but she was short on answers.

Hastily shoving the weapons into the keep pile, burying them under a sweatshirt she remembered buying for Rob, she made a mental note to ask Mick if he wanted them. Rob had taught her how to handle and shoot all of his weapons, but that didn’t mean she wanted anything to do with them now.

Returning her focus to the near-empty bag, she picked out Rob’s digital camera. Unable to help herself, she turned it on, curious to see the photos her brother had taken in his last days. All she got was a message that there was no memory card.

She checked the slot, which—sure enough—was empty. Weird. She removed the remaining few items from the bag—a flashlight, a pair of rubber flip-flops, and a tattered Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue—but didn’t find the tiny card. Maybe Mick would know something about it. She could ask him tomorrow after the funeral.

She added the camera to the keep pile, then put the donations in an old shopping bag and set them by the front door. Another bag of items went into the garage until she could get a box for them, and the things she wasn’t ready to decide on went upstairs into Rob’s bedroom closet.

Emotionally wrung out, Jenna tried to relax in front of the television, but she couldn’t pay attention to anything. She finally gave up trying and got ready for bed.

A few hours later, she lay shivering under her blue down comforter, the room bright with moonlight that had snuck in around the edges of blinds. She stared at a popped drywall nail on the ceiling. If Rob were still alive, he would have fixed it when he got home.

She pounded the pillow. How long would it take her to stop having those thoughts? Each one pierced her through with fresh pain.

The drumming of her cell phone against the nightstand startled away her impending funk, and she rolled on her side to answer it.