Return to poughkeepsie, p.3
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.3

           Debra Anastasia

  She looked just like the Eve who’d laughed and joked with the little girl at the safe house more than a year ago. Here, in his bed. Her face’s little slopes created such loveliness. Beckett allowed just the smallest part of his fingertip to skate over her skin. It was warm. He indulged himself in the feel of the nape of her neck. He had choked it so often to bring her pleasure. Under her eyes were marks left from the dark that stayed with those who had seen too much of the night. She’d slept poorly without him.

  Instead of feeling a cocky pride, he ached for her, for this peaceful Eve. A sight this fucking magnificent added to the world, gave it peace, made the sky more blue. He traced her breast, smiling as her nipple reacted in her sleep. Reflexes—things she couldn’t control, like him. She loved him, and it hurt her. He traced her radiating skin, possessive, refusing to let the blaze of the sun have all the claim on this Eve. He slowed to trace her navel.

  She sighed in her sleep and turned toward his touch. He slipped his arm under her head, letting his bicep be her pillow. She snuggled deeper, trusting him. Sleeping with him. Beckett hugged her closer. Protection. Family. The words still stirred something inside. But as his greedy hand traced her hourglass shape, he saw something for the first time: Her hip—this spot that drove him crazy, drove him with the need to bury his dick in her—was more than just a grip. It was the perfect spot to prop a chubby little kid. A baby would hang like a koala, using this gorgeous hip as a notch to stay closer to Eve.

  He traced her shape back up to her face and lay his hand on her cheek. I love her. So fucking much. I’m going to give her everything. Everything she never even knew she needed. He rolled her off his arm to lay on her back again. He positioned himself between her legs and slid slowly into her center. Rocking gently, pushing slowly, so different than any other time. She sighed again in her sleep. He paused in his gentle, sexual alarm clock to kiss her forehead.

  Eve’s eyes fluttered open, like Snow White waking. In an instant she had the gun she kept under her pillow pointed between his eyes. Soft Eve became deadly in less time than it took to exhale.

  Beckett continued his slow, methodical thrusts while smiling at his venomous lady. “I love you, Eve.” He watched as the white light and his own revelation confused her. She latched the safety back on her pistol and slid it under the pillow. He saw the sneer begin to form as she readied herself for their violent screwing.

  “I want to make love to you, without pain,” he said. “I want to make love to you, the woman I just watched dreaming.”

  Instead of turning her hands into claws, she flattened them on his chest. “Love?” she said, with cautious, skeptical eyes.

  Beckett just nodded and slowly moved in and out of her.

  She looked above his head.

  “Look at you,” he continued. “I want to build things for you, give you a reason to be soft. Give you a reason not to reach for a fucking gun when you open your eyes.” He increased his tempo.

  She blinked, her eyes clouding with tears, but she looked at him. Instead of twisting her like a pretzel, he gathered her closer, bringing her against his chest, kneeling while she straddled him.

  Eve buried her face in the hollow of his neck.

  He leaned his cheek against her head as he moved in her. “You don’t have to say anything. Just feel me inside you.”

  Together they moved, so different, so soft.

  Eve’s tears finally spilled. Beckett waited until they were both spent, rearranging their bodies so he could cuddle her back against his chest. He didn’t want to see her reaction to his next words. Though limp now, he remained surrounded by her warmth.

  “I think you love me with your hate. I want you to love me from the same part of your heart that loved David.” He expected some arguing, but she was still, frozen in his arms. “I’m asking too much—I know that. I’m not worth your heart yet, but I’m gonna be. Eve, the next time you see me, I’m going to be a man worth it.” He turned her head and kissed her now salty lips. “Just don’t fuck anybody else.”

  He reluctantly pulled from her and began to dress. He skipped the shower so he could still smell her skin on his body. She stayed curled in the mold he had made for her, not getting up to stop him. He could tell she wanted this too. She wanted him to be part of her normal, no matter how fucked up it was going to be. He was almost to the door when she spoke. He could see her reflection in the mirror above the dresser.

  “Just make sure you come back, Beckett. I’ll go crazy if you don’t.”

  He smiled, though she couldn’t see it. “You’ll be underneath me again. I promise.”


  My Left Nut

  IT WAS A NICE FUCKING DAY—and not just because of how his morning began. Beckett was trying to look at the world with new eyes. If he was going to be a different person, there were two men he needed to talk to. So back into the Lincoln he went for another ungodly thirty-five hour drive. He pulled his cap down low and adopted a thuggish lean. He needed to get in and out of Poughkeepsie one more time. Which was stupid, but that seemed to be his modus operandi of late.

  When he finally rolled in, his ass vowing never to forgive him, he called Blake, but Livia reported he’d gone for a walk. She didn’t need to say anything more. The spot in the woods where Blake had almost taken his last breath was also his favorite place in the world.

  By the time Beckett arrived, it was twilight. The sun dusted the tops of the trees with the last of its energy. He parked in the lot at Firefly Park as Blake emerged from the trees. Beckett just watched his brother for a minute. Blake turned toward the fading sun and nodded, like one man would to another. Acknowledging. Beckett covered his face briefly to make sure his suddenly watery eyes wouldn’t spill over onto his cheeks.

  When he glanced back up, Blake was coming toward him. Of course he’d noticed him. Blake was so fucking observant. Beckett tried his door before realizing it was locked. He damn near ripped off the button in his haste to get to Blake. He got the thing open just as Blake closed in. They pounded each other on the back vigorously.

  “Beck? What the hell?” Blake pulled away to look at his face, as if making sure he was real.

  Beckett disentangled himself to hold up his arm in their standard greeting. Blake nodded to him much like he had the receding sun before wrapping his forearm around Beckett’s, drawing their matching tattoos together.

  “Brother. I’ve missed you. Damn it.” Blake looked close to tears himself as he pulled Beckett into another pounding hug. “This is not safe at all. What the hell are you doing here?”

  “Baby, I got to change some shit, and you’re one of only two people in the world I want advice from.” Beckett slapped Blake’s shoulder again. “But say the word and I’m gone.”

  Blake shook his head as if the thought pained him. “Let’s get out of sight.”

  They climbed into the car, and Beckett eased them into the thickening night. They kept smiling stupidly at each other.

  “You look like crap. Wow. What the hell’s going on?” Blake looked worried.

  Beckett ignored the question and kept his eyes on the road. “Can you text Cole in a way that keeps this quiet?”

  Blake pulled out his cell phone and typed a quick message. He flashed it in Beckett’s direction before hitting send:

  Listening to the Ave Maria in the car.

  Almost immediately Cole’s response chimed through:

  I’d love 2 join u. Get me at the church?

  As he read it over the center console, Beckett flipped on his right turn signal.

  “So you stopped by to see Livia?” Blake didn’t sound thrilled. Beckett couldn’t blame him. He was a time bomb strapped to a landmine.

  “I won’t do that again. Don’t worry.” Beckett tried not to feel the walls of his isolation narrow beyond where he could breathe.

  Blake nodded. “So you know about the baby.”

  “It’s going to be okay. There’s no way in hell you’ll be like your mom—just so you know.
Beckett gave Blake a side-glance. He’d guessed right. Considering Blake’s alcoholic mother and series of tragic foster homes, he had no good role models for being a parent—particularly a dad.

  “She’s so excited, and I am too, don’t get me wrong. But crap. We know what happens when you do it wrong, you know?” Blake made a fist on his lap.

  Beckett shook his head. It was going to be a long blob of months for his brother. “I know a few things. Not a lot, mind you, but a few things. And one of those is that a kid who gets raised by you will be honest and kind and able to survive in the wild for months at a time.”

  Blake laughed, and Beckett tried not to be obvious as he drank the noise in.

  They stopped at a red light—all slow like, no cause for attention. Beckett turned to his brother, this shattered man so whole now, and looked him up and down. “I would’ve given my left nut to be raised by a man like you.”

  Blake held out his arm and Beckett grasped it so their tattoos touched again. “I feel the same way about you,” Blake said.

  The light changed, and Beckett smiled at Blake before returning to his task. Two quick turns and Beckett killed the headlights as he approached the dark church. Cole rapped with a knuckle on the back window, and within seconds the car was rolling again. Beckett managed to drive as Cole bear-hugged him from the backseat, but barely. He held up his arm and his brothers wrapped theirs around it in an awkward, but exuberant celebration.

  “What’s going on? Is everyone okay?” Cole squeezed the back of Beckett’s neck and pounded Blake on the shoulder.

  “We’re good. Beckett just wants some advice, right?” Blake looked over at him with those trusting green eyes.

  “True.” Beckett glanced in his rearview mirror. “How’s the home front? Please tell me Fairy Princess will soon be knocked up with triplets you’re naming after the three of us.”

  Beckett pulled into an empty driveway. The economy had taken its toll on almost the whole block, and each house in the row showed the abuse of abandonment. He threaded the car around some overgrown bushes and onto the paved patio behind the house.

  “We’re really excited about becoming an aunt and uncle,” Cole said as Beckett parked the car. “Let’s leave the parent thing to the professionals. Kyle’s already got enough baby clothes to stock a store, even though we don’t know what sex it is, right?”

  “Not for a few more months, according to the books and all.” Blake shrugged and looked nervous.

  Wives and babies. Perfect concerns for his brothers. Beckett silently cursed himself for showing up here. He sure as fuck wanted their opinions, but not enough to put them in danger.

  Blake opened his door, stood, and stretched. Beckett followed so he could watch the surroundings. Cole exited as well, and the three relived their greeting more properly. All had huge smiles. After a moment Blake motioned for them and popped the lock on the abandoned house’s back door. Beckett closed it behind his brothers. They sat on the floor, backs against the empty walls. The room was meant to be a dining area attached to the kitchen. As his eyes adjusted, Beckett could see the walls displayed the previous occupants’ displeasure at leaving. There were paint splatters and some holes from an angry foot or fist.

  “They’re still looking for you.” Cole’s serious eyes found Beckett’s.

  “Ah, somebody’s always looking for me. That’s the price of infamy.” Beckett tried not to be obvious in his joy. His brothers. His brothers. Safe, happy. He’d expected to be dead when this time came. He’d expected to be on a spit roasting down in Hell. And he should be—or at least he shouldn’t be here. It was selfish. Best to move it along.

  “I saw Eve,” he began. “I made some promises to her, and I’m not sure how to live up to them. So I brought my sorry ass here. To look at you guys.” He stopped and looked at his hands. There was so much blood on them he was surprised they weren’t permanently red.

  His brothers waited.

  “I told her I was going to become a man worthy of her. And I don’t know how to do that. It sounded awesome as the money move walking out the door—and I did mean it—but how does a wanted felon, someone with my history, turn straight? I don’t want to go to jail.” The abandoned house creaked and groaned as the wind outside picked up.

  Blake winked at him and smiled. “Congrats on that. That’s a big damn step. What’ve you been doing while you were gone?”

  Beckett shook his head. “I was here and there…trying to find something to live for. Money makes disappearing easy, and Mouse had my shit set nice. He was a fucking genius. But I haven’t done anything worth getting a medal for in the last year. And for Eve, I need to do better. Be better. I’ve done such…fucking evil.”

  Cole seemed to process the information before answering. “Living with previous sins is tough, and making choices is hard for you without resorting to anger. You know, if you can fly over an ocean in a plane, why swim it?”

  “Not sure I’m following.” Beckett knew there was no easy answer, but at least they hadn’t laughed at the thought of a clean Beckett.

  Blake cleared his throat. “Can I be blunt? I mean, I don’t want you to take it the wrong way.”

  Beckett nodded. “Brother, there’s not a single thing you could do to me, including punching me in the face, that I would ever take the wrong way.”

  “All right. You did a lot of bad things. We’re not even going to pretend. But that was a quick way to the top of the heap, yeah? You decided to make sure Cole and I were safe, and you did it.” Blake stood and paced.

  Beckett nodded again.

  “We were young, right? What the hell are eighteen-year-old kids supposed to know about the world? But that’s how you got things done. And I think you got used to that. Changing who you are? That’s hard. Like, when I had to go out in the sun? For Livia, I could do it once, twice. But I had to do it for myself if it was going to last. There were habits Eve made me break. Or better, she made me realize what I was doing and told me I needed to make a better choice.” He paused. “This seems weird, I know.”

  “No, I want your advice.” Beckett braced himself.

  “What I’m saying is, it’ll have to be a battle for you. It’ll be hard not to take the easy way of solving a problem. Not that fighting is easy, but it’s the way you know, and I imagine for you it’s easier than listening and sometimes letting things go. I think you just need to try to live day to day like a guy who doesn’t kill for a living. Let things unfold after that.” Blake looked a little worried as he finished.

  “Yeah. That’ll be hard,” Beckett said slowly. “I mean, this last year it’s sort of just been me making the same choices I used to make because I was protecting you guys…only now, punching a guy is just hurting him. There’s no higher cause—and I’m not saying I haven’t done lots of things just ’cause I fucking felt like it over the years, but at least I started for a reason.” Beckett sighed and ran his hands over his face. “Since I left I’ve basically been running, trying to stay under the radar, and fucking failing over and over.” He shrugged. “It just feels wrong. It’s not what I really want to be doing.”

  He paused to look at each of them. “Have things here been all right? Has anyone crawled out of the fucking debris I left here to mess with either of you?”

  Blake shook his head. “It’s been fine. We miss you. Eve checks in, by the way. So you know, when she calls she asks all kinds of weird, pointed questions, and I know she’s trying to figure out if any of your enemies are angling on us.”

  “I should’ve left someone here to protect you.” Beckett rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand.

  Cole shook his head. “Beck, we’re men. As much as we love you, we do have a set of balls. And neither of us was a bottle-fed kitten growing up. It’s okay for you to live your life, do what you need to do.”

  The only sound for a while was the wind howling. Beckett sighed. “I just don’t know where to start. I mean, what do I do to be someone different?”

“You have to be you,” Blake said. “But maybe try an experiment. Find a safe town where no one knows you, get a freaking job, and see. See what it’s like to just be.”

  Cole stood, and Beckett rose from his place on the floor. Blake came and patted him on the back. “I could always use a backup singer down at the bar.”

  “Hey, did that guy come listen? What’d he say?” Beckett knew it had to be good news, because Blake’s immediate excitement was mirrored on Cole’s face.

  “He was impressed—his words. So, yeah, I’m going to meet him at a recording studio in town next week, actually.”

  Beckett hugged Blake hard, slapping his back. “Damn it. I knew he’d freak out over you. If he tries to feel you up, let ’em. You’re a handsome motherfucker.”

  They all laughed a bit and tried to avoid the obvious. Cole and Blake took out their phones to text the various McHugh women and let them know they’d be home soon.

  Beckett put his hands on top of his head, procrastinating.

  Cole looked at him sheepishly. “Do you mind? Can I pray?”

  “Of course. You know I love when you and Jesus dance.”

  Cole grabbed one of Beckett’s hands and then the other.

  “If we kiss now, I should tell you, I think I need a mint.”

  Cole closed his eyes for a moment. “Blake got to give you his advice. This is how I give mine. Ready? And pay attention, no drifting off.”

  “All right, now that you got me all ready for my First Communion, hit me with it.”

  Cole took a deep breath. “Lord, this man before me is known to you. Beckett’s soul is littered with sins that he committed to protect Blake and me.”

  Beckett interrupted. “Some of those sins were for the sake of my horny penis.”

  Cole squeezed his hands hard.

  “Motherfucker. You’ve got a tight grip. Must have been all those years of masturbating. You’ve got Voldemort’s handshake, baby.”

  Blake covered his laugh with a cough.

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