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The darkest hour, p.30
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       The Darkest Hour, p.30

         Part #1 of KGI series by Maya Banks
 
Page 30

 

  Oh, there were plenty of things he was afraid of. But he could put a name to those. He was scared shitless she’d remember what a dick he’d been, that he’d asked for a divorce, that he’d made terrible accusations and that he’d done everything in his power to drive her away.

  But this. This was different and that fear paralyzed him.

  “Rachel. ”

  Her name came out a croak, and he cleared his throat, shamed that he couldn’t be stronger for her.

  “Sean says I should be better about leaning on my family,” she said, surprising him. “That I shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help or to tell you when things are . . . bad. ”

  Ethan sat down beside her, still afraid to touch her. There was such a wounded look in her eyes. Had she remembered things about their past? Their marriage? What an utter bastard he was?

  “He’s right. That’s what we’re here for. We love you. ”

  She smiled tremulously. “I told him he should have arrested me. ”

  Ethan stiffened from head to toe. “What the hell?”

  “I was such a mess after meeting the therapist,” she said, her voice thready with emotion. “I don’t know what I expected. Well, I do, but it was stupid and unrealistic. I wanted her to wave a magic wand and fix me. I felt so helpless and angry. God, I was so angry. I thought I might explode with it. And then I left and I needed . . . I wanted a needle so bad it was all I could focus on. ”

  She looked away, her eyes going down as they crowded with shame. “I almost asked a kid if he knew how to get drugs, Ethan. A kid. Dear God, what have I become? I was a teacher. And I was willing to ruin a kid’s life by dragging him into my addiction. I was willing to ruin my life, what’s left of it. ”

  Sudden rage suffused her face, turning it red as her eyes sparked.

  “God, I sound so pathetic. Damn it, Ethan, I’m tired of sounding so pitiful. ‘What’s left of my life. ’ Enough. Enough, enough, enough,” she chanted. “I’m so lucky. I have a second chance and I tried to screw it up. How unforgiveable is that? I have a husband and a great family who loves me, and I was willing to throw all of that away because some woman asking me questions made me feel helpless and inferior. ”

  She stood, agitated, her hands curling into tight fists at her sides.

  “Well, I’m done with that,” she said fiercely. “Do you hear me, Ethan? I’m done. This need inside me is killing me, but I won’t let it. Do you hear me? I won’t let it. I might be crazy, but I’m not going to let you or my family down. I’m not going to let myself down. ”

  Her shoulders heaved, and by God, she was magnificent. Her eyes were puffy and swollen, red-tinged, and her breaths came out in short, erratic rasps, but it was the most animated, the strongest he’d seen her since she’d come back to him.

  “Come here,” he whispered, barely able to get the words out around the huge knot in his throat.

  Never in his life had he been more unworthy of her. If he had courage, he’d tell her everything. He’d tell her the bald truth and beg her forgiveness. Beg her for the chance to make things right.

  But all he could do was fold her into his arms and hold her so tight. She shook against him, and he realized it was rage rolling through her veins. Not tears.

  It was funny. He knew what to do with the fragile, tearful Rachel. He could hold her, comfort her, let her lean on him when she didn’t have the strength to stand on her own. But with her angry and resolved, he was clueless. So all he could do was hold tight.

  “Never be afraid to tell me anything,” he whispered against her hair. “No matter how ashamed you might feel. I’ll never judge you, Rachel. I love you. ”

  His words echoed in his ears. Harsh. Everything he told her was true and it made him the worst hypocrite. What he expected from her he was himself unwilling to give. The truth.

  He closed his eyes and buried his face in her hair. He was on borrowed time. She’d remember. It wasn’t a matter of if but when. Every day more came back. Little snippets. Memories that pushed to the surface. How much longer could he hope to keep the truth from her?

  “I’m sorry, Ethan,” she said.

  She drew away and leaned back into his embrace, coiling her arms around his neck.

  “I went a little crazy. I hate the way I felt,” she whispered. “How much longer will I live with the addiction? Hasn’t it been long enough? I’m fine and then bam, out of the blue my skin is crawling and I want relief so bad I think I’ll do anything to get it. ”

  “I’ll take you back to the doctor. We’ll work it out, Rachel. I swear it. If you don’t want to go back to the therapist, we’ll figure out something else. Together we can do this. ”

  She smiled then, and it took his breath away. Hope shone in her eyes for the first time since he’d walked in the door to see her so devastated.

  “You’re right. Sean’s right. We can do this together. I’ll do better, Ethan. I just want things back the way they were before,” she said wistfully.

  The way they were before. God. If she only knew. It was the last thing he wanted. He wanted things to be different. He never wanted to go back to the way things had been before she left, before he thought she’d died.

  He wanted a new beginning for them both. But in order to have that new beginning, they were going to have to face the past.

  CHAPTER 30

  ETHAN shot a glance over at Rachel to see how she was handling the crowded living room. The family had gathered for Nathan’s and Joe’s last night home for a while. They were leaving on a training mission in two days, and it wasn’t as if their mom ever needed an excuse to get her brood together.

  The night may have belonged to Nathan and Joe, but Rusty had taken center stage with a very subdued apology. Rachel’s reaction had been hard to guage. Ethan hadn’t even wanted her to know what Rusty had done, but it had been impossible to keep it from her as a result of his father’s demand for Rusty’s public apology. Rachel had remained quiet and as subdued as Rusty through it all.

  The thing was, Rusty had seemed sincere. Even now the girl stood to the side, pale, lines of worry around her young face. Hell, all she should be worrying about was boys and curfews, right?

  Ethan sighed and briefly closed his eyes. He was bone weary and worrying about whether or not Rusty was going to shape up wasn’t on his list of priorities.

  “Hey, you okay, man?”

  Ethan opened his eyes to see Donovan standing over him, a frown on his face.

  “Yeah, I’m good. Thought you were heading off on assignment?”

  Donovan nodded. “Tomorrow a. m. Had to see Nathan and Joe off. ”

  “You sure you don’t need any help?”

  Not that Ethan wanted to leave Rachel even for a minute, but he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of Sam and Garrett staying behind, especially when he was sure they were sticking around because of him.

  “Nah, I’m good. Piece of cake. The asshole will never know what hit him. Besides, Rachel needs you. Your only concern is to make sure she’s taken care of. ”

  Ethan stole another glance over at Rachel, who stood quietly next to Marlene as she hugged Nathan and Joe. Suddenly he found himself dragged upward as Donovan gripped Ethan’s arm.

  “What the hell?”

  Donovan didn’t say much. He just hauled Ethan toward the back door, which was pretty laughable given that Ethan had at least thirty pounds and two inches on his older brother.

  Still, he didn’t fight. Whatever bug was up Van’s ass, Ethan figured it needed to be routed before he left the next morning.

  “Okay, spill it,” Donovan said grimly when they were outside.

  “Spill what?”

  Donovan sighed and punched a finger into Ethan’s chest. “Whatever the hell is bugging you. Dude, you look like shit. You probably haven’t slept in days. You keep staring at Rachel with this sick puppy dog look. ”

  “Christ,” Ethan muttered. He damn sure hadn’t reali
zed he’d been so fucking obvious.

  “What the hell’s going on?” Donovan asked quietly.

  Ethan rubbed a tired hand over his face. He didn’t want to get into this with his brother. He didn’t want to get into it with anyone. He opened his mouth to say, Nothing, but caught Donovan’s fierce scowl directed at him. Van didn’t get worked up about too many things. The man was a study in being laid back. Right now he looked as determined as a pit bull clamped down on a prime piece of ass. Ethan almost rubbed his own behind at the image.

  He looked around to make sure he and Donovan were the only ones outside. Just because he was spilling his guts to his brother didn’t mean he wanted it broadcast for the world to hear. One was bad enough.

  “You remember things were tough when I came home. After Rachel’s miscarriage. ”

  “Yeah, you’d resigned your commission. It was a huge adjustment for you. For both of you. ”

  He smiled at Van’s show of loyalty. He didn’t really deserve it, but it felt damn good.

  “I was an ass,” Ethan admitted. “I did everything I could to drive Rachel away. Hell, I don’t know why she stayed with me as long as she did. ”

  Donovan frowned, his brows coming together in confusion. And then his eyes widened as if he was finally understanding that there was a lot that the rest of the family didn’t know.

  “Does Rachel remember any of that?”

  Ethan winced at the direct hit. Then he shook his head.

  Donovan blew out his breath and shoved his hands in his pockets. “How bad are we talking here, Ethan?”

  “I told her I wanted a divorce right before she left on her mercy mission. ”

  “What? You told her what?” Donovan stared at him in utter shock.

  “I knew the moment she left that it wasn’t what I wanted,” Ethan said wearily. As if that was a defense for the things he’d said. “I had these grand plans of sweeping her off her feet the moment she got home. Telling her I was sorry and begging for another chance. God, I never got the chance. ”

  “Holy shit, man. I never knew. I mean what the hell are you going to do now? I mean . . . ” He stared at Ethan for a long moment as if he grappled with what he was about to ask. “Do you feel stuck? I mean do you want out?”

  For a moment all Ethan could do was stare. It was a fair question in light of what he’d just told Donovan, but the mere thought of getting out of the relationship sent a cold chill down his spine.

  “No. No! God no. I’m worried, Van. I’m worried about the day she remembers what a bastard I was to her. I . . . I love her. ”

  “Have you told anyone else this?”

  Ethan shook his head. “I was too ashamed. I fucked up. Really fucked up. ”

  His brother’s hand came down on his shoulder. Donovan squeezed, and sympathy shone bright in his eyes.

  “You made mistakes, Ethan. We all have. What matters now is how you go forward. Have you talked to her about it?”

  Talked. If it was only that easy. He closed his eyes and swallowed against the helpless rage burning in his gut.

  “She’s on the edge, Van,” he said in a quiet voice. “I can’t push her that much closer. Right now the only thing she knows is that I love her. I can’t make her doubt that even for a moment. ”

  “Shit,” Donovan breathed. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. ”

  “Nothing to say. I made my bed and now I have to lie in it and hope to hell I don’t lose her after I got her back again. ”

  “Do you plan to say anything?”

  Ethan shook his head. “No, and I’d prefer to keep it that way. ”

  “You’ll work it out. ” There was worry in Donovan’s eyes and maybe a little doubt. It hit Ethan hard in the belly. “It’s obvious you love her. ”

  “I haven’t ever not loved her,” Ethan said quietly. “But I’m worried that when she gets her memory back, she’s going to realize she stopped loving me a long time ago. ”

  Donovan’s lips tightened into an adamant line. “No way I believe that. She loves you. I’d bet my life on it. Memory or no memory. That kind of love doesn’t just go away because you were a bastard. ”

  A harsh laugh cracked through Ethan’s lips. “Thanks. I think. I’m glad one of us is confident. ”

  “If there’s anything I can do . . . ”

  Ethan nodded. “I know, man. And I appreciate it. More than you’ll ever know. ”

  He held out his fist and Donovan balled his own to knock it against Ethan’s.

  “Good luck tomorrow,” Ethan said. “And be careful. Garrett’s about to have a kitten at the thought of you going alone. ”

  Donovan snorted. “He’s just pissed because he’s out of action. It’ll be good for him to have to sit and cool his heels. Man works too damn much. He’ll have an ulcer before he’s forty. If he lives that long. ”

 
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