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The darkest hour, p.35
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       The Darkest Hour, p.35

         Part #1 of KGI series by Maya Banks
 
Page 35

 

  At the door, she hesitated and spent several long seconds working up her courage. She rubbed damp palms down her sweatpants and mentally chided herself for being such a wimp.

  With shaking hands, she knocked and then rolled her eyes. Like they’d hear that? She pressed the doorbell several times instead and waited, anxiety eating a hole in her stomach.

  The door yanked open, and she instinctively took a step back as she stared warily at Sam. He wore gym shorts, no shirt, and he had a scowl that made her swallow.

  The scowl disappeared when he stared back at her. Worry instantly replaced his irritation, and he too took a step back as if to not seem more threatening.

  “Rachel? Honey, is everything okay?”

  She would not cry. Would. Not. Cry. She made painful facial contortions to maintain her composure as she stared back at him.

  “I need to see Garrett,” she said haltingly.

  Sam opened the door wider then reached for her arm. “I’ll get him. Come in and have a seat. Where’s Ethan? Is there something wrong?”

  Again the threat of tears nearly undid her. She expelled her breath in halting jerks, and she bit into her bottom lip as she followed him inside.

  “Ethan is at home,” she said softly. “He’s fine. ”

  Sam’s sharp gaze flickered over her, and it was obvious he didn’t miss that she’d left herself out of the “okay” equation. He motioned for her to sit on the couch, but she couldn’t. She’d go crazy.

  He left the room, and just a few moments later, Garrett came barreling into the living room, his hair mussed, concern creasing his forehead. Sam followed behind now wearing a shirt and a pair of jeans.

  No longer able to control the tide of emotion, she launched herself at Garrett and buried her face in his chest. Tears seeped into his shirt and she held on as all the anguish she’d tried so hard to keep in spilled out.

  “Hey, what’s wrong, sweet pea?”

  He wrapped his arms around her and held her as he stroked a hand through her hair. After his first question, he didn’t say anything. He just waited as she wept all over him.

  When she finally got control of herself and the sobbing had been reduced to sniffles, he carefully pulled her away and tilted her chin up so she looked at him.

  “What’s wrong, Rachel? Can you sit down and tell me about it? Where the hell is Ethan?”

  At Ethan’s name, she closed her eyes and blinked back more tears.

  “Ah shit,” Sam muttered from behind them. “Tell me that bonehead hasn’t done something stupid. ”

  She let Garrett guide her over to the couch and sit her down. He settled beside her, perched on the edge and turned in her direction. She gripped his hands, afraid to let go, afraid that she’d break down again and she’d never get any of her questions answered.

  “Do you want something to drink?” Garrett asked.

  She shook her head and licked her lips, wondering how on earth she was going to broach this subject with him. She took a deep breath and raised her gaze to meet Garrett’s.

  “I need to ask you something,” she asked painfully. “I need the truth. ”

  He brushed his hand over her cheek and then tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Anything. ”

  She swallowed and then put it out there. “Did we—did you and I—ever have an . . . affair?”

  Garrett’s eyes went wide with shock. Sam made an exclamation, but she focused solely on Garrett. If his reaction was any indication, she was way, way off base, and now she felt like the worst sort of idiot.

  “God no,” he exclaimed. “Why on earth would you ask a question like that? Sweet pea, tell me you haven’t been torturing yourself thinking that you betrayed Ethan or that we betrayed him. Hell. You haven’t, have you?”

  “He thought we did,” she whispered.

  “Who?”

  “Ethan. ”

  Garrett’s mouth dropped open. He and Sam exchanged bewildered looks. Sam flopped onto the recliner catty-corner to the couch.

  “Okay, you have to back up, sweet pea. Because I’m not getting any of this. Ethan thinks you and I had an affair?”

  “He wanted a divorce. He demanded one,” she said painfully.

  “Holy fuck,” Garrett hissed. “Has he lost his goddamn mind? He said all this tonight? After you almost went over a fucking bridge?”

  Garrett’s face was getting redder by the minute. He looked like he was about to explode, and she rushed to diffuse the situation.

  “I’m explaining this badly. No, not tonight. Oh God, Garrett. I think I’m losing my mind. ”

  Sam leaned forward, his voice soft and even. “Take your time, honey. Back up and tell us everything. ”

  She dragged a hand through her hair. She was so tired. Just hours before she’d felt like she could conquer the world. She’d been happy. She’d been secure in Ethan’s love. Finally she’d thought her life was back on track, and now everything was so messed up.

  “Were we happy?” she asked. “Did you think Ethan and I were happy? I mean before I died. ”

  Neither answered, and maybe they thought it was a rhetorical question. She sighed and continued on.

  “I’ve been having these dreams. Nightmares really. In all of them Ethan is angry. So angry. He’s shouting. I’m bewildered and feel helpless. I wondered if my insecurities were just manifesting themselves in my dreams because Ethan has been so perfect since he rescued me. Everything has been so . . . perfect. I’ve wanted to tell him I love him, but the thought always terrified me. Something always held me back. Tonight, though, I finally told him, and he was so overcome. And then I went to sleep and had the most horrible nightmare again. ”

  “What is your nightmare?” Sam asked gently.

  “More shouting. More anger. The knowledge that he hates me. He was shoving these papers at me. ”

  Remembering that she’d stuck them into the waistband of her sweatpants, she pulled them out now and held them in trembling hands.

  “I got up to look for them because in the dream it felt like my world was coming to an end when I saw them. Now I know why. ”

  “What are they?” Garrett asked quietly.

  Tentatively she held them out and he took them from her. Sam got up to switch on the lamp, and she blinked at the sudden wash of light.

  Garrett stared at the papers in disbelief while Sam read over his shoulder with a similar look of incredulity.

  Garrett looked back up at her. “These are dated before . . . before you left. What the hell?”

  “Am I living a lie, Garrett? He said some terrible things before I left. I don’t remember everything. God, I wish I did. I only have bits and pieces, but he was so angry. He wanted out. He accused me of having an affair with you. ”

  “Holy fuck,” Sam muttered.

  Garrett was still gaping at her like he couldn’t wrap his brain around the accusation.

  “Jesus, no. We never had an affair, Rachel. I swear it. It wasn’t even a thought. Shit, you’re like my little sister. And it was always Ethan for you. Since the day you two met there was never anyone else for you. It was the same for him, or at least I thought so. ”

  “I don’t know what to do. ” She hated the miserable, helpless feeling those words evoked. “He threw those papers at me the day I left for South America. I left with the knowledge that my marriage was over. And now a year later he loves me? None of that ever happened? How am I supposed to reconcile the two versions of our marriage?”

  Sam sat down on the other side of her and put his palms against his temples.

  “Obviously there is a lot I didn’t know—that we all didn’t know—about what was going on with you and Ethan before you left, but honey, it nearly destroyed him when he thought you died. That was not a man who didn’t love you anymore and who wanted out of his marriage. He grieved the entire year you were gone. The only sign of life we saw from him was the day he got that package telling him you were a
live. You were his sole focus after that. Getting you back. ”

  She held her hands up in confusion. “I don’t know what to do. I know now that I never went to any of his family with our problems. I wouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t be here now, but I had to know if I’d somehow betrayed him. ”

  Garrett’s hand closed around hers. “You can always, always come to me, sweet pea. Ethan is my brother. I love him. But you’re family too. He doesn’t get a free pass just because he’s a Kelly. I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re alone. ”

  She smiled tremulously and then silently cursed when more tears slid down her cheeks.

  The phone rang, startling her. Sam reached over to answer it, and she could hear Ethan’s worried demand even from a few feet away.

  Sam looked over at her.

  “She’s here, Ethan. She’s fine. Just upset. No, I don’t think it’s a good idea if you come over just yet. We’ll bring her home if that’s what she wants later. ”

  Sam held the phone away from his ear and shook his head.

  “He hung up already. Guess he’ll figure out a way over here. ”

  Rachel gripped Garrett’s hand tighter.

  “You don’t have to talk to him right now,” Garrett said. “Sam and I can toss him out and make him go back home. You get to call the shots here, sweet pea. Okay? You don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with. ”

  “No, I need to know. I can’t go on like this. I need to reconcile the here and now with the past. Everything I’ve thought about my marriage since coming home is a lie. ”

  She closed her eyes to the pain those words sent through her heart. The idea that she truly was alone frightened her. The idea that the husband she’d come to love all over again was nothing more than a façade had the power to kill her when a year in captivity hadn’t. Had she survived the impossible only to come home and die a slow death as she watched her hopes and dreams wither?

  Garrett pulled her into his arms and held her tight. He kissed the top of her head and murmured words she couldn’t decipher close to her ear.

  “Hell of a day,” Sam muttered.

  “All I can wonder now is whether it was a relief for him when he thought I died,” she whispered against Garrett’s chest.

  “Shhh, sweet pea. That’s crazy talk. I was there when they told him. I was there for your funeral. I’ve watched him become a shell of himself for the last year. And I watched him when he held you again for the first time. I don’t know what happened before, but he loves you. He loves you. ”

  “I often wondered what went through his head when he came home after your miscarriage and found Garrett staying at the house with you. At the time I thought he was dealing with guilt over not being here with you, but now I wonder if it wasn’t jealousy. Or maybe it was a combination of both. ”

  Rachel stiffened and drew away from Garrett to stare at Sam. “I lost a baby?”

  Sam closed his eyes and cursed. “Christ, I’m sorry. I forget that you haven’t remembered everything. I’m so sorry, honey. I wouldn’t hurt you for anything. ”

  Her mind was frighteningly numb and blank. To her it certainly appeared her life before her “death” was a complete and utter mess. Was it any wonder she’d blocked the entire thing from her mind? Oh, she knew she had the drugs to blame and that hers wasn’t a case of hysterical amnesia in the clinical sense, but now in the face of the truth, any sane person would have wanted to forget.

  She almost laughed. But she wasn’t sane, was she? She felt precariously on the edge, much like being on that bridge just hours ago. Teetering, about to fall over, and with the sickening knowledge there was nothing she could do about it.

  “Tell me,” she said faintly.

  “You miscarried while Ethan was away on a mission,” Garrett said gruffly. “You were pretty sick afterward so I stayed with you at the house when you got out of the hospital. Ethan got home a week later. Soon after that he resigned his commission. ”

  She managed a dry laugh. It was either that or sob hysterically. How much more pitiful could her life get? She’d imagined she had the perfect life and perfect marriage. Perfect family. Perfect everything. She couldn’t have been further from the truth.

  “I don’t know what to do,” she whispered.

  A loud knock at the front door precluded any further discussion of her life or lack thereof, which was just as well. She was having the discussion with the wrong people.

  Fear gripped her as she stared nervously at Sam and Garrett. Ethan was here. How could she face him knowing the truth? She wasn’t sure she could bear to look at the love that always softened his features and know that none of it was real.

  “You don’t have to talk to him now,” Sam said gently. “He won’t get in here unless I let him. You can stay as long as you like. You can go back home. Just tell us what you want. We’ll make it happen. ”

 
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