Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Catherine Lievens
Word Count :36915
Publication Date :2021-10-22
Series : Seven Brothers#5
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-3371-0
Strength is infinite.
Richie left his own personal hell behind when he ran away from his abusive boyfriend, or at least, he’d thought so. But even now that he’s back home, he’s afraid and can’t stop seeing his ex everywhere. He doesn’t know if he’s strong enough to dig Francis’s claws out of him, but he’s going to try.
Meeting his mate wasn’t part of his plan.
Gilbert’s best friend’s family has unofficially adopted him. He cares about all seven Long brothers, even Richie, whom he barely knows. Gilbert doesn’t understand why he wants to protect Richie and help him heal, but he does, and as long as Richie doesn’t push him away, he’ll continue.
Richie has no idea how to deal with his mate. His last relationship was a disaster, and he doesn’t trust himself anymore. He has to deal with his fears if he wants to be happy, but can he? And as if that weren’t bad enough, what will happen when Francis decides to step back into his life?
Richie stared at the house in front of him. If he’d arrived with his car, he’d have already turned around and left. Since he’d had to hitchhike, there was nowhere for him to go. The only place he could go was forward, which meant walking into the house and facing what was waiting for him.
He rubbed a hand on his face, instantly regretting it because of the pain. He shouldn’t be afraid of his family, and he wasn’t, not really. He was afraid of what they’d think of him and of what they’d try to do. They were going to be pissed, and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t hide the bruises, unfortunately. He’d left everything behind, including the makeup foundation he used in these situations.
He swallowed. He was always welcome home, but he didn’t want to tell anyone what had happened to him, what he’d allowed to happen to him. His brothers were strong men, much stronger than he ever could be. How would they look at him?
And he wouldn’t be able to hide. They’d have questions, and he didn’t know if he could answer them.
He turned away from the house, looking down the street. Even though he was on foot, he could still leave. The problem was that he didn’t have money, either. The only things he’d taken with him were his phone and wallet, and even that had been a gamble because Francis might be able to find him through them. He’d turned the phone off, and he didn’t know if he would ever turn it back on, but he might need to. He didn’t have credit cards to rely on, either.
As a new start, the entire situation was a mess.
It was made worse by the fact that at least some of his brothers were home with their parents. Richie had hoped he’d find his mom and dad alone, but he should have known better. Of seven brothers, he was the only one who didn’t live in town and didn’t see the rest of the family often. He was the only one who wasn’t close to them, and once again, he felt guilty about that.
All of this was his fault. If only he’d been stronger, he wouldn’t be in this situation. Unfortunately, he’d been weak, and now he had to deal with the consequences—all of the consequences. That included facing his parents and his brothers, having them see he’d been beaten, and having them asking questions.
There was no going back, no matter how much he wished there was.
He sucked in a breath, then another, and, before he could change his mind, he strode to the door. He raised a hand and knocked, still half-hoping no one would be home. He shuffled his feet, looking down the street again. He still had time to run.
But what would he do? Where would he go? He was alone in the world except for his family. Although he’d been without them for a while, he didn’t know what he’d do on his own. What he’d allowed to happen was proof he didn’t know how to take care of himself. He didn’t want his family to take care of him, but he might not have any choice.
How was this any better than the situation left behind?
The door swung open. Richie hadn’t known who to expect, but it wasn’t his younger brother, Laurie. Laurie tried not to spend too much time with their parents. He was only nineteen and fiercely independent, something Richie admired.
Laurie’s eyes went wide. “Richie?”
Richie tried to smile, but that hurt, too. He was pretty sure the smile ended up being more similar to a grimace than anything else. “Hey, baby brother.”
There was a guy behind Laurie, but Richie didn’t recognize him. His brother usually dated women, so he was surprised, but maybe he shouldn’t be. He hadn’t talked to Laurie in a while, and his brother had grown up. He’d changed, and Richie hadn’t known.
Richie took a step forward to walk into the house. His foot caught on the welcome rug, and he stumbled. Laurie reached for him to keep him on his feet. He grabbed Richie’s arm, his hand landing on one of the bruises hidden under Richie’s clothes. Richie hissed, but he couldn’t do this on his own, so he leaned against his brother, almost crying in relief that someone had him.
Laurie didn’t say anything. Instead, he helped Richie into the house. Richie felt like an old man, with all of his body hurting. He wanted nothing more than to go to his childhood bedroom, bury himself under the blankets, and sleep for a week. Maybe by the time he woke up, he’d be able to forget.
“What happened to you?” Laurie asked as he helped Richie sit on a chair in the entrance.
Richie was grateful Laurie wasn’t pulling him deeper inside the house for now. The guy was still hovering behind him, reinforcing what Richie thought about him being Laurie’s boyfriend. He wished he could distract himself with that, but Laurie wouldn’t let it go.
He crouched in front of Richie. “Do I need to get you to a doctor?”
That was the last thing Richie wanted. It was bad enough that his family would find out about everything. He didn’t want a stranger to know, too.
He shook his head. “I’ll be fine. It’s not the first time this has happened.” The words were out before he could think better of it. He wanted to suck them back in, but he couldn’t.
Laurie frowned. “Who did that to you?”