The Greatest Show (Willow Son #5/Brothers of Rock #20) (7 page)

BOOK: The Greatest Show (Willow Son #5/Brothers of Rock #20)
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This
place has no name?

Brantley asked.


Exactly,

Emma said.

This isn

t some private club with bouncers and VIP and half
naked women. Just so you know.


You
think that

s how I live?


I
don

t know how you live. I
don

t really care.


Ouch.

Emma got out of the car. Sometimes
she couldn

t contain being
a bitch, but oh well. She had every right. The amount of hospital trips,
doctors visits, excuses, results, medicines, insurance company fights, and
bills definitely put a little callused skin on her shoulders from carrying it
all alone.

She led the way to a set of steps
out back and pointed.

He
lives up there. I

ll be
right back.

Brantley grabbed her arm. Emma told
herself the fire she felt was anger. Nothing else but anger.


Want
me to go first? Just in case?


No,

Emma said.

You

re not going to save me, Brantley. We

ll talk after I make sure he

s okay. Don

t move.


Yes,
ma

am,

Brantley said.

Emma ran up the steps and checked
the door. It was unlocked. She went into the kitchen and called for her father.
There was no response. The coffeepot was full, the coffeemaker turned off. She
then hurried through the apartment, making her way to the bedroom. Her heart
pounded in her chest. She never wanted to acknowledge that something could go
wrong with her father. She told him to get his leg checked out but he was too
damn stubborn to do so.

She opened the bedroom door and saw
the bed was neatly made.

There was no sign of him.

She spun around and rushed to the
bathroom.

That

s
when she found his cell phone. Resting on the back of the toilet. She grabbed
it and shook it.


Where
are you?

she whispered.

She tucked the phone into her back
pocket and raced through the apartment again.

Suddenly, she had a terrible image

her father falling, getting
sick, calling for an ambulance

Emma hurried back outside and made
it down two steps before she froze.


Whoa!

a voice yelled.

What are you doing?


I

m going to smash your freaking
head in!

It was Emma

s father.

She hurried down the steps just in
time to see her father with a baseball bat

and he started to bring it back to swing it right at Brantley

s head.

(9)

 

It wasn

t the first time someone tried to swing a bat at
Brantley

s head, but that
didn

t make it any less
dangerous or scary. Especially since he didn

t
expect it to happen.

He had his hands and attempted to
plead his case.


Dad!

Emma yelled as she jumped from
the second step.

What are
you doing?


Stay
back!

Emma

s father yelled.


He

s not breaking in,

Emma said.

He

s

that

s

that

s Brantley.

Oh, shit. She just told him who
I was

and he
still has a baseball bat.

The man looked at Brantley.


Don

t hit me,

Brantley said.


You

re Brantley,

the man said.

You

re Seth

s
father.


Yes.
Emma was trying to call you. She got scared. So I drove her here.


Why
didn

t you have your phone
on you?

Emma asked.

And where were you?

She walked to her father and
grabbed the baseball bat.

And
put this down.

Emma
grabbed the bat and shook it.

Why
do you have this?

Brantley offered his hand.

It

s
nice to meet you, sir.


Mike,

her father said.

I

m
Mike.


Mike.
Yeah.

They shook hands.

They stared at each other for a few
seconds.

Brantley could feel the tension
with Emma right there.


If
I could, uh, say something,

Brantley said.

I

m here
…”


No,

Mike said. He looked at Emma.

First off, I keep a bat just in
case. I pulled up and there

s
some guy lingering around the back of my bar. I know some guys that have had
their bars broken into. My fault. I left my phone on the toilet because I was
running behind this morning. Didn

t
even get my damn coffee. And the reason for that is because I had a doctor

s appointment for my damn leg.

Brantley watched Emma

s eyes narrow.

And what did the doctor say?


My
leg is fine,

Mike said.

I have to keep an eye on it and
if it bothers me again, I could get a scan or something done.


I
don

t believe you.


Emma,
cut it,

Mike said. Then
Mike finally set his sights on Brantley.

So
you

re here for what, huh?


Seth,

Brantley said.

I mean, to help Seth.


Oh,
that

s good,

Mike said. He pointed to the
building.

Why not start
with this building then.


What
do you mean?


I

ve mortgaged this place three
goddamn times to help my grandson,

Mike said. His face turned red.

What
were you doing? Playing with some tree sticks on stage?

Brantley stepped forward.

Wait a second here
…”


No,

Emma cut in.

No. We

re not doing this like this.


No,
let

s all talk,

Mike said.

We

re
men.

Brantley turned away and took a few
steps. He reminded himself that any anger was deserved. From the outside point
of view, Brantley was a jerk. Making excuses or spouting reasons didn

t matter.


Dad,
please,

Emma said.

You don

t get it right now.

Brantley looked at Mike.

She

s right. We both don

t
get it.


Well,
look, I

m fine,

Mike said.

Sorry I gave everyone a little
scare. Now I have to get in there and open up shop. I

m surprised there

s
not a line at the door. I put a note up that I wasn

t going to open up like normal, but you know how
the regulars are. God forbid they sit home and drink a beer.


Helps
you out though, right?

Brantley asked.

Mike stuck a key in the door to the
bar and unlocked it. He then looked at Brantley.

You
know, my mind spins a lot. I try to grab onto anything I can. I accepted my
daughter in and had a feeling that something was going to happen.


Dad,

Emma said.


No,
no, I get it. You two had a thing worked out. I get it. Just let me
…”
Mike said.

Seth is a great kid. I know you
not being around has nothing to do with what

s
wrong with him. But you

re
the one I blame. That

s
what I wanted to say. And I said it.

Mike went into the bar and shut the
door.

The words hit Brantley hard, but he
had it coming. He stood there and gently nodded.


Brantley,

Emma whispered.

He felt her hand touch him and he
pulled away.

It

s okay. He

s right.

Brantley looked at Emma.

I blame myself too. From the second I heard it.


No.
You can

t
…”


Are
you hungry,
sexy moves
?

Emma nodded.

I can eat.


Is
there anywhere we can go without being seen?

Emma bit her lip and nodded to the
bar.


Your
father cooks, too?


A
little bit of everything.


We
could go somewhere else,

Brantley said.

I know a
lot of places. Might be a small drive though.

Emma touched Brantley

s chest, right at his heart. He
felt everything he felt years ago. But he couldn

t
say or do anything about it right now.

As he reached for Emma

s hand, she slid it away.

I can

t go too far, Brantley. I have a son to take care
of.


Hey,

he said.

We

have a son. Okay?

Emma shook her head.

That

s not how this works. You don

t get to show up and look like a
hero. I

m sorry. That

s not going to happen with me.


Okay.
Then what the hell am I doing here? Huh?

Brantley saw the anger flash across
her face.


You
really want to ask me that?

Emma asked. She then shook the baseball bat.

Huh?


Go
ahead and hit me,

Brantley
said.

I don

t give a damn. I

m here. That has to count as
something, Emma. I

m
trying, okay? You

ve done
nothing to tell me what you want right now from me. I haven

t said a thing to Seth about who
I am. I

m sorry I said
our
son
. Okay? You

re his
mother. I know that. You

ve
raised him on your own. I know that. But right now, I

m here. I

ll
be here as long as you need.


That

s what you don

t get, Brantley. This isn

t a
as long as you need
thing. This is a life. This is my

our
son

s life. You
can

t just stop in for a
few days and go.


Then
I won

t.


What
are you going to do? Move here? Buy a house?


Sure.
If that

s what you want.

Emma made fists and pounded at
Brantley

s chest.

It

s
not about what I want! It

s
about what he needs!

Brantley took the hits a few times
and then grabbed Emma by her shoulders.

Hey.
It

s going to be okay.

Emma looked at him, tears in her
eyes.

You don

t know that. You haven

t seen what I

ve seen.


Then
tell me. Let me in, Emma. Let me be here without guilt. We had a deal together,
right? I

m sorry if that
turned out to be wrong. If I could build a time machine
…”


But
you can

t,

she said. She shook away from
Brantley.

You can

t do anything to fix it.

Emma dropped the baseball bat her
father had tried swinging at Brantley and then stormed away.

Brantley sighed and grabbed the
bat.

The backdoor to the bar opened and
Mike came out.

He pointed to the bat.

Want to burn off steam for a
second?


What?


Where

d she run to?


I
don

t know,

Brantley said.

I don

t know what the hell I

m supposed to say to her. I don

t want to just step in here, you
know? But I am here. We have things to talk about
…”

Mike wiped his hands on a towel
hanging over his shoulder.

Come
here, I want to show you something.

Mike disappeared for a second and
returned with a couple cans of beer. He then walked to wooden railing and put
the cans on it.


What
are you doing?

Brantley
asked.


Blowing
off steam. These are skunked cans. I keep them. I want you to hit the can.


Hit
a can of beer?


Yeah,

Mike said.

Do it.


What?


I

m being serious. I can

t help you with my daughter.
Hell, I want to take that baseball bat to your legs.


She
and I
…”

Mike shook his head.

I don

t care. It

s
not my business. I did what I had to do for her. I can

t fault a man for giving an attempt. It

s at a good time, too. This last
scare with Seth was bad. He was in the hospital for two weeks. I know they were
talking about certain procedures and whatnot. Emma had been seeing a guy

I never really like the asshole
myself. But he kept her company
…”

Brantley felt his blood boiling. He
didn

t want to imagine Emma
with another man. Then again, it wasn

t
like she had been waiting and
saving herself
for years for Brantley. He
knew that. But still

fuck
.

BOOK: The Greatest Show (Willow Son #5/Brothers of Rock #20)
4.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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