Home > At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(10)

At Peace (The 'Burg #2)(10)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Vi –”

I shook my head. “Too little, too late, Sam.”

I looked toward the kitchen watching the girls tidying up, their thick, healthy, long, dark hair gleaming under the overhead kitchen lights; their flawless, youthful skin glowing; their thin, coltish but blooming teenage girl bodies moving with unconscious grace. I took in my girls as they moved around, girls who had very little to do with their grandparents after my parents disowned me when I got pregnant at seventeen, announced I was keeping the baby and marrying the father, something they disapproved of immensely, or at least Mom did, then I asked Sam quietly, “Dad want them to know it’s from him?”

“That’s your call.”

I sighed, thinking I’d tell the girls, it was only fair, but I wouldn’t like it.

“Vi,” Sam called and I looked at him. “Why you workin’ overtime?”

This made me sigh again.

Then I answered, “Because Kate’s got Dane, she’s wrapped up tight in him, even though they’ve only been dating a few weeks. And Keira’s made friends with the entirety of the eighth grade class. They’re not home much and I’d rather make some extra cash putzing around a garden center than come home to an empty house.”

I watched my brother’s eyes go soft and looked away.

Sam read me and changed the subject but he chose one that was no less uncomfortable even if it was not nearly as sad. “You hear from him?”

“Nope,” I answered instantly.

“Nothin’?” Sam sounded surprised.


I felt Sam lean into me so I looked at him as I took a sip of my wine.

“I been snoopin’ –”

I felt my body grow tight, fear clutching my insides and I leaned into my brother. “Sam –”

He shook his head. “Someone’s gotta do somethin’. He’s not done with you.”

“That someone doesn’t have to be you.”

“Vi, someone’s gotta do somethin’.”

“Let the police deal with it.”

I watched Sam clench his teeth, seeing his jaws flex out at the sides and it was his turn to look away.

“Sam, promise me you’ll let it go,” I said softly.


“Sam –”

His eyes locked on mine and he repeated, “Can’t.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“I’m bein’ careful.”

I leaned in further and hissed, “You don’t mess with this guy.” Sam didn’t answer and I put my hand to the armrest and got even closer to my brother. “You know, you know, what happened to Tim, and he was doing his job… you know you do not mess with this guy.”

“So I let him mess with my sister?”

“He’ll forget about me.”




“Sam –”

“Bullshit, Vi.”

“Think about Melissa.”

“She agrees with me somethin’s gotta be done.”

My brother had been with his girlfriend Melissa for ten years. They lived together for nine of those ten years but never married. They talked about it all the time but they were always enjoying their lives too much to get around to doing anything about it. Mel and Sam had both been close to Tim, adored him. Sam felt like Tim was his brother, Tim had felt the same. We were all tight. When Tim died, they took it hard, nearly as hard as me and the girls. And Mel had attitude, just like Sam. I knew that Sam spoke the truth when he said Mel agreed something had to be done, not only because they’d loved Tim but because they loved me and the girls.

“Talk to Barry,” I suggested.

“I’m talkin’ to him.”

“What’s he say?”

“He understands a brother’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.”

Yes, Barry would understand that. Barry was as crazy as Tim and Sam.

“Sam, Barry’s a cop and he said he won’t rest –”

“And he isn’t.”

“Then let Barry do his work.”

“That doesn’t mean he doesn’t need help.”

“Not from you.”

“Just leave it, Vi.”

I looked into my brother’s hard face for a few seconds then I turned away, swallowing and thinking maybe it wasn’t good we were so close. Maybe it wasn’t good I loved him like crazy and he felt the same way. Maybe it wasn’t good Melissa thought the world of me and my girls.

I pulled in a breath, let it out and took another sip of wine.

Then I let it go. I had no choice and I knew it. Sam was stubborn, always had been, so I whispered, “Tell Mel to come down with you next time, yeah?”

“Will do,” Sam whispered back then changed the subject again. “Who’s the big guy next door?”

My eyes moved to my brother. “What?”

“Big guy next door with the blonde chick? She your neighbor, is he or both?”

“He is. Joe Callahan.”

“Good neighbor to have,” Sam remarked.

I felt my eyebrows inch together. “Why?”

“Looks like he could crush a rock with his fist.”

“Why does that make him a good neighbor?”

“Also looks like someone you do not want to mess with.”

Sam wasn’t wrong about that.

“Again, why does that make him a good neighbor?” I asked.

“People don’t let shit happen in their ‘hoods that shouldn’t happen. He’s your neighbor, that ass**le thinks to mess with you down here; I figure this Joe guy’d wade in.”

The thought of Joe Callahan getting involved in my troubles sent a chill up my spine. “Let’s just hope that ass**le doesn’t think to mess with me down here.”

“He does, you should have a word with this Joe.”

That was not going to happen.

“Sam –”

“Maybe I’ll have a word, explain things, ask him to keep an eye out.”

I leaned forward again and snapped, “Don’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Just don’t, okay? Seriously.”

My brother watched me then asked, “You got a problem with this guy?”

“No,” I lied quickly. “He’s just not around very often and I came down here to escape that whole mess. I don’t want everyone in my business.”

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