Home > Diamond in the Dust (Lost Kings MC #18)(6)

Diamond in the Dust (Lost Kings MC #18)(6)
Author: Autumn Jones Lake

Am I stalling again? Maybe. But we won’t have a lot of time here. I’d like to have one last picture of Shelby smiling and happy before I dump my years of emotional garbage at her feet.

I snap a few solo shots and then she asks for the two of us together.

“I’ll post one or two of these.” She glances up, searching the beach. “Later. After we’re long gone.”

My mouth twitches. “Good plan.”

I drape the beach towel over the rock right up against the wall and drop down, stretching out my legs in a V. I pat the space in front of me, inviting her to sit with her back against my chest. As soon as she’s settled, she tucks her knees under the sweatshirt and wraps her arms around her legs.

I curl my arms around her and kiss her cheek. “You cold?”

“Not really.” She turns her head, catching my lips in a quick kiss. “You’re nice and warm.”

How’s that possible with so much ice swirling around in my gut?

“You had questions before,” I say, not sure where to start. There’s so much ugliness before I even get to Ashley.

She turns sideways, staring up at me. I curl my arm around her back and she drapes her legs over mine. “Tell me about your family,” she says.

I groan and scrub my hand over my face. “I told you my parents are dead.”

“How old were you when they died?” she asks softly.

I swallow hard and stare at the sky, watching two birds circle a spot out over the ocean. Can I really do this?

My past. The family I came from. My parents. They’re subjects I never talk about. Jigsaw knows, obviously. My club brothers probably knew at one time but have forgotten by now. But a woman I care about? No, the last time I shared the story, it ended in disaster.

“Thirteen,” I finally answer.

I brace myself for the natural follow-up question.

“I’m sorry,” she says instead. “That’s already such a sucky age.”

I grunt in response.

“What were they like?” she asks.

Maybe it’s because she didn’t ask how they died, that it’s easier to loosen up my tongue.

I glance down at Shelby’s expectant expression. I’ve allowed her to get closer to me than anyone has in a long time. If I’m going to lose her over this, better to do it now before I’m so in love with her I won’t find my way back.

Who the fuck am I kidding? I’m already there.

“You don’t have to tell me,” she whispers. “I’m sorry. I’m being nosy. After this morning, I just want—” Her voice breaks.

“You don’t have to apologize.” I stop and cast my memory way, way back. How do I even begin?

“What was your mom like?” she asks, as if she knows I’m having trouble figuring out where to start.

“Sweet. Talented. She was an artist.” If I close my eyes, I can still picture her sitting on the screened-in back porch in the morning sunlight carefully swiping her brush against canvas. Although, if I dwell on the image for too long a host of blood-soaked scenes move in to replace the happy memories. “Not a professional or anything but she always wanted to open her own gallery one day.”

Shelby rubs her hand over my arm. “No wonder you’re so understanding of us creative types.”

My lips quirk. Never thought of it that way.

The knot in my chest tightens. We haven’t approached the worst part.

“Was your dad an artist too?” she asks carefully.

I blow out a harsh breath. “No. He hated anything that made her happy.”

Shelby lets out a sympathetic hum but doesn’t say a word.

“He had a vicious temper.” My teeth gnash together, jaw working from side to side. “My mom made all sorts of excuses for him. He’d been abused as a kid. He’d been traumatized in the military. Nothing was ever his fault.”

“Did he…did he hurt you?”

“Not until I was older.”

She frowns but waits for me to continue.

“You never knew what would set him off. If the neighbor spoke to my mom for too long, he’d fly into a rage. Accuse her of stupid shit. If she took me to the movies or to the beach for the day and we were a second late getting home, he’d flip out and destroy all her stuff.”

A soft gasp passes Shelby’s lips.

“Anything she loved, he’d ruin. She stopped wearing makeup because he’d accuse her of trying to attract other men, then bust it up on her. Another time he emptied her closet. Dragged all her clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, everything of hers into the yard, lit it all on fire, and left the charred mess there for her to find when we came home.”

“Jesus,” Shelby breathes out.

“Bless her soul, she defended him every time. Say he couldn’t ‘control’ himself. But even as a kid I knew that was bull. If he really had PTSD or whatever excuse she gave, he would’ve destroyed everything in his path. Not specifically target her things, you know? He wanted to take out his rage on her for whatever fucked-up reasons he had.”

“You were a smart kid.”

“Not that smart. One time, he rampaged through her little studio. Broke all the brushes, canvases, emptied her paints. Destroyed her paintings and shredded her sketchbooks. Everything. She was crushed. Years of work, just gone.”

“Good grief.” Shelby presses her hand against her chest.

“My brilliant solution was to shoplift art supplies from a store downtown. Replace what I could for her.” I snort at the memory. A childish solution to all the grown-up chaos swirling around me.

“That’s awfully sweet,” she flashes a sad smile, “in a criminal sort of way.”

“First time I ever got arrested.” My hands open and close. “I just wanted to do something to make her happy again.”

“Did it…did he escalate?” she asks.

Good question. Even with the bare details I’ve given her, Shelby can sense where the story’s headed. Why couldn’t my mother?

“They fought a lot but I never saw him hit her or anything. Then…” My fists clench again. “The night of the arrest…I heard this sickening noise and I knew he was hurting her.”

Shelby’s so still, staring at me with wide eyes. “Was he?”

I nod, anger choking off my words. “I lost it when I saw what he’d done to her and went after him.”

“Oh my God.”

“It worked. He turned all that rage my way. Beat the fucking snot out of me. But better me than her.”

She strokes her hand over my chest as if she wants to chase bad memories away. If she only understood they’re etched in my soul. “Logan.”

That’s not even close to the worst of it. And now that we’re almost there, I want to get it out. Purge every awful memory and pray like fuck none of it makes her doubt me or scares her away.

“Didn’t anyone at school or your neighbors notice?” Shelby’s expression remains calm, alert, and attentive. Waiting patiently for me to open up.

“If they did, no one intervened. Didn’t matter much later.” I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, forcing the images from that horrible day out of my head.

But memories that brutal are stubborn. The more you try to push them away, the deeper they twist their way into your brain.

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