Of all nights not to drink, he had to choose tonight. For a moment, Brandon considered ditching his drunk ass friends and letting Deputy Gaver pick them up and let them sober up in one of the town's jail cells. But they'd end up calling him and he'd haul his ass out of bed to get them so, really, what was the point? With an irritated sigh, he trailed after his friends as they stumbled from one store aisle to the next in search of something to satisfy the munchies.
Old Man Weatherby, fourth generation owner of Griffin Grocers, watched in amusement from behind one of the checkout counters. Brandon stopped with a grimace then gave him a lopsided smile. "Hey, Mr. Weatherby. Sorry about them."
He chuckled and shook his head. "Don't worry about them, son. They ain't broken nothing yet."
"Yet being the operative word," Brandon muttered.
He kept an eye on his two best friends. They were laughing over something in the canned food aisle. Hopefully it was something they'd buy so they could get the hell out of here before they really did break something.
"Saw the oddest thing about two days ago, son."
Brandon spared Mr. Weatherby a glance from the corner of his eye. "What was it?"
The old man studied him a moment and then two. He leaned his hands on the counter, eyes narrowed, lips pursed, as if what he had to say required a lot of thought.
"I believe it was your mother."
Maybe it did.
"Judging by your lack of words, I'd say you didn't know she was here." Mr. Weatherby straightened with a shrug. "I suppose you wouldn't though, what with the circumstances being what they are."
Irritation crawled through Brandon's veins and he fought to control his temper. No one knew better than he what happened that fateful day. While his lack of a relationship with his dad's family was no secret, the events of that day were. Or should be.
Brandon studied Mr. Weatherby. Judging by the man's expression, Brandon had a sinking feeling the real reason for his mom's absence was more widely known than originally thought. Which meant--
"I don't profess to know all there is to know about your family, son," Mr. Weatherby said quietly. "I don't claim to know each of you inside out. But I do know a self-serving bitch when I see one, and your Grandma..." His voice trailed off but Brandon knew the rest.
"She is one," he bit out.
As if his mom hadn't been hurt enough, as if she hadn't lost enough, Katrina Cardamon, matriarch and dictator extraordinaire, did this. No wonder his mom never came back or felt the urge to. The sweet-tempered, loving, devoted single mom the good townsfolk of Griffin Hills adored no longer existed in their eyes. She was who Katrina Cardamon said she was: a no-good, wrong side of the track, trailer trash, gold digging whore.
"Fuck!" The expletive flew from Brandon's mouth before he could stop it.
Anger replaced his earlier irritation and roared through him like wildfire. It wasn't enough to whisper condemnation into his ear throughout the years, was it? It wasn't enough to separate them. No, Katrina had to tell anyone willing to listen his mom's sordid past, one that was forced on her.
And she was back in town? Did she know what was being said? What had been said?
Only one way to find out.
Brandon turned and stomped toward the automatic doors only to stop on the rubber mat when Mr. Weatherby called his name. He didn't want to look back. He had business to attend to with a self-righteous bitch that wouldn't wait until sunrise.
He closed his eyes and forced himself to take a few deep breaths. He turned and eyed the older man.
Understanding and sympathy shone in Mr. Weatherby's eyes. "For what it's worth, some of us know better than to listen to her. Your mom... She was a great mom to you. I saw it. I know it. Now she's back and she needs someone in her corner. You've always been there, silent but there. Don't let Katrina take her from you again. You do this, you go all in. Your mom deserves nothing less."