Adam paused just inside the doorway of his mom's house. A male voice, loud and deep and angry, carried down the hallway, his words muffled by the walls and office door. He knew from their conversation an hour ago she wasn't expecting anyone except him. He frowned. Who the hell is that then?
Fear that whoever was with her would hurt her, Adam started down the hallway. Fury replaced the unease as he neared the closed panel. There'd be hell to pay if his mom was hurt.
He grabbed the knob with one hand and clenched the other into a tight fist as he pushed the door open. He stopped just short of punching Brandon in the stomach but only because his son grabbed his fist in a tight grip.
"Don't," Brandon hissed and shoved away. He glared. "This is between me and her."
Adam glanced at Katrina who stood stiffly behind her massive oak desk. She glared at Brandon but didn't add to what he'd said. Shifting his gaze to his son, Adam was struck by the thunderous expression darkening his face, the anger radiating from him, and he knew why Brandon was angry. Only one topic had the power to send him over the edge: Emmaline.
He swallowed hard, knowing he needed to choose his words carefully. Their relationship was fragile enough as it was. One wrong statement and he could lose it for good.
"Okay," Adam said slowly. "But what did she do? I know only reason you could be this mad but I still need to--"
Brandon laughed darkly. "Why? So you can defend her? Because that's all you've ever done. It doesn't matter what she does or says because you'll play the dutiful son card and defend her pathetic ass instead of standing up to her."
Adam stiffened. "Wait a minute--"
"No." The single word was cold and harsh, Brandon's voice deep and rough. "I'll tell you what she did and then I'm leaving. You can do what you always do when I do." He paused, took a deep breath, let it out. "Your precious mother felt it was her duty to tell people about Mom's past."
Adam froze. He felt the blood drain from his face. "What'd you say?"
Brandon's gaze narrowed. "I said it once. I'm not saying it again. I only found out because Mr. Weatherby told me, and he only told me because he saw Mom earlier this week. I came here as soon as I found out." He gestured angrily at Katrina. "She told me it was necessary to make sure Mom isn't welcomed and that she leaves town soon."
Fury surged through Adam. He straightened and turned his attention to the woman behind the desk. When had she become so petty? Or had she always been that way?
Emmaline's past wasn't ideal. Born to drug-addicts, stolen from her mother by her father, drugged then sold to his friends time and again as payment for his next fix, the best decision Emmaline made was to run away at sixteen. Her past wasn't ideal but it wasn't meant to be public knowledge.
Adam stared at his mother, taking in her unwavering gaze and the arrogant tilt of her chin. "Brandon, you may go now. Your grandmother and I have something to discuss."
"What?" Indignation rolled off his son. "I'm not leaving until--"
"Brandon." Adam glanced at his son. "Please leave. I'll take care of this."
He snorted. "Yeah, right. Like you did last time?"
Last time... That'd been a mistake. History wasn't going to repeat itself, not if he could help it. He'd been stupid to let Emmaline go because of her unpleasant past. He forgot her past shaped her into the woman he'd falling head over heels for. It made her worth fighting for. He might be late this time, but he'd damn himself to hell and back if he didn't fight for her this time.
Adam shook his head. "No, not like last time. I was wrong then. I let someone else decide what was right for me. I'm not making that mistake again." Brandon pursed his lips, uncertainty flickering in his eyes. "I know you don't believe me. I don't blame you. But I give you my word that I will make this right for Emmaline. She doesn't deserve this, any of this. Please."
They stared at one another. Adam could see how much it cost his son to believe him. The agony of that day played across his features. The hurt and sadness darkened his eyes. But at long last he nodded and Adam breathed a sigh of relief.
"Fine. I'll go." He walked away and opened the office door. "I'm going to find Mom. She's probably at Grandma Elaine's house."
"I'll come when I'm done. Give her a head's up for me please?"
Brandon nodded then cringed. "She's probably not going to want you there but I'll tell her. And, Dad?"
Adam raised an eyebrow.
He nodded. "You're welcome."
The door closed and Adam turned back to Katrina. He squared his shoulders and prepared for battle, because that's what it'd be with this woman. She was furious but he was past caring. What she did wasn't done in the name of family. It was done in her name only. They were going to settle this once and for all. After today, if she refused to see reason, he'd wipe his hands clean of her and walk away.
And maybe, if given the chance, he could walk into a future he was foolish enough to let go of all those years ago.