Colters daughter, p.3
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       Colters Daughter, p.3

         Part #3 of Colters Legacy series by Maya Banks
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  “He’s here,” Callie whispered.

  Lily sat up and looked down at Callie, her eyes wide. “Here? Where?”

  “He came into the bar last night. ”

  Lily scowled ferociously and she looked so cute, Callie giggled despite the tension in the air.

  “So he left you in Europe, never came back—did he call you?”

  Callie shook her head. “I waited. I waited for an entire month. I canceled the rest of my trip to the other parts of Europe I was backpacking through because I wanted to be there where he asked me to wait. I spent every dime I had on the hotel because I was worried he’d come back and I wouldn’t be there. He never called. When I finally made myself face the fact that he wasn’t coming back and that he’d played me, I was devastated. I couldn’t even be that angry at him because I’d made it so disgustingly easy for him. I was furious with myself. ”

  “Oh no, Callie. ” Tears shone in Lily’s eyes as she crossed her legs and gathered Callie’s hand in hers. “You can’t blame yourself because he was an asshole. What the hell did he want last night? He’s got a lot of nerve showing up here after what he did. ”

  Lily was vibrating with indignation and Callie wanted to sit up and squeeze the life out of her. It felt so good to have someone to confide in, someone to offer her unconditional support.

  “I don’t know what he wants,” Callie admitted. “He said he wanted to talk. He didn’t ask. He just demanded. He’s used to getting what he wants. I decked him and told him to get lost. ”

  Lily’s hand flew to her mouth and her eyes shone with merriment. “You hit him? Really?”

  Callie nodded.

  Lily burst into laughter. “Oh my God, I wish I could have been there to see it!”

  Then her laughter died and fury entered her gaze. “He didn’t hurt you, did he? Did he touch you in any way? I swear if he did, I’m going to have Seth arrest him. After Michael and Dillon beat the crap out of him. ”

  Callie chuckled. “You’re so bloodthirsty, Lily. I like it. No, he didn’t hurt me. Whatever he may have done to me emotionally, he’d never hurt me physically. He… He was always extremely careful not to hurt me. When we were together he was so…protective. He was so focused on me. ”

  Lily pulled at Callie’s arm until Callie sat up. Then Lily hugged her fiercely and Callie clung to her. “I’m so sorry, Callie. He doesn’t deserve you. ”

  Callie slowly pulled away. “No, he doesn’t deserve me. I deserve better than what he did. But it still hurts and I don’t know how to make that go away. I can’t handle seeing him. I thought I had pulled myself together. But then I saw him again and it all came back. ”

  Lily pulled her back into a hug and rocked back and forth. “I don’t know how to make it stop hurting. It’s not something you can just turn off. It takes time. ”

  “Lily? Callie? Is something wrong?”

  Callie jerked her gaze to the door to see Seth standing there, a frown etched deep into his face. Lily squeezed her reassuringly and then turned to her husband.

  “It’s girl stuff. ”

  Seth didn’t look impressed or put off by Lily’s explanation.

  “What kind of girl stuff?”

  “I just needed to talk to Lily,” Callie said. “I knew she’d make me feel better and she has. ”

  Seth wasn’t pleased by being blown off. He glared at both of them. Lily picked herself up off the floor and then reached down to help Callie.

  “I’m willing to bet that Dillon has breakfast cooked which is why Seth came in here to begin with. Am I right?” Lily asked as she turned to her husband.

  He gave a short nod.

  Lily took Callie’s hand and then pulled her up to her side so she could wrap her arm around Callie’s waist.

  “Then let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving and I bet you are too, Callie. You never eat well when you work the bar. ”

  Callie grinned at the fussy note she heard in Lily’s voice. It warmed her to her toes.

  “Have I ever told you how good you did picking this one, big brother?” Callie asked as she and Lily walked past him.

  “Don’t think I’m letting this drop,” Seth said in a terse voice. “I want to know what the hell is going on with you, Callie. ”

  Callie rolled her eyes and continued down the hall with Lily at her side.

  Chapter Three

  Lunch was uncomfortable despite Lily’s warm presence and reassuring manner. Callie’s three brothers stared holes through her until she felt taken apart piece by piece. It was all she could do to calmly eat her meal and pretend that her world hadn’t shifted on its axis the night before. Midway through, Dillon sighed and put down his fork. “I think you should take tonight off, Callie. If I can’t find a bartender to cover for you, I’ll go in myself. ”

  “Okay. ”

  She instantly regretted her easy acquiescence. The agreement had slipped out born of her relief that she wouldn’t have to face a night when Max could very well show up again thinking to ambush her. Instead she should have made a show of arguing and then grudgingly relenting. Because now her brothers would be convinced that something was horribly wrong.

  “I thought I’d go up to Mom’s,” she said in an attempt to cover the sudden silence. “She’s been nagging me about being home for meals, but I’ve been working so much that I haven’t had the chance. ”

  Michael and Dillon might have been convinced by her explanation but Seth studied her with complete disbelief.

  “I’d like to go in with you, Dillon,” Lily spoke up.

  Dillon arched a brow and Callie nearly groaned. Fiercely loyal Lily wanted to go because her protective instincts had been riled by Callie’s account of her relationship with Max. Now Lily would be looking for Max, and hell, she’d probably make good on her threat to have Seth arrest him if she saw him in the bar.

  “Not that I mind you going anywhere with me, sweetness, but what’s the occasion? Saturdays at Mountain Pass can be loud and obnoxious. It’s not really a place I like you being. ”

  Lily frowned and Callie glanced over, her eyes pleading with Lily to forget she’d ever heard about Max Wilder. Lily stared back at Callie and then sighed.

  “It was just a thought. ” She lifted her shoulder in a shrug. “Maybe some other time. ”

  Dillon matched Lily’s frown. “It’s not that I don’t want you with me. I hope you know that. I’d just rather you be here with Michael and Seth where I know you’re safe. ”

  Lily rolled her eyes. “For God’s sake, Dillon. What do you think would happen if I went into a bar? I used to live on the streets, for God’s sake. ”

  All three men scowled at the reminder that the woman they loved had spent three heartbreaking years homeless after suffering a devastating loss. It made Callie’s heart twist too, and just the image that Lily invoked made Callie reach over and squeeze her hand.

  Lily looked at them all in bewilderment for a moment before she seemed to realize why they’d reacted. Her expression softened and then she smiled at each in turn. “If I hadn’t lived on the streets, if I hadn’t experienced the sorrow I did, I would have never found and loved all of you. ”

  “That doesn’t mean we want to even think of you being out there hungry and alone,” Michael muttered.

  Callie sympathized with her brothers. So much of Lily’s past she seemed to take in stride. She’d blossomed from wounded bird to a fierce eagle. She seemed so complacent and at peace with her past, and yet it still bothered her husbands immensely. Not a day went by that they didn’t do all they could to make Lily feel loved and cherished.

  She sighed. Watching her fathers with her mother and her brothers with Lily brought home all the things she wanted in a man. All the things she thought she’d found in Max. Maybe she’d expected too much. Maybe they’d broken the mold when the Colter men were fashioned. Maybe no one would ever live up to the example set by her fathers and brothers.

sp; It was a depressing thought because after witnessing just how much her mother and Lily were adored by their husbands, Callie knew she could never settle for anything less than what they’d found.

  Her chest ached and she had the strangest urge to cry all over again. She’d sworn she was done grieving for Max, but she felt worse today knowing that he was just a few miles away than she had when she’d first come home to nurse the wounds he’d inflicted on her.

  She pushed up from the table, no longer trusting herself to keep it together in front of her brothers. She made a point of taking her plate into the kitchen so that it would appear as if she’d simply finished her meal.

  She scraped the half-eaten food into the trash and then turned the water on in the sink to rinse it. She was staring at the rushing water when Seth put a hand on her shoulder.

  “What’s bothering you, baby?”

  Her heart ached at the endearment. Seth had called her baby since she was a toddler. She’d adored him growing up. Always the oldest. Always the one in charge. Michael and Dillon had tormented him relentlessly, but he’d always been the one Callie could run to when the chips were down.

  He’d held her hand on her first day of kindergarten despite the fact he was at an age where being seen with his younger sister was decidedly uncool. He’d walked her all the way to class and had been there at the end of the day to walk her down the street to the sheriff’s department where their mom picked them up.

  There’d never been a time when she’d held back from him. He’d nursed her through countless crushes. He’d sympathized when she’d had her heart broken by her prom date and even offered to escort her to the dance himself. As if she’d really show up with her brother. Instead they’d downloaded movies and spent the evening eating junk food and laughing over ridiculous disaster movies.

  But now she simply couldn’t communicate the depth of her heartache to him. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him. It had been difficult to confide even in Lily. And she’d only done so because she’d felt she’d burst if she didn’t unburden herself to someone.

  Her family lamented the fact that she was such a loner and that she’d always gone her own way. Free-spirited was the kinder description they attributed to her. She was sure there were some less complimentary words they murmured to themselves. Flighty. Indecisive.

  The simple fact was that even in a family as large and as loving as hers, a part of her always felt like she was on the outside. Even more so now that her brothers had done as her fathers and married the same woman.

  And here she stood, the oddball. The one daughter in the midst.

  “You asked me to back off before,” Seth said when she remained silent. “I respected your wishes, but you seem even sadder now. Can’t you tell me what’s going on?”

  She winced at the subtle hurt in his voice. She forced a smile and then leaned up to brush a kiss across his cheek. “I love you, Seth. Don’t push me. I’m dealing with this the best way I know how. ”

  He didn’t look happy. He looked like he wanted to shake her.

  Then she frowned. “And don’t go leaning on Lily for information. You’d put her in a terrible position. You know how loyal she is. She’d feel like she shouldn’t keep anything from you and then it would upset her that she’d betrayed me. ”

  Seth looked extremely disgruntled over how neatly Callie had prevented him from doing just that.

  “You’re a manipulative minx,” he muttered.

  She grinned cheekily. “You love me. ”

  His expression grew serious and he reached out to cup her chin. “Yes I do love you, kiddo, and I hate to see you hurting. You know you can come to me with anything. ”

  “You can’t fix this for me, Seth. I know it goes against your every grain for me to say that because in your mind you’d do whatever it took. This is something I have to deal with on my own, and you know what? I can do it. I’ve been standing on my own two feet for years now. ”

  He sighed. “Yeah. I’m proud of you, you know. ”

  Her eyebrow went up.

  He pulled her into a hug and she laid her head on his chest, soaking up the comfort her big brother always managed to give. Being home was the absolute best. The mountain was her haven. Her one safe place she could return to no matter how far she’d traveled. She loved the constancy of the land and her family.

  “I am proud of you, Callie. You’re an intelligent, independent young woman. All of us are proud of you. ”

  “Don’t make me cry or I’ll wipe my nose on your shirt,” she threatened.

  He hastily stepped away and gazed warily at her. “So what are your plans for the day?”

  “Honestly? I think I’m going up to see Mom and the dads. Grab a nap. I didn’t sleep so well on the couch last night. I’ll have dinner with them and spend the night there. It’s been a while since I’ve had two consecutive nights off. ”

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