Hammer's Fall (The Breakers’ Bad Boys, 1)(10)

By: Laurie Roma

“I wasn’t. I just got back from the hospital where I was visiting a friend.” She paused for a moment, debating whether or not to tell him what had happened, then decided to share. “There was an…incident a couple of weeks ago over the holidays. You’ve met Anna, right?”

“Sure, she seems like a sweet woman. I hope she’s okay.”

“She’s fine. Anna was a godsend when I opened up my shop. Her husband is the lawyer that helped me set up my business, and she was tired of staying home all day now that her daughter is away at college. She had a brother who died a few years ago.” She paused for a moment before speaking again. “We found out that Anna’s two nephews who live in Dallas were being abused by their mother and her new boyfriend. The oldest boy, Nate, came home from a New Year’s Eve party to find that the boyfriend had beaten, then kicked his younger brother down the stairs. The boyfriend was high on something and went after Nate with a kitchen knife. Luckily the police showed up and stopped him.”

“Jesus…” he breathed out.

“Yeah, I know. So, I just got back from visiting Shane in the hospital.”

Rage burned in Hammer’s gut at what she told him, and he slowly pulled his hand free from hers, not wanting to crush it in his anger. Flashbacks of his own childhood had his hands fisting under the table as he fought to control his reaction. He couldn’t understand how anyone could do something like that, especially to a child. The need to find the motherfucker who had hurt those kids and exact retribution with his own fists was like a compulsion. “Is he going to make it?”

“Yes. Shane had some internal bleeding that they want to keep an eye on. He’s only twelve and suffered so much. Thankfully, Nate only has a few cuts and bruises.” Her eyes took on a fierce gleam. “The asshole boyfriend was also in the hospital under police guard before he went to jail. While they were fighting Nate managed to hurt him, and he’s pretty strong for being sixteen. Their mother just took off before the police arrived. I think I blame her just as much as her boyfriend…if not more. She should have protected her children.”

“I was lucky,” Hammer said, trying to keep his voice light. “My ma protected me as much as she could.”

Sympathy swam in Kalista’s eyes as she reached out the stroke his arm. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have—”

“No, don’t.” He reached up to grip her hand again. “I’m glad you told me. I survived, and they will, too. And my ma has moved on and is very happy now. Let me know if I can do anything for those boys, will you?” Seeing her smile eased some of the tension that had built inside his chest.

“I will. Thank you, Jared.”

Hammer made a mental note to check in on the kid himself. He knew about the fury that could fester into blind hatred over something like this, and wanted to make sure that Nate didn’t lash out at anyone if he didn’t deal with his anger properly. He’d make damn sure that wouldn’t happen since the kid was going to be around his little fairy.

“I guess I should get going since I have an early start tomorrow,” Kalista said, sorry to have brought up such horrible memories for him.

“I’ll walk you back.”

They stood and she zipped up her coat as he put his sweatshirt on, then she let him take her hand again as he led her out of the bar. The gesture seemed so casual that Kalista thought maybe he held hands with whatever woman he was with and it wasn’t because he was interested in her.

Her heart clenched at the thought.

They walked in silence, both of them deep in thought. Stupid, she scolded herself. How stupid to talk about a tragedy when he had finally noticed her. It was certainly a way to kill any romantic notions that may have sparked from this encounter.

Still, it was good that she had told him.

Jared had never hidden his past. He had spoken of what had happened with his father when he had been in the spotlight fighting for the CFL, and she had read articles about how many young kids had been motivated by the story. It would be good for Nate to see firsthand what a successful man Jared had made himself after coming from a similar background.

Holding back a sigh, she figured she would have to get used to friend status. Jared was being nice enough to meet with her tomorrow to help her set up some sort of training. She was surprised that he was even willing to suffer being around her family, offering himself up like some sort of sacrificial date for the wedding. Despite how pathetic it would make her look, she was anxious enough about the whole event that she was ready to take him up on his offer, even if it was made out of pity.

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