When A Man Loves A Woman

By: Belle Calhoune

(Seven Brides Seven Brothers Book 7)




Prologue:



He wasn’t quite sure if it was daytime or night. He had just woken up and his stomach was making rumbling noises. He was cold, freezing all the way down to his bare feet. The little blanket he’d found in the corner hadn’t done much to protect him from the hard, cold floor.

His body ached and his teeth were chattering. Everything hurt. And it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. Frank was going to come back later on and hurt him all over again. He always did. And his mother did nothing to stop it. Sometimes she sat and watched and scolded him. All she cared about now was Frank.

The sound of a door opening caused him to sit up straight. A feeling of fear sliced through him. His heart began to beat really fast.

God, please don’t let him hurt me again. I promise to be a good person and eat all my vegetables, even broccoli. I want to be better in all ways so maybe they’ll like me. Maybe even love me someday. Or at least treat me good.

“Mac. Are you okay?” The soft voice whispered his name.

“Callie! Don’t come down. They’ll hear you.” He kept his voice as low as possible, knowing what would happen if Callie was caught down here. She would suffer the same punishment as he had. Maybe even worse. He saw the way Frank looked at her sometimes. It terrified him.

“No, they won’t hear me,” Callie said. “They went out somewhere and took the car. I couldn’t find the key until just now. I looked and looked everywhere.”

“Where was it?” he asked. His step-father and his mother had a million hiding places.

“In the breadbox. I almost couldn’t believe that I found it,” she said. He could hear a hint of pride in her voice.

“Smart,” he said. And Callie was as smart as a whip. She had learned how to tie her laces at four and had learned to read at three and a half.

Callie’s little footsteps, as light as a feather, echoed in the quiet of the basement. She must be wearing her slippers because she was making a shushing sound.

A beam of light lit up the darkness. All of a sudden she was standing in front of him, her beautiful red hair falling all around her shoulders. Her round face reminded him of a cherub. The little freckles crisscrossing her face always made him smile. Her green-hazel eyes were full of sorrow.

She held a flashlight in her hand. In the other one she had a blanket, some socks and a sandwich in a plastic bag.

“I brought you some things,” she said, offering him the items she’d brought down to the basement with her.

“When did you get so brave?” Mac asked.

She shrugged. “I learned it from you.”

He dug in the plastic bag and took out the sandwich. The smell of peanut butter and jelly—his favorite—rose to his nostrils. He took a big bite and let out a groan of satisfaction. When had he last eaten? Yesterday morning? He’d eaten a blueberry Pop Tart and some milk for breakfast. Then, right before lunch he had gotten in trouble and Frank, his stepfather, had punished him.

“I’m sorry, Mac.” Callie’s face crumpled.

“For what?”

Tears slid down her face. “I got you in trouble. It’s all my fault.”

“No, you didn’t.” He shook his head.

“I did too,” she said fiercely. “I broke the glass. It slipped through my fingers. I was trying to dry the dishes just like he told me to do.”

“You’re only five, Callie. I used to drop things all the time when I was five.”

“You took the blame. Like always.” She sniffled.

“That’s what big brothers do.” He smiled at her, hoping he could get her to smile back.

She began to blubber. “He beat you with the cord.”

Mac winced at the memory. Last night his back had felt as if it was on fire. Right now it felt almost numb. He knew there were welts on it. He probably needed medicine. A cool cloth would sting like crazy, but at least it would make it feel better.

“He didn’t break me. He never will,” Mac said defiantly.

“But you’re hurt. I can see it on your face.” She looked around the darkened room. “And it’s dark down here. He blacked out the windows.” She pointed toward windows he couldn’t see. “So you can’t see outside and it’s cold. So cold Mac.”

“Callie, you need to be brave. Braver than you’ve ever been.” He met his sister’s innocent gaze. “We need to leave here. We need to go.”

“Go where?” Her voice sounded confused.

“Away from here. While they’re gone.”

She shook her head. “No, Mac. We’ll get in trouble. They’ll find us.”

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