As You Turn Away (The Walker Boys) (10 page)

BOOK: As You Turn Away (The Walker Boys)
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“Time.” Ethan led Mac out into the pasture behind the barn, and then walked back inside. “It takes time, Jonah, to prove you mean to stay, and really be here with us. And honesty, and respect. Give us respect and you’ll get it in return.”

Jonah rubbed a hand over Finn’s coat and fed his horse a sugar cube. Finn’s crunching sounds took him back to learning to ride, and working with his dad, breaking horses for sale. Jonah knew he couldn’t go about integrating back into his family exactly in the same way, but if he continued the way he was now, nothing would change. He nodded, letting Ethan know he was listening, thinking of the tricks his father used for breaking in horses. Patience and determination were the deciding factors.

“Time I’ve got.” He stared after his horse for a moment before facing Ethan. “Respect.” Jonah sighed, chewing on his bottom lip. “I’m still regaining my
self
-respect, but yeah, I know you’re right, E. So if that’s what it takes, starting now, I’ll respect this family. And I’ll talk to Reece, soon. Can you bear with me?”

Ethan didn’t shy away from his gaze, but he waited long enough to speak to make Jonah wonder if his words were enough to soften the pain he’d caused Ethan. “Yeah,” Ethan answered finally. “I think I can.”

It felt right, so he reached out and pulled Ethan into a hug. His brother hesitated for only a few seconds before wrapping his arms around him, and clapping him on the back. Jonah grinned, even though Ethan couldn’t see him. They weren’t where they needed to be yet, but they were closer.

 

~~~~~

 

Jonah lifted the hood and stared down at the familiar engine. The shop light illuminated the car, and the area around it, and Jonah chuckled to himself. The workspace inside the shed was like stepping back in time to before he left. The same pegs by the door, adorned with a raincoat, a winter coat, and an ever-rotating cowboy hat from his father’s collection. Milk crates scattered about served as seats, since the workbench was covered in tools.

Walking around the car, Jonah ran a hand over the trunk, fingers just barely skimming the surface. “Hey, Baby,” he said quietly. All these years, all the nights spent in here tinkering on the car, and until he walked in here tonight, he hadn’t known what to expect. The way he acted when he left, he didn’t even feel like he deserved to participate in his favorite Walker family tradition: rebuilding his dad’s hot-rod.

“Old girl’s startin’ to look like new again.” When Jonah spun toward the voice, his dad was leaning against the wall. He tipped his head toward the Chevy. “Hope you don’t mind, but I replaced the wipers while you were gone.”

Jonah rounded the front end and stalled. He tried to gather his thoughts, while his dad raised his coffee mug for a sip. Sam drank a cup of decaf every night like clockwork, and knowing there was something else he could count on to remain the same summoned the courage Jonah hadn’t been sure he had. Realizing his family’s joy at having him home was tempered with their wariness due to his actions in the past was a heavy burden, and one he knew it was going to take time, and actions to fix.

“I thought…” He rubbed at the back of his neck, and eyed the Nova. “I thought you might have gotten rid of her or worked on her with Reece or Ethan.”

Sam lowered his cup, and sat it on a nearby crate before he closed the distance between them. He rummaged around on the workbench and found a soft rag, then used it to polish something on the driver’s side door. When he was done, he faced Jonah. “This is
our
project—always has been, and always will be. I could never get rid of Baby.”

The unexpected gesture just about did Jonah in entirely. He opened his mouth, but for a long moment, nothing came out except a puff of air. Any words he collected simply vanished, as he saw yet again, a family member offering him so much more than he deserved.

“It’s, uh…” He was fumbling, and he couldn’t help it. “It’s been a long time. A lot’s happened.” A pause as his damned throat closed over, and he had to swallow twice. “You think we can get her running again? I’d really love to finish the repairs.”

This wasn’t like his conversation with Ethan; things with his dad were different. Jonah’s world was built around Sam—around his respect and approval, and he’d missed both of those things. Jonah still valued his father’s opinions and advice, and wanted the chance to spend more nights working on Baby together. She’d seen them through good times and bad. She’d always been there, a common denominator to link them together through Jonah’s growing pains, a safe haven in trying times, a goal to work toward together. She was a starting point for serious discussions, a buffer for when they were at odds. She was the glue that strengthened their relationship; Jonah wasn’t sure what he’d do without her, or without his dad’s love.

“Yeah, Jonah.” His father’s voice interrupted the silence, an octave lower than usual, lending a huskier tone to his words. “The two of us? Given time, and if we work hard enough, I think we can fix her.”

Jonah blew out a sigh. “That’s great, Pop.” He linked his hands behind his back. “Why don’t you show me what you were thinkin’ needs done first, and we’ll go from there? It means a lot to hear you say we can work on her together again. And I’m sorry I left you here alone to tend to her.”

I’m sorry I was a stupid kid; I’m sorry I left you here alone, Pop.
The words were on the tip of his tongue, and stuck right there. Jonah prayed his dad would hear what he wasn’t saying. And when Sam met his gaze, Jonah hoped that maybe he had.

“Apology accepted.” His dad’s familiar smile eased Jonah’s mind; his dad was accepting his olive branch. “Come over here and I’ll tell you what I was thinking of doing with the interior.”

Jonah waited while his dad popped open the door, gesturing at the seats. They’d never gotten that far, largely because they’d spent a lot of time bickering over rim options for the wheels, and hadn’t ever decided on the interior. Jonah listened as his dad explained the options he’d researched, one of them being restoring the car back to stock interior, instead of what it had now.

“Sounds good, I like that idea.” He straightened, admiring Baby. When his dad brought her home, she was a mess, but between the two of them, they’d made some good progress before he left.

“Thought you might.” His dad burst into laughter. “I can’t believe you thought I’d work on her with your brothers. Like I’d ever let them near my hot-rod.” He shook his head, and his glee was infectious. “Remember the one time Reece
tried
to change the oil? What a disaster.”

Jonah snickered. “I mean, you can’t blame me for asking,” he choked out as he gave into the belly laugh. He wiped tears away from his eyes, his stomach muscles protesting, and slid an arm around his dad’s shoulder. When Sam didn’t pull away, the world made a bit more sense again for the first time in years.

“Well that was an unmitigated disaster.” Quinn sighed, dipping her toes in the lake.

Jonah slid an arm around her shoulders, glad she couldn’t see his frown. He’d met her family earlier in the evening, and although he went in with low expectations, the evening was so awkward it was almost painful. When her mother wasn’t sniping at him, her father was glowering at him. Jonah couldn’t decide if Clay Reynolds didn’t like him, or just didn’t like seeing him with Quinn. He’d tried to make small talk with her parents, but they were only interested in grilling him on where he was going to school, and what he wanted to do with his life.

Swallowing his disappointment, Jonah kissed Quinn’s temple. “It’s okay, darlin’. They don’t have to love me right away, or at all. They just have to accept us.”

“What if they don’t?” Her voice trembled on the last word.

He couldn’t blame her for being upset. Her parents spent the meal harping on his future, which was basically a blank piece of paper. Jonah frowned, but stamped down the expression. He tipped her face upward so he was looking into her eyes. “I hope they do. I hope they can see past their image of me and my family, and accept that we make one another happy. But if they can’t?” He smiled for her, even though it felt crooked to him. “If they can’t, then we’ll still find a way to be happy.”

Quinn’s lips tilted slightly, though her eyes were shining. “All I’ve ever wanted was someone I could be myself with…and with you, I’ve finally found that person.” She bit her lip. “I don’t ever want to lose you. I like being me.”

Jonah pressed his forehead to hers. “I like you being you, too. Even if sometimes you burp during our movie marathons.”

“I do not!” She reddened. “At least I didn’t fart in the theater last week.”

Raising both hands, Jonah chuckled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Princess.”

She stood and wrapped her arms around him. “You know, Jonah Walker, you’re really lucky I like you so much.”

Jonah breathed in her scent, and thought about how even though the rest of the night hadn’t gone according to plan, there was nowhere else he would ever want to be right now. “I know, Quinn. I tell myself every day how lucky I am.”

Chapter Seven

 

“We’re here.”

The words jolted Quinn out of a memory so close and vivid, she didn’t open her eyes until her heart stopped pounding. When she did, the images from the day she met Jonah faded, becoming hazier every second, until they were transparent, and then gone entirely. Instead of a diner, she was in the hospital parking lot. Instead of flying on the back of a motorcycle, holding onto Jonah Walker tighter than was necessary, she was about to be late for an appointment with her doctor. Paige wanted to check on her leg and see how the compound fracture was healing three weeks post-surgery.

“Thanks, Dare. I was…somewhere else.” Quinn tried to smile, but she didn’t have to
see
the expression to know how weak and thin it was.

“No worries.” Darren got out, and came around to the passenger side door. Despite how often she insisted she needed to be using her crutches, her cousin wanted to do all that he could for her. He helped her out of the car as if she was something fragile, and then got her settled before he locked the car doors. “Quinnie,” he started, and then paused, raking a hand through his hair. “Were you thinking about Jonah again?” He expelled a breath.

Quinn stalled, inhaling as evenly as she could. Her mind was a chaotic place these days. When she wasn’t worrying about her dad, or struggling to work through estate details following her mother’s death, Jonah was on her mind. And in her dreams. Every night, she relieved their relationship, and every morning, the ache in her chest felt more and more real. “I—maybe.” She eyed Darren. “Why do you ask?”

“Lanie says you’ve been dreaming about him again.” Darren didn’t look down or away as he answered her, but there was something in his eyes she didn’t want to see. Something that looked too much like sadness to her. “Says you’ve been callin’ out for him.”

Quinn bowed her head to avoid looking at Darren. She hitched her crutches firmly under her arms and took off as quickly as she could toward the hospital. Darren let her think she was out-pacing him for a few steps, but by the time she got to the door, he was there already, holding it open for her. She growled at him as she hobbled inside, and would have kept going, but he put a gentle hand on her arm.

“Quinn. Look, this isn’t easy for me to say.” Darren wasn’t looking at her this time, she noticed, as she tilted her head up to meet his gaze. “But you get this
look
about you when you’re thinking about him. Your whole face just kinda softens, and you look
happy
, and miserable.” She opened her mouth, but he kept going. “I’m not advocating for you to do anything rash. God knows I don’t like him for what he did to you. But maybe you should talk to him.”

Somehow, Quinn extracted herself from her cousin. It took much more effort to hold back the tears that clouded her vision. “Dare,” she said quietly. “What about what
I
did to
him
?”

By the time she reached Paige’s office, she was a few minutes late, but her doctor wasn’t upset with her. Paige took new X-rays, and they chatted about things like pain level, and the weather, until Paige could consult the results. She seemed happy with the progress, though she warned Quinn again that this sort of break would probably take a minimum of another month to heal, and could take longer.

Darren jumped out of his seat when Quinn walked out of her doctor’s office, and opened his arms to her. Quinn let herself be held for a few seconds before she hugged him back. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled into her hair.

“No, Dare.” She pulled back so she could look at him. “No, I just. Everything about this situation is so weird. And I’m worried about Dad, and sad about Mom, but if I think too much about that, I just want to…stop breathing.” She leaned into him again. “And Jonah. We both hurt each other so
much
, and I think we owe it to what we were to fix that, but I don’t know how.”

Darren pressed his forehead against hers; his eyes looked like the sky just before it rained. “I don’t know what to tell you, Quinn. I hope you can each put the past behind you, so that you can move on, and be okay.”

She nodded, and then pulled away. “I hope we can, too.” She pulled her purse higher on her shoulder. “Give me an hour, and come back for me?”

“Of course.” Darren kissed her cheek quickly, and then loped away. Quinn smiled after him until he was out of sight, and then made her way to the nearest elevator.

BOOK: As You Turn Away (The Walker Boys)
7.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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