The Mind (The Reluctant Romantics #1.5)

BOOK: The Mind (The Reluctant Romantics #1.5)

Table of Contents




Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven



The Mind

Copyright © 2016 Kate Stewart

Editing by Edee Fallon, Mad Spark Editing

Cover Design, Formatting and interior design by Jersey Girl & Co.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products, bands, and/ or restaurants referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/ use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

License Notes

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For those who still believe in love at first sight.

“Momma?” I called out as I ran up the steps to our front door, already out of breath from the walk from the bus stop where she usually met me. Today she wasn’t there waving at me from below the window when the bus pulled up. This morning, she told me she wasn’t feeling good. Since Christmas, she’s been in bed a lot. I know she doesn’t want me to hear her cry so she keeps the door shut, but I’ve been leaving my favorite Tonka trucks by her door so she knows I want to make her feel better.

“I’ll be staying with my sister in Abeline,” I heard my momma say. My father started to yell and cold chills from the sweat drying made me shiver in the heat. I hated when Daddy yelled. He did it all the time now. Momma got sad and Daddy just yelled at her, making her more sick. I hated Daddy for it. Momma doesn’t smile anymore, and I know daddies are supposed to make mommas smile. My best friend Garrett’s daddy made his momma smile all the time. My daddy just yelled at her when she talked.

“You aren’t going anywhere with my son!” I heard him boom.

“Keep your voice down. He’ll be home any minute, and I want us to explain this to him together.”

“Explain what? That you’ve lost your marbles and you’re abandoning him?”

“I’m leaving you, Davis.
. Let me make that clear—”

I couldn’t think beyond hearing her say she was leaving. Opening the door, I ran inside, finding them in the bedroom. Momma was packing as Daddy blocked the door. I pushed past him and ran to my mother that was stuffing shirts into her full suitcase.

“Momma, why? Why are you leaving?” Momma looked at me in surprise then started to cry.

“I’m going to stay with Aunt Jackie for a while.”

My chest started to ache as I looked at my daddy head on. “Is it because he yells at you all the time when you are sad?” He took a step back as if I’d kicked him, and I felt good about it.

“No, Grant, this isn’t Daddy’s fault,” she said, taking my hand as she sat on the bed before pulling me to her.

“I need you to be a big boy now. You are almost seven years old and look at you...walking from the bus stop all on your own.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t even scared,” I said, puffing out my chest a bit. She smiled, but it was not the one I wanted her to give me. It was not the best one she had.

“Can you do that for me every day? Can you be a big boy and do your homework and chores while I’m gone?”

“Momma, don’t leave.” I turned to Daddy, who just stood there and watched momma as she started to pack again. “Daddy won’t yell no more. Will you, Daddy? Tell her!”

My daddy stayed silent. I knew I was not supposed to cry, but my stomach hurt too much. I looked at my father through narrowed eyes. “Daddy, tell her you will listen to her like she asks you to all the time. Tell her you won’t yell at her anymore!”

A small sob escaped my mother’s lips as she shut the suitcase. “Grant,” she whispered, “don’t blame this on your daddy.”

“It’s his fault, Momma. Don’t go. I’ll listen to you. I’ll take care of you when you’re sick.” She bent down to give me a kiss as she held me to her so tightly I couldn’t breathe. I pushed away from her to look at my daddy again.

“Don’t you let her leave!” I didn’t recognize my voice as I said, “I’ll hate you, Daddy. I’ll hate you. This is all your fault.” I gripped the handle of my mother’s suitcase and tried to pry it away from her.

“Grant, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Let go...Grant...Davis!” Momma looked at daddy to help her and he took a step towards me. As soon as he reached me, I started to fight him. My mother’s skirt brushed past the bedroom door and the pain in my stomach got worse.

“Don’t, Momma! Don’t go!” I fought my father’s grip as hard as I could. He audibly exhaled and I looked up to see a teardrop rolling down his cheek. I was happy to see it. I was glad he was hurting, too.

“I’m so sorry, son.”

“No, you aren’t. You made her leave! I heard you tell her you couldn’t help her. That you were tired of trying to help her!” I managed to get one arm free and then the other, but I already knew it was too late. I hated him more than ever as I chased her blue pickup down the drive.

I couldn’t catch her so I picked up rocks from the gravel path and threw them as hard as I could. One hit the tailgate, but the truck kept moving. I threw rock after rock as I cried so hard my sight became blurry, screaming promise after promise to her.

“Come on, son, come inside.”

Ignoring him, I kept throwing rocks until I was so tired I couldn’t lift my arms. Even more tired than when I played all day in the woods with Garrett. Wiping my tears away with a dirty hand, I turned around to face my daddy.

“If you loved her like a daddy ‘posed to, she wouldn’t be gone!”

He nodded before turning around to walk back into the house. The screen door slammed behind him and I jumped at the sound. I’d never talked to my daddy like that. Usually, he’d spank me real good then talk to me about respect. I wondered if he would have the strap on the bed when I got inside. I didn’t care. It was his fault Momma left and he knew it. I wouldn’t even cry if he strapped me.

I’d show him.

I walked back up the stairs and towards my bedroom, ready to face my punishment, but he never came.

I blinked hard against the recollection of that day as I pulled into campus, sighing at the usual traffic I had to fight to get there. I’d spent the hours on the road from Tennessee thinking about the shitty task ahead of me, and about the day my mother left my father and how horrible it felt. A little over six months after she left, he’d brought another woman home, but it didn’t last long. He’s been alone ever since. My momma was alone, too, right up until she died a year ago. My whole life I knew they still loved each other, but they were too stubborn to do a damn thing about it. Maybe they weren’t meant to be, but there’s something to be said about never picking up the pieces of your life and moving on with someone else twenty-two years after your divorce. I could only speculate what they did to ease the ache when I was in between their homes in Texas and Tennessee, but to my knowledge, neither one of them ever fell in love again. Now, my mother was gone and my father was close behind.

I pressed my forehead to the steering wheel, stuck in a line of cars waiting to park, dreading the words I was about to say. I’d wasted another six months in a dead-end relationship, and now I had to be the one to break it off. Maybe it was the lingering guilt of remembering my mother leaving and the look on my father’s face, which I knew now was devastation, which was making this feel harder than it should be.

was nothing like
. This wasn’t love at all.

This...was strangely pathetic, a new low for me. She wasn’t even my type, yet I’d led her on a little bit by just staying in the relationship, if you could even call it that. No, if this feeling were anything like the way I felt when my momma left, I wouldn’t be here ready to break it off. I would be holding on for dear life, making every effort to ensure we stayed together and that she was happy. I was no fool, and if the day ever came that I felt that way—
type of panic over losing a woman—I would do everything in my power to keep her, whoever she may be.

A horn sounded from behind me, and I lifted my gaze from the steering wheel with tired eyes. Hours of driving and fatigue seeped through my bones. All I wanted to do was sleep. This could wait.

A text came through just as a spot opened.

You coming? I’m so nervous! Please!


“Might as well get this over with,” I muttered to myself. I put the truck in park then observed the students scattering to get to class. Still reluctant to drag my ass inside, I watched a few of them screw with their cell phones as they completely ignored the world around them. Rolling my eyes at their stupidity, I rolled down my window then killed the ignition, letting the hot breeze blow through the cab. It didn’t make sense to me to ignore the world for a bunch of technology. I understood its purpose and used it myself, but spending day in and day out with their heads buried in other people’s lives while life went on around them made these scholars look like idiots. I had no desire to drown myself in other people’s lives when I fought night and day for a life of my own. My private time was precious. Between watching my father wither away, caring for him, and making sure I kept a job I loved, I reveled in the hours I could call my own. I’d be damned if I spent them wondering what everyone else was up to. Every second mattered. Every. Fucking. Second. Including the seconds I was wasting in the cab of my truck, delaying the inevitable.

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