Unbreak my Heart, page 7
“Michael, could you please help me undo my seatbelt?” Willow asked him politely when Crank had stopped the engine in the car park. “Yesterday it was a little stiff.”
“He’s not Michael, I am!” Edward teased.
Willow scratched her head and looked confused. “But I thought …?”
“Don’t worry Willow,” Michael said, undoing the seatbelt for her. “Edward’s just messin’ with ya. I am Michael. He does that all the time tryin’ to be funny, but hardly anyone ever gets fooled. Besides, I’m not even sure he knows how to unbuckle a seatbelt.”
“Doesn’t he!” Willow giggled.
Michael pretended to be shocked as he watched Edward undo his seatbelt and open the car door. “So he does, what a surprise!” he exclaimed.
Willow giggled again. “You two are funny.”
As they sat at their table inside the pizza parlour quietly talking amongst themselves as they waited for their orders, the sudden burst of music from Crank’s cell phone cut through the chatter.
“Excuse me for a moment,” he apologised, noticing that the call was from Macey. “Boys it’s your Mom. I’m gonna take this outside where it’s a little quieter. I’ll let you know the news as soon as I get back inside, okay?”
“Hi Mace,” he greeted as he reached the curb. “Has there been any word yet about Eli’s condition?”
“Hi Crank.” Macey seemed a little calmer. “Did the boys arrive okay?”
“Yeah, they’re a little tired after their long bus trip, but they’re both fine; still bickering as usual. As a matter of fact we’re just about to have pizza for dinner.”
“That’s great. Look Crank, thank you so much again for agreeing to have the boys for a while. It’s a real load off my mind knowing they are being taken care of properly with you instead of at home at the ranch by themselves.”
“So has there been any more news about Eli’s condition?” he asked again.
“Yes.” she said cheerily. “The doctor on call said that some of the swelling on Eli’s brain has already started to go down and his vital signs have improved immensely. He thinks that if Eli keeps improving at the same speed as today they may be able to bring him out of his coma the day after tomorrow.”
Crank felt relieved. “And do they still think he may have any form of brain damage?”
“It’s still possible,” Macey admitted, “but the doctors are a lot more optimistic now than what they were this morning. They say that apart from a few temporary gross and fine motor deficits, he’s likely to be just fine.”
Crank breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Mace that’s absolutely wonderful news,” he said excitedly. “I’ll pass that on to the boys for you as soon as I get back inside the restaurant.”
“Crank!” Macey said. “Can I just ask one more favour?”
Crank’s stomach rumbled as he glimpsed in through the window of the restaurant and saw that several trays of mixed pizza pieces had arrived at the table along with some sides of garlic bread and several jugs of soda. “Of course Mace, anything, just ask.”
“Could you please encourage the boys to get out and explore the lake a little rather than sit around with their computers chatting on social media websites, or in Michael’s case, burying his head in YouTube and books? The brochures for Caddo Lake all looked so peaceful and interesting and I would love for them to get out and explore it. Heck, when we were kids Mama and Daddy hardly saw us between sun up and sun down. We were always too busy riding our bikes or climbin’ trees to stay indoors.”
“And fishin’ and swimmin’,” Crank reminded her. “Look Sis, don’t worry about Michael and Edward, just concentrate on Eli. I’ll make sure the boys get out of the cabin and experience nature.”
“Thanks Crank, I’ll call again as soon as I have some more news, okay.”
“Okay Mace, I’d better get back to the boys before they start bickering again.”
“Tell them I love them,” she interjected.
“Will do, bye”
After telling the twins the good news about their father, the five of them enjoyed a delicious feed of pizzas and soda until they were all stuffed. When all of the pizza was finally finished Michael and Edward asked Crank for some coins so they could try their luck at winning Willow a toy from the claw machine and suddenly he and Clare were alone again for the first time since he had kissed her outside her cabin.
“Edward and Michael seem like fine young men,” she complimented, breaking the awkward silence that had crept in. “And Willow certainly seems to like them.”
Crank looked over toward the claw machine and watched as the two boys worked together to pick up a soft toy in the claw while Willow stood nearby cheering them on. “They used to be the same with Ellie before she died,” he said sadly, remembering how much the boys used to enjoy hanging out with their younger cousin.
“Whenever Georgia and I used to visit their folk’s ranch, they would keep her entertained for hours. Then, when it was time to leave, we used to have a real job getting her to come home with us because she always wanted to sleep over with her Aunt Macey and Uncle Eli so she could continue to hang out with Michael and Edward.”
Clare reached her hand across the table and placed it over Crank’s. “You’re an amazing man Crank, you know that. I would have probably lost the plot if I had lost my whole family in an accident. But not you, you’ve got such a big heart.”
Crank turned his attention back to Clare. “Clare, there’s something important I need to tell you,” he said cautiously, “but you may not like it.” He could feel his heart hammering in his chest, fuelled by absolute panic that once he told her he had been in jail for killing a man she would want nothing more to do with him. But he also knew that if he intended to start a relationship with her then he would have to tell her the whole story at some stage so why not right now. After all, it was hardly the sort of detail you could just leave out. That would be too dishonest and the chances were Clare would find out anyway, eventually. Secrets always have a way of coming out in relationships at the most inopportune times and that was something that he wanted to avoid.
He looked deep into her attentive blue eyes. “Clare, I’m actually not as strong as you think I am. You see, after Georgia and Ellie were killed I did lose the plot. At first I turned to the bottle and drank myself into oblivion every night for weeks to avoid the pain until eventually my best friend and business partner, Kurt, hauled me up by my boot straps and dragged my ass back to work to distract me from my personal hell.”
Clare recognised the name. “Ah, Kurt, your generous friend who paid for my new radiator. Did going back to work help?” she asked. “I’m not sure it would have for me.”
Crank nodded. “For a while things returned to normal, at least from the outside, the pain was still there and when I was alone the grief and pain would literally consume me. But at least I was kept busy during the day and pulling my weight as a partner at our firm. But then when the vehicular homicide trial finally made it to court for the drunk driver who was behind the wheel when they were killed, I made one of the dumbest split–second decisions I have ever made in my life and I have been paying for that mistake for a long time. You see outside the court I ….”
“Mama, Crank, look what Edward and Michael won for me!” Willow interrupted excitedly, jumping up and down between them waving a small, blue teddy bear from side to side, innocently breaking the momentum of his confession to Clare that he had been in jail for manslaughter for the past six years.
“They picked it up in the claw and dropped it dropped down the hole for me!”
Crank wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or upset that he had been interrupted. He reached down and touched the soft, blue fur of the plush toy with his finger. “Wow, you’re such a lucky girl, what are you going to call him?”
“I’m going to call him Lucky,” she said happily, “because we won him on the very last coin.”
After Edward and Michael r
By the time they reached Clare’s cabin Willow was fast asleep so Crank offered to carry her through to her bedroom while Clare walked in front and opened the doors.
“Would you like to stay for a coffee?” she asked as they crept back out of Willow’s room into the sitting room. “You could finish telling me your story about how you made the dumbest split second decision in your entire life while the twins find something on the television to watch.It’s still quite early, only 9:45.”
Crank put his hands around Clare’s waist and drew her close. “I think I might have to take a raincheck on that coffee.” he said disappointedly. “Michael was almost asleep when we arrived and I don’t think Edward was too far behind him so I think I might just head on back to the cabin and get them settled in.” He bent down and brushed his lips against hers; gently at first and then more urgently until they were exploring each other’s mouths with their tongues.
Crank felt himself getting hard and forced himself to break away. “Clare, I have to go,” he rasped, raking a slightly trembling hand through his thick, dark locks, “while I still have the willpower to leave. Thank you so much for shouting dinner this evening. I think the boys had a great time.”
Clare dragged her fingers through her mussed hair and glanced back toward Willow’s open doorway. “I don’t think they were the only ones,” she whispered, still panting from the heat of the moment. “Willow had so much fun that she completely wore herself out.”
But Crank was barely able to concentrate on her words. He was too busy thinking about how and when he was going to finally break the news to her that he had only just been released from jail after spending six years behind bars for manslaughter.
Realising that Crank had slipped back into some sort of painful reverie, Clare slipped her palms under his untucked shirt and slid them up to his abs to bring him back to the present, causing him to suck in a breath. She leaned in close and whispered in his ear. “You need to go. I’ve never felt more like making love to someone in my whole entire life and if it weren’t for the fact that your nephews were waiting for you out in the car I would probably drag you off to my bed right now.” She slipped her hands out from under his shirt and pushed him by the waist all the way back out onto the porch.
Looking out at Crank’s car she could see both boys were still wide awake waiting for him. “We’ll see you boys around mid-morning,” she whispered, giving him a quick peck on the cheek. “I have some fresh bread, chicken and cheese to make us all a picnic lunch and Willow and I found a bunch of rods and reels that belonged to granddaddy in the shed out the back so you’re welcome to choose whichever ones you like. Night Crank.”
She looked over at the car again and waved to the twins. “Night boys. It was nice meeting you.”
Despite having a long, cold shower before going to bed, Crank still slept fitfully. Every bone in his body now ached for Clare and she had invaded his dreams every time he had actually managed to fall asleep.
At 6 a.m. the alarm went off on his watch, stirring him from oblivion, but rather than open his eyes he fumbled around with the buttons on the side until he managed to hit the off button and promptly rolled over to get a bit more sleep.
Suddenly he was back in the sitting room of Clare’s cabin as she walked out of the bathroom wearing only a towel, but this time, instead of trying to cover herself she smiled at him seductively and slowly undid the towel, letting it drop to the floor.
The sight of Clare standing naked in front of him was so incredibly hot, every part of her so sexy and perfect; while every part of him was alert, and hardening by the second with desire. Despite his growing arousal, he remained seated, it had been a long time since he had been with a woman and he wanted to take things slowly.
Sensing his nervousness, Clare walked over to the sofa, pulled him to his feet and gently guided his hands around her waist. For the longest time they stood stationary in a warm, loving embrace, with Clare’s head cradled on his chest, but even though he was now fully erect, he still made no attempt to go any further. It had been such a long time since he had held a woman in his arms that he was genuinely afraid.
Once the hammering in his chest finally began to subside, Clare lifted her head from his chest, unbuttoned his shirt and tugged it from behind until it fell to the ground in a heap. With the barrier removed, she then slid the flats of her hands from his pecs all the way down to his rock hard abs and then deftly removed his belt, tossing it into the corner of the room, before tugging down his jeans and underwear until he too was completely naked.
By now his need for her was urgent and he instinctively pulled her into his arms until his lips were crushing hers and his erection pressed hard against the warmth of her skin. Gently, he lifted Clare up and began lowering her down onto his manhood, but just as he was about to enter her and meld their aroused bodies into one, there was a loud and sudden, intrusive rap on the door behind them. A knock so loud that it felt to Crank like it didn’t belong in the peacefulness and sensuality of the moment.
Suddenly the loud knock repeated. “Uncle Crank, are you awake? It’s Michael.”
Crank tried desperately to ignore the voice and the knocking, but the damage had been done, it had woken him from his sleep and Clare suddenly vanished in his arms.
“Uncle Crank, is it okay if I come in?”
Crank grumbled with frustration and immediately covered his nakedness. “Yes Michael, come on in,” he groaned, letting go of the pillow he had been cradling and sitting up as his nephew entered the room. “What’s up?” he asked, wiping the sleep from his eyes.
“Clare called about fifteen minutes ago. She said to tell you that she wants us to meet her and Willow at their cabin around ten to go fishing.”
Crank glanced down at his watch and saw that it had already gone nine. “Shit! How did I manage to sleep so long?” he grumbled. “Where’s Edward?”
“He’s in the kitchen cooking up a pan of scrambled eggs for us for breakfast,” he said slightly bemused that his uncle had overslept. “Edward and I got up around 7:00 and went for a walk along the edge of the lake, so I guess there was no noise around to rouse you.”
Crank stretched out his arms and yawned to wake himself up. “I’m glad to hear that you guys have started doing a bit of exploring while you’re here. You know just last night your mama asked if I would make sure that the pair of you didn’t just keep your noses stuck in your computers or in a book.”
“P-LEASE!” Michael said cheekily, “As if Edward would ever stick his nose in a book! I have my doubts whether he can even read!”
Crank grabbed the pillow and playfully tossed it at his nephew, causing him to duck. “You know very well that your brother can read just as well as you can,” he retorted. “Now get out of here and let me take a shower and get dressed. Oh and leave me some egg, I’m starved.”
Michael picked up the pillow and tossed it back onto the bed, narrowly missing his uncle’s head. “Well let’s just hope Edward knows how to cook!”
Despite sleeping in, Crank and the twins arrived at Clare’s cabin at 10 a.m. sharp and after picking out a rod each and digging through Clare’s overgrown back garden for some worms, while she packed a delicious hamper for their lunch, the five of them spent a perfect morning together picnicking and fishing by the lake, with Willow particularly thrilled when she managed to catch a small Bass on her line.
Every night for the next two weeks, Crank fell into bed exhausted and happy, managing to fall asleep without any sign of guilt despite spending his days bushwalking, sight-seeing and fishing with Clare and Willow and his twin nephews.
To further add to his happiness, this morning his sister Macey had called excitedly to tell him and the boys the good news that their dad, Eli, was now fully conscious and was expected to make a full recovery within a ma
This time the twins and Willow had requested Chinese so Crank and Clare had taken them to a Chinese restaurant in Marshall called The Red Dragon and while they were there he had finally plucked up the courage to tell Clare about his multi-billion dollar empire that he had built from scratch with his business partner, Kurt, and how he was personally worth over 1.5 billion dollars.
At first Clare had simply laughed it off thinking he was pulling her leg, but finally realised he was serious when the twins confirmed his story.
“I tried to tell you that Uncle Crank was rich the night you came with him to pick us up from the bus,” Michael reminded her, but Uncle Crank stopped me.”
“I’m really sorry about that,” Crank apologised as Clare reached for her wine glass to steady her racing mind. “I’ve been wanting to tell you for days, but the timing never felt quite right, but tonight, after receiving the good news about my brother-in-law, Eli, it felt like the right time to finally come clean.”
Clare was speechless for almost a full minute. “I guess that explains why your business partner, Kurt, was more than happy to pay for my radiator and hoses,” she said finally, picking up her glass and taking a larger than usual swig. “Is there anything else that you have been holding back from me Crank?” she teased, eyeing him with mock suspicion, “or do you have another huge revelation left up your sleeve for another day?”
Crank felt a sudden surge of panic. There was still something extremely important that he had not yet told her – Like the fact that he had only just been released from prison after serving six years behind bars for manslaughter.
Since being interrupted when he tried to tell her at the pizza joint on the first night the boys arrived, he had so far failed to come clean and tell Clare the rest of his story.
Hurriedly, he changed the subject. “What about you Clare?” he asked, turning the spotlight back on her. “Is there anything that you are holding back on telling me? How do I know that you don’t secretly own a billion dollar company?”