Unforgiven, p.5

Unforgiven, page 5

 part  #5 of  Wilde Brothers Series



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  “Samuel Wilde,” he said, cradling the phone against his shoulder as he started assembling some of his notes.

  “Mr. Wilde,” Logan said, “it’s your brother.”

  Logan’s deep voice had always brought Samuel a sense of belonging. “Logan,” he replied. He couldn’t make himself say any more as he went from feeling relief at hearing from his brother to feeling upset because of his rejection. He really was harboring a lot of hurt.

  “How have you been?” Logan said. He was phoning to ask him how he was—now, after the one time Samuel had needed him, truly needed him, and Logan hadn’t been there?

  “I’m busy, Logan. What is it you need?” He leaned back in his chair, tempted to end the call and give Logan a piece of his mind.

  “Cut the crap, Samuel. You know I’d never toss you, Jake, Ben, or Joe to the wind and not be there for you, and I think it’s time you come home.”

  What the hell was his brother talking about? “Logan, I am home. I live in Seattle. I have a job, a great one. I’m busy. Why are you calling, anyway?”

  Logan sighed on the other end, but it was the frustration in his voice that had Samuel wondering what was really going on with him. “Samuel, we’ve always been close, and we always will be. It’s a figure of speech. I know you have a job. You made me proud, going off to law school and doing as well as you have, but there are some things in our family that aren’t settled. You’re my brother, Samuel. I think it’s time some peace settled between us. Whatever you decide to do, you have to know I’m not going to abandon you, no more than I could your brothers. We’re family.”

  “Funny you remember that now. The most important day of my life, you couldn’t even be there. Really told me how much you value me as your brother.”

  There was silence on the other end, and he wondered what Logan could possibly be thinking.

  “Not true, and you know that,” Logan said. “You gave me how many hours’ notice to hop on a plane or drive down to Vegas? You know I would have, but Julia and the baby were sick, and I had a crime scene to manage. It was an impossible situation. It’s not something that happens, but when you called, there was nothing I could do to get there. I told you that. I wondered at the time, when I talked with you, whether you were only hearing what you wanted to. Now I know you didn’t understand. Same with your brothers, Samuel. You know Joe can’t afford much. He’s struggled since the mill closed, even before. He’s just too proud to tell you.”

  Samuel rubbed his hand across his chin as his brother took him to task over the phone. He hadn’t thought too much about the cost to go to Vegas. For him, it was nothing, a few thousand for a weekend away, but for Joe that was money that would have taken him a while to save. Why hadn’t he realized that? Having Logan point it out to him made him sound thoughtless.

  “I guess it really is water under the bridge now,” Samuel said. “Maybe I didn’t understand what you were saying. I thought you were on Jake’s side.” He ran his finger under his lip.

  “There are no sides in this family, Samuel. Haven’t you figured that out yet? Both you and Jake need to work this out and find a way to come together. There isn’t a chance I’ll allow this to break us up so that holidays and family visits suddenly become us having to schedule two different ones for you and your girl and Jake and his. The hell that’s going to happen, so I’ll tell you what is: I’m declaring Mayday.”

  What? He couldn’t believe it. It was the word they’d come up with as kids during the worst time of their lives, when their father had left and Logan had suddenly found himself in charge of the family. It was a promise they’d made that no matter what they were doing or where they were or what was going on, they’d drop it and find a way to come home. It was the one thing they had agreed on—but this was the first time any of them had used it. Throughout everything they’d been through, including Logan’s tours in Iraq when he was with the marines, not once had one of them called it. But here Logan was, his brother…his big brother.

  He shut his eyes as he felt the case he’d put so many hours into slip away. Another lawyer in the firm would step in and take the credit on a case he’d put everything into. It was his blood and all his sweat. Then there was Jill and the doctor.

  “That’s not fair, Logan. I have a lot going on here that you don’t know about. Just like during my wedding when you couldn’t come.”

  “No outs, Samuel. This is it. I’m calling it for everyone—you, Jake, Ben, and Joe. Every one of us is coming home. Whatever it is you need to do to get ready, do it now. You’ve got one day, and then I want you back here. Ben’s got a fishing lodge north of here that he picked up. It’s close to Joe, Jake can fly in, and I’ll be there, but everyone’s going to show up, no excuses, on Thursday. So take tomorrow to finish what you need to.”

  Samuel didn’t say a word as he leaned back in his chair, staring at the notes he’d made on a case he’d worked his ass off on. He pushed all the papers together, opened the file, and dumped them in.

  “Logan, you’re an asshole. A prick.”

  There was silence on the other end that changed the energy between them. It was as if they’d covered so much ground and hashed things out. He had his brother back.

  “I love you too, Samuel,” Logan said.

  Samuel listened to the buzz of the disconnected phone after Logan hung up, knowing as he replaced the phone into the handset that this was the fork in the road he had never seen coming. He could walk away from his family forever, but even as he thought it, he knew that was something Logan would never allow him to do. There was something about promises made when you were young. It had been one of the worst times of his life, and Mayday was an unbreakable vow that was thicker than blood. Wherever the chips might fall, he had no choice. He had to go back.


  Chapter 9

  “I won’t be gone too long, but remember, when you hear from the doctor, call me,” Samuel said.

  Jill placed his folded T-shirts, fresh from the laundry, onto the bed as he packed a duffle bag. “Yes, Samuel, I’ll call you. I told you I would. Go and be with your brothers.”

  He glanced over at Jill, who seemed rather calm and okay with the fact that he was leaving for God knew where, for how long, with no notice, at a time when she should have needed him most. Instead, she rubbed his arm in a rather caring, nurturing way, something she hadn’t done in a while—something the old Jill, whom he’d never really appreciated, had always done.

  “Why are you not upset I’m leaving?” he said.

  She just smiled. “I’m glad you’re going, I’m glad your brother called you. It’s important for you, Samuel. Your brothers are important. You need to sort out your needs with your family. Please be with them. Go, please.”

  She really was remarkable, he realized. “It matters to you, my relationship with my family?”

  She was folding his clothes and didn’t look up, as she seemed to need a minute to collect herself. “Of course it matters. There’s one thing about you that I’ve always loved, and that’s how close you and your brothers are. It’s bothered me so much that you’ve been divided, and I know that where you stand now with your family has everything to do with me. I won’t live like that. You need to go and be with them, work it out. You and Jake weren’t only brothers, Samuel, you were best friends, and I destroyed that.”

  She pressed her hand to her chest and stopped talking for a moment, taking a soft breath. “I had no idea what the consequences of my actions would be, and now I wish I could go back and make different choices. I’m not a careless person, Samuel. I’m an analyst in business, and the fact that I did something without seeing all the risks, the outcomes…” She stepped away to the closet and reached up for some sweatshirts, standing on tiptoe.

  “Whoa, don’t do that,” Samuel said. He put his hands on her hips and held her still for a minute as she lowered herself back down. “You shouldn’t be reaching up like that, Jill.”

  “Sorry, I’m just trying to help.”<
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  He turned her around until he was staring down into her face. She was still so slim as he ran his hands over her arms through her long-sleeved shirt. Her short dark hair was tucked behind her ears, and her face seemed lighter, not as tight. She was always worrying so much. He didn’t know what it was about her that seemed different. Her eyes had always hooked him, the dark pools able to reach into him and tug at his heart. She didn’t have to say anything.

  He found himself leaning down while holding her face between his hands to kiss her. He watched her lips, so full and pink. At times, he felt they were made just for him. Then he kissed her lightly, and she leaned into him, opening up to him and allowing him to take the lead as he always did. She was so soft and kind as he pulled away and her eyes slowly opened. She let out that soft sigh he loved and licked her lips as if she loved the taste of him before sliding her hands over his as he held her, tasted her.

  “I love you, Samuel,” she said before stepping back. “You should finish packing.” She gestured over her shoulder. “I’ll make you a sandwich for the road.”

  She started out of the bedroom in their tiny apartment, and he should have said, “No, don’t worry about it, I’ll grab something on the road,” but he didn’t—because there was something about Jill looking after his needs that meant more to him than he’d allowed himself to realize. So he said nothing as he finished packing his bag for a trip he both wanted and loathed.


  Chapter 10

  She stood at the window, looking down at the street below. This was Seattle, busy at this time of morning, which had the last of the nine-to-five crowd rushing to their corporate world. She wouldn’t be able to see Samuel, not from where she was. No, the underground garage that housed the compact he rarely drove would have him coming out the back way. She hoped something good would come out of this, and she was so thankful that Logan had listened to her, had heard her concerns, and was now reaching out to Samuel. She really did want to believe that Logan, if anyone, could pull the family together. The brothers should have been close. She had to believe they would be again.

  She turned away and took a last look at Samuel’s place. It was all him, with only a few added touches of her. The apartment really would always be his, and maybe that was why she loved it, every cramped inch of it. She loved the sofa, thinking back to all the nights they’d cuddled together and watched a movie or just a TV show together, but it had been so long since they’d done that, so long since she’d felt his touch beside her or behind her in bed, pulling her close so she could feel every hard inch of him. She loved it. She missed it.

  She’d always felt so primal and taken care of when he wanted her as he did, but not so much as of late. He’d made love to her only once since the failed wedding, and she was sure now that it had only been meant to fill his need, nothing to do with the closeness she needed. That was the very difference between screwing her and making love. She wished it wasn’t that way, but with Samuel, she’d always been able to sense the difference, whether she wanted to admit it to herself or not.

  She walked over to the kitchen and took in how neat and tidy it was: the counter wiped down, the food put away. She picked up her laptop case from the table and then slid open the closet door to pull out her short raincoat. She shrugged it on and slipped her feet into her beige loafers, then took one last look around before lifting the strap of her laptop over her head, grabbing her small purse, and reaching for the handle of the suitcase she’d packed. She pulled it behind her as she left Samuel’s apartment, and she could hear the telephone ringing inside, but she kept walking. It had taken everything she had to make this choice, to leave.

  Her heart was heavy as she kept going to the elevator, and she barely registered hearing the door close behind her. She didn’t turn to see the portly gentleman come up beside her—dark trench coat, his thin hair combed to the side.

  “Going away?” he asked, taking in her suitcase.

  She smiled in the polite way that strangers do. “Yes, for a while,” she said as the elevator door opened and she pulled her suitcase in. The stranger followed her in, but she didn’t hear what else he said, as her heart was breaking with the knowledge that this would be the last time she was here.


  Chapter 11

  He had been following a black Range Rover, the expensive kind, down an old logging road for what felt like forever. Soon he realized, as he followed the fork in the road, staying to the left—according to the directions Logan had given him to Ben’s fishing lodge—that the Range Rover was going to the same place.

  As he followed who, he realized, had to be Ben, his older brother and a former oil executive, the road opened onto a secluded paradise and what looked to be a five thousand square foot cabin-style lodge that had two levels, with balconies running across the entire second story. But the gem that had Samuel pausing was the fact that this property sat in front of its own private lake.

  Wow. Paradise.

  There were already two other vehicles there: Logan’s piece of shit Jeep with a canvas top and an old beat-up four by four also with Idaho plates, which was Joe’s.

  He turned off his key and watched as Ben climbed out of his Range Rover. His brother’s short hair was in the same David Beckham style he always wore. He had dark shades, which he pulled off as he stepped to the front of Samuel’s new Beemer, a two-door compact he wasn’t about to part with. Ben waited, glancing around with a guarded expression.

  “Well, now or never,” Samuel muttered before he opened the door and climbed out, reaching for his bag in the passenger seat. “Nice place you have, here!”

  Ben didn’t say anything. He seemed to take it in again, glancing to the house and the smoke coming from the chimney.

  “I see that Logan and Joe beat me here,” Samuel said.

  Ben looked back to him and nodded, but something seemed to strain between them. He had never really found out why Ben had blown him off, too, and not shown for his wedding. Ben was the one brother he hadn’t expected that from.

  “So what are your plans for this place?” he said. He knew Ben had been soul searching, as he’d put it, since his less than favorable departure from the oil industry, the scandal that had rocked his career and left him scrambling to find his footing. He’d become the patsy in a career-burning pipeline project built on false promises and falsified reports. Ben had been the only one to stand up to a company he’d been a part of and helped build, and he’d paid the ultimate price.

  “I don’t know yet,” he replied. “It came for sale at a great price, so I saw it as an investment. Carrie, I think, would like to do more. What do you think about me becoming a fishing guide or hotelier?”

  Seriously? Ben was about the last brother he’d think could pull that off. “If you said Joe, I’d say sure,” Samuel said. “Would be right up his alley—hunting, fishing, guiding. But you? You’re a lot like me and Jake, a city boy looking to make it big.”

  This time, Ben gave him a look that was anything but friendly. He shook his head. “I’m not like you and Jake. That’s the thing, Samuel. You two are the babies of the family. We watched out for you. I wanted better, had better. Not so sure that’s what I want anymore.”

  He glanced to his brother’s Range Rover, the nice alloy wheels. He had to wonder. “What is it you want?” he said.

  Maybe he didn’t understand Ben. After all, he was still trying to figure out why he’d picked Carrie, a slim, short blonde who was cute and perky and far from the supermodel type Ben had always dated. Yet here he was with the environmentalist who’d fought him tooth and nail when he tried to sell her community on the pipeline deal.

  “Peace is what I want,” Ben said. “Just to be happy. What about you, Samuel? What do you want?” He sometimes could be so philosophical, but at other times he was much more outgoing than any one of them.

  “I was wondering when you’d get here,” Logan called out. He appeared suddenly, wearing a down vest, blue jeans, and hiking boots.
His dark hair was threaded with even more gray than the last time Samuel had seen him at Christmas. The lines around his eyes weren’t just from age, as he was much older than Samuel, but because he’d seen more horror and dealt with more of life’s rougher side during his tours in Iraq with the marines. Logan was tall—they all were, although Samuel was two inches shorter than all his brothers. That bothered him at times, even though he was still considered tall at six feet.

  Logan hugged Ben, patted his back, and then reached for Samuel, pulling him into a hug he hadn’t expected. It touched something inside of him, an ache he hadn’t acknowledged, and he reached around and hugged his big brother back.

  When he heard a vehicle coming down the heavily treed road, he tensed.

  He stepped out of the hug, but Logan kept his arm around him as they watched baby Jake, the football star of the family and the man who’d slept with Jill, pull in with a rental SUV. He parked behind Samuel, and it could have just been them in that moment when he opened the door and stepped out.

  “Hey, guys, Joe,” Jake said, looking up. Samuel followed his gaze to see Joe on the balcony, watching them. “Okay, I’m here. You got me here, Logan, but seriously, whatever it is you think you’re going to accomplish, having us all here, I think you’re wasting everyone’s time.” Jake looked to Samuel with an unfeeling expression.

  Logan actually squeezed Samuel’s shoulder—maybe to warn him, he wasn’t sure.

  It was Ben who stepped between Jake and Samuel, ready to stop whatever it was he thought was about to happen: a punch, a brawl, anything. “Knock it off, Jake,” he said. “We all made a promise when we were kids that whatever happened, nothing would ever come between us, and that if something so bad happened that it would tear this family apart, we’d come, no questions asked. And you came. We all came.” No one said anything as Ben stared long and hard at Jake and then Samuel. “I, for one, am not leaving here until we’re a family once again.”

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