Luke drove to Rogan’s that night because he needed his brother’s help. Rogan was a hard ass who would no doubt point out the mistakes and miscalculations in his brother’s past, but in the end, he’d offer advice and a plan that made sense. It was the lectures Luke dreaded. Couldn’t the guy get to the point and forget the commentary? Just this once? Of course not—his brother wasn’t made that way, so Luke sat through the scowl and the lesson about not blowing six hundred dollars on a leather jacket when you only had one hundred until payday, even if the leather was Italian. Big sigh and more talk about not spending money you didn’t have and staying away from credit cards. Okay, he got it.
“I agree with everything you’ve said and if you give me a budget, I’ll follow it.” Luke studied the label on his beer bottle. “I’ve got two other people to consider now, and I don’t want to screw up.”
“Good.” Rogan eyed him. “Glad to hear it.”
Why did his brother sound like he didn’t believe him? “I’ll do it, you’ll see.” And then, because he couldn’t stand to hear one more word about savings and debt, and because he’d carried regret around too long, he said, “I’m sorry I bailed on you when Dad and Mom got into trouble. There’s no excuse and it was a crappy thing to do.” He sipped his beer, leaned back against the kitchen counter. “I’ve never worried about doing the right thing or how my actions might affect someone else. Hell, I never even considered the consequences for half the stuff I did.” He shot a glance at Rogan, shrugged. “I could go on, but you probably know my failings better than I do.”
Rogan’s lips pulled into a faint grin. “Probably so.”
Another shrug. “Figured as much. Did you ever think there’s a reason for so many screw-ups?” Luke had realized the truth years ago and once he admitted it, he’d gone full throttle on the self-gratification and risk-taking and to hell with everyone else—especially his brother.
“A reason, huh?” Rogan rubbed his jaw. “You mean other than stupidity and immaturity?”
Luke shook his head. “Funny. I won’t deny either, but they’re not it.” Pause. “You are.”
“Me? What’s that supposed to mean?” Rogan’s blue gaze narrowed on him, the brackets around his mouth deepening.
“You’re the son every parent wishes he had. I, on the other hand, am the one every parent wishes he could ignore.” There, he’d finally said it. For years, he’d felt inferior when compared to his oldest brother. Even Charlotte came in far behind Rogan. “You always did everything right. Didn’t run away from a tough choice, helped Mom and Dad, loaned me money, and I’m guessing you helped Charlotte, too. There just weren’t any missteps and for a guy like me, that can get really tiring.”
He dragged a hand through his hair, pushed out more truths. “I spent a lot of years running from my dissatisfaction with myself and my choices. But a year or so ago I got tired of it all. The running, the women, the life that was about finding satisfaction and never achieving it. I had to finally admit Iwas the problem, my lifestyle was a problem, but that didn’t mean I knew what to do about it.” His voice softened, and he thought of the woman who’d changed his life. “Then I met Helena. I know she’s too good for me, know I don’t deserve her, but I’m not going to give her up. I can’t give her up.”
Rogan finished his beer, pulled out two more from the fridge, and handed one to Luke. “First, I’m not that perfect. Trust me on that one, and if you don’t believe me, ask my wife. I just hide my issues better than you do. Second, about your wife…you sure fell hard and fast. What was it about her that sent you into a nosedive?”
The tone in his brother’s voice said he was more than curious… He was suspicious. Of Luke or of Helena? “How about you stop dancing around the niceties and ask me straight out what you really want to know?”
Rogan twisted the cap off his beer, took a swig and studied Luke like he was about to begin another lecture. “I’m a numbers guy so I look at trends, facts, and statistics. Simple numbers, simple columns that add up and make sense. Nothing about you and Helena makes sense other than you landed in bed together and she ended up pregnant. But the rest? Marryingher? Planning this we’ll-be-together-forever-life? You could never settle on a woman past a week and now you’re ready to make a lifelong commitment?”
“Yeah, I am.” Luke eyed his brother, clenched a fist against his thigh. “And how is this any different from you and Elizabeth? From what I hear, she was pregnant when you got married andthere was a lapse in between when you weren’t even together.” Charlotte had filled him in on the couple’s rough start and their mother gave him her version as well, beginning and ending with how much Rogan and Elizabeth were meant to be together—even if they didn’t know it at first.
“Leave Elizabeth out of this.” The tone in Rogan’s voice said he was not going to tolerate anyone talking about his wife, not even his brother.
“Just answer me. I’m not judging, only asking.”
“We’re not talking about me right now. Everybody’s wondering why you jumped into marriage and the consensus is she pushed you.”
“The consensus? Are you all sitting around the table taking votes on how we ended up together?” The dull red inching up his brother’s neck said that was pretty much exactly what they were doing. Damn them. He did not appreciate his family thinking the woman he loved was less than honorable. “She did not push me. I’mthe one who pushed for the marriage.”
His brother’s lips stretched into what might be considered a smile if not for the coldness buried behind them. “Don’t you know by now that the most effective measure a woman has of pushing is by looking like she’s notpushing? You know, the ones who say they don’t want a relationship and then end up pregnant? Happens every day. I’ve seen it too many times and I know you have, too. You can’t blame any of us for wondering what this is really all about. This isn’t fifty years ago where you had to marry the girl if you got her pregnant.”
Luke pushed away from the counter, advanced toward Rogan and stopped when he was a punch away. “Helena is my wife and I love her and we’re going to have a baby. We’re going to make a life together and be happy. End of story.” He crossed his arms over his chest, dared his brother to dispute those words.
“Good. Glad to hear about your wedded bliss and your future and all the happiness that goes with it. Nobody wants you to be unhappy, Luke. We just don’t want you to get played either.”
“Got it. And I appreciate the concern but it’s not necessary. Helena and I are solid. She’s the most honest person I’ve ever met.” He could have no way of knowing how much he’d regret those words or wish he’d heeded Rogan’s advice. For now, all he knew was that he and Helena were meant to be together and they were starting a family and a future together. And nothing else mattered.Return to Book Page