Hunter's Need...releases 12/1
She broke off, unsure of what she was trying to say.
Brad looked away, his body stiff and angry. “You can find something here.”
“No. I can’t. Brad, I have to find something on my own. Some place of my own…something that’s mine. Something I worked for, something I earned. I’m losing myself here, baby. You’ve got a life laid out before you. You belong here—as much as Neal doesn’t belong, as much as I don’t, you do. This is your life. But it’s not mine.”
“Maybe that’s because you won’t let it be.”
Ana shook her head. “That’s not it. I don’t have that kind of strength in me. I don’t have that drive, that need. We have it, or we don’t…and I don’t have what it takes to be one of a Hunter.”
Brad shrugged, a rough, jerky motion but he finally looked at her. The hurt and loneliness in his eyes made her throat constrict and she could feel herself giving in. What could it hurt to stay a few more months…a few more years?
But then the memory of Neal’s anger flashed through her mind, sizzling against her shields. He hadn’t hurt Brad, and she suspected he wouldn’t. However, she couldn’t say the same for herself. Neal looked at her and saw prey. She doubted he was the only one. If Neal had hurt her, what would it have done to Brad?
What would Brad have done? She had to leave, for Brad as much as for herself. Before his worry for her ended up making him do something he’d regret—or worse, something he wouldn’t regret. She’d be damned if she caused him problems. He needed to focus on himself now, needed to stop worrying about her so much. Hell, maybe if she was gone, he could enjoy what little was left of his childhood instead of trying to take care of her so much.
“This is for the best,” she said softly.
He swallowed convulsively, then nodded. “Will you come back? Ya know, to visit me? Can I come see you?”
“Yes. As often as I can, and as often as you want.”
“Maybe…maybe you don’t have to go far. I mean, maybe you could find a job in Huntington or something…”
“Maybe.” But they both knew otherwise.
“I don’t want you to go,” Brad mumbled, ducking his head. There was a suspicious sniffle and when he looked back at her, his eyes were damp.
He wrapped thin, bony arms around her and for a minute, she let herself pretend they were younger. For a minute, she let herself pretend she hadn’t totally failed him.
“I’ll miss you.”
He hugged her tight and then stepped away. Smiling sadly, he said, “But you really want to get away from here, don’t you?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do. And I think I need to. For both of us.”
Away from Excelsior. Away from Virginia. Away from people who didn’t know her every shortcoming. Away from people who kept looking at her and just waiting for her to screw up again. Away from people who looked at the siblings and judged them both based on what Ana had done.
Away from Duke…
She shied away from that silent voice, but not quick enough. A memory flashed through her mind—those dark gray eyes, staring down at her as though nothing, no one else in the world existed. The warmth of his body. The strength.
Yes. Away from Duke—away from just another reminder of how inadequate she was.
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