“You’re refusing medication for pain?” Adam frowned as he took a seat. “You’ve got nothing to prove. No one’s going to care if the big, bad Rafe The Choker Mason takes a pain pill. There’s no reason for you to suffer.”
If I listened beyond the condescending tone, he almost sounded like he gave a shit. I met his tired green eyes, noting the pronounced wrinkles surrounding them. He’d certainly aged since the last time I remembered seeing him.
Which was eight years ago…wait, longer.
“I’m fine, Adam.” At least I knew his name. Fuck, at least I knew my own. My memory had a warped sense of humor. How could eight years just disappear? It pissed me off that everyone seemed to know more about those missing years than I did, including a guy I knew nothing about. Jax wanted to talk. I felt it in my marrow, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to hear what he had to say. The doctors, the nurses—they all treated me with a professional air, but underneath, I sensed an undercurrent of hostility. Disgust even.
Who had I become? And what was up with the way my brother was looking at me? Like he fucking cared. Most of all, the absence of one person ate at me like a maggot.
Adam perched his elbows on his knees. “Dad is…he’s…busy.”
I pushed myself up despite the pain, needing to be on equal ground. “Don’t feed me that bullshit.” Jax had been dodging the question since I’d first opened my eyes in this place. Now Adam was doing the same.
He dropped his head into his hands then dragged his fingers through his hair. When he looked up, stress etched across his features, tightening his mouth and jaw. “We’re on much better terms than we used to be, so you can cut the attitude.”
“Since you got out—” He cursed under his breath.
“Got out of what?”
“I think Jax should be the one to tell you about that. He should be back soon.”
“I don’t even know the guy.”
“You know him better than you think. He was your cellmate.” Adam closed his eyes. “Shit.”
A heavy glob of dread pressed on my chest. “Cellmate?”
He rose from the chair. “I realize this is horrible timing, but I have a meeting I need to get to. I just stopped in to check on you. I heard you were awake.”
“Some things never change,” I muttered. “Whatever you’re keeping from me, just tell me. It couldn’t get any worse than this.”
“I’m not sure how much you should know. We don’t know what caused the amnesia. Maybe you should take the doc’s advice and talk to someone who specializes in this stuff.”
“You mean a shrink?”
“Yes, I’m talking about a shrink.” Sarcasm dripped from the last word. “Excuse me for worrying about my little brother.” He wandered around the room, and each second of disquiet niggled at my irritation. I didn’t like being left in the dark.
“The sheriff’s waiting to talk to you,” he said, clearly changing the subject. “And speaking of, so is Nik. Are you up to seeing her yet?”
I shook my head. The last memory I had of Nikki involved a night of the wildest, roughest sex of my life—the kind that marred skin with bruises.
Eight. Fucking. Years. Ago.
I was scared shitless to find out what had happened since that night.
Had I made it to the UFC?
Were Nikki and I a…thing? A thing didn’t encompass how I felt about her. I was far from ready to settle down, but if that day ever came, it was too easy to see her filling that role. Easier to think of her than the brunette who tested my sanity and willpower every time I saw her. I wasn’t about to touch jailbait.
Except she wasn’t jailbait anymore.
My head spun, though whether from the puzzle pieces of my own mind, or the constant ache in my shoulder, I didn’t know.
The door suddenly opened, and Jax stepped inside. “How’re you feeling?”
I glanced down at the bandage covering the area where a bullet had passed clean through. “Good as can be expected.” My gaze veered to my brother. “Adam won’t tell me shit.”
They exchanged a look, and I gritted my teeth.
“This is getting old. Spill, or I’ll find out on my own.”
Adam looked at his watch, and the shuffle of his feet told me he was itching to ditch. “I think you should fill him in, Jax. You know him best anyway.”
What the hell? How could this stranger know me better than my own brother? Okay, so we weren’t exactly close, but still. We were family.
“I’ll call you after my meeting ends.” He reached for the door.
“Adam,” I said, sitting up straighter. “Where the fuck is Dad?”
“I don’t think now is the time…” He swallowed hard.
“Just tell me. Is he sick? Out of state on business? What the fuck is going on?”
“Dad passed a year ago.” His voice was so soft and low, it took a few seconds for those words to penetrate. Strength fled my body, and I sank into the pillows. A lump formed in my throat, preventing me from speaking. Something foreign burned behind my eyes. Tears. Grief. I never cried. Crying was a weakness. Crying was for pansies.
Adam dropped his head, one hand on the open door. “Rafe? Did you hear what I said?”
Through my blurry vision, I saw a nurse move past in the hall. “How did it happen?” I didn’t recognize the thick quality of my voice.
I thought back to all the years I’d seen a cigarette dangling from Dad’s mouth, all the times Adam and I tried to convince him to give up the habit. “He never quit, did he?”
“He was the definition of stubborn,” Adam said, shaking his head.
“Did he suffer?” I knew it was a ridiculous question, but I had to hear it.
My brother lifted his eyes, so like my own, and the weight of his sorrow crushed me. “You know Dad. He fought with everything he had.”
“Did we get to say goodbye?” The thought of him passing alone was too much, and I swallowed hard before clearing my throat. “Was he at peace with it?”
Again, Adam and Jax traded a glance. My brother nodded. “Yeah.”
Jax scowled. “Don’t lie to him. Not about this.”