Wrapped in a Bow (Brac Village #22)

By: Lynn Hagen

Brac Village 22


Chapter One




“I hate my fucking life.” David walked out of the factory he’d been working at for the past two years, trudging down the street in the bitter cold. The bus stop was a block away, but it might as well have been ten blocks. The wind was whipping and he was already freezing his nuts off.

When the bus arrived, it was packed, and David had to stand on the ride home. His feet were already killing him, but riding the bus was his only option. Thankfully it was Friday, and he wouldn’t have to catch the bus again until Monday. It was pretty sad when that was the highlight of his week. He seriously needed to work on a social life.

His day hadn’t gotten any better by the time he made it home. He walked into a battle—his brother facing off with his uncle. They both looked ready to kill each other, and David was so not in the mood to play referee.

“I already told you not to have that lazy friend of yours hanging around my house,” Uncle Travis barked. There was only one person he could be talking about. David didn’t care for Stan, but the guy wasn’t that bad—not bad enough for Travis to go off about.

A bottle of cheap whiskey was clutched in Travis’s hand, which was no surprise. David swore the guy was born with one in his hand. His arthritis didn’t help matters, either. Travis constantly dropped his bottle, then cursed at either David or Nick when that happened, as though it was somehow their fault his fingers couldn’t keep a grip.

Travis’s sister came from the kitchen, rolling her eyes at them. “Dinner is almost ready. Go wash up.”

Gloria didn’t live with them, but two or three times a week she came over to make sure they had something decent to eat. David just hated that she stuck her head in the sand about Travis’s drinking problem and that he was a total dick to his nephews.

What put David in a foul mood was the fact that Christmas was only a week away. He didn’t want to think about it. Last Christmas he, Nick, and Travis had spent the day arguing, and Travis had gotten so wasted he’d fallen onto the coffee table and broken it, then turned around and blamed his nephews for it when he’d sobered up.

Holidays sucked at the Winston residence.

“Come on.” David shoved at Nick’s shoulder. His brother said something under his breath, but David didn’t catch it, and neither did Travis because he turned, nearly colliding with the wall before he stumbled down the hallway to his bedroom toward the back of the house.

David and Nick had the upstairs. Travis used to sleep up there, but with his bad knees and his alcohol addiction, he didn’t do well with steps. The saving grace of his ailing body was that he didn’t come upstairs to bother them.

“What was that about?” David stopped Nick in the upstairs hallway, glaring at him. Nick knew better than to rile Travis. Their uncle loved to remind them they lived under his roof, and if they didn’t walk a straight line, he’d kick them out. He liked to throw that fact in their faces at least half a dozen times in a week.

David used to love Travis. He’d been one of those cool uncles who had given piggyback rides, had taken David and Nick fishing, and always smiled. But that was before their parents had died in a car crash. David had been seventeen at the time, and Nick had been sixteen.

The courts had sent them to live with Travis, and ever since they’d hit his doorstep, he’d turned into a straight-up prick. David wasn’t even sure why there’d been such a drastic change in his personality. Maybe he hadn’t wanted the responsibility, or was taking out his sister’s death on them. Whatever the reason, David now loathed the man.

“All I said was he needed to take a shower.” Nick scowled. “The fucker stinks. Every time I’m near him I have an urge to throw up in my mouth. Why the fuck doesn’t Gloria make him wash his stank-ass body?”

“Keep your voice down.” David looked nervously toward the steps.

“Like he can hear us.” Nick stomped toward his room. “That bastard wouldn’t hear a car explosion from up here.”

That wasn’t the point and Nick knew it. “But you know Gloria can hear a damn pin drop,” he gave the needless reminder.

Travis hadn’t been the only one who’d changed. David totally understood Nick’s anger after their parents’ death. He himself hadn’t been in any better shape. Angry with the world hadn’t even begun to cut how he’d felt. But that had been four years ago, and Nick was still so damn pissed at…everything.

David had tried to get help Nick get past his grief, to the point of exhaustion, but nothing seemed to work. He loved Nick to death, but there were times when he wanted to just walk away and never look back.

Nick slammed his door and David winced. Gloria would give them an earful for that. She wasn’t mean like her brother, but she was old school, and slamming a door was a big sign of disrespect in her eyes.

David opened Nick’s door and glared at him. “Are you trying to get us kicked out?”

Nick snorted. “Travis ain’t gonna kick us out. We pay the bills and his booze habit. The fucker just likes to rub it in our faces that he took two orphans in. Like he did us a fucking favor when it’s the other way around.”

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