Bane's Heart (Avaleigh's Boys #2)(2)

By: Sandra R. Neeley

Her mother looked up from where she sat on her knees on the kitchen floor, “It’s nothing, Honey. Your Dad didn’t like what I cooked for dinner, so he threw it away. He missed the can. It’s not a big deal; I’ll clean it up.”

Janie looked at her mother kneeling there and noticed the red welt starting across her cheekbone. “Why’d he throw it away?”

Her mother shrugged one shoulder, not looking up at Janie, “He said he works hard, and he shouldn’t have to eat cheap ground meat; he should have a steak waiting on him when he gets home. Men eat steaks, not little meat balls pretending to be a man’s meal. He’s right though. He does work hard, and I should have been smart enough to make him a steak instead of meatballs and pasta.”

“Mom…,” Janie started.

“It’s okay, Janie.” Her mother looked at her; then, her eyes drifted to the bedroom where her father had disappeared just a few moments earlier. Her mother was trying to tell her that if he heard her, it would be worse.

Janie knew that there was no steak in the house. Her father drank most of his money each week, which left very little money for her mother to try to pay the bills and still have enough to buy a few little groceries. That ground meat that her father threw away was probably most of the grocery budget that her mother had been allowed that week, and now it was in the garbage can. Untouched. Her mother had made little meatballs out of it and added mushrooms and simmered them in brown gravy, then put them over egg noodles. It was one of Janie’s favorites, and she knew her mother had made it for her. Her father probably did, too. Which was one of the reasons he threw it away. He had always resented her. She took her mother’s attention away from him. And it always had to be about him, or all hell broke loose. Janie walked over to the refrigerator, took out some ice, and placed it into a sandwich bag. She sealed it and knelt down beside her mother. She reached out and held it against the swollen red mark on her mother’s cheek. Her mother smiled at her sadly, and she smiled back. This was a calm night in the Brownley household; at least there was no blood or broken bones. She knelt there beside her mother, as she cleaned the rest of their dinner from the floor. But in her mind’s eye she saw a pair of golden, milk-chocolate-swirled eyes and the face of the beautiful man that had captured her heart today with just a few words. She wondered how he would treat the women in his life. Certainly, better than this. Anything was better than this.

Chapter 2

Bane pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store and turned off the ignition of Bam’s truck. He took a few deep breaths and rubbed his hands up and down his thighs a few times. His heart was pounding at the thought of seeing Janie again. He didn’t want to just run into the store and right up to her, so he had to make himself calm down. He checked his appearance in the rear-view mirror. Hair decent enough? Check. Nose clean, no boogies? Check. He smiled at himself, teeth clean, nothing stuck in them? Check. He looked down at his shirt and jeans, nothing fancy, but no stains and clean. He made to get out of the truck, and movement coming around the side of the building caught his attention. It was Janie. She was just coming into work, and she looked sad. She made her way into the store looking down, not making eye contact with anyone. It immediately put him on alert. His Bear sat up and took notice, too. He was chuffing in Bane’s mind, wanting to comfort her, but he couldn’t. She didn’t know what she was to them yet. Bane allowed her enough time to get inside and get settled; then, he opened the door and headed into the store himself.

He looked around the front of the store and didn’t see her. He snagged a basket and made his way to the produce section to get the things Avaleigh would need for Mav’s lasagna. He doubled up on each ingredient, knowing all of his clan brothers had a huge appetite. Especially for anything that Avaleigh cooked. As he made his way around the store, up and down each aisle, he kept looking for Janie. When he was almost finished, he finally caught sight of her at the registers. She must have gone down another aisle when he was shopping. He hurried to finish his shopping and get to her line. Just as he got in line behind three other customers, another cashier opened her check-out line and spoke to him in particular. “I can get you here, Sweetie,” she told him as she smiled at him, her eyes roving up and down his body.