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Wyatt-2(Lane Brothers, Book 1)

By´╝ÜKristina Weaver


Chapter One

“You’re on shift tonight, Ash!”

Oh God, not again.

“Bill, I told you yesterday: I’m working tonight. I can only come back in after eight.”

It’s always like this. My boss, Bill Grace, starts barking nonsense at me, and I spend ten minutes yelling at him that if he didn’t pay me such a crappy salary I wouldn’t have to work another job just to keep my life semi-liveable.

Now he wants a double shift out of me, I have to get to my second job in half an hour, and I still need to get Ben home and fed before getting to work.


“Goddammit, Ash. We’re short staffed! Call in to your other gig and get the night off,” he yells at me through the window up front, his milky blue eyes bloodshot and fierce.

I adore Bill, really I do, but if I have to spend another minute explaining my life to this asshole, I’ll scream my damn head off!

“No. Now get your ass in here and start the next orders. I need to go get Ben before I’m late for my bus,” I mutter, untying my apron and tossing it at the hook behind me.

Bill mutters something I’m not sure is very complimentary to me, or women in general, and I duck out into the heat of the city, relieved that I still have time to hop my bus and get to Ben before his dragon of a teacher gives me another lecture.

Half an hour later I have my recalcitrant ten-year-old boy and we’re jogging home, trying to beat the downpour I can smell on the air.

“Run faster, Ash! We’re gonna get wet if you take so long, slow poke!” he yells, dragging at my hand.

Of course, he’s ten and hasn’t been working since five in the morning, has boundless energy, and isn’t bogged down by two bags and groceries, so he wouldn’t understand that I’m dead on my feet and a blink away from collapse.

Thankfully we make it into the house just as the first drop falls, and I rush around, getting dinner ready—a microwave meal, don’t judge—and checking his homework as I wait for Miranda, his baby sitter, to arrive.

“Hey, Ash!”

“In here, Randy!” I yell, giving Ben’s hair a rub as the exuberant young college girl bounces in with a smile that never fails to make me happy. “I’ve got him fed, and his homework’s done. Make sure he bathes—”

“Aaaw! I bathed last night,” he grumbles petulantly, reminding me of the huge attitude problem he’s got lately.

This is why Randy can’t get him from school anymore and why I’m being torn apart working two jobs and keeping his teachers happy. The little brat has become just that, a brat, and a damned bully to boot, forcing me to run myself ragged to personally get him from school and get him home before he can hurt another kid.

“Human beings bathe every day, whether they like it or not! Now get your ass upstairs and clean before I kick it, little boy!” I yell, losing my temper, something I swore to the school shrink I wouldn’t do.

Ben’s…reacting to our mother’s death three years ago, and our father’s subsequent abandonment of everything that even resembled her. In short, he took off the minute her casket hit the grave, and we haven’t heard from him since.

I’d dropped out of college just to keep my little brother out of foster care and to keep the little house Mom had left us from foreclosure. Most days we scrape even, if we’re lucky, and I have about as much chance of finishing off my college degree as winning the lottery.

Now I also have to deal with Ben acting out.

“He still giving the kids at school knuckle sandwiches?” Randy asks, clearing Ben’s plate and turning to me with a sympathetic grimace.

“Not since he’s been forced into homework detention. At least his grades are better,” I mutter, grabbing my bag and heading for the door. “I left your money in the middle drawer, and I bought you those pencils you need for that art class. Bye, Rand!”

I make it to the bus with not a second to spare, my clothes so wet I leave a puddle trailing behind me as I take a seat and clench my teeth against the shivers wracking me.

By the time I make it to the Jasper building, I look like a drowned rat and I’m sneezing so much I know I’m going to get a cold. Shit, just what I need right now, getting sick on top of my work schedule and trying to keep Ben from Juvie.

I make it to the locker room—a small closet with two lockers for our stuff—and change quickly, pulling my hair back into a severe, drenched bun before rushing out with my cart to get started.

Two hours later I am sniffling and miserable, but blessedly done for now. I’ve never felt this shitty, and one look in the tiny mirror hanging from my locker tells me I look as bad as I feel.