Fighting Shadows (On the Ropes #2)(10) by Aly Martinez

“She can and she did. The law got involved, and Till has no formal custody agreement. Even though she abandoned you boys, she is still biologically your mom. Quarry’s only fourteen, so he defaults to her until a court date can be arranged.”

“You have got to be shitting me,” I breathed.

“We got a whole legal team involved and managed to get Till weekend visitation while we worked out a court date for next month. But that still means Q is gonna be living with your mom during the week until then.”

“Son of a bitch.” I raked a hand through my hair. “Is Till freaking the fuck out?”

“You can’t even imagine. I actually just dropped him off at the gym. I spent the last twenty-four hours trying to bail him out of jail.”

“Jail?” I exclaimed.

“Apparently, Till went to pick him up yesterday and your mom’s husband refused to let Quarry leave with him.”

“Her husband?” I clarified in shock.

“Yep. She married Ray Mabie, and that piece of shit was dumb enough to step between Till and Quarry. All hell broke loose.”

Suddenly, I had a sickening feeling in my stomach. Nothing stood between “The Silencer” Till Page and his family.

“Did he kill him?” I asked.

“Nah, but Ray left in the back of an ambulance. Till was in the back of a police car.”

“Fucking hell,” I cursed in relief that the death penalty was at least off the table.

“Anyway, I need you to go pick up Q. Till isn’t allowed within two hundred feet of Mabie’s house, and it has to be an immediate family member to pick him up, which means Eliza and I are out.”

Just the mention of her name twisted my gut. “I, uh, I mean . . . I can’t.”

“Excuse me?”

“I can’t. I mean, I can. But—”

“Okay, let me rephrase this.” He slapped the back of my head. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Your brother is sitting at your worthless-piece-of-shit mother’s house. You remember what growing up with that woman was like, right? Don’t give me any of this bullshit about can’t. Get your fucking keys, get in your car, and, if you have to, break every goddamn traffic law on the way to pick him up.”

“I’m not going back to Till’s to drop him off. I’m just not!” I shouted.

Slate crossed his thick arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes at me. “You care to tell me why not?”

“Because I’m not going back there.” I paused before throwing in, “Ever,” so there was no confusion.

“Fine. Bring him to the gym. You know, it wouldn’t kill you to come inside and put in a decent workout too. You look terrible.”

“I’ll drop him off.” I had zero intention of going inside that gym, and no insult Slate could sling at me would change my mind.

“Flint—”

“Excuse me. I’m supposed to be racing to pick up Q right now. I’ll drop him off at On The Ropes in a little while.”

He sucked in a resigned breath and shook his head. “Fine. I’ll text you the address. But for the record, don’t for one second think that you have anyone fooled. You’re not getting your shit together by holing yourself up in this apartment. You’re avoiding it. But you know what? Problems don’t need a map. They’ll follow you everywhere. You can’t hide forever, Flint.”

“Noted,” I smarted back.

He chuckled without humor, and the muscles of his jaw clenched as he gritted his teeth. “Man the fuck up, son.” He shook his head then stalked out the door.

“Excellent advice, Slate! Bravo. Really,” I yelled after him, but the door slammed without another word spoken. “Fuck,” I whispered to the empty room.

“FLINT!” MY MOTHER YELLED AS she opened the door. Clutching her imaginary pearls, she cried, “Oh my God, look at you.”

“Debbie,” I acknowledged without actually greeting her.

“You’re in a wheelchair,” she whined in the most nerve-grating way possible.

Folding my hands in my lap, I copped as much attitude as I could muster. I had so much indifference for the woman standing in front of me that even being an asshole, something I usually excelled at, was difficult. It was hard, but I still managed to snark, “Very astute observation.”

“Don’t treat me like that. It’s not fair. I didn’t know until last week that something happened to you. Till didn’t even bother telling me.”

“Really? He didn’t call you or anything?” I questioned dryly.

“No! My son was paralyzed and he didn’t even have the common decency to let me know.”

“Wow. What an ass!” I said with a large dose of sarcasm that sailed right over her head.

“This is all his fault. I don’t know where he gets off acting like he does. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would have happened.”

“You know, I never expected to say this when I came here today, but I absolutely agree with you. Me being in this chair is one hundred percent Till’s fault.”

Her eyes lit with shock that shifted to pride at my agreement. Mine lit when I realized I would be able to force them to dim again. Suddenly, being an asshole wasn’t so difficult anymore.

“Actually, there are a lot of things that are Till’s fault.”

Her smile expanded. God, it felt so fucking good to see that on her face—it was going to feel amazing removing it. I became damn near giddy.

She checked over her shoulder before leaning in close and whispering, “Flint, he’s an animal. Did you hear what he did to Ray? I thought he was going to kill him.”

“I know! That’s another one of Till’s fuck-ups in life,” I said seriously. I mirrored her move and leaned forward in order to whisper, “He should have killed him.”

Her head snapped back in surprise and just as quickly as her smile fell, mine grew.

“Excuse me?” she asked.

“I’m actually really impressed with Till’s self-control. You had the balls to show up at his house unannounced, with uniformed officers, to take a child he has been raising for years. I figured you’d be picking out a casket right about now.” I laughed loudly.

“He belongs with his mother!”

“Are you shitting me? Quarry’s gotten in his fair share of trouble, but he’s never done anything that would warrant the cruel and unusual punishment of being forced to live with you again.”

She gasped. “How dare you speak to your mother that way!”

“Oh, I dare, all right. How dare you think you’re someone’s mother! Were you thinking of Quarry when you decided to uproot him during this petty excuse of a custody battle?”

“I missed him.”

“You missed him? Did you miss him when you abandoned us?” I roared. “What a load of bullshit,” I sneered. “You are such a piece of work. You were absolutely right. It is Till’s fault that I’m sitting in this chair right now, because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive at all. Who the fuck do you think cleaned up your mess when you walked away? Who exactly do you think fed us and put a roof over our heads for the last three years while you were off doing God knows what? We were kids! So yeah, it’s all Till’s fault. And thank fucking God for that.”

“I should have known you three assholes would gang up on me. You have no idea what you are talking about or why I left. I didn’t have a choice.”

“We all have choices. Even worthless wastes of oxygen like yourself.” I turned to wheel away. “Do me a favor and tell Q I’m waiting out front.”

“No need,” Quarry said, jogging out the door.

“No. I’ve changed my mind. You aren’t going anywhere!” she yelled, but I heard Quarry’s footsteps continue behind me. “Quarry Page! Get your ass back in here!”

“No can do! It’s Till’s weekend!” he shouted over his shoulder before grabbing the handles of the wheelchair to push me faster.

“Stop!” I snapped.

“Then go faster, before she calls the cops.”

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