“I’m starting to think maybe you really do,” Carter said stoically.
“Jett has risked his life for other people, and he’s done it a lot. He sees things that other people ignore, and he tries to do everything he can for others. He isn’t a self-centered jerk.”
“Like me?” he asked drily.
“I’m not going to answer that question because you probably wouldn’t like the answer,” I snapped.
“So I guess upping my offer wouldn’t work?” he questioned carefully.
“No.” Carter was such a jerk, but I sensed he wasn’t really trying to get me out of Jett’s life anymore. “If I thought I wasn’t good for Jett, I’d leave with nothing in a heartbeat. But I never considered the fact that people might gossip about him having a homeless woman as a girlfriend. I hate that.”
“What happened to make you leave home as a teenager?” Carter asked. “Jett didn’t really say.”
It touched me that Jett had kept my secrets, but I was tired of being ashamed of a past I had no control over. I was finally recognizing the fact that I’d been given one life as a child that I didn’t deserve, but I’d be damned if I was just going to lay down and accept it as a grown adult.
I was in control now.
I didn’t have to be afraid or let it taint my entire adult life.
“I was molested and abused. When my parents died in an accident, I went into the full-time custody of my abuser. He tried to rape me, so I ran away. Please don’t ask me anything more. That’s all I really want to share with you,” I said firmly.
Since Carter was Jett’s brother, I wanted to give him some insight into my broken soul, but I knew I needed to decide just how much I wanted to share. Little by little, because of my counseling, I was learning to set my boundaries.
“I respect that,” Carter agreed. “But it’s fucked up. Our parents died in an accident, too, but we all had plenty of money and each other, and we were all over eighteen.”
“Imagine if you didn’t,” I said softly. “Just think about how it would be if you’d had to figure out where to go, how to eat, how to get to a place where you could sleep. That was pretty much what consumed me every single day for well over five years. And until I turned eighteen, I was paralyzed by the fear of getting taken back to my abuser.”
“I’m sorry,” Carter said hoarsely. “Who did you say abused you?”
“Do you want to tell me so I can kill the bastard?” he said.
I exploded with a surprised laugh. “No. And he’s already dead. Jett went looking for him, but he had a heart attack several months ago and died. What’s with the Lawsons and their desire to commit murder?”
“None of us can stand bullies,” Carter answered.
I found that amusing since Carter was probably the biggest bully I’d ever met, but he obviously had his own idea of what a bully really was, and who fit that mold.
I changed the subject. “Are you going to tell Jett that you didn’t really sleep with his girlfriend? It definitely wasn’t the right thing to do, but I think he’d be relieved that you didn’t really do it, and were only trying to help him in your own misguided way.”
“If he’ll stop beating the crap out of me long enough to listen.”
“You can’t control other peoples’ lives, Carter, even if you’re trying to help.”
“You have no idea what it was like to watch my brother suffer after the accident,” he rasped.
“But he’s okay now,” I said reasonably. “Why were you trying to buy me off?”
“He’s not okay, Ruby,” he said forcefully. “He’s never going to be okay again. You didn’t know Jett before his accident. He was an expert skier, basketball player, and he could kick my ass at almost any sport. He’s never going to be able to do that again.”
I kicked my swing into motion while I thought about his words. “You feel guilty because you can do those things and he can’t,” I finally concluded.
“Hell, yes, I feel guilty. Marcus approached me about PRO, too, and I should have been there with Jett, but I was too obsessed with our world domination to get involved. Maybe I could have protected Jett if I’d been there.”