The next brother to step out was Brent. I knew them apart even from a distance. Their expressions, eyes, and stance were nothing alike. The friendly, happy gleam in Brent’s eyes was his alone. He didn’t see the world the way his twin did. It was as if he had been given all the joy, and because of that he never could understand me.
My nails bit into my palms as they fisted at my sides, anxiety making my heart pound in my chest. Bray would be next, I knew. My entire body knew and I was having a hard time inhaling. It had been so long since I’d seen him. As much as I wanted to, I was also scared that a panic attack was right there about to grab me and this was not the place for it to happen.
I forced oxygen into my lungs and willed myself to calm down as Bray followed Brent outside, joining the others. I didn’t watch for Dallas to exit next. My eyes were locked on Bray. He walked down the stairs and stood beside Brent in front of the house. He didn’t appear happy to be with everyone. No smiling, no joy, nothing.
His life had been nothing like mine. There was no reason for the dark gleam in his eyes, or the anger that always boiled under his surface, but it was there. He didn’t hide it. To say I loved Bray Sutton seemed too weak a description. Because my tie to him, need for him, was so great it had controlled me. Owned me. He had become my medicine. Better than any tiny pill the doctors gave me in their attempt to fix me. I was damaged. Bray made me feel normal.
I wasn’t the girl who had left this town eight months ago. I was different now. Life was hard, and it kicked you when you were down. Over and over. It didn’t care if you needed a break. It didn’t care if you needed a moment to regroup. It attacked when it wanted and let up only if it felt like it.
I could see all five brothers standing there, but my focus was only on one. I watched his every move. I studied his expression. Soaked it in. I wished I could touch his face and say something silly to make him smile like I once had, because making Bray Sutton smile was amazing. He didn’t do it often, but when he did it was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen. Knowing I had that power was just another addicting attachment I had to him. When the memories began pulling me back, taking me to that place I didn’t want to be, Bray’s smile stopped it instantly.
Asher stepped forward and the boys fell in line behind him. Each of them stopped at the front row to kiss their mother’s cheek as she smiled with tears shining in her eyes. She leaned close to Bray and quickly said something in his ear. She hadn’t spoken to the others.
My eyes stayed on Bray as he followed Brent and took his place in front. It took me a moment to realize he was scanning the crowd before his gaze settled on me. His eyes held me captive. They darkened. His body tensed. His jaw clenched. He was angry.
My heart sped up and I fought the urge to flee. I was trembling, but I didn’t look away. I pleaded with him to understand. Or at least my eyes did. I felt them water and I blinked the tears away. I wasn’t going to cry. I had to be strong.
Meg, a cousin of Dixie’s walked down the aisle and I briefly glanced at her as she passed. A brunette I didn’t recognize walked past after Meg. These were Dixie’s bridesmaids. It made my throat clog up to think my best friend had girls standing beside her that I didn’t even know. She had a world now that I wasn’t a part of and that was my fault. One last bridesmaid walked by, another unknown face. Bray’s eyes kept me suspended though. I was unable to think about much more. The regret was coming at me from all angles.
The Wedding March began, and everyone stood up. I did so slowly, unable to break eye contact with Bray. I knew Dixie was walking down the aisle. I heard gasps and whispers about how gorgeous she was. I tore my eyes from Bray and turned to watch my best friend. The pure joy beam from her face, her eyes glued in front of her. On Asher. Seeing it made my heart squeeze. Bray’s angry gaze didn’t matter right now. Not in this moment.
Dixie’s dad was teary-eyed as he walked beside her. He was smiling too, but it was clear he had been crying before they walked out here. Dixie was his only child. His baby girl. Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw her father’s emotion. It was beautiful. Everything it should be. Everything I knew I’d never experience.
They stopped in front, and Asher Sutton’s expression was breathtaking. A tear slipped down my cheek and I reached up and quickly swiped it away. Another tear followed. I wasn’t standing with my friend like I should have been.
My eyes went back to Bray of their own will, finding him glaring at me still. He didn’t want me here. It hurt but pain was a part of life for me. I lifted my chin and glared back at him. I was here, and I didn’t care if he wasn’t happy. Bray Sutton could try and scare me. I wasn’t weak anymore. I would stand my ground.
As the crowd sat and the preacher spoke, I continued glaring at Bray with my shoulders back and my head held high. I would crawl inside myself and shatter when I was alone again, but not here. I would stand my ground.
Then the bastard smirked.
Why had I expected her to stay away? This was Scarlet. She was strong-willed, stubborn, passionate, and she had a temper. All of that was flaming brightly in her eyes as she threatened me with a glare. I was shocked to see her here. The red hair had been hers this time. I wanted to smile like a damn idiot because she was here. Only a few feet away from me.
She shifted her gaze back to Dixie and Asher, but I didn’t. It had been eight long months since I’d seen her face and I wasn’t taking my eyes off her. Not even to see if Brent noticed her in the crowd. I didn’t give a fuck. His girlfriend was standing beside Dixie. Sadie and Dixie had become good friends. Brent’s attention would be on the bridesmaids, or his particular bridesmaid at least. He wouldn’t be looking out at the guests. I doubted he would realize Scarlet was here until after the wedding.
Red hair must not grab his attention, slam into his chest, and cause a riot with his damn pulse. I believe he had claimed to love her when I couldn’t make that claim, but I was the one who had the stronger attachment. Fuck. It wasn’t an attachment, it was an obsession. Might as well call it what it was. No reason to sugar coat things.
Scarlet was biting her bottom lip nervously. Her mean scowl gone. When she noticed that she had relaxed, her shoulders straightened again. She was mentally coaching herself through this and it was fucking hilarious. Did she think she was going to leave here without talking to me? Seeing me? She knew me better than that. I wanted answers. I wanted what I had deserved when she fled this place without a word.
Fuck all that. I wanted her to come home. Brent was with Sadie now. He didn’t look at me with that hurt expression anymore. He didn’t even talk about Scarlet. No mention. Nothing.
“Shit,” I heard Steel mutter under his breath and his head turned to look at Brent and me. I could see him out of the corner of my eye, but I stayed focused on Scarlet. I was afraid she might vanish if I lost sight of her.
“What?” Brent whispered.
He didn’t respond.
Dixie and Asher said their vows. I knew when they kissed because the place erupted in cheers, but I missed everything else because of Scarlet. Brent was laughing and clapping beside me obviously watching the kiss. Scarlet was stealing glances at me, quickly looking back at the now married couple.
Her eyes never went to Brent. Only me.
“Jesus, let her breathe,” Brent said teasingly to Asher.
I felt Dallas step up behind me. “Don’t make her regret this,” he said quietly. At least someone other than me had noticed her. “It was hard to convince her to come.”