Protecting His Forever

By: LeAnn Ashers



He looked over her head and spotted me. Grinning, he let mom go. I ran to him and jumped, wrapping my arms around his neck.

“Missed you, sis,” he told me before setting me down on the ground.

“I missed you too, bubby.” I wiped away my tears. I missed him so freaking much. We were always close—he was my big brother. I may have felt like killing him half of the time, but he was my best friend.

“I got you something,” he told Mom with a grin.

“What do you mean?” she started to protest but stopped instantly when the horse trailer moved. She turned to look at it and then it hit her. Her eyes widened. Ethan grabbed her hand and led her to the back of the horse trailer.

“Ethan, what did you do?” she whispered.

He released her hand then opened the door and climbed up in the trailer. A second later he pulled a beautiful, buckskin horse behind him. The horse that my mom always wanted. She always took care of us and never got herself anything. She put us before everything.

“Oh, Ethan, you didn’t.” She all but ran to the horse. Running her hands down its body, she admired it before laying her head on its neck while her other hand rubbed its back.

Ethan pulled me into a hug, and I glanced up at my big brother – both of us smiling. “Welcome home, Ethan.”

Snapping back from the memory, I open the horse stall and pull Buck out. Yeah, she named her horse Buck. I pull myself up on Buck bareback. Kicking my feet slightly, Buck takes off in a trot.

Nothing is more freeing than riding a horse, and after the day I had, this is just what I need. We trot next to the fence that runs down the driveway. Clicking my feet again, she takes off in a run. Closing my eyes, I bask in the feeling of the hooves hitting the earth, the sun beating down on my head. Hearing a truck driving up beside me I open them in time for my eyes to meet Kane’s.

~*~

“Let me grab a plate for you before the boys get in here and eat up all the food.” Mom grabs a plate and starts piling it with an ungodly amount food that I’ll never be able to eat.

“Mom, I got this.” I go to grab the plate out of her hand.

“I know you do, sweetheart, but Momma likes to spoil you.” She gives me puppy dog eyes and hands me the plate.

Walking to the dining room table, I start to dig in. Cramming my face, I feel a presence walk into the room. My body stiffens because I instantly know who it is. Not looking up, I see hands grip the chair directly in front of me and pull it out.

“Ma! What's for supper?” Ethan yells from the mud room. Jumping in my seat slightly, I look up and my eyes connect with Kane. Blushing, I jump up to go check on Braelyn.

“Ethan Blaine! Don’t you yell at me. You’re not too old for a good old butt busting by your momma,” she yells at him. She comes around the corner and glares at him with her hand cocked up on her hip.

The screen door opens again and in walks Braelyn. My mother’s eyes widen and a hand goes to her mouth as she takes in Brae’s appearance. Braelyn is a ghost of the person she used to be. She used to have curves that any woman would have killed for. She is still beyond beautiful, but I’m deathly afraid the old Brae is gone, never to be found again.

“Braelyn?” my mother manages to choke out.

Braelyn looks up at my mother with a small smile and nods. Ethan looks between them both, lost. Braelyn used to spend every break from college with me, but it seemed like she couldn’t come when my brother was home.

My mother takes a small step toward her, and Braelyn meets her the rest of the way. My mother laughs slightly and leans back, wiping her eyes. “Come on, let’s get you fed. Go sit down, and I’ll bring you a plate,” she tells Brae before turning to Chase and Ethan. “You go get your own food in the kitchen.”

Leading Brae, who is twisting the bottom of her shirt nervously, to the table, I pull out her chair and help her sit down. Her body feels so frail. Sitting down beside her, I feel Kane’s eyes on me. Looking down at my lap, I try to hide my smile.

Dating is something I rarely do, but I’m going on a date with Kane this Friday night. Holy shit. The idea feels different than any other date I have ever been on because Kane is different. It feels different with him.

Grabbing my fork, I dig into my food. I’m not one of those girls that eats like a rabbit. I eat because I can. It’s sad when a woman is afraid to eat in front of a man.

Ethan sets a plate in front of Brae and then hands her a fork saying, “Eat.” The old Brae would have ripped him a new asshole over his tone, but I watch as she just nods and eats her food slowly. A wave of sadness washes over me at the girl before me. Ethan sits down beside Kane, and the chair sliding against the hardwood floors causes Brae to stiffen tensely. Ethan gives her a silent, reassuring look, and slowly, her shoulders relax and she continues eating.

Finished with my food, I push back in my chair to stand when a hand stops me. “I got it, sweetheart,” Kane says from behind me. He takes the plate from my hand and takes it in the kitchen.

Ethan clears his throat, and I slowly look over at him nervously. Ethan never let me date anyone when he was around. He always found something wrong with the guy and made his life hell until the guy canceled.

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