A Forever Kind of Guy: The Braddock Brotherhood, Book 2

A Forever Kind of Guy: The Braddock Brotherhood, Book 2 by Barbara Meyers Read Free Book Online

Book: A Forever Kind of Guy: The Braddock Brotherhood, Book 2 by Barbara Meyers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara Meyers
from a heroin overdose.” Hayley cleared her throat, second-guessing her decision to tell Ray about Steffie. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”
    “Lay it on me.”
    “My mother and her father were married to each other for a while when I was a teenager. I’d always wanted a little sister, so I was thrilled. Neither of our parents was particularly good with children. Maybe we bonded over that. Their marriage only lasted a couple of years, but I always thought of Stef as my little sister, and we kept in touch. We were both living in North Florida, so we saw each other every once in a while.
    “Then I went to college in North Carolina before I got married.” She turned to look directly at him. “ That didn’t work out, as you know.
    “Steffie’s dad was gone a lot and she was on her own. She did what most kids do in that situation. She got into trouble. Drugs, boys, a few minor arrests followed by probation.
    “She wanted so badly to be loved.” Hayley cleared her throat again and went on.
    “When she got a little older, she wanted to straighten her life out. I tried to help her, but she never quite got it together. Somehow she hooked up with this drug dealer, Carlos. Next thing I knew she was pregnant.”
    Hayley glanced at Ray. He was listening, watching her. “Carlos never wanted her to have the baby, and Stef had no idea how to take care of Fletcher.
    “I didn’t see them a whole lot when Fletcher was younger, even though they lived in Jacksonville. I was too caught up in my own life. When I did see Stef, I could tell things were not good. She looked horrible. She’d lost weight. There was something off about her, but when I asked about her drug use, she wouldn’t admit to anything. She’d insist everything was fine, that she was happy.
    “I didn’t know she’d started doing heroin. I’m sure Carlos got her on it. Having her addicted made her easier to control.” Hayley clenched her fists, thinking about the man who’d threatened her and warned her to stay away from Steffie.
    Ray reached over and covered one of Hayley’s clenched fists with his hand. She relaxed her fist, and he slid his fingers around hers. She took a deep breath, wanting to finish the story and control her reaction to Ray’s touch.
    “A couple of months before she died, I planned an outing for her birthday. It seems so frivolous now, but I wanted, I don’t know, to do something for her I knew she’d never do for herself. She had to sneak out of the apartment with Fletcher so I could take her to my hairdresser. I kept Fletcher entertained while she got the works.”
    What Hayley left out was how difficult she’d found keeping company with a young child. He quickly grew bored with the coloring book and crayons she’d brought him, but managed to easily entertain himself with a handful of toy cars she purchased at the pharmacy near the salon. Nor did she mention Niko, the only member of Carlos’s entourage that she and Steffie trusted.
    “When we got back, Carlos was livid. He already hated me because I tried more than once to get Steffie to come and live with me, or go into rehab, anything but stay with him. He followed me to my car and told me if I ever came near her again, he’d make me regret it.”
    Even now Hayley could recall Carlos’s hot breath in her face, the evil lurking behind his dark eyes. While a couple of the guys he hung with watched, he’d twisted her arm up behind her back, nearly jerking it from the socket to make his point. He’d like nothing better than to make her pay for caring about what happened to Stef. How, she’d asked herself for the thousandth time, had Stef ever become involved with this guy?
    She knew he’d enjoy putting his threats into action, but after an instinctive grunt of pain, she refused to cry out or give in. Instead she stared him down until Niko appeared. Although Carlos didn’t know it, Niko was her conduit to Steffie. Niko was also the only one who seemed to have any

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