Baited by CRYSTAL GREEN Read Free Book Online

Book: Baited by CRYSTAL GREEN Read Free Book Online
agitation, Duffy ignored his dad and quickly flipped his cousin upside down, pretending that he was about to hang him over the boat’s side.
    With a sigh, Louis stood up.
    “Put me down!” Chris yelled.
    “Hey, Nestor, need more bait?”
    Kat zoomed over to them. “Cut it out, you idiot.”
    Duffy seemed taken aback.
    The shock of seeing the banked hurt on his face stole her words away, but as he continued to hold Chris captive, anger kicked in. She’d inherited her temper from her dad and had shown little patience for the calmher mom had tried to teach her when she was young, too young to understand.
    “Do it,” Kat said, “and I’ll shove my fist so far down your throat that I’ll tie your guts up for Duke’s birthday ribbon.”
    Nestor turned around to shoot a stunned glance at Kat. His pole zipped into the ocean, fish and all.
    In the meantime, Louis walked over, nonchalantly positioning himself behind Duffy.
    A flat valley-girl cadence sounded from behind them all. “Don’t push Chris’s buttons, you ass. If Gramps—”
    “Okay, okay, Alex.” Immediately, Duffy flipped Chris right side up, steadied him on the deck and made a show of straightening his cousin’s hair and shirt. “Gramps’s favorite. We need to hail your greatness, Chrissy. The great boss demands it.”
    Louis’s voice interrupted. “ Decency demands it.”
    Without warning, he grabbed a handful of Duffy’s thick black hair and pulled back his son’s head.
    No one moved as the whites of Duffy’s eyes took over his widened gaze.
    “Okay, okay, I got it,” he said, voice tight. He reached for his father’s wrist just as he was letting go.
    With one last warning look, the patriarch mellowed, smiled at the sea, then walked below deck, leaving behind a silenced crowd.
    Seizing the chance, Kat rushed to Chris and guided him away from Duffy, taking him into her protective arms. As she did so, a mildly interested Alexandra watched them, blue eyes vacant, mouth pouted like a model in some magazine ad.
    Was she that much of a blank? Kat wondered. Or that good at hiding what was going on inside?
    Kat brushed away everything but Chris, yet she couldn’t ignore one thing—the parting gaze Duffy had given her. It was haunting, filled with mortification and…believe it or not…even a glimmer of regret that his stubborn nature couldn’t voice.
    Then again, she could be wrong.
    “Let’s find Dr. Hopkins,” Kat said, steering the boy toward the galley.
    “All right.”
    “How can you be so nice, Chris? If I were you, I would’ve slammed a few kicks in Duffy’s grill—and that would’ve been just the start.”
    The wind crept through the hall, continuing its uneasy tune from the deck. Wood creaked around them, sounding like something was coming unhinged.
    “But I knew he’d stop sooner or later.”
    She’d seen kids like this. Victims of the playground. Kat, herself, hadn’t been one of those for long.
    “Gramps told me that Duffy sometimes gets too much testosterone in his system and that Uncle Louis says Duff hasn’t gotten all that college football line-backing out of himself yet…if he ever will. He’s always going to be a big, dumb dork who doesn’t have a clue how to contain himself.” Chris smiled, eyes wide. Kat could detect the threat of tears in them. “Besides, everyone gets worried about hurting me, so they always end up walking on eggshells and being super apologetic. You know, because of my parents.”
    She wasn’t sure what to say, whether to ask morequestions or not. Duke had always given her the impression that it was a touchy subject and wasn’t to be broached around Chris. One thing she knew for sure was that Duke, himself, didn’t like talking about the death of his oldest son and his wife. The first time he’d mentioned it had been the last, and when she’d tried to bring it up again, he’d uncharacteristically shut her down. Understandable, though. There was no pain equal to that of losing a

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