Hearts of Sacrifice

Hearts of Sacrifice

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

Bad boy Hunter Cartwright always has been the black sheep in his loving but prosperous family. He's overshadowed by his big brother Billy who everyone loves and looks up to. When tragedy strikes, it is a wound that cuts deep and one that separates Hunter from everyone who loves him. Eight years after his abrupt departure, Hunter makes his return home to Oregon. Much has changed including the girl he grew up with Sophie. She's always been around as his sister Michelle's best friend and his friend too once upon a time. Sophie dates his younger brother Evan now. The fiercely competitive Evan is none too thrilled with his return just like Sophie. Can Hunter make amends to his family and regain all he's lost including the friendship of the one girl Sophie who means more to him than he ever realized?

Summary

Bad boy Hunter Cartwright always has been the black sheep in his loving but prosperous family. He's overshadowed by his big brother Billy who everyone loves and looks up to. When tragedy strikes, it is a wound that cuts deep and one that separates Hunter from everyone who loves him.

Eight years after his abrupt departure, Hunter makes his return home to Oregon. Much has changed including the girl he grew up with Sophie. She's always been around as his sister Michelle's best friend and his friend too once upon a time. Sophie dates his younger brother Evan now. The fiercely competitive Evan is none too thrilled with his return just like Sophie.

Can Hunter make amends to his family and regain all he's lost including the friendship of the one girl Sophie who means more to him than he ever realized?

Chapter15 (v.1) - Safety in Numbers

Author Chapter Note

Hunter shares some time with Sophie...<br /> <br /> “Honor and vigilance are what our nation’s armed forces represent. <br /> An act of valor…their willingness to answer our country’s call <br /> is a constant reminder of duty, honor, and sacrifice.”<br /> --Unknown <br /> <br /> <br />

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: November 07, 2017

Reads: 698

Comments: 6

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: November 07, 2017

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN – Safety in Numbers

 

Perhaps an hour passed, and Hunter emerged from the bedroom silently shutting the door after him.  Sophie stood up from the couch coming out of her thoughts.  She caught her breath at the sight of him.  The boy she once knew grew into a man that looked like his older brother Billy who had been tall and so handsome.  With that observation she noticed such sadness dominated his pale eyes along with a rage that appeared barely contained.

“Tell me all, and leave nothing out,” Hunter said bluntly in a low tone.

Sophie told him all that she knew, and even showed him the pictures she took in the night with her phone.  She told him about the police coming to do their business, and convincing Michelle to press domestic violence charges.  She already talked everything over with her father Marc who would collect the police report and follow-up with the no-contact order to retrieve copies to supply to Michelle.  Lastly, she also told Hunter about taking Michelle to the emergency room to be examined, and the rape kit was taken.  At the mention of the last details concerning the extent of Michelle’s abuse, he appeared visibly shaken. 

Sophie sighed and reached out to grab his shoulder to soothe him.  When she realized what she had done and still did, she hastily pulled her hand away as if he burned her.  Hunter felt more muscular than she remembered while just as lean.  The years had been kind in helping him fill out more both in the shoulder and overall height.  The military apparently honed his body well to be a trained killer. 

His eyes glanced at her warm hand touching him before she pulled it away.  His eyes met her teak brown.  Her frown showed him concern, but something different entered her eyes.  Something changed from the uncaring indifference they began with at his celebration party last week.  Had something thawed between them then?  Hunter could only hope.

“Thank you so much for helping her, Sophie.  I know it couldn’t have been easy for you to do all this, keeping a cool head, and acting so decisively and quickly.  You’re such a good friend, but you two have been like sisters since you were born.”  He smiled at her crookedly.

Sophie’s eyes teared up with her own emotions she tried hard to check.  She took in a deep breath before releasing it.  “I’ve always loved Chelle that way since not having any brothers or sisters of my own growing up.  All you guys were that for me.”

“But, some things changed.”  As Hunter recalled, Sophie had the most wicked crush on Billy from the moment she laid eyes on him.

She shrugged knowing that was a loaded statement.  “True.” 

He smiled softly at her, but it faded.  Before Hunter was able to say something else that had been lingering on his mind for ages since he left eight years before, a new knock sounded at her front door.  With a raised eyebrow, she went to it fast hoping that it didn’t disturb Michelle who only recently fell asleep.  She looked through the peephole and then immediately snatched the door open.  She threw herself into Evan’s arms with what appeared to be a relief. 

When they pulled away, his brother kissed her briefly on the mouth.  Hunter looked away surprised at the hurt that festered in him.  He took a glimpse at his red, black and gray New Balance sneakers, wondering what was wrong with him.  What did it matter if Sophie and Evan loved each other? 

Hunter missed his opportunity to be with Sophie by not talking to her about his feelings for her all those years ago.  He never even discussed his decision to join the military either.  How could he?  His family would only call his decision rash and try to coerce him out of it.  And, talking about his feelings?  That had never been a concept Hunter mastered well.  He sorted out his problems usually with his fists and preferred that method.  That part of his nature he understood just fine.

But, Sophie…  Hunter wished he’d handled it better with her.  His regret increased at the thought of how he botched any chance he could have had with her.  He used her that night in the boathouse he knew, but that’s what he did.  Hunter grew into nothing but a user and objectified girls on a regular basis as it suited him.  It became a kind of game he played well, in fact.

However, Hunter could not say that was something he ever wanted to do to Sophie.  It was merely a familiar role.  The pattern of the play he was akin to whereas what he felt when with Sophie brought him out into unfamiliar waters.  In the end though, he retreated to his safe harbor and did precisely what he feared he would.  He hated himself for it also.

Did Hunter honestly expect Sophie to wait for him after what he’d done?  It wasn’t like they had a conversation about it to his eternal shame.  They did not even talk about their feelings for each other or acknowledge that they had any beyond their fragile friendship.  Billy’s death made these unsaid feelings surface, but not discussing them did not magically make them go away either.

Hunter only realized this after the years he purposely stayed away after joining the Army.  In secret, he hoped that Sophie found another who would treat her better than he ever could.  She would find an unselfish man worthy of her who would always put her needs before his own.

His brother Evan, though?  Hunter shook his head.  To him, the two of them seemed ill-matched.  He understood his younger brother always had a thing for her, but Sophie was oblivious to his budding feelings as she was to Evan in general while growing up.  Being a kind and giving person, Sophie remained cordial with him, yet her friendship only extended to Michelle and Hunter.  Her crush lingered firmly in place on Billy eight years her elder. 

Not so now, Hunter thought, watching the two approach him arm in arm.  He tried to smile but felt it fail him.  Seeing them so close made him feel pangs of jealousy that he had no right to feel.  Sophie was not his nor did she want anything to do with him anymore.  It hurt, but he understood.  Her actions to stay away from him and not speak to him up to this point seemed quite clear. 

Still, the situation changed because of Michelle.  He and Sophie had spoken more than they ever had.  However, now that Evan arrived, she retreated already.  Her cold expression of indifference did not reappear, but her look toward him remained wary when her focus turned to Evan. 

At the core of him, Hunter wanted to recover all that he lost in the last eight years he’d been away.  He counted regaining Sophie’s friendship amongst his many challenges.  Where to begin?  She still meant a lot to him, but her heart was changed.  Could he ever breach that great divide between them?  Or had that process already begun?  Only time could tell.  Seeking patience with her might reward him in his goal after a while he realized with new optimism.

“Hunter, what are you doing here?” Evan asked glancing from his brother to his girlfriend with a cocked eyebrow.

“Did you really think after you told us what happened to Chelle that I would just sit at home?  I’d think you know me better than that,” Hunter replied flatly.

Evan stared at Sophie refusing to bother with him any further.  He gathered that Momma or Dad must have told him where Sophie lived.  Both could have gotten the information easily from Uncle Marcus, Sophie’s dad, and Dad’s best friend.  “How is she?”

“Tired.  Scared.  But, she’ll live,” Hunter said harshly before Sophie could answer.

Evan clenched his jaw but focused only on his girlfriend.  “Can I see her?”

She glanced up at him sadly and shook her head.  “She’s finally just gone to sleep.  It’s been a long night.”

“Momma and Dad want her to come home.”

“If she wills it, Evan.  From Sophie’s account, Chelle wants to stay with her,” Hunter said as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Evan shook his head in irritation.  “What Chelle wants is irrelevant.  She’ll be going home to Momma and Dad as soon as she’s able.”

Sophie pulled away from her boyfriend and said with her hands on her hips, “Whoa now, this needs to be her decision.”

Evan glared at her incredulously that she would even speak against their family’s wishes.  “It’s a family matter.  We’ll take over from here.  Thanks.”

Sophie flinched as if he slapped her.  “Excuse me?  I didn’t ask anyone’s permission.  If your sister wants to stay with me as long as she likes so be it, and there’s nothing that any of you will do about it.”

Evan looked at her tiredly.  “Let’s not argue about this.  What’s important here is Chelle, and what’s best for her.”

Sophie clarified, “Staying with me is best if that’s what she wants, Evan.”

“You can’t be with her 24 hours a day.  You told me yourself that you have clients you must see to tomorrow,” Evan said drily.

“Screw the damn clients.  Chelle is much more important to me right now, and I will be by her side for as long as she needs me.  Period,” Sophie replied incensed that her own boyfriend could suggest such a thing in light of all that happened.

Hunter stared at his phone that buzzed but did not ring.  “I can stay with her as well since my schedule is the most flexible amongst us.  All other times the security detail I hired will watch her.”

Sophie and Evan glared at him with the drop of their mouths.  “You did what?” Evan inquired with a deepening frown.

“It’s all been arranged.  I did it before arriving here.  He should be here momentarily.  Like Yavin, my driver, he’ll be a veteran … ex-military.  His name I’ve been told is Scully.”

“With what money, Hunter?” Evan inquired curiously.  “Since you started withdrawing your money, the trust fund only gives a certain amount of allowance each month.  You’ve already spent a great deal with the condo, car, driver, and clothes as it is.”

Hunter narrowed his eyes at his brother knowing well he must have been monitoring his activities.  Should have known he’d be checking up on him.  “VET Security Co was established with a friend of mine whereby I’m a partner albeit silent and now a client.”

This was the first time Evan heard about any of this.  “Where is this company based?”

“Seattle.”  Hunter typed a text on his phone.

“How did you learn about them?” Evan inquired with the lift of an eyebrow.

“Everything I earned from my time in the military went to the CEO.  It’s not like I needed any of it anyway, but mind you I invested that money well and received a fair profit from said investment of which I used to survive on when not engaged in business for my country.  Regardless, I trust him impeccably to be discrete if that’s your concern, Evan.”

Sophie stared at Hunter in shock at hearing this.  His entire military salary to some man to start a security business?  Was this why he never came home?  Everyone knew that during the 8-year period Hunter had been gone he failed to touch one cent of his trust fund.  Blinking at the fuzzy black-haired man, she wondered again who stood before her because the boy bearing his name she knew very well.  Terribly selfish had been his claim to fame and bedding girls his game. 

So far though, Sophie observed this man to be nothing close to his old composite save his temper.  It still raged in his pale green eyes but under the tight reign of his control.  Perhaps the military had been the best thing for him after all.  Before he would be tearing something up like a cyclone, but now he stood calmly before them with the only sure knowledge of his anger revealed in his eyes.

“What friend?” Evan questioned with a cocked eyebrow.  He was unaware that Hunter had any friends besides Billy.  In the past, his older brother never played nice with others.  Hunter was careful with whom he gave his confidence as a result.  Billy had been one and Sophie the other.  Both of which Evan realized were lost to Hunter currently.

“I owe Ollie my life,” Hunter said absently while still texting.

“Ollie?” Evan questioned as his dark eyebrows knit.

“Oliver Nichols.  He’s my blood brother in arms.  That should be enough,” Hunter replied with clear agitation at being second-guessed when he looked to Evan again from his phone.

Evan nodded not arguing the point further in his brother’s darkening mood.  “Fair enough.”  He looked to Sophie who glared at Hunter strangely before she looked to Evan with irritation still.  Evan guessed that she was still upset with him because of his candid comments from before.  It still did not change how he felt.  “Tell me what you couldn’t over the phone, Sophie.”

She did so curtly highlighting only the most important facts for Evan.  He nodded gravely, looking briefly to the spare bedroom that held his battered sister.  Evan glowered at his brother Hunter.  “This bastard seems too good for jail.  He needs his ass handed to him.”

Hunter nodded his agreement with a dark glitter to his eye.  Evan always had balls, and he liked that most about him.  “I couldn’t say it better myself, brother.”

Sophie looked to both with alarm because if the brothers could agree on anything that meant an ill omen.  “Remember you promised not to make things worse.”

Hunter snorted and thumbed over at his brother, “I did, but Evan didn’t.”

Sophie glanced at Evan with mounting fear.  “Then you promise, too, Evan.  Please don’t make your sister worry any more than she needs to.”

Evan stared at his girlfriend as if she magically grew two heads before his eyes.  “You’ve just told me some dickhead raped my sister and he’s roaming out there free, Sophie!  He’s lucky to be still breathing free air because he needs to be in intensive care on a breathing machine for what’s he done,” Evan snarled.

“Agreed,” Hunter chimed with his own look to Sophie darkly.

“Let the law do its job…please.”  Sophie looked between the brothers that seemed to be communicating with each other by their eyes.

“And if it doesn’t?” Evan asked with the tilt of his head at her.  “What if they botch something?  He gets off on a technicality or something?  What then?”

“I will do everything in my power to see that it doesn’t.  Trust me.  Please,” Sophie said sternly.

 


© Copyright 2020 Amy F. Turner. All rights reserved.

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