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?

Chapter37 (v.1) - Blood Brothers

Author Chapter Note

Sophie visits with Hunter at his office...<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 />

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 07, 2018

Reads: 425

Comments: 4

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 07, 2018

A A A

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CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN – Blood Brothers

 

A knock sounded at his office door and before he could grant consent, it opened.  When Hunter glanced up from the file that acquired his attention, he found Sophie before his desk.  Blinking in surprise at the reason for her appearance so soon after finally having a conversation with Evan, he sat back a moment.  A first that gave him pause in the significance of it.  The lovely black woman came to him unsolicited.  Hunter did not know what to make of that, but since she looked in a civil mood, he supposed he was safe from her wrath.  For the time being anyway.  In the past, he always seemed to find ways to irritate her without trying.

“Sophie,” he offered casually.

Sophie acknowledged him with a nod, “Hunter.”

He blinked at her with a slight smile in her use of his first name.  It was a rare sound.  He liked it better than any other she had been using in the last several weeks.  “What do I owe this pleasure?”

She began softly, “I’ve… I’ve come to apologize.”

He frowned at her for it was something he never thought he would witness.  It gathered the rest of his attention as he closed the file to lower it to his desk.  “For what?  You have nothing to apologize for.”

“Look, it’s true that I do, and you know it,” Sophie said with a matter-of-fact tone.

“Do I?”  Hunter raised his black eyebrow at her for a moment before he shook his head.  “I have to disagree.”

Sophie also shook her head at him.  “It doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been wrong about you, Hunter.”

He closed his eyes briefly at the sound his name yet again on her lips.  A brief intake of breath, he savored it.  “You weren’t.  If anyone should be sorry around here, it’s me.  Evan could not be more right about that.”

“Since your return, you’ve been considerate, thoughtful even.  Things I didn’t ever think to describe you.”

“And with good reason.  I always had a motive that would benefit me in some way.  There’s no difference here.”

Sophie tilted her head at him with a frown.  “Seriously?”

Hunter shrugged.  “Sure.  Evan can stop bullying the staff while Momma and Dad can stop walking on eggshells around him.  He’s been a real grouch since his fight with you.  I liked him far better when he was with you.”

Sophie laughed with a mixture of amusement, but he looked and sounded very serious.  “So now I’m a pacifier.”

Hunter sighed when he looked into her eyes that regarded him with amusement.  “And you seemed happier when you were with him.  Even I can see it and so does Chelle.”

Sophie shook her head and mumbled to herself, “Should have known that girl can’t keep her mouth shut.”

“Don’t be mad at her for being concerned.  She loves you guys.”

She still tilted her head at him in study.  “Yeah and you?  What’s your excuse?”

Hunter offered the quirk of a half-smile.  “I have none and don’t believe in them.”

She looked him in the eye and saw that he seemed to be teasing her if that were possible.  “Well, I have no excuse for thinking anything but the worst of you.”

“Regardless though maybe you should.”

Sophie wagged her finger at him and the mystery he infused into his pale green eyes.  “No.  Your actions today showed me yet again how wrong I’ve been about you.  How much you’ve changed.”

“Have you two made up then?” he asked trying to get the subject off him and on the important matter.

She nodded.  “We work on it.  We’ll meet tonight to talk some more.”

“Progress at least.”  Hunter sighed for it was all he could ask for.

“Is it?”

“Yes.”

She arched an eyebrow at him.  “To hear Evan tell it, you want me for yourself.  That’s why you’re doing all this… you’re just trying to get in good with me.”

He chuckled with amusement.  “Roundabout way of wooing you, don’t you think?”

She raised and lowered her shoulders.  “Clever really if that’s your aim.”

“Is it working?” he asked a bit puzzled.

She laughed with the shake of her head.

“Truth is I only care about you both and want to see you happy, Sophie.  That’s all I could want out of this,” he said honestly without looking away from her teak brown eyes.

“Why?” she asked with a slight frown.

He smiled a little.  “Clearly you both love each other as I said before.  Instead of being a barrier, I chose to be a catalyst.”

Both her eyebrows reached for her hairline.  “Hunter, there’s never been any love lost between you and Evan.  So why do this for him, now or ever?  I don’t get it.”

He shrugged with the tilt of his head at her.  “He’s the only brother I have.  And, you and I have always been friends in our own way.  I have no motive beyond this.  Never have.”

Sophie walked up and stared into his pale green eyes for a long time.  They failed to waver from hers or throw up any barriers.  They held warmth and caring alone.

His cell phone buzzed at his breast for the fifth time in so many minutes.  He tried to ignore it but decided against it.  He plucked it out and looked at it.  He glanced up at her and held up his finger to her in a gesture of waiting a moment.

It looked to be Ollie.  The man was certainly not going stop until he dealt with him.  He frowned at all the missed calls from his old friend.

“Yes?  It’s not a really good time,” Hunter said with mild impatience.

“Sarge?”

Hunter frowned with concern instead of impatience.  There was something in the way Ollie sounded.  The quiver of his voice seemed odd.  “Hey, but I’ll make time, buddy.  What’s going on?”

Ollie seemed to sigh in relief maybe.  Hunter was not sure, but it did not stop him from frowning more.  The silence on the other end of the line made him more concerned, too.

“Ollie?  What’s wrong?  How’s Natalie?”

“She left me,” he said with tears in his voice.

Hunter stood with a gasp.  “What happened?”

He mumbled with another sigh, “I don’t know.  It’s all falling apart.”

Hunter shook his head in skepticism.  “No way.  You know that Natalie loves you.”

“But I hurt her, Sarge.”

“What? Why?”

“I woke up, and I was choking her.  She’s scared of me,” he said with a grave melancholy.

Hunter’s eyes swelled with horror.  “What?”

“I don’t remember it.  I swear,” Ollie said quickly.

“You didn’t know what you were doing, man.  Are you having the night terrors again?” Hunter asked mildly.

“Half the time I don’t know what’s real,” he rasped almost angrily and sounded as if he punched something blunt.

“I’m real, and I know your love for your family is real, Pyro.  You’d never do anything to harm them.”

“Nat said I had a gun on one of the boys, and that’s when she left with them.”

Hunter's eyes swelled more with shock but did not let it enter his calm voice.  “How long?”

“Three weeks ago today.  This house is so empty without them.  I’m so empty, Sarge.  How could I do that shit?!  My own flesh and blood… my fuckin' son.  Christ!”  Ollie began doing something that Hunter had never heard before.  He wept into the phone.  “Why would I fuckin' do that?  Sarge, what’s wrong with me?”

With gentle sympathy and not the alarm that swelled his pale eyes Hunter said evenly, “Hey, no… you need a break, man.  Have you taken some time off?”

“Work’s been a real bitch lately.”  He chuckled with ill-humor.

“That’s why you have assistants right?”

Still chuckling, Ollie replied, “Nat said the same thing, but I like keeping busy, Sarge.  You know how it is.  Keeps my mind focused on the here and now.”

“Have you been too busy to keep your appointments with Dr. Medrano?”

Ollie snapped with venom, “He’s a whack job, Sarge!  Another clueless fuckin' quack!  All he wants to do is medicate me.  It makes me so loopy.  I hate that feeling.”

“Get another doc then.  Let them prescribe you something else, maybe.  There’s no shame in that, you know.  The VA’s there to help and will assign another if you request it.”

Ollie sighed at length and said with impatience, “Too much hassle.”

“What about your patient advocate or social worker?  Both are there to help you, whenever you need them.  You said that the Vet's group therapy you went to at the VA helped some.  When's the last time we went to a meeting?”

“Shit the times never work out.  Besides, you’re the only one who ever really understood, Sarge.  You were there.”

Hunter nodded with a sigh and closed his eyes.  “I’m always here for you, Ollie, just as you’ve been there for me.  Too many to count in fact.”

Ollie chuckled with good humor.  “Yeah, you remember that time you sneaked out of HQ to find Doc’s lucky charm?”

Hunter chuckled now as he ran his hand through his hair nervously, but his tone remained as even as ever.  “Yeah.  Needle in a haystack.”

“More like a sand dune, but you found that damn thing.  You fuckin' found that baby bootie lost in the desert.”

With a crooked smile, he replied, “Well, it was either that or listen to Doc whine about it ‘til the cows came home.  The man was in a panic and wouldn’t give it a rest until the thing was found.”

“Yeah, but you’ve always been like that for us grunts.  You’ve always been there and helped us whenever we've needed you.”

Hunter clenched his jaw.  “And I always will.”

“What you did for him and for me and so many others, Sarge…. we all owe you big debts.”

He scratched his forehead.  “You owe me nothing.  So, where’s Nat now?”

“Funny you should ask.  She’s here.”

Hunter’s eyes widened with confusion.  “She came back with the boys then?”

“No… no, they're still at her parent’s place in Spokane.”

“Can I talk to her?”

Ollie hesitated, “Uhmmm, she’s tied up right now.”

“Sure I can't say hello?”

“Maybe later,” he snapped coldly.

“Okay.”  Hunter nodded as his frown deepened.  He eyed his watch.  “I was planning on coming up there on business today and figured we could hang out?  What do you say?”

“I don’t, er, think I’ll be here by the time you get here.”

Hunter’s eyebrows reached for his hairline at the strange, detached sound of Ollie’s voice.  “Why?  I can be there in three hours or less.”

“No, er, I’ll be gone.”

“Gone?  Where?  Maybe I can meet you?”

“To hell where I belong for what I’ve done.  I don’t want you to meet me.  You don’t belong there, Sarge.”  Suddenly Ollie began to weep again.

“Ollie, what are you talking about?  Neither of us belong in hell.”

“Haven’t you been listening?” the weeping man questioned as if he did so through his teeth.

“Of course.  To every word.  You didn’t mean for any of that to happen, Pyro.  You couldn’t have known what you were doing while sleepwalking.”

“But, Natalie left me.”

“Not forever.  She loves you, man.  You’re the love of her life.  You told me yourself that she’s back.”

“She filed for divorce, Sarge.  She said that she couldn’t take the mood swings anymore.”

Isaiah entered the office without knocking looking wide-eyed as he turned on the flat screen television posted to the far wall where a cozy round conference table stood with four chairs around it.  He flicked the channel to Headline news.  The channel showed the line of TV cameras at a cul de sac, which looked familiar.  Hunter recognized the red Chevy truck that said “Proud Veteran” on it with a huge American flag strapped to the cab that Ollie always drove.  The license plate was pixilated from clear view.

“Wife apparently being held hostage” flashed across the screen and the location said somewhere in Seattle, Washington!  Hunter’s eyes widened too as his mouth dropped open.  Many police looked to be surrounding the house.  A phone rang in the background with Ollie, but was never picked up.  It began ringing again. 

The ping of Hunter’s computer indicated Doc just sent him an urgent email saying that he heard about the hostage situation in Washington.  He clicked on it and read how Doc worried that it could be Ollie because the man called him not too long ago leaving a strange voicemail that sounded like he tried to say goodbye.  He couldn’t get through to him by cellphone now.  He wanted to know if Hunter had talked to him.

Closing his eyes with the shake of his head, Hunter ran his hand through his raven hair again.  He then looked back gravely to the TV.  Isaiah nodded with his own sadness as he continued to watch the TV.  Sophie looked from the TV to Hunter and Isaiah wondering what passed between the two of men.  She knew from his body language and his side of the conversation that something was very wrong, but none of his anxiety was infused in his voice as he spoke to Ollie she believed he said once was his brother in arms.

“Ollie, I hear some background noise there,” Hunter commented sounding chipper and happy while his face grew increasingly somber.  “What’s going on, buddy?  Talk to me about it.”

Ollie wept again.  “I didn’t mean for all this to happen.  I just wanted my fuckin' family back, you know.”

“Of course, you do.  You’re not gonna give up without a fight.  Hey, we grunts never do right?  As I said, I can be there in less than three hours, okay?  In fact, I’m on my way now to the airport.  Then we can talk all about it.  How does that sound?”  He looked to Isaiah who nodded as his boss jogged out before him.  Sophie watched Hunter leave the office and followed with her frown.  When he reached the elevator, she saw him push the down button.  He paced back and forth like a caged animal.

“Not gonna make it, Sarge,” Ollie said gravely.  “It’s bad.  I’ve done a bad thing.”

“No.  It’ll be all right,” Hunter reassured.  “Will you wait for me?”

“Not this time.  No good can come of this.”

Hunter said a bit more firmly, “Ollie, you can’t talk that way.  There’s always a better way.  Anything can be fixed.”

“Not for me.  Not this time.  I love you, man.  I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

The shot rang out, and Hunter froze in mid-step when the sound of the phone being dropped clanked on the other end.  He yanked the phone from his ear at the sharp noises and stared at his phone, dumbfounded. 

“Ollie!”  No response came from his friend when he put the phone back to his ear.  “Ollie!”

A commotion of some sort sounded.  Crashing wood maybe and shouts of men filled his ear.  “Clear!” and “Seattle PD!” rang out.  Hunter soon heard a woman crying and screaming.

“Ollie!” he cried into the phone.

“He’s gone!” Natalie sobbed at a distance.  “He’s gone!”

Hunter’s head sank in the horror that stole over his crumbling face.  The elevator dinged at its arrival, and he leaped on it.

“Are you all right?” Sophie asked softly when he lowered his phone to his breast pocket and faced her.

Hunter only shook his head and pushed the lobby button.  Tears stood in his haunted pale eyes before he looked away from her.  The elevator doors closed.


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

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