Meant To Be (The Callahans #4) - Monica Murphy Page 0,1

know if it can ever be put together again without him.

“That still doesn’t explain what he was doing at my house this late,” Dad says, crossing his arms as he waits for my response. “Did he come over here uninvited?”

“No.” I shake my head, my breath shaky when I exhale. “I invited him.”

“Ava.” Dad’s sigh is long and weary. “You know you’re not supposed to have a boy here that late.”

Do I, though? Have those words ever been specifically said? We’ve never had a discussion about boys and if they can come over or not. Not that I know of. I slip my hands into my pockets, dropping the pendant inside. “We weren’t going to do anything…”

My voice drifts and I remember I’m standing in front of them in a robe with only a pair of panties on underneath. That’s all. If the night played out as originally planned, Eli and I were definitely going to do something.

And it would’ve been amazing.

The ache inside me just cuts deeper.

“Give me a break,” Jake mutters, and this time it’s Mom who says something.

“Jake, go to your room.”

I chance a look at my brother as he jumps to his feet, his expression full of unabashed anger. “What do you mean? I should be in on this conversation, too, you know. I deserve to know why Eli is lurking around in our yard late at night. That guy hates me. He probably came here to jump me and beat my ass.”

“That’s a bunch of crap and you know it,” I start, turning all of my frustration on my brother. “Eli came here for me, not you.”

“I wouldn’t put it past that fucker to pretend to get with you to get at me. Tell us you didn’t have sex with him, Ava. Go ahead and deny it. That guy will fuck anything that moves,” Jake says, and without hesitation, I lunge toward him, my arm extended and my fingers curled, connecting with Jake’s jaw.

“Jesus!” Dad explodes, reaching for me. He wraps his arms around my waist and pulls me off of my brother before I can do any real damage. Mom darts in between Jake and I, her back to me, her hand on Jake’s jaw as she assesses the damage.

The throbbing of my heart has stopped, at least. Now my knuckles throb from where they connected with Jake’s face.

That was oddly satisfying.

“She freaking hit me,” Jake says, sounding incredulous as he glares at me. “Please tell me she’s gonna get in trouble.”

“If you’d stop goading her, then maybe she wouldn’t feel the need to punch you,” Mom says, her voice icily calm. “Come on. Let’s go to your room.”

Before he can say anything further, Mom is escorting Jake out of the kitchen, leaving me and Dad alone.

Wincing, I cradle my hand, studying my already reddened knuckles as I lean against the counter. I didn’t even think I got that good a hit on him, but maybe I did. I hope he’s in pain. He deserves to suffer at least a little bit for what he said about Eli. And me.

“Does it hurt?” Dad asks.

“Yeah.” I nod. “I don’t know why I did that.”

“I know why.”

My head jerks up at his quietly spoken words. “Why?” My voice croaks like I have a sore throat.

“When we’re hurting, we lash out. And right now, Ava, you’re hurting.” He opens his arms and I go to him without hesitation, clinging to my father as I cry into his T-shirt. His scent is familiar and comforting and I didn’t realize I missed my daddy so much until right now, while my tears drench his shirt and my shoulders shake.

He just holds me and lets me cry, remaining silent. His fingers in my hair while he cradles me close. We stay like this for at least a few minutes, until my trembling eases and the tears start to dry up. Reluctantly, I pull away from him, wiping at my damp face with the sleeve of my robe. A little hiccup escapes me, and I cover my mouth, my gaze lifting to his to find him already watching me, that familiar, patient expression on his handsome face.

“You bottle it all up, like me,” he finally says. When I frown, he continues. “When I was your age, I kept all my emotions inside. I didn’t let anyone know they bothered me. Affected me. I was like a statue. Made of stone. You’re warmer than that, Ava. You’re more open than I ever