Kane leaned back against the tree trunk. His sneaker clad feet dangled from the branch he was sitting on. Had it been entirely up to him he would have remained in the tree indefinitely. But it wasn’t. He had home-tutoring in another few minutes and if he didn’t get out of the tree and into the house soon he would be late. Again. That would only serve to make his uncle furious.
Then again, what was the harm in letting his uncle’s temper simmer for a while? It might even be an improvement from Mathias’ usual stoic self. But Kane knew he couldn’t do it…not really. He couldn’t face the consequences afterward. He’d rather live in a cold, prison where he could keep an eye on his cousin than live free and subject his cousin to Mathias’ wrath alone.
After all, Kane thought, almost choking on the bitterness, half of this shit was his own fault…
Three months earlier…
Kane nearly choked on the metallic taste in his mouth. He ran hesitantly ran his tongue over his lower lip, wincing at the sharp sting of pain when it met open skin. But Kane knew that was probably the least of his worries. After the fight he’d just been in, he knew he would be sporting a bruised face at the very least. He was lucky his ribs weren’t broken. But still, every step he took was unbearable agony.
Kane couldn’t face his mother like this.
He didn’t like to see his mother worry about him, but he couldn’t have avoided the fight either. He could have walked away with any insult to himself without a backward glance, but they’d insulted his mom and that was another thing entirely.
“You’re just a worthless punk, the bastard son of a wh—”
The words ran across his mind. He gone after the alpha’s throat and the entire pack had descended. The odds of four against one, would have had any sane person wetting their pants, but he’d been too jacked up on adrenaline and anger to care at that point.
And look at where it landed you, you fool! What are you going to do now, you can’t go home like this?
Just what he needed at this point, his own conscious turning against him. Undecided, Kane walked at a pace that didn’t hurt his battered body…as much. The way he saw it he didn’t have many options. He could go home and hide out in his room, but it could take days for the bruises on his face to fade. He could lie and say he tripped or something like that.
Or you could tell her the truth.
Even as that thought passed through his mind he knew he couldn’t. He couldn’t bear to see the disappointment in his mother’s eyes…again.
Not ever again.
But fate wasn’t on his side today, because the second he’d stepped onto the driveway of their small, one-story house, his mother had seen him. And she’d known. But the disappointment Kane had thought he’d see in her eyes wasn’t there, instead what he was worse. He saw fear.
It wasn’t in his mother to be afraid of anything. She had a core of steel after years of raising him alone and living in less that ideal conditions. No, they weren’t so poor as to live on the street, but they were close. Mostly everyone in this neighborhood was. Run-down houses, homeless people sleeping in the streets and drug dealers selling out to kids.
No, it wasn’t heaven and Kane’s mother made sure he knew it. She wanted him to rise above the situation and have what she called opportunity at a secure future.
Little had she known it would come sooner than she imagined…
Jumping off the tree branch he’d been sitting on, Kane paused to straighten his plain black shorts and white T-shirt. He thought about all that had happened after his mother has seen him bloodied and torn. She’d broken down and cried—in all his fifteen years, it was the first time he’d seen his mother cry and at that point he would have done anything to make her stop.
And he had.
Everything had happened so fast after that, he still couldn’t recall the order of events. His mother had told him about the letter from the attorney, about his uncle Mathias and his cousin. She’d told him about his uncle needing an heir and him being the only one close enough. This was the opportunity she wanted for him, she had said her eyes still misted with tears. It was what she knew he deserved.
So he’d done it.
He’d left his home and his friends, all he had ever known, for his mother. So why did he feel so guilty? Because he was lying to himself, he hadn’t done all that or his mother, he’d done it for himself. The only thing he’d felt when he’d left his old home was relief. He was finally free of constantly having to worry about disappointing his mother.
He wasn’t happy, you couldn’t be in a household that barely tolerated you, but he was content.
Running a hand through his tousled brown hair, Kane quickly made his way to the large mansion that was now his home. The wind outside was cool with the approaching winter and it sent goosebumps up his spine.
Ominous, was the word his new tutor Mr. Jefferson would have used to describe the feeling.
He was hallway down the hall to his room when he heard the sound of something like glass shattering on a hard floor. It had come from the direction of his cousin’s room. His cousin, Michael, was two years younger than he.
A car accident had left him sightless months ago. The accident was also the reason Mathias had needed a new heir. He wasn’t about to leave his entire legacy to an invalid, he’d answered when Kane has asked. He’d said the only reason Michael was still under his roof and not in some remote hospital was because it was better to him image.
But that was where the differences between Michael and Kane ended. Kane’s worst fears had been confirmed the second he’d gotten a look at Michael. The resemblance—all the way to the brown hair, blue eyes and what promised to be aristocratic features—had been too strong for then to be merely cousins. No they were closer than that. They were brothers—half brothers, if one wanted to go into details.
And Mathias was his father.
If that hadn’t been bad enough, it appeared that the only time his father had even acknowledged his existence, if only to a small degree, was when he’d had no choice. His father, Kane injected that word with as much venom as he could muster, was too proud to give control of the family company over to a nephew, so he’d brought in his illegitimate son.
Kane pushed the already ajar door to Michael’s room. The strong odour of anesthetics mixed food hit him upon his entry. The anesthetics were still used to numb any pain Michael might feel from the other injuries he’d sustained during the accident.
Michael face turned towards him as soon as he heard his footsteps. Kane was struck by how pale he looked. There were blue-purple circles under his eyes and his cheeks were sunken. It was like looking at a mirror of himself—one where he was dying.
It was probably how Kane looked on the inside.
“Your father sent me to see how you were doing,” He said, lying through his teeth. Mathias couldn’t be bothered to with Michael. He was too busy pretending to be a devoted father before others that he had forgotten how to really be one.
“I’m fine,” his cousin replied, his voice sounded rusty like he hadn’t used it for a while.
“Are you hungry?”
This was how all of their conversations began and finished. It was hard to talk to someone who you hadn’t know existed, brother or not. Kane felt cheated at times. He had a brother, but he couldn’t hang out with him like older brothers did with their younger ones. He couldn’t tease him. Couldn’t pick fights with him over nothing. Hell, he couldn’t even talk to him as a brother should.
And he didn’t know how to fix it.
“Kane, why do people hate?”
It was the first time Michael had initiated any conversation that Kane needed time to register his question. “What do you mean?”
“Why do I hate my father? Why does he hate me so much that you have to lie to me?”
Kane couldn’t find the words to answer. Michael was right. Kane did lie, every time that he visited Michael, he started his conversation with a lie.
“Do you hate me?”
For the first time Kane understood the pain Michael hid. It was the same Kane felt every time he saw Michael. Kane had always been so busy trying not to disappoint his mother that it had become habit. He’d done the same thing with Michael, picking neutral topics of conversation every time he saw him.
But they were lies.
So for the first time since he’d seen him, Kane told his brother the truth.