Whisper Of Love (Whisper Lake #1)

By: Melanie Shawn

Today, Kade knew Ali’s dumbstruck expression was not because she’d thought she’d seen a ghost, it was because he’d ghosted from her life. And his for that matter, for the past eighteen months. Other than setting up financial support for the boys he’d been completely MIA. It hadn’t been fair to her or the twins, but it had been necessary. He had to put the oxygen mask on himself before he could save anyone else.

This time there were no hugs or tears. Just a cold and impersonal, “What are you doing here?”

Ali was obviously not happy to see him but the feeling was not mutual. The sound of her voice, even if it conveyed a not-so-friendly tone, put a smile on his face. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d smiled. The past year and a half had been the worst of his life and considering his childhood that was quite a fucking achievement.

“Can I come in?” His throat was dry, due both to the hours he’d just spent riding and the woman standing before him.

“No.” Her response was weak and came out in a whisper.

The Allison Walsh he knew was a force of nature. A spitfire. A wild child.

The woman that he saw standing in front of him now looked like a shell of that person. Her sunken cheeks, the hauntingly dark circles beneath her eyes, and her skeleton-like frame told him that she hadn’t been sleeping or eating.

Guilt punched him simultaneously in the gut and the chest with the same impact as hitting the ground when he’d fallen off the roof of the Walsh’s house after attempting to walk the roofline drunk.

He couldn’t catch his breath.

He’d had the wind knocked out of him more times than he could count but those had all been due to a physical blow. This was the first time he’d experienced it due to an emotional blow. This was his fault.

“Uncle Kade?”

Ali cursed beneath her breath as her shoulders dropped in defeat and she hung her head.

Kade’s eyes found Ricky’s and once again he was struck by déjà vu. Ricky had always favored Patrick but now he was the spitting image of his dad. He felt like his mind was playing tricks on him. Logically, he knew that he was looking at Ricky, not Patrick at age thirteen, but his emotions weren’t convinced.

A large lump lodged in his throat as he tried to pull himself together. He missed the man that might not have been his brother but was more family to him than anyone he shared DNA with.

Ali sighed as she stepped back, opened the door and extended her arm in a reluctant invitation. He knew that her change of heart to grant him entry had to do with her nephew and not him, but hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers. As much as he would’ve loved to have had a warm welcome, he knew that’s not what he deserved.

He set his bag down just inside the entry. It landed with a soft thud on the tiled floor and he stepped into the living room and pulled Ricky into a hug. “Damn, you got tall.”

Kade was six-three so Ricky had to be pushing six feet. Since the last time he’d seen him he had to have grown at least four inches. He remembered that he and Patrick had both hit growth spurts around his age, too.

“What are you doing here?” The question sounded much friendlier coming from Ricky than it had from Allison.

“I’m here to see you and your brother.” And your aunt.

He kept the last part to himself. It was the last thing that she’d want to hear and he hadn’t been hit since he stepped out of the cage after his last and final fight over a year ago, he didn’t want to break one of the largest streaks of non-violence that he’d ever had in his life and if he’d finished his thought, he was fairly certain he would’ve got a right jab to the jaw.

He knew that Ali could land a punch…because he’d taught her.

“How have you been?” Kade ruffled Ricky’s hair.

“Good.” Ricky grinned.

“Uncle Kade?!” KJ shouted as he ran down the stairs. “I didn’t know you were coming!”

“No one did,” Ali mumbled quietly.

He hugged KJ, who’d grown as tall as Ricky but favored his mom’s coloring with dark hair and green eyes.

“Are you here for my project?” KJ asked expectantly.

Kade inwardly cringed at the mention of the project. He was no role model and he hated the idea of KJ writing about him as his hero.

“I’m just here to see you guys.” He was there to do a lot more than that, but he figured it was best to keep it simple for now, especially since he wanted to keep his no-violence streak going.

Before any more questions could be posed, the doorbell rang three times in succession followed by two sharp knocks. KJ’s eyes grew large and he shook his head as he took a few steps back. Beside him, Ali and Ricky turned to face each other and rock-paper-scissored silently. Roshambo was a Walsh tradition.

After three pounds of their fists to their palm Ali kept her hand in a fist and Ricky flattened his. Since paper beats rock Ricky shrugged in apology as Ali’s head fell back and an exasperated sigh fell from her lips.

With an exaggerated eye roll she turned on her heel and crossed to the front door, inhaling through her nose before opening it. “Hi, Presley.” Ali’s voice was cheery but her body language was telling another story. Her shoulders were practically touching her ears. “KJ is busy doing homework and then he has jiu-jitsu, so now is not a great time.”