Renegade Father

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Book: Renegade Father Read Online Free PDF
Author: RaeAnne Thayne
going?” Ruben asked.
    â€œI guess that means Miz Redhawk’s gonna need to find herself a new foreman,” Luke said.
    It was C.J.’s plaintive cry that pierced through the buzz of questions, and brought the men’s conversation to a grinding halt. “You can’t leave, too, Uncle Joe! You can’t! ”
    Awkward silence echoed through the kitchen while he scrambled for something to say to make things right. Before he could figure out a way to achieve the impossible, Patch cleared his throat, discomfort plain on his face. “Uh, boys, we’ve got some feed to put out if we want to spend the worst of that storm out there where it’s warm and dry. There’ll be time to talk about this later.”
    Eager to avoid the scene they all must have known was inevitable, the men murmured their thanks to Annie for the meal then trooped out of the kitchen, leaving him alone with her and her son.
    The boy was trying valiantly not to cry but a tear trickled from the corner of his eye anyway, leaving a watery path down the side of his nose. His fingers trembled as he swiped at it, damn near breaking Joe’s heart.
    â€œC.J.—”
    Whatever he was going to say was lost as C.J. cut him off. “You promised you’d take me campin’ and fishin’ on the Ruby this summer. You promised! ”
    He flashed a look toward Annie and found her watching her son out of green eyes filled with compassion and pain.
    â€œWe can still go.” His voice sounded hoarse. “I’ll try to get away for a weekend and come up and take you.”
    â€œIt won’t be the same.”
    â€œI know. I’m sorry.”
    More tears followed the pathway of that lone trail-blazer and Joe felt small and mean for putting them there. He wanted to gather his nephew close, to try to absorb his pain into him if he could, but he sensed the boy would only jerk away.
    â€œJust because I’m leaving doesn’t mean I’ll stop being your uncle,” he said quietly. “That’ll never change. We can still talk on the phone and write letters. I promise, I’ll take you on that fishing trip this summer and maybe you can even come stay with me for a while once I get settled.”
    â€œIt won’t be the same,” C.J. cried again. His whole face crumpled. “Why do you have to go?”
    How could he explain to a seven-year-old how a man sometimes ached for more than he had, more than he would ever have? And how sometimes the lack of it, this constant, aching emptiness, was like a living thing chewing away at him until he couldn’t breathe?
    C.J. didn’t wait for an answer, which was probably a good thing since he didn’t have one to offer. The boy stared up at him, and there was a world of disillusionment in his eyes. “You’re no different than him. I thought you were, but you’re not.”
    The impassioned words—and all the heartbreak behind it—sliced into him like a just-sharpened blade. No different than him. Than Charlie. The man who had spent every one of C.J.’s seven years destroying his faith in everything.
    It was his greatest fear—that he and his half brother were more alike than he wanted to believe. That somehow the genetic makeup they had in common was stronger than his own self-control.
    They weren’t, he reminded himself. He had done his damnedest throughout his life to make sure of that. Charlie was a drunk and a bully who delighted in terrorizing anybody smaller than he was. He wasn’t anything like him.
    Oh no, he thought with sudden bitterness. Nothing at all. He was just an ex-con who served four years in Deer Lodge for killing his father.
    He thrust the thought away and tried to concentrate on the crisis at hand. “C.J.—” he began, but the boy turned away.
    â€œIf you leave, I don’t want you to come back. I don’t want to go to the Ruby with you. I don’t want to go
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