“No, don’t,” I said, hating that he’d pulled away. Hating that I’d put that look of hurt on his face. “Look, I’m glad you’re here. I didn’t expect it, but I’m glad ….”
He pulled me into a firm embrace. “Then learn to expect it,” he said gruffly. “Because I’m not backing off this time, Gideon. We’re family. Maybe now we can start to think about what that means to all of us. You and me. Your mother, Christopher, and Ireland.”
Head bowed against his shoulder, I fought for some measure of composure. I was tired. Weary to my bones. My brain wasn’t processing anything well. That had to be why I felt … Fuck. I didn’t know what I felt.
Eva’s father and Cary were devastated. Stanton … I couldn’t even begin to imagine how shattered he must be. Whatever I was feeling didn’t matter much in comparison.
Stressed, my mind straying, I spoke without thinking. “Christopher would need a complete personality transplant to ever be family to me.”
Chris stiffened and pulled away. “I know you and Christopher don’t get along, but—”
“Through no fault of mine. Let’s be clear about that.” I tried to fight the question, tried to swallow it back unsaid. “Has he ever discussed with you why he hates me?”
For fuck’s sake. Why? Why did I have to ask? It shouldn’t matter. Not after all these damn years.
Chris pulled away, shaking his head. “He doesn’t hate you, Gideon.”
I straightened, willing myself not to shake—from exhaustion or emotion, I couldn’t tell. The past was behind me. I’d left it back there, shoved in a box where it belonged. I had Eva now—
Damn it. I hoped I still had Eva.
My wife had never pushed me to deal with Christopher, as she had with the rest of my family. My brother had gone too far in her eyes, used Magdalene too callously, which Cary had caught on video. Maybe Eva wouldn’t care if I resolved my relationship with Christopher ….
But maybe she’d be proud of me for trying.
And if she was, if it proved to her that I was different, that I’d changed in the way she needed me to … Son of a bitch. I had just backtracked on all the progress we’d made by not telling her about Monica’s death the moment I knew. If mending things with my family now would somehow help her forgive me for the lie I’d told, then it was worth whatever it cost me to make the effort.
I forced my hands to relax. When I spoke, my voice was low and even. “I need to show you something.”
I gestured for my stepfather to sit at my desk. When he slid the chair forward, I shook the mouse to wake the monitor. Hugh’s handwritten notes filled the screen.
Chris’s eyes darted from side to side, quickly reading. I knew the moment he understood what he was looking at. His spine stiffened.
“I don’t know how much of this is true,” I cautioned. “Hugh’s notes about his sessions with me are all lies. This reads like he was building a profile of me to use as a defense, in case we ever filed charges against him.”
“We should have.” The words were bitten out between clenched teeth. “How did you get these?”
“It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that he has notes from four different sessions with Christopher. One of them was supposedly a group session with me. Either that’s a fabrication or I’ve forgotten.”
“Which do you think it is?”
“I really can’t say. There are … chunks of my childhood I can’t remember.” I recalled more in dreams than I did when awake.
Chris swiveled in the chair to look at me. “Do you think he molested your brother?”
It took a beat for me to shove the memories away and respond. “I don’t know—you’ll have to ask Christopher—but I doubt it.”
“The dates and times on Hugh’s notes put Christopher’s sessions directly following mine. If those time stamps are correct—which would be wise if he was covering his tracks—then he wouldn’t have it in him.” My arms crossed. Trying to explain brought back all the bitterness. And loathing—for both Hugh and myself. “He was a sick piece of shit, but—listen, there’s no tidy way to say this. He never had anything left after he was done with me.”
“My God … Gideon.”
I turned my gaze away from the shock and simmering fury in his eyes. “Hugh told Christopher he was seeing me because you and Mom were afraid I would kill him.”
Thinking of the other people in the penthouse was the only thing that restrained me from punching a wall. God knew I’d lashed out with my fists more than once as a kid.