Rob Kittrell was sprawled on Hunter’s sofa as if he were relaxing in his own living room, one foot propped on the wooden crate Hunter used as a coffee table, his body more lean and lanky than most men of forty-one. He was a good-looking man worn-down by life, the lines of his face deep, the glint in his eyes calculating.
Eighteen years of words and hatred and pretending not to care jammed inside Hunter’s throat. He couldn’t think of a single word to say.
“Got any coffee?” asked Rob.
“Uh, no. I do breakfast at Granny Jen’s. Sorry.” Hunter was relieved to have something easy to say. “Do you want to see her for breakfast? She’s always up by now.”
“Huh! You’re planning on starting her day out with a heart attack, eh?”
“Actually, in some weird way, I think she’s sort of expecting you.” When Rob didn’t respond, Hunter continued, “And Aunt Winnie’s here.”
“Well, hell. A family reunion.” Rob looked toward the blue window, his eyes flat and dark, and made no move to stand. With a glance at his son, he said, “I’ve missed you, kid.”
“Yeah, you missed all right.” Hunter swiped the crate from beneath his father’s foot without apology and sat on it, leaning forward intently. “You missed my basketball games; you missed my birthdays; you missed graduation—well, hell, what am I thinking?” Hunter bopped his forehead with the palm of his hand. “You missed my whole life.”
No hint of regret crossed Rob’s features. He smiled briefly at his son’s humor. “You turned out okay,” he said. “And thanks for the phone call.”
“You don’t know a damn thing about how I turned out.” Hunter wanted something more from his father than he was getting: a fight, an apology, excuses, maybe a mushy outpouring of love that Hunter could stomp.
“Sure I do.” Rob’s shrug was careless, so much like his own that Hunter wanted to strangle him. Eyes narrow, Rob continued, “I’ve survived this long by being able to read a man’s eyes. I can tell by yours that you’ve got it together.”
Hunter stared him down. Read this, man, he thought. I hate you and I wanted to kill you until I saw a real dead guy. Rob blinked first. “Why are you here?” Hunter asked, continuing to stare down his father. “This whole town is under siege. I’ve got cops and reporters watching my place day and night, all of them looking for you. Not a good time for you to come sight-seeing.”
Rob chuckled and pulled a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket.
“Not my brand,” said Hunter when Rob offered him one. He sat on the crate and stared at his father lighting the cigarette, his guts in a knot, wishing the man cared half as much as he did. Damn it, he had always thought his father at least cared. “Why are you here?” he repeated
“Attending to some business,” Rob said casually.
“For how long?” Hunter demanded.
Rob crossed his legs, long arm draped across his knee, and took a drag of the cigarette.
Hunter leaned forward, his lips tight, and punched the air between them with one finger. “You know, after eighteen years of never hearing your name mentioned, I get hit with it everywhere I turn this summer,” he said. “People are looking for you, people think they’ve seen you, people put your name in the same sentence with the harbor killings.” Hunter sat back and waited for a response, an outburst. What he got was another chuckle.
“I haven’t killed anybody lately, kid,” Rob drawled slowly, his voice more Southern than it had been. He looked at his son sardonically over the cigarette, pleased with himself.
“The name’s Hunter.” Hunter stood up. “Hunter Kittrell. My mom wanted to change it to Barton, and I wouldn’t let her, damn it.” He kicked the side of the sofa.
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